Enraged at the turn of events, the chieftain, in violation of his promise to the maiden, determined that Allan should not survive to stand between him and the union of Margaret. Sad forebodings filled her mind during the succeeding night. Silent and alone she sat until break of day, when she was aroused by the shrill pibroch, heavy footsteps, and the clank of arms. A silent prayer went up for the soul of her parent, who, she rightly judged, was suffering the last pangs of death. How it was she could not tell, but something whispered to her that Allan too was passing into the land of spirits.
She had not long to wait, though the time seemed to her like an age, before the chieftain of Moy appeared before her, and commanded her to come forth to see the youth of her choice. More dead than alive, she staggered into the open air, to behold the lifeless forms of both her father and Allan. In derision, the monster asked what she thought now of her beardless boy, and said, "That is the way I tame haughty maids." Again she was conveyed to her lonely room in the castle tower to spend the night in solitude, and again the daylight broke in through the small window of her strongly-guarded prison. She heeded not the sun, nor the singing of birds as they warbled their matin songs—no, sorrow lay too heavy near her heart. None can ever tell the grief she endured in the dark watches of the lonely night, or when relief came; but come it did. Nature took its own way of causing the unhappy lady to forget her sadness of heart—reason left its seat, and the orphaned Margaret, instead of grieving over the past, was found singing as sweetly as if she were a bride in a peaceful bower. Now and again the shrill clear voice in song ceased, and then she talked (so the attendants said) to the unseen spirits of those dear to her, whose bodies were still suspended over the castle gate.
The fierce chieftain approached her again with overtures of love, offering her his hand, titles, and estates. To avoid his unholy embrace, she, without waiting to deign a reply, sprang past him with an agility which appeared superhuman, and rushed to the ramparts, that were skirted by the blue waters beneath; then, turning round to the chief of Clan Chattan, she uttered dreadful maledictions against him, ending with the prediction that he would die a bloody death, leaving neither wife nor child behind. Having said this, she leaped from the giddy height into the lake below, in whose waves she preferred to take refuge rather than yield to the tyrant's solicitations. As far as can be ascertained, the wicked Macintosh repented not of his deeds, but continued to conduct himself in a tyrannical manner to all weaker than himself. At last a day of reckoning came—the day when Lady Margaret's curse was to alight upon the head of the murderer of her father and lover. In the summer of 1378, a short time after these deeds of darkness happened, the Monroes of Foulis were returning from a foraying expedition, and asked permission from the chief of Clan Chattan to pass through his country for half the booty they had with them. Macintosh demanded the whole spoil; but, his unreasonable request being refused, a sanguinary conflict ensued, in which the Clan Chattan chief was slain. The victorious Monroes then hastened to the castle of Moy, and put the whole of the inmates to the sword. Thus perished a relentless tyrant, leaving no fond wife to mourn his fate, nor any offspring to carry his name down to posterity. Thereby was fulfilled the prediction of Lady Margaret, whose bones still rest at the bottom of Loch Moy.
DREAMS AND VISIONS OF THE NIGHT.
The Gift or Art of interpreting Dreams—Official Interpreters of Dreams—Sleep, how portrayed—Goddess of Dreams—Greeks soliciting the Inspiration of Dreams—Xenophon on Sleep—Prophetic Power of the Dying—AEsculapius's Discoveries in Dreams—Code of Menu—The Soma-drink—Josephus as a Seer—Dreadful Proposal by Josephus—His Fortunate Escape—An Eastern Conjurer—Reading a Sealed Letter—A Sultan warned of his Death in a Dream—Alexander's Death foretold in a Dream—Records of Dreams in Westminster Abbey—Lord Falkland's Dream—Rev. John Brown's Opinions—Early Christian Faith in Visions and Dreams—Death of a Friend foretold—The Devil's Sonata—Marriage of Queen Mary—Fatality of the Stuart Family—Death of Henry IV. of France.
The gift or art of interpreting dreams originated, at least so it is said, among the Chaldeans and Egyptians. From them it spread to other nations; and in course of time official or public interpreters of dreams were appointed. The sacred pages supply instances of good and bad men having glimpses of futurity through dreams; and profane history makes us acquainted with innumerable cases of curious revelations being made to men while they slept.
Among the ancients sleep was portrayed as a female with black unfolded wings, having in her left hand a white child, the image of sleep, and in her right hand a black child, the image of death. An author has described sleep as the "rest of the spirits, dreaming their tremulous motion;" another writer speaks of sleep as "the reality of another existence;" while a third says, "all men, whilst awake, are in one common world, but that each, when asleep, is in a world of his own." It is of dreams, however, we are writing, and therefore cannot enter into the deep philosophy of sleep.
The Romans worshipped Brizo, the goddess of dreams, and the Greeks were accustomed, in cases of great emergency, to solicit the inspiration of dreams, by performing religious rites, and lying on the reeking skins of oxen or goats offered in sacrifice. Pliny and others attached great importance to dreams. Xenophon remarks that in sleep the souls of men appear to be more unfettered and divine than when the eyes are not closed in slumber, and are enabled to look into futurity. Another writer observes that in sleep the soul holds converse with the Deity, and perceives future events. Socrates, Cicero, and Arian express belief in the prophetic powers occasionally manifested by the dying. Posidonius relates the story of a dying Rhodian predicting which out of six persons would die first, second, etc.; and the prophecy was verified. Hippocrates and Galen put faith in the prophetic character of dreams. Origen tells us that AEsculapius discovered means of cure through dreams, probably brought about by artificial means.
In the code of Menu there are passages showing various modes of producing the ecstatic states, such as through the influence of the sun and moon, by sacrifice, music, liquids, and solid ingredients. The Soma-drink was taken as a sacrament. In connection with human sacrifices, this beverage was sometimes prepared with magical ceremonies and incantations. It was supposed to be capable of producing visions in sleep, when revelations were made of what was passing in the inferior and superior worlds.
Josephus, like many other eminent men, possessed the faculty of predicting future events. Josephus, having fought with great courage against the Romans, refused to surrender to them until after the capture of Jatapat, when he began to reflect on the dreams he had had. In these, both the misfortunes of the Jews and the triumph of the Romans were revealed. When the determination of Josephus to yield became known, his companions in misfortune declared they would rather die than surrender. So exasperated were they, that they proposed to immolate him, and then destroy themselves. Their swords were drawn to kill their leader, when he suggested that they should terminate their lives by a reciprocal death—that the lot should determine successively who should give and who should receive death, until all were slain, and thus avoid the reproach of having laid violent hands on themselves. This suggestion was agreed to. The lots were drawn, and all perished except Josephus and one of his companions. Josephus predicted the good fortune of Vespasian and Titus, and the short life of their predecessors.
In an Eastern tale we are informed of a conjurer who had the reputation of possessing the faculty of reading the contents of sealed letters. Being called into the presence of his prince, he was asked whether he would undertake to inform him of the contents of a despatch he had received by a courier. "Yes," replied the conjuror, "to-morrow morning." The despatch remained sealed in the prince's possession until the following morning, when the conjuror gave the correct contents of the despatch. In explanation, the cunning man said, on going to bed, he excited in himself a strong desire to read the letter, that he then fell asleep, and in a dream he became acquainted with the whole document.
We are told of an old Sultan who was warned of his death in a dream. He thought he saw the great prophet Mohammed snatching the Alcoran out of his hand and taking his coat-of-arms from him by force, and striking him down with so great violence that he could not rise. The astrologers also foretold him that he would never see the feast of Ramazan, because the star that presided at his birth was much obscured in its conjunction with the planet that was then predominant. They affirmed that he would die soon. His dream, and the astrologers' predictions, were not long of being verified. The Sultan's death was accompanied with great ignominy.
From Aristotle we learn that the death of Alexander was foretold in a dream; and so was that of Caesar. In Westminster Abbey are singular records of the dreams of Edward the Confessor, and of instances of faith in visions.
Lord Falkland's dream, the night before the battle of Newbury, in which he was slain, in the year 1643, has often been referred to by persons who believe in dreams. James Montgomery, the poet, has in touching lines assisted to keep the dream from being forgotten.
In more modern times, good men, whom we might suppose to be free from the trammels of superstition, have to some extent directed their course in life according to the interpretation of their dreams. The Rev. John Brown, author of the Dictionary of the Holy Bible, writing of dreams, says: "It is like they often begin from some outward sensation of the body, in which spirits, good and bad, have no inconsiderable influence."
