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lous to see the young lambs sporting by the side of their dams, with a wreath or collar of what is commonly called rowan-tree round their necks: but all proves ineffectual, as they die thus foolishly ornamented, or perhaps rather disguised, with the emblem of ignorance."-The Yorkshireman, A.D. 1846.]
Various were the modes of trying witches. This was sometimes done by finding private marks on their bodies; at others by weighing the suspected wretch against the church Bible; by another method she was made to say the Lord's Prayer.1 She was sometimes forced to weep, and so detected, as a witch can shed no more than three tears, and those only from her left eye.2 Swimming a witch was another kind of popular ordeal. By this method she was handled not less indecently than cruelly; for she was stripped naked and cross bound, the right thumb to the left toe, and the left thumb to the right toe. In this state she was cast into a pond or river, in which, if guilty, it was thought impossible for her to sink.
Among the presumptions whereby witches were condemned, what horror will not be excited at reading even a part of the following item in Scot's Discovery, p. 15: "If she have any privy mark under her armpit, under her hair, under her lip, or *****, it is presumption sufficient for the judge to proceed and give sentence of DEATH upon her!!!" By the following caution, p. 16, it is ordered that the witch "must come to her arreignment backward, to wit, with her tail to the judge's face, who must make many crosses at the time of her approaching to the bar." King James himself, in his Dæmonalogy, speaking of the helps that may be used in the trial of witches, says, "the one is, the finding of their marke and trying the insensibleness thereof."
Strutt, in his Description of the Ordeals under the Saxons, tells us that "the second kind of ordeal, by water," was to
Butler, in his Hudibras, part I. c. iii. 1. 343, alludes to this trial:
2 King James, in the work already quoted, adding his remarks on this mode of trying witches, says: "They cannot even shed tears, though women in general are like the crocodile, ready to weep upon every light occasion."
3 For an account of the ancient Ordeal by Cold Water, see Dugd. Orig. Juridiciales, p. 87.
thrust the accused into a deep water, where, if he struggled in the least to keep himself on the surface, he was accounted guilty; but if he remained on the top of the water without motion he was acquitted with honour. Hence, he observes, without doubt, came the long-continued custom of swimming people suspected of witchcraft. There are also, he further observes, the faint traces of these ancient customs in another superstitious method of proving a witch. It was done by weighing the suspected party against the church Bible, which if they outweighed, they were innocent; but, on the contrary, if the Bible proved the heaviest, they were instantly condemned."
In the Gent. Mag. for Feb. 1759, xxix. 93, we read: "One Susannah Haynokes, an elderly woman, of Wingrove, near Aylesbury, Bucks, was accused by a neighbour for bewitching her spinning-wheel, so that she could not make it go round, and offered to make oath of it before a magistrate; on which the husband, in order to justify his wife, insisted upon her being tried by the church Bible, and that the accuser should be present. Accordingly she was conducted to the parish church, where she was stripped of all her clothes, to her shift and under-coat, and weighed against the Bible; when, to the no small mortification of the accuser, she outweighed it, and was honorably acquitted of the charge."
In the MS. Discourse of Witchcraft, communicated by John Pinkerton Esq., written by Mr. John Bell, minister of the gospel at Gladsmuir, 1705, p. 22, I read: "Symptoms of a witch, particularly the witches' marks, mala fama, inability to shed tears, &c., all of them providential discoveries of so dark a crime, and which like avenues lead us to the secret of it."
King James, in his Dæmonology, speaking of this mode of trying a witch, i. e. "fleeting on the water," observes that "it appeares that God hath appointed for a supernatural signe of the monstrous impietie of witches, that the water shall refuse to receive them in her bosom that have shaken off them the sacred water of baptism, and wilfully refused the benefit thereof."
Other methods of detecting a witch were by burning the thatch of her house, or by burning any animal supposed to be bewitched by her-as a hog or ox: these, it was held, would
force a witch to confess. There were other modes of trial, by the stool, and by shaving off every hair of the witch's body. They were also detected by putting hair, parings of the nails, and urine of any person bewitched into a stone bottle, and hanging it up the chimney.
In that rare play, the Witch of Edmonton, 1658, p. 39, act iv. sc. 1 (Enter Old Banks and two or three Countrymen), we read:
"O. Banks. My horse this morning runs most piteously of the glaunders, whose nose yesternight was as clean as any man's here now coming from the barber's; and this, I'll take my death upon't, is long of this jadish witch, mother Sawyer. (Enter W. Hamlac, with thatch and a link.)
Haml. Burn the witch, the witch, the witch, the witch. Omn. What hast got there?
Haml. A handful of thatch pluck'd off a hovel of hers; and they say, when 'tis burning, if she be a witch, she'll come running in.
O. Banks. Fire it, fire it; I'll stand between thee and home for any danger.
(As that burns, enter the witch.)
