e g r e g o r e s

"Graciously bestow upon all men felicity, the summit of which is the knowledge of the Gods." [Julian, Oration to the Mother of the Gods]

Category Archives: Wicca

“A Witch In Love” (aka “Yuhee, The Witch”, aka “Witch Amusement”)

The Korean TV romantic dramedy “Witch Amusement” ran for a grand total of 16 episodes from March to May in 2007. The story centered on a young single professional woman in modern day South Korea who was derisively referred to as “manyŏ” (“witch”) behind her back by the people who worked for her.

The name of the “witch” in question is Yoo Hee, and the Korean title of the show was “Manyŏ Yoo Hee“, literally, “Witch Yoo Hee”. In Korean this is a rather clever play on words that can also mean “Witch Amusement” or “Witch In Love”.

The reason for referring to Yoo Hee as a “witch” is that she is seen as unfeminine and “cold”. She does not wear make-up and she always dresses in black clothes, and also wears glasses. She is also portrayed as pathetically unsuccessful in her attempts to have relationships with men.

The character of Yoo Hee (played by Han Ga In) is very similar to the Witch character portrayed by Kim Novack in the 1958 “Bell Book and Candle“, and also to the journalist/activist/feminist character played by Katharine Hepburn in the 1942 “Woman of the Year“. For that matter, all three characters show striking parallels with the real life story of Queen Elizabeth I, but with one major difference, for Elizabeth never married, and reigned as one of the most powerful and successful heads of state the western world had seen since the fall of Rome.

In contrast to the “Virgin Queen”, however, the three fictional characters Yoo Hee, Gil Holroyd (Novack), and Tess Harding (Hepburn), all end up surrendering their “unfeminine” independence to comply with social conventions in exchange for that ultimate goal that is the true heart’s desire of all “real” women: the love of a good man. (Don’t worry, I’m not really giving very much away by telling you this….)

As was the case with both “Woman of the Year”, and “Bell Book and Candle”, the lead character in “Witch Yoo Hee” is portrayed as proudly independent and highly successful. Han Ga In’s character is even a martial arts master who can (and when she feels like it, does) kick any man’s ass.

But despite (or rather, because of) her professional success and all around self-sufficiency, Yoo Hee is miserable and lonely, for, as a woman without a man, she is in an unnatural state. In fact, her greatest shame is that she has never had a second date. She has even programmed a list of “dating tips” into her phone to refer to during her unsuccessful string of blind dates (some of these dates turn out to be guys who lost a bet!):

  • Try to act cute.
  • Have a good appetite.
  • Act interested in the other person.
  • Try to find things in common.

Now, as I said already, just knowing that Yoo Hee will fall in love doesn’t give very much away. It’s pretty obvious where things are headed already by the end of Episode 1, and Episode 2 quickly removes any lingering doubts. Or does it? Let’s just say there is a lot more to the story than what has been (somewhat misleadingly) revealed here.

If you want to know more about “Witch Amusement” just check out the truly amazing website “dramabeans“, where two Korean-American women bloggers (who go by “javabeans” and “girlfirday”, and who may or may not be sisters, and/or criminals-on-the-run-hiding-from-the-law, and/or the same person,) provide detailed (and wonderfully snarktastic) commentaries on “kdramas” and other facets of “K-Pop” culture generally.

The cool thing, imnsho, about reading about “Witch Amusement” at the website “dramabeans” is that you have this hackneyed western cultural meme of the frustrated/liberated woman/witch being played out in a highly industrialized and in its very own and very strange way highly westernized country (and in a culture with its very own and very much alive-and-kicking ancient indigenous tradition of magical practitioners, most of whom are women), and then this all gets translated and reinterpreted for a western, English speaking audience by young Native-born Americans who happen to be young, successful professional Korean women who are obsessive fans of Korean pop culture. It is a cultural and sociological house of mirrors!

Personally I am very curious about this Korean word translated into English as “Witch”. I poked around and found two other occurrences of the word manyŏ:

사자, 마녀, 옷장 이야기 /
Saja, manyŏ, otchang iyagi /
The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe (by C.S. Lewis)

포르토벨로의마녀 /
Pʻorŭtʻobello ŭi manyŏ /
The witch of Portobello /
A bruxa de Portobello (by Paul Coelho)

Charming and Witchcraft in Early Modern Scotland

In her Devices and directions: folk healing aspects of witchcraft practice in seventeeth-century Scotland (scroll down for full citation at the bottom of this post), Joyce Miller poses the question: “Why were charmers sometimes prosecuted for witchcraft? On the other hand, why were there so few?”

Miller is in something of a quandary. She wishes to insist (in fact, she does insist) that there were “intrinsic differences between witches and charmers,” but she finds that it is utterly impossible to keep the two separated. If two phenomena have large areas of overlap, as Miller concedes is the case with Witches and Charmers, then they can hardly be said to be “intrinsically different”.

In a future post I will try to disentangle all the zigs and zags that Miller is forced into as she attempts to to toe the party line while also trying to accurately describe Witches and Charmers in early modern Scotland. But for now I will just let her speak for herself:

The first question to address is: what was charming? Charming was one feature of witchcraft practice and belief, but not all charmers practiced witchcraft nor did all witches practice charming. In some cases one person’s charmer may have been another person’s witch. However, under what circumstances the questionable practice of charming could become the crime of witchcraft is difficult to establish categorically.

Witchcraft, sorcery and charming were all features of magic or preternatural power. Although magic had developed a negative meaning, this hostility increased as a result of witchcraft prosecution and theological developments, which stressed its irrationality and downplayed its cultural significance and relationship with religious belief. Since all three were aspects of magic, charming was therefore related to, and in some cases part of, witchcraft practice and belief, yet it was not entirely the same. It shared many of the same physical and verbal actions — the words and deeds — of witchcraft, but it was usually equal to, and opposite from, witchcraft. Unlike witches, who were labeled by others, charmers knew who they were and would label themselves as such. There was also a difference between the perceived source of power of the two groups and, very importantly, their intent. Witchcraft was demonic and malicious: charming was neither.

The authorities, and particularly the church, did attempt to include charming with the prosecution of witchcraft. In 1646 the General Assembly of the church attempted to extend the scope of the witchcraft act to include the charmers:

“Because our addresses to the oridinar judge for punishment of charming, it is informed to us that the Acts of Parliament ar not expresslie against that sinne, which the rude and ignorant ar much addicted unto; may it therfor please your lordships that the Act of the 9 Parliament of Queen Marie made against witches and consulters be enlarged and extended to charmers, or that such other course be taken as that offence may be restrained and punished.”

