The Witch-Cult in Western Europe, by Margaret Alice Murray, , at sacred-texts.com
THE question of familiars is one which has always puzzled the student of witch-trials, and almost more than any other has been the cause of the belief that hysteria and hallucination were the foundation of the witches' confessions. Yet when the accounts are carefully examined, the circumstantial detail given in the evidence shows that here, as elsewhere, a foundation of fact underlies the statements of the accused. These statements are often misunderstood and therefore misrepresented by the recorders, and still more so by the modern commentator, but by comparison of the details a considerable amount of information can be gained.
The familiars can be divided into two types: (1) those by which the witch divined, (2) those who attended on the witch to obey her commands.
The essence of this familiar is that it did not belong to the witch but was an animal which appeared accidentally after the performance of certain magical ceremonies. Forbes puts this quite clearly when describing the contract: 'The Devil on his Part articles with such Proselytes, concerning the Shape he is to appear to them in, the Services they are to expect from him, upon the Performance of certain Charms or ceremonious Rites.' From this statement and from the facts revealed in the trials it would seem that the Devil appointed to the witch, on her admission, some kind of animal or animals by which she should divine, and which therefore represented himself for the time being, for he claimed the power, as God, to know and reveal the future. This explanation accounts for the fact that the witches always spoke of such animals as the Devil and believed that they could foretell the future by his means. The actual method of divination is
[1. Forbes, ii, p. 33.]
not preserved; all that remains of the ceremony are the words and gestures which were used before the appearance of the animal, and these only in few cases. The method was probably such as obtained in other places where auguries by animals and birds were practised, i.e. by the direction and pace of the animal, by its actions, by its voice if it emitted any sound, and so on. The method of making such observations and of translating them when made was part of the instruction given to the witch by the Devil; and was usually employed to discover whether a person were bewitched, the ultimate result of an illness, and the length of life of any given person.
In 1566 John Walsh, of Netherberry in Dorset, who 'knoweth when anye man is bewytched, sayth vpon his oth, that his Familiar would sometyme come vnto hym lyke a gray blackish Culuer, and somtime like a brended Dog, and somtimes lyke a man'. In 1590 Agnes Sampson, the 'wise wife' of Keith, was--
'fylit and convict, that the Dewill apperit to hir in liknes of ane dog, att quhom she socht her haill responsis that quhene sche wes send for to haill the auld Lady Edmestoune, quhene sche lay seik, befoir the said Agnes departit, sche tauld to the gentilwemene, that sche sould tell thame that nycht quhidder the Lady wald haill or nocht; and appointit thame to be in the gardin efter supper, betuix fyve and sax att ewin. Sche passit to the gairdene, to devyise vpoun hir prayer, one quhat tyme sche chargeit the Dewill, calling him "Elva", to cum and speik to hir, quha come in owir the dyke, in liknes of ane dog, and come sa neir to hir, that sche wes effrayit, and chargeit him "on the law that he lewit on", to cum na neirar, bot to ansuer hir; and sche demandit, Quhidder the lady wald leif or nocht. He said, "Hir dayes war gane." Than he demandit, "Gif the gentilwemen hir dochteres, quhair thay wer?" And sche said, that "the gentilwemen said, that thay war to be thair". He ansuerit, "Ane of thame sould be in perrell, and that he sould haif ane of thame." Sche ansuerit, "It sould nocht be sa", and swa departit fra hir zowling. Fra this tyme quhill eftir supper, he remanit in the wall [well]. Quhen the gentilwemen come in, the dog come out of the wall, and apperit to thame; quhairatt thay wer effrayit. In the mene tyme, ane of the said gentilwemen, the Lady Torsenze, ran to the wall, being forceit and drawin by the Devill, quha wald
[1. Examination of John Walsh.]
haif drownit hir, war nocht the said Agnes and the rest of the gentilwemen gatt ane gryp of hir, and with all hir [their?] forceis drew hir abak agane, quhilk maid thame all effrayd. The dog passit away thaireftir with ane zowle.'
Margerat Clarke, like Agnes Sampson a midwife of great reputation, was tried at Aberdeen in 1597 for witchcraft, in that, being sent for to a case
'and ane Androw Mar cuming for the, the Devill thy maister, quhome thow seruis, and quha techis the all this vytchcraft and sorcerie, apperit to the, in the licknes of ane horss, in ane how and den, and spak and conferrit with the a lang speace. [Being sent for to another case] and the said guidman of Kincragie sendand his awin best horss, with ane boy of his awin, to bring the to his wyiff; and the said boy on horse cuming to the, and thow beand on the horss behind the boy, att thy awin dure, thy maister Satane, the Dewill, apperit in the licknes of ane gray staig, and convoyit the and the boy fra thy awin houss to Kincragie, and keipit cumpanie all the way with you, with quhome thow haid thy secreitt conference.--Vpone Nwris [New-year's] day, thow was att the loche syid besyid Boigloche, and thair thow pudlit be ane lang speace, thy selff alane, in ane deip holl amongis the watter, castand watter, erd and stone oure thi schowlderis, and thair was besyid the thy maister the Deuill, quhome thow seruis, in the licknes of ane hen flichterincg, with quhome thow was thane consultand, and quhais directiounis than thow was taikand.'
In Derbyshire in 1597, 'Whereas Alice Gooderige said her familiar was like one William Gregories dog of Stapenhill, there arose a rumor, his dog was her familiar: Wherefore hee with his neighbour maister Coxe went the next day to examin her concerning this report; and she saide, my diuel (I say) was like your dog. Now out vpon thee (saide Gregorie) and departed: she being further examined, saide she had her familiar of her mother.' Alexander Hamilton, tried at Edinburgh in 1630, confessed that--
'haifing 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 thairwt to strek thruse upone the ground and to nhairge him to ruse up foule theiff Conforme to
[1. Pitcairn, i, pt. ii, p. 236.
2. Spalding Club Misc., i, pp. 157-60.
3. Alse Gooderidge, p. 27.]
the whilk directioun and be streking of the said battone thryse upone the ground the devill was in use sumtymes to appeir to the said Alex in the liknes of ane corbie at uther tymes in the schape of ane katt and at uther tymes in the schape of ane dog and thereby the said Alexr did ressave reponsis frome him.--The said Alexr Hamiltoun coming to the said Thomas Homes house and seing him visseit with the said seiknes declairit to him that he was bewitchet and promeist to cure him thereof Lykas for this effect the said Alexr schortlie thereftir past to clarkingtoun burne besyde the rottoneraw haifing ane katt under his okister and thair wt his said battoun raisit Sathan his maister quha than appeirit to him in the liknes of ane corbie and thair instructit him be quhat meanis he sould cure the said Thomas of his said seiknes and he haifing ressauit that respons fra the devill the said Alexr thereftir cuist to him the kat quha therewt vanischet away.'
