The Witch-Cult in Western Europe, by Margaret Alice Murray, , at sacred-texts.com
THE exact order of the ceremonies is never given and probably varied in different localities, but the general rule of the ritual at the Sabbath seems to have been that proceedings began by the worshippers paying homage to the Devil, who sat or stood in a convenient place. The homage consisted in renewing the vows of fidelity and obedience, in kissing the Devil on any part of his person that he chose to indicate, and sometimes in turning a certain number of times widdershins. Then followed the reports of all magic worked since the previous Sabbath, either by individuals or at the Esbats, and at the same time the witches consulted the Master as to their cases and received instructions from him how to proceed; after which came admissions to the society or marriages of the members. This ended the business part of the meeting. Immediately after all the business was transacted, the religious service was celebrated, the ceremonial of which varied according to the season of the year; and it was followed by the 'obscene' fertility rites. The whole ceremony ended with feasting and dancing, and the assembly broke up at dawn.
This was apparently the usual course of the ritual of the Sabbath; the Esbat had less ceremonial, and the religious service was not performed. The Devil himself often went round and collected the congregation; and, not being in his 'grand arroy', he appeared as a man in ordinary dress. Instead of the religious service with the adoration of the god, the witches worked the spells and charms with which they bewitched or unbewitched their enemies and friends, or they exercised new methods which they learnt from their Master, or received instructions how to practise the arts of healing and secret poisoning, of causing and blasting fertility.
There are a few general accounts of the usual course of the Sabbath ritual. Danaeus (1575) does not distinguish clearly between the two classes of meetings, but at the same time he seems to have realized that a certain order was followed:
'Satan calleth them togither into a Diuelish Sinagoge, and that he may also vnderstand of them howe well and diligently they haue fulfilled their office of intoxicating committed vnto them, and whõ they haue slaine wherefore they meete togither in certen apointed places . . . Whe[n] they meete together he appeareth visibly vnto them in sundrie fourmes, as the head and chiefe of that congregation. . . . Then doe they all repeate the othe which they haue geuen vnto him, in acknowledging him to be their God, the[n] fal they to dauncing . . . Whiche beeing all finished, then he demaundeth agayne of them what they woulde require of him. . . . Vnto some he geueth poysons ready made, and others he teacheth howe to make and mingle new. . . . Finally, if in any thing they neede his presence and helpe, by couenant he promiseth to be present with them.'
Boguet (1589) is more exact, as he obtained his knowledge at first hand:
'Les Sorciers estans assemblez en leur Synagogue adorent premierement Satan . . . ils luy offrent des chandelles, & le baisent aux parties honteuses de derriere. Quelquefois encor il tient vne image noire, qu'il faut baiser aux Sorciers. . . . Les Sorciers en second lieu dansent. . . . Les danses finies, les Sorciers viennent à s'accoupler. . . . Les Sorciers, apres s'estre veautrez parmy les plaisirs immondes de la chair, banquettent & se festoient. . . . Les Sorciers rendent conte à Satan de ce qu'ils ont fait dés la derniere assemblée. . . . Il fait renoncer de nouueau à ces miserables, Dieu, Chresme, & Baptesme. Il leur fait rafraischir le serment solennel qu'ils ont fait.'
The English account is put together from foreign sources to a great extent:
'They are carryed out of the house, either by the Window, Door, or Chimney, mounted on their Imps. . . . Thus brought to the designed place, they find a great number of others arrived there by the same means: who, before Lucifer takes his place in his throne as King, do make their accustomed homage, Adoring, and Proclaiming him their Lord, and rendring him all Honour. This Solemnity being finished, they sit to Table where no delicate meats are wanting. . . . At the sound of many pleasant Instruments the table is taken away, and the pleasant consort invites them to a Ball. . . . At
[1. Danaeus, ch. iv.
2. Boguet, pp. 131-9.]
the last, the lights are put out. The Incubus's in the shape of proper men satisfy the desires of the Witches, and the Succubus's serve for whores to the Wizards. At last before Aurora brings back the day, each one mounts on his spirit, and so returns to his respective dwelling place. . . . Sometimes at their solemn assemblies, the Devil commands, that each tell what wickedness he hath committed. . . . When the assembly is ready to break up, and the Devil to dispatch them, he publisheth this law with a loud voice, Revenge your selves or else you shall dye, then each one kissing the Posteriors of the Devil returns upon their aiery Vehicles to their habitations.'
In some places the witches saluted their Chief by falling on their knees, and also by certain manual gestures; in other places by curtsies and obeisances. In Scotland, France, and Belgium, another rite was also in vogue, that of kissing the Devil on any part of his person that he might direct. At Como and Brescia the witches, 'when they paid reverence to the presiding demon, bent themselves backwards, lifting a foot in the air forwards.'
Remigius, writing of the Lorraine witches in 1589, says:
'Es erzehlte die Beatrix Bayona dass einer unter ihnen allen der Oberster wer, welcher in einer Zell auff einem lichen Stuhl sässe, sehr ernsthafftig und prächtig heraus, zu demselbigen trete je einer nach dem andern, mit Furcht und Zittern, falle ihm zum Zeichen seiner Ehrerbietung für die Füsse, und umbfange ihn mit aller Demuth und Reverentz.--Erstlich fallen sie nieder auff ihre Knie; darnach legen sie die Hände ausswendig zusammen, als diejenigen pflegen zu thun, welche obtestiren, jedoch auff dem Rücken und verkehrter Weise, sie haben den Rücken zu ihm gewandt, bleiben so lang kniend, biss er selbsten zu ihnen sagt, class es genugsam sey.'
In Somerset (1664) the witches always mention the salutation:
'At their first meeting the Man in black bids them welcome, and they all make low obeysance to him.--[Elizabeth Style, Alice Duke, Anne Bishop, Mary Penny] met about nine of the Clock in the Night, in the Common near Trister Gate,
[1. Pleasant Treatise, pp. 5-7.
2. Lea, iii, p. 501.
3. Remigius, pt. i, pp. 89, 91.]
where they met a Man in black Clothes with a little Band, to whom they did Courtesie and due observance.--Mary Green [went with others to] Hussey's Knap in the Forrest in the Night time, where met them the Fiend in the shape of a little Man in black Clothes with a little band, to him all made obeysances. . . . On Thursday Night before Whitsunday last [she met several others] and being met they called out Robin. Upon which instantly appeared a little Man in black Clothes to whom all made obeysance, and the little Man put his hand to his Hat, saying, How do ye? speaking low but big. Then all made low obeysances to him again.'
As late as the eighteenth century there is a similar account.
Danaeus (1575) and Cooper (1617) are the only writers who mention the kiss in their general accounts of the ceremonies. The former says: 'Then biddeth lie the[m] that they fall down & worship him, after what matter and gesture of body he pleaseth, and best liketh of. Thus some of them falle downe at his knees, some offre vnto him black burning cãdles, other kisse him in some part of his body where he appeareth visibly.' Cooper mentions it as part of the admission ceremony: 'Secondly, when this acknowledgement is made, in testimoniall of this subiection, Satan offers his back-parts to be kissed of his vassall.'
The ceremony is one of the earliest of which there is any record. In 1303 a Bishop of Coventry was accused at Rome of a number of crimes, amongst others 'quod diabolo homagium fecerat, et eum fuerit osculatus in tergo'. Guillaume Edeline was tried in 1453; he was 'docteur en théologie, prieur de S. Germain en Laye, et auparavant Augustin, et religieux de certaines aultres ordres. Confessa ledit sire Guillaume, de sa bonne et franche voulenté, avoir fait hommage audit ennemy en l'espèce et semblance d'ung mouton, en le baisant par le fondement en signe de révérence et d'hommage.' Martin Tulouff, tried in Guernsey in 1563, went to a meeting, 'ou ly avoet chinq ou vi chatz, d'ou il y en avoet ung qui estoit noir, qui menoit la dance, et dt q il estoit sur ses pieds plat, et que ladite Collennette le besa p de derriere, et luy p la crysse.
[1. Glanvil, pt. ii, pp. 137, 139, 163, 164.
2. W. G. Stewart, p. 175.
3. Danaeus, ch. ii.
4. Cooper, p. 90.
5. Rymer, i, p. 956.
6. Chartier, iii, p. 45.]
Et luy dist ladite vieillesse q ledit chat estoit le diable.' Estebène de Cambrue, in 1567, described the ceremonies at the Sabbath: 'Ils se mettent à dancer à l'entour d'une pierre, sur laquelle est assis vn grand homme noir, qu'elles appellent Mõsieur, & chacun de l'assemblee luy va baiser le derriere.' The witches of Poictiers in 1574 'dansoyent à l'entour du bouc: puis vn chacun luy baisoit le derriere'. The same ceremony took place at North Berwick in 1590: 'Now efter that the deuell had endit his admonitions, he cam down out of the pulpit, and caused all the company to com and kiss his ers, quhilk they said was cauld lyk yce.' Jane Bosdeau confessed that at meetings at Puy-de-Dôme in 1594 'all the Witches had Candles which they lighted at his, and danced in a Circle Back to Back. They kiss'd his Backside, and pray'd that he would help them.' Andro Man of Aberdeen in 1597 confessed 'that all thay quha convenis with thame kissis Christsonday and the Quene of Elphenis airss'. Rolande de Vernois in 1598 'confessa que le Diable se presenta pour lors au Sabbat en forme d'vn gros chat noir. Que tous ceux, qui estoient au Sabbat, alloient baiser ce gros chat noir au derriere.' Cornélie van Beverwyck, aged 75, at Ghent in 1598, was accused that 'vous n'avez pas craint de vous agenouiller devant lui, de lui rendre hommage et de baiser son derriere en signe de soumission'. Claire Goessen in 1603 went to 'l'assemblée nocturne de Lembeke, où, après la danse, elle a, comme tous les assistans, baisé un bouc à l'endroit de sa queue'. Jeannette d'Abadie in 1609 in the Basses-Pyrénées said, regarding the renunciation which she made on admission, 'il luy faisoit renouueller toutes les fois qu'elle alloit au sabbat, puis elle l'alloit baiser au derriere.' At the celebrated trial of Louis Gaufredy at Aix in 1610, Magdalene de Demandouls gave a detailed account of the homage rendered by the witches:
[1. From a trial in the Guernsey Greffe.
2. De Lancre, Tableau, p. 123.
3. Bodin, p. 187.
4. Melville, p. 396; see also Pitcairn, i, pt. ii, pp. 210-12, 239, 246.
5. F. Hutchinson, p. 43.
6. Spalding Club Misc., i, pp. 121, 125.
7. Boguet, p. 411.
8. Cannaert, p. 46.
9. Id., p. 50.
10. De Lancre, Tableau, p. 131.]
'First the hagges and witches, who are people of a sordid and base condition, are the first that come to adore the Prince of the Synagogue, who is Lucifers lieftenant, and he that now holdeth that place is Lewes Gaufridy: then they adore the Princesse of the Synagogue who is a woman placed at his right hand. Next they goe and worship the Diuell who is seated in a Throne like a Prince. In the second place come the Sorcerers and Sorceresses, who are people of a middle condition, and these performe the same kind of adoration with the former, kneeling vpon the ground, but not prostrating themselves as doe the other; although they kisse the hands and feet of the Diuell as the first likewise doe. In the third place come the Magicians who are Gentlemen and people of a higher ranke.'
