Wednesday, October 31, 2018

Halloween - Hanging a few of those evil female witches

In 1692, a group of young girls in Salem Village, Massachusetts were accused of witchcraft, & 20 were eventually executed as witches; but contrary to popular belief, none of the condemned was burned at the stake. In accordance with English law, 19 of the victims of the Salem Witch Trials were instead taken to the infamous Gallows Hill to die by hanging.
An earlier woodcut of the hanging of female witches from Richard Gardiner, England's Grievance Discovered. 1655

Halloween - Making a grand living in 1647 England by identifying & torturing witches

Frontispiece from Matthew Hopkins' (c. 1620-1647) The Discovery of Witches (1647), showing witches identifying their familiar spirits

Folks in 17C England & her British American colonies often dealt with hardships by looking for a scapegoat to blame, much as we do today. Witchcraft was a convenient superstition to latch onto during this period. Witchcraft had been illegal since 1563, & hundreds of people, mostly women, were wrongly accused. 'Proof' of being a witch could be a third nipple, an unusual scar or birthmark, a boil, a growth, or even owning a pet (a 'witch's familiar', or potential embodiment of an evil spirit). Witch-finder Matthew Hopkins employed Mary Goody Phillips who specialized in finding "witch marks" on the bodies of accused females.Confessions were often made under torture or duress. After a trial, victims were often hanged.

Professionals who exposed witches could make a lot of money, as local magistrates paid the witch finder the equivalent of a month's wages. And the busiest tradesman of all was Matthew Hopkins, a shadowy figure who called himself 'Witchfinder General' & had scores of women executed in East Anglia during the turmoil of the English Civil War in 1645 & 1646.John Stearne (c. 1610–1670) was another associate of Matthew Hopkins. Stearne was known at various times as the witch–hunter and "witch pricker." A family man & land owner from Lawshall near Bury St Edmunds, Stearne was 10 years older than Hopkins. Within a year of the death of Matthew Hopkins, John Stearne retired to his farm & wrote A Confirmation and Discovery of Witchcraft.
During the year following the publication of Hopkins' book, trials & executions for witchcraft began in the New England colonies with the hanging of Alse Young of Windsor, Connecticut on May 26, 1647, followed by the conviction of Margaret Jones. As described in the journal of Governor John Winthrop, the evidence assembled against Margaret Jones was gathered by the use of Hopkins' techniques of "searching" & "watching". Jones' execution was the first sustained witch-hunt which lasted in New England from 1648 until 1663. About 80 people throughout New England were accused of practicing witchcraft during that period, of whom 15 women & 2 men were executed. Some of Hopkins' methods were once again employed during the Salem Witch Trials, which occurred primarily in Salem, Massachusetts in 1692–93.

Although torture was unlawful in England, Hopkins was said to have used a variety of torture techniques to extract confessions from his victims. His favorite was sleep deprivation. Although Hopkins claimed to never use the swimming test, some argued that witches floated, because they had renounced their water baptism when entering the Devil's service. James VI of Scotland (later James I of England) 1566-1625 claimed in his Daemonologie, that water was so pure an element that it repelled the guilty. Suspects were thrown into water, & those who floated were considered to be witches. Or the alleged witch might also be bound at the hands & feet & thrown into a body of water. If the body floated to the surface, that was proof, that the accused was indeed a witch (at which point they might execute her by some other means). If she sank to the bottom & inevitably drowned – she was innocent but also dead.

For a fascinating update on the truths, lies, and exaggerations containted in books written by these two witch finders in the mid 17C see The Discovery of Witches and Witchcraft: The Writings of the Witchfinders by Matthew Hopkins, John Stearne. Edited with an introduction and notes by S.F. Davies (Sept 2007) Published: Brighton: Pucknel Publishing. A critical, scholarly reprint of the writings of the Witch Finder General and his accomplice.S. F. Davies researches witchcraft writing at the University of Sussex. He also has edited Puritan preacher George Gifford's (1548-1600) Dialogue concerning witches and witchcrafts(2007).