Two of the Somerset witches in 1664 had familiars; to Elizabeth Style the familiar came as a black dog, 'and when she hath a desire to do harm, she calls the Spirit by the name of Robin, to whom when he appeareth, she useth these words, O Sathan give me my purpose. She then tells him what she would have done. And that he should so appear to her was part of her Contract with him.--Alice Duke saith, that when the Devil doth any thing for her, she calls for him by the name of Robin, upon which he appears, and when in the shape of a Man, she can hear him speak.' This shows that the familiar, or Devil as she called him, was not always in the form of a man. The trial of Margaret Nin-Gilbert at Thurso was as late as 1719: 'Being interrogat, If ever the devil appeared afterwards to her? Confessed, That sometimes he appeared in the likeness of a great black horse, and other times riding on a black horse, and that he appeare sometimes in the likeness of a black cloud, and sometimes like a black henn.'
Forbes, the great Scotch lawyer, says that 'to some he [the Devil] gives certain Spirits or Imps to correspond with, and serve them as their Familiars, known to them by some odd
[1. From an unpublished trial in the Justiciary Court at Edinburgh.
2. Glanvil, pt. ii, pp. 136, 137, 152.
3. Sharpe, p. 191.]
Names, to which they answer when called. These Imps are said to be kept in Pots or other Vessels.' Though the domestic familiar is thus mentioned in the law of Scotland, it never occurs in the trials. It is confined so strictly to England that Hutchinson is able to say 'I meet with little mention of Imps in any Country but ours, where the Law makes the feeding, suckling, or rewarding of them to be Felony'. It is not found north of Lancashire, and the chief records are in Essex, Suffolk, and the other Eastern counties.
The domestic familiar was always a small animal, was fed in a special manner on bread and milk and blood, and was kept, as Forbes points out, in a box or earthen pot on a bed of wool. It was used for working magic on the persons and property of other people, never for divining. Giffard records the general belief: 'The witches have their spirits, some hath one, some hath more, as two, three, foure, or five, some in one likenesse, and some in another, as like cats, weasils, toades, or mise, whom they nourish with milke or with a chicken, or by letting them suck now and then a drop of bloud.'
In the earlier trials the witches confessed to pricking the hands or face and giving the resulting drop or drops of blood to the familiar. In the later trials this has developed into the sucking of the witch's blood by the familiar; and the supernumerary nipple, which was so marked a feature of the English witches, was popularly supposed to be caused by such sucking. It is more probable, however, that the witch who was possessed of a supernumerary nipple would regard it as something supernatural, and would use it to nourish a supernatural animal.
Elizabeth Francis, tried at Chelmsford in 1556,
'learned this arte of witchcraft of hyr grandmother whose nam mother Eue. Item when shee taughte it her, she counseiled her to renounce GOD and his worde and to geue of her bloudde to Sathan (as she termed it) whyche she delyuered her in the lykenesse of a whyte spotted Catte, and taughte her to feede the sayde Catte with breade and mylke, and she
[1. Forbes, ii, pp. 33.
2. F. Hutchinson. Hist. Essay, p. 77.
3. Giffard, p. 18.]
dyd so, also she taughte her to cal it by the name of Sathan and to kepe it in a basket. Item that euery tyme that he did any thynge for her, she sayde that he required a drop of blonde, which she gaue him by prycking herselfe, sometime in one place and then in an other. When shee had kept this Cat by the space of XV or XVI yeare, and as some saye (though vntruly) beinge wery of it, she came to one mother Waterhouse her neyghbour, she brought her this cat in her apron and taught her as she was instructed by her grandmother Eue, telling her that she must cal him Sathan and geue him of her bloude and breade and milke as before.--Mother Waterhouse receyued this cat of this Frances wife in the order as is before sayde. She (to trye him what he coulde do) wyld him to kyll a hog of her owne, which he dyd, and she 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 anythynge for her, by pricking her hand or face and puttinge the bloud to hys mouth whyche he sucked, and forthwith wold lye downe in hys pot againe, wherein she kepte him. Another tym she rewarded hym as before, wyth a chicken and a droppe of her bloud, which chicken he eate vp cleane as he didde at the rest, and she cold fynde remaining neyther bones nor fethers. Also she said that when she wolde wyl him to do any thinge for her, she wolde say her Pater noster in laten. Item, this mother Waterhouse confessed that shee fyrst turned this Cat into a tode by this meanes, she kept the cat a great while in woll in a pot, and at length being moued by pouertie to occupie the woll, she praied in the name of the father and of the sonne, and of the holy ghost that it wold turne into a tode, and forthwith it was turned into a tode, and so kept it in the pot without woll.'
In 1579 at Windsor--
'one Mother Dutton dwellyng in Cleworthe Parishe keepeth a Spirite or Feende in the likenesse of a Toade, and fedeth the same Feende liyng in a border of greene Hearbes, within her Garden, with blood whiche she causeth to issue from her owne flancke. Mother Deuell, dwellyng nigh the Ponde in Windesore, hath a Spirite in the shape of a Blacke Catte, and calleth it Gille, whereby she is aided in her Witchcrafte, and she daiely feedeth it with Milke, mingled with her owne bloud. Mother Margaret, dwellying in the Almeshouse at Windesore, dooeth feede a Kitlyng or Feende by her named Ginnie, with crummes of bread and her owne blood. The saied Elizabeth Stile, of her self confesseth that she the same
[1. Witches at Chelmsford, pp. 24-32; Philobiblon Soc., viii.]
Elizabeth kept a Ratte, beeyng in very deede a wicked Spirite, namyng it Philip, and that she fedde the same Ratte with bloode, issuing from her right handwrest, the markes whereof euidently remaine.'
At St. Osyth in Essex in 1582 Thomas Rabbet, aged eight, said that his mother Ursley Kemp 'hath foure seuerall spirites, the one called Tyffin, the other Tittey, the third Pigine, and the fourth Iacke: and being asked of what colours they were, saith, that Tyttey is like a little grey Cat, Tyffin is like a white lambe, Pygine is black like a Toad, and Iacke is blacke like a Cat. And hee saith, hee hath seen his mother at times to giue thie[m] beere to drinke, and of a white Lofe or Cake to eate, and saith that in the night time the said spirites will come to his mother, and sucke blood of her vpon her armes and other places of her body.' Febey Hunt, stepdaughter of Ales Hunt of the accused witches, stated that 'shee hath seen her mother to haue two little thinges like horses, the one white, the other blacke, the which shee kept in a little lowe earthen pot with woll, colour white and blacke, and that they stoode in her chamber by her bed side, and saith, that shee hath seene her mother to feede them with milke'. Ales Hunt herself said that 'shee had within VI. dayes before this examination two spirits, like unto little Coltes, the one blacke, and the other white: And saith she called them by the names of Iacke and Robbin. This Examinate saith that her sister (named Margerie Sammon) hath also two spirites like Toades, the one called Tom, and the other Robbyn.' Ursley Kemp confessed that 'about a quarter of a yere past, she went vnto mother Bennets house for a messe of milke, the which shee had promised her: But at her comming this examinate saith shee knocked at her dore, and no bodie made her any answere, whereupon shee went to her chamber windowe and looked in therat, saying, ho, ho, mother Bennet are you at home: And
[1. Rehearsall, par. 2-5.