Isobel Gowdie of Auldearne in 1662 said, 'Somtym he vold be lyk a stirk, a bull, a deir, a rae, or a dowg, and he vold hold wp his taill wntill we wold kiss his arce.' The explanation of this rite is given in the French authorities:
'Le Diable estoit en forme de bouc, ayant vne queue, & au dessoubs vn visage d'homme noir, où elle fut contrainte le baiser.--[Elle] depose, Que la premiere fois qu'elle luy fut presentee elle le baisa à ce visage de derriere au dessoubs d'vne grande queuë: qu'elle l'y a baisé par trois fois, & qu'il auoit aussi ce visage faict comme le museau d'vn bouc.--Il a vne grande queuë au derriere, & vne forme de visage au dessoubs: duquel visage il ne profere aucune parole, ains luy sert pour le donner à baiser à ceux qui bon luy semble.--Es festes solemnelles on baisoit le Diable au derriere, mais les notables sorcieres le baisoient au visage.' The two faces are thus distinctly vouched for, and the use of them seems to have been to distinguish the position of the witch in the society. The mask or disguise is clearly indicated in the evidence of Isaac de Queyron, who with others 'le baiserent á vne fesse qui estoit blanche & rouge, & auoit la forme d'vne grande cuisse d'vn homme, & estoit velue'.
The Devil was also kissed on other parts of his person. Marion Grant of the Aberdeen witches (1597) confessed that he 'causit the kis him in dyvers pairtis, and worship him on thy kneis as thy lord'. Some of the Lyons witches 'le baiserent aux parties honteuses de derriere: les autres le
[1. Michaelis, Historie, pp. 334-5.
2. Pitcairn, iii, p. 613.
3. De Lancre, Tableau, pp. 68, 126, 128.
4. Id. ib., p. 148.
5. Spalding Club Misc., i, p. 171.]
baisent sur l'espaule.' Jeannette d'Abadie in the Basses-Pyrénées (1609) confessed 'que le Diable luy faisoit baiser son visage, puis le nombril, puis le membre viril, puis son derriere'. In connexion with this last statement, it is worth comparing Doughty's account of an Arab custom: 'There is a strange custom, (not only of nomad women, but in the Arabic countries even among Christians, which may seem to remain of the old idolatry among them,) of mothers, their gossips, and even young maidens, visiting married women to kiss with a kind of devotion the hammam of the male children.'
Dances as an important part of fertility rites are too well known to need description. The witches' dances, taken in conjunction with the dates of the four great Sabbaths of the year, point to the fact that they also were intended to promote fertility. There were several forms of ritual dances, varying apparently according to the form of fertility required, whether of crops, animals, or human beings. The jumping dance seems to have had for its object the growth of the crops; the higher the performers jumped the higher the crops would grow. The so-called 'obscene' or 'indecent' dance was for the promotion of fertility among animals and women. When the dancers were disguised as animals, the dance was for the increase of the animals represented; when undisguised, for the fertility of human beings.
Although the dances took place at English witch meetings, they are merely mentioned and not described. The Scotch trials give rather fuller accounts, but the chief details are from France.
The two principal forms of the dance were the ring-dance and the follow-my-leader dance, but there was also a very complicated form which was not understood by the Inquisitors, who therefore dismiss it with the words 'tout est en confusion'. It still survives, however, in the Basses-Pyrénées, in some of the very villages which were inhabited by witches in the
[1. Boguet, p. 131.
2. De Lancre, Tableau, pp. 721 131
3. Doughty, Travels in Arabia Deserta, i, 89.]
sixteenth century--those witches whose proceedings de Lancre describes so vividly.
The ring dances were usually round some object; sometimes a stone, sometimes the Devil stood or was enthroned in the middle. Thomas Leyis, with a great number of other witches, 'came to the Market and Fish Cross of Aberdeen, under the conduct and guiding of the Devil present with you, all in company, playing before you on his kind of instruments: Ye all danced about both the said crosses, and the meal market, a long space of time; in the which Devil's dance, thou the said Thomas was foremost and led the ring, and dang the said Kathren Mitchell, because she spoiled your dance, and ran not so fast about as the rest. Testified by the said Kathrein Mitchell, who was present with thee at the time forsaid dancing with the Devil.' Margaret Og was indicted for going to Craigleauch 'on Hallow even last, and there, accompanied by thy own two daughters, and certain others, your devilish adherents and companions, ye danced all together, about a great stone, under the conduct of Satan, your master, a long space'. Jonet Lucas was accused of 'danceing in ane ring' on the same occasion. Beatrice Robbie was 'indited as a notorious witch, in coming, under the conduct of the Devil thy master, with certain others, thy devilish adherents, to Craigleauche, and there dancing altogether about a great stone, a long space, and the Devil your master playing before you'. In the Basses-Pyrénées, 'Ils se mettent à dancer à l'entour d'une pierre, qui est plantée audit lieu, sur laquelle est assis un grand homme noir.' Jane Bosdeau, who 'confessed freely and without Torture and continued constant in it in the midst of the Flames in which she was burnt', said that she had been to a witch-meeting, 'and danced in a circle back to back'.
'Les Sorciers dansent, & font leurs danses en rond, doz contre doz. Les boiteux y vont plus dispostement que les
[1. Moret, Mystères, Égytiens, pp. 247 seq.
2. Spalding Club Misc., i, pp. 97-8. Spelling modernized.
3. lb., i, p. 144. Spelling modernized.
4. Ib., p. 149.
5. lb., p. 153. Spelling modernized.
6. De Lancre, Tableau, p. 123.
7. F. Hutchinson, Historical Essay, p. 43.]
autres [et] incitoient les autres à sauter & danser. . . . Quelquefois, mais rarement, ils dansent deux à deux, & par fois l'vn çà & l'autre là, & tousiours en confusion: estans telles danses semblables à celles des Fées, vrais Diables incorporez, qui regnoient il n'y a pas lõg temps.' 'On y dance tousiours le dos tourné au centre de la dance, qui faict que les filles sont si accoutumées à porter les mains en arriere en cette dãce ronde, qu'elles y trainent tout le corps, & luy donnent vn ply courbé en arriere, ayant les bras à demy tournez: si bien que la plupart ont le ventre communement grand, enfIé & avancé, & vn peu penchant sur le deuant. On y dance fort peu souuent vn à vn, c'est à dire vn homme seul auec vne femme ou fille. . . . On n'y dançoit que trois sortes de bransles, communement se tournant les espaules l'vn à l'autre, & le dos d'vn chascun visant dans le rond de la dance, & le visage en dehors. La premiere c'est à la Bohemienne . . . La seconde c'est à sauts; ces deux sont en rond.' 'Ils apperceurent à l'entrée [d'vn bois], vn rond, ou cerne, dans lequel il y auoit plusieurs vestiges de pieds d'hom[m]es, d'e[n]fans, & d'Ours, ou bien d'autres bestes semblables, lesquels estoient seulement enfoncez d'vn demy doigt dans la neige, quoy que pour eux ils y entrassent iusques à la ceinture.'
The Swedish witches danced in the same manner. I We used to go to a gravel pit which lay hard by a cross-way, and there we put on a garment over our heads, and then danced round.'' The round dance was so essentially a witch dance that More says, 'It might be here very seasonable to enquire into the nature of those large dark Rings in the grass, which they call Fairy Circles, whether they be the Rendezvouz of Witches, or the dancing places of those little Puppet Spirits which they call Elves or Fairies.'
It will be seen from the above quotations that there were many varieties in the ring dance; this was the case also in the follow-my-leader dance. There seems to have been also a combination of the two dances; or perhaps it would be more correct to say that sometimes the ring and follow-my-leader figures were used together so as to form one complete dance,
[1. Compare the account of the Forfar witch-dance. Kinloch, p. 120.
2. Boguet, pp. 131-2.
3. De Lancre, Tableau, p. 210.
4. Compare the dittay against Bessie Thom, who danced round the Fish Cross of Aberdeen with other witches 'in the lyknes of kattis and haris'. Spalding Club Misc., i, 167.
5. Boguet, p. 127.
6. Horneck, pt. ii, p. 316.
7. More, p. 232.]
as in the modern Lancers. In both forms of the dance one of the chief members of the society was the 'ring-leader', or leader of the dance. In the follow-my-leader dance this was often the Devil, but in the ring dances this place was usually taken by the second in command. When, however, the Devil was the leader, the second-in-command was in the rear to keep up those who could not move so quickly as the others. As pace was apparently of importance, and as it seems to have been a punishable offence to lag behind in the dance, this is possibly the origin of the expression 'The Devil take the hindmost'.
At North Berwick Barbara Napier met her comrades at the church, 'where she danced endlong the Kirk yard, and Gelie Duncan played on a trump, John Fian, missellit, led the ring; Agnes Sampson and her daughters and all the rest following the said Barbara, to the number of seven score of persons." Isobel Gowdie was unfortunately not encouraged to describe the dances in which she had taken part, so that our information, instead of being full and precise, is very meagre. 'Jean Martein is Maiden to the Coven that I am of; and her nickname is "Over the dyke with it", because the Devil always takes the Maiden in his hand next him, when we dance Gillatrypes; and when he would loup from [words broken here] he and she will say, "Over the dyke with it."' Another Scotch example is Mr. Gideon Penman, who had been minister at Crighton. He usually 'was in the rear in all their dances, and beat up all those that were slow'." Barton's wife 'one night going to a dancing upon Pentland Hills, he [the Devil] went before us in the likeness of a rough tanny Dog, playing on a pair of Pipes'. De Lancre concludes his description of the dances (see above, p. 13 1) by an account of an ' endlong' dance. 'La troisieme est aussi le dos tourné, mais se tenant tous en long, & sans se deprendre des mains, ils s'approchent de si près qu'ils se touchent, & se rencontrent dos à dos, vn homme auec vne femme; & à certaine cadance ils se choquent & frapent impudemment cul contre cul.' It was perhaps this
[1. Pitcairn, i, pt. ii, pp. 245-6. Spelling modernized.
2. Id., iii, p. 606. Spelling modernized.
3. Fountainhall, i, p. 14.
4. Sinclair, p. 163.
5. De Lancre, Tableau, p. 210.]
dance which the Devil led: 'Le Diable voit parfois dancer simplement comme spectateur; parfois il mene la dance, changeant souuent de main & se mettant à la main de celles qui luy plaisent le plus.' In Northumberland in 1673 'their particular divell tooke them that did most evill, and danced with them first.--The devill, in the forme of a little black man and black cloaths, called of one Isabell Thompson, of Slealy, widdow, by name, and required of her what service she had done him. She replyd she had gott power of the body of one Margarett Teasdale. And after he had danced with her he dismissed her, and call'd of one Thomasine, wife of Edward Watson, of Slealy." Danaeus also notes that the Devil was the leader: 'The[n] fal they to dauncing, wherin he leadeth the daunce, or els they hoppe and daunce merely about him.' This is perhaps what de Lancre means when he says that 'apres la dance ils se mettent par fois à sauter'. A curious variation of the follow-my-leader dance was practised at Aberdeen on Rood Day, a date which as I have shown elsewhere corresponds with the Walpurgis-Nacht of the German witches. The meeting took place upon St. Katherine's Hill, 'and there under the conduct of Satan, present with you, playing before you, after his form, ye all danced a devilish dance, riding on trees, by a long space.'
Other variations are also given. 'The dance is strange, and wonderful, as well as diabolical, for turning themselves back to back, they take one another by the arms and raise each other from the ground, then shake their heads to and fro like Anticks, and turn themselves as if they were mad.' Reginald Scot, quoting Bodin, says: 'At these magicall assemblies, the witches neuer faile to danse; and in their danse they sing these words, Har bar, divell divell, danse here danse here, plaie here plaie here, Sabbath sabbath. And whiles they sing and
[1. De Lancre, Tableau, p. 212.
2. Surtees Soc., xl, pp. 195, 197.
3. Danaeus, ch. iv.
4. De Lancre, op. cit., p. 211.
5. Spalding Club Misc., i, pp. 165, 167. Spelling modernized. The account of the Arab witches should be compared with this. 'In the time of Ibn Munkidh the witches rode about naked on a stick between the graves of the cemetery of Shaizar.' Wellhausen, p. 159.
