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The Superstitions of Witchcraft
by Howard Williams
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Evidence of the appearance of the devil was various and contradictory. Some at the Domdaniel, the place of assemblage, had a vision of a hideous wild he-goat upon a large gilded throne; others of a man twisted and disfigured by Tartarean torture; of a gentleman in black with a sword, booted and spurred; to others he seemed as some shapeless indistinct object, as that of the trunk of a tree, or some huge rock or stone. They proceeded to their meetings riding on spits, pitchforks, broom-sticks: being entertained on their arrival in the approved style, and indulging in the usual licence. Deputies from witchdom attended from all parts, even from Scotland. When reproached by some of his slaves for failing to come to the rescue in the torture-chamber or at the stake, their lord replied by causing illusory fires to be lit, bidding the doubters walk through the harmless flames, promising not more inconvenience in the bonfires of their persecutors. Lycanthropic criminals were also brought up who had prowled about and devastated the sheepfolds. Espaignol and De l'Ancre were provided with two professional Matthew Hopkinses: one a surgeon for examining the 'marks' (generally here discovered in the left eye, like a frog's foot) in the men and older women; the other a girl of seventeen, for the younger of her sex. Many of the priests were executed; several made their escape from the country. Besides the work before mentioned, De l'Ancre published a treatise under the title of 'L'Incredulite et Mescreance du Sortilege pleinement convaincue,' 1622. The expiration of the term of the Bordeaux commission brought the proceedings to a close, and fortunately saved a number of the condemned.

In Spain, the land of Torquemada and Ximenes, which had long ago fanatically expelled the Jews and recently its old Moorish conquerors from its soil, the unceasing activity of the Inquisition during 140 years must have extorted innumerable confessions and proofs of diabolic conspiracies and heresy. Antonio Llorente, the historian of the Inquisition, to whose rare opportunities of obtaining information we are indebted for some instructive revelations, has exposed a large number of the previously silent and dark transactions of the Holy Office. But the demonological ideas of the Southern Church and people are profusely displayed in the copious dramatic literature of the Spaniards, whose theatre was at one time nearly as popular, if not as influential, as the Church.

The dramas of the celebrated Lope de Vega and of Calderon in particular, are filled with demons as well as angels[122]—a sort of religious compensation to the Church for the moral deficiencies of a licentious stage, or rather licentious public.

[122] In the Nacimiento de Christo of Lope de Vega the devil appears in his popular figure of the dragon. Calderon's Wonder-Working Magician, relating the adventures of St. Cyprian and the various temptations and seductions of the Evil Spirit, like Goethe's Faust, introduces the devil in the disguise of a fashionable and gallant gentleman.—Ticknor's History of Spanish Literature.



CHAPTER VI.

'Possession' in France in the Seventeenth Century—Urbain Grandier and the Convent of Loudun—Exorcism at Aix—Ecstatic Phenomena—Madeleine Bavent—Her cruel Persecution—Catholic and Protestant Witchcraft in Germany—Luther's Demonological Fears and Experiences—Originated in his exceptional Position and in the extraordinary Circumstances of his Life and Times—Witch-burning at Bamburg and at Wuerzburg.

Demoniacal possession was a phase of witchcraft which obtained extensively in France during the seventeenth century: the victims of this hallucination were chiefly the female inmates of religious houses, whose inflamed imaginations were prostituted by their priestly advisers to the most atrocious purposes. Urbain Grandier's fate was connected with that of an entire convent. The facts of this celebrated sorcerer's history are instructive. He was educated in a college of the Jesuits at Bordeaux, and presented by the fathers, with whom his abilities and address had gained much applause, to a benefice in Loudun. He provoked by his haughtiness the jealousy of his brother clergy, who regarded him as an intruder, and his pride and resentment increased in direct proportion to the activity of his enemies, who had conspired to effect his ruin. Mounier and Mignon, two priests whom he had mortally offended, were most active. Urbain Grandier was rash enough to oppose himself alone to the united counsels of unscrupulous and determined foes. Defeated singly in previous attempts to drive him from Loudun, the two priests combined with the leading authorities of the place. Their haughty and careless adversary had the advantage or disadvantage of a fine person and handsome face, which, with his other recommendations, gained him universal popularity with the women; and his success and familiarities with the fair sex were not likely to escape the vigilance of spies anxious to collect damaging proofs. What inflamed to the utmost the animosities of the two parties was the success of Canon Mignon in obtaining the coveted position of confessor to the convent of Ursulines in Loudun, to the exclusion of Grandier, himself an applicant. This convent was destined to assume a prominent part in the fate of the cure of the town. The younger nuns, it seems, to enliven the dull monotony of monastic life, adopted a plan of amusing their leisure by frightening the older ones in making the most of their knowledge of secret passages in the building, playing off ghost-tricks, and raising unearthly noises. When the newly appointed confessor was informed of the state of matters he at once perceived the possibility, and formed the design, of turning it to account. The offending nuns were promised forgiveness if they would continue their ghostly amusement, and also affect demoniacal possession; a fraud in which they were more readily induced to participate by an assurance that it might be the humble means of converting the heretics—Protestants being unusually numerous in that part of the country.

As soon as they were sufficiently prepared to assume their parts, the magistrates were summoned to witness the phenomena of possession and exorcism. On the first occasion the Superior of the convent was the selected patient; and it was extracted from the demon in possession that he had been sent by Urbain Grandier, priest of the church of St. Peter. This was well so far; but the civil authorities generally, as it appears, were not disposed to accept even the irrefragable testimony of a demoniac; and the ecclesiastics, with the leading inhabitants, were in conflict with the civil power. Opportunely, however, for the plan of the conspirators, who were almost in despair, an all-powerful ally was enlisted on their side. A severe satire upon some acts of the minister of France, Cardinal Richelieu, or of some of his subordinates, had made its appearance. Urbain was suspected to be the author; his enemies were careful to improve the occasion; and the Cardinal-minister's cooperation was secured. A royal commission was ordered to inquire into the now notorious circumstances of the Loudun diabolism. Laubardemont, the head of the commission, arrived in December 1633, and no time was lost in bringing the matter to a crisis. The house of the suspected was searched for books of magic; he himself being thrown into a dungeon, where the surgeons examined him for the 'marks.' Five insensible spots were found—a certain proof. Meanwhile the nuns become more hysterical than ever; strong suspicion not being wanting that the priestly confessors to the convent availed themselves of their situation to abuse the bodies as well as the minds of the reputed demoniacs. To such an extent went the audacity of the exorcists, and the credulity of the people, that the enceinte condition of one of the sisters, which at the end of five or six months disappeared, was explained by the malicious slander of the devil, who had caused that scandalous illusion. Crowds of persons of all ranks flocked from Paris and from the most distant parts to see and hear the wild ravings of these hysterical or drugged women, whose excitement was such that they spared not their own reputations; and some scandalous exposures were submitted to the amusement or curiosity of the surrounding spectators. Some few of them, aroused from the horrible delusion, or ashamed of their complicity, admitted that all their previous revelations were simple fiction. Means were found to effectually silence such dangerous announcements. The accusers pressed on the prosecution; the influence of his friends was overborne, and Grandier was finally sentenced to the stake. Fearing the result of a despair which might convincingly betray the facts of the case to the assembled multitude, they seem to have prevailed upon the condemned to keep silence up to the last moment, under promise of an easier death. But already fastened to the stake, he learned too late the treachery of his executioners; instead of being first strangled, he was committed alive to the flames. Nor were any 'last confessions' possible. The unfortunate victim of the malice of exasperated rivals, and of the animosity of the implacable Richelieu, has been variously represented.[123] It is noticeable that the scene of this affair was in the heart of the conquered Protestant region—Rochelle had fallen only six years before the execution; and the heretics, although politically subdued, were numerous and active. A fact which may account for the seeming indifference and even the opposition of a large number of the people in this case of diabolism which obtained comparatively little credit. It had been urged to the nuns that it would be for the good and glory of Catholicism that the heretics should be confounded by a few astounding miracles. Whether Grandier had any decided heretical inclinations is doubtful; but he wrote against the celibacy of the priesthood, and was suspected of liberal opinions in religion. A Capuchin named Tranquille (a contemporary) has furnished the materials for the 'History of the Devils of Loudun' by the Protestant Aubin, 1716.

[123] Michelet apparently accepts the charge of immorality; according to which the cure took advantage of his popularity among the ladies of Loudun, by his insinuating manners, to seduce the wives and daughters of the citizens. By another writer (Alexandre Dumas, Celebrated Crimes) he is supposed to have been of a proud and vindictive disposition, but innocent of the alleged irregularities.

Twenty-four years previously a still more scandalous affair—that of Louis Gauffridi and the Convent of Aix, in which Gauffridi, who had debauched several girls both in and out of the establishment, was the principal actor—was transacted with similar circumstances. Madeleine, one of the novices, soon after entering upon her noviciate, was seized with the ecstatic trances, which were speedily communicated to her companions.[124] These fits, in the judgment of the priests, were nothing but the effect of witchcraft. Exorcists elicited from the girls that Louis Gauffridi, a powerful magician having authority over demons throughout Europe, had bewitched them. The questions and answers were taken down, by order of the judges, by reporters, who, while the priests were exorcising, committed the results to writing, published afterwards by one of them, Michaelis, in 1613. Among the interesting facts acquired through these spirit-media, the inquisitors learned that Antichrist was already come; that printing, and the invention of it, were alike accursed, and similar information. Madeleine, tortured and imprisoned in the most loathsome dungeon, was reduced to such a condition of extreme horror and dread, that from this time she was the mere instrument of her atrocious judges. Having been intimate with the wizard, she could inform them of the position of the 'secret marks' on his person: these were ascertained in the usual way by pricking with needles. Gauffridi, by various torture, was induced to make the required confession, and was burned alive at Aix, April 30, 1611.