2. Also called Tissey. Compare the name of the magic cat given to Frances More by Goodwife Weed, p. 219.
3. In Ales Hunt's own confession (q.v.) the animals in question are called colts. I would suggest that this is cotes, the well-known provincialism for cats; but the recorder understood the word as colts and further improved it into horses.]
casting her eyes aside, slice saw a spirit lift up a clothe, lying ouer a pot, looking much lik a Ferret. And it being asked of this examinate why the spirite did looke vpon her, shee said it was hungrie. Elizabeth Bennet acknowledged that she had two 'spirits, one called Suckin, being blacke like a Dogge, the other called Lierd, beeing red like a Lion. Suckin this examinat saith is a hee, and the other a shee. Many tymes they drinke of her milke bowle. And when, and as often as they did drinke of the mylke: This Examynate saith they went into the sayd earthen pot, and lay in the wooll.' Ursley Kemp also gave evidence concerning Ales Hunt's familiars: 'About the foureteene or fifteene day of Januarie last, shee went to the house of William Hunt to see howe his wife did, and shee being from home, slice called at her chamber window and looked in, and then espied a spirite to looke out of a potcharde from vnder a clothe, the nose thereof beeing browne like vnto a Ferret.' In 1588 in Essex an old woman, whose name is not given,
'confessed all: Which was this in effect: that she had three spirits: one like a cat, which she called Lightfoot, another like a toad, which she called Lunch, the third like a Weasill, which she called Makeshift. This Lightfoot, she said, one mother Barlie of W. solde her aboue sixteene yeares agoe, for an ouen cake, and told her the Cat would doe her good seruice, if she woulde, she might send her of her errand: this Cat was with her but a while, but the Weasill and the Toad came and offered their seruice: The Cat would kill kine, the Weasil would kill horses, the Toad would plague men in their bodies.--There was one olde mother W. of great T. which had a spirite like a Weasill: she was offended highlie with one H. M. home she went, and called forth her spirite, which lay in a pot of woll vnder her bed, she willed him to goe plague the man; he required what she would give him. She said she would give him a cocke, which she did.' Another Mother W. 'sayd she had a spirit in the likenesse of a yellow dun cat'.
In Lancashire in 1613 old mother Demdike confessed that 'vpon a Sabbath day in the morning, this Examinate hauing
[1. Witches taken at St. Oses, A 3, A 5, C 3 and 4, B 2, B 5 and C 1, B 3.
2. Giffard, pp. 19, 27, 39.]
a litle Child vpon her knee, and she being in a slumber, the sayd Spirit appeared vnto her in the likenes of a browne Dogg, forcing himselfe to her knee, to get blood vnder her left Arme: and she being without any apparrell sauing her Smocke, the said Deuill did get blood vnder her left arme.' Of the witches who plagued the Fairfax family at Fewstone in 1621, five had domestic familiars: Margaret Waite's was 'a deformed thing with many feet, black of colour, rough with hair, the bigness of a cat'; her daughter, Margaret Waite, had as 'her spirit, a white cat spotted with black, and named Inges'; Jennet Dibble had 'her spirit in the shape of a great black cat called Gibbe, which hath attended her now above 40 years'; Dibble's daughter, Margaret Thorpe, had a 'familiar in the shape of a bird, yellow of colour, about the bigness of a crow--the name of it is Tewhit'; Elizabeth Dickenson's spirit was 'in the likeness of a white cat, which she calleth Fillie, she hath kept it twenty years'. The witch of Edmonton, Elizabeth Sawyer, in 1621, said: 'It is eight yeares since our first acquaintance, and three times in the weeke, the Diuell would come and see mee; he would come sometimes in the morning, and sometimes in the evening. Alwayes in the shape of a dogge, and of two collars, sometimes of blacke and .sometimes of white. I gaue him leaue to sucke of my bloud, the which hee asked of me. When he came barking to mee he then had done the inischiefe that I did bid him to doe for me. I did call the Diuell by the name of Tom. I did stroake him on the backe, and then he would becke vnto me, and wagge his tayle as being therewith contented.' Margaret Johnson, another Lancashire witch in 1633, 'alsoe saith, yt when her devill did come to sucke her pappe, hee usually came to her, in ye liknes of a cat, sometymes of one colour, and sometymes on (sic) an other. And yt since this trouble befell her, her spirit hath left her, and shee never sawe him since.'
From 1645 to 1647 are the chief records of the witch trials of Essex and the eastern counties, celebrated as the scene of Matthew Hopkins's work. The Essex trials took place in
[1. Potts, B 3.
2. Fairfax, pp. 32, 33, 34, 79, 82.
3. Wonderfull Discouerie of Elizabeth Sawyer.
3. Whitaker. p. 216.]
1645: John Sterne, Hopkins's assistant, deposed that when watching Elizabeth Clarke.
'the said Elizabeth desired this informant, and the rest that were in the roome with her, to sit downe, and said, shee would shew this informant and the rest some of her impes: and within halfe an houre there appeared a white thing in the likeness of a cat, but not altogether so big: and being asked, if she would not be afraid of her impes, the said Elizabeth answered, "What, do yee think I am afraid of my children?" And that shee called the name of that white impe, Hoult. And this informant further saith, That presently after there appeared another white impe, with red spots, as big as a small dog, which shee then called Jarmara: and that immediately after, there appeared at the threshold of the doore another impe about the bignesse of the first, but did presently vanish away. And then the said Elizabeth being asked, if any more impes would come? she answered, "That Vinegar Tom would come by and by". And forthwith there appeared another in the likenesse of a dumb dogge, somewhat bigger than any of the former. And the said Elizabeth also told this informant, that shee had three impes from her mother, which were of a browne colour, and two from the old beldam Weste; and that there had five [? four] impes appeared, but shee had one more, called Sack and Sugar. And the said Elizabeth further confessed to this informant, that shee had one impe for which she would fight up to the knees in bloud, before shee would lose it; and that her impes did commonly suck on the old beldam Weste, and that the said beldam's impes did suck on her the said Elizabeth likewise.--Anne Leech saith, That she had a grey impe sent to her, and that this examinant, together with the said Elizabeth Clark, and Elizabeth the wife of Edward Gooding, did about a yeer since, send their imps to kill a black cowe and a white cowe of Mr. Edwards, which was done accordingly. And this examinant saith, that she sent her grey impe, Elizabeth Clark a black imp, and Elizabeth Gooding a white imp. And this examinant confesseth, that she and the said Elizabeth Gooding, sent either of them an imp to destroy the childe of the said Mr. Edwards; this examinant's imp being then a white one, and Elizabeth Gooding's a black imp; and that about thirty yeers since, this examinant had the said white imp and two others, a grey and a black imp of one Anne, the wife of Robert Pearce of Stoak in Suffolk, being her brother; and that these imps went commonly from one to another, and did mischief where ever they went; and that when this examinant did not send and imploy them abroad to do mischief, she had not her health, but when they were imployed, she was healthfull and well, and that these imps did usually suck those teats which were found about the privie parts of her body.--Hellen Clark confesseth, that about six weeks since, the Devill. appeared to her in her house, in the likenesse of a white dog, and that she calleth that familiar Elimanzer; and that this examinant hath met often fed him with milk pottage.--Rebecca West saith, that about a month since, the aforesaid Anne Leech, Elizabeth Gooding, Hellen Clark, Anne West, and this examinant, met all together at the house of the aforesaid Elizabeth Clark in Mannyntree, where they spent some time in praying unto their familiars, and every one in order went to prayers; afterwards some of them read in a book, the book being Elizabeth Clarks; and this examinant saith, that forthwith their familiars appeared, and every one of them made their severall propositions to those familiars, what every one of them desired to have effected.