Throughout the period of witchcraft prosecutions in Scotland, individuals were investigated and interrogated for practising charming. However, at the local level, attitudes were varied. The two presbyteries that were examined closely demonstrate the variation in investigation and prosecution of witches and charmers that was seen in Scotland. The Haddington presbytery had a higher percentage of accusations of both witchcraft and charming — 83 per cent — compared to Stirling, which had only 17 per cent. Given that the estimated population of Haddington was approximately 1.75 times greater than Stirling this difference was quite remarkable. Eighty-seven per cent of those who were accused of demonic witchcraft were from the Haddington presbytery, and only 13 per cent from the Stirling presbytery. The figures for accusations of charming, however, demonstrate the complete opposite: 56 per cent of those who were accused of charming came from the Stirling area, and 44 per cent from Haddington. This illustrates that local conditions and habits appear to have influenced both the rate, and type, of accusation that was processed through the church rather than any national pattern.

The church punished the majority of charmers, but some were prosecuted for witchcraft if their charming actions were categorised as indicating demonic intervention. Local kirk sessions and presbyteries examined evidence of both accused charmers and their clients in order to ascertain whether or not the practice was demonic. But the church appeared to have great difficulty in deciding what to do with them. In October 1630 the Dalketh presbytery asked the sunod of Lothian and Tweeddale for advice about charmers, those who consulted them and also those who had been slandered with no evidence of practice. The synod replied, ‘those that are simple charmers and consulters suld be refered to their [own] repentance’. As for those who had been slandered they thought nothing of them. It would appear then that if the practiced was believed to be demonic, then civil intervention would be required, if not it could be dealt with at local level by the church and the individual’s own conscience. The whole area was clearly confusing. On some occasions the question of whether the practice was demonic or not, was decided by whether rituals had been used, and whether these involved the use of words and actions, either alone or in combination.
[pp. 91-92]

The issue of “whether rituals had been used, and whether these involved the use of words and actions, either alone or in combination” is taken up again by Miller a few pages on. The bottom line, according to Miller, is that if both ritual and words were used, then this could be taken as evidence of Witchcraft, as opposed to mere Charming:

The recurrent motifs or features in the charming treatments that were analysed in this may be categorised according to time, place and manner. The ritual could be carried out as a particular time of the day, week or year; at a particular place such as a boundary, crossroads, bridge or river; in a particular manner, perhaps in silence; or particular direction, moving sunwise, anti-sunwise or backwards. Further categorising motifs which were recorded included the use of words or spoken charms; the use of a particular type of water, or at a specific place; numbers; fire; the use of an object such as a shoe, mail, thread or belt; cutting of nails or hair; use of an animal; meally oats but occasionally wheat. Although charmers did not use the polypharmacy of orthodox medicine they still employed a wide variety of motifs.

Detailed research in local sources from the presbyteries of Haddington and Stirling between 1603 and 1688 has revealed almost 100 references to some form of charming. They have been examined for the use of ritual and words, either alone or in combination, or for the inclusion of other motifs. The use of a physical ritual was by far the most common feature, as nine out of ten treatments (92 per cent) included a reference to soem form of ritual or routine. Words were mentioned in 42 per cent of the charms. A third (38 per cent) used words and ritual together but in this sample, perhaps surprisingly, only 3 per cent used words by themselves.

Andrew Youl, who tied a live toad around neck of his sheep in 1646, told the church officials that he had not used any words along with this ritual. Nevertheless he was reprimanded by the Haddington kirk session and told that unless he stopped using the ritual he would be censured as a charmer. The Haddington presbytery decided that Adam Gillies and his wife were not witches because, although they had tied wheat and salt tot heir cows’ ears, they had not used any words and had merely been carrying out, in the words of the church authorities, an ‘ignorant superstition’. To a large extent these physical rituals appear to have been excused as having carried out through simple ignorance rather than deliberate transgressions. The use of ritual alone appears to have been regarded by the church and judicial authorities as charming not witchcraft. In this case the rituals or charming might be seen to have been superstitious practice continued through ignorance rather than outright deliberate, demonic practice.

There was some concern, however, that rituals could be used to conjure supernatural spirits or powers and were therefore still very much antithetical to Christian practice. As [Stuart] Clark [Thinking With Demons, Chapter 32] points out, the term superstition had a number of applications or definitions that were used by the church. Firstly, superstition was used to define that which was opposite to accepted religious practice. Secondly, it was used to denounce certain practices and habits as valueless, either because they were carried out excessively or in the wrong manner. In its third version, superstitions, or inappropriate worship, was associated with demonic worship. In general, its use was perceived as due to ignorance and lack of understanding rather than active rejection of the authority of the church. In 1581, parliament passed an act making it illegal to visit wells and participate in pilgrimages. In 1629 the privy council issued a similar proclamation. In the 1648 the Dunblane synod passed an ordinance which again urged the abandoning of ‘superstitious wells and chapels whereunto people resort’. It would appear, however, that the ordinary population did not respond immediately, or at all, to these proclamation. Despite the desire of the authorities to force the general populace to abandon these practices they continued to be important to many and so continued to be observed despite the threat of punishment. For those involved, an accusation of charming or ‘ignorant superstition’ was in many ways a better option than an accusation of witchcraft which might result in execution.
[pp. 97-99]

And, finally, here is how Joyce Miller wraps up her essay:

The remedies offered by charmers in the seventeenth century were as varied as the treatments prescribed by orthodox medicine, but both were founded on logical principles and experience. The treatments displayed a consistency of technique, belief and participation, which show that charmers and society had a solid cultural foundation for understanding the causes of disease and the efficacy of their healing practices.Knowledge and skill in charming was both passed on through generations and gained through empiricism, but the knowledge was neither arbitrary nor chaotic. The charms were founded on both cultural and religious or spiritual traditions; their similarity with pre-Reformation practice was certainly marked although their principles and origins are likely to have been even older. This does not imply that charming was simply an alternative religious belief system recognised by a small section of the population. On the contrary most of society practised and understood an amalgamation of beliefs. It was the organised church itself, not society, which incorporated certain beliefs and rituals for its own purposes and rejected others. The pre-Reformation church accepted pleas to saints or pilgrimages to holy sites to help relieve suffering, but the Protestant church removed these elements of worship or ritual as being too Catholic in meaning. It has been suggested that the Protestant church in Scotland caused a change in attitude towards the causes and cures of disease. The church wanted sufferers to turn to the comfort of prayer and personal contemplation and responsibility, rather than using charms or magic. The goal was to achieve an ideal godly state, but it is clear from the records that many of the ordinary members of the population were slower in abandoning a system which they had followed for generations and which provided comfort, hope and control. In the absence of access to professional healers and in the wider context of witchcraft belief, the practice of charming was mainstream, rather than alternative, medicine.

