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Memoirs of Extraordinary Popular Delusions by Charles Mackay

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It was thought that the earth swarmed with millions of demons of
both sexes, many of whom, like the human race, traced their lineage up
to Adam, who, after the fall, was led astray by devils, assuming the
forms of beautiful women to deceive him. These demons "increased and
multiplied," among themselves, with the most extraordinary rapidity.
Their bodies were of the thin air, and they could pass though the
hardest substances with the greatest ease. They had no fixed residence
or abiding place, but were tossed to and fro in the immensity of
space. When thrown together in great multitudes, they excited
whirlwinds in the air and tempests in the waters, and took delight in
destroying the beauty of nature and the monuments of the industry of
man. Although they increased among themselves like ordinary creatures,
their numbers were daily augmented by the souls of wicked men -- of
children still-born -- of women who died in childbed, and of persons
killed in duels. The whole air was supposed to be full of them, and
many unfortunate men and women drew them by thousands into their
mouths and nostrils at every inspiration; and the demons, lodging in
their bowels or other parts of their bodies, tormented them with pains
and diseases of every kind, and sent them frightful dreams. St.
Gregory of Nice relates a story of a nun who forgot to say her
benedicite, and make the sign of the cross, before she sat down to
supper, and who, in consequence, swallowed a demon concealed among the
leaves of a lettuce. Most persons said the number of these demons was
so great that they could not be counted, but Wierus asserted that they
amounted to no more than seven millions, four hundred and five
thousand, nine hundred, and twenty-six; and that they were divided
into seventy-two companies or battalions, to each of which there was a
prince or captain. They could assume any shape they pleased. When they
were male, they were called incubi; and when female, succubi. They
sometimes made themselves hideous; and at other times, they assumed
shapes of such transcendant loveliness, that mortal eyes never saw
beauty to compete with theirs.

Although the devil and his legions could appear to mankind at any
time, it was generally understood that he preferred the night between
Friday and Saturday. If Satan himself appeared in human shape, he was
never perfectly, and in all respects, like a man. He was either too
black or too white -- too large or too small, or some of his limbs were
out of proportion to the rest of his body. Most commonly his feet were
deformed; and he was obliged to curl up and conceal his tall in some
part of his habiliments; for, take what shape he would, he could not
get rid of that encumbrance. He sometimes changed himself into a tree
or a river; and upon one occasion he transformed himself into a
barrister, as we learn from Wierus, book iv, chapter ix. In the reign
of Philippe le Bel, he appeared to a monk in the shape of a dark man,
riding a tall black horse -- then as a friar -- afterwards as an ass,
and finally as a coach-wheel. Instances are not rare in which both he
and his inferior demons have taken the form of handsome young men;
and, successfully concealing their tails, have married beautiful young
women, who have had children by them. Such children were easily
recognizable by their continual shrieking -- by their requiring five
nurses to suckle them, and by their never growing fat.

All these demons were at the command of any individual, who would
give up his immortal soul to the prince of evil for the privilege of
enjoying their services for a stated period. The wizard or witch could
send them to execute the most difficult missions: whatever the witch
commanded was performed, except it was a good action, in which case
the order was disobeyed, and evil worked upon herself instead.

At intervals, according to the pleasure of Satan, there was a
general meeting of the demons and all the witches. This meeting was
called the Sabbath, from its taking place on the Saturday or
immediately after midnight on Fridays. These Sabbaths were sometimes
held for one district, sometimes for another, and once at least, every
year, it was held on the Brocken, or among other high mountains, as a
general sabbath of the fiends for the whole of Christendom.

The devil generally chose a place where four roads met, as the
scene of this assembly, or if that was not convenient, the
neighbourhood of a lake. Upon this spot nothing would ever afterwards
grow, as the hot feet of the demons and witches burnt the principle of
fecundity from the earth, and rendered it barren for ever. When orders
had been once issued for the meeting of the Sabbath, all the wizards
and witches who failed to attend it were lashed by demons with a rod
made of serpents or scorpions, as a punishment for their inattention
or want of punctuality.

In France and England, the witches were supposed to ride uniformly
upon broomsticks; but in Italy and Spain, the devil himself, in the
shape of a goat, used to transport them on his back, which lengthened
or shortened according to the number of witches he was desirous of
accommodating. No witch, when proceeding to the Sabbath, could get out
by a door or window, were she to try ever so much. Their general mode
of ingress was by the keyhole, and of egress, by the chimney, up which
they flew, broom and all, with the greatest ease. To prevent the
absence of the witches from being noticed by their neighbours, some
inferior demon was commanded to assume their shapes and lie in their
beds, feigning illness, until the Sabbath was over.

When all the wizards and witches had arrived at the place of
rendezvous, the infernal ceremonies of the Sabbath began. Satan,
having assumed his favourite shape of a large he-goat, with a face in
front and another in his haunches, took his seat upon a throne; and
all present, in succession, paid their respects to him, and kissed him
in his face behind. This done, he appointed a master of the
ceremonies, in company with whom he made a personal examination of all
the wizards and witches, to see whether they had the secret mark about
them by which they were stamped as the devil's own. This mark was
always insensible to pain. Those who had not yet been marked, received
the mark from the master of the ceremonies; the devil at the same time
bestowing nicknames upon them. This done, they all began to sing and.
dance in the most furious manner, until some one arrived who was
anxious to be admitted into their society. They were then silent for a
while, until the new-comer had denied his salvation, kissed the devil,
spat upon the Bible, and sworn obedience to him in all things. They
then began dancing again with all their might, and singing these

"Alegremos, Alegremos!
Que gente va tenemos!"

In the course of an hour or two, they generally became wearied of this
violent exercise, and then they all sat down and recounted the evil
deeds they had done since their last meeting. Those who had not been
malicious and mischievous enough towards their fellow-creatures,
received personal chastisement from Satan himself, who flogged them
with thorns or scorpions till they were covered with blood, and unable
to sit or stand.

When this ceremony was concluded, they were all amused by a dance
of toads. Thousands of these creatures sprang out of the earth; and
standing on their hind-legs, danced, while the devil played the
bagpipes or the trumpet. These toads were all endowed with the faculty
of speech, and entreated the witches to reward them with the flesh of
unbaptized babes for their exertions to give them pleasure. The
witches promised compliance. The devil bade them remember to keep
their word; and then stamping his foot, caused all the toads to sink
into the earth in an instant. The place being thus cleared,
preparation was made for the banquet, where all manner of disgusting
things were served up and greedily devoured by the demons and witches;
although the latter were sometimes regaled with choice meats and
expensive wines from golden plates and crystal goblets; but they were
never thus favoured unless they had done an extraordinary number of
evil deeds since the last period of meeting.

After the feast, they began dancing again; but such as had no
relish for any more exercise in that way, amused themselves by mocking
the holy sacrament of baptism. For this purpose, the toads were again
called up, and sprinkled with filthy water; the devil making the sign
of the cross, and all the witches calling out, "In nomine Patrica,
Aragueaco Petrica, agora! agora! Valentia, jouando goure gaits
goustia!" which meant, "In the name of Patrick, Petrick of Aragon, --
now, now, all our ills are over!"

When the devil wished to be particularly amused, he made the
witches strip off their clothes and dance before him, each with a cat
tied round her neck, and another dangling from her body in form of a
tail. When the cock crew, they all disappeared, and the Sabbath was

This is a summary of the belief which prevailed for many centuries
nearly all over Europe, and which is far from eradicated even at this
day. It was varied in some respects in several countries, but the main
points were the same in France, Germany, Great Britain, Italy, Spain,
and the far North of Europe.

The early annals of France abound with stories of supposed
sorcery, but it was not until the time of Charlemagne that the crime
acquired any great importance. "This monarch," says M. Jules
Garinet, ["Histoire de la Magie en France. Rois de la seconde race,"
page 29.] "had several times given orders that all necromancers,
astrologers, and witches should be driven from his states; but as the
number of criminals augmented daily, he found it necessary at last to
resort to severer measures. In consequence, he published several
edicts, which may be found at length in the 'Capitulaire de Baluse.'
By these, every sort of magic, enchantment, and witchcraft was
forbidden; and the punishment of death decreed against those who in
any way evoked the devil -- compounded love-philters -- afflicted
either man or woman with barrenness -- troubled the atmosphere --
excited tempests -- destroyed the fruits of the earth -- dried up the
milk of cows, or tormented their fellow-creatures with sores and
diseases. All persons found guilty of exercising these execrable arts,
were to be executed immediately upon conviction, that the earth might
be rid of the burthen and curse of their presence; and those even who
consulted them might also be punished with death. [M. Michaud, in his
"History of the Crusades," M. Guinguene, in his "Literary History of
Italy," and some other critics, have objected to Tasso's poem, that he
has attributed to the Crusaders a belief in magic, which did not exist
at that time. If these critics had referred to the Edicts of
Charlemagne, they would have seen that Tasso was right, and that a
disposition too eager to spy out imperfections in a great work was
leading themselves into error.]

After this time, prosecutions for witchcraft are continually
mentioned, especially by the French historians. It was a crime imputed
with so much ease, and repelled with so much difficulty, that the
powerful, whenever they wanted to ruin the weak, and could fix no
other imputation upon them, had only to accuse them of witchcraft to
ensure their destruction. Instances, in which this crime was made the
pretext for the most violent persecution, both of individuals and of
communities, whose real offences were purely political or religious,
must be familiar to every reader. The extermination of the Stedinger,
in 1234; of the Templars, from 1307 to 1313; the execution of Joan of
Arc, in 1429; and the unhappy scenes of Arras, in 1459; are the most
prominent. The first of these is perhaps the least known, but is not
among the least remarkable. The following account, from Dr. Kortum's
interesting history ["Entstehungsgeschichte der freistadlischen Bunde
im Mittelalter, von Dr. F. Kortum." 1827.] of the republican
confederacies of the Middle Ages, will show the horrible convenience
of imputations of witchcraft, when royal or priestly wolves wanted a
pretext for a quarrel with the sheep.

The Frieslanders, inhabiting the district from the Weser to the
Zuydersee, had long been celebrated for their attachment to freedom,
and their successful struggles in its defence. As early as the
eleventh century, they had formed a general confederacy against the
encroachments of the Normans and the Saxons, which was divided into
seven seelands, holding annually a diet under a large oaktree at
Aurich, near the Upstalboom. Here they managed their own affairs,
without the control of the clergy and ambitious nobles who surrounded
them, to the great scandal of the latter. They already had true
notions of a representative government. The deputies of the people
levied the necessary taxes, deliberated on the affairs of the
community, and performed, in their simple and patriarchal
manner; nearly all the functions of the representative assemblies of
the present day. Finally, the Archbishop of Bremen, together with the
Count of Oldenburg and other neighbouring potentates, formed a league
against that section of the Frieslanders, known by the name of the
Stedinger, and succeeded, after harassing them, and sowing dissensions
among them for many years, in bringing them under the yoke. But the
Stedinger, devotedly attached to their ancient laws, by which they had
attained a degree of civil and religious liberty very uncommon in that
age, did not submit without a violent struggle. They arose in
insurrection, in the year 1204, in defence of the ancient customs of
their country -- refused to pay taxes to the feudal chiefs, or tithes
to the clergy, who had forced themselves into their peaceful retreats,
and drove out many of their oppressors. For a period of
eight-and-twenty years the brave Stedinger continued the struggle
single-handed against the forces of the Archbishops of Bremen and the
Counts of Oldenburg, and destroyed, in the year 1232, the strong
castle of Slutterberg, near Delmenhorst, built by the latter nobleman
as a position from which he could send out his marauders to plunder
and destroy the possessions of the peasantry.

The invincible courage of these poor people proving too strong for
their oppressors to cope with by the ordinary means of warfare, the
Archbishop of Bremen applied to Pope Gregory IX. for his spiritual aid
against them. That prelate entered cordially into the cause, and
launching forth his anathema against the Stedinger as heretics and
witches, encouraged all true believers to assist in their
extermination. A large body of thieves and fanatics broke into their
country in the year 1233, killing and burning wherever they went, and
not sparing either women or children, the sick or the aged, in their
rage. The Stedinger, however, rallied in great force, routed their
invaders, and killed in battle their leader, Count Burckhardt of
Oldenburg, with many inferior chieftains.

