She hath a spirit in the shape of a Blacke Catte

Following on from the post on exorcism, these snippets come from an account of supposed witchcraft activity in the late 16th century.

One father Rosimond, dwelling in Farneham Parish, being a widower, and also a daughter of his, are both Witches or Inchanters, and can transforme himself by Divelishe meanes into the shape and likenesse of any beaste whatsoever he will.

One Mother Dutten dwelling within Cleworthe Parishe, can tell every ones message, as soone as she seeth them approche neare to the place of her abode. And further, she keepeth a Spirite or Fiende in the likenesse of a Toade, and feedeth the same Fiende lying in a border of greene Herbes, within her Garden, with blood whiche she causeth to issue from her owne flank.

One Mother Dewell, dwelling nigh the Ponde in Windsor, being a very poore woman, hath a Spirite in the shape of a Blacke Catte, and calleth it Gille, whereby she is aided in her Witchcrafte, and she daily feedeth it with Milke, mingled with her owne blood.

That one Mother Margaret dwelling in the Almes house at Windsor doeth feede a Fiende named Ginnie, with crumbs of bread and her owne blood.

Elizabeth Stile, alias Rockyngham, of her self confesseth that she the same Elizabeth, until the time of her apprehension, kepte a Ratte, being in very deede a wicked Spirite, naming it Philip, and that she fed the same Ratte with bloode, issuing from her right hand, the markes whereof evidently remaine, and also that she gave her right side to the Devill, and so did the residue of the Witches before named.

Father Rosimond, with his daughter, mother Dutten, mother Dewell, Mother Margaret, and Elizabeth Rockingham, did accustome to meet within the back side of Mister Dodges, and did in that place conclude upon hainous, and villainous practises. They all purposed and agreed, by their Sorceries, and Inchantementes, to dispatche one Lanckforde a Farmer, dwelling in Windsor by the Thames side, and that they murdered him accordinglie. They also by their devillishe arte, killed one Mister Gallis, who in times past had been Mayor of Windsor.  Likewise a Butcher named Switcher escaped not their treacherie, but was by their Witchcrafte brought to his grave.

The manner of their Inchantemente, whereby the persones afore named were murdered was thus: Mother Dutten made pictures of Redde Waxe, about a spanne long, and three or four fingers broade. The said Mother Dutten did sticke an Hawthorne pricke, against the left sides of the breastes of the Images, directly there where they thought the heartes of the persones to bee.

Every one of them, if any had angred them, would go to their Spirites and say, Suche a one hath angred me, go do them this mischief. And for their hire would give them a drop of their owne blood, and presently the party was plagued by some lamentable casualtie.

Elizabeth Stile confesseth, herself often times to have gone to Father Rosimond house where she founde him sitting in a Wood, under the body of a Tree, sometimes in the shape of an Ape, and otherwhiles like an Horse. She also confesseth her self to have turned a childes hande in Windsor cleane backwardes.

Also this is not to be forgotten, that the said Mother Stile, being at the time of her apprehension so well in healthe of body and limbs, that she was able and did go on foote, from Windsor unto Reading unto the Gaile, whiche are twelve miles distant. Shortly after that, she had made the aforesaied confession, the other Witches were apprehended, and were brought to the said Gaile, the said Mother Dewell did so bewitche her and others with her Enchantmentes, that the use of all her senses were taken quite from her, and her Toes did rotte off her feete, and she was laid upon a Barrowe, as a moste uglie creature to beholde, and so brought before the judges, at suche time as she was arraigned.

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  • October 13, 2010 - 6:20 pm | Permalink

    Thanks for this illuminating comment! Happy birthday! (twitter info)

  • October 13, 2010 - 9:49 am | Permalink

    Absolutely. The more hideous the depiction of the witch, the more intense the multi-layered constructions become. The witches in Macbeth are a good case in point. Not only are they aligned with darkness and corruption, their physical deformities serve to highlight their psychological danger, and their inherent ability to infect. Frustrated male desire does come into play in these texts I think. The writers were male, and often linger on sexual aspects of the witch. Her feeding of a familiar becomes conflated not just with the image of the corrupted mother, but also with that of the whore. There are many interesting ironies at work, particularly the psycho-sexual anxiety of the male elite.

  • October 13, 2010 - 9:15 am | Permalink


    If the text is read as a report, this is understandable. But if taken as a rhetorical construction, the case may be different. Emphasising ugliness, wirdness may result in more passionate response on the readers’ part: e.g. wierd sisters in Macbeth and their beard. Or the representation of them as beautiful, a completely different cultural disposition is revealed, frustrated male desire, say. Or nothing is claimed about them, this may foster mistery surrounding them. Or any other scenario may be lurking behind the presentation of witches.

    I’m still harping on this theme, as the images are so telling in this respect: the contrast between a traditional representation of a mother feeding offsprings, and here animals are fed, and also the black spots at the eyes in the second image. These are so dynamically great images. Thanks for them as well.

  • October 11, 2010 - 3:35 pm | Permalink

    Thank you. Most accounts of witchcraft tend to linger on the effects of malevolence, whether physical distortions or death. It seems the prior health of the victim is of concern in some cases, but the physical welfare of the supposed witches appears to be of little value.

  • October 10, 2010 - 6:24 pm | Permalink

    Great post, thanks for it!

    I wonder why only the destorted body is described and nothing is revealed about the appearance of either the witches or the man prior to the bewitchment.

    Thanks again for the post.

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