Category Archives: Witchcraft


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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Throw her into the water

The pricking and ducking of witches by professional witch finders was a staple element of early modern culture.  Suspected witches were tortured in a variety of ways, and the results provided irrefutable proof to their accusers that demonic activity and supernatural forces were at large within communities.  Methods included inserting needles into the body, the use of hot pincers, sexual humiliation, and ducking.  If found guilty, women were usually executed, either at the stake, or at the gallows. Of course it was not only women who were suspected of and tried for witchcraft. Men were also persecuted, but the cases presented yesterday, and the account below, on the ways to discover a witch from the mid 17th century, are primarily concerned with women.

Now as touching the triall and discovery of a Witch there are divers opinions holden.  As some by the pricking of a sharpe knife, naile, or other pointed instrument under the stoole or seate on which the Witch sitteth (for thereon shee is not able to sit or abide) others by scratching, or drawing of blood from the Witch, by either party that is grieved, or the next of blood to the same. And others by fire; as by burning any relique or principall ornament belonging to the suspected Witch, which shall no sooner bee on fire, but the Witch will presently come running to behold it.  And of these, trials have beene made both in Hartfordshire, Northamptonshire, and Huntingtonshire.

 Witch pricking needles

But the onely assured and absolute perfect way to finde her out, is to take the Witch or party suspected either to some Mildam, Pond, Lake or deepe River, and stripping her to her smocke, tie her armes acrosse, onely let her legs have free liberty; then fastening a rope about her middle which with the helpe of by standers may be ever ready to save her from drowning (in case she sinke) throw her into the water, and if shee swimme aloft and not sincke, then draw her foorth, and have some honest and discreet women neere, which may presently search her for the secret marke of Witches, as Teates, blood-moales, moist warts, and the like.  Which found, then the second time (binding her right thumbe to her left toe, and her left thumbe to her right toe) throw her into the water againe (with the assistance of the former rope to save her, if shee should chance to sincke) and if then shee swim againe and doe not sincke you may most assuredly resolve she is a Witch.  And of this, many pregnant and true proofes have beene made, as namely by one Master Enger of Bedfordshire, upon the person of Mary Sutton (a notable Witch) whom he cast into his Mildam at Milton Mills, and found the effect as hath beene declared, and for her Witchcraft was there condemned and executed, and as this so I could recite a world of others in the same nature.  But the trueth is so manifest that it needeth no flourish to adorne it.

An extant ducking stool can be seen here
For more on witchcraft see some of my posts here.
And for further reading see my Useful Reading

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Crime Witchcraft

Four devils appeared unto her

These fragments come from early 17th century witchcraft trials. As a primary source, these accounts provide us with fascinating first-hand evidence of the complex and often baffling details of  narratives and accusations of witchcraft and demonic possession.

The Examination of Anne Baker of Bottesford in the County of Leicester, Spinster:

Shee saith, That she saw a hand appeare unto her, and that shee heard a voyce in the aire said unto her, Anne Baker, save thy selfe, for to morrow thou and thy Master must bee slaine. And the next day her Master and she were in a Cart together; and suddenly she saw a flash of fire, and she said her prayers, and the fire went away and shortly after a Crow came and picked upon her cloathes, and she said her prayers againe, and bade the Crow go to whom he was sent and the Crow went unto her Master, and did beat him to death, and she with her prayers recovered him to life; but he was sicke a fortnight after, and saith, that if she had not had more knowledge then her Master, both hee and shee and all the Cattell had beene slaine.

The said Anne Baker, confesseth before before Sir George Manners Knight, and Samuel Fleming Doctor of Divinity, that she hath a spirit which hath the shape of a white dogge, which she calleth her good spirit.


