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James I; Daemonologie, in forme of a dialogue. Title page. Wellcome M0014280.jpg
Title page of a 1603 reprinting
Author James VI of Scotland
Country England
Language Middle English, Scots, Irish
Genre Occult, Religion, Philosophy, Dissertation
Publication date
Media type Print

Daemonologie — in full Daemonologie, In Forme of a Dialogue, Divided into three Books. By James &c. — was written and published in 1597[1] by King James VI of Scotland (later also James I of England) as a philosophical dissertation on contemporary necromancy and the historical relationships between the various methods of divination used in ancient magical practices. It included a study on demonology and the methods demons used to trouble men. It was a political yet theological statement to educate a misinformed populace on the history, practices and implications of sorcery and the reasons for persecuting a witch in a Christian society under the rule of canonical law.


King James wrote a dissertation titled Daemonologie that was first sold in 1597, several years prior to the first publication of the King James Authorized Version| of the bible. Within 3 short books James wrote a dissertation in the form of a philosophical play, making arguments and comparisons between magic, sorcery and witchcraft but wrote also his Classification of demons. In writing the book, King James was heavily influenced by his personal involvement in the North Berwick witch trials from 1590. In the year 1591, the news of the trials was narrated in a news pamphlet titled Newes from Scotland and was included as the final chapter of the novel. This book was one of the primary sources of Shakespeare in the production of Macbeth who attributed many quotes and rituals found within the book directly to the weird sisters. The book endorses the practice of witch hunting . James begins the book:

The fearefull aboundinge at this time in this countrie, of these detestable slaves of the Devil, the Witches or enchanters, hath moved me (beloved reader) to dispatch in post, this following treatise of mine (...) to resolve the doubting (...) both that such assaults of Satan are most certainly practised, and that the instrument thereof merits most severely to be punished.

This work acts as a political and theological dissertation in the form of a philosophical dialogue between the characters "Philomathes" and "Epistemon" who debate on the various topics of magic, sorcery, witchcraft and demonology. The purpose seems to be educational piece on the study of witchcraft and to inform the public about the histories and etymologies of all subcategories involved. In the Preface, King James states that he chose to write the content in the form of a dialogue to better entertain the reader. By doing so, he follows the method of many philosophical writers prior to his time. As the main plot, Philomathes hears news in the kingdom regarding the rumors of witchcraft which seems all miraculous and amazing but could find no one knowledgeable on the matter to have a serious political discussion on the issue. He finds a philosopher named Epistemon who is very knowledgeable on the topics of theology. The work is separated into three books based on the different arguments the philosophers discuss.

Book One[edit]

The description of Magic and the division of the various magical arts with a comparison between Necromancy and witchcraft and the methods used by each.

Book Two[edit]

The description Sorcery and its comparison with Witchcraft and includes chapters dedicated to the path of apprenticeship, curses and the roles of Satan.

Book Three[edit]

The third book is the conclusion of the whole Dialogue. Here, King James provides a description of all these kinds of Spirits that troubles men or women. His Classification of demons was not based on separate demonic entities with their names, ranks, or titles but rather categorized them based on 4 methods used by any given devil to cause mischief or torment on a living individual or a deceased corpse. He quotes previous authors who state that each devil has the ability to appear in diverse shapes or forms for varying arrays of purposes as well. In his description of them, he relates that demons are under the direct supervision of God and are unable to act without permission, further illustrating how demonic forces are used as a "Rod of Correction" when men stray from the will of God and may be commissioned by witches, or magicians to conduct acts of ill will against others but will ultimately only conduct works that will end in the further glorification of God despite their attempts to do otherwise.

  • Spectra: Used to describe spirits that trouble houses or solitary places
  • Obsession: Used to describe spirits that follow upon certain people to outwardly trouble them at various times of the day. Referencing Incubi and Succubae
  • Possession: Used to describe spirits that enter inwardly into a person to trouble them.
  • Faries:Used to describe illusionary spirits that prophesy, consort, and transport their servants.[2]

Newes from Scotland[edit]

The initial and subsequent publications of Daemonologie included a previously published news pamphlet detailing the accounts of North Berwick witch trials that involved King James himself.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ The Riverside Shakespeare (2. ed.). Boston [u.a.]: Mifflin. 1997. p. 1356. ISBN 0-395-75490-9.  |first2= missing |last2= in Authors list (help)
  2. ^ King James. Daemonologie. A Critical Edition. In Modern English. 2016. ISBN 1-5329-6891-4. 

External links[edit]