6. Pleasant Treatise of Witches, p. 6.]
danse, euerie one hath a broome in hir hand, and holdeth it vp aloft. Item he saith, that these night-walking or rather night-dansing witches, brought out of Italie into France, that danse which is called La Volta.' There is also a description of one of the dances of the Italian witches: 'At Como and Brescia a number of children from eight to twelve years of age, who had frequented the Sabbat, and had been re-converted by the inquisitors, gave exhibitions in which their skill showed that they had not been taught by human art. The woman was held behind her partner and they danced backward, and when they paid reverence to the presiding demon they bent themselves backwards, lifting a foot in the air forwards.'
In Lorraine the round dance always moved to the left. As the dancers faced outwards, this would mean that they moved 'widdershins', i.e. against the sun. 'Ferner, class sie ihre Täntze in einem ronden Kreiss rings umbher führen, und die Rücke zusammen gekehret haben, wie eine unter den dreyen Gratiis pfleget fürgerissen zu werden, und also zusammen tanzen. Sybilla Morelia sagt, dass der Reyhen allezeit auff der lincken Hand umbher gehe.'
One form of the witches' dance seems to survive among the children in the Walloon districts of Belgium. It appears to be a mixture of the ordinary round dance and the third of de Lancre's dances; for it has no central personage, and the striking of back against back is a marked feature. 'Les enfants font une ronde et répètent un couplet. Chaque fois, un joueur désigné fait demi-tour sur place et se remet à tourner avec les autres en faisant face à l'extérieur du cercle. Quand tous les joueurs sont retournés, ils se rapprochent et se heurtent le dos en cadence.'
The music at the assemblies was of all kinds, both instrumental and vocal. The English trials hardly mention music, possibly because the Sabbath had fallen into a decadent condition; but the Scotch and French trials prove that it was an integral part of the celebration. The Devil himself was the
[1. Reg. Scot, Bk. iii, p. 42. La volta is said to be the origin of the waltz.
2. Lea, iii, p. 501.
3. Remigius, p. 82.
4. E. Monseur, p. 102.]
usual performer, but other members of the society could also supply the music, and occasionally one person held the position of piper to the Devil. The music was always as an accompaniment of the dance; the instrument in general use was a pipe, varied in England by a cittern, in Scotland by I the trump' or Jew's harp, also an instrument played with the mouth.
The Somerset witches said that 'the Man in black sometimes playes on a Pipe or Cittern, and the company dance'.'
The North Berwick witches (1590), when at the special meeting called to compass the death of the king, 'danced along the Kirk-yeard, Geilis Duncan playing on a Trump.' The instrument of the Aberdeen Devil (1597), though not specified, was probably a pipe; it is usually called 'his forme of instrument' in the dittays. Isobel Cockie of Aberdeen was accused of being at a Sabbath on All-hallow Eve: 'Thou wast the ringleader, next Thomas Leyis; and because the Devil played not so melodiously and well as thou crewit, thou took his instrument out of his mouth, then took him on the chaps therewith, and played thyself thereon to the whole company.' At another meeting, Jonet Lucas was present: 'Thou and they was under the conduct of thy master, the Devil, dancing in ane ring, and he playing melodiously upon ane instrument, albeit invisibly to you.' At Tranent (1659) eight women and a man named John Douglas confessed to 'having merry meetings with Satan, enlivened with music and dancing. Douglas was the pyper, and the two favourite airs of his majesty were "Kilt thy coat, Maggie, and come thy way with me", and "Hulie the bed will fa'."' Agnes Spark at Forfar (1661) 'did see about a dozen of people dancing, and they had sweet music amongst them, and, as she thought, it was the music of a pipe'. Barton's wife was at a meeting in the Pentland Hills, where the Devil 'went before us in the likeness of a rough tanny Dog, playing on a pair of Pipes. The
[1. Glanvil, pt. ii, p. 141.
2. Pitcairn, i, pt. ii, pp. 239, 246.
3. Spalding Club Misc., i, pp. 114-15. Spelling modernized.
4. Id., i, p. 149. Spelling modernized.
5. Spottiswoode Miscellany, ii, p. 68.
6. Kinloch, p. 129. Spelling modernized.]
Spring he played (says she) was, 'The silly bit Chiken, gar cast it a pickle and it will grow meikle.' At Crook of Devon (1662) the two old witches, Margaret Huggon and Janet Paton, confessed to being at a meeting, and 'the foresaids hail women was there likeways and did all dance and ane piper play'.
In France the instruments were more varied. Marie d'Aspilcouette, aged nineteen, 'voyoit dancer auec violons, trompettes, ou tabourins, qui rendoyent vne tres grande harmonie'. Isaac de Queyran, aged twenty-five, said that a minor devil (diabloton) played on a tambourine, while the witches danced. But as usual de Lancre is at his best when making a general summary:
'Elles dancent au son du petit tabourin & de la fluste, & par fois auec ce long instrument qu'ils posent sur le col, puis s'allongeant iusqu'auprés de la ceinture; ils le battent auec vn petit baston: par fois auec vn violon. Mais ce ne sont les seuls instrumès du sabbat, car nous auõs apprins de plusieurs, qu'on y oyt toute sorte d'instrumens, auec vne telle harmonie, qu'il n'y a concert au monde qui le puisse esgaler.'
Vocal music was also heard at the meetings, sometimes as an accompaniment of the dance, sometimes as an entertainment in itself. When it was sung as a part of the dance, the words were usually addressed to the Master, and took the form of a hymn of praise. Such a hymn addressed to the god of fertility would be full of allusions and words to shock the sensibilities of the Christian priests and ministers who sat in judgement on the witches. Danaeus gives a general account of these scenes: 'Then fal they to dauncing, wherin he leadeth the daunce, or els they hoppe and daunce merely about him, singing most filthy songes made in his prayse.' Sinclair had his account from a clergyman: 'a reverend Minister told me, that one who was the Devils Piper, a wizzard confest to him, that at a Ball of dancing, the Foul Spirit taught him a Baudy song to sing and play, as it were this night, and ere two days past all the Lads and Lasses of the town were lilting it throw
[1. Sinclair, p. 163.
2. Burns Begg, pp. 234, 235.
3. De Lancre, Tableau, p. 127.
4. Id. ib., p. 150.
5. Id. ib., p. 211.
6. Danaeus, ch. iv.]
the street. It were abomination to rehearse it.' At Forfar Helen Guthrie told the court that Andrew Watson 'made great merriment by singing his old ballads, and Isobell Shirrie did sing her song called 'Tinkletum Tankletum'. Occasionally the Devil himself was the performer, as at Innerkip, where according to Marie Lamont 'he sung to us and we all dancit'. Boguet notes that the music was sometimes vocal and sometimes instrumental: 'Les haubois ne manquent pas à ces esbats: car il y en a qui sont commis à faire le devoir de menestrier; Satan y iouë mesme de la flutte le plus souuent; & à d'autrefois les Sorciers se contentent de chanter à la voix, disant toutefois leurs chansons pesle-mesle, & auec vne confusion telle, qu'ils ne s'entendent pas les vns les autres.' At Aix in 1610 'the Magicians and those that can reade, sing certaine Psalmes as they doe in the Church, especially Laudate Dominum de Coelis: Confitemini domino quoniam bonus, and the Canticle Benedicte, transferring all to the praise of Lucifer and the Diuels: And the Hagges and Sorcerers doe houle and vary their hellish cries high and low counterfeiting a kinde of villanous musicke. They also daunce at the sound of Viols and other instruments, which are brought thither by those that were skild to play vpon them. At another French trial in 1652 the evidence showed that 'on dansait sans musique, aux chansons'.
The feast, like the rest of the ritual, varied in detail in different places. It took place either indoors or out according to the climate and the season; in Southern France almost invariably in the open air, in Scotland and Sweden almost always under cover; in England sometimes one, sometimes the other. Where it was usual to have it in the open, tables were carried out and the food laid upon them; indoor feasts were always spread on tables; but in the English accounts of the open-air meal the cloth was spread, picnic-fashion, on the ground. The food was supplied in different ways; sometimes
[1. Sinclair, p. 219.
2. Kinloch, p. 120.
3. Sharpe, p. 131.
4. Boguet, p. 132.
5. Michaelis, Hist., p. 336.
6. Van Elven, v (1891), p. 215.]
entirely by the devil, sometimes entirely by one member of the community, and sometimes-picnic-fashion again-all the company brought their own provisions. Consequently the quality of the food varied considerably; on some occasions it was very good, on others very homely. But no matter who provided it, the thanks of the feasters were solemnly and reverently given to the Master, to whose power the production of all food was due.
In a certain number of cases it is said that the food eaten at the feasts was of an unsatisfying nature. This statement is usually made in the general descriptions given by contemporary writers; it is rarely found in the personal confessions. When it does so occur, it is worth noting that the witch is generally a young girl. If this were always the case, it would be quite possible that then, as now, dancing and excitement had a great effect on the appetite, and that the ordinary amount of food would appear insufficient.
The taboo on salt is interesting, but it does not appear to have been by any means universal. It does not seem to occur at all in Great Britain, where the food at the feasts was quite normal.
Some authorities appear to think that the witches ate the best of everything. 'They sit to Table where no delicate meats are wanting to gratifie their Appetites, all dainties being brought in the twinckling of an Eye, by those spirits that attend the Assembly'. Though this is dramatically expressed it is confirmed by the statements of the witches themselves. The Lancashire witches had a great feast when they met in Malking Tower to consult as to the rescue of Mother Demdike.
' The persons aforesaid had to their dinners Beefe, Bacon, and roasted Mutton; which Mutton (as this Examinates said brother said) was of a Wether of Christopher Swyers of Barley: which Wether was brought in the night before into this Examinates mothers house by the said lames Deuice, this Examinates said brother: and in this Examinates sight killed and eaten. . . . And before their said parting away, they all appointed to meete at the said Prestons wiues house that day twelue-moneths; at which time the said Prestons wife promised to make them a great Feast.'
[1. Pleasant Treatise of Witches, p. 5.
2. Potts, G 3, 13, P 3.]
The feast of the Faversham witches was also indoors. 'Joan Cariden confessed that Goodwife Hott told her within these two daies that there was a great meeting at Goodwife Panterys house, and that Goodwife Dodson was there, and that Goodwife Gardner should have been there, but did not come, and the Divell sat at the upper end of the Table.' This was always the Devil's place at the feast, and beside him sat the chief of the women witches. The Somerset trials give more detail than any of the other English cases. Elizabeth Style said that 'at their meeting they have usually Wine or good Beer, Cakes, Meat or the like. They eat and drink really when they meet in their bodies, dance also and have Musick. The Man in black sits at the higher end, and Anne Bishop usually next him. He useth some words before meat, and none after, his voice is audible, but very low.' She enters into a little more detail in another place: 'They had Wine, Cakes, and Roastmeat (all brought by the Man in black) which they did eat and drink. They danced and were merry, and were bodily there, and in their Clothes.' Alice Duke gave a similar account: 'All sate down, a white Cloth being spread on the ground, and did drink Wine, and eat Cakes and Meat.' The Scotch trials show that it was usually the witches who entertained the Master and the rest of the band. Alison Peirson, whose adventures among the fairies are very interesting, stated that a man in green 'apperit to hir, ane lustie mane, with mony mene and wemen with him: And that scho sanit her and prayit, and past with thame fordir nor scho could tell; and saw with thame pypeing and mirrynes and gude scheir, and wes careit to Lowtheane, and saw wyne punchounis with tassis with thame'. On another occasion a very considerable meeting took place 'in an old house near Castle Semple, where a splendid feast was prepared, which pleased the royal visitor so much, that he complimented his entertainers for their hospitality, and endearingly addressed them as "his bairns"'. The Forfar witches had many feasts; Helen Guthrie says of one occasion:
[1. Examination of Joan Williford, p. 6.