Witchcraft practice in seventeenth-century Scotland was complex and mystifying, both for the ecclesiastical and secular authorities and the population at large. Charming — or folk healing — was only one aspect of witchcraft, but was an extremely important one as it provided both spiritual and practical comfort. It provided society with a means to counter the threat of malicious witchcraft. Charming also demonstrates that contemporary definitions of witchcraft practice, in its broadest sense, were not fixed solely in demonic terms, but were at times fluid and dynamic. Indeed charming continued to be practiced long after the church and the law decided that witchcraft was no longer a threat.
[pp. 104-105]

Joyce Miller’s Devices and directions: folk healing aspects of witchcraft practice in seventeeth-century Scotland is chapter 6 in the anthology The Scottish Witch Hunt in Context edited by Julian Goodare, published by Manchester University Press, 2002.

The Strange Case of Emma Wilby and the Wise & Cunning Witches of Britain

In her book Cunning Folk and Familiar Spirits, Emma Wilby starts out Chapter Two, on Cunning Folk and Witches, by saying this:

“The common people of early modern Britain possessed a wide repertoire of spells and rituals with which they could practise magical self-help, but in those instances where more sophisticated magical knowledge was needed, they turned to a magical practitioner. In contemporary sources these practitioners were referred to under a wonderful variety of generic names: wise man or woman, cunning man or woman, witch (white or black), wizard, sorcerer, conjurer, charmer, magician, wight, nigromancer, necromancer, seer, blesser, dreamer, cantel, soothsayer, fortune-teller, girdle-measurer, enchanter, enchantrix and so on. These generic names, like those used to define categories of spirit, overlapped considerably and were often interchangeable.” [p. 26]

So far, so good. But notice a subtle shift that occurs in the next two sentences:

“At any given time, the term to be used to define a magical practitioner would have depended upon the type of magic they practiced, where they lived, whether they were liked or disliked and whether the person defining them was illiterate or literate, rural or urban, Puritan or Catholic and so on. The same practitioner, for example, could be referred to as a ‘wise man’ by one person, a ‘witch’ by another and a ‘conjurer’ by yet another.”

Wilby has gone from saying that the different terms for magical practitioners “overlap considerably” and are “often interchangeable” to saying that certain of these words do in fact refer to different types of magical practitioners, albeit in a context dependent way. Notice how different these two positions are. First there is the observation that the various terms listed do not uniquely define neatly separable categories, but then this is immediately followed by the claim that, on closer inspection, the terms “witch”, “wise man”, and “conjurer” can be disentangled from each other if we know who is using the terms. That is, even though the same person might be referred to by different terms, this only means (according to Wilby) that different people are using the terms differently. The important thing here is that Wilby intentionally (or so it seems impossible not to conclude) ignores the question of whether or not the same person will refer to the same other person as both a “witch” and a “wise woman” (and perhaps also as a “conjurer”).

Wilby then continues as follows:

“These complexities make it difficult for a historian to settle on a working terminology. Many of these generic names have survived until the present day. ‘Sorcerer’, ‘wizard’, ‘magician’ and ‘witch’, for example, are energetic and numinous terms, but they have been so distorted and embellished by the twentieth-century imagination that, with the exception of the latter, they are now seldom employed by academic historians.”

This is a very strange collection of nearly, but not quite, random statements. What is the relationship between (1) the “complexities” associated with the various terms for magical practitioners during the 16th and 17th centuries, and (2) how “energetic” and/or “numinous” some of these terms might be today? And, moreover, why are we to believe that the degree to which a term is still “energetic” and/or “numinous” is relevant to whether or not such a term is to be “employed by [21st century] academic historians”, especially when the most “energetic” and “numinous” of them all, “witch”, is one of the primary terms still in use???

And why does Wilby make the bizarre statement that terms for magical practitioners became “so distorted and embellished by the twentieth-century imagination”? Are we really to believe that the “eighteenth-century imagination” was dispassionate and objective about these things, so that terms such as “witch” were in use back then in a way that was undistorted and unembellished?

Wilby then proceeds to reveal the true reason for the pathetically tortuous “logic” of the presentation so far:

“Given such difficulties, we shall follow [unnamed] contemporary scholars in the field and employ the following terms. Any individual who practiced magic in a professional capacity, whether for good or ill, will come under the umbrella term of ‘magical practitioner’. Those magical practitioners primarily associated with the practice of maleficient magic will, in the absence of any viable alternative, be termed ‘witches’. Those primarily associated with the use of beneficient magic will be termed ‘cunning folk’ — a title which, although popular in the early modern period, hanot survived into the present day and therefore is not overlaid with modern connotations.”

It is astounding that Wilby asserts the “absense of any viable alternative” for the use of “witch” to refer to practitioners of harmful magic, when she herself in the opening paragraph of the chapter told us that among “the wonderful variety” of contemporary early modern terms for magical practitioners were numbered “white witch” and “black witch”. Moreover, absolutely everyone (starting from today and going back to the dawn of the early modern period) has always unambiguously associated the term “black witch” with those engaged in “the practice of maleficient magic”, and “white witch” with magical practitioners who heal and otherwise are of benefit to others.

The problem for Wilby, and she is perfectly aware of this, is that the terms “witch”, “wise woman” and “cunning woman” (in particular) have been consistently used by speakers of the English language, from the 16th century up to today, as both generic and ambiguous terms for magical practitioners.

Later on in the same chapter, Wilby returns to the issue: “In early modern Britain the term ‘witch’ generally denoted an individual who was seen by others, or perceived by themselves, as being able to employ magical powers to do harm.” [p. 42] That this statement is, in fact, a lie, is immediately demonstrated by Wilby herself several pages later, when Wilby once again joins the issue in a section titled “Cunning Woman or Witch?”