Again the pope was applied to, and a crusade against the Stedinger
was preached in all that part of Germany. The pope wrote to all the
bishops and leaders of the faithful an exhortation to arm, to root out
from the land those abominable witches and wizards. "The Stedinger,"
said his Holiness, "seduced by the devil, have abjured all the laws of
God and man; slandered the Church -- insulted the holy sacraments --
consulted witches to raise evil spirits -- shed blood like water --
taken the lives of priests, and concocted an infernal scheme to
propagate the worship of the devil, whom they adore under the name of
Asmodi. The devil appears to them in different shapes; sometimes as a
goose or a duck, and at others in the figure of a pale, black-eyed
youth, with a melancholy aspect, whose embrace fills their hearts with
eternal hatred against the holy church of Christ. This devil presides
at their Sabbaths, when they all kiss him and dance around him. He
then envelopes them in total darkness, and they all, male and female,
give themselves up to the grossest and most disgusting debauchery."

In consequence of these letters of the pope, the Emperor of
Germany, Frederic II, also pronounced his ban against them. The
Bishops of Ratzebourg, Lubeck, Osnabruek, Munster, and Minden took up
arms to exterminate them, aided by the Duke of Brabant, the Counts of
Holland, of Cloves, of the Mark, of Oldenburg, of Egmond, of Diest,
and many other powerful nobles. An army of forty thousand men was soon
collected, which marched, under the command of the Duke of Brabant,
into the country of the Stedinger. The latter mustered vigorously in
defence of their lives and liberties, but could raise no greater
force, including every man capable of bearing arms, than eleven
thousand men to cope against the overwhelming numbers of their foe.
They fought with the energy of despair, but all in vain. Eight
thousand of them were slain on the field of battle; the whole race was
exterminated; and the enraged conquerors scoured the country in all
directions -- slew the women and children and old men -- drove away
the cattle -- fired the woods and cottages, and made a total waste of
the land.

Just as absurd and effectual was the charge brought against the
Templars in 1307, when they had rendered themselves obnoxious to the
potentates and prelacy of Christendom. Their wealth, their power,
their pride, and their insolence had raised up enemies on every side;
and every sort of accusation was made against them, but failed to work
their overthrow, until the terrible cry of witchcraft was let loose
upon them. This effected its object, and the Templars were extirpated.
They were accused of having sold their souls to the devil, and of
celebrating all the infernal mysteries of the witches' Sabbath. It was
pretended that, when they admitted a novice into their order, they
forced him to renounce his salvation and curse Jesus Christ; that they
then made him submit to many unholy and disgusting ceremonies, and
forced him to kiss the Superior on the cheek, the navel, and the
breech; and spit three times upon a crucifix. That all the members
were forbidden to have connexion with women, but might give themselves
up without restraint to every species of unmentionable debauchery.
That when, by any mischance, a Templar infringed this order, and a
child was born, the whole order met, and tossed it about like a
shuttlecock from one to the other until it expired; that they then
roasted it by a slow fire, and with the fat which trickled from it
anointed the hair and beard of a large image of the devil. It was also
said that, when one of the knights died, his body was burnt into a
powder, and then mixed with wine and drunk by every member of the
order. Philip IV, who, to exercise his own implacable hatred,
invented, in all probability, the greater part of these charges,
issued orders for the immediate arrest of all the Templars in his
dominions. The pope afterwards took up the cause with almost as much
fervour as the King of France; and in every part of Europe, the
Templars were thrown into prison and their goods and estates
confiscated. Hundreds of them, when put to the rack, confessed even
the most preposterous of the charges against them, and by so doing,
increased the popular clamour and the hopes of their enemies. It is
true that, when removed from the rack, they denied all they had
previously confessed; but this circumstance only increased the outcry,
and was numbered as an additional crime against them. They were
considered in a worse light than before, and condemned forthwith to
the flames, as relapsed heretics. Fifty-nine of these unfortunate
victims were all burned together by a slow fire in a field in the
suburbs of Paris, protesting to the very last moment of their lives,
their innocence of the crimes imputed to them, and refusing to accept
of pardon upon condition of acknowledging themselves guilty. Similar
scenes were enacted in the provinces; and for four years, hardly a
month passed without witnessing the execution of one or more of these
unhappy men. Finally, in 1313, the last scene of this tragedy closed
by the burning of the Grand-Master, Jacques de Molay, and his
companion, Guy, the Commander of Normandy. Anything more atrocious it
is impossible to conceive; disgraceful alike to the monarch who
originated, the pope who supported, and the age which tolerated the
monstrous iniquity. That the malice of a few could invent such a
charge, is a humiliating thought for the lover of his species; but
that millions of mankind should credit it, is still more so.

The execution of Joan of Arc is the next most notorious example
which history affords us, of the imputation of witchcraft against a
political enemy. Instances of similar persecution, in which this crime
was made the pretext for the gratification of political or religious
hatred, might be multiplied to a great extent. But it is better to
proceed at once to the consideration of the bull of Pope Innocent, the
torch that set fire to the longlaid train, and caused so fearful an
explosion over the Christian world. It will be necessary, however, to
go back for some years anterior to that event, the better to
understand the motives that influenced the Church in the promulgation
of that fearful document.

Towards the close of the fourteenth and beginning of the fifteenth
century, many witches were burned in different parts of Europe. As a
natural consequence of the severe persecution, the crime, or the
pretenders to it, increased. Those who found themselves accused and
threatened with the penalties, if they happened to be persons of a bad
and malicious disposition, wished they had the power imputed to them,
that they might be revenged upon their persecutors. Numerous instances
are upon record of half-crazed persons being found muttering the
spells which were supposed to raise the evil one. When religion and
law alike recognized the crime, it is no wonder that the weak in
reason and the strong in imagination, especially when they were of a
nervous temperament, fancied themselves endued with the terrible
powers of which all the world was speaking. The belief of their
neighbours did not lag behind their own, and execution was the speedy

As the fear of witchcraft increased, the Catholic clergy strove to
fix the imputation of it upon those religious sects, the pioneers of
the Reformation, who began about this time to be formidable to the
Church of Rome. If a charge of heresy could not ensure their
destruction, that of sorcery and witchcraft never failed. In the year
1459, a devoted congregation of the Waldenses, at Arras, who used to
repair at night to worship God in their own manner in solitary places,
fell victims to an accusation of sorcery. It was rumored in Arras that
in the desert places to which they retired, the devil appeared before
them in human form, and read from a large book his laws and
ordinances, to which they all promised obedience; that he then
distributed money and food among them, to bind them to his service,
which done, they gave themselves up to every species of lewdness and
debauchery. Upon these rumours, several creditable persons in Arras
were seized and imprisoned, together with a number of decrepit and
idiotic old women. The rack, that convenient instrument for making the
accused confess anything, was of course put in requisition.
Monstrelet, in his Chronicle, says that they were tortured until some
of them admitted the truth of the whole accusations, and said besides,
that they had seen and recognized, in their nocturnal assemblies, many
persons of rank; many prelates, seigneurs, governors of bailliages,
and mayors of cities, being such names as the examiners had themselves
suggested to the victims. Several who had been thus informed against,
were thrown into prison, and so horribly tortured, that reason fled,
and, in their ravings of pain, they also confessed their midnight
meetings with the devil, and the oaths they had taken to serve him.
Upon these confessions judgment was pronounced: the poor old women, as
usual in such cases, were hanged and burned in the market-place; the
more wealthy delinquents were allowed to escape, upon payment of large
sums. It was soon after universally recognized that these trials had
been conducted in the most odious manner, and that the judges had
motives of private vengeance against many of the more influential
persons who had been implicated. The Parliament of Paris afterwards
declared the sentence illegal, and the judges iniquitous; but its
arret was too late to be of service even to those who had paid the
fine, or to punish the authorities who had misconducted themselves;
for it was not delivered until thirty-two years after the executions
had taken place.

In the mean time, accusations of witchcraft spread rapidly in
France, Italy, and Germany. Strange to say, that although in the first
instance chiefly directed against heretics, the latter were as firm
believers in the crime as even the Catholics themselves. In after
times we also find that the Lutherans and Calvinists became greater
witchburners than ever the Romanists had been: so deeply was the
prejudice rooted. Every other point of belief was in dispute, but that
was considered by every sect to be as well established as the
authenticity of the Scriptures, or the existence of a God.

But at this early period of the epidemic the persecutions were
directed by the heads of the Catholic Church. The spread of heresy
betokened, it was thought, the coming of Antichrist. Florimond, in his
work concerning the Antichrist, lets us fully into the secret of these
prosecutions. He says, "All who have afforded us some signs of the
approach of Antichrist agree that the increase of sorcery and
witchcraft is to distinguish the melancholy period of his advent; and
was ever age so afflicted as ours? The seats destined for criminals in
our courts of justice are blackened with persons accused of this
guilt. There are not judges enough to try them. Our dungeons are
gorged with them. No day passes that we do not render our tribunals
bloody by the dooms which we pronounce, or in which we do not return
to our homes, discountenanted and terrified at the horrible
confessions which we have heard. And the devil is accounted so good a
master, that we cannot commit so great a number of his slaves to the
flames, but what there shall arise from their ashes a sufficient
number to supply their place."

Florimond here spoke the general opinion of the Church of Rome;
but it never suggested itself to the mind of any person engaged in
these trials, that if it were indeed a devil, who raised up so many
new witches to fill the places of those consumed, it was no other than
one in their own employ -- the devil of persecution. But so it was.
The more they burned, the more they found to burn; until it became a
common prayer with women in the humbler walks of life, that they might
never live to grow old. It was sufficient to be aged, poor, and
ill-tempered, to ensure death at the stake or the scaffold.

In the year 1487 there was a severe storm in Switzerland, which
laid waste the country for four miles around Constance. Two wretched
old women, whom the popular voice had long accused of witchcraft, were
arrested on the preposterous charge of having raised the tempest. The
rack was displayed, and the two poor creatures extended upon it. In
reply to various leading questions from their tormentors, they owned,
in their agony, that they were in the constant habit of meeting the
devil, that they had sold their souls to him, and that at their
command he had raised the tempest. Upon this insane and blasphemous
charge they were condemned to die. In the criminal registers of
Constance there stands against the name of each the simple but
significant phrase, "convicta et combusta."

This case and hundreds of others were duly reported to the
ecclesiastical powers. There happened at that time to be a Pontiff at
the head of the Church who had given much of his attention to the
subject of witchcraft, and who, with the intent of rooting out the
crime, did more to increase it than any other man that ever lived.
John Baptist Cibo, elected to the Papacy in 1485, under the
designation of Innocent VIII, was sincerely alarmed at the number of
witches, and launched forth his terrible manifesto against them. In
his celebrated bull of 1488, he called the nations of Europe to the
rescue of the church of Christ upon earth, emperilled by the arts of
Satan, and set forth the horrors that had reached his ears; how that
numbers of both sexes had intercourse with the infernal fiends; how by
their sorceries they afflicted both man and beast; how they blighted
the marriage bed, destroyed the births of women and the increase of
cattle; and how they blasted the corn on the ground, the grapes of
the vineyard, the fruits of the trees, and the herbs of the field. In
order that criminals so atrocious might no longer pollute the earth,
he appointed inquisitors in every country, armed with the apostolic
power to convict and punish.

It was now that the Witch Mania, properly so called, may be said
to have fairly commenced. Immediately a class of men sprang up in
Europe, who made it the sole business of their lives to discover and
burn the witches. Sprenger, in Germany, was the most celebrated of
these national scourges. In his notorious work, the "Malleus
Maleficarum," he laid down a regular form of trial, and appointed a
course of examination by which the inquisitors in other countries
might best discover the guilty. The questions, which were always
enforced by torture, were of the most absurd and disgusting nature.
The inquisitors were required to ask the suspected whether they had
midnight meetings with the devil? whether they attended the witch's
sabbath on the Brocken? whether they had their familiar spirits?
whether they could raise whirlwinds and call down the lightning? and
whether they had sexual intercourse with Satan?