2. Glanvil, pt. ii, pp. 139-40.
3. Id., p. 138.
4. Id., p. 149.
5. Pitcairn, i, pt. ii, p. 163.
6. Spottiswoode Misc., ii, p. 67.]
They went to Mary Rynd's house and sat doune together at the table, the divell being present at the head of it; and some of them went to Johne Benny's house, he being a brewer, and brought ale from hence . . . and others of them went to Alexander Hieche's and brought aqua vitae from thence, and thus made themselfes mirrie; and the divill made much of them all, but especiallie of Mary Rynd, and he kist them all except the said Helen herselfe, whose hand onlie he kist; and shee and Jonet Stout satt opposite one to another at the table.'
Of the meeting at Muryknowes there are several accounts. The first is by little Jonet Howat, Helen Guthrie's young daughter: 'At this meiting there wer about twenty persones present with the divill, and they daunced togither and eat togither, having bieff, bread, and ale, and shoe did eat and drink with them hir self, bot hir bellie was not filled, and shoe filled the drink to the rest of the company.' Elspet Alexander confirms this statement, 'The divill. and the witches did drinke together having flesh, bread, and aile'; and so also does the Jonet Stout who sat opposite to Helen Guthrie at the table, 'The divill and the said witches did eat and drinke, having flesh, bread, and aile upon ane table, and Joanet Huit was caper and filled the drinke'. On one occasion they tried to wreck the Bridge of Cortaquhie; 'when we had done, Elspet [Bruce] gaive the divell ane goose in hir own house, and he dated hir mor than them all, because shee was ane prettie wornan.' The Kinross-shire witches obtained their food from the Devil, and this is one of the few instances of complaints is to the quality of it. 'Sathan gave you [Robert Wilson] both meat and drink sundry times, but it never did you any good'; and Janet Brugh 'confessed that ye got rough bread and sour drink from Sathan at the Bents of Balruddrie'. According to Marie Lamont, 'the devill. came to Kattrein Scott's house, in the midst of the night. He gave them wyn to drink, and wheat bread to eat, and they warr all very mirrie.' Isobel Gowdie's confession gives a wealth of detail as usual:
'We would go to several houses in the night time. We
[1. Kinloch, p. 121.
2. Id., p. 124.
3. Id., p. 126.
4. Id., p. 127.
5. Id., p. 133. Dated = caressed.
6. Burns Begg, p. 227.
7. Id., p. 238.
8 Sharpe, p. 131.]
were at Candlemas last in Grangehill, where we got meat and drink enough. The Devil sat at the head of the table, and all the Coven about. That night he desired Alexander Elder in Earlseat to say the grace before meat, which he did; and is this: "We eat this meat in the Devil's name " [etc.]. And then we began to eat. And when we had ended eating, we looked steadfastly to the Devil, and bowing ourselves to him, we said to the Devil, We thank thee, our Lord, for this.--We killed an ox, in Burgie, about the dawing of the day, and we brought the ox with us home to Aulderne, and did eat all amongst us in an house in Aulderne, and feasted on it.'
At Borrowstowness the witches went to different houses for their feasts, which seem to have been supplied partly by the hostess, partly by the Devil and the guests.
'Ye and each person of you was at several meetings with the devil in the links of Borrowstowness, and in the house of you Bessie Vickar, and ye did eat and drink with the devil, and with one another, and with witches in her house in the night time; and the devil and the said William Craw brought the ale which ye drank, extending to about seven gallons, from the house of Elizabeth Hamilton.'
In 1692 Goodwife Foster of Salem gave a rather charming description of the picnic feast with the Coven from Andover:
'I enquired what she did for Victuals' [at the meeting]; 'She answered that she carried Bread and Cheese in her pocket, and that she and the Andover Company came to the Village before the Meeting began, and sat down together under a tree, and eat their food, and that she drank water out of a Brook to quench her thirst.'
The Continental evidence varies very little from the British. Except in a few details, the main facts are practically the same. De Lancre summarizes the evidence which he himself collected, and contrasts it with what other authorities said on the subject:
'Les liures disent que les sorciers mangent au Sabbat de ce que le Diable leur a appresté: mais bien souue[n]t il ne s'y
[1. The complete grace is given on p. 167. It will be seen that it is a corrupt version of some ancient form of words.
2. Pitcairn, iii, pp. 612, 613. Spelling modernized.
3. Scots Magazine, 1814, p. 200. Spelling modernized.
4. Burr, p. 418.]
trouue que des viandes qu'ils ont porté eux mesmes. Parfois il y a plusieurs tables seruies de bons viures, & d'autres fois de tres meschans: & à table on se sied selon sa qualité, ayant chacun son Demon assis auprés, & parfois vis à vis. Ils benissent leur table inuoquant Beelzebub, & le tenant pour celui qui leur faict ce bien.'
The young man-witch, Isaac de Queyran, told de Lancre that the witches sat at a table with the Black Man at the end, and had bread and meat which was spread on a cloth. The evidence at the trial of Louis Gaufredy at Aix in 1610 gives other details, though the eating of children's flesh is probably an exaggeration:
'They prouide a banquet, setting three tables according to the three diuersities of the people above named. They that haue the charge of bread, doe bring in bread made of corne. The drink which they haue is Malmsey. The meate they ordinarily eate is the flesh of young children, which they cooke and make ready in the Synagogue, sometimes bringing them thither aliue by stealing them from those houses where they haue opportunity to come. They haue no vse of kniues at table for feare least they should be laid a crosse. They haue also no salt.'
Boguet also collected a considerable amount of information from the witches who fell into his hands:
'Les Sorciers, apres s'estre veautrez parmi les plaisirs immondes de la chair, banquettent & se festoient: leurs banquets estans composez de plusieurs sortes de viandes, selon les lieux, & qualitez des personnes. Par deçà la table estoit couuerte de beurre, de fromage, & de chair. Clauda Ianguillaume, Iaquema Paget, & quelques autres adioustoient qu'iI y auoit vne grande chaudiere sur le feu, dans laquelle chacun alloit prendre de la chair. On y boit aussi du vin, & le plus souuent de 1'eau. . . . Antoine Tornier a confessé qu'elle en auoit beu [le vin] dans vn goubelet de bois; les autrés parloient seulement d'eau. Mais il n'y a iamais sel en ces repas . . . Les Sorciers auant que de prendre leur repas benissent la table, mais auec des parolles remplies de blasphemes, faisans Beelzebub autheur & conseruateur de toutes choses . . . Ils accordent tous, qu'il n'y a point de gout aux viandes qu'ils mangent au Sabbat, & que la chair n'est autre chair que de cheual. Et adioustent en outre, que lors qu'ils sortent de
[1. De Lancre, Tableau, p. 197.
2. Id. ib., p. 148.
3. Michaelis, Historie, pp. 335-6.]
table, ils sont aussi affamez que quand ils entrent. Antide Colas racontoit particulierement que les viandes estoient froides. . . . Toutesfois il faut croire que bien souuent l'on mange au Sabbat à bon escient, & non par fantaisie & imagination.'
The cold food occurs also in the accusation against a Belgian witch, Elizabeth Vlamynx, in 1595: 'Vous-même vous avez apporté aux convives un hochepot [hutsepot] froid, que vous aviez préparé d'avance.'
In Sweden the witches collected the food and sent it to the Devil, who gave them as much of it as he thought fit. The feast was always held indoors in the house known as Blockula.
'In a huge large Room of this House, they said, there stood a very long Table, at which the Witches did sit down. . . . They sate down to Table, and those that the Devil esteemed most, were placed nearest to him, but the Children must stand at the door, where he himself gives them meat and drink. The diet they did use to have there, was, they said, Broth with Colworts and Bacon in it, Oatmeal, Bread spread with Butter, Milk and Cheese. And they added that sometimes it tasted very well, and sometimes very ill.'
At first sight it would seem that the candles were naturally used only to illuminate the midnight festivities, but the evidence points to the burning lights being part of the ritual. This is also suggested by the importance, in the cult, of the early-spring festival of Candlemas; a festival which has long been recognized as of pre-Christian origin.
The light is particularly mentioned in many instances as being carried by the Devil, usually on his head; the witches often lit their torches and candles at this flame, though sometimes it seems that the Devil lit the torch and then presented it to the witch. To call the chief of the cult Lucifer was therefore peculiarly appropriate, especially at the Candlemas Sabbath.
In 1574 the witches of Poictiers went to a cross-roads: 'là se trouuoit vn grand bouc noir, qui parloit comme vne personne
[1. Boguet, pp. 135-9.
2. Cannaert, p. 45
3. Horneck, pp. 321-2, 327.]
aux assistans, & dansoyent a l'entour du bouc: puis vn chacun luy baisoit le derriere, auec vne chandelle ardente.' The witches of North Berwick in 1590 mention candles as part of the ritual:
'At ther meting be nycht in the kirk of Northberick, the deuell, cled in a blak gown with a blak hat upon his head, preachit vnto a gret nomber of them out of the pulpit, having lyk leicht candles rond about him.'--John Fian blew up the Kirk doors, and blew in the lights, which were like mickle black candles, holden in an old man's hand, round about the pulpit.--[John Fian] was taken to North Berwick church where Satan commanded him to make him homage with the rest of his servants; where he thought he saw the light of a candle, standing in the midst of his servants, which appeared blue lowe [flame].'
In 1594 at Puy-de-Dòme Jane Bosdeau went 'at Midnight on the Eve of St John into a Field, where there appeared a great Black Goat with a Candle between his Horns'. At Aberdeen in 1597 Marion Grant confessed that 'the Deuill apperit to the, within this auchteine dayis or thairby, quhome thow callis thy god, about ane hour in the nicht, and apperit to the in ane gryte man his lickness, in silkin abuilzeament [habiliment], withe ane quhyt candill in his hand'. In 1598 the witches whom Boguet tried said that--
'les Sorciers estans assemblez en leur Synagogue adorent premierement Satan, qui apparoit là, tantost en forme d'vn grand homme noir, tantost en forme de bouc, & pour plus grand hommage, ils luy offrent des chandelles, qui rendent vne flamme de couleur bleüe. Quelquefois encor il tient vne image noire, qu'il fait baiser aux Sorciers. Antide Colas & ses compagnes, en baisant ceste image, offroient vne chandelle ou buche d'estrain ardente. Ces chandelles leur sont baillées par le Diable, & se perdent & esuanouissent dés lors qu'elles luy ont esté offertes. Il s'en est trouué qui ont confessé qu'ils alloient allumer le plus soutient leurs chandelles à vne autre chandelle, que le Demon, estant en forme de bouc, portoit au dessus de la teste entre les deux cornes.'
[1. Bodin, Fléau, p. 187.
2. Melville, p. 395.
3. Pitcairn, i, pt. ii, p. 246. The ploughman, Gray Meal, who took a large part in the ceremonies, was an old man.
4. Id., i, pt. ii, p. 210.
5. F. Hutchinson, Hist. Essay, p. 42.
6. Spalding Club Misc., i, p. 172.
7. Boguet, p. 131.]
Some of the witches of the Basses-Pyrénées, tried in 1609, said that the Devil was--
'comme vn grand bouc, ayãt deux cornes deuant & deux en derriere. Mais le commun est qu'il a seulement trois cornes, & qu'il a quelque espece de lumiere en celle du milieu, de laquelle il a accoustumé au sabbat d'esclairer, & donner du feu & de la lumiere, mesmes à ces Sorcieres qui tiennent quelques chandelles alumees aux ceremonies de la Messe qu'ils veulent contrefaire. On luy voit aussi quelque espece de bonet on chapeau au dessus de ses cornes.--Toute l'assemblee le vient adorer le baisant sous la queuë, & allumant des chandelles noires.'
