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 - A brief history of Halloween's Celtic & religious origins

More than 2,000 years ago the Celtic people believed summer came to an end on October 31st, so in anticipation of the end of "the season of life" & the beginning of "the season of death," Celts would celebrate Samhain or Samain (pronounced "sah-win") or "Summer's End." In the 19C, one academic explained, "The Samhain feast...was, like the Greek Apaturia, partly devoted to business...other wise the feast, which occupied, not only Samain or the first of November, but also the three days before and the three days after it."The festival segment of Samhain focused on the harvest & death of crops & the approaching season of cold & darkness, to symbolize the the transition from life to death. The Celts thought the veil between this world & the next was thinnest during Samhain & that spirits & fairies could more easily move between the two realms. Some might pass from the living to the dead, and some dead ancestors might come to visit during this time. The Celtic celebration of Samhain was the New Year’s Day on the Celtic calendar.
In ancient times the festival was said to be celebrated with a great assembly at the royal court in Tara, the archaic hill fort and bastion of the Irish kings. The festival began after a ritual fire was set ablaze on the Hill of Tlachtga. This bonfire served as a beacon, signaling to people gathered atop hills all across Ireland to light their ritual bonfires. This ritual was called the Féile na Marbh in old Irish, meaning the 'festival of the dead' took place on the night of Samhain, or “Oíche Shamhna” and and was said to fall on the 31st of October. The word 'bonfire' itself is a direct translation of the Gaelic tine cnámh or Bone Fire, because villagers were said to have cast the bones of the slaughtered livestock upon the flames. October was the traditional time for slaughter - for preparing stores of meat and grain to last through the coming winter. With the bonfire ablaze, the villagers extinguished all other fires and then each family then solemnly lit its hearth from the local common flame, thus bonding the families of the village together with the symbolic bones of their ancestors. English travelers of the 19C are said to have witnessed this ritual.
In some homes, a door would be opened to the west & a beloved dead relative would be specifically invited to attend the celebration. Villagers might leave a candle or other light burning in a western window to guide the dead home.On Samhain Eve, the Celts lit their bonfires & laid out harvest gifts for the souls traveling through the corporeal plane on their way to the next realm. Families would leave food & wine on their doorstep to aid the souls passing over & to keep the pesky ghosts at bay. Many wore costumes when leaving the house hoping to be mistaken for ghosts themselves. The Celts believed dressing up both honored the good spirits & helped avoid the bad ones.
Ancient Celtic legends supported this concept of transition from life to death. In one, Nero, while begging from door-to-door on Samhain, discovered a cave leading directly into the fairy realm. In another, gods called Fomorians demanded tribute from Celtic mortals, who offered harvest fruits to these gods at Samhain. This story reinforced the Celtic tradition of setting out harvest gifts for souls crossing over & for the ghosts gathered near at Summer's End.Sometime in the 8C, Pope Gregory IV changed the date originally set for All Saints' Day to the same day as Samhain, essentially merging the traditions connected to those holidays & making the church more attractive to non-believers. The Catholic Church established November 1st as All Saints Day (also known as All Hallows) & November 2 as All Souls Day.
A traditional Irish Halloween carved turnip jack-o-lantern

Incorporating the existing Celtic custom of going door-to-door on Samhain, the church encouraged a practice called "souling." The practice of dressing up in costumes & begging door to door for treats on holidays goes back to the Middle Ages. Trick-or-treating resembles the late medieval practice of “souling,” when poor folk would go door to door on Hallowmas (November 1), receiving food in return for prayers for the dead on All Souls Day (November 2). It originated in Ireland & Britain, although similar practices for the souls of the dead were found as far south as Italy.Shakespeare mentions the practice in his comedy The Two Gentlemen of Verona (1593), when Speed accuses his master of “puling [whimpering, whining], like a beggar at Hallowmas.”In 19C England, one writer reported, "The custom of "souling"...is carried on with great zeal in this neighbourhood." Another wrote of "children who are singing their "Souling Song" under my window." One noted, "Soul-cakes...to give away to the souling-children."
James Elder Christie (British artist, 1847-1914) Halloween Frolics

The traditions of "guising," & "mumming" grew into an event where masked individuals would go door-to-door disguised as spirits dancing & singing in exchange for food & wine. A 19C Scottish song noted, "In a guizing excursion, he sung some verses." The custom of mumming was first written about in the 1400s in English. In 1546, it was noted, "The disguising and muming that is vsed in Christemas tyme." By 1801, one sports writer explained, "A sport common among the ancients...consisted in mummings and disguisements." (The Danish word mumme meant to parade in masks. The term guising was first used in written English in 1563.)In order to see as they paraded at night, Irish participants would carve faces into turnips & potatoes to light as lanterns, as they passed from house to house, & to set outside their doorways to light dark steps & to scare away evil spirits.