“In a significant minority of records, the presence of a cunning man or woman can be identified with certainty. Bessie Dunlop’s case is a prime example. Bessie was not brought to court because she had performed maleficium, but because a local family had protested that she had falsely accused them of theft. She performed only good magic and her family had fairy connections. Most witch-trial records, however, are not so clear cut, and it is difficult to say with any certainty whether the individual who stood before the bench was a cunning woman or a witch. One of the reasons for this difficulty is the fact that there was a great deal of overlap between the two types of magical practitioner in the period. While historians often make a distinction between cunning folk, who performed good magic, and witches, who performed bad magic, in the early modern period this distinction was often blurred. Although some cunning folk had a reputation for being wholly good, a large proportion of them were considered ambivalent, that is, they could employ their magical powers to both help and harm. Christina Larner describes this dual nature in a Scottish context:

“The healer is a source of hope in the community. But this power is two-edged. If he should fail, demand extortionate and unecomonic returns for his services, or become hostile, then he becomes a source of menace and a focus for anxiety. The refusal of Canon Law to distinguish between black and white magic . . . regardless of whether it is intended to heal or harm, in fact reflects a peasant reality: that the healer can be dangerous.” (Christina Larner, Enemies of God, 1981, pp. 138-139)

[pp. 53-54]

After quoting from Larner, Wilby goes on to cite the 1608 case of Beigis Tod of East Lothian, who was accused of witchcraft on the basis of her reputation for being able to both “on-lay” and “off-take” sickness. Wilby also recounts cases in which people known as healers were approached by those who were willing to pay them to use their powers to cause harm. Sometimes such offers were (reportedly) accepted, while other times they were (reportedly) declined. Wilby also points out that it could be “good for business” for a healer if she or he also had a reputation for being able to “perform maleficium” — for one thing, it helped in collecting the bill! Wilby sums up the situation like this: “Given the ambivalent nature of early modern cunning folk, therefore, when we are presented with trial records describing them performing both good and bad magic, it is difficult to establish with any certainty whether the cited practitioner was a cunning woman or a witch.” [p. 55]

There is a huge problem with Wilby’s neat little disclaimer above: it is always (as opposed to only when “we are presented with trial records describing them performing both good and bad magic”) impossible (as opposed to “difficult”) to establish with any certainty whether a person on trial for witchcraft was exclusively a practitioner of beneficial or harmful magic, or of both. And it is always impossible, assuming one has some passing familiarity with and at least a modicum of respect for the truth, to claim that the word “Witch” has at any time during the last five centuries been used specifically to distinguish practitioners of harmful magic from those who practice beneficial magic.

"But especially the blessing Witch" ("The Good Witch Must Also Die", Part Three)

Here is how William Perkins ends his Discourse of the Damned Art of Witchcraft (this is Part Three of a series; if you are just tuning in, there are links to the first two parts at the bottom of this post):

Everie seducer in the Church, whose practise was to draw men from the true God to the worship of Idols, though it were a mans owne sonne or daughter, wife or friend, by the peremptorie decree and commandment of God, was at no hand to be spared or pitied, but the hand of the witnesse first, and then the hands of all the people must bee upon him, to kill him, Deut. 13.6.9.

If this be so, no Witches convicted ought to escape the sword of the Magistrate; for they are the most notorious seducers of all others. When they be once intangled with the Devils league, they labour to inure their dearest friends and posterity, in their cursed and abominable practises: that they may bee the more easily drawne into the same confederacie, wherewith they themselves are united unto Sathan. I might here alleadge, that they deserve death because many of them be murtherers, but I stand not upon that instance, because I hold in the general that Witches are not to be suffered to lieu, though they doe no hurt either to man or other creatures, and that by vertue of Moses lawe, onely for their leagues sake, whereby they become rebels to God, Idolaters and seducers, as now hath been shewed.

Yet not with standing all that hath been said, many things are brought in defense of them, by such as be their friends and welwillers. First, it is said, that the hurt that is done, comes not from the Witch, but from the devil; he deserves the blame because it is his worke, and she is not to die for his sinne. Answ. Let it be granted, that the Witch is not the author of the evil that is done, yet she is a confederate and partner with the devil in the fact, and so the lawe takes hold on her. See it in a familiar comparison. A company of men conspire together in a robbery, by common consent some stand in open place to espie out the bootie, and to give the watch-word, others are set about the passage, privily to rush upon the man, and to spoyle him of his goods. In this case what saith the law? The Parties that gave the watchword, though they did nothing to the man, yet beeing accessories and abettors to the robbery by consent, they are theeues, and liable to condemnation and execution, as well as the principalls. Even so stands the case with the Witch.

In the working of wonders, and in all mischeivous practises, he or shee is partaker with the devil by consent of covenant: the Witch onely useth the watchword in some charme or otherwise, and doth no more; the devil upon notice given by the Charme, takes his opportunities, and works the mischief. He is the principall agent, but the other yieldeth help, and is rightly liable to punishment. The reason is, because if the devil were not stirred up, and provoked by the Witch, he would never do so much hurt as he doth. He had never appeared in Samuels likenes had he not been sollicited by the Witch of Endor. He would not have caused counterfeit serpents and frogges to appeare in Egypt, but for Jannes and Jambres, and other Inchanters. And in this age there would not in likelihood be so much hurt and hindrance procured unto men, and other creatures by his meanes, but for the instigation of ill disposed persons, that have fellowship and societie with him.

Againe, they object, that Witches convicted either repent, or repent not: If they repent, then God pardoneth their sinne, and why should not the Magistrate as well save their bodies, and let them live, as God doth their soules. If they do not repent, then it is a dangerous thing for the Magistrate to put them to death: for by this meanes he kills the bodie, and casts the soule to hell. Answ. All Witches judicially and lawfully convicted, ought to have space of repentance granted unto them, wherein they may be instructed and exhorted, and then afterward executed. For it is possible for them to be saved by Gods mercie, though they have denied him. Secondly, the Magistrate must execute justice upon malefactors lawfully convicted, whether they repent or not. For God approoveth the just execution of judgment upon men without respect to their repentance: neither must their impenitencie hinder the execution of Justice. When the people of Israel had committed Idolatrie in worshipping the golden calfe, Moses did not expect their repentance, and in the meane while forbeare the punishment, but he and the Levites presently tooke their swords, and slew them, and the Lord approoved their course of proceeding, Exod.32.28. When Zimri an Israelite had committed fornication with Cozbi a Midianitish woman, Phineas in zeale of Gods glorie, executed judgement on the both, without any respect unto their repentáce, Numb.25.8. and is therefore commended, Psa. 106. 30.

