Edmund Gosse: The Witches

Oktober 22, 2016


Witchcraft Agayne (Goya)

Oktober 22, 2016



Witchcraft Agayne (Goya)

Oktober 22, 2016



Witchcraft Agayne

Oktober 22, 2016



Witchcraft Agayne

Oktober 22, 2016


Witchcraft Agayne

Oktober 22, 2016



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[71] 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

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

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

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.[82]
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,[83] 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.[84]
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

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,

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

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

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

    "'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[98]
(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

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

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

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.