--The Information of Matthew Hopkins, Gent. taken upon oath before the said justices. This informant saith, That being lately at Colchester, he went to the castle, where the said Rebecca Weste, with the other five, are secured until the next gaole delivery: and this informant going to Rebecca Weste, and asking her how shee came first to be a witch, the said Rebecca told this informant, that about a yeare since, or thereabouts, halfe an houre before sun-set, the said Anne Weste (her mother) carried the said Rebecca Weste towards Mannintree (which is about a small mile from the place where the said Anne dwelt) and the said Rebecca told this informant, that as her mother and shee walked together, the said Anne told the said Rebecca, shee must keepe secret whatsoever shee saw, whither they were then going; and the said Rebecca promised so to doe; and the said Rebecca told this informant, that her mother and shee went to the house of the aforesaid Elizabeth Clarke, where at their comming in they found the aforesaid Anne Leech, widow, Elizabeth Gooding, Hellen Clarke, and the house-keeper Elizabeth Clarke, and that forthwith the Devill appeared to them in the shape of a dogge; afterwards in the shape of two kitlyns; then in the shape of two dogges; and that the said familiars did doe homage in the first place to the said Elizabeth Clarke, and skipped up into her lap and kissed her; and then went and kissed all that were in the roome, except the said Rebecca: and the said Rebecca told this informant, that immediately one of the company asked the said Anne her mother, if shee had acquainted her daughter (the said Rebecca) with the businesse. [Rebecca then took an oath of secrecy]; after she had consented to all these things, the Devill. came into her lap, and kissed her, and promised to doe for her what she could desire.--The Information of Elizabeth Otley of Wyvenhoe, taken upon oath before the said justices. This informant saith, that Alice Dixon, who now stands committed for a suspected witch, did in the presence of Mary Johnson of the same town, charge and accuse the said Mary Johnson to be the death of this informant's child, saying, that the said Mary Johnson did carry an impe in her pocket to this informant's house, and put the said impe into the house, at an hole in the doore, bidding it go rock the cradle, and do the businesse she sent it about.--The Information of Joseph Long, Minister of Clacton in the County of Essex, taken before the said justices. This informant saith, that Anne the wife of John Cooper of Clacton aforesaid, being accused for a witch: Confessed unto this informant, that she the said Anne hath had three black impes suckled on the lower parts of her body; called by the names of Wynowe, Jeso, and Panu. And the said Anne further confessed unto this informant, that she the said Anne offered to give unto her daughter Sarah Cooper an impe in the likenes of a gray kite [kit], to suck on the said Sarah; which impes name the said Anne called Tom boy; and told the said Sarah, there was a cat for her.--This informant Henry Cornwall saith, that the said Margaret [Moone] did confesse to him that she had twelve impes, and called them by their names; of which he remembers onely these following: Jesus, Jockey, Sandy, Mrit. Elizabeth, and Collyn.--The information of Francis Milles, taken upon oath before the said justices. This informant saith, that she asking the said Margaret [Moone] for her impes, which sucked those teats; she said, if she might have some bread and beere, she would call her said impes; which being given unto her, she put the bread into the beere, and set it against an hole in the wall, and made a circle round the pot, and then cried, Come Christ, come Christ, come Mounsier, come Mounsier: And no impe appearing, she cried out and said, she had devilish daughters, which had carried her impes away in a white bagge, and wished they might be searched.--The information of Francis Stock, and John Felgate, taken upon oath before the said justices. The said Francis and John say, that the said Sarah Barton, told them, that the said Marian [Hocket] had given and delivered unto her the said Sarah three imps, and that the said Marian called them by the names of Littleman, Pretty-man, and Dainty.--This examinant, Elizabeth Harvie saith, that about halfe a yeer since, the said Marian Hocket brought three things to her house, two of them being smaller than mouses, and the other somewhat bigger and longer; and 'that the said Marian told this examinant they were pretty things, and would do her and this examinant good, if shee this examinant would keep them.--Rose Hallybread saith, that about fifteen or sixteen yeers since, there was an imp brought to her house by one Goodwife Hagtree, which imp this examinant entertained, fed it with oatmeale, and suckled it on her body, for the space of a yeer and a halfe, or thereabouts, and then lost it: And this examinant further saith, that about half a yeer since, one Joyce Boanes (who is now also accused for Witchcraft), brought to this examinants house another imp, in the likenesse of a small grey bird, which this examinant received. And this examinant further saith, that about eight dayes since, Susan Cock, Margaret Landish, and Joyce Boanes, (all which stand now suspected for Witchcraft) brought to this examinants house each of them an imp, (in all three) to which this examinant added one of her own imps; and then the said Joyce Boanes carryed the said four imps to the house of one Robert Turner, to torment his servant.--Joyce Boanes saith, that about thirteen yeers since, shee had two imps which came into the bed to her in the likenesse of mouses, and that they sucked on this examinants body. And this examinant also saith, that she carried one of her said imps, called Rug, to the house of the said Rose Hallybread; and that her said imp Rug, with the three imps of the said Rose Hallybread, Susan Cock, and Margaret Landish, each of them sending one, were carried by this examinant from the house of the said Rose Hallybread, to the house of the said Robert Turner to kill the servant of the said Robert.--Susan Cock saith, that about three or four yeeres since, one Margery Stoakes, this examinants mother, lying upon her death-bed, and this examinant comming to visit her, shee the said Margery desired this examinant privately to give entertainment to two of her imps, and withall told this examinant, they would do this examinant good: And this examinant saith, that the same night her said mother dyed, the said two imps came to her accordingly, and sucked on her body: And this examinant saith, that one of the said imps was like a mouse, and the name of that was Susan; that the other was of a yellow colour, about the bigness of a cat; and that the name of that imp was Besse.--Rebecca Jones saith, that as shee was going to St. Osyth (where this examinant doth now dwell) to sell her said masters butter, a man met with her, being in a ragged suite, and having such great eyes, that this examinant was much afraid of him; who came to this examinant, and gave her three things like to moules, having foure feet a piece, but without tayles, and of a black colour, and bid this examinant nurse the said three things, untill he did desire them againe; And this examinant asked the said man, what she should give them to eate, and he told this examinant milke, and that they would not hurt her, and wished her not to be afraid of them. And the said man told this examinant, that those three things which he gave her, would avenge her on her enemies, and bid her murther some, but not too many, and he would forgive her; and then went away from this examinant. And this examinant saith, that the names of her three imps were Margaret, Amie, and Susan. And that a while after, this examinant and one Joyce Boanes, now in prison, did send each of them an impe to kill one Thomas Bumstead of St. Osyth: And that the impe which the said Joyce Boanes sent was a dund one like unto a mouse.--Johan Cooper saith, That she hath been a witch about twenty yeers, and hath three familiars, two like mouses, and the third like a frog; the names of the two like mouses are Jack, and the other Prickeare, and the name of the third, like a frog, is Frog.--Anne Cate saith, That she hath four familiars, which shee had from her mother, about two and twenty yeeres since, and that the names of the said imps are James, Prickeare, Robyn, and Sparrow: and that three of these imps are like mouses, and the fourth like a sparrow, which she called Sparrow.'