1 Countryman. This thatch is as good as a jury to prove she is a witch.
O. Banks. To prove her one, we no sooner set fire on the thatch of her house, but in she came, running as if the divel had sent her in a barrel of gunpowder, which trick as surely proves her a witch as
Justice. Come, come; firing her thatch? Ridiculous! Take heed, sirs, what you do: unless your proofs come better arm'd, instead of turning her into a witch, you'll prove yourselves starke fools."
Shakespeare, in Troilus and Cressida, act ii. sc. 1, says: "Thou stool for a witch." And Dr. Grey's Notes (ii. 236) afford us this comment on the passage: "In one way of trying a witch, they used to place her upon a chair or a stool, with her legs tied cross, that all the weight of her body might rest upon her seat, and by that means, after some time, the circulation of the blood would be much stopped, and her sitting would be as painful as the wooden horse; and she must continue in this pain twentyfour hours, without either sleep or meat; and it was no wonder that, when they were tired out with such an ungodly trial, they would confess themselves many times guilty to free themselves from such torture." See Dr. Hutchinson's Historical Essay on Witchcraft, p. 63.
Old Banks then relates to the justice a most ridiculous instance of her power: "Having a dun cow tied up in my back-side, let me go thither, or but cast mine eye at her, and if I should be hanged I cannot chuse, though it be ten times in an hour, but run to the cow, and, taking up her tail, kiss (saving your worship's reverence) my cow behinde, that the whole town of Edmonton has been ready ******* with laughing me to scorn." As does a countryman another, p. 58: "I'll be sworn, Mr. Carter, she bewitched Gammer Washbowl's sow, to cast her pigs a day before she would have farried; yet they were sent up to London, and sold for as good Westminster dog-pigs, at Bartholomew fair, as ever great-belly'd ale-wife longed for."
Cotta, in his Short Discoverie of the Unobserved Dangers, p. 54, tells us : "Neither can I beleeve (I speake it with reverence unto graver judgements) that the forced coming of men or women to the burning of bewitched cattell, or to the burning of the dung or urine of such as are bewitched, or floating of bodies above the water, or the like, are any trial of a witch." Gaule, in his Select Cases of Conscience touching Witches and Witchcraft, also (p. 75) mentions "some marks or tokens of tryall altogether unwarrantable, as proceeding from ignorance, humour, superstition. Such are-1. The old paganish sign, the witch's long eyes. 2. The tradition of the witches not weeping. 3. The witches making ill-favoured faces and mumbling. 4. To burn the thing bewitched, &c. (I am loth to speak out, lest I might teach these in reproving them). 5. The burning of the thatch of the witch's house, &c. 6. The heating of the horseshoe, &c. 7. The scalding water, &c. 8. The sticking of knives acrosse, &c. 9. The putting of such and such things under the threshold, and in the bedstraw, &c. 10. The sieve and the sheares, &c. 11. The casting the witch into the water with thumbes and toes tied across, &c. 12. The tying of knots, &c."
In A Pleasant Grove of New Fancies, by H. B., 8vo. Lond. 1657, p. 76, we have
“A charm to bring in the witch. To house the hag you must do this, Commix with meal a little ****
Of him bewitch'd; then forthwith make
And this rarely bak'd will bring
It occurs also among the following experimental rules whereby to afflict witches, causing the evil to return back upon them, given by Blagrave in his Astrological Practice of Physic, 1689: "1. One way is by watching the suspected party when they go into their house; and then presently to take some of her thatch from over the door, or a tile, if the house be tyled : if it be thatch, you must wet and sprinkle it over with the patient's water, and likewise with white salt; then let it burn or smoke through a trivet or the frame of a skillet: you must bury the ashes that way which the suspected witch liveth. "Tis best done either at the change, full, or quarters of the moon; or otherwise, when the witch's significator is in square or opposition to the moon. But if the witch's house be tiled, then take a tile from over the door, heat him red hot, put salt into the patient's water, and dash it upon the red-hot tile, until it be consumed, and let it smoak through a trivet or frame of a skillet as aforesaid. 2. Another way is to get two new horseshoes, heat one of them red hot, and quench him in the patient's urine; then immediately nail him on the inside of the threshold of the door with three nails, the heel being upwards; then, having the patient's urine, set it over the fire, and set a trivet over it; put into it three horse-nails and a little white salt. Then heat the other horseshoe red hot, and quench him several times in the urine, and so let it boil and waste until all be consumed: do this three times, and let it be near the change, full, or quarters of the moon; or let the moon be in square or opposition unto the witch's significator. 3. Another way is to stop the urine of the patient close up in a bottle, and put into it three nails, pins, or needles, with a little white salt, keeping the urine always warm. If you let it remain long in the bottle, it will endanger the witch's life; for I have found by experience that they will be grievously tormented, making their water with great difficulty, if any at all, and the more if the moon be in Scorpio, in square or opposition to his significator, when its done. 4. Another way is either at the new, full, or quarters of the moon, but more especially when the moon is in square or opposition to the planet which doth personate the witch, to let the patient blood, and while the blood is warm put a little white salt into it, then let it burn and smoak through a trivet. I conceive this way doth more afflict the witch than any of the other