[124] M. Maury, in a philosophical and learned work (La Magie et l'Astrologie dans l'Antiquite et au Moyen Age), has scientifically explored and exposed the mysteries of these and the like ecstatic phenomena, of such frequent occurrence in Protestant as well as in Catholic countries; in the orphan-houses of Amsterdam and Horn, as well as in the convents of France and Italy in the 17th century. And the Protestant revivalists of the present age have in great measure reproduced these curious results of religious excitement.

Demoniacal possession was a mania in France in the seventeenth century. The story of Madeleine Bavent, as reported, reveals the utmost licentiousness and fiendish cruelty.[125] Gibbon justly observes that ancient Rome supported with the greatest difficulty the institution of six vestals, notwithstanding the certain fate of a living grave for those who could not preserve their chastity; and Christian Rome was filled with many thousands of both sexes bound by vows to perpetual virginity. Madeleine was seduced by her Franciscan confessor when only fourteen; and she entered a convent lately founded at Louviers. In this building, surrounded by a wood, and situated in a suitable spot, some strange practices were carried on. At the instigation of their director, a priest called David, the nuns, it is reported, were seized with an irresistible desire of imitating the primitive Adamite simplicity: the novices were compelled to return to the simple nudity of the days of innocence when taking exercise in the conventual gardens, and even at their devotions in the chapel. The novice Madeleine, on one occasion, was reprimanded for concealing her bosom with the altar-cloth at communion. She was originally of a pure and artless mind; and only gradually and stealthily she was corrupted by the pious arguments of her priest. This man, Picart by name—one of that extensive class the 'tristes obsc[oe]ni,' of whom the Angelos and Tartuffes[126] are representatives—succeeded to the vacant office of directing confessor to the nuns of Louviers; and at once embraced the opportunities of the confessional. Without repeating all the disgusting scenes that followed, as given by Michelet, it is only necessary to add that the miserable nun became the mistress and helpless creature of her seducer. 'He employed her as a magical charm to gain over the rest of the nuns. A holy wafer steeped in Madeleine's blood and buried in the garden would be sure to disturb their senses and their minds. This was the very year in which Urban Grandier was burned. Throughout France men spoke of nothing but the devils of Loudun.... Madeleine fancied herself bewitched and knocked about by devils; followed about by a lewd cat with eyes of fire. By degrees other nuns caught the disorder, which showed itself in odd supernatural jerks and writhings.'

[125] It is but one instance of innumerable amours within the secret penetralia of the privileged conventual establishments. In the dark recesses of these vestal institutions on a gigantic scale, where publicity, that sole security, was never known, what vices or even crimes could not be safely perpetrated? Luther, who proved in the most practical way his contempt for the sanctity of monastic vows by eloping with a nun, assures us, among other scandals attaching to convent life, of the fact that when a fish-pond adjoining one of these establishments in Rome was drained off, six thousand infant skulls were exposed to view. A story which may be fact or fiction. But while fully admitting the probability of invention and exaggeration in the relations of enemies, and the fact that undue prejudice is likely to somewhat exaggerate the probable evils of the mysterious and unknown, how could it be otherwise than that during fourteen centuries many crimes should have been committed in those silent and safe retreats? Nor, indeed, is experience opposed to the possibility of the highest fervour of an unnatural enthusiasm being compatible with more human passions. The virgin who,

'Ut flos in septis secretus nascitur hortis Ignotus pecori,'

as eulogised by the virgin-chorus in the beautiful epithalamium of Catullus, might be recognised in the youthful 'religieuse' if only human passion could be excluded; but the story of Heloise and Abelard is not a solitary proof of the superiority of human nature over an impossible and artificial spirituality.

[126] As Tartuffe privately confesses,

'L'amour qui nous attache aux beautes eternelles N'etouffe pas en nous l'amour des temporelles.

* * * * *

Pour etre devot, je n'en suis pas moins homme.'

The Superior was not averse to the publication of these events, having the example and reputation of Loudun before her. Little is new in the possession and exorcism: for the most part they are a repetition of those of Aix and Loudun. During a brief interval the devils were less outrageous: for the Cardinal-minister was meditating a reform of the monastic establishments. Upon his death they commenced again with equal violence. Picart was now dead—but not so the persecution of his victim. The priests recommenced miracle-working with renewed vigour.[127] Saved from immediate death by a fortunate or, as it may be deemed, unfortunate sensitiveness to bodily pain, she was condemned for the rest of her life to solitary confinement in a fearful dungeon, in the language of her judges to an in pace. There lying tortured, powerless in a loathsome cell, their prisoner was alternately coaxed and threatened into admitting all sorts of crimes, and implicating whom they wished.[128] The further cruelties to which the lust, and afterwards the malignancy, of her gaolers submitted her were not brought to an end by the interference of parliament in August 1647, when the destruction of the Louviers establishment was decreed. The guilty escaped by securing, by intimidation, the silence of their prisoner, who remained a living corpse in the dungeons of the episcopal palace of Rouen. The bones of Picart were exhumed, and publicly burned; the cure Boulle, an accomplice, was dragged on a hurdle to the fish-market, and there burned at the stake. So terminated this last of the trilogical series. But the hysterical or demoniacal disease was as furious as ever in Germany in the middle of the eighteenth century; and was attended with as tremendous effects at Wuerzburg as at Louviers.

[127] To the diabolic visions of the other they opposed those of 'a certain Anne of the Nativity, a girl of sanguine hysterical temperament, frantic at need, and half mad—so far at least as to believe in her own lies. A kind of dog-fight was got up between the two. They besmeared each other with false charges. Anne saw the devil quite naked by Madeleine's side. Madeleine swore to seeing Anne at the Sabbath with the Lady Superior, the Mother Assistant, and the Mother of the novices.... Madeleine was condemned, without a hearing, to be disgraced, to have her body examined for the marks of the devil. They tore off her veil and gown, and made her the wretched sport of a vile curiosity that would have pierced till she bled again in order to win the right of sending her to the stake. Leaving to no one else the care of a scrutiny which was in itself a torture, these virgins, acting as matrons, ascertained if she were with child or no; shaved all her body, and dug their needles into her quivering flesh to find out the insensible spots.'—La Sorciere.

[128] The horrified reader may see the fuller details of this case in Michelet's La Sorciere, who takes occasion to state that, than 'The History of Madeleine Bavent, a nun of Louviers, with her examination, &c., 1652, Rouen,' he knows of 'no book more important, more dreadful, or worthier of being reprinted. It is the most powerful narrative of its class. Piety Afflicted, by the Capuchin Esprit de Bosrager, is a work immortal in the annals of tomfoolery. The two excellent pamphlets by the doughty surgeon Yvelin, the Inquiry and the Apology, are in the Library of Ste. Genevieve.'—La Sorciere, the Witch of the Middle Ages, chap. viii. Whatever exaggeration there may possibly be in any of the details of these and similar histories, there is not any reasonable doubt of their general truth. It is much to be wished, indeed, that writers should, in these cases, always confine themselves to the simple facts, which need not any imaginary or fictitious additions.

In Germany during the seventeenth century witches felt the fury of both Catholic and Protestant zeal; but in the previous age prosecutions are directed against Protestant witches. They abounded in Upper Germany in the time of Innocent VIII., and what numbers were executed has been already seen. When the revolutionary party had acquired greater strength and its power was established, they vied with the conservatives in their vigorous attacks upon the empire of Satan.

Luther had been sensible to the contagious fear that the great spiritual enemy was actually fighting in the ranks of his enemies. He had personal experience of his hostility. Immured for his safety in a voluntary but gloomy prison, occupied intensely in the plan of a mighty revolution against the most powerful hierarchy that has ever existed, engaged continuously in the laborious task of translating the Sacred Scriptures, only partially freed from the prejudices of education, it is little surprising that the antagonist of the Church should have experienced infernal hallucinations. This weakness of the champion of Protestantism is at least more excusable than the pedantic folly of the head of the English Church. When Luther, however, could seriously affirm that witchcraft 'is the devil's proper work wherewith, when God permits, he not only hurts people but makes away with them; for in this world we are as guests and strangers, body and soul, cast under the devil: that idiots, the lame, the blind, the dumb are men in whom ignorant devils have established themselves, and all the physicians who attempt to heal these infirmities as though they proceeded from natural causes, are ignorant blockheads who know nothing about the power of the demon,' we cannot be indignant at the blind credulity of the masses of the people. It appears inconsistent that Luther, averse generally to supernaturalism, should yet find no difficulty in entertaining these irrational diabolistic ideas. The circumstances of his life and times sufficiently explain the inconsistency.[129]

[129] The following sentence in his recorded conversation, when the free thoughts of the Reformer were unrestrained in the presence of his most intimate friends, is suggestive. 'I know,' says he, 'the devil thoroughly well; he has over and over pressed me so close that I scarcely knew whether I was alive or dead. Sometimes he has thrown me into such despair that I even knew not that there is a God, and had great doubts about our dear Lord Christ. But the Word of God has speedily restored me' (Luther's Tischreden or Table Talk, as cited in Howitt's History of the Supernatural). The eloquent controversialist Bossuet and the Catholics have been careful to avail themselves of the impetuosity and incautiousness of the great German Reformer.