Also see
"The Reception of Reginald Scot’s Discovery of Witchcraft: Witchcraft, Magic, and Radical Religion" by S.F. Davies
Journal of the History of Ideas, Volume 74, Number 3, July 2013, pp. 381-40 This article considers the reception of Reginald Scot’s (1538-1599) skeptical Discouerie of Witchcraft (1584). As well as the surprisingly mixed reception of the 1st edition, this article examines the publication of the 2nd edition. The latter appeared in 1651, long after Scot’s death; the possible reasons for its publication have never been examined. Not only interest in witchcraft but other kinds of magic and even religious radicalism may have been involved.
Woodcuts dealing with water, witches, and "scolds."

The always surprising Alice Morse Earle found a 1st-hand account of the Dunking Stool in her 1896Curious Punishments of Bygone Days. Francois Maximilian Misson, a French traveler and writer, recorded the method used in England in the early 18th century: The way of punishing scolding women is pleasant enough. They fasten an armchair to the end of two beams twelve or fifteen feet long, and parallel to each other, so that these two pieces of wood with their two ends embrace the chair, which hangs between them by a sort of axle, by which means it plays freely, and always remains in the natural horizontal position in which a chair should be, that a person may sit conveniently in it, whether you raise it or let it down. They set up a post on the bank of a pond or river, and over this post they lay, almost in equilibrio, the two pieces of wood, at one end of which the chair hangs just over the water. They place the woman in this chair and so plunge her into the water as often as the sentence directs, in order to cool her immoderate heat.

Halloween - 1607 Jesuit suspects Lutheran sect of Witchcraft

This 1607 woodcut by a Jesuit, Christoph Andreas Fischer, The Hutterite Anabaptist Pigeon Coop, accuses that Protestant sect of witchcraft with its symbols — bats, brooms and more.

Dr. Adam Darlage, who teaches at Oakton Community College, with campuses in Skokie & Des Plaines, Illinois, studies how Christians have been less than kind to one another. For example, Darlage analyzed the meaning of a 1607 woodcut depicting Hutterites as pigeons, witches, and bigamists. Bigamists? In those days, Hutterite leaders let members of their flock abandon spouses who wouldn’t convert, he says, and thereafter allowed remarriage. Hence the accusation.

Halloween - Where did those black, pointy, wide-brimmed witch hats come from?

1659 Unknown British Artist, Catherine Davenant, Wife of Thomas Lamplugh in a capotain hat

A Complete History of Magick, Sorcery, and Witchcraft by E. Curil J. Pemberton and W. Taylor, 1715-16 

In 17C & 18C English & European woodcuts not all witches are depicted wearing the pointy black hat. Some images of witches did include the wide-brimmed pointy hat, but the pointy black hat was just one of many symbols connected to witchcraft in the past. The depiction of witches with conical hats, was especially popular in England and Scotland.


1596 Joan, 1st wife of Edward Alleyn by an unidentified artist of the British School in a capotain hat

Some believe that the pointy hat had its origin in the conical hats that were worn by the noble people in the middle ages (like the Hennin).  In Germany, golden conical hats were found, decorated with suns and stars. Some scholars suggest, that these hats were worn by priests or sorcerers/shamans as ritual headgear. Perhaps from the bronze age on, conical hats were worn by some priests/priestesses and sorcerers/sorceresses.  There are depictions of socerers in cone-like hats without brims.

Near China archaeologists found mummies, & some females of these mummies wore conical hats made from leather. Some scholars believe, these females were sorceresses or shamanesses. 


Perhaps the symbolism of the conical hats as attributes of people with a connection to magic has old roots.  One god who has deep connections to magic, & witches & sorcerers was Odin. He was depicted with a black hat that had a huge brim (but this hat was not conical).  In ancient Greece, the goddess Hekate was strongly connected to witchcraft. On some statues she was depicted with a phrygian cap. The brimless phrygian cap was a conical, usually soft hat. 


1592 Unknown Lady Robert Peake the elder (British Artist, 1551-1619)  She is wearing a small-brimmed phrygian-style cap which is both conical & a softer hat.  

A capotain, capatain or copotain is a tall-crowned, narrow-brimmed, slightly conical hat, usually black, worn by men from the 1570s into the mid-17C in England, the Low Countries, & Spain.  Earlier capotains had rounded crowns; later, the crown was flat at the top.  Women soon adopted the style, particularly when wearing high-necked bodices. 


