Jean Delville/ Frederick George Lee: Witchcraft and Necromancy, from `The Other World, or, Glimpses of the Supernatural´ (I)Oktober 22, 2016
Witchcraft is the system of those persons who, through the direct agency of wicked spirits, perform certain acts and deeds beyond the natural and ordinary powers of mankind. On the other hand, Necromancy, according to the definition of Cotgrave, is "divination by conference with dead bodies raised." In its modern and wider acceptation, the latter is a formal summoning of the spirits of the dead out of the hidden place of their abode--"the desert where they glide,"--in order to consult with them as to the present or future by unlawful means, and to secure their active assistance in supernatural things and practices which are forbidden. The invocation and consultation of evil spirits specially summoned to earth by certain recognized incantations, would be acts of Witchcraft and Necromancy. Of these cases, abundant examples occur both in sacred and profane history. To the wizard or witch were freely given by the Devil or his angels divers powers at once supernatural and uncommon, by which, when sought for, both riches and sensual pleasures could for a while be secured, even to surfeiting. Occasionally the gift of predicting certain future events was bestowed; in other cases, the power of working evil and mischief upon the lives, limbs, and fortunes of neighbours or chosen subjects. This power, as was commonly believed, was bestowed by an express and definite compact, as some declare, formally made in writing by the Devil or his agents, and sealed with the wizard's or witch's own blood. By the unvarying terms of the bond, as an essential preliminary, the Sacrament of Holy Baptism was expressly renounced by the person accepting the Devil's terms and conditions. Satan was formally worshipped, prayed to, and acknowledged as Ruler and Lord; and then, after a certain number of years, as a necessary consequence, the soul of the wizard or witch, without any chance of redemption, was irrevocably lost, and became absolutely the everlasting property of the Evil One. The existence of this detail of the Supernatural, sometimes dimly and obscurely set forth, at others with undoubted and remarkable clearness, owns in its favour the almost universal consent of the human race in all ages. Even the incredulity of the modern persons, who term themselves "philosophers" and "thinkers," cannot be reasonably alleged in contravention of so broad and general a fact; for these "philosophers" themselves admit as much when, in their great wisdom, they proceed to characterize the opposite disposition--the readiness to accept such facts--as "vulgar" and "popular." It is impossible to point to any period when the belief in Witchcraft and Necromancy was perfectly obliterated, or to any nation which altogether repudiated it. If one particular phase was removed, discredited, or discountenanced, some other form, substantially and inherently similar, eventually took its place. Holy Scripture is full of references to Witchcraft and Necromancy. The dark rites and deeds involved in their practice are distinctly and unequivocally condemned. If such had not actively existed, why should their condemnation have been pronounced in the Sacred Books? Supernatural acts are there recorded, which are expressly said to have been performed by and through the system and power of Witchcraft, which is plainly declared to be a sin of a very dark dye. The practice, consequently, is directly and plainly forbidden, as being contrary to the Mind and Will of God; and laws were enacted and put on record by which those who, in the face of warnings, continued to practise such forbidden arts, were to be punished by death. It is equally clear from certain of the Epistles of the Apostles of our Blessed Lord, that the fact of Witchcraft and Necromancy being commonly practised by Pagan nations was not only perfectly well known to the guides and rulers of the Christian Church, but was again formally forbidden by those who were left to teach in the Name and on behalf of their Lord and Master. Nothing, in fact, can be more certain than that the Apostles condemned and prohibited the consultation of, or intercourse with, either the spirits of the departed or evil angels. Here a few remarks defining and setting forth the principle on which such unlawful arts were authoritatively prohibited, may reasonably follow. By the very act of his profession the Christian allows the co-existence in the World of two distinct and separable orders,--the Natural, which governs the physical and moral laws of the world, and the Supernatural, which, according to God's Revelation, gradually unfolded and duly developed, governs the moral laws of man. The object of man's faith is mystery, certain in itself, but above human intelligence. He yields the homage of his will not only to a God Who is the Great Creator and Preserver of the world and of all that therein is, but renders it to a God Who is the Repairer and Restorer of the human race by the Incarnation of the Eternal Word, and the Sanctifier of souls. This supernatural order, then, was not only known and established in the earth by other supernatural facts, but the visible testimony of Nature to the invisible order superior to and above Nature, was from time to time, and when necessary, abundantly made manifest. The Supernatural, then, exists in the World to lead men to God. Everything, therefore, that rises up in opposition to the Supernatural and mars the true idea of it, of necessity turns man away from God. The World, the Flesh, and the Devil, each and all (as Christian experience by temptation testifies,) effect this most successfully. The World, which has been defined as "the rebellion of the reason against God," scorns to accept miracles and mysteries, and boldly denies the existence both of angels and fallen spirits--scoffing at and repudiating the idea of Witchcraft or Necromancy, which it craftily characterizes as "the foolish and ignorant superstitions of a dark age." Furthermore, the World admits of no truth superior to the human intellect, of no law which restricts what is called "human liberty" or the "rights of man;" and absolutely refuses to acknowledge in the domain of facts anything which oversteps those fixed rules which it alone chooses to recognize in the government of Nature. The Flesh tends to degrade man to the level of the beasts, with whom he has in common notable tendencies and powerful passions. To the carnal man, who is at enmity with God, the very term "Supernatural" is a word void both of meaning and efficacy. His motto is, "Let us eat and drink, for to-morrow we die:" his