Straightway the inquisitors set to work; Cumarius, in Italy,
burned forty-one poor women in one province alone, and Sprenger, in
Germany, burned a number which can never be ascertained correctly, but
which, it is agreed on all hands, amounted to more than five hundred
in a year. The great resemblance between the confessions of the
unhappy victims was regarded as a new proof of the existence of the
crime. But this is not astonishing. The same questions from the
"Malleus Maleficarum," were put to them all, and torture never failed
to educe the answer required by the inquisitor. Numbers of people
whose imaginations were filled with these horrors, went further in the
way of confession than even their tormenters anticipated, in the hope
that they would thereby be saved from the rack, and put out of their
misery at once. Some confessed that they had had children by the
devil; but no one, who had ever been a mother, gave utterance
to such a frantic imagining, even in the extremity of her anguish. The
childless only confessed it, and were burned instanter as unworthy to

For fear the zeal of the enemies of Satan should cool, successive
Popes appointed new commissions. One was appointed by Alexander VI, in
1494; another by Leo X, in 1521, and a third by Adrian VI, in 1522.
They were all armed with the same powers to hunt out and destroy, and
executed their fearful functions but too rigidly. In Geneva alone five
hundred persons were burned in the years 1515 and 1516, under the
title of Protestant witches. It would appear that their chief crime
was heresy, and their witchcraft merely an aggravation. Bartolomeo de
Spina has a list still more fearful. He informs us that, in the year
1524, no less than a thousand persons suffered death for witchcraft in
the district of Como, and that for several years afterwards the
average number of victims exceeded a hundred annually. One inquisitor,
Remigius, took great credit to himself for having, during fifteen
years, convicted and burned nine hundred.

In France, about the year 1520, fires for the execution of witches
blazed in almost every town. Danaeus, in his "Dialogues of Witches,"
says they were so numerous that it would he next to impossible to tell
the number of them. So deep was the thraldom of the human mind, that
the friends and relatives of the accused parties looked on and
approved. The wife or sister of a murderer might sympathise in his
fate, but the wives and husbands of sorcerers and witches had no pity.
The truth is that pity was dangerous, for it was thought no one could
have compassion on the sufferings of a witch who was not a dabbler in
the art: to have wept for a witch would have insured the stake. In
some districts, however, the exasperation of the people broke out, in
spite of superstition. The inquisitor of a rural township in Piedmont
burned the victims so plentifully, and so fast, that there was not a
family in the place which did not lose a member. The people at last
arose, and the inquisitor was but too happy to escape from the country
with whole limbs. The Archbishop of the diocese proceeded afterwards
to the trial of such as the inquisitor had left in prison.

Some of the charges were so utterly preposterous that the poor
wretches were at once liberated; others met a harder, but the usual
fate. Some of them were accused of having joined the witches' dance at
midnight under a blasted oak, where they had been seen by creditable
people. The husbands of several of these women (two of whom were young
and beautiful) swore positively that at the time stated their wives
were comfortably asleep in their arms; but it was all in vain. Their
word was taken, but the Archbishop told them they had been deceived by
the devil and their own senses. It was true they might have had the
semblance of their wives in their beds, but the originals were far
away, at the devil's dance under the oak. The honest fellows were
confounded, and their wives burned forthwith.

In the year 1561, five poor women of Verneuil were accused of
transforming themselves into cats, and in that shape attending the
sabbath of the fiends -- prowling around Satan, who presided over them
in the form of a goat, and dancing, to amuse him, upon his back. They
were found guilty, and burned. [Bodin, page 95. Garinet, page 125.
"Anti-demon de Serclier," page 346.]

In 1564, three wizards and a witch appeared before the Presidents
Salvert and D'Avanton: they confessed, when extended on the rack, that
they anointed the sheep-pens with infernal unguents to kill the sheep
-- that they attended the sabbath, where they saw a great black goat,
which spoke to them, and made them kiss him, each holding a lighted
candle in his hand while he performed the ceremony. They were all
executed at Poitiers.

In 1571, the celebrated sorcerer, Trois Echelles, was burned in
the Place de Greve, in Paris. He confessed, in the presence of Charles
IX, and of the Marshals de Montmorency, De Retz, and the Sieur du
Mazille, physician to the King, that he could perform the most
wonderful things by the aid of a devil to whom he had sold himself. He
described at great length the saturnalia of the fiends -- the
sacrifices which they offered up -- the debaucheries they committed
with the young and handsome witches, and the various modes of
preparing the infernal unguent for blighting cattle. He said he had
upwards of twelve hundred accomplices in the crime of witchcraft in
various parts of France, whom he named to the King, and many of whom
were afterwards arrested and suffered execution.

At Dole, two years afterwards, Gilles Garnier, a native of Lyons,
was indicted for being a loupgarou, or man-wolf, and for prowling in
that shape about the country at night to devour little children. The
indictment against him, as read by Henri Camus, doctor of laws and
counsellor of the King, was to the effect that he, Gilles Garnier, had
seized upon a little girl, twelve years of age, whom he drew into a
vineyard and there killed, partly with his teeth and partly with his
hands, seeming like wolf's paws -- that from thence he trailed her
bleeding body along the ground with his teeth into the wood of La
Serre, where he ate the greatest portion of her at one meal, and
carried the remainder home to his wife; that, upon another occasion,
eight days before the festival of All Saints, he was seen to seize
another child in his teeth, and would have devoured her had she not
been rescued by the country-people -- and that the said child died a
few days afterwards of the injuries he had inflicted; that fifteen
days after the same festival of All Saints, being again in the shape
of a wolf, he devoured a boy thirteen years of age, having previously
torn off his leg and thigh with his teeth, and hid them away for his
breakfast on the morrow. He was, furthermore, indicted for giving way
to the same diabolical and unnatural propensities even in his shape of
a man, and that he had strangled a boy in a wood with the intention of
eating him, which crime he would have effected if he had not been seen
by the neighhours and prevented.

Gilles Garnier was put to the rack, after fifty witnesses had
deposed against him: he confessed everything that was laid to his
charge. He was, thereupon, brought back into the presence of his
judges, when Dr. Camus, in the name of the Parliament of Dole,
pronounced the following sentence:--

"Seeing that Gilles Garnier has, by the testimony of credible
witnesses, and by his own spontaneous confession, been proved guilty
of the abominable crimes of lycanthropy and witchcraft, this court
condemns him, the said Gilles, to be this day taken in a cart from
this spot to the place of execution, accompanied by the executioner
(maitre executeur de la haute justice), where he, by the said
executioner, shall be tied to a stake and burned alive, and that his
ashes be then scattered to the winds. The Court further condemns him,
the said Gilles, to the costs of this prosecution."

"Given at Dole, this 18th day of January, 1573."

In 1578, the Parliament of Paris was occupied for several days
with the trial of a man, named Jacques Roller. He, also, was found
guilty of being a loup-garou, and in that shape devouring a little
boy. He was burnt alive in the Place de Greve.

In 1579, so much alarm was excited in the neighbourhood of Melun
by the increase of witches and loup-garous, that a council was held to
devise some measures to stay the evil. A decree was passed, that all
witches, and consulters with witches, should be punished with death;
and not only those, but fortune-tellers and conjurors of every kind.
The Parliament of Rouen took up the same question in the following
year, and decreed that the possession of a grimoire, or book of
spells, was sufficient evidence of witchcraft; and that all persons on
whom such books were found should be burned alive. Three councils were
held in different parts of France in the year 1583, all in relation to
the same subject. The Parliament of Bourdeaux issued strict
injunctions to all curates and clergy whatever, to use redoubled
efforts to root out the crime of witchcraft. The Parliament of Tours
was equally peremptory, and feared the judgments of an offended God,
if all these dealers with the devil were not swept from the face of
the land. The Parliament of Rheims was particularly severe against the
noueurs d'aiguillette, or "tyers of the knot;" people of both sexes,
who took pleasure in preventing the consummation of marriage, that
they might counteract the command of God to our first parents, to
increase and multiply. This Parliament held it to be sinful to wear
amulets to preserve from witchcraft; and that this practice might not
be continued within its jurisdiction, drew up a form of exorcism,
which would more effectually defeat the agents of the devil, and put
them to flight.

A case of witchcraft, which created a great sensation in its day,
occurred in 1588, at a village in the mountains of Auvergne, about two
leagues from Apchon. A gentleman of that place being at his window,
there passed a friend of his who had been out hunting, and who was
then returning to his own house. The gentleman asked his friend what
sport he had had; upon which the latter informed him that he had been
attacked in the plain by a large and savage wolf, which he had shot
at, without wounding; and that he had then drawn out his hunting-knife
and cut off the animal's fore-paw, as it sprang upon his neck to
devour him. The huntsman, upon this, put his hand into his bag to pull
out the paw, but was shocked to find that it was a woman's hand, with
a wedding-ring on the finger. The gentleman immediately recognized his
wife's ring, "which," says the indictment against her, "made him begin
to suspect some evil of her." He immediately went in search of her,
and found her sitting by the fire in the kitchen, with her arm hidden
underneath her apron. He tore off her apron with great vehemence, and
found that she had no hand, and that the stump was even then bleeding.
She was given into custody, and burned at Riom in presence of some
thousands of spectators. [Tablier. See also Boguet, "Discours sur les
Sorciers;" and M. Jules Garinet, "Histoire de la Magie," page 150.]

In the midst of these executions, rare were the gleams of mercy;
few instances are upon record of any acquittal taking place when the
charge was witchcraft. The discharge of fourteen persons by the
Parliament of Paris, in the year 1589, is almost a solitary example of
a return to reason. Fourteen persons, condemned to death for
witchcraft, appealed against the judgment to the Parliament of Paris,
which for political reasons had been exiled to Tours. The Parliament
named four commissioners, Pierre Pigray, the King's surgeon, and
Messieurs Leroi, Renard, and Falaiseau, the King's physicians, to
visit and examine these witches, and see whether they had the mark of
the devil upon them. Pigray, who relates the circumstance in his work
on Surgery, book vii, chapter the tenth, says the visit was made in
presence of two counsellors of the court. The witches were all
stripped naked, and the physicians examined their bodies very
diligently, pricking them in all the marks they could find, to see
whether they were insensible to pain, which was always considered a
certain proof of guilt. They were, however, very sensible of the
pricking, and some of them called out very lustily when the pins were
driven into them. "We found them," continues Pierre Pigray, "to be
very poor, stupid people, and some of them insane; many of them were
quite indifferent about life, and one or two of them desired death as
a relief for their sufferings. Our opinion was, that they stood more
in need of medicine than of punishment, and so we reported to the
Parliament. Their case was, thereupon, taken into further
consideration, and the Parliament, after mature counsel amongst all
the members, ordered the poor creatures to be sent to their homes,
without inflicting any punishment upon them."

Such was the dreadful state of Italy, Germany, and France, during
the sixteenth century, which was far from being the worst crisis of
the popular madness with regard to witchcraft. Let us see what was the
state of England during the same period. The Reformation, which in its
progress had rooted out so many errors, stopped short at this, the
greatest error of all. Luther and Calvin were as firm believers in
witchcraft as Pope Innocent himself, and their followers showed
themselves more zealous persecutors than the Romanists. Dr.
Hutchinson, in his work on Witchcraft, asserts that the mania
manifested itself later in England, and raged with less virulence than
on the Continent. The first assertion only is true; but though the
persecution began later both in England and Scotland, its progress was
as fearful as elsewhere.

It was not until more than fifty years after the issuing of the
Bull of Innocent VIII. that the Legislature of England thought fit to
make any more severe enactments against sorcery than those already in
operation. The statute of 1541 was the first that specified the
particular crime of witchcraft. At a much earlier period, many persons
had suffered death for sorcery in addition to other offences; but no
executions took place for attending the witches' sabbath, raising
tempests, afflicting cattle with barrenness, and all the fantastic
trumpery of the Continent. Two statutes were passed in 1551; the
first, relating to false prophecies, caused mainly, no doubt, by the
impositions of Elizabeth Barton, the Holy Maid of Kent, in 1534, and
the second against conjuration, witchcraft, and sorcery. But even this
enactment did not consider witchcraft as penal in itself, and only
condemned to death those who by means of spells, incantations, or
contracts with the devil, attempted the lives of their neighbours. The
statute of Elizabeth, in 1562, at last recognized witchcraft as a
crime of the highest magnitude, whether exerted or not to the injury
of the lives, limbs, and possessions of the community. From that date,
the persecution may be fairly said to have commenced in England. It
reached its climax in the early part of the seventeenth century, which
was the hottest period of the mania all over Europe.

A few cases of witch persecution in the sixteenth century will
enable the reader to form a more accurate idea of the progress of this
great error than if he plunged at once into that busy period of its
history when Matthew Hopkins and his coadjutors exercised their
infernal calling. Several instances occur in England during the latter
years of the reign of Elizabeth. At this time the public mind had
become pretty familiar with the details of the crime. Bishop Jewell,
in his sermons before Her Majesty, used constantly to conclude them by
a fervent prayer that she might be preserved from witches. Upon one
occasion, in 1598, his words were, "It may please your Grace to
understand that witches and sorcerers, within these last four years,
are marvellously increased within this 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 God they may never practise further than upon the

By degrees, an epidemic terror of witchcraft spread into the
villages. In proportion as the doctrines of the Puritans took root
this dread increased, and, of course, brought persecution in its
train. The Church of England has claimed, and is entitled to the
merit, of having been less influenced in these matters than any other
sect of Christians; but still they were tainted with the superstition
of the age. One of the most flagrant instances of cruelty and delusion
upon record was consummated under the authority of the Church, and
commemorated till a very late period by an annual lecture at the
University of Cambridge.