In visions and dreams the persecution of the early Christians was made known to many believers. Other important events were also predicted, and preceded by strange phenomena. But for dreams, not a few celebrated men who played important parts in national affairs would have been entrapped, and turned aside from their purposes.
A gentleman holding a good position in society was awakened by his wife one night, who told him she had had a most unpleasant dream. She thought that a friend, who was in the East India Company's service, had been killed in a duel. She described the place where the duel was fought, and where the dead body lay. Her husband endeavoured to quiet her fears, and characterised the dream as an absurdity, produced by a disturbed imagination. A few months after, the melancholy news reached this country that the Indian friend had fought a duel, been killed on the spot, and his body carried to a shed such as the lady had seen in her dream.
Fastini, a celebrated musician, dreamed one night that he had made a compact with the devil, who promised to be at his service on all occasions. He imagined that he presented the devil with his violin, in order to discover what kind of a musician he was. To Fastini's great astonishment, Satan, as he thought, played a solo of singular beauty, which he executed with such superior taste and precision, that it surpassed all the music he had ever heard or conceived. Fastini awoke greatly excited, and, taking his violin, composed a piece that excelled all his other works. He called it the "Devil's Sonata."
Before the marriage of the young Queen of Scotland with the Dauphin of France, many had strange dreams and visions. Prodigious signs were also observed in her native country. A comet shone for three months; rivers dried up in winter, and in summer swelled so high that cattle were carried away, and villages suddenly destroyed. Whales of enormous size were cast ashore in the Firth of Forth; hailstones as large as pigeons' eggs fell in various parts, destroying the crops; and, still more strange and alarming, a fiery dragon was seen flying low over the earth, vomiting forth fire, which endangered houses and farmyards.
The dire fatality that attended the Royal Stuarts did not surprise those who attended to warnings through dreams, signs, and omens. Few royal families were more unhappy than the Stuarts. James I., after having been eighteen years a prisoner in England, was, together with his queen, assassinated by his subjects; James II. was, in the twenty-ninth year of his age, killed while fighting against England; James III. was imprisoned by his subjects, and afterwards killed in battle by rebels; James IV. perished in a battle which was lost; Mary Stuart was driven from her throne, became a fugitive in Scotland, and, after languishing for years in prison, was condemned by English judges and beheaded; James VI. of Scotland and I. of England, her son, died at his palace at Theobalds, not without strong suspicion of being poisoned; Charles I. was betrayed by his own subjects, and, in terms of a sentence by English judges, lost his life on the scaffold; James VII. of Scotland and II. of England was driven from his kingdoms, and, to fill the cup of bitterness to the brim, the birth of his son, as legitimate heir, was disputed. The misfortunes of Prince Charles are too well known to require us to do anything more than refer to them. In his attempt to regain the throne of his ancestors, he was driven to such a strait that he was compelled, after many of his supporters had been put to death, to escape for his life under the guidance of a woman—Flora Macdonald, renowned in history.
A few days before the death of Henry IV. of France, his queen had two strange dreams. She thought all the jewels in her crown were changed into pearls—a dream that much disturbed her, as pearls were understood to signify tears. On the following night she had another dream which caused her greater uneasiness—that the king was stabbed in one of his sides. The king, as well as the queen, had presentiments that a sad calamity was about to happen them. On the day before his Majesty was killed he was very uneasy, and said something sat heavy on his heart. Before entering the coach in which he was assassinated, he took a tender farewell of the queen, kissing her thrice, and pressing her close to his breast. For a time he hesitated whether he would go out or not; but all at once he resumed his wonted courage, forbade the guards to follow him out of the Louvre, and drove away in an open carriage. The fates were against his Majesty: the fiat had gone forth, and that day the hand of a regicide plunged a knife into the sovereign's body, exactly as the queen had seen in her midnight vision.
Dreaming Dictionaries—Dreaming of an Anchor—Sick Persons' Dreams—Coloured and Rich Raiment—Dreaming of Fruit—Funerals, Hearses, Graves—Dreams sometimes to be read contrariwise—Seeing Candles in the Visions of Night, what they foretell—Darkness and Gloom—Jewellery, Gold, and Silver—Losing and finding Property—Dreaming of Fowls and Eggs—Flying—Bagpipes, Dancing, and Banquets—Dogs, Cocks, Cattle, Horses, and Sheep—Cakes, Corn, Milk, and Cream—Dreams of Carrying and of being Carried—Being hurt by Cats or by any description of Vermin—Angels, Spirits, and Children—Clergymen and Churches—A Broken Watch or Clock—Clouds—Falling from a High Place—Flowers and Fruit—Sailors' Dreams—Running Streams and Still Water—Swimming—Ploughed Ground and Green Fields—Presents—Glass—Dreaming of Hair—Fire, Cold, a Tooth, Kisses, and Knives—Leaping, Climbing a Hill, and Writing—Clean and Dirty Linen—The Sun, Moon, and Stars, Rainbow, Snow, Thunder, and Lightning.
If dreaming dictionaries can be relied on, people may discover by their thoughts in sleep when they are to be prosperous or unlucky; when they are to have joy or sorrow; when they are to be successful in love and war; and when they may expect friends to guard them against enemies. To dream of an anchor is good; it gives hope of good fortune. If a sick person dream of white clothing, he may look for protracted indisposition, if not death; but black apparel denotes speedy recovery. It is not good to dream of raiment of many colours. To dream of being richly arrayed is good, but to see tattered clothing in the visions of the night forebodes evil. It is good to dream of good ripe fruit, but sour fruit signifies encounters with bitter enemies. Sweet apples indicate faithfulness in a sweetheart, whereas unripe cherries foretell vexation and disappointment to lovers. Good figs are signs of prosperity. Gooseberries indicate to husband or wife many children. Grapes foretell to the spinster a cheerful husband, and much happiness in all her life. Dreaming of melons, mulberries, or nuts, gives promise of riches, success in love, and harmony. It is also good to dream of peaches, pears, raspberries, and strawberries; but if oranges, plums, tamarinds, or walnuts are seen in the visions of night, losses and crosses may be looked for.
To dream of a funeral denotes marriage, good fortune, and happiness. If a maiden see a hearse in her sleep, she may expect a rich husband. If a grave appear to one in his dreams, sickness and disappointment may be expected, unless the dreamer imagines he is rising out of it. In that case, success may be looked for. On the other hand, to dream of being married is anything but favourable. Such a dream is indicative of approaching disappointments, loss of property, and death. The force of this seeming contradiction is to be explained by the acknowledged fact that dreams are in many instances to be read contrariwise. To dream of being burned is a sure sign of coming danger. To see a candle extinguished foretells sickness; but the appearance of a bright burning one betokens rejoicing. To the unmarried, burning candles show speedy marriage. Dreams of darkness foreshadow loss of property and friends; but if the dreamer in his sleep emerge from the gloom into light, he may expect that he will rise above his difficulties, and become richer and happier. To dream that a friend is dead betokens hasty news, but not of an unpleasant nature. It is fortunate to dream of jewellery. If a young lady see herself decked with chains of gold and precious stones, she may be certain a suitable husband will soon be hers. Precious stones give promise of many children to the married. If pure gold be dreamed of, success in business may be expected; but it is unlucky to dream of silver. To dream of the latter metal denotes attacks by bitter enemies and false friends. Small silver coins indicate poverty, and large ones give warning of early misery. It is more lucky to dream of receiving than of giving away money. If one dream of losing money, he will undoubtedly meet with disappointment before he goes much further in his journey of life. To dream of losing a purse has the same meaning attached to it as the loss of money has; and the finding of a purse may be read as the picking up of cash. To dream of having a ring on one's finger is good; but to dream of losing a ring is unfavourable. If a married woman lose her marriage ring, or dream that she has lost it, she may expect her husband will die soon. If a betrothed maiden lose or dream of losing her engagement ring, she may look for her lover deserting her and marrying another.
Dreams of hens and chickens are warnings of coming dangers. If one see in his or her dream an eagle soaring high, prosperity and honour are near. To lovers this bird is one of good omen, foretelling rich and good mates. To dream of geese is also favourable; but the person who sees in a vision an owl, had better prepare for sickness and poverty, and look for attacks from enemies. A young man who dreams of a peacock may be sure of getting a beautiful wife; and a maid who fancies in her sleep that this beautiful bird is coming towards her, may be certain that the fates are to provide her with a rich good-looking husband. To dream of swans denotes success to the business man, lovers to the unmarried, and peace and plenty to the married. If swallows are dreamt of, good news may be expected from afar, and prosperity looked for. To dream of selling eggs for gold is good, but to dream of selling them for silver betokens indifferent success in business, love, and war. To dream of buying eggs indicates the gathering of great riches. If a dreamer supposes that he is flying, he should prepare himself for a long journey. This dream indicates to lovers a happy termination to all their wishes, and to the married it denotes abundance and many children.