Warres are a worthy ordinance of God, and yet no Prince could ever attempt the same lawfully, if every souldier in the field should stay the killing of his enemie, upon expectation of his repentance. And whereas they say, that by executing an impenitent Witch, the Magistrate casteth away the soule; we must know, that the end of execution by the Magistrate is not the damnation of the malefactors soule, but that fin may be punished that others may beware of the like crimes and offences, and that the wicked might be taken away from among Gods people. But some Witches there be that cannot bee convicted of killing any: what shall become of them? Ans. As the killing Witch must die by another law, though he were no Witch; so the healing and harmelesse Witch must die by this Law, though he kill not, onely for covenant made with Sathan.

For this must alwaies be remembred as a conclusion, that by Witches we understand not those onely which kill and torment; but all Diviners, Charmers, Juglers, all Wizzards commonly called wise men and wise women; yea, whosoever doe any thing (knowing what they do) which cannot be effected by nature or art; and in the same number we reckon all good Witches, which do no hurt but good, which do not spoile and destroy, but save and deliver. All these come under this sentence of Moses, because they deny God, and are confederates with Sathan. By the lawes of England the theise is executed for stealing, and we thinke it just and profitable; but it were a thousand times better for the land, if all witches, but especially the blessing Witch might suffer death.

For the theife by his stealing, and the hurtfull Inchanter by charming, bring hinderance and hurt to the bodies and goods of men; but these are the right hand of the Devil, by which he taketh and destroyeth the soules of men. Men doe most commonly hate and spitte at the damnifying Sorcerer, as unworthy to live among them; whereas the other is so deare unto them, that they hold themselves and their country blessed, that have him among them; they flie unto him in necessitie, they depend upon him as their God, and by this meanes thousands are carried away to their finall confusion. Death therefore is the just and deserved portion of the good Witch.


The above text is found on page 652 of the 1618 Cambridge edition of the Collected Works of William Perkins.

“The Good Witch Must Also Die”

"A thousand deaths of right belong to the good Witch." ("The Good Witch Must Also Die", Part Two)

This post is Part Two of the series “A Good Witch Must Also Die”. Scroll down for links to other posts in this series as I get them out.

The following picks up immediately where the previous post left off. It is from Chapter Five of William Perkins’ Discourse of the Damned Art of Witchcraft.

Here observe, that both have a stroke in this action: the bad Witch hurt him, the good healed him; but the truth is, the latter hath done him a thousand times more harme then the former. For the one did only hurt the body, but the devil by meanes of the other, though he have left the body in good plight, yet he hath laid fast hold on the soule, and by curing the body, hath killed that. And the party thus cured, cannot say with David, The Lord is my helper; but the devil is my helper; for by him he is cured.

Of both these kindes of Witches the present Law of Moses must be understood. This point well considered, yieldeth matter both of instruction and practise. Of instruction, in that it shewes the cunning and crafty dealing of Satan, who afflicteth and tormenteth the body for the gaine of the foule. And for that purpose hath so ordered his instruments, that the bad Witch gives the occasion, by annoying the bodie or goods; and the good immediately accomplisheth his desire, by intangling the soule in the bands of errour, ignorance, and false faith. Againe, this sheweth the blindnesse of naturall corruption, specially in ignorant and superstitious people. It is their nature to abhorred hurtfull persons, such as bad Witches be, and to count them execrable; but those that doe them good, they honour and reverence as wise men and women, yea, seeke and sue unto them in times of extremitie, though of al persons in the world, they be most odious: and Satan in them seemes the greatest friend, when he is most like himselfe, and intendeth greatest mischiefe. Let all ignorant persons be advised here of in time, to take heed to themselves, and learne to knowe God and his word, that by light from thence they may better discerne of the subtill practises of Satan and his instruments.

For matter of practise; Hence we learne our dutie, to abhorre the Wizzard, as the most pernicious enemie of our salvation, the most effectuall instrument of destroying our soules, and of building up the devils kingdome: yea, as the greatest enemie to Gods name, worship, and glorie, that is in the world next to Sathan himselfe. Of this sort was Simon Magus, who by doing strange cures and workes, made the people of Samaria to take him for some great man, who wrought by the mighty power of God, whereas he did all by the devil. He therefore beeing a good Witch, did more hurt in seducing the people of God, then Balaam a bad one could with all his curses. And we must remember that the Lord hath set a lawe upon the Witches head, he must not live, and if death be due to any, then a thousand deaths of right belong to the good Witch.

The text above is found on page 638 of the 1618 Cambridge edition of the Collected Works of William Perkins. Here is a direct link to an image of the original of that page, and here is a direct link to the table of contents for the entire work. And here is a link to the full text of Perkins’ Discourse (scanned). Those three links go to pages that are part of the Cornell University Witchcraft Collection.

“The Good Witch Must Also Die”

"The Good Witch Must Also Die", by William Perkins (1558-1602)

William Perkins died in 1602 at the age of 44. He was an influential Calvinist theologian and a leader of the Puritan movement inside the Church of England. Perkins was a prolific writer, and his books sold extremely well not only in England, but throughout the Western world.

The text of the following sermon was included in several editions of Perkins’ Collected Works that appeared after his death. It is part of a longer (55 pages) piece that was published under the full title:

A DISCOURSE OF THE DAMNED ART OF WITCHCRAFT; SO FARRE forth as it is revealed in the Scriptures, and manifest by true experience. FRAMED AND DELIVERED BY M. WILLIAM PERKINS, IN HIS ORDINARIE COURSE of Preaching, and published by THOMAS PICKERING Batchelour of Divinitie, and Minister of Finchingfield in Essex. Printed by CANTRELL LEGGE, Printer to the Universitie of Cambridge. 1618.”

The earliest edition of this title (apparently) was in 1608, also published by Cantrell Legge of Cambridge. The year 1608 is often given as the date of the work itself, although this is six years after the death of the author. Here is a link to the full text at the Cornell University Witchcraft Collection.

Be warned. It is unspeakably evil.

The good Witch is he or shee that by consent in a league with the deuill, doth vse his helpe, for the doing of good onely. This cannot hurt, torment, curse, or kill, but onely heal and cure the hurts inflicted upon men or cattell, by badde Witches. For as they can doe no good, but onely hurt; so this can doe no hurt, but good onely. And this is that order which the deuill hath set in his kingdom, appointing to seuerall persons their seuerall offices and charges. And the good Witch is commonly tearmed the vnbinding Witch.