Of all the leaders of the religious revolution of the sixteenth century, the Reformer of Zurich was probably the most liberally inclined; and Zuinglius' unusual charity towards those ancient sages and others who were ignorant of Christianity, which induced him to place the names of Aristides, Socrates, the Gracchi, &c., in the same list with those of Moses, Isaiah, and St. Paul, who should meet in the assembly of the virtuous and just in the future life, obliged Luther openly to profess of his friend that 'he despaired of his salvation,' and has provoked the indignation of the bishop of Meaux.—Variations des Eglises Protestantes, ii. 19 and 20.

On the eve of the prolonged and ferocious struggle on the continent between Catholicism and Protestantism a wholesale slaughter of witches and wizards was effected, a fitting prologue to the religious barbarities of the Thirty Years' War. Fires were kindled almost simultaneously in two different places, at Bamburg and Wuerzburg; and seldom, even in the annals of witchcraft, have they burned more tremendously. The prince-bishops of those territories had long been anxious to extirpate Lutheranism from their dioceses. Frederick Forner, Suffragan of Bamburg, a vigorous supporter of the Jesuits, was the chief agent of John George II. He waged war upon the heretical sorcerers in the 'whole armour of God,' Panoplia armaturae Dei. According to the statements of credible historians, nine hundred trials took place in the two courts of Bamburg and Zeil between 1625 and 1630. Six hundred were burned by Bishop George II. No one was spared. The chancellor, his son, Dr. Horn, with his wife and daughters, many of the lords and councillors of the bishop's court, women and priests, suffered. After tortures of the most extravagant kind it was extorted that some twelve hundred of them were confederated to bewitch the entire land to the extent that 'there would have been neither wine nor corn in the country, and that thereby man and beast would have perished with hunger, and men would be driven to eat one another. There were even some Catholic priests among them who had been led into practices too dreadful to be described, and they confessed among other things that they had baptized many children in the devil's name. It must be stated that these confessions were made under tortures of the most fearful kind, far more so than anything that was practised in France or other countries.... The number brought to trial in these terrible proceedings were so great, and they were treated with so little consideration, that it was usual not even to take the trouble of setting down their names; but they were cited as the accused Nos. 1, 2, 3, &c. The Jesuits took their confessions in private, and they made up the lists of those who were understood to have been denounced by them.'

More destructive still were the burnings of Wuerzburg at the same period under the superintendence of Philip Adolph, who ascended the episcopal throne in 1623. In spite of the energy of his predecessors, a grand confederacy of sorcerers had been discovered, and were at once denounced.[130]

[130] 'A catalogue of nine and twenty braende or burnings during a very short period of time, previous to the February of 1629, will give the best notion of the horrible character of these proceedings; it is printed,' adds Mr. Wright, 'from the original records in Hauber's Bibliotheca Magica.' E.g. in the Fifth Braende are enumerated: (1) Latz, an eminent shopkeeper. (2) Rutscher, a shopkeeper. (3) The housekeeper of the Dean of the cathedral. (4) The old wife of the Court ropemaker. (5) Jos. Sternbach's housekeeper. (6) The wife of Baunach, a Senator. (7) A woman named Znickel Babel. (8) An old woman. In the Sixteenth Burning: (1) A noble page of Ratzenstein. (2) A boy of ten years of age. (3, 4, 5) The two daughters of the Steward of the Senate and his maid. (6) The fat ropemaker's wife. In the Twentieth Burning: (1) Gobel's child, the most beautiful girl in Wuerzburg. (2) A student on the fifth form, who knew many languages, and was an excellent musician. (3, 4) Two boys from the New Minster, each twelve years old. (5) Stepper's little daughter. (6) The woman who kept the bridge gate. In the Twenty-sixth Burning are specified: (1) David Hans, a Canon in the New Minster. (2) Weydenbusch, a Senator. (3) The innkeeper's wife of the Baumgarten. (4) An old woman. (5) The little daughter of Valkenberger was privately executed and burned on her bier. (6) The little son of the town council bailiff. (7) Herr Wagner, vicar in the cathedral, was burned alive.—Narratives of Sorcery and Magic. The facts are taken from Dr. Soldan's Geschichte der Hexenprocesse, whose materials are to be found in Horst's Zauber Bibliothek and Hauber's Bibliotheca Magica.

Nine appears to have been the greatest number, and sometimes only two were sent to execution at once. Five are specially recorded as having been burned alive. The victims are of all professions and trades—vicars, canons, goldsmiths, butchers, &c. Besides the twenty-nine conflagrations recorded, many others were lighted about the same time: the names of whose prey are not written in the Book of Death. Frederick Spee, a Jesuit, formerly a violent enemy of the witches, but who had himself been incriminated by their extorted confessions at these holocausts, was converted to the opposite side, and wrote the 'Cautio Criminalis,' in which the necessity of caution in receiving evidence is insisted upon—a caution, without doubt, 'very necessary at that time for the magistracy throughout Germany.' All over Germany executions, if not everywhere so indiscriminately destructive as those in Franconia and at Wuerzburg, were incessant: and it is hardly the language of hyperbole to say that no province, no city, no village was without its condemned.



CHAPTER VII.

Scotland one of the most Superstitious Countries in Europe—Scott's Relation of the Barbarities perpetrated in the Witch-trials under the auspices of James VI.—The Fate of Agnes Sampson, Euphane MacCalzean, &c.—Irrational Conduct of the Courts of Justice—Causes of voluntary Witch-confessions—Testimony of Sir G. Mackenzie, &c.—Trial and Execution of Margaret Barclay—Computation of the number of Witches who suffered death in England and Scotland in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries—Witches burned alive at Edinburgh in 1608—The Lancashire Witches—Sir Thomas Overbury and Dr. Forman—Margaret Flower and Lord Rosse.

Scotland, by the physical features of the country and by the character and habits of the people, is eminently apt for the reception of the magical and supernatural of any kind;[131] and during the century from 1563 it was almost entirely subject to the dominion of Satan. Sir Walter Scott has narrated some of the most prominent cases and trials in the northern part of the island. The series may be said to commence from the confederated conspiracy of hell to prevent the union of James VI. with the Princess Anne of Denmark. An overwhelming tempest at sea during the voyage of these anti-papal, anti-diabolic royal personages was the appointed means of their destruction.

[131] A late philosophic writer has ventured to institute a comparison in point of superstition and religious intolerance between Spain and Scotland. The latter country, however, has denied to political what it conceded to priestly government: hence its superior material progress and prosperity.—Buckle's History of Civilisation in England.

The human agents were Agnes Sampson, the wise wife of Keith (one of the better sort, who cured diseases, &c.); Dame Euphane MacCalzean, widow of a senator of the College of Justice, and a Catholic; Dr. John Fian or Cunninghame, a man of some learning, and of much skill in poison as well as in magic; Barbara Napier or Douglas; Geillis Duncan; with about thirty other women of the lowest condition. 'When the monarch of Scotland sprung this strong covey of his favourite game, they afforded the Privy Council and himself sport for the greatest part of the remaining winter. He attended on the examinations himself.... Agnes Sampson, after being an hour tortured by the twisting of a cord around her head according to the custom of the buccaneers, confessed that she had consulted with one Richard Grahame concerning the probable length of the king's life and the means of shortening it. But Satan, to whom at length they resorted for advice, told them in French respecting King James, Il est un homme de Dieu. The poor woman also acknowledged that she had held a meeting with those of her sisterhood, who had charmed a cat by certain spells, having four joints of men knit to its feet, which they threw into the sea to excite a tempest: they embarked in sieves with much mirth and jollity, the fiend rolling himself before them upon the waves dimly seen, and resembling a huge haystack in size and appearance. They went on board of a foreign ship richly laden with wines, where, invisible to the crew, they feasted till the sport grew tiresome; and then Satan sunk the vessel and all on board. Fian or Cunninghame was also visited by the sharpest tortures, ordinary and extraordinary. The nails were torn from his fingers with smiths' pincers; pins were driven into the places which the nails usually defended; his knees were crushed in the boots; his finger-bones were splintered in the pilniewincks. At length his constancy, hitherto sustained, as the bystanders supposed, by the help of the devil, was fairly overcome; and he gave an account of a great witch-meeting at North Berwick, where they paced round the church withershins—i. e. in reverse of the motion of the sun. Fian then blew into the lock of the church door, whereupon the bolts gave way: the unhallowed crew entered, and their master the devil appeared to his servants in the shape of a black man occupying the pulpit. He was saluted with a "Hail, Master!" but the company were dissatisfied with his not having brought a picture of the king, repeatedly promised, which was to place his Majesty at the mercy of this infernal crew.... The devil, on this memorable occasion, forgot himself, and called Fian by his own name instead of the demoniacal sobriquet of Rob the Rowan, which had been assigned to him as Master of the Rows or Rolls. This was considered as bad taste; and the rule is still observed at every rendezvous of forgers, smugglers, or the like, where it is accounted very indifferent manners to name an individual by his own name in case of affording ground of evidence which may upon a day of trial be brought against him. Satan, something disconcerted, concluded the evening with a divertissement and a dance after his own manner. The former consisted in disinterring a new-buried corpse, and dividing it in fragments among the company; and the ball was maintained by well-nigh two hundred persons, who danced a ring dance.... Dr. Fian, muffled, led the ring, and was highly honoured, generally acting as clerk or recorder. King James was deeply interested in those mysterious meetings, and took great delight to be present at the examinations of the accused. He sent for Geillis Duncan, and caused her to play before him the same tune to which Satan and his companions led the brawl in North Berwick churchyard. His ears were gratified in another way: for at this meeting it was said the witches demanded of the devil why he did bear such enmity against the king, who returned the flattering answer, that the king was the greatest enemy whom he had in the world. Almost all these poor wretches were executed: nor did Euphane MacCalzean's station in life save her from the common doom, which was strangling to death and burning to ashes thereafter. The majority of the jury which tried Barbara Napier, having acquitted her of attendance at the North Berwick meeting, were themselves threatened with a trial for wilful error upon an assize, and could only escape from severe censure and punishment by pleading guilty, and submitting themselves to the king's pleasure. The alterations and trenching,' adds Scott, 'which lately took place on the Castle-hill at Edinburgh for the purpose of forming the new approach to the city from the west, displayed the ashes of the numbers who had perished in this manner, of whom a large proportion must have been executed between 1590—when the great discovery was made concerning Euphane MacCalzean and the wise wife of Keith and their accomplices—and the union of the crowns.'[132]

[132] Sir W. Scott's Letters on Demonology and Witchcraft, ix.