To dream of bagpipes signifies contention and trouble. To dream of dancing or of being at a ball or banquet, foretells preferment, joyful news; and, in particular, such a dream foretells prosperity in love.
Barking dogs, crowing cocks, bellowing bulls, are unlucky to dream of; but it indicates coming prosperity and happiness to dream of faithful dogs, horses, cows, and fleecy sheep. But look out for loss of goods if you see shorn sheep, and make up your mind to encounter danger if you suppose in your sleep that you are falling off a horse.
Cakes signify joy and plenty, corn in great store, riches and contentment, but grain in small quantities denotes scarcity. Milk or cream thrown or spilt on one's garments is favourable. To dream of selling milk denotes crosses in love; to dream of drinking milk betokens joyful news; and to dream of milking kine shows success in love to the faithful milk-maids. If a maid dream that she is engaged in a dairy, she may be certain that her lover will turn out to be an industrious, prudent husband. But if the farmer dream that he is assisting in the dairy, he may look out for bad crops, and disease among his cattle. If one dream he is being carried, he may expect to require early help of some kind or other. If he dream of carrying another, he may depend upon it, that before many days pass he will be called upon to give the loan of money, sign a bill, or give away property that will not be returned. If one dream of being hurt by a cat, or by any description of vermin, he has good reason to fear he will be overcome by enemies; but if he suppose in sleep that he drove away or killed the creature, he will triumph over his foes. If a squirrel be seen in a dream, the dreamer may rest satisfied some one is endeavouring to injure his reputation; and to a lover it is a warning of a busy and dangerous rival. To dream of angels speaking to you is of good signification; and to think that you see them flying above your head intimates joy. To dream of the devil or of evil spirits, denotes danger from secret and open enemies. If a lover dream of one of these evil beings, it indicates the existence of a powerful rival.
If a poor person dream of children, he or she may expect to become rich. If a childless spouse see in a dream children running round the fireside, there is reason to fear the little prattlers will never be there in reality. It is unlucky to dream that a girl has a beard, or that a boy is grey-headed. It is unlucky to dream of a minister, but it is not an evil sign for one to suppose he is worshipping in church. If you dream that a watch or clock falls or is broken, be sure danger is near.
Black clouds, seen in dreams, presage evil; white clouds denote prosperity; clouds drifting high in air indicate that the dreamer is going to travel, or that long absent friends are to return. To dream of red clouds foretells contention and strife. To dream of fighting or quarrelling should put one on his guard against the deceitfulness of his own heart and the hatred of enemies. If the dreamer suppose himself injured in a quarrel, he will be unable to escape humiliation and shame. To dream of falling from a high place betokens loss of substance and reputation. To dream of withered lilies, damaged violets, and crosses, betokens evil. It is not good for sick people to dream of withered roses; parsley foreshadows death to the sick. It is lucky to dream you see yourself gathering flowers fresh in colour and sweet in perfume. To dream of walking in a flower garden portends elevation in fortune and success in love; and to dream of being in an orchard where there is abundance of sweet and ripe fruit, gives true promise of riches.
If a sailor dream of seeing a dolphin, he will be sure to lose his lady-love; but if he dream that he is drowning, he may expect good luck to attend him. It indicates success in love and business for one to dream of catching fish. To dream of a rapid stream, is a certain warning of coming opposition in every business and undertaking. If one in sleep see a clear sheet of water, good fortune will certainly follow. This dream promises good alike to lovers and men of business. It indicates a smooth passage for one to dream of a calm bright sea; but disappointments and trouble are foreshadowed when a stormy ocean appears to the sleeper. Floating with the head under water foretells great affliction, but swimming buoyantly in clean water shows that the dreamer will rise above difficulties. If a person in business dream of drinking water, loss of goods may be expected; and if a lover dream of tasting water, whether from the sluggish river or from the clear gushing stream, he or she may look for grief and loss of friends.
To dream of ploughed ground forebodes death of a near relative, and to dream of green fields betokens happiness and prosperity. If a person dream of receiving a present, you may be sure fortune is about to show her favours in a peculiarly marked manner. To dream of glass is a sign of danger and the inconstancy of friends. The lady who dreams of combing her hair, has reason to believe her lover will prove true. If one's hair appear long in the dreams of the night, friends full of affection will cling round the dreamer; but if the hair be short and seem to be falling off, it is unlucky. If one dream of seeing a house on fire, he may be sure of receiving hasty news.
When one dreams of being cold or naked, he is threatened with sickness and poverty. It is good to dream of seeing the portraits of friends. One who dreams of losing a tooth, may look for death among his friends. It is good to dream of giving or receiving kisses—it denotes friendship, good health, and earthly prosperity. If one dream of knives or any other description of sharp weapons, he may look for strife. Difficulties await every one who dreams of leaping over a fence or of climbing a hill. It is lucky to dream of writing or receiving letters. Clean linen seen in sleep foretells gladness of heart and faithfulness of friends; but dirty linen denotes disappointment and distress. None could wish a better dream than that in which is seen the clear sun, the rising moon, or the bright stars, for each and all of these denote riches, joy, good news, and constant friends; but it is ominous to dream of a clouded sun, a waning moon, or a pale star.
The rainbow denotes early news of a pleasant nature: probably requiring the dreamer to travel. If an unmarried man dream of snow, he may depend upon it that he will before long lead a bride to the hymeneal altar; and to a young woman it promises an honourable husband and great riches. To the business man, snow seen in a dream foretells success in his undertakings. It is good to dream of thunder and lightning, in whatever state one is placed. He who dreams of these may expect good news from afar, and increase of goods.
LAWS AGAINST AND TRIALS OF WITCHES.
Witchcraft treated with great Severity—Cutting out the Tongue—Laws of AEthelstane—Witchcraft in England—Royal Writers—Sir Edward Cole's Opinion—Statute of Elizabeth against Sorcerers—Law of Mary Queen of Scotland against Witches—Law against Witches abolished—Sir George Mackenzie on Witchcraft—William Forbes on the same—Extracts from Forbes's Institute of the Law of Scotland—Sir Matthew Hale a Believer in Witchcraft—Trial of Rose Cullender and Ann Duny—General Belief in the Existence of Witches—Punishment of Witches, by whom first countenanced—Pope John's Bull—Bishop Jewell—Lord Bacon and the Law against Witches—Fearful Slaughter of supposed Witches—Malleus Maleficarum, or Hammer for Witches—The last Persons executed in Scotland and England for Witchcraft—First German Printers condemned to be burned as Sorcerers—Reginald Scot on the Fables of Witchcraft—Mr. E. Chambers's Views on Witchcraft.
Witchcraft—the nature and theory of which will appear as we proceed—was treated with great severity in early times. In 840 a law was enacted in Scotland, making the punishment of witchcraft no less than the cutting out of the tongue; and, by the laws of AEthelstane in 928, witchcraft in England was made a capital crime. Witches were punished in the reign of Edward III.; and it suited the sanguinary temperament of Henry VIII., as well as the pedantry of other royal writers, to give written descriptions of this crime. Edicts were promulgated against prophets, sorcerers, feeders of evil spirits, charmers, and provokers of unlawful love. Sir Edward Cole thought it would have been "a great defect in government to have suffered such devilish abominations to pass with impunity."
By a statute of Elizabeth, passed in 1562, against sorcerers, it was ordained that for a first offence the punishment was to be restricted to standing in the pillory; for second and subsequent offences, severer inflictions were to follow. Barrington estimates that in the two hundred years during which the greatest severity against supposed witches prevailed in England, thirty thousand judicial murders were committed, under the guise of legal punishments for such imaginary crimes.