Now howsoeuer these both be euil, yet of the two, the more horrible & detestable Monster is the good Witch, for look in what place soeuer ther be any bad Witches that hurt onely, there also the deuill hath his good ones, who are better known than the bad, beeing commonly called Wisemen, or Wise-women. These will appear by experience in most places in these countries. For let a mans childe, friend, or cattell be taken with some sore sickness, or strangely tormented with some rare and vnknown disease, the first thing he doth, is to bethink himselfe and inquire after some Wiseman or Wise-woman, & thither he sends and goes for helpe. When he comes, he first tells him the state of the sicke man; the Witch then beeing certified of the disease, prescribeth either Charmes of words to be vsed ouer him, or other such counterfeit meanes, wherein there is no cure, if it come by Witchcraft. Well, the meanes are receiued, applied, and vsed, the sicke partie accordingly recouereth, and the conclusion of all is, the vsual acclamation; Oh happie is the day, that euer I met with such a man or woman to helpe me!

[Taken from Chapter Five, on page 638 of the 1618 Cambridge edition of the Collected Works of William Perkins.]

“The Good Witch Must Also Die”

“In the name of the Father, the Son, King Arthur, and Queen Elspeth.”

The first Witchcraft trial in Scotland for which the “dittay” (indictment) has been preserved largely intact, is that of Janet Boyman in 1572. (Variations on her name are Janet Bowman and Jonet Boyman.) The documentary evidence leaves no room for doubt that this accused Witch was someone sought after for her abilities as a healer.

“Jonet Boyman of Canongate, Edinburgh, accused in 1572 of witchcraft and diabolic incantation, the first Scottish trial for which a detailed indictment has so far been found. Indeed, it is one of the richest accounts hitherto uncovered for both fairy belief and charming, suggesting an intriguing tradition which associated, in some way, the fairies with the legendary King Arthur. At an ‘elrich well’ on the south side of Arthur’s Seat, Jonet uttered incantations and invocations of the ‘evill spreits quhome she callit upon for to come to show and declair’ what would happen to a sick man named Allan Anderson, her patient. She allegedly first conjured ‘ane grit blast’ like a whirlwind, and thereafter appeared the shape of a man who stood on the other side of the well, and interesting hint of liminality. She charged this conjured presence, in the name of the father, the son, King Arthur and Queen Elspeth, to cure Anderson. She then received elaborate instructions about washing the ill man’s shirt, which were communicated to Allan’s wife. That night the patient’s house shook in the midst of a huge, and incomprehensible ruckus involving winds, horses and hammering, apparently because the man’s wife did not follow the instructions to the letter. On the following night the house was plagued by a mighty din again, caused, this time, by a great company of women.”

[Scottish Fairy Belief by Lizanne Henderson and Edward J. Cowan (2001) 127-128.]

For more on Jonet Boymen, also see P.G. Maxwell-Stuart’s Satan’s Conspiracy: Magic and Witchcraft in 16th Century Scotland (2001), pp. 62-66.

Margaret Murray’s Thesis "Contained A Kernel Of Truth" (Carlo Ginzburg)

Here is the first of several follow-ups to my previous post: Margaret Murray has been completely rejected by everyone … except for everyone who has not completely rejected Margaret Murray. Most of this post consists of two excerpts from Carlo Ginzburg’s groundbreaking studies The Night Battles (1966) and Ecstasies (1989). Following those two excerpts there is a very brief note concerning Ginzburg’s accusation that Margaret Murray “cut” and “manipulated” the data to fit her theory.

Here is an excerpt from Carlo Ginzburg’s The Night Battles: Witchcraft & Agrarian Cults in the Sixteenth & Seventeenth Centuries, first published in Italian in 1966:

According to Murray, the conventicles described by the accused were real, and witchcraft was a very ancient religion, a pre-Christian fertility cult, in which the judges, more or deliberately, chose to see only a diabolical perversion. Although this thesis contained a kernel of truth, it was formulated in a wholly uncritical way; moreover, the reconstruction of the general characteristics of this supposed fertility cult was based on very late trials in which the assimilation of the inquisitorial schema (sabbat, nuptials with the devil, etc) was by now complete. And yet, despite these serious defects, Murray’s ‘thesis’, which was rejected by anthropologists and folkorists when it first appeared, ended by prevailing. what had been lacking then, and the need persists today if I’m not mistaken, was an all-encompassing explanation of popular witchcraft: and the thesis of the English scholar, purified of its most daring affirmations, seemed plausible where it discerned in the orgies of the sabbat the deformation of an ancient fertility rite. In this mitigated form it was reformulated by W.E. Peukert, among others.

And yet it is not so easy to demonstrate that popular witchcraft (as distinct from generic supsertitions, such as love potions, spells, etc., which are not traceable to a precise cult) actually went back to an ancient agricultural fertility cult. One primary objection has already been raised about Murray’s work: we cannot rely uncritically on the confessions of the witches without attempting to distinguish in them between what is of inquisitorial provenance and what is of genuinely popular origin. But this is not a fatal objection . . . .

[Then Ginzburg spends a few sentences discussing the work of J. Marx, L. Weiser-Aall and A. Meyer, before moving on to his main point.]

The present research now establishes, in an area such as the Friuli, where Germanic and Slavic traditions came together, the positive existence at a relatively late date (from c. 1570) of a fertility cult whose participants, the benandanti, represented themselves as defenders of harvests and the fertility of fields. On the one hand, this belief is tied to a larger complex of traditions (connected, in turn, with the myth of nocturnal gatherings over which female deities named Perchta, Holda, Diana presided) in an area that extends from Alsace to Hesse and from Bavaria to Switzerland. On the other hand, it is found in an almost identical form in the land which once comprised Livonia (present day Latvia and Estonia). Given this geographic spread it may not be too daring to suggest that in antiquity these beliefs must once have covered much of central Europe. In the span of a century, as we shall see, the benandanti were transformed into witches and their nocturnal gatherings, intended to induce fertility, became the devil’s sabbat, with the resulting storms and destruction. We can thus state for a fact that for the Friuli diabolical witchcraft grew out of the deformation of a preceding agrarian cult. Of course it is impossible to extend this conclusion by simple analogy to other parts of Europe; nevertheless, though limited and circumscribed, it may serve as a working hypothesis for future research. At any rate the existence of this complex of beliefs over a large, key area implies, in my opinion, a new approach to the problem of the popular origins of witchcraft.
[pp. xix-xxi, in the 2009 JHU Press edition]

And here is an excerpt from Ginzburg’s Ecstasies: Deciphering the Witches’ Sabbath, first published in Italian in 1989:

In her book The Witch-Cult in Western Europe [Margaret] Murray, an Egyptologist with a keen interest in anthropology in the wake of Frazer, maintained: (1) that the descriptions of the Sabbath contained in witch trials were neither nonsense extorted by the judges, nor accounts of inner experiences of a more or less hallucinatory character, but rather, exact descriptions of rituals that had actually taken place; (2) that these rituals, deformed by the judges’ diabolizing interpretation, were in reality connected with a pre-Christian fertility cult, which possibly dated back to pre-history and which has survived in Europe until the modern age . . . .