1595 Esther Inglis Mrs Kello (Calligrapher and miniaturist, 1571-1624) in a capotain hat

The capotain is especially associated with Puritan costume in England in the years leading up to the English Civil War (1642–1651) & during the years of the Commonwealth (1649-1660). It is also called a Flat Topped Hat & a Pilgrim hat, the latter for its association with the Pilgrims who settled the British American Plymouth Colony in the 1620s.


 1590s Joan Popley in a capotain hat, British attributed to the circle of Robert Peake the elder (c.1551–1619)

1596 Mrs Jennyngs (b.1550-1551) in a capotain hat, Aged 45 British School

This fashion became very popular, which lead to criticism in the early 1600s, bemoaning that women & men were swapping attire. 
1628 Eubule Thelwall (1562–1630) in a capotain hat by Gilbert Jackson (c.15951600 - after 1648, British Artist)

This lead to a pair of satirical pamphlets “Hic Mueler: Or, The Man-Woman” “Haec-Vir, or The Womanish-Man,” appearing about 1620. The pamphlets specifically criticize women for wearing a “Ruffianly broad-brim’d Hatte” instead of “the modest attire of the comely Hood, Cawle, Coyfe.” Usually hats in these portraits had flat, rather than pointed tops. 


1614 Portrait of an English lady traditionally identified as (but possibly not) Lady Anne Bowyer, née Salter. Circle of Marcus Gheeraerts the Younger. She is wearing a small-brimmed phrygian-style cap which is both conical & a softer hat.  


1617 Portrait of an Unknown Woman, Aged 60 (once said to be of the Gilly family, possibly the 3rd wife of Sir James Altham, d.1617) by British School


1618-1625 Portrait of an Old Woman in a Cartwheel Ruff and a capotain hat by Cornelis Janssens van Ceulen (Dutch or Flemish artist in England, 1593-1661)


1619 Salomon Mesdach ( c 1600-1632, Dutch artist) Portrait of Anna Boudaen Courten wearing a Capotain Hat - tall hat, high-crowned, narrow-brimmed


1621-30 Dame Pigot in a capotain hat by Gilbert Jackson (c.1595-1600 - after 1648, British Artist)


1625 Salomon Mesdach ( c 1600-1632, Dutch artist)  Portrait of Margarita Courten (1564-1640) in a capotain hat


1627-8 Anne Fanshawe, First Wife of Thomas, 1st Viscount Fanshawein an atypical capotain hat decorated with feathers & a leather band, by Marcus Gheeraerts the younger


1632 Catherine Morgan in a capotain hat by Gilbert Jackson (c.15951600 - after 1648, British Artist)


1634 Maria Bockennolle, Wife of Johannes Elison in a capotain hat by Rembrandt


1638 Hester Pookes, (c.1608–1678) wife of John Tradescant may have been made at the time of her marriage to John Tradescant the Younger in 1638.

1639 Catherine Lucas, Lady Pye in a capotain hat by Henry Giles


1640s Perhaps John Tradescant the Elder, (c 1570-1632) naturalist & gardener, with his 3rd wife, Elizabeth Day both in a capotain hat

1641 Anne Goye (1609-1681) in a capotain hat decoraded with a beaded band, Unknown Danish artist

In England, the artist & engraver Wenceslaus Hollar (European-born English artist, 1607-1677) created several series of English & European women during the 1640s.  These ladies were wearing capotain hats quite similar to the versions appearing in the witch woodcuts of the time.  His "Ornatus Muliebris Anglicanus - The severall 'Habits of Englishwomen, from the Nobilitie to the Country Woman, as they are in these times" was published in 1640.  By 1642–1643 the 1st part of his series of European women had appeared in London under the title "Theatrum Mulierum," and it was followed by a 2nd part the next year titled "Aula Veneris."


Wenceslaus Hollar (European-born English artist, 1607-1677) Ornatus Muliebris


Wenceslaus Hollar (European-born English artist, 1607-1677) Woman in a capotain hat.  1642


Wenceslaus Hollar (European-born English artist, 1607-1677) Woman in a capotain hat. 1642


Wenceslaus Hollar (European-born English artist, 1607-1677) Ornatus Muliebris Woman in a capotain hat.