A year later (1563) it was considered advisable by Queen Mary of Scotland and her Parliament to pass an Act, having for its object the punishment of persons guilty of any of the crimes under consideration. The Act sets forth:—
"For-sa-meikle as the Queenis Majestie and the three Estaites of this present parliament being informed of the heavie and abominable superstition used be divers of the lieges of this realm, be using of witchcraft, sorcerie, and necromancie, and credence given thereto in times by-gane, against the laws of God: And for avoyding and away putting of all sik vaine superstition in times to cum: It is statute and ordained by the Queen's Majestie, and the three Estaites foresaid, that na maner of person nor persons of quhat-sum-ever estaite, degree, or condition they be of, take upon hand in onie times hereafter to use onie maner of witch-craftes, sorcerie, or necromancie, nor give themselves furth to have onie sik craft or knawledge thereof, their-throw abusand the people: Nor that na persoun seik onie helpe, response, or consultation at onie sik users or abusers foresaidis of witch-craftes, sorceries, or necromancie, under the paine of death, alsweill to be execute against the user, abuser, as the seiker of the response or consultation. And this to be put to execution be the justice, schireffis, stewards, baillies, lords of regalities, and royalties, their deputes, and uthers or ordinar judges competent within this realme, with all rigour, having power to execute the samin."
James VI. of Scotland and I. of England decreed that any one who should use, practise, or exercise any invocation, or consult or covenant with, entertain or employ, feed, or reward any evil or wicked spirit, to or for any purpose, or take up any dead body, should, on being convicted thereof, suffer death.
The laws against witchcraft remained in force, and were executed with severity, for a long time. During the continuance of the Long Parliament alone, three thousand unhappy persons were sacrificed because of their supposed connection with witchcraft. But by the Act 9 George II. cap. 5 it is ordained that no prosecution, suit, or proceeding shall be commenced or carried on against any person for witchcraft, sorcery, enchantment, or conjuration, nor shall any one charge another with any such offence, in any court whatever. But if any person shall pretend to exercise or use any kind of witchcraft, sorcery, enchantment, or conjuration, or undertake to tell fortunes; or pretend, from his skill or knowledge in any occult or crafty science, to discover where or in what manner any goods supposed to have been stolen or lost may be found: every person so offending, being convicted on indictment or information, shall suffer imprisonment for a year, and once in every quarter of the said year, in some market town of the county, upon the market day there, stand openly in the pillory for one hour, and also (if the court by which such judgment shall be given shall think fit) be obliged to give sureties for his good behaviour, in such sum, and for such time, as the said court shall judge proper, according to the circumstances of the offence, and in such case shall be further imprisoned until such sureties shall be given.
Sir George M'Kenzie, the distinguished Scotch lawyer, thought there was such a craft as witchcraft; and so did William Forbes, a member of the Faculty of Advocates, a professor of law in the University of Glasgow, and author of several works of considerable merit. The following extracts from Forbes's Institute of the Law of Scotland prove to some extent what was the legal creed in Scotland last century in regard to witches:—
"Witchcraft is that black art whereby strange and wonderful things are wrought by a power derived from the devil. It goes under several names, taken from particular effects and ways of its operation: As those of magic, because it is a knowledge of more than is lawful to be known; divination, from a revealing of things past, present, or to come; enchantment, from a working by charms or ceremonious rites; sorcery, from the casting of lots to bring hidden things to light; necromancy, from the calling up and consulting the devil, in form of some dead person; fascination, from the hurting creatures by envious looks, and eye-biting, or by words, etc. Those who practise this art are, in like manner, termed witches, magicians, diviners, enchanters, sorcerers, necromancers, fascinaters. Which names, given for different causes to the devil's disciples, are, for the most part, promiscuously used to signify any person who, by covenant with Satan, and his assistance, doth work strange things, because of the affinity of all their operations, which have the same general foundation and tendency.
"An express covenant is entered into betwixt a witch and the devil appearing in some visible shape, whereby the former renounces his God and baptism, engaging to serve the devil, and do all the mischief he can, as occasion offers, and leaves soul and body to his disposal after death. The devil, on his part, articles with such proselytes concerning the shape he is to appear to them in, and the services they are to expect from him, upon the performance of certain charms or ceremonious rites. To some he gives certain spirits or imps to correspond with, and serve them as their familiars, known by them by some odd names, to which they answer when called. These imps are said to be kept in pots or other vessels that stink detestably. This league is made verbally if the party cannot write; and such as can write sign a written covenant with their blood. On the meaner proselytes the devil fixes, in some secret part of their bodies, a mark, as his seal to know his own by, which is like a flea-bite or blue spot, and sometimes resembles a little teat; and the part so stamped doth ever after remain insensible, and doth not bleed, though never so much nipped, or pricked, by thrusting a pin, awl, or bodkin into it. But if the covenanter be one of the better rank, the devil only draws blood of the party, or touches him or her in some part of the body, without any visible mark remaining.
"A tacit covenant with Satan is understood to be entered into by those who knowingly use the superstitious rites or ceremonies observed by witches, or unlawful means to bring anything about which they know to be ineffectual in themselves without the devil's concurrence.
"Witches used to be distinguished into good and bad witches. The bad witch, commonly called the black witch, or binding witch, is one who, by a league with the devil, is assisted by him to work mischief. The good witch is he or she who useth diabolical means to do good—as to heal persons, loose or undo enchantments, and to discover who are bewitched, and by whom. But this term of a good witch is very improper, for all who have commerce with Satan are certainly bad.
"Some works of witches are really what they seem to be; others are mere diabolical juggling, or a delusion of the eyes of spectators with some strange sleight of Satan. (To which last I may refer their imaginary passing through shut doors, and transforming themselves and others into the shape of cats, dogs, hares, and other creatures.) Some of their actions respect themselves, and their behaviour towards their infernal master; such as their coming to appointed meetings called their Sabbaths, where they pay homage to him, and are taught to act all manner of wickedness, and give an account of their horrid past proceedings. Witches are chiefly employed in plain mischief, by hurting persons or their goods, or by bringing some actual evil or calamity upon them. But they sometimes work mischief under a pretence or colour of doing good—as when they cure diseases, loose enchantments, and discover other witches. All their designs are brought about by charms, or ceremonious rites instituted by the devil, which are in themselves of no efficacy, and serve only as signals and watchwords to admonish Satan, as it were, when, where, and upon whom to do mischief, or perform cures, according to his compact with the witches."
"Under necromancy," says Mr. Forbes, "are comprehended chiromancy, predictions, and responses by the sieve and the shear, and all other hellish arts of divination. It hath been sustained to bring in a woman guilty of witchcraft, that she threatened to do some mischief to a person who immediately or not long after suffered a grievous harm in his body or goods, by sorcery or witchcraft, without any apparent or natural cause, though the manner or enchantment used to work such mischief was not particularly expressed, and the threat was only general, and did not specify the ill turn to be done, in respect the means used by witches are best known to themselves. Some relevant articles of witchcraft are founded upon events having no necessary dependence on the means used by the person accused: as that a man on whom a woman had laid a grievous sickness by her sorcery was relieved thereof by her taking him by the hand, and the moving of her lips; or that a woman came several times into a house when the doors and windows were all fast locked and shut at night, combed her hair the last night, and laid her hand upon a nurse's breast, upon which a child then sucking her died within half-an-hour—because injuries done by witches are not occasioned by any inherent virtue or efficacy in the means used by them, but only by the devil's influence; and that there is no natural cause for the mischief done, is the reason of ascribing it to witchcraft. Where one is indicted for being in league with the devil, and exercising acts of witchcraft, it sufficeth to prove that the indictee was in confederacy with that evil spirit, and did such things; but in the trial of one indicted for bewitching any person, two things are to be proved, viz. that such a person is bewitched, and that the indictee is the witch."
Mr. Forbes says that symptoms of witchcraft are: "When learned and skilful physicians find the patient's trouble doth not proceed from any bodily distemper or natural causes; when he is exceedingly tormented at the saying of prayers and graces, or reading of the Bible; when in his fits he tells truly many things past and future, which in an ordinary way he could not know; and when things are done with respect to him by some invisible hand working in a manner that cannot be understood. Other proofs are such as when one cannot shed tears, and cannot say the Lord's Prayer. And other presumptions," he proceeds, "are inferred from the drawing of blood of the suspected person, or the putting of something under a threshold where he or she goes in, or under a stool where the suspected person sits, or causes him or her to come into a room where those afflicted with witchcraft are, and touch them; or trying if the suspected person will sink or swim when put tied into the water; the burning of cakes wherein are the afflicted persons' urine, or the burning of clothes in which such persons lie."