This is the celebrated case of the Witches of Warbois, who were
executed about thirty-two years after the passing of the statute of
Elizabeth. Although in the interval but few trials are recorded, there
is, unfortunately, but too much evidence to show the extreme length to
which the popular prejudice was carried. Many women lost their lives
in every part of England without being brought to trial at all, from
the injuries received at the hands of the people. The number of these
can never be ascertained.

The case of the Witches of Warbois merits to be detailed at
length, not only from the importance attached to it for so many years
by the learned of the University, but from the singular absurdity of
the evidence upon which men, sensible in all other respects, could
condemn their fellow-creatures to the scaffold.

The principal actors in this strange drama were the families of
Sir Samuel Cromwell and a Mr. Throgmorton, both gentlemen of landed
property near Warbois, in the county of Huntingdon. Mr. Throgmorton
had several daughters, the eldest of whom, Mistress Joan, was an
imaginative and melancholy girl, whose head was filled with stories of
ghosts and witches. Upon one occasion she chanced to pass the cottage
of one Mrs. or, as she was called, Mother Samuel, a very aged, a very
poor, and a very ugly woman. Mother Samuel was sitting at her door
knitting, with a black cap upon her head, when this silly young lady
passed, and taking her eyes from her work she looked steadfastly at
her. Mistress Joan immediately fancied that she felt sudden pains in
all her limbs, and from that day forth, never ceased to tell her
sisters, and everybody about her, that Mother Samuel had bewitched
her. The other children took up the cry, and actually frightened
themselves into fits whenever they passed within sight of this
terrible old woman.

Mr. and Mrs. Throgmorton, not a whir wiser than their children,
believed all the absurd tales they had been told; and Lady Cromwell, a
gossip of Mrs. Throgmorton, made herself very active in the business,
and determined to bring the witch to the ordeal. The sapient Sir
Samuel joined in the scheme; and the children thus encouraged gave
loose reins to their imaginations, which seem to have been of the
liveliest. They soon invented a whole host of evil spirits, and names
for them besides, which, they said, were sent by Mother Samuel to
torment them continually. Seven spirits especially, they said, were
raised from hell by this wicked woman to throw them into fits; and as
the children were actually subject to fits, their mother and her
commeres gave the more credit to the story. The names of these spirits
were, "First Smack," "Second Smack," "Third Smack," "Blue," "Catch,"
"Hardname," and "Pluck."

Throgmorton, the father, was so pestered by these idle fancies,
and yet so well inclined to believe them, that he marched valiantly
forth to the hut where Mother Samuel resided with her husband and
daughter, and dragged her forcibly into his own grounds. Lady
Cromwell, Mrs. Throgmorton, and the girls were in waiting, armed with
long pins to prick the witch, and see if they could draw blood from
her. Lady Cromwell, who seems to have been the most violent of the
party, tore the old woman's cap off her head, and plucking out a
handful of her grey hair, gave it to Mrs. Throgmorton to burn, as a
charm which would preserve them all from her future machinations. It
was no wonder that the poor creature, subjected to this rough usage,
should give vent to an involuntary curse upon her tormentors. She did
so, and her curse was never forgotten. Her hair, however, was supposed
to be a grand specific, and she was allowed to depart, half dead with
terror and ill usage. For more than a year, the families of Cromwell
and Throgmorton continued to persecute her, and to assert that her
imps afflicted them with pains and fits, turned the milk sour in their
pans, and prevented their cows and ewes from bearing. In the midst of
these fooleries, Lady Cromwell was taken ill and died. It was then
remembered that her death had taken place exactly a year and a quarter
since she was cursed by Mother Samuel, and that on several occasions
she had dreamed of the witch and a black cat, the latter being of
course the arch-enemy of mankind himself.

Sir Samuel Cromwell now conceived himself bound to take more
energetic measures against the sorceress, since he had lost his wife
by her means. The year and a quarter and the black cat were proofs
positive. All the neighbours had taken up the cry of witchcraft
against Mother Samuel; and her personal appearance, unfortunately for
her, the very ideal of what a witch ought to be, increased the popular
suspicion. It would appear that at last the poor woman believed, even
to her own disadvantage, that she was what everybody represented her
to be. Being forcibly brought into Mr. Throgmorton's house, when his
daughter Joan was in one of her customary fits, she was commanded by
him and Sir Samuel Cromwell to expel the devil from the young lady.
She was told to repeat her exorcism, and to add, "as I am a witch, and
the causer of Lady Cromwell's death, I charge thee, fiend, to come out
of her!" She did as was required of her, and moreover confessed that
her husband and daughter were leagued with her in witchcraft, and had,
like her, sold their souls to the devil. The whole family were
immediately arrested, and sent to Huntingdon to prison.

The trial was instituted shortly afterwards before Mr. Justice
Fenner, when all the crazy girls of Mr. Throgmorton's family gave
evidence against Mother Samuel and her family. They were all three put
to the torture. The old woman confessed in her anguish that she was a
witch -- that she had cast her spells upon the young ladies, and that
she had caused the death of Lady Cromwell. The father and daughter,
stronger in mind than their unfortunate wife and parent, refused to
confess anything, and asserted their innocence to the last. They were
all three condemned to be hanged, and their bodies burned. The
daughter, who was young and good-looking, excited the pity of many
persons, and she was advised to plead pregnancy, that she might gain
at ]east a respite from death. The poor girl refused proudly, on the
ground that she would not be accounted both a witch and a strumpet.
Her half-witted old mother caught at the idea of a few weeks' longer
life, and asserted that she was pregnant. The court was convulsed with
laughter, in which the wretched victim herself joined, and this was
accounted an additional proof that she was a witch. The whole family
were executed on the 7th of April, 1593.

Sir Samuel Cromwell, as lord of the manor, received the sum of 40
pounds out of the confiscated property of the Samuels, which he turned
into a rent-charge of 40 shillings yearly, for the endowment of an
annual sermon or lecture upon the enormity of witchcraft, and this
case in particular, to be preached by a doctor or bachelor of divinity
of Queen's College, Cambridge. I have not been able to ascertain the
exact date at which this annual lecture was discontinued, but it
appears to have been preached so late as 1718, when Dr. Hutchinson
published his work upon witchcraft.

To carry on in proper chronological order the history of the witch
delusion in the British isles, it will be necessary to examine into
what was taking place in Scotland during all that part of the
sixteenth century anterior to the accession of James VI. to the crown
of England. We naturally expect that the Scotch, -- a people renowned
from the earliest times for their powers of imagination, -- should be
more deeply imbued with this gloomy superstition than their neighhours
of the South. The nature of their soil and climate tended to encourage
the dreams of early ignorance. Ghosts, goblins, wraiths, kelpies, and
a whole host of spiritual beings, were familiar to the dwellers by the
misty glens of the Highlands and the romantic streams of the Lowlands.
Their deeds, whether of good or ill, were enshrined in song, and took
a greater hold upon the imagination because "verse had sanctified
them." But it was not till the religious reformers began the practice
of straining Scripture to the severest extremes, that the arm of the
law was called upon to punish witchcraft as a crime per se. What Pope
Innocent VIII. had done for Germany and France, the preachers of the
Reformation did for the Scottish people. Witchcraft, instead of being
a mere article of faith, became enrolled in the statute book; and all
good subjects and true Christians were called upon to take arms
against it. The ninth Parliament of Queen Mary passed an act in 1563,
which decreed the punishment of death against witches and consulters
with witches, and immediately the whole bulk of the people were
smitten with an epidemic fear of the devil and his mortal agents.
Persons in the highest ranks of life shared and encouraged the
delusion of the vulgar. Many were themselves accused of witchcraft;
and noble ladies were shown to have dabbled in mystic arts, and proved
to the world that, if they were not witches, it was not for want of
the will.

Among the dames who became notorious for endeavouring to effect
their wicked ends by the devil's aid, may be mentioned the celebrated
Lady Buccleugh, of Branxholme, familiar to all the readers of Sir
Walter Scott; the Countess of Lothian, the Countess of Angus, the
Countess of Athol, Lady Kerr, the Countess of Huntley, Euphemia
Macalzean (the daughter of Lord Cliftonhall), and Lady Fowlis. Among
the celebrated of the other sex who were accused of wizzardism was Sir
Lewis Ballantyne, the Lord Justice Clerk for Scotland, who, if we may
believe Scot of Scotstarvet, "dealt by curiosity with a warlock called
Richard Grahame," and prayed him to raise the devil. The warlock
consented, and raised him in propria persona, in the yard of his house
in the Canongate, "at sight of whom the Lord Justice Clerk was so
terrified that he took sickness and thereof died." By such idle
reports as these did the envious ruin the reputation of those they
hated, though it would appear in this case that Sir Lewis had been
fool enough to make the attempt of which he was accused, and that the
success of the experiment was the only apocryphal part of the story.

The enemies of John Knox invented a similar tale, which found
ready credence among the Roman Catholics; glad to attach any stigma to
that grand scourge of the vices of their church. It was reported that
he and his secretary went into the churchyard of St. Andrew's with the
intent to raise "some sanctes;" but that, by a mistake in their
conjurations, they raised the great fiend himself, instead of the
saints they wished to consult. The popular rumour added that Knox's
secretary was so frightened at the great horns, goggle eyes, and long
tail of Satan, that he went mad, and shortly afterwards died. Knox
himself was built of sterner stuff, and was not to be frightened.

The first name that occurs in the records of the High Court of
Justiciary of persons tried or executed for witchcraft is that of
Janet Bowman, in 1572, nine years after the passing of the act of
Mary. No particulars of her crimes are given, and against her name
there only stand the words, "convict and brynt." It is not, however,
to be inferred that, in this interval, no trials or executions took
place; for it appears on the authority of documents of unquestioned
authenticity in the Advocates' Library at Edinburgh, [Foreign
Quarterly Review, vol. vi. page 41.] that the Privy Council made a
practice of granting commissions to resident gentlemen and ministers,
in every part of Scotland, to examine, try, and execute witches within
their own parishes. No records of those who suffered from the sentence
of these tribunals have been preserved; but if popular tradition may
be believed, even to the amount of one-fourth of its assertions, their
number was fearful. After the year 1572, the entries of executions for
witchcraft in the records of the High Court become more frequent, but
do not average more than one per annum; another proof that trials for
this offence were in general entrusted to the local magistracy. The
latter appear to have ordered witches to the stake with as little
compunction, and after as summary a mode, as modern justices of the
peace order a poacher to the stocks.

As James VI. advanced in manhood, he took great interest in the
witch trials. One of them especially, that of Gellie Duncan, Dr. Fian,
and their accomplices, in the year 1591, engrossed his whole
attention, and no doubt suggested in some degree, the famous work on
Demonology which he wrote shortly afterwards. As these witches had
made an attempt upon his own life, it is not surprising, with his
habits, that he should have watched the case closely, or become
strengthened in his prejudice and superstition by its singular
details. No other trial that could be selected would give so fair an
idea of the delusions of the Scottish people as this. Whether we
consider the number of victims, the absurdity of the evidence, and the
real villany of some of the persons implicated, it is equally

Gellie Duncan, the prime witch in these proceedings, was servant
to the Deputy Bailiff of Tranent, a small town in Hadingtonshire,
about ten miles from Edinburgh. Though neither old nor ugly (as
witches usually were), but young and good-looking, her neighbours,
from some suspicious parts of her behaviour, had long considered her a
witch. She had, it appears, some pretensions to the healing art. Some
cures which she effected were so sudden, that the worthy Bailiff, her
master, who, like his neighbours, mistrusted her, considered them no
less than miraculous. In order to discover the truth, he put her to
the torture; but she obstinately refused to confess that she had
dealings with the devil. It was the popular belief that no witch would
confess as long as the mark which Satan had put upon her remained
undiscovered upon her body. Somebody present reminded the torturing
Bailie of this fact, and on examination, the devil's mark was found
upon the throat of poor Gellie. She was put to the torture again, and
her fortitude giving way under the extremity of her anguish, she
confessed that she was indeed a witch -- that she had sold her soul to
the devil, and effected all her cures by his aid. This was something
new in the witch creed, according to which, the devil delighted more
in laying diseases on, than in taking them off; but Gellie Duncan
fared no better on that account. The torture was still applied, until
she had named all her accomplices, among whom were one Cunningham, a
reputed wizard, known by the name of Dr. Fian, a grave and matron-like
witch, named Agnes Sampson, Euphemia Macalzean, the daughter of Lord
Cliftonhall, already mentioned, and nearly forty other persons, some
of whom were the wives of respectable individuals in the city of
Edinburgh. Every one of these persons was arrested, and the whole
realm of Scotland thrown into commotion by the extraordinary nature of
the disclosures which were anticipated.