In my preface to The Night Battles [see Excerpt 1 above] I made a statement to which I still fully subscribe, even though it has earned me ex-officio enrollment in the phantom (but discredited) sect of ‘Murrayists’: viz., that Murray’s thesis, although ‘formulated in a totally uncritical manner’, contained ‘a core of truth’. Clearly this core is not to be sought in the first of the two points which, as we have seen, the thesis comprises. It is symptomatic that, in seeking to validate the reality of the events mentioned in descriptions of the witches’ Sabbath, Murray was obliged to neglect the most embarrassing elements — night flying, animal metamorphosis — having recourse to cuts which amounted to veritable textual manipulation. Of course we cannot altogether exclude the possibility that in some instances mean and women devoted to magical practices assembled to celebrate rituals that included, e.g., sexual orgies; but virtually none of the descriptions of the Sabbath furnishes any proof of such events. This does not mean that they are lacking in documentary value: they simply document myths and not rituals.

Once again we must ask ourselves: whose beliefs and rituals? As mentioned before, a long tradition, harking back to the Enlightenment polemics against witchcraft trials and still very much alive, has seen in the witches’ confessions the projection of the judges’ superstitions and obsessions, extorted from the accused by means of torture and psychological pressure. The ‘religion of Diana’ — the pre-Christian fertility cult that Murray identified, without probing it more more deeply, in descriptions of the Sabbath — suggests a different and more complex interpretation.

The ‘core of truth’ in Murray’s thesis is to be found here. More generally it consists in the decision, contrary to all rationalistic reduction, to accept the witches’ confession — as much more illustrious (but, paradoxically, neglected) predecessors had done, beginning with Jakob Grimm.
[pp. 8-9, in the 2004 University of Chicago Press edition]

In the second of the above excerpts, Ginzburg puts forward the following very serious accusation against Murray: in order to make the evidence fit her theory, she “cut” and “manipulated” the available data. Ginzburg here relies on what he deems to be “the exhaustive demonstration of Cohn” (which Ginzburg gives as being found on pp. 111-115 of Norman Cohn’s Europe’s Inner Demons, although in the 2000 University of Chicago edition the numbering is pp. 155-160). But however “exhaustive” Cohn’s “demonstration” may have been, Ginzburg’s reliance on it is uncritical (precisely the deadly scholarly sin that Murray is supposedly guilty of with respect to confessions from the Witchcraft trials). Worse still is the fact that Ginzburg has been joined by a small army of other scholars who have all blindly accepted Cohn’s “demonstration” without bothering to compare what Cohn says Murray said with what Murray actually said. I will have more to say about this in a follow-up post, but for now I refer the interested reader to Jani Farrell-Roberts’ Margaret Murray and the Distinguished Professor Hutton.

>Margaret Murray has been completely rejected by everyone … except for everyone who has not completely rejected Margaret Murray.

>”Mary Douglas, writing in 1992, still accepted Margaret Murray’s thesis that the people accused of witchcraft in early modern Europe were practitioners of a surviving pagan religion, which had been completely discredited in the 1970s.” [Ronald Hutton, 2004]

Strange, isn’t it, that Mary Douglas (“the most widely read British social anthropologist of her generation,” according to her obituary in the May 18, 2007 Guardian) was unaware of the “complete” discrediting of Margaret Murray?

First of all, Hutton has the year wrong (by nearly a decade). Here is the proper citation for the article in which Mary Douglas “still accepted Margaret Murray’s thesis”:

Sorcery Accusations Unleashed, by Mary Douglas, Africa 69 (1999), pp. 177-193.

And here is what Douglas says that Ronald Hutton finds so unacceptable:

The Egyptologist and medieval historian Margaret Murray argued in 1921 that witchcraft in Europe should be interpreted as access to supernatural powers claimed by the suppressed pagan religions, and therefore by the Christian Church claimed to be heresy. So the Christians who were charged with witchcraft by ecclesiastical authorities were actually charged with trying to draw on these discredited resources, consulting or behaving as old-time healers, laying on unconsecrated hands, claiming to be visionaries, fortune tellers and exorcists whose lore–Egyptian, zodiacal, or whatever–derived from pre-Christian religions. It was likely, on this argument, that Joan of Arc and Gilles de Raie were rightly accused of witchcraft in that sense. Kaegi (1966) described a close parallel in fifth-century Byzantium.

Other historians remind us that Christianity has always been rough on rival religions. A modern version of Margaret Murray’s thesis is offered by Ginzburg (1983) to account for the burning of witches in sixteenth-century Italy. The Catholic Church, highly centralised and thus more distanced from the lowly concerns of its flock, felt threatened by the practitioners of the old religions, who were offering the faithful more immediate help and healing. So the Inquisition prosecuted the religious irregulars for witchcraft and heresy. Had the young Lele priests who were suspended by their superiors wanted to defend their actions historically, they could have found plenty of precedents. But as Catholics they suffered from lack of an accepted demonology. In modern Zaire the Catholic Church is no doubt suffering from religious pluralism. Catholic missionaries are disadvantaged in competition with Protestant Churches and the neo-apostolic movement, Christian denominations which have clearly defined their doctrines concerning demons in a way that accommodates local sorcery beliefs (Ngokwey, personal communication).

It is obvious from the above that Mary Douglas was referring not to the kind of extreme caricatures of Margaret Murray’s ideas that haunt the imaginations of the Ronald Huttons and Jacqueline Simpsons of this world, but rather to a much more modest thesis that does not necessarily claim anything more radical than this: the beliefs and practices of those persecuted during the Witch-Hunts of the fifteenth through eighteenth centuries were “derived from pre-Christian religions.”