The learned professor thought that witchcraft might be proved by witnesses who have heard the accused person invoking the devil for help, or seen the suspected party entertaining a familiar spirit and feeding it in any form or likeness, conjuring to raise storms, showing in a glass or show-stone the faces of absent persons. His opinion was that it was competent to receive as evidence the dying testimonies of penitent witches concerning others informed against by them, as proof of witchcraft was difficult to obtain; and the more secret acts—meeting of witches in the night-time to adore their infernal master, and hatch their mischievous projects when other people are asleep, or when they themselves are invisible—cannot be otherwise proved than by such as are privy thereto.
Sir Matthew Hale, the astute lawyer and judge, was a believer in witchcraft, and entertained views on this subject similar to those of Mr. Forbes, as will appear from the following particulars of the trial of Rose Cullender and Ann Duny in 1664. These women were accused before Sir Matthew Hale of various acts of witchcraft—such as tormenting children by means of devilish devices, upsetting carts, killing horses, breeding vermin, etc., through diabolical means. At the trial, evidence was given by Anne Durent, that William Durent, her son (one of the children bewitched) had strange and sad fits, caused by Duny giving the child suck. A wise man (Dr. Jacob) advised her to hang up the child's blanket in the chimney corner all day, and at night, when she went to put the child to bed, if she found anything in the blanket, to throw the thing, whether apparently animate or inanimate, into the fire. The blanket was hung up and shaken according to instructions, when, behold, a large toad fell on the hearth-stone. The creature was thrown into the fire, and exploded like a gun. Next day a friend of Duny's told deponent that a certain old woman was severely burned. On hearing this, deponent went to the old woman's house, and found her grievously scorched. Duny (for it was she who was in this sad condition) told the witness, that because of the evil she did to her, she (Duny) would see much evil befall the Durent family. Deponent further stated that her daughter, Elizabeth Durent, about ten years of age, was afflicted like her other child, and in her fits complained of Ann Duny tormenting her. Duny had (so said the witness) predicted that the child named would not live long, and within three days the child died. Deponent also testified that Duny had, while in a rage, said that she (the witness) would yet be going with crutches—a prophecy followed by deponent becoming so lame in both her legs, that she could not walk without being supported by sticks. "And, indeed," said she, exhibiting a pair of crutches in the witness-box, "I could not come into court without them."
After lengthened and curious evidence touching the charges against the prisoners for bewitching the children, named in the indictment, Dr. Brown, a gentleman of great learning, expressed his opinion that the children were bewitched. He said that in Denmark there had been a great discovery of witches, who used the very same way of afflicting people, viz. by conveying pins and nails into them in a mysterious way. His opinion was that the devil, in witchcraft, did work upon the bodies of men and women, and afflict them with such distempers as their bodies were most subject to.
John Sloan testified that, while bringing home three carts of hay, one of the carts accidentally damaged the window of Rose Cullender's house, and that she, in consequence of this mishap, uttered violent threats against him. The other two carts passed her house safely several times that day, but the cart which damaged the window was two or three times overturned. Once, when taking the unlucky vehicle through a gate, it stuck fast, though nothing could be seen that prevented it from being drawn along easily. After great trouble, the cart was brought home, but, there again, fresh difficulties had to be encountered: the vehicle could not be taken to the place where it was intended to be unloaded; and, what most frightened the witness and those aiding him was, that every one who approached the cart to render any assistance on that eventful day, came away with his nose bleeding.
Robert Sherringhame swore that Rose Cullender, taking offence at him, threatened him and his horses with injury, and in a short time many of his horses and cattle died. Following these misfortunes, he became lame, and was so tormented with lice that he could not get them removed until he burned two suits of clothes.
Richard Spencer testified that he had heard Ann Duny say that the devil would not let her rest until she took her revenge upon Cornelius Sandswell.
The judge told the jury that they were to inquire, first, whether the several acts of witchcraft mentioned in the indictment had been committed; and, secondly, if they had, it was for them to say whether the prisoners were the guilty persons. The jurors, he said, could not doubt that there were such creatures as witches; for history affirmed it, and the wisdom of all nations had provided laws against such persons. He prayed that the hearts of the jury might be directed in the mighty thing they had in hand; for to condemn the innocent and let the guilty go free were alike an abomination. The jury brought in a verdict of guilty. The judge then passed sentence of death against the culprits, and they were executed.
A general belief in the existence of witches prevailed in every country, and stringent measures were adopted for their extirpation. If the punishment of witchcraft was not at first countenanced by the Church, the clergy subsequently, and for centuries, played a prominent part in the detection and condemnation of the so-called witches. Pope John stated in a bull of 1317 that several of his courtiers and his physician had given themselves up to superstition, and that their rings and mirrors contained evil spirits. Pope Innocent VIII. issued a bull against witchcraft in 1484. Thousands of innocent persons were burned, and others killed by the tests applied to them. Twenty-seven articles were issued in France in the fourteenth century against sorcery, the use of images, and the invocation of evil spirits. Many Templars were burned in Paris for witchcraft in 1309.
Referring to witches and sorcerers, Bishop Jewell, when preaching before his sovereign in 1598, said: "Witches and sorcerers, within the last four years, are marvellously increased within your Grace's realm. Your Grace's subjects pine away, even unto the death; their colour fadeth—their flesh rotteth—their speech is benumbed—their senses are bereft. I pray they may never practise further than upon your Majesty's subjects." Mr. Glanvil, chaplain to Charles II., was of opinion that "the disbeliever in witchcraft must believe the devil gratis;" and Wesley said that "giving up witchcraft was, in fact, giving up the Bible." The learned Lord Bacon, Lord Coke, and twelve bishops had a voice in the legislation of the country when the act of James I. of England against witchcraft became law.
Five hundred witches were burned at Geneva during three months of 1515. In the diocese of Como, one thousand were burned within one year. Nine hundred were burned in Lorraine in a period of fifteen years. Hundreds perished at Wurzburg in a few years; and upwards of one hundred thousand were executed in Germany, for which country the malleus maleficarum, or hammer for witches (drawn out by a clergyman and two inquisitors appointed by Innocent VIII.), was principally intended. In Poland and America, witches, or supposed witches, were also put to death by fire and water. Persecutions against witches raged with great fury in America in 1648-49. In New England, in 1692, nine persons were hanged by the Puritans for witchcraft. Under pressure, fifty persons there confessed themselves to be witches. Italy, Spain, and Portugal had their victims too. At one period the execution of witches exceeded those in England, though the number put to death in the latter country was truly appalling. In 1646 two hundred persons were tried and executed for witchcraft at the Sussex and Essex assizes. The last persons put to death for witchcraft in England were, some say, in 1664, while others assert the last victims suffered in 1682. The latest instance of a witch being executed in Scotland was in 1722, when the supposed offender was burned at Loth, or Dornoch, Sutherlandshire, by order of the sheriff of that county. In more recent times than several of the dates to which we have referred, discoveries, which might have been easily understood, gave rise to the supposition that the actors were in compact with the devil. On the first occasion of the German printers carrying their books to France, the ingenious inventors of printing were condemned to be burned alive as sorcerers—a sentence that would have been executed had those discoverers of a useful art not saved themselves by flight.
Reginald Scot, taking an enlightened view of superstition, says, "The fables of witchcraft have taken so fast hold of and deep root in the heart of man, that few endure the hand of correction without attributing the chastisement to the influence of witches. Such superstitious people," he says, "are persuaded that neither hail nor snow, thunder nor lightning, rain nor tempestuous winds, come from the higher powers, but are raised by the power of witches and conjurors. If a clap of thunder or a gale of wind be heard, the timid people ring bells, cry out to burn the witches, or else they burn consecrated things, hoping thereby to drive the devil out of the air."
Mr. E. Chambers did not think the art of witchcraft was carried on by or through intercourse with the devil or spirits (though he did not dispute there were such beings), but by or through philosophical means, altogether different from the operations supposed necessary to enable witches and wizards to perform actions not easily comprehended by the uninitiated.
Witch-finders—Disasters ascribed to Witches—Witch-marks—Witches Familiars—Preparing a Witch for Judicial Examination—John Kinnaird—Patrick Watson and his Wife pricked—Confession of Guilt—The Devil's Sabbaths—Sumptuous Entertainments and Grandeur at Satan's Feasts—Repulsive Acts there also—Feasts ended at Cock-crowing—Transformation—A Woman weighing only Four Ounces—A Witch-finder sent from Scotland to Newcastle at the request of the Authorities—Complaints against Witches demanded—Deception discovered—Trying Witches in Northumberland County—Escape of the Witch-finder from Justice—Hopkins's Methods of detecting Witches—Zeal of the Clergy in Scotland in condemning Witches—Witch burned within the Sea-mark—Extracts from Kirk-session Records of Perth relative to Witchcraft—Witches at Kirkcaldy—A Clerical Witch-finder.