About two years previous to this time, James had suddenly left his
kingdom, and proceeded gallantly to Denmark, to fetch over his bride,
the Princess of Denmark, who had been detained by contrary weather in
the harbour of Upslo. After remaining for some months in Copenhagen,
he set sail with his young bride, and arrived safely in Leith, on the
1st of May 1590, having experienced a most boisterous passage, and
been nearly wrecked. As soon as the arrest of Gellie Duncan and Fian
became known in Scotland, it was reported by everybody who pretended
to be well-informed that these witches and their associates had, by
the devil's means, raised the storms which had endangered the lives of
the King and Queen. Gellie, in her torture, had confessed that such
was the fact, and the whole kingdom waited aghast and open-mouthed for
the corroboration about to be furnished by the trial.

Agnes Sampson, the "grave and matron-like" witch implicated by
Gellie Duncan, was put to the horrible torture of the pilliewinkis.
She laid bare all the secrets of the sisterhood before she had
suffered an hour, and confessed that Gellie Duncan, Dr. Fian, Marion
Lineup, Euphemia Macalzean, herself, and upwards of two hundred
witches and warlocks, used to assemble at midnight in the kirk of
North Berwick, where they met the devil; that they had plotted there
to attempt the King's life; that they were incited to this by the old
fiend himself, who had asserted with a thundering oath that James was
the greatest enemy he ever had, and that there would be no peace for
the devil's children upon earth until he were got rid of; that the
devil upon these occasions always liked to have a little music, and
that Gellie Duncan used to play a reel before him on a trump or Jew's
harp, to which all the witches danced.

James was highly flattered at the idea that the devil should have
said that he was the greatest enemy he ever had. He sent for Gellie
Duncan to the palace, and made her play before him the same reel which
she had played at the witches' dance in the kirk.

Dr. Fian, or rather Cunningham, a petty schoolmaster at Tranent,
was put to the torture among the rest. He was a man who had led an
infamous life, was a compounder of and dealer in poisons, and a
pretender to magic. Though not guilty of the preposterous crimes laid
to his charge, there is no doubt that he was a sorcerer in will,
though not in deed, and that he deserved all the misery he endured.
When put on the rack, he would confess nothing, and held out so long
unmoved, that the severe torture of the boots was resolved upon. He
endured this till exhausted nature could bear no longer, when
Insensibility kindly stepped in to his aid. When it was seen that he
was utterly powerless, and that his tongue cleaved to the roof of his
mouth, he was released. Restoratives were administered; and during the
first faint gleam of returning consciousness, he was prevailed upon to
sign, ere he well knew what he was about, a full confession, in strict
accordance with those of Gellie Duncan and Agnes Sampson. He was then
remanded to his prison, from which, after two days, he managed,
somehow or other, to escape. He was soon recaptured, and brought
before the Court of Justiciary, James himself being present. Fian now
denied all the circumstances of the written confession which he had
signed; whereupon the King, enraged at his "stubborn wilfulness,"
ordered him once more to the torture. His finger nails were riven out
with pincers, and long needles thrust up to the eye into the quick;
but still he did not wince. He was then consigned again to the boots,
in which, to quote a pamphlet published at the time, [News from
Scotland, declaring the damnable life of Dr. Fian.] he continued "so
long, and abode so many blows in them, that his legs were crushed and
beaten together as small as might be, and the bones and flesh so
bruised, that the blood and marrow spouted forth in great abundance,
whereby they were made unserviceable for ever."

The astonishing similarity of the confessions of all the persons
implicated in these proceedings has often been remarked. It would
appear that they actually endeavoured to cause the King's death by
their spells and sorceries. Fian, who was acquainted with all the
usual tricks of his profession, deceived them with pretended
apparitions, so that many of them were really convinced that they had
seen the devil. The sum of their confessions was to the following

Satan, who was, of course, a great foe of the reformed religion,
was alarmed that King James should marry a Protestant princess. To
avert the consequences to the realms of evil, he had determined to put
an end to the King and his bride by raising a storm on their voyage
home. Satan, first of all, sent a thick mist over the waters, in the
hope that the King's vessel might be stranded on the coast amid the
darkness. This failing, Dr. Fian, who, from his superior scholarship,
was advanced to the dignity of the devil's secretary, was commanded to
summon all the witches to meet their master, each one sailing on a
sieve on the high seas.

On All-hallowmas Eve, they assembled to the number of upwards of
two hundred, including Gellie Duncan, Agnes Sampson, Euphemia
Macalzean, one Barbara Napier, and several warlocks; and each
embarking in a riddle, or sieve, they sailed "over the ocean very
substantially." After cruising about for some time, they met with the
fiend, bearing in his claws a cat, which had been previously drawn
nine times through the fire. This he delivered to one of the warlocks,
telling him to cast it into the sea, and cry "Hola!" This was done
with all solemnity, and immediately the ocean became convulsed -- the
waters hissed loudly, and the waves rose mountains high,

"Twisting their arms to the dun-coloured heaven."

The witches sailed gallantly through the tempest they had raised,
and landing on the coast of Scotland, took their sieves in their
hands, and marched on in procession to the haunted kirk of North
Berwick, where the devil had resolved to hold a preaching. Gellie
Duncan, the musician of the party, tripped on before, playing on her
Jew's harp, and singing,

"Cummer, go ye before, Cummer, go ye;
Gif ye will not go before, Cummer, let me!"

Arrived at the kirk, they paced around it withershins, that is, in
reverse of the apparent motion of the sun. Dr. Fian then blew into the
key-hole of the door, which opened immediately, and all the witches
entered. As it was pitch dark, Fian blew with his mouth upon the
candles, which immediately lighted, and the devil was seen occupying
the pulpit. He was attired in a black gown and hat, and the witches
saluted him, by crying, "All hail, master!" His body was hard, like
iron; his face terrible; his nose, like the beak of an eagle; he had
great burning eyes; his hands and legs were hairy; and he had long
claws upon his hands and feet, and spake with an exceedingly gruff
voice. Before commencing his sermon, he called over the names of his
congregation, demanding whether they had been good servants, and what
success had attended their operations against the life of the King and
his bride.

Gray Meill, a crazy old warlock, who acted as beadle or
doorkeeper, was silly enough to answer, "that nothing ailed the King
yet, God be thanked;" upon which the devil, in a rage, stepped down
from the pulpit, and boxed his ears for him. He then remounted, and
commenced the preaching, commanding them to be dutiful servants to
him, and do all the evil they could. Euphemia Macalzean and Agnes
Sampson, bolder than the rest, asked him whether he had brought the
image or picture of King James, that they might, by pricking it, cause
pains and diseases to fall upon him. "The father of lies" spoke truth
for once, and confessed that he had forgotten it; upon which Euphemia
Macalzean upbraided him loudly for his carelessness. The devil,
however, took it all in good part, although Agnes Sampson and several
other women let loose their tongues at him immediately. When they had
done scolding, he invited them all to a grand entertainment. A newly
buried corpse was dug up, and divided among them, which was all they
had in the way of edibles. He was more liberal in the matter of drink,
and gave them so much excellent wine that they soon became jolly.
Gellie Duncan then played the old tune upon her trump, and the devil
himself led off the dance with Euphemia Mac alzean. Thus they kept
up the sport till the cock crew.

Agnes Sampson, the wise woman of Keith, as she was called, added
some other particulars in her confession. She stated, that on a
previous occasion, she had raised an awful tempest in the sea, by
throwing a cat into it, with four joints of men tied to its feet. She
said also, that on their grand attempt to drown King James, they did
not meet with the devil after cruising about, but that he had
accompanied them from the first, and that she had seen him dimly in
the distance, rolling himself before them over the great waves, in
shape and size not unlike a huge haystack. They met with a foreign
ship richly laden with wines and other good things, which they
boarded, and sunk after they had drunk all the wine, and made
themselves quite merry.

Some of these disclosures were too much even for the abundant
faith of King James, and he more than once exclaimed, that the witches
were like their master, "extreme lyars." But they confessed many other
things of a less preposterous nature, and of which they were, no
doubt, really guilty. Agnes Sampson said she was to have taken the
King's life by anointing his linen with a strong poison. Gellie Duncan
used to threaten her neighbours by saying she would send the devil
after them; and many persons of weaker minds than usual were
frightened into fits by her, and rendered subject to them for the
remainder of their lives. Dr. Finn also made no scruple in aiding and
abetting murder, and would rid any person of an enemy by means of
poison, who could pay him his fee for it. Euphemia Macalzean also was
far from being pure. There is no doubt that she meditated the King's
death, and used such means to compass it as the superstition of the
age directed. She was a devoted partizan of Bothwell, who was accused
by many of the witches as having consulted them on the period of the
King's death. They were all found guilty, and sentenced to be hanged
and burned. Barbara Napier, though found guilty upon other counts, was
acquitted upon the charge of having been present at the great
witch-meeting in Berwick kirk. The King was highly displeased, and
threatened to have the jury indicted for a wilful error upon an
assize. They accordingly reconsidered their verdict, and threw
themselves upon the King's mercy for the fault they had committed.
James was satisfied, and Barbara Napier was hanged along with Gellie
Duncan, Agnes Sampson, Dr. Fian, and five-and-twenty others. Euphemia
Macalzean met a harder fate. Her connexion with the bold and obnoxious
Bothwell, and her share in poisoning one or two individuals who had
stood in her way, were thought deserving of the severest punishment
the law could inflict. Instead of the ordinary sentence, directing the
criminal to be first strangled and then burned, the wretched woman was
doomed "to be bound to a stake, and burned in ashes, quick to the
death." This cruel sentence was executed on the 25th of June 1591.

These trials had the most pernicious consequences all over
Scotland. The lairds and ministers in their districts, armed with due
power from the privy council, tried and condemned old women after the
most summary fashion. Those who still clung to the ancient faith of
Rome were the severest sufferers, as it was thought, after the
disclosures of the fierce enmity borne by the devil towards a
Protestant King and his Protestant wife, that all the Catholics were
leagued with the powers of evil to work woe on the realm of Scotland.
Upon a very moderate calculation, it is presumed that from the passing
of the act of Queen Mary till the accession of James to the throne of
England, a period of thirty-nine years, the average number of
executions for witchcraft in Scotland was two hundred annually, or
upwards of seventeen thousand altogether. For the first nine years the
number was not one quarter so great; but towards the years 1590 to
1593, the number must have been more than four hundred. The case last
cited was one of an extraordinary character. The general aspect of the
trials will be better seen from that of Isabel Gowdie, which, as it
would be both wearisome and disgusting to go through them all, is
cited as a fair specimen, although it took place at a date somewhat
later than the reign of James. This woman, wearied of her life by the
persecutions of her neighbours, voluntarily gave herself up to
justice, and made a confession, embodying the whole witch-creed of the
period. She was undoubtedly a monomaniac of the most extraordinary
kind. She said that she deserved to be stretched upon an iron rack,
and that her crimes could never be atoned for, even if she were to be
drawn asunder by wild horses. She named a long list of her associates,
including nearly fifty women and a few warlocks. They dug up the
graves of unchristened infants, whose limbs were serviceable in their
enchantments. When they wanted to destroy the crops of an enemy, they
yoked toads to his plough, and on the following night Satan himself
ploughed the land with his team, and blasted it for the season. The
witches had power to assume almost any shape; but they generally chose
either that of a cat or a hare, oftenest the latter. Isabel said, that
on one occasion, when she was in this disguise, she was sore pressed
by a pack of hounds, and had a very narrow escape with her life. She
reached her own door at last, feeling the hot breath of the pursuing
dogs at her haunches. She managed, however, to hide herself behind a
chest, and got time to pronounce the magic words that could alone
restore her to her proper shape. They were :--

"Hare! hare!
God send thee care!
I am in a hare's likeness now;
But I shall be a woman e'en now!
Hare! hare!
God send thee care!"