In 1646 the Huntingdonshire witches were tried. Elizabeth Weed of Great Catworth confessed that--
'about one and twenty yeares since she being saying her Prayers in the evening about bedtime, there did appeare unto her three Spirits, one in the likeness of a young man or boy, and the other two of two Puppies, the one white and the other black. Being demanded the name of the lesser Spirits, shee saith the name of the white one was Lilly, and the blacke one Priscill; and that the office of Lilly was to hurt man, woman, or childe; and the office of Priscill was to hurt Cattell when she desired.--Francis Moore saith, that about eight yeares since she received a little blacke puppy from one Margaret Simson of great Catworth, which dog the said Margaret had in her bed with her, and took it thence when she gave it to the Examinate: The Examinate further saith, that the said Margaret told her, that she must keep that dogge all her life time; and if she cursed any Cattell, and set the same dog upon them, they should presently dye, and the said Margaret told her that she had named it already, his name was Pretty. And the said Examinate further saith, that about the same time one goodwife Weed gave her a white Cat, telling her, that if she would deny God, and affirme the same by her bloud, then whomsoever she cursed and sent that Cat unto, they should dye shortly after. Whereupon the said Examinate
[1. Howell, iv, 834 et seq.]
saith that shee did deny God, and in affirmation thereof shee pricked her finger with a thorne, whence issued bloud, which the Cat presently licked, and the said goodwife (sic) Weed named the Cat Tissy. And she further saith, that she killed the said Dog and Cat about a yeare since.-Joan Wallis of Keiston said [that the Devil came to her] and shee asked what his name was, and he said his name was Blackeman, and asked her if she were poore, and she said I; then he told her he would send one Grissell and Greedigut to her, that shall do any thing for her. And after Blackman was departed from her, within three or four dayes, Grissell and Greedigut came to her, in the shapes of dogges with great brisles of hogges haire upon their backs.' The accounts given by John Winnick, Ellen Shepheard, and Anne Desborough suggest that they are confused amplifications of the ritual to be observed in taking a familiar, the ritual being clearly given in the confession of Francis Moore when she was presented with the cat Tissy. John Winnick said, 'On a Friday being in the barne [where he lost his purse] there appeared unto him a Spirit, blacke and shaggy, and having pawes like a Beare, but in bulk not fully so big as a Coney. The Spirit asked him what he ailed to be so sorrowfull, this Examinate answered that he had lost a purse and money, and knew not how to come by it againe. The Spirit replied, if you will forsake God and Christ, and fall down and worship me for your God, I will help you to your purse and mony againe: This Examinate said he would, and thereupon fell down upon his knees and held up his hands. Then the Spirit said, tomorrow about this time of the day, you shall find your purse. Whereupon at the time prefixed, this Examinate went unto the place, and found his purse upon the floore and tooke it up, and looking afterwards into it, he found there all the money that was formerly lost: but before he had looked into it, the same Spirit appears unto him, and said, there is your purse and your money in it: and then this Examinate fell downe upon his knees and said, my Lord and God I thanke you. The said Spirit at that time brought with him two other Spirits, for shape, bignesse, and colour, the one like a white Cat, the other like a grey Coney: and while this Examinate was upon his knees, the Beare Spirit spake to him, saying, you must worship these two Spirits as you worship me, and take them for your Gods also: then this Examinate directed his bodie towards them, and call'd them his Lords and Gods. Then the Beare Spirit told him that when he dyed he must have his soule, whereunto this Examinate yielded. Hee told him then also that they must suck of his body, to which this Examinate also yielded.--Ellen Shepheard saith that about five years since, when she was in her homsted at Molesworth, there appeared unto her a Spirit, somewhat like a Rat, but not fully so big, of an iron-grey colour, and said you must goe with me, and she said, I will not, avoid Satan, and thereupon he went away. Shee saith, that within a short time after, going into the field, cursing, and fretting, and blaspheming, there appeared three Spirits more with the former in the fashion of Rats, of an iron-grey, and said, you must forsake God and Christ, and goe with me, and take those Spirits for your Gods, and you shall have all happinesse, whereunto she consented: And moreover they said unto her, that when she dyed, they must have her body and soule, and said they must have blood from her, which she granted, and thereupon they sucked her upon and about her hippes.--Anne Desborough confesseth, that about thirty yeares since, the first weeke of Cleane Lent, there appeared unto her a thing some-what bigger than a Mouse, of a brown colour, and of the likenesse of a mouse. This was while shee lived at Tichmarsh in the County of Northampton: she being there in bed, and in a dreame, the said likenesse then gave her a nip, and thereby awakened her out of her dreame, and then told her (when she was awakened) that it must have part of her soule; whereupon she was in a great feare, and gave him no answer, but prayed to God, and thereupon it vanished away from her. About five dayes after, the same Mouse appeared to her againe, bringing with it another Mouse, about the bignesse of an ordinary Mouse, or very little bigger, browne like the former, save Only that the latter had some white about the belly, whereas the former was all browne. Then the Mouse that first appeared, said, we must sucke of your body. She yielded to them, and said, they should; upon her yielding, they went to her and sucked of her bodie, where the markes are found. The bigger mouse she called Tib, and the lesser Jone. Tib told her that she must forsake God and Christ, and take them for her Gods, telling her that when she dyed, they must have her soule, to all which she yielded.'
In Cambridgeshire in 1647 Dorothy Ellis 'saith that about thirtie yeares since shee being much troubled in her minde there appeared unto hir the Devell in the liknes of a great catt and speak unto this ext and demanded of hir hir blood wch she gave hime after which the spirit in the liknes of a catt suck upon the body of this ex, and the first thing this ext commanded her spirit to doe was to goe and be witch four of the cattell of Tho. Hitch all which cattell presently died'. John
[1. Davenport, pp. 1-12.
2. Gibbons, p-113.]
Palmer of St. Albans in 1649, 'upon his compact with the Divel, received a flesh brand, or mark, upon his side, which gave suck to two familiars, the one in the form of a dog, which he called George, and the other in the likeness of a woman, called Jezebell.' Of the Somerset witches in 1664, Alice Duke 'confesseth that her Familiar doth commonly suck her right Breast about seven at night, in the shape of a little Cat of a dunnish colour, which is as smooth as a Want, and when she is suckt, she is in a kind of a Trance.--Christian Green saith, The Devil doth usually suck her left Brest about five of the Clock in the Morning in the likeness of an Hedghog, bending, and did so on Wednesday Morning last. She saith that it is painful to her, and that she is usually in a trance when she is suckt.' In 1665 Abre Grinset of Dunwich in Suffolk 'did confess, that the Devil did appear in the form of a Pretty handsom Young Man first; and since Appeareth to her in the form of a blackish Gray Cat or Kitling, that it sucketh of a Tett and hath drawn blood'.