Every town and county had its witch-finder, whose duty it was to detect and bring to trial all those tainted with witchcraft or sorcery. Considering that almost every accident which happened was attributed to sorcery, the duties of the witch-finder were most important. According to his diligence so was the safety of persons and property. Hail-storms, destructive floods, dangerous fires, disease among cattle, and domestic afflictions were all ascribed to witchcraft. A mole or wart discovered on any part of an old woman's body was thought to be a witch-mark. If a suspected witch did not shed tears, it was presumptive evidence of guilt; if she kept a black cat, it was taken for a familiar; and all these circumstances together were regarded as infallible signs of her evil nature. An expert witch-finder knew all the wiles and arts of his profession. To prepare the suspected witch for judicial examination, a particular diet was sometimes given her, to counteract the unguents she had anointed herself with, to make non-effective the preparations of belladonna, aconite, parsley, and other ingredients she had swallowed, and to render of no effect the charmed cocks' combs and rams' kidneys partaken of by her.
John Kinnaird, a witch-finder, some hundreds of years past, brought many witches to justice in his time. In 1649 he pricked Patrick Watson, of West Fenton, and Minie Haliburton his wife, and found the devil's mark on the husband's back, and the same evil one's impress on the wife's neck. Though the operator thrust his sharp instrument deep into the spots, no pain was felt, nor did blood flow. These results proved that the accused husband and wife were in league with Satan; and Minie, seeing it was useless to deny her guilt, admitted the crime.
Under judicial examination, witches have confessed to having met the devil at his Sabbaths, the meetings always taking place near a cross road, upon a dreary moor, or beside a lake or stagnant pool, on Wednesday and Friday nights. At the meetings children were presented, so they said, to Satan. At these gatherings sorcerers were supplied with exquisite meat and drink, served in vessels of gold and silver; and at other times with cooked toads, unbaptised children, and the flesh of malefactors cut down from gibbets. Toads, having the rank of witches' familiars, appeared at the meetings, dressed in gay attire, and wearing small silver bells round their necks, or attached to their feet. At cock-crow Satan disappeared under the earth, and the witches flew through the air to their respective homes. That witches could transform themselves into hares, wolves, and other animals, nearly all the accused women readily admitted.
In the year 1728 a witch-finder discovered that a stout tall woman, suspected of sorcery, did not weigh more than four ounces. This was enough to make out a case against her; and not only against her, but against several confederates, and they were all burned in terms of law.
On account of a petition presented by the inhabitants of Newcastle to the authorities, in the year 1649, concerning the evil consequences of witchcraft, the magistrates sent two of their officers to Scotland to secure the services of a celebrated witch-finder, famous for detecting witches by means of pricking them with sharp instruments. The cunning man agreed to go with them to Newcastle to try such suspected persons as might be brought to him, at the rate of twenty shillings for every woman found guilty. When the officers brought the witch-finder to town, the magistrates sent their bellman through the streets to invite the inhabitants who had complaints to make against witches to make them without delay, that they (the witches) might be tried by the person appointed. Thirty women were brought to the town hall, and had pins thrust into their flesh, and most of them were found guilty. The witch-finder informed Lieutenant-Colonel Hobson that he knew whether women were witches or no by their looks. On a good-looking woman being brought to the finder, the gallant colonel thought it was unnecessary to try her, but the canny Scotchman knew better, and therefore submitted her to his infallible test. Having put a pin into her side, he marked her down a witch of the devil. The colonel, not satisfied that the woman was guilty, remonstrated, and then the witch-finder confessed he was in error. The highly-favoured damsel was therefore liberated; but as no champion appeared for the poor old withered hags, they suffered the pains of law.
Having rid Newcastle of witches, the witch-finder was summoned to Northumberland county to try women there for sixty shillings each. For some fault or crime connected with the discharge of his official duties, he was apprehended, and put under bond to appear at the sessions to answer such charges as might be brought against him. He escaped to Scotland, where he was made prisoner, indicted, and condemned for villany, exercised on the north side of the Tweed, in connection with witch-finding. He confessed that he had been instrumental in bringing to an untimely end above two hundred and twenty women in England and Scotland.
Matthew Hopkins, who regularly went on circuit in England to detect witches for a long period subsequent to the year 1644, applied the usual tests, such as finding witch-marks, thrusting sharp instruments into the bodies of suspected persons, dragging them through deep water while they were wrapped in sheets, with their great toes and thumbs tied together, keeping his victims awake sometimes as long as forty-eight hours to make them confess, ascertaining whether they could repeat the Lord's Prayer, or shed tears.
The clergy of Scotland lent themselves to witch-finding with a zeal truly marvellous. They, in General Assembly, passed five condemnatory acts against witchcraft between the years 1640 and 1649. Kirk-sessions throughout the land outvied each other in their efforts to bring suspected witches to trial, and to counteract the dark deeds of Satan.
The Rev. John Scott, one of the Established Church ministers of Perth from 1762 to 1806, author of the History of the Earls of Gowrie and other works, left several folio manuscript volumes of extracts from the kirk-session records of Perth; and from these we make the following abbreviated selections in support of what is here stated:—
"On 16th April 1582 the kirk-session (which for some time was designated the 'Assembly') ordained their box-master to give the witch in the Tolbooth eight doits (eight twelfths of a penny sterling) in the day."
"In November 1589 a day was assigned to certain honest neighbours of Tirseppie to be present and to declare whether it was true that Guddal, spouse to Richard Watson, was a witch, as John Watson alleged, or what evil likelihood they saw in her. Walter Watson, John Watson, George Scott, and James Scott, on being severally examined by the kirk-session, declared that they never saw such things of her whereby they might suspect her of witchcraft, but that she was an honest poor woman, who wrought honestly for her living, without whose help her husband, Richard Watson, would have been dead, as he was an aged man. Therefore the minister and elders ordained the act of slander to be put in execution against John Watson, and Helen Watson his daughter."
"In November 1597 the kirk-session ordained the magistrates of Perth to travel with his Majesty to obtain a commission to execute Janet Robertson, sorceress, who had long been detained in ward."
"The kirk-session, on 30th May 1615, requested the bailies to ward Marion Murdoch, complained upon for witchcraft, ay and until she was tried thereanent."
"On the 4th day of May 1618, conform to citation, Isabella Garry, servitrix, and Margaret Lamb, daughter-in-law to George Thompson, appeared before the session, and were asked if they had been at the well in the bank of Huntingtower the previous Sabbath, and if they drank thereof, and if they had left anything at it. They answered that they had been at it and drank thereof, and that each of them had left a pin thereat. This was found to be a point of idolatry. Their case was continued until some other young women, who were with them, should be summoned to appear before the church court." [Though it does not clearly appear what object the young women had in view in drinking the Huntingtower well water, and putting pins therein, we presume they simply did what maidens of the present time do, namely, go to a spring supposed to possess peculiar charms (as the Ruthven or Huntingtower well was believed to have), drink of its water, and each throw a pin into the well, under the conviction that every one would get the wish uppermost in her heart fulfilled—generally the securing of a husband before the year was ended.]
"On the 3rd August 1619, Alexander Peebles, a burgess of Perth, appeared before the session, and took exception to the doctrine delivered by Mr. John Guthrie, minister, on the previous Sabbath afternoon; and alleged that the minister had slandered him and his house by accusing him of sorcery, and turning the riddle. The minister and session certified in one voice that the doctrine was general, and necessarily followed on the text from which Mr. Guthrie was preaching. Peebles would have been censured had not Mr. Guthrie interceded for him. Mr. Guthrie, however, brought upon himself further annoyance, in consequence of accusing other members of his congregation of witchcraft and sorcery. On the 13th of the next month Mr. Guthrie complained to his session, of Thomas Young uttering speeches against him and his ministry, and of refusing to discharge the civil duty of saluting him when they met on the causeway. The members of session were highly offended that any member of the church should have so far misregarded his pastor and provoked him to ire, and therefore ordered him to be cited to appear before them the following day. Conform to citation, Thomas Young appeared, who being accused of uttering speeches against and misbehaving himself towards Mr. Guthrie, the delinquent boldly answered that it was not the duty of the pastor to charge his people with witchcraft, sorcery, and turning of the riddle. Witnesses were examined against Thomas, who, before the court rose, confessed his error, and said he was extremely sorry for offending his minister in word or deed. Mr. Guthrie then admonished Thomas, and craved the magistrates (who were present) and the session to inflict no punishment on the said Thomas, but to pass over his offences—a request that was granted."