But even that is already too much for Hutton, far too much, and he will have none of it. For he has made it clear that his position is that Margaret Murray must be dishonorably drummed out Academia altogether. It is not enough to criticize aspects of her scholarship, the scholar herself must be personally mocked and vilified. And Mary Douglas makes things worse, much worse, by saying that it isn’t so much Murray’s thesis that she actually has in mind as Carlo Ginzburg’s writings, which Douglas sees as a “modern version of Margaret Murray’s thesis.” But … but why would one of the world’s most celebrated living historians have put forward a “modern version” of a thesis that had already been “completely discredited”?

Hmmmm. It makes one wonder if anyone else didn’t get the memo? “As it turns out” (which, as it turns out, is what Apple Store employees are trained to say instead of “unfortunately” when “it turns out” that your warranty expired before your PowerBook’s logic board did) the list of scholars in whose eyes Margaret Murray’s ideas are not completely discredited is rather long, and includes, in addition to Mary Douglas and Carlo Ginzburg: Christina Larner, Ruth Martin, Dorothy Watts, Alan Macfarlane, P.G. Maxwell-Stuart, Anne Barstow, George Luck, Emma Wilby, Richard Horsley, Eva Pocs, Lizzie Henderson, and Keith Thomas, just to name a dozen off the top of my head.

But before going any further, let’s get clear on what is actually meant by “Margaret Murray’s thesis”. As it turns out, this phrase can mean one of the two following things:

(1) The “Incomplete Christianization of Europe Thesis” (ICET) claims that the Witch-Hunts were launched as a kind of theologico-military mopping-up operation to eliminate surviving Pagan beliefs and practices still left over from the pre-Christian religions of Europe.

(2) The “Maximal Witch Cult Thesis” (MWCT) claims that an organized religion, constituting a homogenous cult throughout Europe, had survived intact and virtually unchanged since the Stone-Age, and that this was the Pagan religion of the Witches who were persecuted during the Burning Times.

While it is true that Murray herself claimed something more than the ICET, it is also true that she did not claim as much as the MWCT. But it is the MWCT that Hutton, Simpson, and their ilk, consistently attribute to Murray, while dishonestly treating all instances of support for any portion of the ICET as amounting to blind acceptance of the full-blown MWCT.

In follow-up posts I will provide specific citations, along with excerpts and commentary, for each of the twelve scholars mentioned above whose work lends at least partial support to the “Incomplete Christianization of Europe Thesis.”

Follow-up posts:
Margaret Murray’s Thesis “Contained A Kernel Of Truth” (Carlo Ginzburg)

Christina Larner on the Meaning of "Witchcraft"

The two excerpts below are both from Christina Larner’s Enemies of God: The Witch-Hunt in Scotland. For more on Larner see this other recent post: Witchcraft: Black and White in Color. Both excerpts emphasize the historical reality of Witches being associated with beneficial magic, including healing, divination, and love magic.


White witchcraft is concerned with the healing arts, with prophecy, with finding lost objects, with the supply of love potions, and with performance and rituals designed to counter black witchcraft. White witchcraft always involves manipulative sorcery [that is, the use of incantations and/or ritual objects]. Black witchcraft or malefice may or may not involve sorcery, but some indication, whether articulate and precise cursing, gnomic utterance, or scarcely audible mumbling, is usually necessary to establish that the mobilization of powerful ill will has been attempted. [p. 9]

Most societies make this distinction. European Civil Law decreed that white witchcraft, though culpable, was not punishable by death, whereas black witchcraft was [Larner here cites Book IX, Title 18 of the Codex Justinianus, which explicitly exempts from punishment those who use “incantations” either to cure illnesses or to protect crops from hail or flood while condemning to death (often specifying particular means of torture and execution) all enchanters, magicians, Pagan priests, astrologers, soothsayers, etc.]The distinction was eroded by Canon Law and the commentators specializing in demonology in that all supernatural power not emanating from the Church was deemed to be demonic. Those claiming to heal outside the context of the Church must have got their powers from the Devil. The abolition of the distinction did find an echo in peasant experience in that the healer as a person of power was potentially threatening. Power was neutral but could be used to harm as well as to heal, and it became a common feature of European witch-trials that the accused was said to have both laid on and taken off disease. The most extreme position with regard to the conflation of black and white magic may well have been that taken in the Scottish Witchcraft Act of 1563 in which the consulters of witches were said to be worthy of death in same manner as the practitioners. Any acknowledgment of an unofficial source of power was to be supressed. The attitude of a polity towards white witchcraft is an indication of the level of anxiety about non-conformity. England continued to tolerate cunning men and women (who were quite distinct from black witches) throughout the period of the prosecution. Major witch-hunts in Scotland and on the continent on the other hand tended to engulf the healer along with the curser.


Amidst the diversity of beliefs about healing, the factor which stands out most clearly is the figure of the healer herself. It was she who had the power, and this power was strengthened, as it is in modern medicine, by secrecy, impressive procedures, mystery, and arduous performances by the patient. The sufferer was not expected to understand exactly how he was being healed or the purpose of the consultation and the relationship between him and the healer would disssolve. The same held true when the healer was brought in for veterinary purposes. When Robert Hutton’s mother-in-law sent for Bessie Paine to cure a sick cow ‘the said Bessie Paine … caue the Cow to be put throw ane hanck of green yairne speaking some words which the personnes present did not understand and yreftir the Cow was cured.’ Agnes Johnstoun’s accusation against Bessie Graham in 1650 included her response to a request to heal her child. Bessie ‘Tuik the bellt and wettit it’ (a common form of divination) ‘muttering some speiches with greit gauting eftir which she told the said Agnes that the chyld was seik and wald not leive and it provit so and the chyld died presentlie’. [p. 142]

In fact the charm, the failed charm, the favourable prophecy, the unfavourable prophecy, and the curse are close closely connected, and essentially fall from the lips of the same person, the person of power. In seventeenth-century Scotland blessing adn cursing, black and white magic, went hand in hand, and this assumptino was shared by peasant and lawyer alike — and by victim and practitioner. Popular belief and practic reinforced Canon Law rather than Civil Law.

Accusations of healing, such as that cited, were listed alongside accusations of malefice, and Bessie Paine was not only said to have cured. It was alleged that she came to a house in which she had formerly lived (from which we may assume she had been evicted) after the new tenant had moved in, ‘and sitting down upon her knees upon the hearth staene she said “all the witchcraft which I have I leave it here”‘. The new tenant, Robert Sturgeon, as a result of this curse upon his house, was reckoned to have lost within a year and a quarter above thirty cattle dead, ‘and nothing he took in hand did prosper during his possession of that rowme (place).’