Barthélemy Minguet of Brécy, a man of twenty-five, tried in 1616, described the ceremonies of the Sabbath; after the sermon the worshippers 'vont à l'offerte, tenant en leurs mains des chandelles de poix noire qui leur sont données par le Diable . In 1646 Elizabeth Weed of Great Catworth, Hunts, .confessed that the Devil came to her at night, 'and being demanded what light was there, she answered, none but the light of the Spirit.' In 1652 a French witch stated that at the Sabbath 'on dansait sans musique, aux chansons. Toutes les femmes y étoient tenues par les diables par lors il y avoit de la lumière une chandelle tenue au millieu par une femme que ne connoit. . . Au milieux il y auoit une feme masquée tenant une chandelle.' Barton's wife was at a witch meeting in the Pentland Hills, 'and coming down the hill when we had done, which was the best sport, he [the Devil] carried the candle in his bottom under his tail, which played ey wig wag wig wag.", Helen Guthrie in 1661 does not expressly mention candles or torches, but her description of the flickering light on the ground suggests their use. She I was at a meiting in the churchyeard of Forfar in the Holfe therof, and they daunced togither, and the ground under them wes all fyre
[1. De Lancre, Tableau, pp. 68, 401.
2. Id., L'Incredulité p. 805.
3. Davenport, p. 2.
4. Van Elven, La Tradition, v (1891), p. 215.
5. Sinclair, p. 163. The account given by Barton's wife of the position of the candle on the Devil's person is paralleled by the peculiarly coarse description of the Light-bearers at the witch-sabbaths at Münster. Humborg, p, 120.]
flauchter'. The Somerset witches stated that, when they met, 'the Man in Black bids them welcome, and they all make low obeysance to him, and he delivers some Wax Candles like little Torches, which they give back again at parting.' The light seems to have been sometimes so arranged, probably in a lantern, as to be diffused. This was the case at Torryburn, where the assembly was ht by a light 'which came from darkness', it was sufficiently strong for the dancers to see one another's faces, and to show the Devil wearing a cap or hood which covered his neck and ears.' The latest account of a witch-meeting in the eighteenth century describes how the witches of Strathdown went to Pol-nain and there were 'steering themselves to and fro in their riddles, by means of their oars the brooms, hallooing and skirling worse than the bogles, and each holding in her left hand a torch of fir'.
There is one account where the candle was for use and not for ritual. John Stuart of Paisley, in 1678, admitted the Devil and some witches into his room one night in order to make a clay image of an enemy. 'Declares, that the black man did make the figure of the Head and Face and two Arms to the said Effigies. Declares, that the Devil set three Pins in the same, one in each side, and one in the Breast: And that the Declarant did hold the Candle to them all the time the Picture was making.' John Stuart was the principal person on this occasion, and therefore had the honour of holding the light. The description of the event suggests that the saying 'To hold a candle to the Devil' took its rise in actual fact.
The material of which the candles or torches were made was pitch, according to de Lancre, and at North Berwick the lights were 'like lighted candles' burning with a blue flame. The white candle seems to have been essentially the attribute of the devil, the black candles or torches being distinctive of the witches. That the lights burned blue is due to the material of which the torches were made. The evanescent character of the light, when a wisp of straw was used, is noted in the evidence of Antide Colas.
[1. Kinloch, p. 120.
2. Glanvil, pt. ii, p. 139.
3. Chambers, iii, p. 298.
4. Stewart, p. 175.
5. Glanvil, pt. ii, p. 294.]
The earliest example of the religious services occurs in 1324 in the trial of Lady Alice Kyteler: 'In rifeling the closet of the ladie, they found a Wafer of sacramentall bread, hauing the diuels name stamped thereon in stead of Jesus Christ.' According to Boguet (1589) the Devil did not always perform the religious service himself, but mass was celebrated by a priest among his followers; this custom is found in all countries and seems to have been as common as that the Devil himself should perform the service.
'Celuy, qui est commis à faire l'office, est reuestu d'vne chappe noire sans croix, & apres auoir mis de l'eau dans le calice, it tourne le doz à l'autel, & puis esleue vn rond de raue teinte en noir, au lieu de l'hostie, & lors tous les Sorciers crient à haute voix, Maistre, aide nous. Le Diable en mesme temps pisse dans vn trou à terre, & fait de l'eau beniste de son vrine, de laquelle celuy, qui dit la messe, arrouse tous les assistans auec vn asperges noir.'
The Devil of the Basses Pyrénées (1609) performed the religious ceremony himself:
'Il s'habille en Prestre pour dire Messe, laquelle it fait semblant de celebrer auec mille fourbes & souplesses, auprés d'vn arbre, ou parfois auprés d'vn rocher, dressant quelque forme d'autel sur des coloñes infernales, & sur iceluy sans dire le Confiteor, ny 1'Alleluya, tournant les feuillets d'vn certain liure qu'il a en main, it commence à marmoter quelques mots de la Messe, & arriuant à l'offertoire it s'assiet, & toute l'assemblee le vient adorer le baisant sous la queuë, & allumant des chandelles noires: Puis luy baisent la main gauche, tremblans auec mille angoisses, & luy offrent du pain, des œufs, & de l'argent: & la Royne du Sabbat les reçoit, laquelle est assise à son costé gauche, & en sa main gauche elle tient vne paix ou platine, dans laquelle est grauee l'effigie de Lucifer, laquelle on ne baise qu'aprés l'auoir premierement baisée à elle. Puis it se met à prescher, son subiect est communément de la vaine gloire. . . . Il finit son sermon, & continue ses autres ceremonies, leuant vne certaine Hostie laquelle est noire & ronde, auec sa figure imprimée au dessus: & disant ces paroles, Cecy est mon corps, it leue l'Hostie sur ses cornes & à cette esleuatiõ tous ceux de l'assemblee I'adore[n]t
[1. Holinshed, Ireland, p. 58.
2. Boguet, p. 141.]
en disant ces mots, Aquerra Goity, Aquerra Beyty, Aquerra Goity, Aquerra Beyty, qui veut dire, Cabron arriba, Cabron abaro, de mesme en font its au Calice repetant ces mots, iusqu'à ce qu'il a vuidé tout ce qui est dans iceluy. Puis toute l'assemblee enuironnant l'autel en forme de croissant ou demy-lune, prosternez par terre, it leur fait vn autre sermon, puis leur baille à communier par ordre, donnant à chacun vn petit morceau de l'hostie, & pour leur donner moyen de l'aualer aisément, il leur donne deux gorgees de quelque medicine infernale, & certain breuuage de si mauuais goust & odeur, que l'aualant its suent, & neantmoins it est si froid, ou'il leur gele le corps, les nerfs, & les moüelles. Puis il s'accouple auec elles, & leur commande d'en faire de mesme, si bien qu'ils commettent mille incestes & autres pechez contre nature. Puis it les inuite à se mettre à table.'
At Aix in 1610 Magdalene de Demandouls 'said that that accursed Magician Lewes [Gaufredy] did first inuent the saying of Masse at the Sabbaths, and did really consecrate and present the sacrifice to Lucifer. . . . She also related, that the said Magician did sprinkle the consecrated wine vpon all the company, at which time euery one cryeth, Sanguis eius super nos & filios nosotros.'
Lord Fountainhall remarks, 'In 1670 we heard that the Devil appeared in the shape of a Minister, in the copper mines of Sweden, and attempted the same villainous apery.' The Scotch witches, like the Swedish, performed the rite after the manner of the Reformed Churches. In 1678--
'the devill had a great meeting of witches in Loudian, where, among others, was a warlock who formerly had been admitted to the ministrie in the presbyterian tymes, and when the bishops came in, conformed with them. But being found flagitious and wicked, was deposed by them, and now he turnes a preacher under the devill of hellish doctrine; for the devill at this tyme preaches to his witches really (if I may so term it) the doctrine of the infernall pitt, viz. blasphemies against God and his son Christ. Among other things, he told them that they were more happy in him than they could be in God; him they saw, but God they could not see; and in mockrie of Christ and his holy ordinance of the sacrament
[1. De Lancre, Tableau, pp. 401-2.
2. Michaelis, Hist., p. 337. The use of this phrase suggests that the sprinkling was a fertility rite.
3. Fountainhall, i, pp. 14, 15.]
of his supper, he gives the sacrament to them, bidding them eat it and to drink it in remembrance of himself. This villan was assisting to Sathan in this action, and in preaching.'
Fountainhall in writing of the same convention of witches says that the Devil 'adventured to give them the communion or holy sacrament, the bread was like wafers, the drink was sometimes blood sometimes black moss-water. He preached and most blasphemously mocked them, if they offered to trust in God who left them miserable in the world, and neither he nor his Son Jesus Christ ever appeared to them when they called on them, as he had, who would not cheat them.'
The Abbé Guibourg (1679), head of the Paris witches, 'a fait chez la Voisin, revêtu d'aube, d'étole et de manipule, une conjuration.' The same Abbé celebrated mass more than once over the body of a woman and with the blood of a child, sacrificed for the occasion, in the chalice (see section on Sacrifice). The woman, who served as the altar for these masses, was always nude, and was the person for whose benefit the ceremony was performed. Marguerite Montvoisin makes this clear:
'It est vrai aussi qu'une sage-femme qui demeurait au coin de la rue des Deux-Portes, distilla aussi les entrailles d'un enfant dont la mère y avait accouché. . . . Avant la distillation, les entrailles de l'enfant et l'arrière-faix de la mère avaient été portés à Saint-Denis, à Guibourg, par sa mère, la sage-femme et la mère de l'enfant, sur le ventre de laquelle sa mère, à son retour, lui dit que Guibourg avait dit la messe.'
Guibourg acknowledged that, besides the one just quoted, he celebrated three masses in this way. At the first he used a conjuration. 'It dit la deuxième messe dans une masure sur les remparts de Saint-Denis, sur la même femme, avec les mêmes cérémonies. . . . Dit la troisième à Paris chez la Voisin sur la même femme.' The woman mentioned in Guibourg's confession was Madame de Montespan herself. The following conjuration was used at the first mass:
'sur le ventre d'une femme': 'Astaroth, Asmodée, princes d'amitié, je vous conjure d'accepter le sacrifice que je vous
[1. Law, p. 145.
2. Fountainhall, i, p. 14.
3. Ravaisson, 1679-81, p. 336.
4. Id., p. 333.
5. Id., p. 335.]
présente de cet enfant pour les choses que je vous demande, qui sont l'amitié du Roi, de Mgr le Dauphin me soit continuée et être honorée des princes et princesses de la cour, que rien ne me soit dénié de tout ce que je demanderai au Roi, tant pour mes parents que serviteurs.'
A very interesting case is that of the Rev. George Burroughs in New England (1692):
'He was Accused by Eight of the Confessing Witches, as being an Head Actor at some of their Hellish Randezvouses, and one who had the promise of being a King in Satan's kingdom, now going to be Erected. . . . One Lacy testify'd that she and the prisoner [Martha Carrier] were once Bodily present at a Witch-meeting in Salem Village; and that she knew the prisoner to be a Witch, and to have been at a Diabolical sacrament. . . . Another Lacy testify'd that the prisoner was at the Witch-meeting, in Salem Village, where they had Bread and Wine Administred unto them. . . . Deliverance Hobbs affirmed that this [Bridget] Bishop was at a General Meeting of the Witches, in a Field at Salem-Village, and there partook of a Diabolical Sacrament in Bread and Wine then administred.'
Hutchinson had access to the same records and gives the same evidence, though even more strongly: 'Richard Carrier affirmed to the jury that he saw Mr. George Burroughs at the witch meeting at the village and saw him administer the sacrament. Mary Lacy, senr. and her daughter Mary affirmed that Mr. George Burroughs was at the witch meetings with witch sacrements, and that she knows Mr. Burroughs to be of the company of witches.' John Hale has a similar record: 'This D. H. [Deliverance Hobbs] confessed she was at a Witch Meeting at Salem Village. . . . And the said G. B. preached to them, and such a Woman was their Deacon, and there they had a Sacrament.' Abigail Williams said 'that the Witches had a Sacrament that day at an house in the Village, and that they had Red Bread and Red Drink.' With the evidence before him Mather seems justified in saying that the witches had 'their Diabolical Sacraments, imitating the Baptism and the Supper of our Lord'.