Euphane's exceptional doom was 'to be bound to the stake, and burned in ashes quick to the death.' 'Burning quick' was not an uncommon sentence: if the less cruel one of hanging or strangling first and afterwards burning was more usual. Thirty warlocks and witches was the total number executed on June 25th, 1591. A few, like Dr. Cunninghame, may have been really experienced in the use of poison and poisonous drugs. The art of poisoning has been practised perhaps almost as extensively as (often coextensively with) that of sorcery; a tremendous and mostly inscrutable crime which science, in all ages, has been able more surely to conceal than to detect.

Two facts eminently illustrate the barbarous iniquity of the Courts of Justice when dealing with their witch prisoners. An expressed malediction, or frequently an almost inaudible mutter, followed by the coincident fulfilment of the imprecation, was accepted eagerly by the judges as sufficient proof (an antecedent one, contrary to the boasted principle of English law at least, which assumes the innocence until the guilt has been proved, of the accused) of the crime of the person arraigned. And they complacently attributed to conscious guilt the ravings produced by an excruciating torture—that equally inhuman and irrational invention of judicial cruelty; confidently boasting that they were careful to sentence no person without previous confession duly made.

But these confessions not seldom were partly extracted from a natural wish to be freed from the persecution of neighbours as well as from present bodily torture. Sir George Mackenzie, Lord Advocate of Scotland during the period of the greatest fury, and himself president at many of the trials, a believer, among other cases in his Criminal Law, 1678, relates that of a condemned witch who had confessed judicially to him and afterwards 'told me under secrecy, that she had not confessed because she was guilty; but being a poor creature who wrought for her meat, and being defamed for a witch she knew she should starve, for no person thereafter would either give her meat or lodging, and that all men would beat her and set dogs at her, and that therefore she desired to be out of the world. Whereupon she wept most bitterly, and upon her knees called God to witness to what she said. Another told me that she was afraid the devil would challenge a right to her after she was said to be his servant, and would haunt her, as the minister said when he was desiring her to confess, and therefore she desired to die. And really,' admits the learned judge, 'ministers are oft-times indiscreet in their zeal to have poor creatures to confess in this; and I recommend to judges that the wisest ministers should be sent to them; and that those who are sent should be cautious in this particular.' Another confession at the supreme moment of the same sort, as recorded by the Rev. G. Sinclair in 'Satan's Invisible World Discovered' is equally significant and genuine. What impression it left upon the pious clergyman will be seen in his concluding inference. The witch, 'being carried forth to the place of execution, remained silent during the first, second, and third prayer, and then, perceiving there remained no more but to rise up and go to the stake, she lifted up her body and with a loud voice cried out, "Now all you that see me this day know that I am now to die as a witch by my own confession, and I free all men, especially the ministers and magistrates, of the guilt of my blood. I take it wholly upon myself—my blood be upon my own head; and as I must make answer to the God of heaven presently, I declare I am as free of witchcraft as any child. But being delated by a malicious woman, and put in prison under the name of a witch; disowned by my husband and friends, and seeing no ground of hope of my coming out of prison or ever coming in credit again, through the temptation of the devil I made up that confession on purpose to destroy my own life, being weary of it, and choosing rather to die than live"—and so died; which lamentable story as it did then astonish all the spectators, none of which could restrain themselves from tears, so it may be to all a demonstration of Satan's subtlety, whose design is still to destroy all, partly by tempting many to presumption, and some others to despair.'

The trial of Margaret Barclay took place in 1613. Her crime consisted in having caused by means of spells the loss of a ship at sea. She was said to have had a quarrel with the owner of the shipwrecked vessel, in the course of which she uttered a wish that all on board might sink to the bottom of the sea. Her imprecation was accomplished, and upon the testimony of an itinerant juggler, John Stewart, she was arraigned before a Court of Justice. With the help of the devil in the shape of a handsome black dog, she had moulded some figures of clay representing the doomed sailors, which with the prescribed rites were thrown into the deep. We are informed by the reporters of the proceedings at this examination, that 'after using this kind of gentle torture [viz. placing the legs in a pair of stocks and laying on gradually increasing weights of iron bars], the said Margaret began, according to the increase of the pain, to cry and crave for God's cause to take off her shin the foresaid irons, and she should declare truly the whole matter. Which being removed, she began at her formal denial; and being of new assayed in torture as before, she then uttered these words: "Take off, take off! and before God I shall show you the whole form." And the said irons being of new, upon her faithful promise, removed, she then desired my Lord of Eglinton, the said four justices, and the said Mr. David Dickson, minister of the burgh; Mr. George Dunbar, minister of Ayr; Mr. Mitchell Wallace, minister of Kilmarnock; Mr. John Cunninghame, minister of Dalry; and Hugh Kennedy, provost of Ayr, to come by themselves and to remove all others, and she should declare truly, as she should answer to God, the whole matter. Whose desire in that being fulfilled, she made her confession in this manner without any kind of demand, freely without interrogation: God's name by earnest prayer being called upon for opening of her lips and easing of her heart, that she by rendering of the truth might glorify and magnify His holy name and disappoint the enemy of her salvation.'

One of those involved in the voluntary confession was Isabel Crawford, who was frightened into admitting the offences alleged. In court, when asked if she wished to be defended by counsel, Margaret Barclay, whose hopes and fears were revived at seeing her husband, answered, 'As you please; but all I have confessed was in agony of torture; and, before God, all I have spoken is false and untrue.' She was found guilty; sentenced to be strangled at the stake; her body to be burned to ashes. Isabel Crawford, after a short interval, was subjected to the same sort of examination: a new commission having been granted for the prosecution, and 'after the assistant-minister of Irvine, Mr. David Dickson, had made earnest prayers to God for opening her obdurate and closed heart, she was subjected to the torture of iron bars laid upon her bare shins, her feet being in the stocks. She endured this torture with incredible firmness, since she did "admirably, without any kind of din or exclamation, suffer above thirty stone of iron to be laid on her legs, never shrinking thereat in any sort, but remaining, as it were, steady." But in shifting the situation of the iron bars, and removing them to another part of her shins, her constancy gave way; she broke out into horrible cries of "Take off! take off!" On being relieved from the torture she made the usual confession of all that she was charged with, and of a connection with the devil which had subsisted for several years. Sentence was given against her accordingly. After this had been denounced she openly denied all her former confessions, and died without any sign of repentance; offering repeated interruptions to the minister in his prayers, and absolutely refusing to pardon the executioner.'[133] It might be possible to form an imperfect estimate of how many thousands were sacrificed in the Jacobian persecution in Scotland alone from existing historical records, which would express, however, but a small proportion of the actual number: and parish registers may still attest the quantity of fuel provided at a considerable expense, and the number of the fires. By a moderate computation an average number of two hundred annually, making a total of eight thousand, are reckoned to have been burned in the last forty years of the sixteenth century.[134]

[133] Letters on Demonology and Witchcraft, ix.

The Scotch trials and tortures, of which the above cases are but one or two out of a hundred similar ones, are perhaps the more extraordinary as being the result of mere superstition: religious or political heresy being seldom an excuse for the punishment and an aggravation of the offence.

[134] A larger proportion of victims than even those of the Holy Office during an equal space of time. According to Llorente (Hist. de l'Inquisition) from 1680 to 1781, the latter period of its despotism (which flourished especially under Charles II., himself, as he was convinced, a victim of witch-malice), between 13,000 and 14,000 persons suffered by various punishments: of which number, however, 1,578 were burned alive.

In England, from 1603 to 1680, seventy thousand persons are said to have been executed; and during the fifteen hundred years elapsed since the triumph of the Christian religion, millions are reckoned to have been sacrificed on the bloody altars of the Christian Moloch. An entry in the minutes of the proceedings in the Privy Council for 1608 reveals that even James's ministers began to experience some horror of the consequences of their instructions. And the following free testimony of one of them is truly 'an appalling record:'—'1608.—December 1.—The Earl of Mar declared to the council that some women were taken in Broughton [suburban Edinburgh] as witches, and being put to an assize and convicted, albeit they persevered constant in their denial to the end, yet they were burned quick after such a cruel manner that some of them died in despair, renouncing and blaspheming God; and others half-burned broke out of the fire, and were cast quick in it again till they were burned to the death.'[135]

[135] The terrestrial and real Fiends seem to have striven to realise on earth and to emulate the 'Tartarus horrificos eructans faucibus aestus' described by the Epicurean philosophic poet (Lucretius, De Rerum Natura, iii.).

Equally monstrous and degrading were the disclosures in the torture-chambers; and many admitted that they had had children by the devil. The circumstances of the Sabbath, the various rites of the compact, the forms and method of bewitching, the manner of sexual intercourse with the demons—these were the principal staple of the judicial examinations.