"On 10th May 1626 Bessie Wright was accused before the presbytery of Perth of witchcraft, curing sick folks, and frequenting the town of Perth after having been banished from the burgh, and forbidden to exercise her healing art. The moderator and brethren ordained that she should be prohibited from performing any cure, under pain of incarceration. It was likewise ordained that the minister of Perth should make intimation on the following Sabbath, that because the said Bessie was under suspicion of witchcraft in curing diseased persons by unlawful means, none would resort to her for advice, under pain of the kirk's censures."
"Conform to citation, Robert Thomson, maltman, compeared before the kirk-session on 30th December 1634, for causing a bairn of his to be taken to the mill of Balhousie and put into the flappers thereof, when the mill was going, to be charmed, which, it was alleged, was a lesson of Satan. He answered that he knew not of the circumstance until the child was brought home." [The offence being considered an odious one, the session resolved to take the advice of the presbytery how to proceed, but we are not informed how the matter terminated.]
Lilias Adie, a Fife witch, obtained power from Satan to assist her and her friends, and to ruin her enemies. Like many other witches, she regularly attended the witch Sabbaths. How long she might have remained alive to strike terror into the hearts of the Torryburn people, none can tell, had not their worthy pastor, the Rev. Allan Logan, come to the rescue. Mr. Logan, report says, knew as well as any living man how to detect a witch. When "fencing" the sacramental table, he would look around him with his keen piercing eye, and call aloud, "You witch, begone from the holy communion table." The searching look and commanding voice made more than one woman retire from among the worthy communicants. Mr. Logan was well supported by a zealous kirk-session. This being so, Lilias Adie had little chance of escape. She and other suspected witches were submitted to a series of examinations and tests, which ended in her being burned within the sea-mark on the Fife coast.
From the ancient records of the kirk-session of Kirkcaldy, it seems that numerous reputed witches were burned in that town in the seventeenth century. In the year 1633 two witches were burned; the cost of their execution, including the price of tar barrels, and tow for tying the unfortunate beings at the stake, amounted to L2, 17s. 6d. Scots. One half of the sum was borne by the kirk-session, and the other half by the town. In the year 1649 a woman was burned on the estate of Burncastle, and the cost of watching her thirty days and of supplying fuel amounted to L92, 14s. Scots, a goodly sum in those days; but as L27, found in the possession of the reputed witch, was taken to assist in defraying the expenses of her judicial murder, the burden did not fall very heavy, after all, on the public.
Hiring a Witch to detect a Witch—Clerical Witch-finders—Agnew, the sturdy Beggar—His Diabolical Doings—Missiles thrown by Unseen Hands—Working Instruments destroyed—A Distressed Family—Minister's Remonstrance and Advice—Fresh Afflictions—House set on Fire—Prayer and Fasting resorted to—Meeting of Presbytery for Prayer on account of the Evil Doings of Satan and his Wicked Emissaries—Spirits Speaking—Minister's Reply—Fiend not put to Silence by Prayer—Application to the Synod for Advice—Solemn Humiliation ordained by the Synod—Annoyance continued—Beggar suspected, and hanged for Blasphemy—Bargarran Witches—An Esquire's Daughter bewitched—Physicians puzzled—Great Consternation in the Country—Parish Minister praying for the Afflicted Child—Other Ministers' Visits to Bargarran—Presbytery ordering Days of Humiliation—Effect of Fasting and Prayer—Recourse to the Law—Catherine Campbell imprisoned—Girl's continued Affliction—Representation to His Majesty's Privy Council—Commission appointed to inquire into the case—Proceedings of the Commission—Trial of Witches—Specious Pleading—Condemnation and Execution.
In the middle of the seventeenth century the mania against witches and warlocks became so prevalent, that almost every individual was affected therewith. If a child was sick, if a family became unfortunate, if cattle died, if boats were upset or ships lost, or if accidents of any description, even to the breaking of a plough, happened, the evils were attributed to witches or warlocks. If in any such misfortune the assistance of a professional witch-finder could not be secured, one witch was hired to detect the other witch, or more probably the gang of witches, who had occasioned the mischief. Again, in the event of the hired witch (it was seldom the professional witch-finder, provided with his instruments of torture, failed) not succeeding, the clergyman's assistance was sought; and if the witches and devil proved too many or strong for him, the presbytery, synod, and even the assembly, had to be appealed to. The following is a case in point:—
In October 1654 Alexander Agnew, a sturdy beggar, threatened hurt to Gilbert Campbell's household because he did not receive so good an alms as he demanded. The vagabond, by diabolical means, brought about a variety of annoyances and losses that came nigh to ruin the family. Gilbert Campbell was often hindered in business, through his working instruments being destroyed in a way he could not account for. In November, matters became extremely dangerous. At that time the devil, we are informed, came with new and extraordinary assaults, by throwing stones in through the doors and windows and chimney-head of this devil-besetted dwelling. Providentially no one was injured in person. Next, chests and trunks were opened, and the contents thrown about in all directions. Working implements were secretly carried away, and concealed in holes or other places where they were not likely to be found. Wearing apparel, blankets, sheets, curtains, and other soft goods were cut in pieces. To so great a strait was the family reduced, that the members thereof were compelled to leave their house. Nor was this all: Campbell himself was forced to abandon his employment.
The minister, hearing that the house was shut up, remonstrated against such a proceeding. He recommended that the devil should be withstood to the face. Acting on the good clergyman's advice, all the members of that afflicted household returned. Fresh disturbances broke out. The house was set on fire, and would have been reduced to ashes had not willing neighbours extinguished the flames. As the evil went on, prayer and fasting were resorted to, apparently unmixed with faith, for again the house was set on fire. The presbytery met at the house for solemn devotion, but their prayers were as ineffectual as those of the people who had conducted the religious services on previous occasions. Indeed things became worse. Not only were petty acts of mischief perpetrated, but strange voices were heard, without it being known whence they proceeded. The minister, accompanied by gentlemen of good position, went again to the house to pray with and for Mr. Campbell and his family. After prayer, they all heard a voice speaking out of the ground, asking if they desired to know anything of certain witches who were named. Gilbert Campbell informed the company that one of the witches mentioned was dead. The devil then answered, "It is true she is dead, yet her spirit is living in this world." The minister replied, "We are not to receive any information from thee, Satan; thou art but seeking to seduce this family."
All the people went again to pray, still the devil was not put to silence; the foul fiend demanded a spade to dig a grave, in which he might rest in peace. Advised by the clergyman, Mr. Campbell answered, "Not so much as a straw shall be given thee, though that would put thee to rest." A loud noise was heard, and a naked hand and an arm from the elbow were seen beating on the floor so terribly that the house shook, during which the voice called several times, "I will send my father among you." Night being now far spent, all the strangers went home except the minister, who stayed with the family to protect them. Notwithstanding his presence, and many prayers, the devil roared frightfully, his voice sounding like that of a lion. The very food the family partook of was bewitched: it did not supply them with nourishment, nor satisfy their hunger, even for a moment.
Mr. Campbell resolved to apply to the synod for advice as to whether he should remain in his house. When the subject came before that reverend body, the fathers and brethren thought fit to ordain a solemn humiliation to be observed through all the synodic bounds, with the view of turning away the affliction that distressed the poor family. Notwithstanding everything that could be done, the annoyance continued for a whole year. It was never discovered who was the instigator of the mischief, although strong suspicion rested on the sturdy beggar, who, we may observe in conclusion, was hanged, some time afterwards, for blasphemy.
Tales of the Bargarran witches are widely known in Scotland. In their time they created no small stir and alarm among laymen, in the church, and at the law courts. In the year 1696, Christina Shaw, eleven years of age, daughter of John Shaw, Esquire, of Bargarran, Renfrewshire, gave offence to a servant maid named Catherine Campbell, who wished the girl's soul might soon be in the place of torment. It was feared the offended damsel would seek revenge, and what followed convinced those cognisant of the facts that their fears were well founded.