conviction, as far as he may be said to have any, is that his own soul is nothing more than "a force which has its origin in matter itself," and which, by consequence, shares its destruction; while his God is simply either "a stream of tendency, by which all things tend to fulfil the law of their being," or "a substance immanent in the universe." Thirdly, the Devil, through hatred both of God and man, strives in every way to substitute himself for God in this World. He is the Prince of the Powers of the air. He is stronger and more knowing than man. His intellect is clearer and finer. Moreover, his kingdom is powerful; his spiritual auxiliaries are numerous; his allies on earth, of all kinds, in the flesh, are multitudinous. The deeds which he delights that men should do are perfectly well known. By counterfeiting genuine prodigies and true revelations, therefore, he draws men into the deadly meshes of a degrading and damnable superstition, by means of a delusive and lying supernaturalism. And the mischief resulting from such an active and successful policy is by no means on the wane, if they are not surely on the increase, in these dangerous latter days. True that in England the laws against Witchcraft are abolished, but history, fairly consulted and faithfully read, tells us that not a century has elapsed since the commencement of the Christian era without its demoniacal apparitions and certain examples of Necromancy and Witchcraft. While this is so, of course no intention is entertained by the Editor of denying the common belief of the Universal Church, that by and through the Incarnation and Sacrifice of the Ever-Blessed Son of God the powers and influence of the Enemy of souls have been materially and efficiently crippled. Having thus digressed for an obvious purpose, it is now needful to return to the particular subject of this section, upon which some light will, in due course, be found to have been thrown, by the above brief expositions of principles; in the consideration and by the aid of which the strange facts and singular records which follow will appear in their proper place, when the important subject of the Supernatural, as brought out, incident upon incident, by historical records and authentic accounts, is under consideration. That Witchcraft and Necromancy were publicly recognized as facts by the Fathers of the Christian Church is indisputable; while the existence of an order of ministers known as "exorcists," acting from time to time, as occasion required or necessity demanded, in casting out evil spirits, is a sufficient proof of the watchful care and beneficent action of the Universal Church, at once authoritative, indefectible, and divine. In 1484, Pope Innocent VIII. issued a Bull against Witchcraft, upon the promulgation of which, treatises were drawn up for the guidance of local bishops, chancellors, and other ecclesiastical officials, in the necessary labour of bringing hardened offenders to justice. This Bull was renewed in the latter part of the fifteenth century, by Pope Alexander VI., so that the subject of Witchcraft gained unusual attention about that period. As a matter of fact, it is computed that in the year 1515, no less than five hundred witches were burnt in Geneva alone, and the same was the case in other parts of Christendom,--a proof at once of the craft and power of Satan, and of the demoralization of those who had deliberately elected to become his servants and slaves. The earliest statute against Witchcraft enacted in England, was passed in the reign of King Henry VI.; and additional laws of great stringency and severity, sorely needed, were enacted under the Tudors, by Henry VIII., Queen Elizabeth, and James I. In the year 1604, the great Act of Parliament against Witchcraft, drawn up by Coke and Bacon, was passed; and it is asserted that no less than twelve bishops attended the Committee of the House of Lords when the Bill was under discussion. Sir Matthew Hale and Sir Thomas Browne, men of high legal and literary rank and mark, each gave evidence at the trials which speedily followed. In this particular, as in some others, England followed Geneva. Between the years 1565 and 1700, eleven wizards or sorcerers were burnt at the stake in the Carrefour du Bordage, in Guernsey, the square devoted by the city authorities of that island to this kind of punishment. The last case of death for Witchcraft there took place in 1747. It may here be put on record that at the period of the Reformation, and during the succeeding century, the power of casting out devils was claimed exclusively by those who remained in visible communion with the See of Rome, and many Roman Catholic writers of those periods maintained that no such power belonged either to any teacher of heresy or to schismatics. But many of the Puritans, knowing that the act of exorcism, like baptism, was not essentially a sacerdotal act (for if baptism may be validly confirmed by a deacon, it may, with equal validity, be bestowed by a layman), maintained the power to be inherent in any Christian man (with right disposition and following recognized and authorized rules) of casting out evil spirits; and, in consequence, declined altogether to repudiate the clear and plain records and statements of Holy Scripture concerning Witchcraft and Necromancy. They therefore made several attempts to secure the official authorization of a form for exorcism, framed after the old and customary rite, to be printed in the "Book of Common Prayer." This, however, was never done. But in 1604 the subject was duly considered, and determined upon in the seventy-second Canon, which, as has been already pointed out, properly and stringently forbad to the clergy the practice of exorcism without a special license or faculty from the Bishop of the diocese. As to the facts of Witchcraft and Necromancy, it is quite impossible to deny their existence. Records of the plainest character, legal evidence and literary testimony of undisputed authority, may be discovered, which very luminously set forth what was believed on the subject; and this not alone by the ignorant, but by the learned and well-informed. The only difficulty is to make a suitable selection from that evidence which so abundantly exists; being careful that such selection shall not set forth merely one aspect of the subject, but several, and leaving each account to tell its own story. This it is now proposed briefly to attempt. For example, in the year 1599, a girl named Martha Brossier, of Romorantin, in Berry, was reputed to be possessed, and excited a considerable sensation in Paris. At the suggestion of the then Bishop of Paris, the King ordered a Committee composed of the most eminent