In the southern part of the island witch-hanging or burning proceeded with only less vehemence than in Scotland. One of the most celebrated cases in the earlier half of the seventeenth century (upon which Thomas Shadwell the poet laureate, who, under the name of MacFlecknoe, is immortalised by the satire of Dryden, founded a play) is the story of the Lancashire Witches. This persecution raged at two separate periods; first in 1613, when nineteen prisoners were brought before Sir James Altham and Sir Edward Bromley, Barons of Exchequer. Elizabeth Southern, known as 'Mother Demdike' in the poet laureate's drama, is the leader of the criminals. In 1634 the proceedings were renewed wholly on the evidence of a boy who, it was afterwards ascertained, had been instructed in his part against an old woman named Mother Dickenson. The evidence was of the feeblest sort; nor are its monotonous details worth repetition. Out of some forty persons implicated on both occasions, fortunately the greater number escaped. 'Lancashire Witches,' a term so hateful in its origin, has been long transferred to celebrate the superior charms (of another kind) of the ladies of Lancashire; and the witches' spells are those of natural youth and beauty.

The social position of Sir Thomas Overbury has made his fate notorious. An infamous plot had been invented by the Earl of Rochester (Robert Kerr) and the Countess of Essex to destroy a troublesome obstacle to their contemplated marriage. The practice of 'hellish charms' is only incidental; an episode in the dark mystery. Overbury was too well acquainted with royal secrets (whose disgusting and unnatural kind has been probably correctly conjectured), too important for the keeping of even a private secretary. His ruin was determined by the revenge of the noble lovers and sealed by the fear of the king. At the end of six months he had been gradually destroyed by secret poison in his prison in the Tower (to which for an alleged offence he had been committed) by the agency of Dr. Forman, a famous 'pharmaceutic,' under the auspices of the Earl of Rochester. This Dr. Forman had been previously employed by Lady Essex, a notorious dame d'honneur at James's Court, to bewitch the Earl to an irresistible love for her, an enchantment which required, apparently, no superhuman inducement. A Mrs. Turner, the countess's agent, was associated with this skilful conjuror. They were instructed also to bewitch Lord Essex, lately returned from abroad, in the opposite way—to divert his love from his wife.[136]

[136] The husband was impracticable; he could not be disenchanted. Conjurations and charms failing, 'the countess was instructed to bring against the Earl of Essex a charge of conjugal incapacity: A commission of reverend prelates of the church was appointed to sit in judgment, over whom the king presided in person; and a jury of matrons was found to give their opinion that the Lady Essex was a maiden.' Divorce was accordingly pronounced, and with all possible haste the king married his favourite to the appellant with great pomp at Court. After the conspirators had been arraigned by the public indignation, a curious incident of the trial, according to a cotemporary report, was, that there being 'showed in court certain pictures of a man and a woman made in lead, and also a mould of brass wherein they were cast; a black scarf also full of white crosses which Mrs. Turner had in her custody; enchanted paps and other pictures [as well as a list of some of the devil's particular names used in conjuration], suddenly was heard a crack from the scaffold, which carried a great fear, tumult, and commotion amongst the spectators and through the hall; every one fearing hurt as if the devil had been present and grown angry to have his workmanship known by such as were not his own scholars' (Narratives of Sorcery and Magic, by Thomas Wright). Whatever may have been the crime or crimes for the knowledge of which Sir Thomas Overbury was doomed, it is significant that for his own safety the king was compelled to break an oath (sworn upon his knees before the judges he had purposely summoned, with an imprecation that God's curse might light upon him and his posterity for ever if he failed to bring the guilty to deserved punishment), and to not only pardon but remunerate his former favourite after he had been solemnly convicted and condemned to a felon's death. The crime, the knowledge of which prevented the appearance of Somerset at the gibbet or the scaffold, has been supposed by some, with scarcely sufficient cause or at least proof, to be the murder by the king of his son Prince Henry. Doubt has been strongly expressed of the implication at all of the favourite in the death of Overbury: the evidence produced at the trial about the poisoning being, it seems, made up to conceal or to mystify the real facts.

Two women were executed at Lincoln, in 1618, for bewitching Lord Rosse, eldest son of the Earl of Rutland, and others of the family—Lord Rosse being bewitched to death; also for preventing by diabolic arts the parents from having any more children. Before the Lord Chief Justice of the Common Pleas and one of the Barons of the Exchequer, it was proved that the witches had effected the death of the noble lord by burying his glove in the ground, and 'as that glove did rot and waste, so did the liver of the said lord rot and waste.' Margaret Flower confessed she had 'two familiar spirits sucking on her, the one white, the other black spotted. The white sucked under her left breast,' &c.



CHAPTER VIII.

The Literature of Europe in the Seventeenth Century proves the Universality and Horror of Witchcraft—The most acute and most liberal Men of Learning convinced of its Reality—Erasmus and Francis Bacon—Lawyers prejudiced by Legislation—Matthew Hale's judicial Assertion—Sir Thomas Browne's Testimony—John Selden—The English Church least Ferocious of the Protestant Sects—Jewell and Hooker—Independent Tolerance—Witchcraft under the Presbyterian Government—Matthew Hopkins—Gaule's 'Select Cases of Conscience'—Judicial and Popular Methods of Witch-discovery—Preventive Charms—Witchfinders a legal and numerous Class in England and Scotland—Remission in the Severity of the Persecution under the Protectorship.

Had we not the practical proof of the prevalence of the credit of the black art in accomplished facts, the literature of the first half of the seventeenth century would be sufficient testimony to its horrid dominion. The works of the great dramatists, the writings of men of every class, continually suppose the universal power and horror of witchcraft. Internal evidence is abundant. The witches of Macbeth are no fanciful creation, and Shakspeare's representation of La Pucelle's fate is nothing more than a copy from life. What the vulgar superstition must have been may be easily conceived when men of the greatest genius or learning credited the possibility, and not only a theoretical but actual occurrence, of these infernal phenomena. Gibbon is at a loss to account for the fact that the acute understanding of the learned Erasmus, who could see through much more plausible fables, believed firmly in witchcraft.[137] Francis Bacon, the advocate and second founder of the inductive method and first apostle of the Utilitarian philosophy, opposed though he might have been to the vulgar persecution, was not able to get rid of the principles upon which the creed was based.[138] Sir Edward Coke, his contemporary, the most acute lawyer of the age, or (as it is said) of any time, ventured even to define the devil's agents in witchcraft. Sir Thomas Browne (author of 'Pseudodoxia Epidemica' or 'Vulgar Errors!'), a physician and writer of considerable merit, and Sir Matthew Hale, in 1664, proved their faith, the one by his solemn testimony in open court, the other by his still more solemn sentence.

[137] See Miscellaneous Works: Abstract of my Readings.

[138] 'Consorting with them [the unclean spirits who have fallen from their first estate] and all use of their assistance is unlawful; much more any worship or veneration whatsoever. But a contemplation and knowledge of their nature, power, illusions, not only from passages of sacred scripture but from reason or experience, is not the least part of spiritual wisdom. So truly the Apostle, "We are not ignorant of his wiles." And it is not less permissible in theology to investigate the nature of demons, than in physics to investigate the nature of drugs, or in ethics the nature of vice.'—De Augmentis Scientiarum, lib. iii. 2.

If theologians were armed by the authority or their interpretation of Scripture, lawyers were no less so by that of the Statute Book. Judge Hale, in an address to the jury at Bury St. Edmund's, carefully weighing evidence, and, summing up, assures them he did 'not in the least doubt there are witches: first, because the Scriptures affirmed it; secondly, because the wisdom of all nations, particularly of our own, had provided laws against witchcraft which implied their belief of such a crime.'[139] Sir Thomas Browne, who gave his professional experience at this trial, to the effect that the devil often acts upon human bodies by natural means, afflicting them in a more surprising manner through the diseases to which they are usually subject; and that in the particular case, the fits (of vomiting nails, needles, deposed by other witnesses) might be natural, only raised to a great degree by the subtlety of the devil cooperating with the malice of the witches, employs a well-known argument when he declares ('Religio Medici'), 'Those that to confute their incredulity desire to see apparitions shall questionless never behold any. The devil hath these already in a heresy as capital as witchcraft; and to appear to them were but to convert them.'

[139] Unfortunately for the cause of truth and right, Sir Matthew Hale's reasons are not an exceptional illustration of the mischief according to Roger Bacon's experience of 'three very bad arguments we are always using—This has been shown to be so; This is customary; This is universal: Therefore it must be kept to.' Sir Thomas Browne, unable, as a man of science, to accept in every particular alleged the actual bona fide reality of the devil's power, makes a compromise, and has 'recourse to a fraud of Satan,' explaining that he is in reality but a clever juggler, a transcendent physician who knows how to accomplish what is in relation to us a prodigy, in knowing how to use natural forces which our knowledge has not yet discovered. Such an unworthy compromise was certainly not fitted to arouse men from their 'cauchemar demonologique.'—See Revue des Deux Mondes, Aug. 1, 1858.

John Selden, a learned lawyer, but of a liberal mind, was gifted with a large amount of common sense, and it might be juster to attribute the dictum which has been supposed to betray 'a lurking belief' to an excess of legal, rather than to a defect of intellectual, perception. Selden, inferring that 'the law against witches does not prove there be any, but it punishes the malice of those people that use such means to take away men's lives,' proceeds to assert that 'if one should profess that by turning his hat thrice and crying "Buz," he could take away a man's life (though in truth he could do no such thing), yet this were a just law made by the state, that whosoever shall turn his hat ... with an intention to take away a man's life, should be put to death.'[140]

[140] Table Talk or Discourses of John Selden. Although it must be excepted to the lawyer's summary mode of dealing with an imaginary offence, we prefer to give that eminent patriot at least the benefit of the doubt, as to his belief in witchcraft.