The only published account of the animal familiar in France shows a combination of the two classes, for the creature was a toad kept in the house, fed in a particular way, and used for divination.
Silvain Nevillon and Gentien le Clerc were tried at Orleans in 1614. Silvain confessed--
'qu'iI y a des Sorciers qui nourrissent des Marionettes, qui sont de petits Diableteaux en forme de Crapaux, & leur font manger de la bouillie composée de laict & de farine, & leur donnent le premier mourceau, & n'oseroient s'absenter de leur maison sans leur demander congé, & luy faut dire combien de temps ils seront absens, comme trois ou quatre iours, & si elles disent que c'est trop, ceux qui les gardent, n'osent faire leur voyage ny outre-passer leur volonté. Et quand ils veulent aller en marchandise ou ioüer, & sçauoir s'il y fera bon, ils regardent si les-dites Marionettes sont ioyeuses, en ce cas ils vont en marchandise, ou ioüer: mais si elles sont maussades & tristes, ils ne bougent de la maison.--Gentil ou Gentie[n] le Clerc dit qu'il y auoit plus d'acquest en sa Marionette qu'en Dieu. Et auoit veu souuent la Marionette dudit Neuillon, qui
[1. Gerish, The Divel's Delusions. p. 12.
2. Glanvil, pt. ii, pp. 151, 157.
3. Petto, p. 18.]
est comme vn gros crapaut tout noir, comme d'vne fourrure noire, & estoit dans vne boëtte caché soubs vn carreau, qui sautoit & leuoit quand on vouloit donner a manger audit crapaut. Qu'il l'a veu encore puis six sepmaines en la ruelle du lict dudict Neuillon, & qu'il a veu qu'il l'apportoit vne autre fois dans son manteau, qu'il luy a dit vne douzaine de fois, que s'iI vouloit it luy en feroit auoir vne. Qu'il y auoit plus profit en icelle qu'en Dieu, & qu'il gagneroit rien à regarder Dieu: mais que sa Marionette luy apportoit tousiours quelque chose.' With this may be compared the account of a Lapp familiar in 1653: 'Dans chaque maison it y a un gros chat noir, duquel its font grand estime, parlant à luy comme s'il avoit de la raison, ne font rien qu'il ne luy communique, croyans qu'il leur aide en leurs entreprises, ne manquans tous les soirs de sortir de leurs cabannes pour le consulter, & les suit par tout oh its vont, tant à la pesche qu'à la chasse. Quoy que cet animal ait la figure d'un chat par son regard, qui est épouvantable, j'ay creu & croy encore que c'est un Diable familier.'
There seem to have been four methods of obtaining familiars: 1, by gift from the Devil; 2, by gift from a fellow-witch: 3, by inheritance; 4, by magical ceremonies. Of these, Nos. 2 and 3 appear to be confined to the domestic familiar, consequently they are found chiefly in the eastern counties of England.
1. The gift of the Devil was sometimes a divining familiar, sometimes a domestic familiar, commonly presented at the admission ceremony. As the divining familiar it represented the Devil himself, and the 'responses' received to questions were believed to come from him. As the essential point of this class of familiar was that it should be a species of animals and not one special animal, the devil merely appointed to the witch what species she should observe in divining. The domestic familiar, being a small animal, could be actually given into the hands of the witch, with instructions for its feeding and for the method of using it. It was sometimes, but not always, identified with the devil, and was usually
[1. De Lancre, L'Incredulité, pp. 801, 803.
2. La Martinière, pp. 42-3 (ed. 1671).]
called an 'imp', perhaps with the idea of a small or miniature Devill like the Marionette of Silvain Nevillon. It acted as the 'Devil's substitute when he himself was not present, and was endowed with some, though not all, of his power; for this reason the witch often had more than one familiar, each to serve a single purpose. In 1645 at Ipswich Mother Lakeland confessed that after she had signed the covenant with the Devil, 'he furnished her with three Imps, two little Dogs and a Mole.' In the same year, Rebecca Jones, an Essex witch,
'saith, that as slice was going to St Osyth to sell her masters butter, a man met with her, being in a ragged sute, and having such great eyes, that this examinant was much afraid of him; who came to this examinant and gave her three things like to moules, having foure feet a piece, but without tayles, and of a black colour, and bid this examinant nurse the said three things, untill he did desire them againe; And the said man told this examinant, that those three things which he gave her, would avenge her on her enemies, and bid her murther some, but not too many, and he would forgive her; and then went away from this examinant.'
In 1646 the Huntingdonshire witch, Joane Wallis, said that Blackman 'told her he would send one Grissell and Greedigut to her, that shall do any thing for her. And after Blackman was departed from her, within three or four dayes, Grissell and Greedigut came to her, in the shapes of dogges.' Another witch of the same Coven, Elizabeth Weed, confessed that 'there did appeare unto her three Spirits, one in the likenesse of a young man or boy, and the other two of two Puppies, the one white and the other black.'
2. The gift from a fellow-witch was -always a domestic familiar, as to the Devil alone belonged the power of appointing a divining familiar; therefore this method of obtaining a familiar is found only in the eastern counties and other places where the domestic or sucking familiar is recorded. In 1556 Elizabeth Francis, whose evidence was corroborated by Mother
[1. Imp = A slip, sapling, scion; hence applied to persons with the meaning child, lad, boy.
2. Lawes against Witches, p. 7.
3. Howell, iv, 855.
4. Davenport, p. 12.
5. Id., p. 1.]
Waterhouse, said that 'she came to one mother Waterhouse her neighbour, she brought her this cat in her apron and taught her as she was instructed by her grandmother Eue, telling her that she must cal him Sathan and geue him of her bloude and bread and milke as before.--Mother Waterhouse said, she receyued this cat of this Frances wife in the order as is before sayde.' In 1566 John Walsh, the Dorset witch, 'being demaunded whether he had euer any Familiar or no: he sayth that he had one of his sayde mayster. He being demaunded howe long he had the vse of the Familiar: He sayd one yeare by his sayd maister's life, and iiii yeres after his death.' An Essex witch in 1588 had three familiars, 'one like a cat, which she called Lightfoot. This Lightfoote, she said, one mother Barlie, of W., solde her aboue sixteene yeares ago, for an ouen cake, and told her the Cat would do her good seruice, if she woulde, she might send her of her errand.' At Orleans in 1614 Gentil le Clerc said that he had seen Nevillon's familiar, and that Nevillon 'luy a dit vne douzaine de fois, que s'il vouloit il luy en feroit auoir vne'. Elizabeth Clarke in Essex in 1645 said she 'had three impes from her mother, which were of a broune colour, and two from old beldam Weste. The said Anne Weste seemed much to pitie this examinant for her lamenesse (having but one leg) and her poverty; And said to this examinant, That there was wayes and meanes for her to live much better then now shee did: And said, that shee would send to this examinant a thing like a little kitlyn, which would fetch home some victualls for this examinant; and that it should doe her no hurt.' The Huntingdonshire witch, Francis Moore, in 1646, 'saith that about eight yeares since she received a little blacke puppy from one Margaret Simson of great Catworth. The Examinate further saith, that the said Margaret told her, that she must keep that dogge all her life time; and if she cursed any Cattell, and set the same dog upon them, they should presently dye. And the said Examinate further saith, that about the
[1. Witches at Chelmsford, pp. 20, 29.