physicians, to examine and report on her case. The physicians appointed were Marescot, Ellain, Haulin, Riolan, and Duet; and their Report, which is exceedingly curious, will be found translated into English by Abraham Hartwell, and published towards the close of the sixteenth century. The dedication to his Majesty proceeds thus:-- "Sire, by the commandment of Your Majestie, we have set down briefely and truly that which wee have found in our visiting of Martha Brossier.... We present the same unto Your Majestie without any art, without any painted show, without any flourish, but with a naked Simplicitie, the faithful companion of Truth, which you have desired from us in this matter and which you have always loved and curiously sought." The Report then continues: "We the undersigned Doctors Regents in the facultie of physicke in the Universitie of Paris, touching the matter of Martha Brossier, a maide of the age of two-and-twenty yeres or thereabouts, born at Romorantin in Berry, who was brought unto us in the chappel of my Lord of Saint Genefue [Genevieve], and who we saw sometimes in constitution, countenance and speech as a person sounde of bodie and minde, ... do say in our consciences, and certify that which followeth: that all which is before set down (referring to the character of her fits) must be referred to one of these three causes--sicknesse, counterfeiting, or diabolicall possession. For the opinion that it proceedeth from sicknesse, we are clerely excluded from that, for the agitations and motions we observed therein doe retain nothing of the nature of sickness, nay not of those diseases whereunto of the first sight they might have resembled; it being neither an epilepsie or falling sickness, which always supposes the loss of sense and judgment, nor the passion which we call hysterica, ... nor any of the foure motions proceeding from diseases, that is to say, shivering, trembling, panting, and convulsion, or indeede if there doe appeare any convulsion; and that a man will so call the turning up of her eyes, the gnashing of her teeth, the writhing of her chaps (which are almost ordinarie with this maide while she is in her fittes); the confidence which the priest hath when he openeth her mouth, and holdeth it open with his finger within it, testifying sufficiently that they doe not proceede from, nor are caused by, any disease, considering that in diseases he that hath a convulsion is not master of that part or member wherein it is, having neither any power of election or command over it, and particularly which is in the convulsion of the jawes, which is most violent of all the rest, the finger of the priest should bee no more respected nor spared than the finger of any other man. Moreover, diseases, and the motions also of diseases (especially those that are violent), leave the body feeble, the visage pale, and the breath panting. This maide, at the end of her fittes, was found to be as little moved and changed in pulse, colour, countenance, and breath, as ever she was before; yea, which is the more to be noted, as little at the end of her exorcisme as at the beginning, at evening as in the morning, at the last day as at the first. Touching the point of counterfeiting, the insensibilitie of her bodie during her extasies and furies, tried by the deepe prickings of long pinnes, which were thrust into divers parts of her hands, and afterwards plucked out againe, without any show that ever she made of feeling the same, either in the putting in of them, or the taking out of them, a griefe which, without majicke and without speech, could not, in our opinion, be indured, without any countenance or show thereof, neither by the constancie of the most courageous, nor by the stoutnesse of the most wicked, nor by the stronge conceit of the most criminall malefactores, took from us almost the suspicion of it, but much more persuaded us from that opinion, the thin and slender foam that in her mad fits we saw issue out of her mouth, which she had no means to be abel to counterfeit. And yet more than all this, the very consideration before mentioned of the little or no change at all that was seene in her person after all these most sharpe and very long pangs, (a thing which nobody in the world did ever trie in their most moderate exercises,) we are driven, even till this houre, by all the lawes of discourse and knowledge, yea, and almost forced to beleeve that this maide is a demoniacke, and the Devill dwelling in her is the Author of these effects. If wee had seen that which my Lord of St. Genefue and many others doe report,--that this maide was lifted up into the ayre more than four foote above five or six strong persons that held her,--it would have been an argument to us of an extraordinarie power, over and beyond the common nature and condition of man. But not being presente at that wonder, we doe give a testamonie of our knowledge, which is as much or rather more admirable than that force and power was, viz., that being demanded, and in her exercising commanded, my Lord of Paris furnishing the priest with questions and interrogatories, this maide divers and sundrie times, by many persons of qualitie and worthie of credit, was seene and heard to obey and answere to purpose, not only in the Latin tongue, (wherein it had not been impertinent peradventure to have suspected some collusion,) but also in Greeke and in English, and that upon the sudden. She did, we say once againe, understande the Greeke and English languages, wherein we beleeve, as it is very likely that she was never studied, so that there was no collusion used with her, neither could she invent or imagine the interpretations thereof. It resteth, therefore, even in the judgment of Aristotle in the like case, that they were inspired unto her." The Report then concludes with this solemn declaration: "By reason whereof, and considering also, under correction, that Saint Luke, who was both a physician and an evangelist, describing the persons out of whose bodies our Lord and his apostles did drive the devils left unto us, none other or any greater signes than those which wee think wee have seene in this case, wee are the more induced and almost confirmed to beleeve and to conclude as before, taking God for a Witness of our consciences in the matter. Made at Paris, this 3rd April, 1599." On this Report, as may be gathered from the tractate referred to, it is evident and notorious that the physicians Marescot, Ellain, Haulin, Riolan, and Duet, were all men of scientific attainments and unimpeachable moral integrity; the same facts were also witnessed and formally attested by the Bishop of Paris, the Abbot of Genevieve, and other competent observers.