Wenceslaus Hollar (European-born English artist, 1607-1677) Ornatus Muliebris Woman in a capotain hat.


Wenceslaus Hollar (European-born English artist, 1607-1677) Ornatus Muliebris Woman in a capotain hat.


Wenceslaus Hollar (European-born English artist, 1607-1677) Ornatus Muliebris Woman in a capotain hat.


 Wenceslaus Hollar (European-born English artist, 1607-1677) Ornatus Muliebris Woman in a capotain hat.


Wenceslaus Hollar (European-born English artist, 1607-1677) Ornatus Muliebris Woman in a capotain hat.


Wenceslaus Hollar (European-born English artist, 1607-1677) Theatrum Mulierum And Aula Veneris


Wenceslaus Hollar (European-born English artist, 1607-1677) Theatrum Mulierum And Aula Veneris Woman in a capotain hat.


Wenceslaus Hollar (European-born English artist, 1607-1677) Theatrum Mulierum And Aula Veneris Woman in a capotain hat.


Wenceslaus Hollar (European-born English artist, 1607-1677) Theatrum Mulierum And Aula Veneris Woman in a capotain hat.


Wenceslaus Hollar (European-born English artist, 1607-1677) Theatrum Mulierum And Aula Veneris Woman in a capotain hat.


Wenceslaus Hollar (European-born English artist, 1607-1677) Theatrum Mulierum And Aula Veneris Woman in a capotain hat.


Wenceslaus Hollar (European-born English artist, 1607-1677) Theatrum Mulierum And Aula Veneris Woman in a capotain hat.


Wenceslaus Hollar (European-born English artist, 1607-1677) Theatrum Mulierum And Aula Veneris Woman in a capotain hat.


Wenceslaus Hollar (European-born English artist, 1607-1677) Theatrum Mulierum And Aula Veneris Woman in a capotain hat.


Wenceslaus Hollar (European-born English artist, 1607-1677) Theatrum Mulierum And Aula Veneris Woman in a capotain hat.


Wenceslaus Hollar (European-born English artist, 1607-1677) Theatrum Mulierum And Aula Veneris Woman in a capotain hat.

And finally, from the same period, here is a woodcut with the same capotain 
hats without the pointy tops.


The Good Womans Champion or A Defence For The Weaker Vessel. Booklet printed in London by Francis Grove in 1650

Halloween - Witches, Broomsticks, & Hallucinogens

The following article from Forbes can be a little off-putting; and as they say, "I am not entirely convinced." Between about 1450 & 1600, when belief in the power of witchcraft was widespread in Europe, witches were reported to take to the skies & head to their midnight gatherings astride not only broomsticks, but goats, oxen, sheep, dogs & wolves, as well as shovels and staffs. Broomsticks ended up as the preferred vehicle, some scholars suggest, because of their association with the traditional role of women as housekeepers, but this scientist puts a whole new spin on the attraction of broomsticks. 
Martin Le France (1410-1461) Flight of the Witches 'Vaudoises' on the broom, Le Champion des Dames, 1451

Why Do Witches Ride Broomsticks? Hallucinogens

David Kroll in Forbes 10/31/2012 

"Have you ever wondered, especially on Halloween, why witches are depicted as riding brooms through the nighttime sky?


"The truth lies in science — pharmacology, actually. Unfortunately, it’s a story you may find difficult explaining to the kids.


"The excerpts I’m about to give you come from a...pharmacology text entitled, Murder, Magic, and Medicine, by John Mann, host of the BBC Radio 4 series by the same name.




“Double, double toil and trouble

Fire burn and cauldron bubble” – Macbeth IV, i

"It’s all about hallucinations, folks. Hallucinogenic chemicals called tropane alkaloids are made by a number of plants including Atropa belladonna (deadly nightshade), Hyoscyamus niger (henbane), Mandragora officinarum (mandrake), and Datura stramonium (jimsonweed).


"During the Middle Ages, parts of these plants were used to make “brews,” “oyntments,” or “witches’ salves” for witchcraft, sorcery, and other nefarious activities.