If witches, when in this shape, were bitten by the dogs, they always
retained the marks in their human form; but she had never heard that
any witch had been bitten to death. When the devil appointed any
general meeting of the witches, the custom was that they should
proceed through the air mounted on broomsticks, or on corn or
bean-straws, pronouncing as they went:--

"Horse and partook, horse and go,
Horse and pellats, ho! ho! ho!"

They generally left behind them a broom, or a three-legged stool,
which, when placed in their beds and duly charmed, assumed the human
shape till their return. This was done that the neighhours might not
know when they were absent.

She added, that the devil furnished his favourite witches with
servant imps to attend upon them. These imps were called "The Roaring
Lion," "Thief of Hell," "Wait-upon-Herself," "Ranting Roarer,"
"Care-for-Naught," &c. and were known by their liveries, which were
generally yellow, sad-dun, sea-green, pea-green, or grass-green. Satan
never called the witches by the names they had received at baptism;
neither were they allowed, in his presence, so to designate each
other. Such a breach of the infernal etiquette assuredly drew down his
most severe displeasure. But as some designation was necessary, he
re-baptized them in their own blood by the names of "Able-and-Stout,"
"Over-the-dike-with-it," "Raise-the-wind," "Pickle-nearest-the-wind,"
"Batter-them-down-Maggy," "Blow-Kale," and such like. The devil
himself was not very particular what name they called him so that it
was not "Black John." If any witch was unthinking enough to utter
these words, he would rush out upon her, and beat and buffet her
unmercifully, or tear her flesh with a wool-card. Other names he did
not care about; and once gave instructions to a noted warlock that
whenever he wanted his aid, he was to strike the ground three times
and exclaim, "Rise up, foul thief!"

Upon this confession many persons were executed. So strong was the
popular feeling, that no one once accused of witchcraft was acquitted;
at least, acquittals did not average one in a hundred trials.
Witch-finding, or witch-pricking became a trade, and a set of
mercenary vagabonds roamed about the country, provided with long pins
to run into the flesh of supposed criminals. It was no unusual thing
then, nor is it now, that in aged persons there should be some spot on
the body totally devoid of feeling. It was the object of the
witchpricker to discover this spot, and the unhappy wight who did not
bleed when pricked upon it, was doomed to the death. If not
immediately cast into prison, her life was rendered miserable by the
persecution of her neighbours. It is recorded of many poor women, that
the annoyances they endured in this way were so excessive, that they
preferred death. Sir George Mackenzie, the Lord Advocate, at the time
when witch-trials were so frequent, and himself a devout believer in
the crime, relates, in his "Criminal Law," first published in 1678,
some remarkable instances of it. He says, "I went, when I was a
justice-depute, to examine some women who had confessed judicially:
and one of them, who was a silly creature, 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." Sir George, though not wholly elevated above the prejudices
of his age upon this subject, was clearsighted enough to see the
danger to society of the undue encouragement given to the
witch-prosecutions. He was convinced that three-fourths of them were
unjust and unfounded. He says, in the work already quoted, that the
persons who were in general accused of this crime, were poor ignorant
men and women, who did not understand the nature of the accusation,
and who mistook their own superstitious fears for witchcraft. One poor
wretch, a weaver, confessed that he was a warlock, and, being asked
why, he replied, because "he had seen the devil dancing, like a fly,
about the candle!" A simple woman, who, because she was called a
witch, believed that she was, asked the judge upon the bench, whether
a person might be a witch and not know it? Sir George adds, that all
the supposed criminals were subjected to severe torture in prison from
their gaolers, who thought they did God good service by vexing and
tormenting them; "and I know," says this humane and enlightened
magistrate, "that this usage was the ground of all their confession;
and albeit, the poor miscreants cannot prove this usage, the actors in
it being the only witnesses, yet the judge should be jealous of it, as
that which did at first elicit the confession, and for fear of which
they dare not retract it." Another author, ["Satan's Invisible World
discovered," by the Rev. G. Sinclair.] also a firm believer in
witchcraft, gives a still more lamentable instance of a woman who
preferred execution as a witch to live on under the imputation. This
woman, who knew that three others were to be strangled and burned on
an early day, sent for the minister of the parish, and confessed that
she had sold her soul to Satan. "Whereupon being called before the
judges, she was condemned to die with the rest. Being carried forth to
the place of execution, she remained silent during the first, second,
and third prayer, and then, perceiving that there remained no more but
to rise 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 ever coming out
again, I made up that confession to destroy my own life, being weary
of it, and choosing rather to die than to live." As a proof of the
singular obstinacy and blindness of the believers in witches, it may
be stated, that the minister who relates this story only saw in the
dying speech of the unhappy woman an additional proof that she was a
witch. True indeed is it, that "none are so blind as those who will
not see."

It is time, however, to return to James VI, who is fairly entitled
to share with Pope Innocent, Sprenger, Bodinus, and Matthew Hopkins
the glory or the odium of being at the same time a chief enemy and
chief encourager of witchcraft. Towards the close of the sixteenth
century, many learned men, both on the Continent and in the isles of
Britain, had endeavoured to disabuse the public mind on this subject.
The most celebrated were Wierus in Germany, Pietro d'Apone in Italy,
and Reginald Scot in England. Their works excited the attention of the
zealous James, who, mindful of the involuntary compliment which his
merits had extorted from the devil, was ambitious to deserve it by
still continuing "his greatest enemie." In the year 1597 he published,
in Edinburgh, his famous treatise on Demonology. Its design may be
gathered from the following passage in the introduction. "The fearful
abounding," says the King, "at this time, and in this country, of
these detestable slaves of the devil, the witches, or enchanters, hath
moved me, beloved reader, to despatch in post this following treatise
of mine, not in any wise, as I protest, to serve for a show of mine
own learning and ingene (ingenuity), but only (moved of conscience) to
press thereby, so far as I can, to resolve the doubting hearts of
many; both that such assaults of Satan are most certainly practised,
and that the instrument thereof merits most severely to be punished,
against the damnable opinions of two, principally in our age, whereof
the one, called Scot, an Englishman, is not ashamed, in public print,
to deny that there can be such thing as witchcraft, and so maintains
the old error of the Sadducees, in denying of spirits. The other,
called Wierus, a German physician, sets out a public apology for all
these crafts-folks, whereby procuring for them impunity, he plainly
betrays himself to have been one of that profession." In other parts
of this treatise, which the author had put into the form of a dialogue
to "make it more pleasant and facile," he says, "Witches ought to be
put to death, according to the law of God, the civil and imperial law,
and the municipal law of all Christian nations: yea, to spare the
life, and not strike whom God bids strike, and so severely punish in
so odious a treason against God, is not only unlawful, but doubtless
as great a sin in the magistrate, as was Saul's sparing Agag." He says
also, that the crime is so abominable, that it may be proved by
evidence which would not be received against any other offenders, --
young children, who knew not the nature of an oath, and persons of an
infamous character, being sufficient witnesses against them; but lest
the innocent should be accused of a crime so difficult to be acquitted
of, he recommends that in all cases the ordeal should be resorted to.
He says, "Two good helps may be used: the one is, the finding of their
mark, and the trying the insensibleness thereof; the other is their
floating on the water; for, as in a secret murther, if the dead
carcass be at any time thereafter handled by the murtherer, it will
gush out of blood, as if the blood were crying to Heaven for revenge
of the murtherer, (God having appointed that secret supernatural sign
for trial of that secret unnatural crime); so that it appears that God
hath appointed (for a supernatural sign of the monstrous impiety of
witches) that the water shall refuse to receive them in her bosom,
that have shaken off them the sacred water of baptism, and wilfully
refused the benefit thereof; no, not so much as their eyes are able to
shed tears (threaten and torture them as you please), while first they
repent (God not permitting them to dissemble their obstinacy in so
horrible a crime). Albeit, the womenkind especially, be able otherwise
to shed tears at every light occasion, when they will; yea, although
it were dissembling, like the crocodiles."

When such doctrines as these were openly promulgated by the
highest authority in the realm, and who, in promulgating them,
flattered, but did not force the public opinion, it is not surprising
that the sad delusion should have increased and multiplied, until the
race of wizards and witches replenished the earth. The reputation
which he lost by being afraid of a naked sword, he more than regained
by his courage in combating the devil. The Kirk showed itself a most
zealous coadjutor, especially during those halcyon days when it was
not at issue with the King upon other matters of doctrine and

On his accession to the throne of England, in 1603, James came
amongst a people who had heard with admiration of his glorious deeds
against the witches. He himself left no part of his ancient prejudices
behind him, and his advent was the signal for the persecution to burst
forth in England with a fury equal to that in Scotland. It had
languished a little during the latter years of the reign of Elizabeth;
but the very first Parliament of King James brought forward the
subject. James was flattered by their promptitude, and the act passed
in 1604. On the second reading in the House of Lords, the bill passed
into a committee, in which were twelve bishops. By it was enacted,
"That if any person shall use, practise, or exercise any conjuration
of any wicked or evil spirit, or shall consult, covenant with, or feed
any such spirit, the first offence to be imprisonment for a year and
standing in the pillory once a quarter; the second offence to be

The minor punishment seems but rarely to have been inflicted.
Every record that has been preserved, mentions that the witches were
hanged and burned, or burned without the previous strangling, "alive
and quick." During the whole of James's reign, amid the civil wars of
his successor, the sway of the Long Parliament, the usurpation of
Cromwell, and the reign of Charles II, there was no abatement of the
persecution. If at any time it raged with less virulence, it was when
Cromwell and the Independents were masters. Dr. Zachary Grey, the
editor of an edition of "Hudibras," informs us, in a note to that
work, that he himself perused a list of three thousand witches who
were executed in the time of the Long Parliament alone. During the
first eighty years of the seventeenth century, the number executed has
been estimated at five hundred annually, making the frightful total of
forty thousand. Some of these cases deserve to be cited. The great
majority resemble closely those already mentioned, but two or three of
them let in a new light upon the popular superstition.

Every one has heard of the "Lancashire witches," a phrase now used
to compliment the ladies of that county for their bewitching beauty;
but it is not every one who has heard the story in which it
originated. A villainous boy, named Robinson, was the chief actor in
the tragedy. He confessed, many years afterwards, that he had been
suborned by his father and other persons to give false evidence
against the unhappy witches whom he brought to the stake. The time of
this famous trial was about the year 1634. This boy Robinson, whose
father was a wood-cutter, residing on the borders of Pendle Forest, in
Lancashire, spread abroad many rumours against one Mother Dickenson,
whom he accused of being a witch. These rumours coming to the ears of
the local magistracy, the boy was sent for, and strictly examined. He
told the following extraordinary story, without hesitation or
prevarication, and apparently in so open and honest a manner, that no
one who heard him doubted the truth of it: -- He said, that as he was
roaming about in one of the glades of the forest, amusing himself by
gathering blackberries, he saw two greyhounds before him, which he
thought at the time belonged to some gentleman of the neighbourhood.
Being fond of sport, he proposed to have a course, and a hare being
started, he incited the hounds to run. Neither of them would stir.
Angry at the beasts, he seized hold of a switch, with which he was
about to punish them, when one of them suddenly started up in the form
of a woman, and the other, of a little boy. He at once recognised the
woman to be the witch Mother Dickenson. She offered him some money to
induce him to sell his soul to the devil; but he refused. Upon this
she took a bridle out of her pocket, and, shaking it over the head of
the other little boy, he was instantly turned into a horse. Mother
Dickenson then seized him in her arms, sprang upon the horse; and,
placing him before her, rode with the swiftness of the wind over
forests, fields, bogs, and rivers, until they came to a large barn.
The witch alighted at the door; and taking him by the hand, led him
inside. There he saw seven old women, pulling at seven halters which
hung from the roof. As they pulled, large pieces of meat, lumps of
butter, loaves of bread, basins of milk, hot puddings, black puddings,
and other rural dainties, fell from the halters on to the floor. While
engaged in this charm they made such ugly faces, and looked so
fiendish, that he was quite frightened. After they had pulled, in this
manner enough for an ample feast, they set-to, and showed, whatever
might be said of the way in which their supper was procured, that
their epicurism was a little more refined than that of the Scottish
witches, who, according to Gellie Duncan's confession, feasted upon
dead men's flesh in the old kirk of Berwick. The boy added, that as
soon as supper was ready, many other witches came to partake of it,
several of whom he named. In consequence of this story, many persons
were arrested, and the boy Robinson was led about from church to
church, in order that he might point out to the officers, by whom he
was accompanied, the hags he had seen in the barn. Altogether about
twenty persons were thrown into prison; eight of them were condemned
to die, including Mother Dickenson, upon this evidence alone, and
executed accordingly. Among the wretches who concocted this notable
story, not one was ever brought to justice for his perjury; and
Robinson, the father, gained considerable sums by threatening persons
who were rich enough to buy off exposure.