If men of more liberal sentiments were thus enslaved to old prejudices, it is not surprising that the Church, not leading but following, should firmly maintain them. Fortunately for the witches, without the motives actuating in different ways Catholics and Calvinists, and placed midway between both parties, the reformed English Church was not so much interested in identifying her crimes with sorcerers as in maintaining the less tremendous formulae of Divine right, Apostolical succession, and similar pretensions. Yet if they did not so furiously engage themselves in actual witch-prosecutions, Anglican divines have not been slow in expressly or impliedly affirming the reality of diabolical interposition. Nor can the most favourable criticism exonerate them from the reproach at least of having witnessed without protestation the barbarous cruelties practised in the name of heaven; and the eminent names of Bishop Jewell, the great apologist of the English Church, and of the author of the 'Ecclesiastical Polity,' among others less eminent, may be claimed by the advocates of witchcraft as respectable authorities in the Established Church. The 'judicious' Hooker affirms that the evil spirits are dispersed, some in the air, some on the earth, some in the waters, some among the minerals, in dens and caves that are under the earth, labouring to obstruct and, if possible, to destroy the works of God. They were the dii inferi [the old persuasion] of the heathen worshipped in oracles, in idols, &c.[141] The privilege of 'casting out devils' was much cherished and long retained in the Established Church.

[141] Quoted in Howitt's History of the Supernatural. The author has collected a mass of evidence 'demonstrating an universal faith,' a curious collection of various superstition. He is indignant at the colder faith of the Anglican Church of later times.

During the ascendency of the Presbyterian party from 1640 to the assumption of the Protectorship by Cromwell, witches and witch-trials increased more than ever; and they sensibly decreased only when the Independents obtained a superiority. The adherents of Cromwell, whatever may have been their own fanatical excesses, were at least exempt from the intolerant spirit which characterised alike their Anglican enemies and their old Presbyterian allies. The astute and vigorous intellect of the great revolutionary leader, the champion of the people in its struggles for civil and religious liberty, however much he might affect the forms of the prevailing religious sentiment, was too sagacious not to be able to penetrate, with the aid of the counsels of the author of the 'Treatise of Civil Power in Ecclesiastical Causes,' who so triumphantly upheld the fundamental principle of Protestantism,[142] somewhat beneath the surface. In what manner the Presbyterian Parliament issued commissions for inquiring into the crimes of sorcery, how zealously they were supported by the clergy and people, how Matthew Hopkins—immortal in the annals of English witchcraft—exercised his talents as witchfinder-general, are facts well known.[143]

[142] 'Seeing therefore,' infers Milton, the greatest of England's patriots as well as poets, 'that no man, no synod, no session of men, though called the Church, can judge definitively the sense of Scripture to another man's conscience, which is well known to be a maxim of the Protestant religion; it follows plainly, that he who holds in religion that belief or those opinions which to his conscience and utmost understanding appear with most evidence or probability in the Scripture, though to others he seem erroneous, can no more be justly censured for a heretic than his censurers, who do but the same thing themselves, while they censure him for so doing.... To Protestants therefore, whose common rule and touchstone is the Scripture, nothing can with more conscience, more equity, nothing more Protestantly can be permitted than a free and lawful debate at all times by writing, conference, or disputation of what opinion soever disputable by Scripture.... How many persecutions, then, imprisonments, banishments, penalties, and stripes; how much bloodshed, have the forcers of conscience to answer for—and Protestants rather than Papists!' (A Treatise of Civil Power in Ecclesiastical Causes.) The reasons which induced Milton to exclude the Catholics of his day from the general toleration are more intelligible and more plausible, than those of fifty or sixty years since, when the Rev. Sidney Smith published the Letters of Peter Plymley.

[143] Displayed in the satire of Hudibras, particularly in Part II. canto 3, Part III. 1, and the notes of Zachary Grey. The author of this amusing political satire has exposed the foibles of the great Puritan party with all the rancour of a partisan.

That the strenuous antagonists of despotic dogmas, by whom the principles of English liberty were first inaugurated, that they should so fanatically abandon their reason to a monstrous idea, is additional proof of the universality of superstitious prejudice. But the conviction, the result of a continual political religious persecution of their tenets, that if heaven was on their side Satan and the powers of darkness were still more inimical, cannot be fully understood unless by referring to those scenes of murder and torture. Hunted with relentless ferocity like wild beasts, holding conventicles and prayer meetings with the sword suspended over their heads, it is not surprising that at that period these English and Scotch Calvinists came to believe that they were the peculiar objects of diabolical as well as human malice. Their whole history during the first eighty years of the seventeenth century can alone explain this faith. Besides this genuine feeling, the clergy of the Presbyterian sect might be interested in maintaining a creed which must magnify their credit as miracle-workers.[144]

[144] The author of Hudibras, in the interview of the Knight and Sidrophel (William Lilly), enumerates the various practices and uses of astrology and witchcraft in vogue at this time, and employed by Court and Parliament with equal eagerness and emulation. Dr. Zachary Grey, the sympathetic editor of Hudibras, supplies much curious information on the subject in extracts from various old writers. 'The Parliament,' as he states, 'took a sure way to secure all prophecies, prodigies, and almanac-news from stars, &c., in favour of their own side, by appointing a licenser thereof, and strictly forbidding and punishing all such as were not licensed. Their man for this purpose was the famous Booker, an astrologer, fortune-teller, almanac-maker, &c. The words of his license in Rushorth are very remarkable—for mathematics, almanacs, and prognostications. If we may believe Lilly, both he and Booker did conjure and prognosticate well for their friends the Parliament. He tells us, "When he applied for a license for his Merlinus Anglicus Junior (in Ap. 1644), Booker wondered at the book, made many impertinent obliterations, framed many objections, and swore it was not possible to distinguish between a king and a parliament; and at last licensed it according to his own fancy. Lilly delivered it to the printer, who, being an arch-Presbyterian, had five of the ministers to inspect it, who could make nothing of it, but said it might be printed; for in that he meddled not with their Dagon." (Lilly's Life.) Which opposition to Lilly's book arose from a jealousy that he was not then thoroughly in the Parliament's interest—which was true; for he frankly confesses, "that till the year 1645 he was more Cavalier than Roundhead, and so taken notice of; but after that he engaged body and soul in the cause of the Parliament."' (Life.) Lilly was succeeded successively by his assistant Henry Coley, and John Partridge, the well-known object of Swift's satire.

The years 1644 and 1645 are distinguished as especially abounding in witches and witchfinders. In the former year, at Manningtree, a village in Essex, during an outbreak in which several women were tried and hanged, Matthew Hopkins first displayed his peculiar talent. Associated with him in his recognised legal profession was one John Sterne. They proceeded regularly on their circuit, making a fixed charge for their services upon each town or village. Swimming and searching for secret marks were the infallible methods of discovery. Hopkins, encouraged by an unexpected success, arrogantly assumed the title of 'Witchfinder-General.' His modest charges (as he has told us) were twenty shillings a town, which paid the expenses of travelling and living, and an additional twenty shillings a head for every criminal brought to trial, or at least to execution.

The eastern counties of Huntingdon, Cambridge, Suffolk, Northampton, Bedford, were chiefly traversed; and some two or three hundred persons appear to have been sent to the gibbet or the stake by his active exertions. One of these specially remembered was the aged parson of a village near Framlingham, Mr. Lowes, who was hanged at Bury St. Edmund's. The pious Baxter, an eyewitness, thus commemorates the event: 'The hanging of a great number of witches in 1645 and 1646 is famously known. Mr. Calamy went along with the judges on the circuit to hear their confessions and see that there was no fraud or wrong done them. I spoke with many understanding, pious, learned, and credible persons that lived in the counties, and some that went to them in the prison and heard their sad confessions. Among the rest, an old reading parson named Lowes, not far from Framlingham, was one that was hanged, who confessed that he had two imps, and that one of them was always putting him upon doing mischief; and he being near the sea as he saw a ship under sail, it moved him to send it to sink the ship, and he consented and saw the ship sink before them.' Sterne, Hopkins's coadjutor, in an Apology published not long afterwards, asserts that Lowes had been indicted thirty years before for witchcraft; that he had made a covenant with the devil, sealing it with his blood, and had those familiars or spirits which sucked on the marks found on his body; that he had confessed that, besides the notable mischief of sinking the aforesaid vessel and making fourteen widows in one quarter of an hour, he had effected many other calamities; that far from repenting of his wickedness, he rejoiced in the power of his imps.

The excessive destruction and cruelty perpetrated by the indiscriminate procedure of the Witchfinder-General incited a Mr. Gaule, vicar of Great Staughton in Huntingdonshire, to urge some objections to the inhuman character of his method. Gaule, like John Cotta before him and others of that class, was provoked to challenge the propriety of the ordinary prosecutions, not so much from incredulity as from humanity, which revolted at the extravagance of the judges' cruelty. In 'Select Cases of Conscience touching Witches and Witchcraft,' the minister of Great Staughton describes from personal knowledge one of the ordinary ways of detecting the guilt of the accused. 'Having taken the suspected witch, she is placed in the middle of a room upon a stool or table, cross-legged, or in some other uneasy position, to which, if she submits not, she is then bound with cords: there is she watched and kept without meat or sleep for the space of four-and-twenty hours (for they say within that time they shall see her imps come and suck); a little hole is likewise made in the door for the imps to come in at, and, lest they should come in some less discernible shape, they that watch are taught to be ever and anon sweeping the room, and if they see any spiders or flies to kill them; and if they cannot kill them, then they may be sure they are her imps.'