Frederick George Lee: Witchcraft and Necromancy, from `The Other World, or, Glimpses of the Supernatural´(II)Oktober 22, 2016
Another case, that of a girl named Anne Millner, or Mylner, of Chester, about the year 1564, deserves consideration. The record here given is taken from a pamphlet of considerable interest. Some curious facts connected with it are attested by Sir William Calverley, Sir William Sneyd, Lady Calverley, and other persons of distinction who then lived at Chester. The description of the paroxysm is extremely graphic:--"We went," says the Report, which is signed by the above-named persons, "at about two of the clocke in the afternoone of the same 16th day of February and there found the mayden in her traunce, after her accustomed manner lying in a bed within the haule, her eyes half shut, half open, looking as she had been agast, never moving either eye or eyelid, her teeth something open, with her tongue doubling betweene, her face somewhat red, her head as heavy as leade to lift at; there she laid, still as a stone, and feeling her pulse it beat in as good measure as if she had been in perfect health." The Report then describes her becoming violently convulsed: "She lifted herself up in her bed, bending backwards in such order that almost her head and fete met, falling down on the one side, then on the other." A person of the name of Lane, who was reputed to possess great power over demoniacs, was then called in, who first, as the Report expresses it, "willed" that she should speak, and then "willed" that she should rise and dress herself, all which she did, to the astonishment of the bystanders; and a Certificate to that effect was signed by all present on March 8, 1564. In Lancashire seven persons belonging to one family were reputed to be under the direct influence of evil spirits, or in a certain state of bewitchment, exhibiting signs of demoniacal possession. The pamphlet, the title of which is given below, puts on record what in this case is reported to have occurred: "These possessed persons had every one something peculiar to herselfe which none of the rest did shew, and that so rare and straunge that all the people were obliged to confesse it was the worke of an evil spirit within them; so had they many things in common, and were handled for the most part in their fittes alike.... They had all every one very straunge visions, they heard hideous and fearful voices of spirits sundrie times and did make marveilous answers back againe ... they were in their fits ordinarilie holden in that captivity and bondage, that for an houre, two, or three, and longer time they should neither see, heare, nor taste, nor feel nothing but the divells, they employing them wholly for themselves, vexing and tormenting them so extreameley as that for the present they could feel no other paine or torture that could bee offered; no, though you should plucke an ear from the heade or an arm from the bodie. They had also a marveilous sore heaving as if their hearts would burst, so that with violent straining some of them vomitted bloude many times. They were all of them verry fierce, offering violence both to themselves and others, whereine they shewed verie greate and extraordinarie strength. They were out of their right mind, without the use of their senses, expecially voyd of feiling: as much sense in a stock as one of them, or as possible, in a manner, to quicken a dead man as to alter or chaunge them in their traunces in anything they either saide or did. They in their fittes had divers parts and members of their bodies so striffe and stretched out as were inflexible or very hard to be bended. They shewed very great and extraordinarie knowledge, as may appeare by the straunge things saide and done by them, according to that which we have already set down in the particulars. They ever after their fittes were as well as might be, and felt very little or no paine at all, although they had been never so sore tormented immediately before." The strange and singular violence of the convulsions in those who were under the influence of Witchcraft, is brought out in almost all the records of such cases, notably in those which occurred during the Great Rebellion, and specially in the case of Anne Styles, who was executed at Salisbury in 1653. The narrative states that she was so strong in her fits that six men or more could not hold her, but while suffering under most grievous hurrying and tortures of the body, the witch being only brought into the room, she fell asleep and slept for three hours, so fast that when they would have awakened her they could not. The insensibility of the body in this state, we are informed by Increase Mather, led to a cruel test for demoniacal possession. There was a notorious Witchfinder, he observes, "in Scotland, who undertook by a pin to make an infallible discovery of suspected persons, whether they were witches or not. If, when the pin was run an inch or two into the body of the accused party no blood appeared nor any sense of pain, he declared them to be witches, by means of which no less than three hundred persons were condemned for witchcraft in that country." In a small but curious tractate entitled "Daimonomagia," the effects of Witchcraft are maintained to be a disease. The definition of it stands thus:--"A disease of witchcraft is a sickness that arises from strange and preternatural causes, and from diabolical power in the use of strange and ridiculous ceremonies by witches or necromancers, afflicting with strange and unaccustomed symptoms, and commonly preternaturally violent, very seldom, or not at all, curable by natural remedies." Then follow the diagnostical signs, amongst which are insensibility, convulsions, together with a preternatural knowledge both of living and dead languages, and after these the causes of witchcraft. Biernannus and Wierius, two authorities on the subject, find that aspect and contact do not necessarily bewitch; but witches sometimes try to bewitch another of the same family. Lastly, as regards the cure, directions are provided by which the wizard, witch, or necromancer is to be compelled to use certain dark ceremonies for the cure of the bewitched. In the year 1658, a woman named Jane Brookes was tried, condemned, and executed at Chard in Somersetshire. The indictment against her was that she had bewitched Richard the son of Henry Jones, of Shepton Mallet in that county. Numberless persons of all ranks and classes, including both clergymen and physicians, witnessed his sufferings and paroxysms; while the direct influence of the woman indicted was fully apparent and abundantly proved. "The boy," as the Rev. Joseph Glanville, one of the chaplains of King Charles II. writes, "fell into his fitts at the sight of Jane Brookes and lay in a man's arms like a dead person; the woman was then willed to lay on her hand, which she did, and he thereupon started and sprung out in a very unusual manner. One of the justices, to prevent all possibilities of _legerdemain_, caused Gibson and the rest to stand off from the boy, and then that justice himself held him. The youth being blindfolded, the justice called as if Brookes should touch him, but winked to others to do it, which two or three successively did, but the boy appeared not concerned. The justice then called on the father to take him, but had privately before desired one Mr. Geoffrey Strode to bring Jane Brookes to touch him at such a time as he should call for his father, which was done, and the boy immediately sprang out after a very odd and violent fashion. He was afterwards touched by