The Examination of Joane Willimot:

This Examinat saith, That upon Friday night last, her Spirit came to her and told her that there was a bad woman at Deeping who had given her soule to the Devill: and that her said Spirit did then appeare unto her in a more ugly forme then it had formerly done, and that it urged her much to give it something. She saith, that shee hath a Spirit which shee calleth Pretty, which was given unto her by William Berry of Langholme in Rutland shire, whom she served three yeares, and that her Master when he gave it unto her, willed her to open her mouth, and hee would blow into her a Fairy which should do her good; and that she opened her mouth; and he did blow into her mouth and presently after his blowing, there came out of her mouth a Spirit, which stood upon the ground in the shape and forme of a woman, which Spirit did aske of her her soule, which she then promised unto it, being willed thereunto by her Master. She further confesseth, That she never hurt any body, but did helpe divers that sent for her, which were stricken or fore-spoken: and that her Spirit came weekely to her and would tell her of divers persons which were stricken and fore spoken. And she saith, That the use which shee had of the Spirit was to know, how those did which she had undertaken to amend; and that she did helpe them by certaine prayers which shee used, and not by her owne Spirit: neither did she imploy her Spirit in any thing, but onely to bring word how those did which she had undertaken to cure.

Shee saith further, That Gamaliel Greete of Waltham in the said County Shepherd, had a Spirit like a white Mouse put into him, in his swearing; and that if he did looke upon any thing with an intent to hurt, it should be hurt, and that he had marke on his left, arme, which was cut away; and that her owne Spirit did tell her all this before it went from her.

Further shee saith, That Joane Flower, Margaret Flower, and she, did meet about a weeke before Joane Flowers apprehension in Blackborrow hill, and went from thence home to the said Joane Flowers house and there shee saw two Spirits, one like a Rat, and the other like an Owle; and one of them did sucke under her right eare, as she thought: and the said Joane told her, that her Spirit did say, she could neither be hanged nor burnt.


The Examination of Ellen Greene of Stathorne in the County of Leicester:

She saith, That one Joane Willimot of Goadby came about sixe yeares since, to her in the Wowlds, and perswaded this Examinate to forsake God, and betake her to the Devill, and she would give her two Spirits, to which she gave her consent and thereupon the said Joane Willimot called two Spirits, one in the likenes of a Kitlin, and the other of a Moldiwarp, the first the said Willmot called Pusse, the other Hiffe, hiffe, and they presently came to her, and she departing left them with this Examinate, and they lept on her shoulder, and the Kitlin suckt under her right eare on her necke, and the Moldiwarp on the left side, in the like place. After they had suckt her, shee sent the Kitlin to a Baker of that Towne, whose name she remembers not, who had called her Witch and bade her said Spirit goe and bewitch him to death: the Moldiwarp she then bade goe to Anne Dawse of the same Towne, and bewitch her to death, because shee had; called this Examinate Witch, whore, jade, &c. and within one fortnight after they both died.

About three yeares since, this Examinate removed thence to Stathorne, where she now dwelt: upon a difference betweene the said Willimot and the wife of John Patchet of the said Stathorne Yeoman, she the said Willimot called her this Examinate to goe and touch the said John Patchets wife and her childe, which she did, touching the said John Patchets wife in her bed, and the child in the Grace-wifes armes, and then sent her said Spirits to bewitch them to death, which they did, and so the woman lay languishing by the space of a moneth and more, for then she died; the child died the next day after she touched it.


The Examination of Margaret Flower:

She saith and confesseth, That about foure or five yeare since her mother sent her, for the right hand glove of Henry Lord Rosse, afterward that her mother bade her go againe into the Castle of Bever, and bring downe the glove or some other thing of Henry Lord Rosse, and she askt what to do? Her mother replied, to hurt my Lord Rosse: whereupon she brought downe a glove, and delivered the same to her mother, who stroked Rutterkin her Cat with it; after it was dipt in hot water, and so prickt it often, after which Henry Lord Rosse fell sicke within a weeke, and was much tormented with the same.

Shee further faith, That finding a glove about two or three yeares since of Francis Lord Rosse, on a dunghill, shee delivered it to her mother, who put it into hot water and after tooke it out and rubd it on Rutterkin the Cat, and bad him goe upwards, and after her mother buried it in the yard, and said a mischiefe light on him, but hee will mend againe.