'Swimming' and 'pricking' were the approved modes of discovery. By the former method the witch was stripped naked, securely bound (hands and feet being crossed), rolled up in a blanket or cloth, and carried to the nearest water, upon which she was laid on her back, with the alternative of floating or sinking. In case of the former event (the water not seldom refusing to receive the wretch, because—declares James I.—they had impiously thrown off the holy water of baptism) she was rescued for the fire or the gallows; while, in case of sinking to the bottom, she would be properly and clearly acquitted of the suspected guilt. Hopkins prided himself most on his ability for detecting special marks. Causing the suspected woman to be stripped naked, or as far as the waist (as the case might be), sometimes in public, this stigmatic professor began to search for the hidden signs with unsparing scrutiny. Upon finding a mole or wart or any similar mark, they tried the 'insensibleness thereof' by inserting needles, pins, awls, or any sharp-pointed instrument; and in an old and withered crone it might not be difficult to find somewhere a more insensitive spot.

Such examinations were conducted with disregard equally for humanity and decency. All the disgusting circumstances must be sought for in the works of the writers upon the subject. Reginald Scot has collected many of the commonest. These marks were considered to be teats at which the demons or imps were used to be suckled. Many were the judicial and vulgar methods of detecting the guilty—by repeating the 'Lord's Prayer;' weighing against the church Bible; making them shed tears—for a witch can shed tears only with the left eye, and that only with difficulty and in limited quantity. The counteracting or preventive charms are as numerous as curious, not a few being in repute in some parts at this day. 'Drawing blood' was most effective. Nailing up a horse-shoe is one of the best-known preventives. That efficacious counter-charm used to be suspended over the entrance of churches and houses, and no wizard or witch could brave it.[145] 'Scoring above the breath' is omnipotent in Scotland, where the witch was cut or 'scotched' on the face and forehead. Cutting off secretly a lock of the hair of the accused, burning the thatch of her roof and the thing bewitched; these are a few of the least offensive or obscene practices in counter-charming.[146] In what degree or kind the Fetish-charms of the African savages are more ridiculous or disgusting than those popular in England 200 years ago, it would not be easy to determine.

[145] Gay's witch complains:

'Straws, laid across, my pace retard. The horse-shoe's nailed, each threshold's guard. The stunted broom the wenches hide For fear that I should up and ride. They stick with pins my bleeding seat, And bid me show my secret teat.'

[146] The various love-charms, amulets, and spells in the pharmacy of witchcraft are (like the waxen image known, both to the ancient and modern art) equally monstrous and absurd. Of a more natural and pleasing sort was the [Greek: himas poikilos], the irresistible charm of Aphrodite. Here—

[Greek: Thelkteria panta tetykto; Enth' eni men philotes, en d' himeros, en d' oaristys, Parphasis, he t' eklepse noon pyka per phroneonton.]

Matthew Hopkins pursued a lucrative trade in witch-hunting for some years with much applause and success. His indiscriminating accusations at last excited either the alarm or the indignation of his townspeople, if we may believe the tradition suggested in the well-known verses of Butler, who has no authority, apparently, for his insinuation ('Hudibras,' ii. 3), that this eminent Malleus did not die 'the common death of all men.' However it happened, his death is placed in the year 1647. An Apology shortly before had been published by him in refutation of an injurious report gaining ground that he was himself intimately allied with the devil, from whom he had obtained a memorandum book in which were entered the names of all the witches in England. It is entitled 'The Discovery of Witches; in Answer to several Queries lately delivered to the Judge of Assize for the County of Norfolk; and now published by Matthew Hopkins, Witchfinder, for the Benefit of the whole Kingdom. Printed for R. Royston, at the Angel in Inn Lane, 1647.'[147] It is, indeed, sufficiently probable that, confident of the increasing coolness, and perhaps of the wishes, of the magistrates, the mob, ever ready to wreak vengeance upon a disgraced favourite who has long abused the public patience, retaliated upon Hopkins a method of torture he had frequently inflicted upon others.[148]

[147] Quoted by Sir W. Scott from a copy of this 'very rare tract' in his possession.

[148] Dr. Francis Hutchinson (Historical Essay), referring to the verses of Samuel Butler, says that he had often heard that some persons, 'out of indignation at the barbarity [of the witchfinder], took him and tied his own thumbs and toes, as he used to tie others; and when he was put into the water, he himself swam as they did.' But whether the usual fate upon that event awaited him does not appear. The verses in question are the following:—

'has not he, within a year, Hang'd threescore of 'em in one shire,

* * * * *

Who after prov'd himself a witch, And made a rod for his own breech?'

The Knight's Squire on the same occasion reminds his master of the more notorious of the devil's tricks of that and the last age:—

'Did not the devil appear to Martin Luther in Germany for certain, And would have gull'd him with a trick But Mart was too, too politic? Did he not help the Dutch to purge At Antwerp their cathedral church? Sing catches to the saints at Mascon, And tell them all they came to ask him? Appear in divers shapes to Kelly, And speak i' th' nun of Loudun's belly? Meet with the Parliament's committee At Woodstock on a pers'nal treaty? ... &c. &c.'

Hudibras, II. 3.

Hopkins is the most famous of his class on account of his superior talent; but both in England and Scotland witchfinders, or prickers, as they were sometimes called, before and since his time abounded—of course most where the superstition raged fiercest. In Scotland they infested all parts of the country, practising their detestable but legal trade with entire impunity. The Scottish prickers enjoyed a great reputation for skill and success; and on a special occasion, about the time when Hopkins was practising in the South, the magistrates of Newcastle-upon-Tyne summoned from Scotland one of great professional experience to visit that town, then overrun with witches. The magistrates agreed to pay him all travelling expenses, and twenty shillings for every convicted criminal. A bellman was sent round the town to invite all complainants to prefer their charges. Some thirty women, having been brought to the town-hall, were publicly subjected to an examination. By the ordinary process, twenty-seven on this single occasion were ascertained to be guilty, of whom, at the ensuing assizes, fourteen women and one man were convicted by the jury and executed.

Three thousand are said to have suffered for the crime in England under the supremacy of the Long Parliament. A respite followed on this bloody persecution when the Independents came into power, but it was renewed with almost as much violence upon the return of the Stuarts. The Protectorship had been fitly inaugurated by the rational protest of a gentleman, witness to the proceedings at one of the trials, Sir Robert Filmore, in a tract, 'An Advertizement to the Jurymen of England touching Witches.' This was followed two years later by a similar protest by one Thomas Ady, called, 'A Candle in the Dark; or, a Treatise concerning the Nature of Witches and Witchcraft: being Advice to Judges, Sheriffs, Justices of the Peace and Grand Jurymen, what to do before they pass Sentence on such as are arraigned for their Lives as Witches.' Notwithstanding the general toleration of the Commonwealth, in 1652, the year before Cromwell assumed the Dictatorship (1653-1658), there appeared to be a tendency to return to the old system, and several were executed in different parts of the country. Six were hanged at Maidstone. 'Some there were that wished rather they might be burned to ashes, alleging that it was a received opinion amongst many that the body of a witch being burned, her blood is thereby prevented from becoming hereafter hereditary to her progeny in the same evil, while by hanging it is not; but whether this opinion be erroneous or not,' the reporter adds, 'I am not to dispute.'



CHAPTER IX.

Glanvil's Sadducismus Triumphatus—His Sentiments on Witchcraft and Demonology—Baxter's 'Certainty of the World of Spirits,' &c.—Witch Trial at Bury St. Edmund's by Sir Matthew Hale, 1664—The Evidence adduced in Court—Two Witches hanged—Three hanged at Exeter in 1682—The last Witches judicially executed in England—Uniformity of the Evidence adduced at the Trials—Webster's Attack upon the Witch-Creed in 1677—Witch Trials in England at the end of the Seventeenth Century—French Parliaments vindicate the Diabolic Reality of the Crime—Witchcraft in Sweden.

The bold licentiousness and ill-concealed scepticism of Charles II. and his Court, whose despotic prejudices, however, supported by the zeal of the Church, prosecuted dissenters from a form of religion which maintained 'the right divine of kings to govern wrong,' might be indifferent to the prejudice of witchcraft. But the princes and despots of former times have seldom been more careful of the lives than they have been of the liberties, of their subjects. The formal apology for the reality of that crime published by Charles II.'s chaplain-in-ordinary, the Rev. Dr. Joseph Glanvil, against the modern Sadducees (a very inconsiderable sect) who denied both ghosts and witches, their well-attested apparitions and acts, has been already noticed. His philosophic inquiry (so he terms it) into the nature and operations of witchcraft (Sadducismus Triumphatus, Sadduceeism Vanquished, or 'Considerations about Witchcraft'), was occasioned by a case that came under the author's personal observation—the 'knockings' of the demon of Tedworth in the house of a Mr. Mompesson. The Tedworth demon must have been of that sort of active spirits which has been so obliging of late in enlightening the spiritual seances of our time.