2. Examination of John Walsh. His master was Sir Robert Draiton.
3. Giffard, p. C., see Percy Soc., viii.
De Lancre, L'Incredulité p. 803.
5. Howell, iv, 834, 836.]
same time one goodwife Weed gave her a white Cat, telling her, that if she would deny God, and affirme the same by her bloud, then whomsoever she cursed and sent that Cat unto, they should dye shortly after.'
3. The profession of the witch-religion being hereditary, it is not uncommon to find that the familiar descended from mother to daughter. This, like the familiar given by one witch to another, was the domestic familiar. It was sometimes presented during the mother's lifetime or was left as a legacy at her death. Elizabeth Francis in 1556 stated that 'she learned this arte of witchcraft at the age of xii yeres of hyr grandmother whose nam mother Eue of Hatfyelde Peuerell, disseased. Item when shee taughte it her, she counseiled her to renounce GOD and his worde and to geue of her bloudde to Sathan (as she termed it) whyche she delyuered her in the lykenesse of a whyte spotted Catte.' In 1582 Ales Hunt of St. Osyth confessed to having two spirits, and 'saith, that her sister (named Margerie Sammon) hath also two spirites like Toades, the one called Tom, and the other Robbyn: And saith further, her sayde Syster and shee had the sayd spyrites of their Mother, Mother Barnes.' In 1597 the Derbyshire witch, Alse Gooderidge, stated that 'the Diuell appeared to me in lykenesse of a little partie-colored dog red and white, and I called him Minny. She saide she had her familiar of her mother.' The Essex witches, tried in 1645, also inherited familiars from their mothers. Anne Cooper confessed 'that she the said Anne offered to give unto her daughter Sarah Cooper an impe in the likenes of a gray kite (i. e. kit, or cat), to suck on the said Sarah.--Susan Cock saith, that about three or four yeeres since, one Margery Stoakes, this examinants mother, lying upon her death-bed, and this examinant comming to visit her, shee the said Margery desired this examinant privately to give entertainment to two of her imps, and withall told this examinant, they would do this examinant good; And this examinant saith, that the same night her said mother dyed, the said two imps came to her
[1. Davenport, p. 5.
2. Witches at Chelmsford, p. 24. Philobiblon Soc., viii.
3. Witches taken at St. Oses, p. C 4.
4. Alse Gooderidge, pp. 26, 27.]
accordingly, and sucked on her body.--Anne Cate saith, That she hath four familiars, which shee had from her mother, about two and twenty yeeres since.' In 1667 at Liverpool, 'Margaret Loy, being arraigned for a witch, confessed she was one; and when she was asked how long she had so been, replied, Since the death of her mother, who died thirty years ago; and at her decease she had nothing to leave her, and this widow Bridge, that were sisters, but her two spirits; and named them, the eldest spirit to this widow, and the other spirit to her the said Margaret Loy.' This inheritance of a familiar may be compared with the Lapp custom: 'The Laplanders bequeath their Demons as part of their inheritance, which is the reason that one family excels another in this magical art.'
4. The method of obtaining a familiar by means of magical words or actions is clearly described in two modern examples:
'Sometime in the beginning of the last century, two old dames attended the morning service at Llandaewi Brefi Church, and partook of the Holy Communion; but instead of eating the sacred bread like other communicants, they kept it in their mouths and went out. Then they walked round the Church outside nine times, and at the ninth time the Evil One came out from the Church wall in the form of a frog, to whom they gave the bread from their mouths, and by doing this wicked thing they were supposed to be selling themselves to Satan and become witches.--There was an old man in North Pembrokeshire, who used to say that he obtained the power of bewitching in the following manner: The bread of his first Communion he pocketed. He made pretence at eating it first of all, and then put it in his pocket. When he went out from the service there was a dog meeting him by the gate, to which he gave the bread, thus selling his soul to the Devil. Ever after, he possessed the power to bewitch.'
On the analogy of these two examples, I suggest that in the accounts of familiars offering themselves to the witch, there was, previous to such appearance, some formula of words or some magical action which are not recorded. The animal,
[1. Howell, iv, 845, 853, 856,
2, Moore Rental, Chetham Society, xii, p. 59.
3. Scheffer, quoting Tornaeus.
4. Davies, p. 231. For a similar practice in modern England, see Transactions of the Devonshire Association. (1874), p. 201.]
which first appeared after such words or actions, would be considered as the Devil, as in the two cases quoted above. Such an explanation accounts for the statements of some of the witches that on the appearance of the animal they at once renounced the Christian religion and vowed obedience to the new God. It is noticeable that in many cases the accused acknowledged that, before the appearance of the animal, they had been 'banning and cursing', in other words, calling on the Devil; the appearance of the animal, after such summons, produced neither surprise nor alarm, and in fact seems to have been regarded as the effect of their words.
In 1556 Joan Waterhouse, the eighteen-year-old daughter of the witch Mother Waterhouse, of Hatfield Peveril, being angry with another girl, 'shee goinge home dydde as she had seene her mother doe, callynge Sathan, whiche came to her (as she sayd) in the lykenes of a great dogge'. At Aberdeen in 1597 Agnes Wobster said that the Devil appeared 'in the liknes of a lamb, quhom thow callis thy God, and bletit on the, and thaireftir spak to the'. James Device, one of the chief of the Lancashire witches in 1613, confessed 'that vpon Sheare Thursday was two yeares, his Grand-Mother Elizabeth Sothernes, alias Dembdike, did bid him this Examinate goe to the Church to receiue the Communion (the next day after being Good Friday) and then not to eate the Bread the Minister gaue him, but to bring it and deliuer it to such a thing as should meet him in his way homewards: Notwithstanding her perswasions, this Examinate did eate the Bread; and so in his comming homeward some fortie roodes off the said Church, there met him a thing in the shape of a Hare, who spoke vnto this Examinate, and asked him whether hee had brought the Bread.' In 1621 Elizabeth Sawyer, the witch of Edmonton, said that 'the first time that the Diuell came vnto me was, when I was cursing, swearing, and blaspheming'. The evidence of the Huntingdonshire witches, John Winnick and Ellen Shepheard, in 1646 (see above p. 219), and of Dorothy Ellis of Cambridgeshire in 1647, also show that the animal
[1. Witches at Chelmsford, p. 34. Philobiblon Soc., viii.