[1. Ravaisson, p. 335.
2. Cotton Mather, pp. 120, 131, 158.
3. J. Hutchinson, Hist. Of Massachusetts Bay, ii, p. 55.
4. Burr, p. 417.
5. Increase Mather, p. 210.
6. Cotton Mather, p. 81.]
There are four forms of sacrifice: (1) the blood sacrifice, which was performed by making an offering of the witch's own blood; (2) the sacrifice of an animal; (3) the sacrifice of a human being, usually a child; (4) the sacrifice of the god.
1. The blood-sacrifice took place first at the admission of the neophyte. Originally a sacrifice, it was afterwards joined to the other ceremony of signing the contract, the blood serving as the writing fluid; it also seems to be confused in the seventeenth century with the pricking for the Mark, but the earlier evidence is clear. A writer who generalizes on the witchcraft religion and who recognizes the sacrificial nature of the act is Cooper; as he wrote in 1617 his evidence belongs practically to the sixteenth century. He says:
'In further token of their subiection unto Satan in yeelding vp themselues wholy vnto his deuotion, behold yet another ceremony heere vsually is performed: namely, to let themselues bloud in some apparant place of the body, yeelding the same to be sucked by Satan, as a sacrifice vnto him, and testifying thereby the full subiection of their liues and soules to his deuotion.'
The earliest account of the ceremony is at Chelmsford in 1556. Elizabeth Francis 'learned this arte of witchcraft from her grandmother. When shee taughte it her, she counseiled her to geue of her bloudde to Sathan (as she termed it) whyche she delyuered to her in the likenesse of a whyte spotted Catte. Euery time that he [the cat] did any thynge for her, she sayde that he required a drop of bloude, which she gaue him by prycking herselfe.' Some time after, Elizabeth Francis presented the Satan-cat to Mother Waterhouse, passing on to her the instructions received from Elizabeth's grandmother. Mother Waterhouse 'gaue him for his labour a chicken, which he fyrste required of her and a drop of her blod. And thys she gaue him at all times when he dyd any thynge for her, by pricking her hand or face and puttinge
[1. Cooper, p. 91.]
the blond to hys mouth whyche he sucked.' In 1566 John Walsh, a Dorset witch, confessed that 'at the first time when he had the Spirite, hys sayd maister did cause him to deliuer one drop of his blud, whych bloud the Spirite did take away vpon hys paw'. In Belgium in 1603 Claire Goessen, 'après avoir donné à boire de son sang à Satan, et avoir bu du sien, a fait avec lui un pacte.'
In the case of the Lancashire witch, Margaret Johnson, in 1633, it is difficult to say whether the pricking was for the purpose of marking or for a blood sacrifice; the slight verbal alterations in the two MS. accounts of her confession suggest a confusion between the two ideas; the one appears to refer to the mark, the other (quoted here) to the sacrifice: 'Such witches as have sharp bones given them by the devill to pricke them, have no pappes or dugges whereon theire devil may sucke; but theire devill receiveth bloud from the place, pricked with the bone; and they are more grand witches than any yt have marks.' In Suffolk in 1645 'one Bush of Barton widdow confessed that the Deuill appeared to her in the shape of a young black man . . . and asked her for bloud, which he drew out of her mouth, and it dropped on a paper'. At Auldearne, in 1662, the blood was drawn for baptizing the witch; Isobel Gowdie said, 'The Divell marked me in the showlder, and suked owt my blood at that mark, and spowted it in his hand, and, sprinkling it on my head, said, "I baptise the, Janet, in my awin name."' Janet Breadheid's evidence is practically the same: 'The Divell marked me in the shoulder, and suked out my blood with his mowth at that place; he spowted it in his hand, and sprinkled it on my head. He baptised me thairvith, in his awin nam, Christian.'
2. The sacrifice of animals was general, and the accounts give a certain amount of detail, but the ceremony was not as a rule sufficiently dramatic to be considered worth recording. The actual method of killing the animal is hardly ever given. The rite was usually performed privately by an individual; on
[1. Chelmsford Witches, pp. 24, 26, 29, 30. Philobiblon Society, viii.
2. Examination of John Walsh.
3. Cannaert, p. 48.
4. Whitaker, p. 216.
7. Stearne, p. 29.
6 Pitcairn, iii, pp. 603, 617.]
rare occasions it was celebrated by a whole Coven, but it does not occur at the Great Assembly, for there the sacrifice was of the God himself. The animals offered were generally a dog, a cat, or a fowl, and it is noteworthy that these were forms in which the Devil often appeared to his worshippers.
The chief authorities all agree as to the fact of animal sacrifices. Cotta compares it with the sacrifices offered by the heathen:
' Some bring their cursed Sorcery vnto their wished end by sacrificing vnto the Diuell some liuing creatures, as Serres likewise witnesseth, from the confession of Witches in Henry the fourth of France deprehended, among whom, one confessed to haue offered vnto his Deuill or Spirit a Beetle. This seemeth not improbable, by the Diabolicall litations (sic) and bloudy sacrifices, not onely of other creatures, but euen of men, wherewith in ancient time the heathen pleased their gods, which were no other then Diuels.'
The number of sacrifices in the year is exaggerated by the writers on the subject, but the witches themselves are often quite definite in their information when it happens to be recorded. It appears from their statements that the rite was performed only on certain occasions, either to obtain help or as a thank-offering. Danaeus, speaking of the newly admitted witch, says, 'Then this vngracious and new servant of satan, euery day afterward offreth something of his goods to his patrone, some his dogge, some his hen, and some his cat.' Scot, who always improves on his original, states that the witches depart after the Sabbath, 'not forgetting euery daie afterwards to offer to him, dogs, cats, hens, or bloud of their owne.'
The earliest witch-trial in the British Isles shows animal sacrifice. In 1324 in Ireland Lady Alice Kyteler 'was charged to haue nightlie conference with a spirit called Robin Artisson, to whom she sacrificed in the high waie .ix. red cocks'. In 1566 at Chelmsford Mother Waterhouse 'gaue him [i.e. the Satan-cat] for his labour a chicken, which he fyrste required of her, and a drop of her blod . . . Another tyme she rewarded hym as before, wyth a chicken and a droppe
[1. Cotta, p. 114.
2. Danaeus, ch. iv.
3. R. Scot, Bk. III, p. 44.
4. Holinshed, Ireland, p. 58.]
of her bloud, which chicken he eate vp cleane as he didde al the rest, and she cold fynde remaining neyther bones nor fethers.' Joan Waterhouse, daughter of Mother Waterhouse, a girl of eighteen, said that the Deuil came in the likeness of a great dog, 'then asked hee her what she wolde geue hym, and she saide a red kocke'. John Walsh of Dorset, in 1566, confessed that 'when he would call him [the Spirit], hee sayth hee must gene hym some Iyuing thing, as a Chicken, a Cat, or a Dog. And further he sayth he must geue hym twoo lyuing thynges once a yeare.' In Lorraine in 1589 Beatrix Baonensis said, 'Etliche geben junge Hüner, oder wohI alte Hüner, wie Desideria Pari iensis, und Cathelonia Vincentia gethan hatten: Etliche schneiden ihre Haar ab und lieffern dieselbe dahin, etliche geben Späher, etliche Vögel oder sonst nicht viel besonders, als da sein möchte gemüntz Geld aus Rindern Ledder, und wenn sie dergleichen nichts haben, so verschafft es ihnen ihr Geist, auff dass sie staffirt seyn.' In Aberdeen in 1597 Andro Man gave evidence that 'the Devill thy maister, whom thow termis Christsunday . . . is rasit be the speking of the word Benedicte, and is laid agane be tacking of a dog vnder thy left oxster in thi richt hand, and casting the same in his mouth, and speking the word Maikpeblis.' At Lang Niddry in 1608 the whole Coven performed a rite, beginning at the 'irne zet of Seatoun', where they christened a cat by the name of Margaret, 'and thaireftir come all bak agane to the Deane-fute, quhair first thai convenit, and cuist the kat to the Devill.' In 1630 Alexander Hamilton had consultations with the Devil near Edinburgh, 'and afoir the devill his away passing the said Alexr was in use to cast to him ather ane kat or ane laif or ane dog or any uther sic beast he come be.' In Bute in
[1. Philobiblon Society, viii, Chelmsford Witches, pp. 29, 30.
2. Id. ib., viii, p. 34.
3. Examination of John Walsh.
4. Remigius, pt. i, p. 54.
5. Spalding Club Misc., i, p. 120; Burton, i, p. 252.
6. Pitcairn, ii, pp. 542-3.
7. From an unpublished trial in the Justiciary Court at Edinburgh. The meaning of the word laif is not clear. The Oxford dictionary gives lop-eared, the Scotch dictionary gives loaf. By analogy with the other accounts one would expect here a word meaning a hen.]
1622 Margaret NcWilliam 'renounced her baptisme and he baptised her and she gave him as a gift a hen or cock'. In modern France the sacrifice of a fowl to the Devil still holds good: 'Celui qui veut devenir sorcier doit aller à un quatre chemins avec une poule noire, ou bien encore au cimetière, sur une tombe et toujours à minuit. Il vient alors quelqu'un qui demande: "Que venez vous faire ici?" "Jai une poule à vendre," répond-on. Ce quelqu'un [est] le Méchanté.'
It is possible that the custom of burying a live animal to cure disease among farm animals, as well as the charm of casting a live cat into the sea to raise a storm, are forms of the animal sacrifice.
3. Child Sacrifice.--'The child-victim was usually a young infant, either a witch's child or unbaptized; in other words, it did not belong to the Christian community. This last is an important point, and was the reason why unbaptized children were considered to be in greater danger from witches than the baptized. 'If there be anie children vnbaptised, or not garded with the signe of the crosse, or orizons; then the witches may, or doo catch them from their mothers sides in the night, or out of their cradles, or otherwise kill them with their ceremonies.' The same author quotes from the French authorities the crimes laid to the charge of witches, among which are the following: 'They sacrifice their owne children to the diuell before baptisme, holding them vp in the aire vnto him, and then thrust a needle into their braines'; and 'they burne their children when they haue sacrificed them'. Boguet says, 'Les Matrones, & sages femmes sont accoustumé d'offrir à Satan les petits enfans qu'elles reçoiuent, & puis les faire mourir auant qu'ils soient baptizez, par le moye[n] d'vne grosse espingle qu'elles leur enfoncent dans le cerueau.' Boguet's words imply that this was done at every birth at which a witch officiated; but it is impossible that this should be the case; the sacrifice was probably made for some special purpose, for which a new-born child was the appropriate victim.
The most detailed account of such sacrifices is given in the trial of the Paris witches (1679-81), whom Madame de
[1. Highland Papers, iii, p. 18.
2. Lemoine, vi, p. 109.
3. Reg. Scot, Bk. III, p. 41.
4. Id., Bk. II, p. 32.
5. Boguet, p.205.]
Montespan consulted. The whole ceremony was performed to the end that the love of Louis XIV should return to Madame de Montespan, at that time his discarded mistress; it seems to be a kind of fertility rite, hence its use on this occasion. The Abbé Guibourg was the sacrificing priest, and from this and other indications he appears to have been the Chief or Grand-master who, before a less educated tribunal, would have been called the Devil. Both he and the girl Montvoisin were practically agreed as to the rite; though from the girl's words it would appear that the child was already dead, while Guibourg's evidence implies that it was alive. Both witnesses gave their evidence soberly and gravely and without torture. Montvoisin, who was eighteen years old, stated that she had presented 'à la messe de Madame de Montespan, par l'ordre de sa mère, un enfant paraissant né avant terme, le mit dans un bassin, Guibourg l'égorgea, versa dans le calice, et consacra le sang avec hostie'. Guibourg's evidence shows that the sacrifice was so far from being uncommon that the assistants were well used to the work, and did all that was required with the utmost celerity:
'Il avait acheté un écu l'enfant qui fut sacrifié à cette messe qui lui fut présenté par une grande fille et ayant tiré du sang de l'enfant qu'il piqua à la gorge avec un canif, it en versa dans le calice, après quoi l'enfant fut retiré et emporté dans un autre lieu, dont ensuite on lui rapporta le cœur et les entrailles pour en faire une deuxieme [oblation].'