Glanvil traces the steps by which a well-meaning student may unwarily be involved in diablerie. This philosophical inquirer observes:—'Those mystical students may, in their first address to the science [astrology], have no other design than the satisfaction of their curiosity to know remote and hidden things; yet that in the progress, being not satisfied within the bounds of their art, doth many times tempt the curious inquirer to use worse means of information; and no doubt those mischievous spirits, that are as vigilant as the beasts of prey, and watch all occasions to get us within their envious reach, are more constant attenders and careful spies upon the actions and inclinations of such whose genius and designs prepare them for their temptations. So that I look on judicial astrology as a fair introduction to sorcery and witchcraft; and who knows but it was first set on foot by the infernal hunters as a lure to draw the curiosos into those snares that lie hid beyond it. And yet I believe it may be innocently enough studied.... I believe there are very few among those who have been addicted to those strange arts of wonder and prediction, but have found themselves attacked by some unknown solicitors, and enticed by them to the more dangerous actions and correspondencies. For as there are a sort of base and sordid spirits that attend the envy and malice of the ignorant and viler sort of persons, and betray them into compacts by promises of revenge; so, no doubt, there are a kind of more airy and speculative fiends, of a higher rank and order than those wretched imps, who apply themselves to the curious.... Yea, and sometimes they are so cautious and wary in their conversations with more refined persons, that they never offer to make any express covenant with them. And to this purpose, I have been informed by a very reverend and learned doctor that one Mr. Edwards, a Master of Arts of Trinity College, in Cambridge, being reclaimed from conjuration, declared in his repentance that the demon always appeared to him like a man of good fashion, and never required any compact from him: and no doubt they sort themselves agreeably to the rate, post, and genius of those with whom they converse.'[149]

[149] Sadducismus Triumphatus, section xvi.

The sentiments of the royal chaplain on demonology are curious. 'Since good men,' he argues, 'in their state of separation are said to be [Greek: isangeloi], why the wicked may not be supposed to be [Greek: isodaimones] (in the worst sense of the word), I know nothing to help me to imagine. And if it be supposed that the imps of witches are sometimes wicked spirits of our own kind and nature, and possibly the same that have been witches and sorcerers in this life: this supposal may give a fairer and more probable account of many of the actions of sorcery and witchcraft than the other hypothesis, that they are always devils. And to this conjecture I will venture to subjoin another, which hath also its probability, viz. that it is not improbable but the familiars of witches are a vile kind of spirits of a very inferior constitution and nature; and none of those that were once of the highest hierarchy now degenerated into the spirits we call devils.... And that all the superior—yea, and inferior—regions have their several kinds of spirits, differing in their natural perfections as well as in the kinds and degrees of their depravities; which being supposed, 'tis very probable that those of the basest and meanest sorts are they who submit to the servilities.'[150] It is a curious speculation how the old apologists of witchcraft would regard the modern 'curiosos'—the adventurous spirit-media of the present day, and whether the consulted spirits are of 'base and sordid rank,' or are 'a kind of airy and more speculative fiends.' It is fair to infer, perhaps, that they are of the latter class.

[150] Sadducismus Triumphatus, Part I. sect. 4. Affixed to this work is a Collection of Relations of well-authenticated instances. Glanvil was one of the first Fellows of the recently established Royal Society. He is the author of a philosophical treatise of great merit—the Scepsis Scientifica—a review of which occupies several pages of The Introduction to the Literature of Europe, and which is favourably considered by Hallam. Not the least unaccountable fact in the history and literature of witchcraft is the absurd contradiction involved in the unbounded credulity of writers (who were sceptical on almost every other subject) on the one subject of demonology.

The author of the 'Saints' Everlasting Rest,' the moderate and conscientious Baxter, was a contemporary of the Anglican divine. In another and later work this voluminous theological writer more fully developed his spiritualistic ideas. 'The Certainty of the World of Spirits fully evinced by unquestionable Histories of Apparitions, Witchcrafts, Operations, Voices, &c., proving the Immortality of Souls, the Malice and Misery of Devils and the Damned, and the Blessedness of the Justified. Written for the Conviction of Sadducees and Infidels,' was a formidable inscription which must have overawed, if it did not subdue, the infidelity of the modern Sadducees.[151]

[151] It would not be an uninteresting, but it would be a melancholy, task to investigate the reasoning, or rather unreasoning, process which involved such honest men as Richard Baxter in a maze of credulity. While they rejected the principle of the ever-recurring ecclesiastical miracles of Catholicism (so sympathetic as well as useful to ardent faith), their devout imagination yet required the aid of a present supernaturalism to support their faith amidst the perplexing doubts and difficulties of ordinary life, and they gladly embraced the consoling belief that the present evils are the work of the enmity of the devil, whose temporary sovereignty, however, should be overthrown in the world to come, when the faith and constancy of his victims shall be eternally rewarded.

The sentence and execution of two old women at Bury St. Edmund's, in 1664, has been already noticed. This trial was carried on with circumstances of great solemnity and with all the external forms of justice—Sir Matthew Hale presiding as Lord Chief Baron: and the following is a portion of the evidence which was received two hundred years ago in an English Court of Justice and under the presidency of one of the greatest ornaments of the English Bench. One of the witnesses, a woman named Dorothy Durent, deposed that she had quarrelled with one Amy Duny, immediately after which her infant child was seized with fits. 'And the said examinant further stated that she being troubled at her child's distemper did go to a certain person named Doctor Job Jacob, who lived at Yarmouth, who had the reputation in the country to help children that were bewitched; who advised her to hang up the child's blanket in the chimney-corner all day, and at night when she put the child to bed to put it into the said blanket; and if she found anything in it she should not be afraid, but throw it into the fire. And this deponent did according to his direction; and at night when she took down the blanket with an intent to put the child therein, there fell out of the same a great toad which ran up and down the hearth; and she, having a young youth only with her in the house, desired him to catch the toad and throw it into the fire, which the youth did accordingly, and held it there with the tongs; and as soon as it was in the fire it made a great and terrible noise; and after a space there was a flashing in the fire like gunpowder, making a noise like the discharge of a pistol, and thereupon the toad was no more seen nor heard. It was asked by the Court if that, after the noise and flashing, there was not the substance of the toad to be seen to consume in the fire; and it was answered by the said Dorothy Durent that after the flashing and noise there was no more seen than if there had been none there. The next day there came a young woman, a kinswoman of the said Amy, and a neighbour of this deponent, and told this deponent that her aunt (meaning the said Amy) was in a most lamentable condition, having her face all scorched with fire, and that she was sitting alone in her house in her smock without any fire. And therefore this deponent went into the house of the said Amy Duny to see her, and found her in the same condition as was related to her; for her face, her legs, and thighs, which this deponent saw, seemed very much scorched and burnt with fire; at which this deponent seemed much to wonder, and asked how she came in that sad condition. And the said Amy replied that she might thank her for it, for that she (deponent) was the cause thereof; but she should live to see some of her children dead, and she upon crutches. And this deponent further saith, that after the burning of the said toad her child recovered and was well again, and was living at the time of the Assizes.' The accused were next arraigned for having bewitched the family of Mr. Samuel Pacy, merchant, of Lowestoft. The witch turned away from their door had at once inflicted summary vengeance by sending some fearful fits and pains in the stomach, apparently caused by an internal pricking of pins; the children shrieking out violently, vomiting nails, pins, and needles, and exclaiming against several women of ill-repute in the town; especially against two of them, Amy Duny and Rose Cullender.

A friend of the family appeared in court, and deposed: 'At some times the children would see things run up and down the house in the appearance of mice, and one of them suddenly snapt one with the tongs and threw it into the fire, and it screeched out like a bat. At another time the younger child, being out of her fits, went out of doors to take a little fresh air, and presently a little thing like a bee flew upon her face and would have gone into her mouth, whereupon the child ran in all haste to the door to get into the house again, shrieking out in a most terrible manner. Whereupon this deponent made haste to come to her; but before she could get to her the child fell into her swooning fit, and at last, with much pain and straining herself, she vomited up a twopenny nail with a broad head; and being demanded by this deponent how she came by this nail, she answered that the bee brought this nail and forced it into her mouth. And at other times the elder child declared unto this deponent that during the time of her fits she saw flies come unto her and bring with them in their mouths crooked pins; and after the child had thus declared the same she fell again into violent fits, and afterwards raised several pins. At another time the said elder child declared unto this deponent, and sitting by the fire suddenly started up and said she saw a mouse; and she crept under the table, looking after it; and at length she put something in her apron, saying she had caught it. And immediately she ran to the fire and threw it in; and there did appear upon it to this deponent like the flashing of gunpowder, though she confessed she saw nothing in the child's hands.' Another witness was the mother of a servant girl, Susanna Chandler, whose depositions are of much the same kind, but with the addition that her daughter was sometimes stricken with blindness and dumbness by demoniacal contrivance at the moment when her testimony was required in court. 'Being brought into court at the trial, she suddenly fell into her fits, and being carried out of the court again, within the space of half an hour she came to herself and recovered her speech; and thereupon was immediately brought into the court, and asked by the Court whether she was in condition to take an oath and to give evidence. She said she could. But when she was sworn and asked what she could say against either of the prisoners, before she could make any answer she fell into her fits, shrieking out in a miserable manner, crying "Burn her! burn her!" which was all the words she could speak.' Doubts having been hazarded by one or two of the less credulous of the origin of the fits and contortions, 'to avoid this scruple, it was privately desired by the judge that the Lord Cornwallis, Sir Edmund Bacon, and Mr. Serjeant Keeling and some other gentlemen there in court, would attend one of the distempered persons in the farthest part of the hall whilst she was in her fits, and then to send for one of the witches to try what would then happen, which they did accordingly.' Some of the possessed, having been put to the proof by having their eyes covered, and being touched upon the hand by one of those present, fell into contortions as if they had been touched by the witches.

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