Among the ill weeds which flourished amid the long dissensions of
the civil war, Matthew Hopkins, the witch-finder, stands eminent in
his sphere. This vulgar fellow resided, in the year 1644, at the town
of Manningtree, in Essex, and made himself very conspicuous in
discovering the devil's marks upon several unhappy witches. The credit
he gained by his skill in this instance seems to have inspired him to
renewed exertions. In the course of a very short time, whenever a
witch was spoken of in Essex, Matthew Hopkins was sure to be present,
aiding the judges with his knowledge of "such cattle," as he called
them. As his reputation increased, he assumed the title of
"Witchfinder General," and travelled through the counties of Norfolk,
Essex, Huntingdon, and Sussex, for the sole purpose of finding out
witches. In one year he brought sixty poor creatures to the stake. The
test he commonly adopted was that of swimming, so highly recommended
by King James in his "Demonologie." The hands and feet of the
suspected persons were tied together crosswise, the thumb of the right
hand to the toe of the left foot, and vice versa. They were then
wrapped up in a large sheet or blanket, and laid upon their backs in a
pond or river. If they sank, their friends and relatives had the poor
consolation of knowing they were innocent, but there was an end of
them: if they floated, which, when laid carefully on the water was
generally the case, there was also an end of them; for they were
deemed guilty of witchcraft, and burned accordingly.

Another test was to make them repeat the Lord's prayer and creed.
It was affirmed that no witch could do so correctly. If she missed a
word, or even pronounced one incoherently, which in her trepidation,
it was most probable she would, she was accounted guilty. It was
thought that witches could not weep more than three tears, and those
only from the left eye. Thus the conscious innocence of many persons,
which gave them fortitude to bear unmerited torture without flinching,
was construed by their unmerciful tormentors into proofs of guilt. In
some districts the test resorted to was to weigh the culprit against
the church Bible. If the suspected witch proved heavier than the
Bible, she was set at liberty. This mode was far too humane for the
witch-finders by profession. Hopkins always maintained that the most
legitimate modes were pricking and swimming.

Hopkins used to travel through his counties like a man of
consideration, attended by his two assistants, always putting up at
the chief inn of the place, and always at the cost of the authorities.
His charges were twenty shillings a town, his expenses of living while
there, and his carriage thither and back. This he claimed whether he
found witches or not. If he found any, he claimed twenty shillings a
head in addition when they were brought to execution. For about three
years he carried on this infamous trade, success making him so
insolent and rapacious, that high and low became his enemies. The Rev.
Mr. Gaul, a clergyman of Houghton, in Huntingdonshire, wrote a
pamphlet impugning his pretensions, and accusing him of being a common
nuisance. Hopkins replied in an angry letter to the functionaries of
Houghton, stating his intention to visit their town; but desiring to
know whether it afforded many such sticklers for witchcraft as Mr.
Gaul, and whether they were willing to receive and entertain him with
the customary hospitality, if he so far honoured them. He added, by
way of threat, that in case he did not receive a satisfactory reply,
"He would waive their shire altogether, and betake himself to such
places where he might do and punish, not only without control, but
with thanks and recompence." The authorities of Houghton were not much
alarmed at his awful threat of letting them alone. They very wisely
took no notice either of him or his letter.

Mr. Gaul describes in his pamphlet one of the modes employed by
Hopkins, which was sure to swell his revenues very considerably. It
was a proof even more atrocious than the swimming. He says, that the
"Witch-finder General" used to take the suspected witch and place her
in the middle of a room, upon a stool or table, cross-legged, or in
some other uneasy posture. If she refused to sit in this manner, she
was bound with strong cords. Hopkins then placed persons to watch her
for four-and-twenty hours, during which time she was to be kept
without meat or drink. It was supposed that one of her imps would come
during that interval, and suck her blood. As the imp might come in the
shape of a wasp, a moth, a fly, or other insect, a hole was made in
the door or window to let it enter. The watchers were ordered to keep
a sharp look-out, and endeavour to kill any insect that appeared in
the room. If any fly escaped, and they could not kill it, the woman
was guilty; the fly was her imp, and she was sentenced to be burned,
and twenty shillings went into the pockets of Master Hopkins. In this
manner he made one old woman confess, because four flies had appeared
in the room, that she was attended by four imps, named "Ilemazar,"
"Pye-wackett," "Peck-in-the-crown," and "Grizel-Greedigut."

It is consoling to think that this impostor perished in his own
snare. Mr. Gaul's exposure and his own rapacity weakened his influence
among the magistrates; and the populace, who began to find that not
even the most virtuous and innocent were secure from his persecution,
looked upon him with undisguised aversion. He was beset by a mob, at a
village in Suffolk, and accused of being himself a wizard. An old
reproach was brought against him, that he had, by means of sorcery,
cheated the devil out of a certain memorandum-book, in which he,
Satan, had entered the names of all the witches in England. "Thus,"
said the populace, "you find out witches, not by God's aid, but by the
devil's." In vain he denied his guilt. The populace longed to put him
to his own test. He was speedily stripped, and his thumbs and toes
tied together. He was then placed in a blanket, and cast into a pond.
Some say that he floated; and that he was taken out, tried, and
executed upon no other proof of his guilt. Others assert that he was
drowned. This much is positive, that there was an end of him. As no
judicial entry of his trial and execution is to be found in any
register, it appears most probable that he expired by the hands of the
mob. Butler has immortalized this scamp in the following lines of his

"Hath not this present Parliament
A lieger to the devil sent,
Fully empower'd to treat about
Finding revolted witches out?
And has he not within a year
Hang'd threescore of them in one shire?
Some only for not being drown'd,
And some for sitting above ground
Whole days and nights upon their breeches,
And feeling pain, were hang'd for witches;
And some for putting knavish tricks
Upon green geese or turkey chicks;
Or pigs that suddenly deceased
Of griefs unnatural, as he guess'd;
Who proved himself at length a witch,
And made a rod for his own breech."

In Scotland also witch-finding became a trade. They were known
under the designation of "common prickers," and, like Hopkins,
received a fee for each witch they discovered. At the trial of Janet
Peaston, in 1646, the magistrates of Dalkeith "caused John Kincaid, of
Tranent, the common pricker, to exercise his craft upon her. He found
two marks of the devil's making; for she could not feel the pin when
it was put into either of the said marks, nor did the marks bleed when
the pin was taken out again. When she was asked where she thought the
pins were put in her, she pointed to a part of her body distant from
the real place. They were pins of three inches in length." [Pitcairn's
"Records of Justiciary."]

These common prickers became at last so numerous, that they were
considered nuisances. The judges refused to take their evidence, and
in 1678 the privy council of Scotland condescended to hear the
complaint of an honest woman, who had been indecently exposed by one
of them, and expressed their opinion that common prickers were common

But such an opinion was not formed in high places before hundreds
of innocent persons had fallen victims. The Parliaments had encouraged
the delusion both in England and Scotland; and, by arming these
fellows with a sort of authority, had in a manner forced the
magistrates and ministers to receive their evidence. The fate of one
poor old gentleman, who fell a victim to the arts of Hopkins in 1646,
deserves to be recorded. Mr. Louis, a venerable clergyman, upwards of
seventy years of age, and who had been rector of Framlingham, in
Suffolk, for fifty years, excited suspicion that he was a wizard.
Being a violent royalist, he was likely to meet with no sympathy at
that time; and even his own parishioners, whom he had served so long
and so faithfully, turned their backs upon him as soon as he was
accused. Placed under the hands of Hopkins, who knew so well how to
bring the refractory to confession, the old man, the light of whose
intellect had become somewhat dimmed from age, confessed that he was a
wizard. He said he had two imps, that continually excited him to do
evil; and that one day, when he was walking on the sea-coast, one of
them prompted him to express a wish that a ship, whose sails were just
visible in the distance, might sink. He consented, and saw the vessel
sink before his eyes. He was, upon this confession, tried and
condemned. On his trial the flame of reason burned up as brightly as
ever. He denied all that had been alleged against him, and
cross-examined Hopkins with great tact and severity. After his
condemnation, he begged that the funeral service of the church might
be read for him. The request was refused, and he repeated it for
himself from memory, as he was led to the scaffold.

A poor woman in Scotland was executed upon evidence even less
strong than this. John Bain, a common pricker, swore that, as he
passed her door, he heard her talking to the devil. She said in
defence, that it was a foolish practice she had of talking to herself,
and several of her neighbours corroborated her statement; but the
evidence of the pricker was received. He swore that none ever talked
to themselves who were not witches. The devil's mark being found upon
her, the additional testimony of her guilt was deemed conclusive, and
she was "convict and brynt."

From the year 1652 to 1682, these trials diminished annually in
number, and acquittals were by no means so rare as they had been. To
doubt in witchcraft was no longer dangerous. Before country justices,
condemnations on the most absurd evidence still continued, but when
the judges of the land had to charge the jury, they took a more humane
and philosophical view. By degrees, the educated classes (comprised,
in those days, within very narrow limits), openly expressed their
unbelief of modern witchcraft, although they were not bold enough to
deny its existence altogether. Between them and the believers in the
old doctrine fierce arguments ensued, and the sceptics were designated
Sadducees. To convince them, the learned and Reverend Joseph Glanvil
wrote his well-known work, "Sadducismus Triumphatus," and "The
Collection of Relations;" the first part intended as a philosophical
inquiry into witchcraft, and the power of the devil "to assume a
mortal shape;" the latter containing what he considered a multitude
of well-authenticated modern instances.

But though progress was made, it was slow. In 1664, the venerable
Sir Matthew Hale condemned two women, named Amy Duny and Rose
Cullender, to the stake at St. Edmondsbury, upon evidence the most
ridiculous. These two old women, whose ugliness gave their neighbours
the first idea that they were witches, went to a shop to purchase
herrings, and were refused. Indignant at the prejudice against them,
they were not sparing of their abuse. Shortly afterward, the daughter
of the herring-dealer fell sick, and a cry was raised that she was
bewitched by the old women who had been refused the herrings. This
girl was subject to epileptic fits. To discover the guilt of Amy Duny
and Rose Cullender, the girl's eyes were blinded closely with a shawl,
and the witches were commanded to touch her. They did so, and she was
immediately seized with a fit. Upon this evidence they were sent to
prison. The girl was afterwards touched by an indifferent person, and
the force of her imagination was so great, that, thinking it was again
the witches, she fell down in a violent fit as before. This, however,
was not received in favour of the accused.

The following extract, from the published reports of the trial,
will show the sort of evidence which was received:--

"Samuel Pacey, of Leystoff, (a good, sober man,) being sworn, said
that, on Thursday the 10th of October last, his younger daughter,
Deborah, about nine years old, was suddenly taken so lame that she
could not stand on her legs, and so continued till the 17th of the
same month, when the child desired to be carried to a bank on the east
side of the house, looking towards the sea; and, while she was sitting
there, Amy Duny came to this examinant's house to buy some herrings,
but was denied. Then she came twice more, but, being as often denied,
she went away discontented and grumbling. At this instant of time, the
child was taken with terrible fits, complaining of a pain in her
stomach, as if she was pricked with pins, shrieking out with a voice
like a whelp, and thus continued till the 30th of the same month. This
examinant further saith, that Amy Duny, having long had the reputation
of a witch, and his child having, in the intervals of her fits,
constantly cried out on her, as the cause of her disorder, saying,
that the said Amy did appear to her and fright her, he himself did
suspect the said Amy to be a witch, and charged her with being the
cause of his child's illness, and set her in the stocks. Two days
after, his daughter Elizabeth was taken with such strange fits, that
they could not force open her mouth without a tap; and the younger
child being in the same condition, they used to her the same remedy.
Both children grievously complained that Amy Duny and another woman,
whose habit and looks they described, did appear to them, and torment
them, and would cry out, 'There stands Amy Duny! There stands Rose
Cullender!' the other person who afflicted them. Their fits were not
alike. Sometimes they were lame on the right side; sometimes on
the left; and sometimes so sore, that they could not bear to be
touched. Sometimes they were perfectly well in other respects, but
they could not hear; at other times, they could not see. Sometimes
they lost their speech for one, two, and once for eight, days
together. At times they had swooning fits, and, when they could speak,
were taken with a fit of coughing, and vomited phlegm and crooked
pins; and once a great twopenny nail, with above forty pins; which
nail he, the examinant, saw vomited up, with many of the pins. The
nail and pins were produced in the court. Thus the children continued
for two months, during which time the examinant often made them read
in the New Testament, and observed, when they came to the words Lord
Jesus, or Christ, they could not pronounce them, but fell into a fit.
When they came to the word Satan, or devil, they would point, and say,
'This bites, but makes me speak right well.' Finding his children
thus tormented without hopes of recovery, he sent them to his sister,
Margaret Arnold, at Yarmouth, being willing to try whether change of
air would help them.