several persons and moved not, but Jane Brookes being again caused to put her hand upon him he started and sprung up twice as before. All this while he remained in his fit and some time after, and being then laid on a bed in the same room, the people present could not for a long time bow either of his arms or legs." It appears tolerably evident that the boy, when under the influence of his fits, owned a faculty not unlike that of clairvoyance. As regards Jane Brookes and her sister, he seems to have had the capacity to describe them accurately wherever they might have been. As the Report declares, "He would tell the clothes and habits they were in at the time, exactly as the constable and others have found them on repairing to them, although Brookes' house was a good distance from Jones': this they often tried, and always found the boy right in his description." From the same volume, the main facts of which seem to be admitted by competent authority, a woman named Elizabeth Style of Bayford was indicted for bewitching a girl named Elizabeth Hill, thirteen years of age. In this case the formal deposition of three credible witnesses attests that "during her fits, her strength was encreased beyond the proportion of nature, and the force of divers men. Furthermore, in one fit she foretold when she would have the next, which happened accordingly." The case of the "Surey Demoniac," as he was termed, which was set forth at length in a publication issued in London towards the close of the seventeenth century, is certainly worthy of being noticed here. In the year 1697 a youth of nineteen years of age, named Richard Dugdale, excited great attention; it being generally believed that he was possessed by an evil spirit, as the direct consequence of Witchcraft. His paroxysms were witnessed by numerous clergymen, physicians, and persons of respectability and rank; and caused an amount of interest and excitement which can scarcely be realized. His fits commenced with violent convulsions; his sight or eyeballs turned upward and backwards; he afterwards answered questions; predicted during one fit the period of accession and duration of another fit; spoke in foreign languages, of which at other times he was ignorant, and described events passing at a distance with singular and recognized accuracy. Here again the word of narration is quoted at length:--"At the end of one fit the demoniac told what hour of the night or day his next [fit] would begin, very precisely and punctually, as was constantly observed, though there was no equal or set distance of time between his fits; betwixt which there would be, sometimes a few hours, sometimes many, sometimes one day, sometimes many days." "He would have told you," one of the deponents asserts on oath, "when his fits would begin, when they were two or three in one day, or three or four days asunder, wherein he never was, that the deponent knoweth of, disappointed." On one occasion, when the minister was addressing him, he exclaimed, "At ten o'clock my next fit comes on." "Though he was never learned in the English tongue, and his natural and acquired abilities were very ordinary, yet, when the fit seized him, he often spake Latin, Greek, and other languages very well.... He often told of things in his fits done at a distance, whilst those things were a-doing,--as, for instance, a woman being afraid to go to the barn, though she was come within a bow's length of it, was immediately sent for by the demoniac, who said, 'Unless that weak-faithed jade come, my fits will last longer.' Some said, 'Let us send for Mr. G----.' The demoniac answered, 'He is now upon the hay-cart,' which was found to be true.... On another occasion he told what great distress there was in Ireland, and that England must 'pay the piper.' Again, one going by him to a church meeting, was told by the demoniac in his fit, 'Thou needest not go to the said meeting, for I can tell thee the sermon that will be preached there,' upon which he told him the text and much of the sermon that was that day preached." Lastly, it is certified by two of the deponents that "the demoniac could not certainly judge what the nature of his distemper was; because when he was out of his fits, he could not tell how it was with him when he was in his fits." From another publication we gather that, in the case of Florence Newton, an Irishwoman, who was charged with bewitching Mary Longdon, when the sufferer and the accused were both in court, and the evidence against the person charged was being concluded, the prisoner at the bar simply looked at the woman reputed to be under her influence, and made certain motions of her hands towards her, upon which we are told that "the maid fell into most violent fits, so that all the people that could lay hands on her could scarcely hold her." Quaint as these records are, peculiar in their literary style, singularly simple and homely in their subject-matter as to details, and tinged, it may be, not infrequently with the exaggerated superstitions of the times, it is impossible that so many persons of all ranks and classes--the highest as well as the lowest--eye-witnesses of facts, could have been so utterly mistaken as to the Supernatural character of Witchcraft, or so deluded as to its true nature and import. Some writers have hastily and erroneously asserted that at the close of the seventeenth century the arraigning and trying of witches came to an end. But this is not so. In 1712, Judge Parker (who succeeded Chief Justice Holt,) put a check upon the so-called "trial by water," by his charge at the Essex Summer Assizes of that year. Three years later, however, in 1715, Elizabeth Treslar was hung and then burnt for Witchcraft on Northampton Heath.
Frederick George Lee: Witchcraft and Necromancy ( from `The Other World, or, Glimpses of the Supernatural, III)Oktober 22, 2016
The following account (extracted verbatim et literatim) is taken from a rare and curious tract published early in the eighteenth century, containing an account of the trial, examination, and condemnation of two witches named Shaw and Phillips in the year 1705. One or two sentences of the old narrative are two coarse for quotation; but substantially the contemporary account is reprinted, following its old typographical form:-- "On Wednesday the 7th of this Instant March 1705, being the second day of the Assizes held at Northampton: One Ellinor Shaw and Mary Phillips (two notorious Witches), were brought into court and there Arraign'd at the Bar upon several Indictments of Witchcraft; particularly for Bewitching and Tormenting in a Diabolical manner, the Wife of Robert Wise of Benefield in the said County, till she Dyed; as also for Killing by Witchcraft and wicked Facination one Elizabeth Gorham of Glapthorn, a Child of about four years of Age, in the said County of Northampton; as also for Bewitching to death one Charles Ireland of Southwick in the said County; to which Indictment the two said Prisoners pleaded not Guilty and there upon put themselves upon their Tryals as followeth:-- "The first Evidence against them was one Widdow Peak, who deposed that she with two other Women, undertook to Watch the same Prisoners after they had been Apprehended; and that about Midnight there appeared in the Room a little white Thing about the Bigness of a Cat, which sat upon Mary Phillips' Lap, at which time she heard her, the said Mary Phillips, say, then pointing to Ellinor Shaw, that she was the Witch that Killed Mrs. Wise by Roasting her Effiges in Wax, sticking it full of Pinns, and till it was all wasted, and all this she affirm'd