In Scotland it was firmly believed that sacrifices of children took place in all classes of society: 'The justices of the peace were seen familiarly conversing with the foul fiend, to whom one in Dumfries-shire actually offered up his firstborn child immediately after birth, stepping out with it in his arms to the staircase, where the devil stood ready, as it was suspected, to receive the innocent Victim.' In the later witch-trials the sacrifice of the child seems to have been made after its burying, as in the case of the Witch of Calder in 1720, who confessed that she had given the Devil 'the body of a dead child of her own to make a roast of'.
[1. Ravaisson, p. 334, 335
2. Sharpe, p. 147.
3. Chambers, iii, p. 450.]
It is possible that the killing of children by poison was one method of sacrifice when the cult was decadent and victims difficult to obtain. Reginald Scot's words, written in 1584, suggest that this was the case: 'This must be an infallible rule, that euerie fortnight, or at the least euerie moneth, each witch must kill one child at the least for hir part.' 'Sinistrari d'Ameno, writing about a century later, says the same: 'They promise the Devil sacrifices and offerings at stated times: once a fortnight or at least each month, the murder of some child, or an homicidal act of sorcery.' It is impossible to believe in any great frequency of this sacrifice, but there is considerable foundation in fact for the statement that children were killed, and it accounts as nothing else can for the cold-blooded murders of children of which the witches were sometimes accused. The accusations seem to have been substantiated on several occasions, the method of sacrifice being by poison.
The sacrifice of a child was often performed as a means of procuring certain magical materials or powers, which were obtained by preparing the sacrificed bodies in several ways. Scot says that the flesh of the child was boiled and consumed by the witches for two purposes. Of the thicker part of the concoction 'they make ointments, whereby they ride in the aire; but the thinner potion they put into flaggons, whereof whosoeuer drinketh, obseruing certeine ceremonies, immediatelie becommeth a maister or rather a mistresse in that practise and facultie.' The Paris Coven confessed that they 'distilled' the entrails of the sacrificed child after Guibourg had celebrated the mass for Madame de Montespan, the method being probably the same as that described by Scot. A variant occurs in both France and Scotland, and is interesting as throwing light on the reasons for some of the savage rites of the witches: 'Pour ne confesser iamais le secret de l'escole, on faict au sabbat vne paste de millet noir, auec de la poudre du foye de quelque enfant non baptisé qu'on faict secher, puis
[1. Scot, Bk. III, p. 42.
2. Sinistrari de Ameno, p. 27.
3. See, amongst others, the account of Mary Johnson (Essex, 1645), who was accused of poisoning two children; the symptoms suggest belladonna. Howell, iv, 844, 846.
4. Scot, Bk. III, p. 41.]
meslant cette poudre avec ladicte paste, elle a cette vertu de taciturnité: si bien que qui en mange ne confesse iamais.' At Forfar, in 1661, Helen Guthrie and four others exhumed the body of an unbaptized infant, which was buried in the churchyard near the south-east door of the church, 'and took severall peices therof, as the feet, hands, a pairt of the head, and a pairt of the buttock, and they made a py therof, that they might eat of it, that by this meanes they might never make a confession (as they thought) of their witchcraftis.' Here the idea of sympathetic magic is very clear; by eating the flesh of a child who had never spoken articulate words, the witches' own tongue's would be unable to articulate.
4. Sacrifice of the God.--The sacrifice of the witch-god was a decadent custom when the records were made in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries. The accounts of the actual rite come from France and Belgium, where a goat was substituted for the human victim. The sacrifice was by fire in both those countries, and there are indications that it was the same in Great Britain. It is uncertain whether the interval of time between the sacrifices was one, seven, or nine years.
Bodin and Boguet, each writing from his own knowledge of the subject, give very similar accounts, Bodin's being the more detailed. In describing a trial which took place in Poictiers in 1574, he says: 'Là se trouuoit vn grand bouc noir, qui parloit comme vne personne aux assistans, & dansoyent à l'entour du bouc: puis vn chacun luy baisoit le derriere, auec vne chandelle ardente: & celà faict, le bouc se consommoit en feu, & de la ce[n]dre chacun en prenoit pour faire mourir le bœuf [etc.]. Et en fin le Diable leur disoit d'vne voix terrible des mots, Vengez vous ou vous mourrez.' Boguet says that in the Lyons district in 1598 the Devil celebrated mass, and 'apres auoir prins la figure d'vn Bouc, se consume en feu, & reduit en cendre, laquelle les Sorciers recueillent, & cachent pour s'en seruir à l'execution de leurs desseins pernicieux & abominables'. In 1603, a Belgian witch, Claire Goessen, was present at such a sacrifice, and her account is therefore that of an eyewitness. 'Elle s'est laissée transporter à l'assemblée
[1. De Lancre, Tableau, p. 128.
2. Kinloch, p. 121.
3. Bodin, Fléau, pp. 187-8.
4. Boguet, p. 141.]
nocturne de Lembeke, où, après la danse, elle a, comme tous les assistans, baisé un bouc à l'endroit de sa queue, lequel bouc fut ensuite brûlè et ses cendres distribuées et emportées par les convives.' Jeanne de Belloc in 1609 'a veu le Grand maistre de l'assemblee se ietter dans les flammes an sabbat, se faire brusler iusques à ce qu'iI estoit reduit en poudre, & les grandes & insignes sorcieres prendre les dictes poudres pour ensorceler les petits enfants & les metier an sabbat, & en prenoient aussi dans la bouche pour ne reueler iamais'. A French witch in 16S2 declared that at the Sabbath 'le diable s'y at mis en feu et en donné des cendres lesquelles tous faisaient voller en I'air pour faire mancquer les fruits de la terre'. At Lille in 1661 the girls in Madame Bourignon's orphanage stated that 'on y adoroit une bète; & qu'on faisoit avec elle des infamies; & puis sur la fin on la brûloit, & chacun en prenoit des cendres, avec lesquelles on faisoit languir ou mourir des personnes, ou autres animaux.'
The collection and use of the ashes by the worshippers point to the fact that we have here a sacrifice of the god of fertility. Originally the sprinkling of the ashes on fields or animals or in running water was a fertility charm; but when Christianity became sufficiently powerful to attempt the suppression of the ancient religion, such practices were represented as evil, and were therefore said to be 'pour faire mancquer les fruits de la terre'.
The animal-substitute for the divine victim is usually the latest form of the sacrifice; the intervening stages were first the volunteer, then the criminal, both of whom were accorded the power and rank of the divine being whom they personated. The period of time during which the substitute acted as the god varied in different places; so also did the interval between the sacrifices. Frazer has pointed out that the human victim, whether the god himself or his human substitute, did not content himself by merely not attempting to escape his destiny, but in many cases actually rushed on his fate, and died by his own hand or by voluntary submission to the sacrificer.
[1. Cannaert, p. 50.
2. De Lancre, Tableau, p. 133.
3. La Tradition, 1891, V, p. 215. Neither name nor place are given.
4. Bourignon, Parole, p. 87.]
The witch-cult being a survival of an ancient religion, many of the beliefs and rites of these early religions are to be found in it. Of these the principal are: the voluntary substitute, the temporary transference of power to the substitute, and the self-devotion to death. As times changed and the ceremonies could no longer be performed openly, the sacrifices took on other forms. I have already suggested that the child-murders, of which the witches were often convicted, were in many cases probably offerings made to the God. In the same way, when, the time came for the God or his substitute to be sacrificed, recourse was had to methods which hid the real meaning of the ceremony; and the sacrifice of the incarnate deity, though taking place in public, was consummated at the hands of the public executioner. This explanation accounts for the fact that the bodies of witches, male or female, were always burnt and the ashes scattered; for the strong prejudice which existed, as late as the eighteenth century, against any other mode of disposing of their bodies; and for some of the otherwise inexplicable occurrences in connexion with the deaths of certain of the victims.
Read in the light of this theory much of the mystery which surrounds the fate of Joan of Arc is explained. She was put to death as a witch, and the conduct of her associates during her military career, as well as the evidence at her trial, bear out the fact that she belonged to the ancient religion, not to the Christian. Nine years after her death in the flames her commander, Gilles de Rais, was tried on the same charge and condemned to the same fate. The sentence was not carried out completely in his case; he was executed by hanging, and the body was snatched from the fire and buried in Christian ground. Like Joan herself, Gilles received a semi- canonization after death, and his shrine was visited by nursing mothers. Two centuries later Major Weir offered himself up and was executed as a witch in Edinburgh, refusing to the end all attempts to convert him to the Christian point of view.
The belief that the witch must be burnt and the ashes scattered was so ingrained in the popular mind that, when the severity of the laws began to relax, remonstrances were made by or to the authorities. In 1649 the Scotch General Assembly has a record: 'Concerning the matter of the buriall of the Lady Pittadro, who, being vnder a great scandall of witchcraft, and being incarcerat in the Tolbuith of this burgh during her triall before the justice, died in prison, The Comission of the Generall Assembly, having considered the report of the Comittee appointed for that purpose, Doe give their advyse to the Presbyterie of Dumfermling to show their dislike of that fact of the buriall of the Lady Pittadro, in respect of the maner and place, and that the said Presbyterie may labour to make the persons who hes buried her sensible of their offence in so doeing; and some of the persons who buried hir, being personallie present, are desired by the Comission to shew themselvis to the Presbyterie sensible of their miscarriage therein.'
At Maidstone in 1652 'Anne Ashby, alias Cobler, Anne Martyn, Mary Browne, Anne Wilson, and Mildred Wright of Cranbrook, and Mary Read, of Lenham, being legally convicted, were according to the Laws of this Nation, adjudged to be hanged, at the common place of Execution. Some there were that wished rather, they might be burnt to Ashes; alledging that it was a received opinion among many, that the body of a witch being burnt, her bloud is prevented thereby from becomming hereditary to her Progeny in the same evill.' The witches themselves also held the belief that they ought to die by fire. Anne Foster was tried for witchcraft at Northampton in 1674: 'after Sentence of Death was past upon her, she mightily desired to be Burned; but the Court would give no Ear to that, but that she should be hanged at the Common place of Execution.'
The magic words known to the witches were used only for certain definite purposes, the most important use being to raise the Devil. I have omitted the charms which are founded on Christian prayers and formulas, and quote only those which appear to belong to the witch-cult.
In the section on Familiars it will be seen how the witches
[1. Scot. Hist. Soc., xxv, p. 348. See also Ross, Aberdour and Inchcolme, p. 339.
2. Prod. and Trag. History, p. 7.
3. Tryall of Ann Foster, p. 8.]
divined by means of animals, which animals were allotted to them by the Chief. In auguries and divinations of this kind in every part of the world a form of words is always used, and the augury is taken by the first animal of the desired species which is seen after the charm is spoken.