Shee further confesseth, that by her mothers commandment, she brought to her a piece of a handkerchiefe of the Lady Katherine the Earles daughter, and her mother put it into hot water, and then taking it out, rubd it on Rutterkin, bidding him flie, and goe; whereupon Rutterkin whined and cried Mew: whereupon she said, that Rutterkin had no power over the Lady Katherine to hurt her.

Margaret Flower, at the same time confesseth, that she hath two familiar Spirits sucking on her, the one white, the other blacke spotted; the white sucked under her left breast, and the blacke spotted within the inward parts of her secrets. When she first entertained them she promised them her soule, and they covenanted to do all things which shee commanded them.

She further saith, That about the 30th of January last past, being Saturday, foure Devills appeared unto her in Lincolne Jayle, at eleven or twelve a clocke at midnight: The one stood at her beds feet, with a blacke head like an Ape, and spake unto her, but what, she cannot well remember, at which she was very angry because hee would speake no plainer, or let her understand his meaning: the other three were Rutterkin, Little Robin, and Spirit; but she never mistrusted them, nor suspected her selfe till then.

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Marriage Witchcraft

Put her head but in a blacke bagge

These snippets come from A certaine relation of the hog-faced gentlewoman called Mistris Tannakin Skinker (1640), a curious story about the fantastical birth of a child with a hog’s nose, who eventually marries at the age of sixteen.

In a place in Holland, called Wirkham lived one Joachim Skinker, whose wifes name was Parnel; a man of good revenue, but of a great estate in money and cattle. These two having very lovingly lived together, without any issue to succeed them in their goods and inheritance: it being no small griefe unto them, that either strangers, or some of their owne ungrateful Kindred should after death enjoy those meanes for which they had so laboriously travail’d, when they were in their greatest despaire, it happened thus she found her selfe conceived with childe, which was a greater joy and comfort to her and her husband. In the yeere 1618, she was safely delivered of a Daughter, all the limbes and lineaments of her body well featur’d and proportioned, only her face, which is the ornament and beauty of all the rest, had the Nose of a Hog, or Swine: which was not only a stain and blemish, but a deformed uglinesse, making all the rest loathsome, contemptible and odious to all that lookt upon her in her infancie. To conceale their shame, they so farre mediated with the Midwife and the other women that were present at the delivery, that they should keepe it as close and secret as it was possible to doe, and they called the name of it Tannakin, which is in English Anne, or Hannah.

It is credibly reported, that this Burgers wife having conceived, an old woman suspected for a Witch came to begge of her an Almes, but she being at the time busied about some necessary affaires gave her a short and neglectfull answer; at which she [the witch] went away muttering to her selfe the Divells pater noster, and was heard to say, As the Mother is Hoggish, so Swinish shall be the Child shee goeth withall. Which is a great probability that the infants deformity came by the malitious Spells, and divelish murmurations of this wicked woman.

[When] it was publickly discovered to the World; insomuch that much confluence of people came to see the progedy, which wearied the Father, and cast a blush upon the cheekes of the good woman the mother, some desirous to heare her speake, others importunate to see her feede. Then milke and the like was brought unto her in a silver Trough; to which she stooped and eate, just as a Swine doth in his swilling Tub; which the more mirth it bred in the Spectators, increased in the father the more melancholy: insomuch that he bethought himselfe to finde out some meanes, (if it were possible) either to mend or end his sorrowes.  And to that purpose, hearing of a famous Artist, who was both a Mathematician, and an Astrologian (whose name was Vandermast) and lived not farre from him; a man who was suspected to have been well versed in blacke and hidden Arts, to him he repaired, and when he had made knowne his griefes by every circumstance, he desired of him some present remedy, for which hee would bee no way ingratefull. Who, after some pause, told him that whilst she continued in the estate of a Virgin, there was no hope of her recovery; yet advised him not to match her unto Clowne, Bore, or Pesant. He repaired backe to his owne house, and acquainted his wife with the passage of the whole businesse; where they long consulted betwixt themselves, what were best in this difficult case to bee done.