was done the same Night Mrs. Wise Dyed in a sad and languishing Condition. Mrs. Evans deposed that when Mrs. Wise first was taken Ill, that she saw Ellinor Shaw look out at the Window (it being opposite to her House), at Which time she heard her say, 'I have done her Business now I am sure; this Night Ill send the old Devil a New Year's Gift' (next day being New year's Day), and well knowing this Ellinor Shaw to be a reputed Witch, was so much concern'd at her Words that she went then to see how Mrs. Wise did, Where she found her Tormented with such Pains, as exceeding those of a Woman in Travel, which Encreased to such a terrible Degree that she Expired about 12 of the clock to the great amasement of all her Neighbours. "Another Evidence made Oath that Ellinor Shaw and Mary Phillips being one day at her house they told her she was a Fool to live so Miserable as she did, and therefore if she was willing, they would send some thing that Night that would Relieve her, and being an ignorant Woman she consented; and accordingly the same Night two little black Things, almost like Moles came into her bed ... repeating the same for two or three Nights after, till she was almost frightened out of her Sences [sic] insomuch that she was forced to send for Mr. Danks the Minister, to Pray by her several nights before the said Imps would leave her: She also added that she heard the said Prisoners say that they would be Revenged on Mrs. Wise because she would not give them some Buttermilk. "Mrs. Todd of Southwick deposed that Charles Ireland being a Boy of about 12 years of Age, was taken with Strange Fitts about Christmas last, continuing so by Intervals till twelf Day last, at which time he Barked like a Dogg, and when he was Recovered and come to himself, he would Distinctly describe Ellinor Shaw and Mary Phillips, affirming them two to be the Authors of his Misfortunes, though he never saw them in his Life; so that Mrs. Ireland, the Boy's mother, was advised to Cork up some ... in a stone Bottle filled full of Pins and Needles, and to Bury it under the Fire Hearth; which being done accordingly, the two said Witches could not be quiet till they came to the same House and desired to have the said Bottle taken up, which was not granted, till they had confessed the Matter, and promised never to do so again; but for all this the Next night but one, the said Boy was so violently Handled, that he Dyed in two Hours time; and this Woman's Testimoney was confirm'd by five or six other Evidences at the same time. "The said Witches were Try'd a third time for Bewitching to Death Elizabeth Gorham of Glapthorne on the 10th of February last, as also for killing several Horses, Hogs, and Sheep, being the Goods of Matthew Gorham, Father of the said Child aforesaid. The Evidence against them to prove all this, was William Boss and John Southwel; who deposed that being Constables of the said Town, they were Charged with the said Prisoners in their Custody, who threatning them with Death if they did not Confess, and promising them to let them go if they would Confess; after some little Whineing and Hanging about one another's Necks they both made this Confession:-- "'That living in one house together they contracted with the Devil about a Year ago to sell their Souls to him, upon condition he would enable them to do what Mischief they desired against whom they pleased, either in Body, Goods, or Children; upon which the same Night they had each of them three Imps sent them as they were going to Bed, and at the same instant the Devil appeared to them in the shape of a tall black Man, and told them that these Imps would always be at their Service, either to kill Man, Woman, Child, Hog, Cow, Ship, [_i.e._ Sheep] or any other Creature, when they pleased to command them, provided ... which being agree'd to, the Devil came to Bed to them Both.... And that the next morning they sent four of their Imps to kill two Horses of one John Webb of the said Town of Glapthorne, because he openly said they were Witches; and accordingly the Horses were found dead in a Pond the same day; and two Days after this, they Kill'd four great Hoggs after the same manner, belonging to Matthew Gorham, because he said they both look'd like Witches, and not thinking this Revenge sufficient, the next day after, they sent two Imps a piece to destroy his Child, being a little Girle of about four years of Age, which was done accordingly in 24 Hours' time, notwithstanding all the Skill and Endeavour of able Doctors to preserve it. They further confessed that if the said Imps were not constantly imploy'd to do Mischief they had not their Healths, but when they were imploy'd they were very Healthful and Well. They further added, that the said Imps did often tell them in the Night-time in a hollow whispering low voice, which they plainly understood, that they should never feel Hell Torments, and they had Kill'd a Horse and two Cows of one Widow Broughton because she deny'd them some Pea-cods last year, for which they had also struck her Daughter with Lameness, which would never be cured as long as either of them Liv'd, and accordingly she had continued so ever since.' "The above said Evidence further deposed that having thus extorted the said Confession from the prisoners, they persuaded them to set their Hands to it, which was done accordingly, tho' with very much difficulty, upon which the said Confession was produced in Court, and the Witness's to it Examin'd, who all deposed upon Oath that the said Confession was made in their Hearing, and that they saw the said reputed Witches set their Marks to it in the presence of ten Witnesses. "Upon which the said Prisoners were desired by the Court to declare wheather they own'd the said Confession and the Marks thereunto Affixed or not, to which they both answered in the Negative; and thereupon made such a Howling and lamentable Noise as never was heard before to the amusement of the Whole Court, and Deny'd every particular that was laid to their Charge: but the Court having heard the matter of Fact so positively asserted against them by several Evidences, and above all by their own Confessions, that after having given a Larned [sic] Charge to the Jury relating to every particular Circumstance, they brought them in both Guilty of wilful Murther and Witchcraft, and accordingly the next day the Court was pleased to pronounce sentence of Death upon them, that is to say, To be Hang'd till they are almost Dead, and then surrounded with Faggots Pitch and other Combustable matter, which being set on fire their Bodies are to be consumed to Ashes." In the month of March, 1711-12, another woman, Jane Wenham by name (formally charged with bewitching Anne Thorne, Anne Street, and others), was tried at the Assizes at Hertford, and received sentence of death. The case was heard before Sir Henry Chauncey. Before the grand jury the depositions of sixteen witnesses were taken; one of whom deposed that Jane Wenham confessed to him that she had practised Witchcraft during sixteen years. On one occasion when the girl whom she had afflicted was in one of her paroxysms, we are informed that a very ingenious gentleman and able physician happened to be present, his curiosity bringing him a little out of his way to inquire into the truth of the story of this witch, which he had heard several ways told, as things of this nature generally are. When he saw her in a fit, which was one of the least she ever had, he tried whether he could bring her out of it without prayers. He took a great feather, which burning he held under the maid's nose, and though