Soon after this the girl had severe fits and strange visions; and, in a most unaccountable manner, she vomited or put out of her mouth unclean hay, wild fowls' feathers, gravel stones, nut-galls, candle-grease, egg-shells, and other substances, which she nor any other person could tell whence they had come. For a long time she was afflicted in a most mysterious manner. Her parents were distressed, and her physicians perplexed. Change of air did her good, but as soon as she returned to Bargarran her trouble recommenced. By-and-bye it became evident her affliction did not proceed from ordinary infirmity, but from the diabolical machinations of Satan and his emissaries—certain well-known witches in the neighbourhood, one being the offended Catherine Campbell. So convinced was the unfortunate sufferer of her ills being caused by human beings acting in a mysterious manner, that she frequently exclaimed that Catherine Campbell and others, whom she named, were cutting her sides and other parts of her body.
Great consternation prevailed in the country. The parish minister, like a good pious pastor, prayed with and for the child. Clergymen from adjoining parishes visited Bargarran, and witnessed Catherine Shaw's sufferings. The presbytery appointed days of humiliation on account of what left no doubt in the minds of divines that the girl was bewitched. Fasting and prayer seemed to have an alleviating tendency, yet they did not prevent the evil continuing in a mitigated form. Recourse was therefore had to the law. Mr. Shaw, the girl's father, applied to the sheriff-depute; and that officer, in what he considered a proper discharge of his duty, imprisoned Catherine Campbell.
This judicial proceeding had the effect of securing relief for the afflicted girl for a time, but her enemies were not all confined nor rendered harmless, for she declared she heard now and again tormentors, whom she repeatedly named, whispering among themselves that they were, by desire of the devil, to carry her away. And it was supposed she would have been conveyed away from her friends, had not the minister prayed for her at the time the witches were about to carry their diabolical intentions into operation.
The lamentable case of the afflicted family being represented to his Majesty's Privy Council, a commission was, worthily and piously it is said, appointed to inquire into the case. By warrant of this commission, certain suspected persons were apprehended. Alexander Anderson, represented as an ignorant irreligious fellow; Elizabeth Anderson, his daughter; and Jean Fulton, grandmother of the said Elizabeth Anderson, were secured. Elizabeth Anderson, on being severely interrogated, declared she had frequently seen the devil, in the likeness of a little black man, in the company of her grandmother. She also confessed that she herself had been at several meetings with the devil and witches; and she declared her father and a Highlandman in the neighbourhood, along with others, were active agents in tormenting Christina Shaw.
A quorum of the commissioners met at Bargarran; and the persons accused by Elizabeth Anderson to have been at the meetings with the devil, and to have been active instruments of Christina Shaw's trouble—viz. Alexander Anderson, Agnes Naismith, Margaret Fulton, James Lindsay, John Lindsay, and Catherine Campbell—were (except John Lindsay, not then in custody) confronted with the afflicted damsel before Lord Blantyre and other commissioners, together with ministers of the gospel and non-clerical gentlemen of note, and charged by her as her tormentors; and they (the persons in custody) having severally touched her, she was at each of their touches seized with grievous fits.
About this time Thomas Lindsay, a boy twelve years of age, was apprehended on presumption of complicity in witchcraft, he having said, before credible witnesses, that the devil was his father, and that if he pleased he could fly like a crow. Sometimes, he said, he could cause a plough to stand, and the horses break the yoke, on his pronouncing a few strange words and turning himself withershinns. Though at first he denied his guilt, yet he afterwards confessed he had a compact with the devil, and that he had been at several meetings with Satan and witches. His brother James, he said, was also present. James Lindsay was therefore apprehended, and identified by Christina Shaw as one of her tormentors. He too confessed to be guilty of Satanic acts.
Next day Margaret Lang, and her daughter Martha Semple, being accused by Christina Shaw of having been also active in tormenting her, came of their own accord to Bargarran House, and before they approached the girl she said she was now bound up, and could not accuse Margaret Lang to her face. Subsequently she named Lang and her daughter as two of her tormentors.
The commissioners had several conferences, and in their presence many suspected witches were shown to the girl at Bargarran. At these conferences strange things transpired, all tending to prove a most diabolical plot to punish the girl for her insult to Catherine Campbell. This was not all: the inquiry brought to light various other acts of witchcraft, mischief, and even murder, perpetrated by the devil and those in league with him. In due course the suspected persons were arraigned before the judges and jury; and able arguments, according to the light of those times, were entered into. An outline of the specious pleading of the advocate who conducted the prosecution is given, as an example of the manner in which convictions against suspected witches were obtained two hundred years ago.
"Good men of inquest," he said, "you having sitten above twenty hours in overhearing the probation, we shall not detain you with summing up in particular, but shall only suggest some things, whereof it is fit you take special notice. 1st, The nature of your own power, and the management thereof. 2dly, The object of this power which lies before you, wherein you are to consider, in the first place, whether or not there has been witchcraft in the malefices libelled? and, in the next case, whether or not these panels are the witches?
"As to your power, it is certain that you are both judges and witnesses, by the opinion of our lawyers and custom; therefore you are called out of the neighbourhood, as presumed best to know the quality of the panels, and the notoriety of their guilt or innocence....
"We are not to press you with the ordinary severity of threatening an assize of error, in case you should absolve; but wholly leave you to the conduct of God and your own conscience....
"As to the probation itself, you see that it is divided in three parts, viz. the extraordinariness of the malefices; the probability of the concurring adminicles; and the clearness of the positive probation.
"As to the first part, the malefices, or corpora delicti, are proven by unexceptionable witnesses to have fallen out in such an odd and extraordinary manner, that it points out some other causes than the ordinary course of nature to have produced these effects.
"For clearing of this, particularly in relation to the torments of Bargarran's daughter, you may consider not only the extraordinary things that could not proceed from a natural disease, which lie proven before you, but also several other matters of fact, which is notour, have been seen by some of yourselves, and lie here in a journal of her sufferings; every article whereof is attested by the subscriptions of persons of entire credit, before the honourable commissioners appointed by his Majesty's Privy Council, for making inquiry thereanent.
"This girl's throwing out of hairs, pins, and coals of greater heat than that of her body or blood; as also so dry that they appeared not to have come out of her stomach; nor had she any press of vomiting at the time; that she declared the same to have been put into her mouth by her tormentors—is deponed by Dr. Brisbane, in his opinion, not to proceed from a natural cause....
"She told that her tormentors were giving her a glass of sack, an orange peel, etc., and accordingly she was seen to move her lips, and to have an orange peel betwixt her teeth, though there was no visible hand that could have done it.
"She advertised beforehand that one of her tormentors was to be at the door at a particular hour, and that another of them was in the kitchen before any did tell her thereof; which accordingly fell out....
"When her glove fell down from her, at a time when several persons were about her, it was lifted again by a hand invisible to them.
"She was not only transported through the hall and down stairs without perceiving her feet to touch the ground, but also was hurried in a flight up stairs; and when a minister endeavoured to retain her, he found a sensible weight, besides her own strength, drawing her from him.
"She was most vehemently distorted upon attempting to tell, or even write, the names of her tormentors....
"She foretold that her tormentors had concerted to throw her into a fit (whereof they did premonish, of design to fright her to renounce her baptism by the terror) at a certain hour, and had left one of their number to execute it; according whereunto there was a woman with a red coat seen under a tree in the orchard, and the torment was brought on at the time appointed....
"She cried out at a time that her thigh was hurt; and one of the company having searched her pocket, found a knife, but unfolded; however, having folded up the same, and put it in a second time, she cries of new; and, upon the second search, it (though secured by the spring) is found open, to the great wonder of beholders; since they did watch that no visible thing could have possibly opened it.
"She told of a charm under the bed; and accordingly it was found in the shape of an egg, which melted away on being put in the fire....
"The story anent her telling that the commissioners, though at three miles distance, had granted a warrant to the sheriff to apprehend one of her tormentors; her telling so perfect an account of the sheriff and of Mr. Guthrie, who was with him, while her eyes were tied and fast; her being in excessive torments (as she foretold) till that person was apprehended, and immediately thereupon, though at many miles distance, her telling that her tormentors were now taken, betwixt twelve and one o'clock in the morning; and the sheriff, when he returned, did declare the seizure to have been made about that time—is so notour, and so well attested, that we need only to put you in mind thereof.
"Her falling into fits upon the sight or touch of her tormentors, was no effect of imagination; for she was fully hoodwinked with a cloak, so as she saw nobody whatsoever; yet, upon the approach of her tormentor, she immediately fell down as dead, whereas she remained no ways startled upon the touch of any other: which experiments were tried for ascertaining this means of discovery.