"Margaret Arnold was the next witness. Being sworn, she said, that
about the 30th of November, Elizabeth and Deborah Pacey came to her
house, with her brother, who told her what had happened, and that he
thought his children bewitched. She, this examinant, did not much
regard it, supposing the children had played tricks, and put the pins
into their mouths themselves. She, therefore, took all the pins from
their clothes, sewing them with thread instead of pinning them. But,
notwithstanding, they raised, at times, at least thirty pins, in her
presence, and had terrible fits; in which fits they would cry out upon
Amy Duny and Rose Cullender, saying, that they saw them and heard them
threatening, as before; that they saw things, like mice, running about
the house; and one of them catched one, and threw it into the fire,
which made a noise, like a rat. Another time the younger child, being
out of doors, a thing like a bee would have forced itself into her
mouth, at which the child ran screaming into the house, and before
this examinant could come at her, fell into a fit, and vomited a
twopenny nail, with a broad head. After that, this examinant asked the
child how she came by this nail, when she answered, 'The bee brought
the nail, and forced it into my mouth.' At other times, the eldest
child told this examinant that she saw flies bring her crooked pins.
She would then fall into a fit, and vomit such pins. One time the said
child said she saw a mouse, and crept under the table to look for it;
and afterwards, the child seemed to put something into her apron,
saying, 'She had caught it.' She then ran to the fire, and threw it
in, on which there did appear to this examinant something like a flash
of gunpowder, although she does own she saw nothing in the child's
hand. Once the child, being speechless, but otherwise very sensible,
ran up and down the house, crying, 'Hush! hush!' as if she had seen
poultry; but this examinant saw nothing. At last the child catched at
something, and threw it into the fire. Afterwards, when the child
could speak, this examinant asked her what she saw at the time? She
answered, that she saw a duck. Another time the youngest child said,
after a fit, that Amy Duny had been with her, and tempted her to drown
herself, or cut her throat, or otherwise destroy herself. Another time
they both cried out upon Amy Duny and Rose Cullender, saying, 'Why
don't you come yourselves? Why do you send your imps to torment us?'"

The celebrated Sir Thomas Brown, the author of "Vulgar Errors,"
was also examined as a witness upon the trial. Being desired to give
his opinion of the three persons in court, he said, he was clearly of
opinion that they were bewitched. He said, there had lately been a
discovery of witches in Denmark, who used the same way of tormenting
persons, by conveying crooked pins, needles, and nails into their
bodies. That he thought, in such cases, the devil acted upon human
bodies by natural means, namely, by exciting and stirring up the
superabundant humours, he did afflict them in a more surprising manner
by the same diseases their bodies were usually subject to; that these
fits might be natural, only raised to a great degree by the subtlety
of the devil, co-operating with the malice of these witches.

The evidence being concluded, Sir Matthew Hale addressed the jury.
He said, he would waive repeating the evidence, to prevent any
mistake, and told the jury, there were two things they had to inquire
into. First, Whether or not these children were bewitched; secondly,
Whether these women did bewitch them. He said, he did not in the least
doubt there were witches; first, Because the Scriptures affirmed it;
secondly, Because the wisdom of all nations, particularly our own, had
provided laws against witchcraft, which implied their belief of such a
crime. He desired them strictly to observe the evidence, and begged of
God to direct their hearts in the weighty concern they had in hand,
since, to condemn the innocent and let the guilty go free, are both an
abomination to the Lord.

The jury then retired, and, in about half an hour, returned a
verdict of guilty upon all the indictments, being thirteen in number.
The next morning the children came with their father to the lodgings
of Sir Matthew Hale, very well, and quite restored to their usual
health. Mr. Pacey, being asked at what time their health began to
improve, replied, that they were quite well in half an hour after the
conviction of the prisoners.

Many attempts were made to induce the unfortunate women to confess
their guilt; but in vain, and they were both hanged.

Eleven trials were instituted before Chief-Justice Holt for
witchcraft between the years 1694 and 1701. The evidence was of the
usual character; but Holt appealed so successfully in each case to the
common sense of the jury, that they were every one acquitted. A
general feeling seemed to pervade the country that blood enough had
been shed upon these absurd charges. Now and then, the flame of
persecution burnt up in a remote district; but these instances were no
longer looked upon as mere matters of course. They appear, on the
contrary, to have excited much attention; a sure proof, if no other
were to be obtained, that they were becoming unfrequent.

A case of witchcraft was tried in 1711, before Lord Chief Justice
Powell; in which, however, the jury persisted in a verdict of guilty,
though the evidence was of the usual absurd and contradictory
character, and the enlightened judge did all in his power to bring
them to a right conclusion. The accused person was one Jane Wenham,
better known as the Witch of Walkerne; and the persons who were
alleged to have suffered from her witchcraft were two young women,
named Thorne and Street. A witness, named Mr. Arthur Chauncy, deposed,
that he had seen Ann Thorne in several of her fits, and that she
always recovered upon prayers being said, or if Jane Wenham came to
her. He related, that he had pricked the prisoner several times in the
arms, but could never fetch any blood from her; that he had seen her
vomit pins, when there were none in her clothes or within her reach;
and that he had preserved several of them, which he was ready to
produce. The judge, however, told him that was needless, as he
supposed they were crooked pins.

Mr. Francis Bragge, another witness, deposed, that strange "cakes"
of bewitched feathers having been taken from Ann Thorne's pillow, he
was anxious to see them. He went into a room where some of these
feathers were, and took two of the cakes, and compared them together.
They were both of a circular figure, something larger than a crown
piece; and he observed that the small feathers were placed in a nice
and curious order, at equal distances from each other, making so many
radii of the circle, in the centre of which the quill ends of the
feathers met. He counted the number of these feathers, and found them
to be exactly thirty-two in each cake. He afterwards endeavoured to
pull off two or three of them, and observed that they were all
fastened together by a sort of viscous matter, which would stretch
seven or eight times in a thread before it broke. Having taken off
several of these feathers, he removed the viscous matter with his
fingers, and found under it, in the centre, some short hairs, black
and grey, matted together, which he verily believed to be cat's hair.
He also said, that Jane Wenham confessed to him that she had bewitched
the pillow, and had practised witchcraft for sixteen years.

The judge interrupted the witness at this stage, and said, he
should very much like to see an enchanted feather, and seemed to
wonder when he was told that none of these strange cakes had been
preserved. His Lordship asked the witness why he did not keep one or
two of them, and was informed that they had all been burnt, in order
to relieve the bewitched person of the pains she suffered, which could
not be so well effected by any other means.

A man, named Thomas Ireland, deposed, that hearing several times a
great noise of cats crying and screaming about his house, he went out
and frightened them away, and they all ran towards the cottage of Jane
Wenham. One of them he swore positively had a face very like Jane
Wenham's. Another man, named Burville, gave similar evidence, and
swore that he had often seen a cat with Jane Wenham's face. Upon one
occasion he was in Ann Thorne's chamber, when several cats came in,
and among them the cat above stated. This witness would have favoured
the court with a much longer statement, but was stopped by the judge,
who said he had heard quite enough.

The prisoner, in her defence, said nothing, but that "she was a
clear woman." The learned judge then summed up, leaving it to the jury
to determine whether such evidence as they had heard was sufficient to
take away the prisoner's life upon the indictment. After a long
deliberation they brought in their verdict, that she was guilty upon
the evidence. The Judge then asked them whether they found her guilty
upon the indictment of conversing with the devil in the shape of a
cat? The sapient foreman very gravely answered, "We find her guilty of
that." The learned judge then very reluctantly proceeded to pass
sentence of death; but, by his persevering exertions, a pardon was at
last obtained, and the wretched old woman was set at liberty. In the
year 1716, a woman and her daughter, - the latter only nine years of
age, -- were hanged at Huntingdon for selling their souls to the
devil, and raising a storm by pulling off their stockings and making a
lather of soap. This appears to have been the last judicial execution
in England. From that time to the year 1736, the populace raised at
intervals the old cry, and more than once endangered the lives of poor
women by dragging them through ponds on suspicion; but the philosophy
of those who, from their position, sooner or later give the tone to
the opinions and morals of the poor, was silently working a cure for
the evil. The fear of witches ceased to be epidemic, and became
individual, lingering only in minds lettered by inveterate prejudice
or brutalizing superstition. In the year 1736, the penal statute of
James I. was finally blotted from the statutebook, and suffered no
longer to disgrace the advancing intelligence of the country.
Pretenders to witchcraft, fortune-tellers, conjurors, and all their
train, were liable only to the common punishment of rogues and
impostors -- imprisonment and the pillory.

In Scotland, the delusion also assumed the same phases, and was
gradually extinguished in the light of civilization. As in England the
progress of improvement was slow. Up to the year 1665, little or no
diminution of the mania was perceptible. In 1643, the General Assembly
recommended that the Privy Council should institute a standing
commission, composed of any "understanding gentlemen or magistrates,"
to try the witches, who were stated to have increased enormously of
late years. In 1649, an act was passed, confirmatory of the original
statute of Queen Mary, explaining some points of the latter which were
doubtful, and enacting severe penalties, not only against witches
themselves, but against all who covenanted with them, or sought by
their means to pry into the secrets of futurity, or cause any evil to
the life, lands, or limbs of their neighbours. For the next ten years,
the popular madness upon this subject was perhaps more furious than
ever; upwards of four thousand persons suffered for the crime during
that interval. This was the consequence of the act of parliament and
the unparalleled severity of the magistrates; the latter frequently
complained that for two witches they burned one day, there were ten to
burn the next: they never thought that they themselves were the cause
of the increase. In a single circuit, held at Glasgow, Ayr, and
Stirling, in 1659, seventeen unhappy creatures were burned by judicial
sentence for trafficking with Satan. In one day, (November 7, 1661,)
the Privy Council issued no less than fourteen commissions for trials
in the provinces. Next year, the violence of the persecution seems to
have abated. From 1662 to 1668, although "the understanding gentlemen
and magistrates" already mentioned, continued to try and condemn, the
High Court of Justiciary had but one offender of this class to deal
with, and she was acquitted. James Welsh, a common pricker, was
ordered to be publicly whipped through the streets of Edinburgh for
falsely accusing a woman of witchcraft; a fact which alone proves that
the superior court sifted the evidence in these cases with much more
care and severity than it had done a few years previously. The
enlightened Sir George Mackenzie, styled by Dryden "the noble wit of
Scotland," laboured hard to introduce this rule into court -- that the
confessions of the witches should be held of little worth, and that
the evidence of the prickers and other interested persons should be
received with distrust and jealousy. This was reversing the old
practice, and saved many innocent lives. Though a firm believer both
in ancient and modern witchcraft, he could not shut his eyes to the
atrocities daily committed under the name of justice. In his work on
the Criminal Law of Scotland, published in 1678, he says, "From the
horridness of this crime, I do conclude that, of all others, it
requires the clearest relevancy and most convincing probature; and I
condemn, next to the wretches themselves, those cruel and too forward
judges who burn persons by thousands as guilty of this crime." In the
same year, Sir John Clerk plumply refused to serve as a commissioner
on trials for witchcraft, alleging, by way of excuse, "that he was not
himself good conjuror enough to be duly qualified." The views
entertained by Sir George Mackenzie were so favourably received by the
Lords of Session that he was deputed, in 1680, to report to them on
the cases of a number of poor women who were then in prison awaiting
their trial. Sir George stated that there was no evidence against them
whatever but their own confessions, which were absurd and
contradictory, and drawn from them by severe torture. They were
immediately discharged.

For the next sixteen years, the Lords of Session were unoccupied
with trials for witchcraft; not one is entered upon the record: but in
1697, a case occurred, which equalled in absurdity any of those that
signalized the dark reign of King James. A girl, named Christiana
Shaw, eleven years of age, the daughter of John Shaw of Bargarran, was
subject to fits, and being of a spiteful temper, she accused her
maid-servant, with whom she had frequent quarrels, of bewitching her.
Her story, unfortunately, was believed. Encouraged to tell all the
persecutions of the devil which the maid had sent to torment her, she
in the end concocted a romance that involved twenty-one persons. There

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