the stink was so great that we were not able to bear it in the room, yet the maid received the strong steam into her nose without being the least affected by it and without perceiving it, as far as we could perceive. The physician then felt her pulse and assured them that "it was no natural disease under which the maid laboured, that it must be counterfeit or preternatural; but," observes the author of this account, "that she should counterfeit even death itself one minute and restore herself to health the very next, and that she should put herself to all this trouble for no manner of pleasure or profit, is so very inconceivable and so wholly unaccountable, that I must needs say I shall never have faith enough to believe such a heap of absurdities." The undoubted insensibility of the girl was tested in a very practical but remarkably barbarous manner. One of the members of the Family of Chauncey "ran a pin into her arm six or seven times, and finding she never winced for it, but held her arm as still as if nothing had been done to it, and seeing no blood come, he ran it in a great many times more; still no blood came; but she stood talking and never minded it. Then, again, he ran it in several times more. At last he left it in her arm that all the company might see it, run up to the head." The record of these cases also contains the following:-- "There are also some things in which the fits of Mary Longdon and Anne Thorn agree, particularly the great strength of the afflicted when in a fit, so great that three or four men could hardly hold 'em down, but there is one very remarkable difference, which I doubt not my readers have already taken notice of, viz. that this Mary Longdon was always worse of her fits whenever Florence Newton came in the room; whereas Anne Thorn constantly recovered from hers at the touch of the witch. And yet I think these different appearances may be accounted for [in] different ways. It is not reasonable to suppose that either of those alterations in the afflicted came to pass by the consent or procurement of the witches themselves, who could not but perceive that they served as strong circumstances against them, but this was done by the overruling providence of Almighty God to convict these miserable creatures; and either of these ways might do as well as the other, since it is equally surprising to see one in perfect health fall into such terrible fits at the sight of any one person, as to see another recover out of such fits by the bare touch of the suspected witch, both of them tending only to the discovery of the criminal." As to certain of the characteristics and evidences of Witchcraft, Increase Mather in his "Cases of Conscience" writes as follows. What he sets forth, and what is now to be quoted, serves to show not only the kind of evidence as to facts which was then forthcoming, but also to afford information as to the current sentiment of his own period: "As for that which concerns the bewitched persons being recovered out of their agonies by the touch of the suspected party, it is various and fallible; sometimes the afflicted person is made sick instead of being made whole by the touch of the accused; sometimes the power of imagination is such as that the touch of a person innocent and not accused shall have the same effect. Bodin relates that a witch who was tried at Nantes was commanded by the judges to touch a bewitched person, a thing often practised by the judges of Germany in the Imperial Chamber. The witch was extremely unwilling, but being compelled by the judges, she cried out, I am undone, and as soon as ever she touched the afflicted person the witch fell down dead. I think," continues Mather, "that there is weight in Dr. Cottar's argument, viz. that the power of healing the sick and possessed was a special grace and favour of God for the confirmation of the truth of the Gospel; but that such a gift should be annexed to the touch of wicked witches, as an infallible sign of their guilt is not easy to be believed. It is a thing well known, that if a person possessed by an evil spirit is (as oft it happens) never so outrageous whilst a good man is praying with and for the afflicted, let him lay his hand on them and the evil spirit is quiet."
Frederick George Lee: Witches and Necromancy, from `The Other World, or, Glimpses of the Supernatural´ (IV)Oktober 22, 2016
The cases already referred to took place in England. A brief reference may be here made to two examples which caused considerable sensation in Scotland,--a country where the belief in Witchcraft was in times past almost universal; and where, even still, the clear statements of Holy Scripture on the subject are neither explained away, scoffed at, nor disbelieved:-- In the year 1696 a commission was appointed in Scotland by the Lords of his Majesty's Privy Council, to inquire into the case of Christian Shaw, daughter of John Shaw of Bargarran, and the accused persons confronted before Lord Blantyre, the rest of the commissioners, several others gentlemen of note and ministers, the accused and in particular Catherine Campbell were examined in the presence of the commissioners. "When they [the accused] severally touched the afflicted girl, says the Report, she was seized with grevious fits and cast into intolerable agonies; others then present did also touch her, but no such effects followed, and it is remarkable that when Catherine Campbell touched the girle she was immediately seized with more grevious fittes and cast into more intolerable torments than upon the touch of other accused persons, whereat Campbell herself being daunted and confounded, though she had formerly declined to bless her, uttered these words, 'The Lord of heaven and earth bless thee and save thee both body and soul.'" During these trials we are informed that the "prisoners were called in, one by one, and placed about seven or eight feet from the justices and accusers; then, stood between the justices and them, the prisoners were ordered to stand right before the justices, with an officer appointed to hold each hand, lest they should herewith afflict them, and the prisoners' eyes must be constantly on the justices, for if they looked on the afflicted they would either fall into fitts or cry out they were much hurt by them." "On the trial of Bridget Bishops," it is further added that, "the indictment being drawn up according to form, it was testified at the examination of the prisoner before the magistrates that the bewitched were extremely tortured. If she did but cast her eye on them they were presently cast down, and this in such a manner that there could be no collusion in the business. But upon the touch of her hand upon them when they lay in their swoones they would immediately revive, and not upon the touch of anyone else. Moreover, upon the special actions of her body, as the shaking of her head or the turning up of her eyes, they presently fell into the same postures, and many of the like accidents fell out while she was at the bar." Most curious are the various details of the trials thus far referred to. And certain of them may be regarded as trivial, if not absurd and ridiculous. Nevertheless it should be our careful aim to distinguish between those facts which were formally, regularly, and clearly established by positive evidence, and the personal fancies, superstitions, notions and wild ideas which may possibly accompany the reports of them. Of course exaggerations may have been made, and impositions not unfrequently practised; but in the forcible words of Joseph Glanville, we should remember that "frequency of