Before he became obsessed with ridding the world of the evils of witchcraft, the brilliant Jean Bodin (Baudin or Bodinus) had been hailed as the Aristotle of the sixteenth century. When he was but a youth, Bodin was noticed by academics as rising young intellectual, and soon he was known throughout Europe as a formidable scholar of history, political theory, and the philosophy of law. Bodin became a celebrated jurisconsult and a leading member of the Parliament of Paris. In 1576, he wroteThe Six Books of the Republic, a work that remains studied in the twenty-first century. Bodin portrayed a kind of ideal society in which humankind was governed by natural laws, a moral code given through conscience and God. In general, Bodin idealized the potential of humankind as becoming steadily noble and less beastlike. Scholars ponder what became of the utopian politician when Bodin sat down to write Demonomanie des Sorciers and became one of the men most responsible for keeping the fires of the Inquisition burning brightly.
The Demonomanie was first published in Paris in 1581 and again in 1616, 20 years after Bodin's death, as Fleau des demons et des Sorciers. In the first and second volumes of this monumental work, Bodin offered his proofs that spirits communicate with humankind, and he itemized the various means by which the righteous might distinguish the good spirits from their evil counterparts. Those men and women who seek to enter pacts with Satan in order to achieve diabolical prophecy, the ability to fly through the air, and the power to shapeshift into animal forms are dealing with evil spirits. Bodin acknowledged that he was well aware of spells by which one might summon incubi or succubi for carnal pleasure.
The third volume details methods by which the work of sorcerers and witches might be destroyed, and the fourth volume lists the characteristics by which witches, shapeshifters, and other servants of Satan might be identified. The massive work concludes with a refutation of Johann Weyer (1515–1588), a medical doctor and author of De praestigiis daemonum (1563), who, Bodin determined was in grave danger of committing heresy by arguing that those men and women who claimed to be witches and shapeshifters were merely people with unsound minds.