In the medieval era – when our Templars where fighting the Saracens – belief in the Devil was not only strong but the lord of darkness was seen as a figure very close by, always testing your faith and goodness. One five hundred year old story from England that I’ve discovered explains the working of the medieval mind on the subject. Note some spelling mistakes which come from the original text – ie, ‘brake’ and ‘perswade’.
In 1578, a group of habitual drunkards decided to ignore the rules regarding the Sabbath and went to a tavern. Their names were Adam Gibbons, George Keepel, John Keysel, Peter Horsdroff, John Warner, Simon Heamkers, Jacob Hermons and Hermon Frow. They went to the house of somebody called Antony Hodge and “called for Burnt-Wine, Sack, Clarat and what not”. Hodge was a “godly man” and refused to serve them, insisting they go to church instead.
Gibbons said they hated church and preferred drinking. Hodge left them to go to church himself while they cursed him “wishing he might brake his neck, ere he returned and wishing the Devil might brake their own necks if they went from hence till they had some wine”. Well, the devil heard their cursing and arrived as a young man with a flagon of wine in his hand.
“Good Fellows – be merry, you shall have wine enough, you seem to be lusty lads and I hope you will pay me well.”
Regrettably, they answered that they would pay him “or engage their neck for it, yea rather than fail, their bodies and souls”. And the devil duly noted their words. They then drank what seemed to be a never ending supply of wine till they could hardly see each other.
“At last the Devil their Host told them that now they must pay for all, at which their hearts waxed cold. But the Devil bid them be of good cheer for now they must drink Fire and Brimstone with him in the Pit of Hell for ever. At which the Devil breake their Necks assunder and destroyed them.”
The story ends with a dire warning for those who do not see the devil in their midst.
“This by the way may serve for a Document for all Drunkards for ever and to perswade folk that the Lord has the Devil for his Executioner when he pleases to execute his vengeance upon Notorious Sinners.”