deceit and fallacy will warrant a greater care and caution in examining, and a greater scrupulosity and shyness of assent to, things wherein fraud hath been practised, or may in the least degree be suspected; but to conclude that, because an old woman's fancy hath abused her, or some knavish fellow hath put tricks on the ignorant and timorous, therefore whole assizes have been deceived in judgment upon matters of fact, and that numbers of persons have been forsworn in things wherein perjury could not advantage them, I say such inferences are as void of charity as of good manners.... In things of fact the people are as much to be believed as the most subtle philosophers and speculators, since their sense is the judge, but in matters of notion and theory they are not at all to be heeded, because Reason is to be the judge of these, and this they know not how to use." It must be frankly admitted that these records of trials--of which there are such numerous examples in print--often contain principles and details of a most disagreeable and offensive nature. They have been quoted at some length, however, in order to point out exactly what for many years was currently believed with regard to Witchcraft; and whatever fanciful additions were made, or whatever superstitious garnishings were added to such accounts, by the ignorant or half-informed, there can be little doubt that, after all reasonable deductions had been made, there was a considerable substratum of truth underlying each of them, which ought not to be ignored, and which cannot, on any satisfactory theory, be reasonably explained away. In certain cases the subject of Witchcraft had a somewhat wide and vague meaning. It not unfrequently covered the practices of all the so-called "occult sciences," just as in the "Book of Daniel," "the magicians, the astrologers, the Chaldeans, and the soothsayers," classed together, were together consulted; so it seems to have been in ancient times in places, and amongst people who practised Witchcraft and Necromancy. Invocations of the dead; the use of charms; watching the flight of birds; "reading the stars;" interpreting dreams, and foretelling future events by the aid of evil spirits, were all practices which, in a somewhat vague but popular phraseology, came under the class of sins of the nature of those directly condemned in Holy Scripture. One or two further remarks may be added upon the general subject. From the amount of evidence which exists, it is impossible to deny that such a power as Witchcraft has been frequently exercised, and consequently may be put into practice again. It is idle to assert that it is a mere moral epidemic, at least for those who take up a Christian standing-point, and do not deny both the Inspiration of Holy Scripture and the Indefectibility and Infallibility of the Church Universal, as well as, and in addition to, well-authenticated historical facts. The practice of Witchcraft has, of course, been more ordinary in countries which are not Catholic; for example in Scotland, Sweden, Germany, and North America; though, of necessity it prevailed very largely with many in England from the period of the Reformation until the beginning of the eighteenth century, as has been already sufficiently shown. Thus, many who refused to hear, and abide by, the message and guidance of Holy Church; who rejected the miracles and mercies of the Almighty, were sometimes too ready to accept as true, and participate in the weird works of necromancers, and sometimes to be duped by the Prince of darkness, through the active instrumentality of his human agents. Without, at this point of our general argument, trenching unduly on a detail of the subject in its most recent developments, which is carefully considered at some length in later chapters, it may be well to give a single example perfectly accurate and most satisfactorily authenticated. Here it is:--The friend of a distinguished Scotch peer wished for certain important and valuable information, which in any ordinary, usual, and common modes he was, it appears, altogether unable to obtain. He therefore thought it right and proper to consult a "spiritual medium," and so held a consultation, made an inquiry, and obtained a response. The following is the authenticated record of this action:-- "A friend of mine was very anxious to find the Will of his grandmother, who had been dead forty years, but could not even find the certificate of her death. I went with him to the Marshall's and we had a _seance_; we sat at a table, and soon the raps came; my friend then asked his questions _mentally_; he went over the alphabet himself, or sometimes I did so, not knowing the question. We were told [that] the Will had been drawn by a man named William Walter, who lived in Whitechapel; the name of the street and the number of the house were given. We went to Whitechapel, found the man, and subsequently, through his aid obtained a copy of the draft; he was quite unknown to us, and had not always lived in that locality, for he had once seen better days. The medium could not possibly have known anything about the matter, and even if she had, her knowledge would have been of no avail, as all the questions were mental ones." The specific features of this account are so obvious and well defined, and the account itself is so remarkably clear in all its various parts, that nothing more needs to be added, than the simple remark, that if the old and false principles of Witchcraft and Necromancy are not here again present and energizing (only appropriately and properly draped in a nineteenth-century garment, and carefully adapted to the tastes of refined and educated people), it would be well to find some other principle by which this, and thousands of other similar cases may be rationally and openly explained and accounted for, and this from the standing-point of a firm belief in Historical Christianity. From the point of view from which this book is written, it may be reasonably maintained that recent "spiritual manifestations," as they are termed, are very possibly only another mode by which in an age of superior civilization the Prince of the Power of the air, adapting his delusions to the less coarse tastes and sentiments of his anxious clients and inquiring followers, produces "lying wonders," false miracles, and delusive appearances; or unlawfully reveals secrets, affords information in the present, and gives, or pretends to give, revelations as to the future. Many persons in the present day are ready enough (as well they may be,) to become eloquent on the trivial absurdities and vulgar (too often dark and obscene) contrivances of the Witchcraft of the seventeenth century. Be it so. But perhaps, after all, the system as then worked was both skilfully, intellectually, and well enough adapted for the purposes and aims which its author had in hand. If the coarse-minded and uneducated of those days so readily became its agents and workers, coarseness and ignorance were reasonably and suitably, and perhaps of necessity, used in its operations. Now, however, the persistent Enemy of mankind, "the Old Serpent," appears to have adopted quite another course of tactics, less coarse it may be, and less revolting (in some particulars) to the sentimental and shallow, but equally efficacious for his diabolical purposes and eventual success. Where Witchcraft was formerly practised by ten persons, its new and more attractive phase, it is to be feared, is now accepted by thousands. All this, and more, may be gathered later on, when the subject of "Modern Spiritualism" is duly considered.