"Somewhere along the line, the observation was made that the hallucinogenic compounds, hyoscine in particular (also known as scopolamine), could be absorbed through sweat glands (especially in the armpit) or mucus membranes of the rectum or vagina. These routes of administration also bypassed rapid metabolism by the liver (and severe intestinal discomfort) had the user drank the boiled up plant extract.


"Just how did the alleged witches apply said ointments? The earliest clue comes from a 1324 investigation of the case of Lady Alice Kyteler:  “In rifleing the closet of the ladie, they found a pipe of oyntment, wherewith she greased a staffe, upon which she ambled and galloped through thick and thin.”


"And from the 15C records of Jordanes de Bergamo:  “But the vulgar believe, and the witches confess, that on certain days or nights they anoint a staff and ride on it to the appointed place or anoint themselves under the arms and in other hairy places.”


"These passages account for why so many of the pictures of the time depict partially clothed (or naked) witches “astride their broomsticks.”




"But what about the issue of flying on said broomsticks?


"The tropane alkaloid hallucinogens tended to cause sleep, but with dreams that involved flying, “wild rides,” and “frenzied dancing.” A 1966 description of tropane alkaloid intoxication was offered by the Gustav Schenk:  “My teeth were clenched, and a dizzied rage took possession of me…but I also know that I was permeated by a peculiar sense of well-being connected with the crazy sensation that my feet were growing lighter, expanding and breaking loose from my own body. Each part of my body seemed to be going off on its own, and I was seized with the fear that I was falling apart. At the same time I experienced an intoxicating sensation of flying…I soared where my hallucinations – the clouds, the lowering sky, herds of beasts, falling leaves…billowing streamers of steam and rivers of molten metal – were swirling along.”




"Soooo, these psychosensory experiences of flying were associated with boiled up hallucinogenic plants applied to the vaginal area with a broomstick.


"There you have it.  I never cease to be amazed or impressed by how much of our folk history is influenced by drug from nature — natural products — used in cultural or medical rituals...


"An aside: Legendary pharmacologist, Dr Susan Band Horwitz, reminded me that the same passage from Macbeth quoted above also contains a reference to the source of one of our most useful natural product anticancer drugs, Taxol / paclitaxel.  In 1979, Horwitz and her then-doctoral student, Peter B Schiff, and Jane Fant, published in Nature the seminal report demonstrating that taxol acts by promoting microtubule polymerization to the point that tumor cells cannot coordinate chromosomal segregation. It works this way in everyone, not just witches."  


Author David J Kroll, PhD, is a biomedical educator & pharmacologist.

Post Script:  Why a broom?


Part of the connection may have to do with brooms' place in early folklore rituals. Some theorize that as a tool, the broom is seen to balance both "masculine energies (the phallic handle) & female energies (the bristles)"—which explains why it was often used, symbolically, in marriage ceremonies. Over the years, a common answer to the question of why witches flew on broomsticks was relatively straightforward, if a bit broad. The broom was a symbol of female domesticity, yet the broom was also phallic, so riding on one was a symbol of female sexuality, thus femininity &; domesticity gone wild. Scary for any patriarch! 


Early Celtic folklore associated the broom with fairies, possibly because of it's relation to the wood & a common belief in forest sprites. Some stories tell of a Witch entering a forest & asking the fairies to lead her way to the perfect tree, where she can collect a staff for a broom. The idea is to enlist the help of the magical folk to ensure the enchantment of the broom once it has been fashioned.


As religion spread through early Europe, the broom stick was an important fixture in homes. The major way to keep a home clean was to sweep out the old.  This concept is referred to in the Bible.  In Isaiah 14:23 (KJV translation) "I will sweep it with the besom (a type of broom) of destruction, saith the LORD of hosts."  In Luke 15:8 "The Parable of the Lost Coin": "Or suppose a woman has ten silver coins & loses one. Does she not light a lamp, sweep the house & search carefully until she finds it?"


Reginald Scot's book, The Discoverie of Witchcraft, published in 1584, described brooms in witches festivals:  "At these magical assemblies, the witches never failed to dance; & in their dance they sing these words, 'Har, har, divell divell, dance here dance here, plaie here plaie here, Sabbath, Sabbath.' And whiles they sing & dance, ever one hath a broom in her hand, & holdeth it up aloft."