After much reasoning Pro and Con, they concluded to put her into very rich and costly habit (but her face still vaild and covered) and to give out that what gentleman of fashion or quality soever would take her to his bed after loyall Matrimony, (for she was at this time betwixt sixeteene and seventeene yeares of age, and therefore marriageable) should receive for a Dowry with her, forty thousand pound, payed downe in Starling and Currant money. This was a baite sufficient to make every Fish to bite at, for no sooner was this publickely divulged, but there came Suitors of all sorts; insomuch that his Gates were thronged as at an Outcry, or rather as a Lottery, every one in hope to carry away the great Prize of forty thousand pound; for it was not the person, but the prize at which they aimed.

One [suitor] thinkes to him selfe, so the body bee handsome, though her countenance be never so coarse and ugly, all are alike in the night; and in the day time, put her head but in a blacke bagge, and what difference betwixt her and another woman?  Another comforteth him selfe thus: That if shee cannot speake, shee cannot chide; and therefore hee shall be sure not to have a scold to his wife.

Amongst some Suitors came a Scotch man being a Captaine, who having hazarded the greatest part of a months pay uppon one Suite of Cloathes, was desirous to see this Gentlewoman, and was received by the Parents; who thinking him to be some great Leard in his Country, gave him generous entertainement. She was brought unto him with her face covered, and in an habit which might well have suited the greatest Lady in the Land; who admiring her feature and proportion, was much inamoured of her person, but desirous to see her face, discovered, when hee beheld it; hee would stay no other conference, but ran away without further answer, saying; they must pardon him, for hee could indure no Porke.

Next came a Sow-man, borne in England, having accomodated himselfe for the same adventure, and presuming that loving Sow so well, no Hogs-face could affright him; he presently at the sight of her could endure her company no longer, and at his farewell, said, so long as I have known Rumford, I never saw such a Hogsnout.’

Eventually this poor girl’s parents do find her a suitable match, and the story concludes with a cunning twist.

The day of marriage came, when the Ladyes striving to tricke her up in the richest habite and best ornaments they could devise, the more they strived to beautifie her, the more ugly and deformed she appeared. Briefly, married they were, and bed-time came, heaven knowes to his small comfort, and lesse content. The Bride-chamber was prepared, and the rooms, according to the Brides appoyntment stucke full of lights. The doors are shut, to bed she goes, and urgeth him to make haste, and doe the office of an husband: who was no sooner laid by her side, with as much distance as was possible, shee pluckt him by the arme, and desired him to reach a Light; and if shee could receive no other favour at his hands, yet at least once more to looke upon her, and she would then acquit him of his promise.

This seeming to be an easie condition, he takes a light, and looking steadfastly upon her, he discovered a sweet young Lady of incomparable beauty and feature, the like to whom to his imagination he never had in his whole life time beheld: at which strange sight being much extasied, he grew as greatly Inamoured, insomuch, that he beganne to court her, and offered to kisse her, &c. But she modestly putting him backe, said to him as followeth: Sir, I am indeed no other than I now seeme unto you; and of these two things I give you free choice, whether I shall appeare to you thus as you now see me, young, faire, and lovely in your bed, and all the daytime, and abroad, of my former deformity: or thus beautifull in the day, to the sight of your friends, but in your armes every night of my former Age and Uglinesse: of these two things I give you free choice of, which till you have resolv’d me, there can be no other familiarity betwixt in: therefore without pause give me a speedy answer.

This more then all the rest distracted him  For what was her beauty to him in the night, if she appeared to all his friends so loathsome by day?  Or what was her rare feature to him, either abroad amongst his friends, or at board, if she were so odious to him in bed?  Therefore he said unto her: Sweet and delicate Lady, I am confounded in your question; nor know I what to answer; but into you owne hands and choyse I give the full power and soveraignty to make election of which you best please. At which words shee lovingly turned towards him, and said, Now Sir, you have given me that which all women most desire, my Will, and Soveraignty; and know I, waw by a wicked and sorcerous step-dame inchanted, never to returne to my pristine shape, till I was first married, and after had received such power from my Husband · And now from henceforth I shall be the same to you night and day, of that youth and lively-hood which you now see mee; till Time and Age breed new alteration, even to the last period of my life. At which, how incredible his joy was.

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