Agnes Sampson, the leading witch of the North Berwick Coven, 1590, summoned her familiar by calling 'Elva', and then divined by a dog, whom she dismissed by telling him to 'depart by the law he lives on'. She also used the formula, 'Haill, hola!', and 'Hola!' was also the cry when a cat was cast into the sea to raise a storm.' A man-witch of Alest, 1593, gave the devil's name as Abiron: 'quand il le vouloit voir il disoit: vien Abiron, sinon ie te quitteray.' Andro Man at Aberdeen, 1597, 'confessis that the Devill, thy maister, is rasit be the speking of the word Benedicite, and is laid agane be tacking of a dog vnder thy left oxster in thi richt hand, and casting the same in his mouth, and speking the word Maikpeblis.--He grantit that this word Benedicite rasit the Dewill, and Maikpeblis laid him againe, strikin him on the faice with ane deice with the left hand.' Alexander Hamilton of East Lothian, 1630, when covenanting with the devil, had 'ane battoun of fir in his hand the devill than gave the said Alexr command to tak that battoun quhan evir he had ado with him and therewt to strek thruse upone the ground and to chairge him to ruse up foule theiff'; the divining animals in this case were crows, cats, and dogs. Marie Lamont of Innerkip, 1662, was instructed to call the Devil Serpent when she desired to speak with him.
The Somerset witches, 1664, cried out Robin at an appointed place, and the Master then appeared in his proper form as a man: Elizabeth Style and Alice Duke also called him Robin when summoning him privately, and Elizabeth Style added, 'O Sathan give me my purpose', before saying what she wished done. The Swedish witches, 1669, called their Chief
[1. Pitcairn, i, pt. ii, pp. 211, 235, 238
2. De Lancre, L'Incredulité, p. 772.
3. Spalding Club Misc., i, pp. 120, 124.
4. From the record of the trial in the Justiciary Court of Edinburgh.
5. Sharpe, p. 132.
6. Glanvil, pt. ii, pp. 137, 164.]
with the cry, 'Antecessor, come and carry us to Blockula'; this they did at an appointed place, and the Devil then appeared as a man.
The words used before starting to a meeting are rarely recorded; only a few remain. The earliest example is from Guernsey in 1563, when Martin Tulouff heard an old witch cry as she bestrode a broomstick, 'Va au nom du diable et luciffer p dessq[n] roches et espyñes.' He then lost sight of her, with the inference that she flew through the air, though he acknowledged that he himself was not so successful. The witches of the Basses-Pyrénées, 1609, anointed themselves before starting, and repeated the words 'Emen hetan, emen hetan', which de Lancre translates 'Ici et là, ici et là'. 'Quelquefois plus furieuses elles se batent entre elles mesmes, en disant, le suis Ie Diable, ie n'ay rien qui ne soit à toy, en ton nom Seigneur cette tien ne seruante s'oingt, & dois estre quelque iour Diable & maling Esprit comme toy.' When crossing water they cried, 'Haut la coude, Quillet,' upon which they could cross without getting wet; and when going a long distance they said, 'Pic suber hoeilhe, en ta la lane de bouc bien m'arrecoueille.' Isobel Gowdie, 1662, gives two variants of the magic words used on these occasions: the first, 'Horse and hattock, in the Divellis name' is not unlike the form given by Martin Tulouff; the second is longer, 'Horse and hattock, horse and goe, Horse and pellattis, ho! ho!' The Somerset witches, 1664, when starting to the meeting, said, 'Thout, tout a tout, tout, throughout and about'; and when returning, 'Rentum tormentum'. At parting they cried, 'A Boy! merry meet, merry part' They also had a long form of words which were used when applying the flying ointment, but these are not recorded.
Other magical words were used at the religious services of the witches in the Basses-Pyrénées (1609). At the elevation
[1. Horneck, pt. ii, p. 316.
2. From the record of the trial in the Guernsey Greffe.
3. De Lancre, Tableau, pp. 123, 400.
4. Pitcairn, iii, pp. 604, 608.
5. Glanvil, pt. ii, pp. 139, 141. 1 have pointed out that the cry of A Boy' is possibly the Christian recorder's method of expressing the Bacchic shout 'Evoe'. See Jour. Man. Or. Soc., 1916-17, p. 65.]
of the host the congregation cried, '"Aquerra goity, Aquerra beyty, Aquerra goity, Aquerra beyty," qui veut dire Cabron arriba Cabron abaro (sic)'; at the elevation of the chalice at a Christian service they said, 'Corbeau noir, corbeau noir.' There were two forms of words to be used when making the sign of the cross; the first was, 'In nomine Patrica, Aragueaco Petrica, Agora, Agora Valentia, Iouanda, goure gaitz goustia,' translated as 'Au nom de Patrique, Petrique, d'Arragon, à cette heure à cette heure Valence, tout nostre mal est passé'. The second roused de Lancre's horror as peculiarly blasphemous: 'In, nomine patrica, Aragueaco Petrica, Gastellaco Ianicot, Equidae ipordian pot,' 'au nom de Patrique, petrique d'Arragon. Iannicot de Castille faictes moy vn baiser au derriere.' The mention of the ancient Basque god Janicot makes this spell unusually interesting. As the dances were also a religious rite the words used then must be recorded here. Bodin gives the formula, 'Har, har, diable, diable, saute icy, saute là, iouë icy, iouë là: Et les autres disoyent sabath sabath.' The word diable is clearly Bodin's own interpellation for the name of the God, for the Guernsey version, which is currently reported to be used at the present day, runs 'Har, har, Hou, Hou, danse ici', etc.; Hou being the name of an ancient Breton god. Jean Weir (1670) stated that at the instigation of some woman unnamed she put her foot on a cloth on the floor with her hand upon the crown of her head, and repeated thrice, 'All my cross and troubles go to the door with thee.' This seems to have been an admission ceremony, but the words are of the same sentiment as the one recorded by de Lancre, 'tout notre mat est passé.'
There were also certain magical effects supposed to be brought about by the use of certain words. Martin Tulouff (1563) claimed that he could bewitch cows so that they gave blood instead of milk, by saying 'Butyrum de armento', but he admitted that he also used powders to accomplish his
[1. De Lancre, Tableau, pp. 401, 461, 462, 464.
2 Bodin, p. 190.
3. The names of the smaller islands are often compounded with the name of this deity, e.g. Li-hou, Brecq-hou, &c.
4. Law, p. 27 note.]
purpose. Isobel Gowdie (1662) described how the witches laid a broom or a stool in their beds to represent themselves during their absence at a meeting. By the time that this record was made the witches evidently believed that the object took on the exact appearance of the woman, having forgotten its original meaning as a signal to show where she had gone. The words used on these occasions show no belief in the change of appearance of the object:
'I lay down this besom [or stool] in the Devil's name,
Let it not stir till I come again.'
Her statements regarding the change of witches into animals I have examined in the section on Familiars (p. 234). The words used to effect these changes are given in full. When a witch wished to take on the form of a hare she said:
'I sall goe intill ane haire,
With sorrow, and sych, and meikle caire;
And I sall goe in the Divellis nam,
Ay quhill I com hom againe.'
To change into a cat or a crow the last two lines were retained unaltered, but the first two were respectively,
'I sall goe intill ane catt,
With sorrow, and sych, and a blak shot'
'I sall goe intill a craw,
With sorrow, and sych, and a blak thraw.'
To return into human form the witch said:
'Haire, haire, God send thee caire.
I am in an haire's liknes just now,
Bot I sal be in a womanis liknes ewin now.'
From a cat or a crow, the words were 'Cat, cat, God send thee a blak shott' or 'Craw, craw, God send thee a blak thraw', with the last two lines as before. When the witch in animal form entered the house of another witch, she would say 'I conjure thee, Goe with me'; on which the second witch would turn into the same kind of animal as the first. If, however, they met in the open, the formula was slightly different, 'Divell speid the, Goe thow with me,' the result being the same.
[1. From a trial in the Guernsey Greffe.
2. Pitcairn, iii, pp. 607-8, 611.]
The Somerset trials record the words used for cursing anything. These were simply 'A Pox take it', the curse being supposed to take effect at once. If the curse were pronounced over an image of a person the words were 'A Pox on thee, I'le spite thee'.
Alexander Elder's grace over meat is probably a corrupt form of some ancient rite:
We eat this meat in the Divellis nam,
With sorrow, and sych, and meikle shame;
We sall destroy hows and hald;
Both sheip and noat in till the fald.
Litle good sall come to the fore
Of all the rest of the litle store.'
The 'conjuring of cats' was a distinct feature, and is clearly derived from an early form of sacrifice. The details are recorded only in Scotland, and it is possible that Scotland is the only country in which it occurred, though the sanctity of the cat in other places suggests that the omission in the records is accidental.
In the dittay against John Fian, 1590, he was 'fylit, for the chaissing of ane catt in Tranent; in the quhilk chaise, he was careit heich aboue the ground, with gryt swyftnes, and as lychtlie as the catt hir selff, ower ane heicher dyke, nor he was able to lay his hand to the heid off:--And being inquyrit, to quhat effect he chaissit the samin? Ansuerit, that in ane conversatioune haldin at Brumhoillis, Sathan commandit all that were present, to tak cattis; tyke as he, for obedience to Sathan, chaissit the said catt, purpoiselie to be cassin in the sea, to raise windis for distructioune of schippis and boitis.' Agnes Sampson of the same Coven as Fian confessed 'that at the time when his Majestie was in Denmark, shee being accompanied by the parties before speciallie named, tooke a cat and christened it, and afterwards bounde to each part of that cat, the cheefest parte of a dead man, and severall joyntis of his bodie: And that in the night following, the saide cat was convayed into the middest of the sea by all the witches, sayling in their riddles or cives, as is aforesaid, and so left the
[1. Glanvil, pt. ii, pp. 137, 139,148, 149.
2. Pitcairn, iii, p. 612. Sych = sighing, lamentation.
3. Id., i, pt. ii, p. 212.]
said cat right before the towne of Leith in Scotland. This doone, there did arise such a tempest in the sea, as a greater hath not bene seene.' The legal record of this event is more detailed and less dramatic; the sieves are never mentioned, the witches merely walking to the Pier-head in an ordinary and commonplace manner. The Coven at Prestonpans sent a letter to the Leith Coven that--
'they sould mak the storm vniuersall thro the sea. And within aucht dayes eftir the said Bill [letter] wes delyuerit, the said Agnes Sampsoune, Jonett Campbell, Johnne Fean, Gelie Duncan, and Meg Dyn baptesit ane catt in the wobstaris hous, in maner following: Fyrst, twa of thame held ane fingar, in the ane syd of the chimnay cruik, and ane vther held ane vther fingar in the vther syd, the twa nebbis of the fingars meting togidder; than thay patt the catt thryis throw the linkis of the cruik, and passit itt thryis vnder the chimnay. Thaireftir, att Begie Toddis hous, thay knitt to the foure feit of the catt, foure jountis of men; quhilk being done, the sayd Jonet fechit it to Leith; and about mydnycht, sche and the twa Linkhop, and twa wyfeis callit Stobbeis, came to the Pier-heid, and saying thir words, 'See that thair be na desait amangis ws'; and thay caist the catt in the see, sa far as thay mycht, quhilk swam owre and cam agane; and thay that wer in the Panis, caist in ane vthir catt in the see att xj houris. Eftir quhilk, be thair sorcerie and inchantment, the boit perischit betuix Leith and Kinghorne; quhilk thing the Deuill did, and went befoir, with ane stalf in his hand.'
Beigis Todd was concerned in another 'conjuring of cats', this time at Seaton.
'Eftir thay had drukkin togidder a certane space, thay, in thair devillische maner, tuik ane katt, and drew the samyn nyne tymes throw the said Beigis cruik; and thaireftir come with all thair speed to Seaton-thorne, be-north the 3et. . . . And thay thaireftir past altogidder, with the Devill, to the irne 3et [iron gate] of Seatoun, quhair of new thay tuik ane cat, and drew the samyn nyne tymes throw the said Irne-3ett: And immediatlie thaireffir, came to the barne, foiranent George Feudaris dur, quhair thai christened the said catt, and callit hir Margaret: And thaireftir come all bak agane to the Deane-fute, quhair first thai convenit, and cuist the kat to the Devill.'
[1. Newes from Scotland, see Pitcairn, i, pt. ii, p. 218.
2. Pitcairn, i, pt. ii, p. 237.
3. Id., ii, p. 542.]