2. Spalding Club Misc., i, p. 129.
3. Potts, H 3.
4. Goodcole, Wonderfull Discoverie, p. C.]
which appeared to the witch after an access of emotion was at once acknowledged as God and accepted as the familiar. Mary Osgood of Andover in 1692 'confesses that about II years ago, when she was in a melancholy state and condition, she used to walk abroad in her orchard; and upon a certain time, she saw the appearance of a cat, at the end of the house, which yet she thought was a real cat. However, at that time, it diverted her from praying to God, and instead thereof she prayed to the devil.
The familiars in human form were human beings usually of the sex opposite to that of the witch. As these familiars, were generally called 'Devils' it is sometimes difficult to distinguish them from the Grand-master; but the evidence, taken as a whole, suggests that at certain parts of the ritual every individual of the company was known as a Devil. This suggestion is borne out in the modern survival of an ancient dance in the Basses-Pyrénées, where the dancers to this day are called Satans.
Lady Alice Kyteler, in 1324, was accused that the Devil came to her 'quandoque in specie cujusdam aethiopis cum duobus sociis'. In 1598 the Lyons witches, Thievenne Paget and Antoine Tornier, speak of 'leurs Demons' as distinct from the great Devil, and the evidence of all the other witches shows that 'il y a encor des Demons, qui assistent à ces danses'. De Lancre says that there was more than one Devil: the great one, who was called Maitre Leonard, and a little one called Maître Jean Mullin. It was this smaller Devil who held the meetings in the absence of the Chief:
'en la place du Grãd maistre, il n'y auoit qu'vn petit Diable ou Demon qui n'auoit point de cornes, lequel ne contentoit pas la compagnie comme son maistre. Qu'elles n'auoient tant de confiance en toute la trouppe des mauuais Anges qu'en celuy seul qu'ils auoient accoustumé d'adorer & seruir.--A table on se sied selon sa qualité, ayant chacun son Demon assis auprés, & parfois vis à vis. Et quand ils ont mangé, chaque Demon pre[n]d sa disciple par la main, & danse auec elle.'
[1. J. Hutchinson, ii, p. 31; Howell, vi, 659.
2. Nos sorciers tiennent la plus-part de ces Demons pour leurs Dieux.' De Lancre, Tableau, p. 23.
3. Moret, pp. 247 seq.
4. Camden Soc., Dame Alice Kyteler, p. 3.
5. Boguet, pp. 69, 132.
6. De Lancre, Tableau, pp. 67, 197.]
In 1618 Joan Willimott of Leicester confessed 'that shee hath a Spirit which shee calleth Pretty, which was giuen vnto her by William Berry, whom she serued three yeares; the Spirit stood vpon the ground in the shape and forme of a Woman, which Spirit did aske of her her Soule, which shee then promised vnto it, being willed thereunto by her Master'. In 1633, Margaret Johnson, the Lancashire witch, stated that besides theire particular familiars or spirits, there was one greate or grand devill, or spirit, more eminent than the rest. Shee allsoe saith, yt if a witch have but one marke, shee hath but one spirit; if two, then two spirits; if three, yet but two spirits. Shee alsoe saith, that men witches usually have women spirits, and women witches men spirits.' In 1649 at St. Albans a man witch had 'two familiars, the one in the form of a dog, which he called George, and the other in the likeness of a woman, called Jezebell'. In 1662 at Auldearne Issobell Gowdie confessed
'ther is threttein persones in ilk Coeven; and ilk on of vs has an Sprit to wait wpon ws, quhan ve pleas to call wpon him. I remember not all the Spritis names; bot thair is on called Swein, quhilk waitis wpon the said Margret Wilson in Aulderne; he is still [always] clothed in grass-grein. The nixt Sprit is called Rorie, who waitis wpon Bessie Wilsone, in Aulderne; he is still clothed in yallow. The third Sprit is called The Roring Lyon, who waitis wpon Issobell Nicoll, in Lochlow, and he is still clothed in sea-grein. The fowrth Spirit is called Mak Hector, qwho waitis wpon Jean Martein, dawghter to the said Margret Wilson; he is a yowng-lyk Devill, clothed still in grass-grein . . . The nam of the fyft Sprit is Robert the Rule, and he still clothed in sadd-dun, and seimis to be a Comander of the rest of the Spritis; and he waittis wpon Margret Brodie, in Aulderne. The name of the saxt Sprit is called Thieff of Hell, Wait wpon Hir Selfe; and he waitis also on the said Bessie Wilson. The name of the sevinth Sprit is called The Read Reiver; and he is my owin Spirit, that waittis on my selfe, and is still clothed in blak. The aucht Spirit is called Robert the Jackis, still clothed in dune, and seimes to be aiged. He is ane glaiked gowked Spirit. The nynth Spirit is called Laing. The tenth
[1. Wonderfull Discoverie of Margaret and Phillip Flower, E 3.
2. Whitaker, p. 216.
3. Gerish, The Divel's Delusions, p. 12.]
Spirit is named Thomas a Fearie, &c. Ther wilbe many vther Divellis, waiting wpon our Maister Divell; bot he is bigger and mor awfull than the rest of the Divellis, and they all reverence him. I will ken them all, on by on, from vtheris quhan they appeir lyk a man.'
In a later confession Issobell gave the names more fully. 'The names of owr Divellis that waited wpon ws, ar thes. First, Robert, the Jakis; Sanderis, the Read Reaver; Thomas. the Fearie; Swein, the roaring Lion; Thieffe of Hell, wait wpon hir self; Makhectour; Robert, the Rule; Hendrie Laing; and Rorie.' In Connecticut in 1662 'Robert Sterne testifieth as followeth: I saw this woman goodwife Seager in ye woods wth three more women and with them I saw two black creatures like two Indians but taller. I saw the women dance round these black creatures and whiles I looked upon them one of the women G. Greensmith said looke who is yonder and then they ran away up the hill. I stood still and ye black things came towards mee and then I turned to come away.'
The belief that human beings can change themselves, or be changed, into animals carries with it the corollary that wounds received by a person when in the semblance of an animal will remain on the body after the return to human shape. This belief seems to be connected with the worship of animal-gods or sacred animals, the worshipper being changed into an animal by being invested with the skin of the creature, by the utterance of magical words, by the making of magical gestures, the wearing of a magical object, or the performance of magical ceremonies. The witches of the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries appear to have carried on the tradition of the pre-Christian cults; and the stories of their transformations, when viewed in the light of the ancient examples, are capable of the same explanation. Much confusion, however, has been caused by the religious and so-called scientific
[1. Pitcairn notes: 'Issobell, as usual, appears to have been stopped short here by her interrogators, when she touched on such matters'. i.e., the fairies.
2. Pitcairn, iii, pp. 606, 614.
3. Taylor, p. 81.]
explanations of the contemporary commentators, as well as by the unfortunate belief of modern writers in the capacity of women for hysteria. At both periods pseudo-science has prevented the unbiassed examination of the material.
There are no records extant of the animals held sacred by the early inhabitants of Great Britain, but it is remarkable that the range of the witches' transformations was very limited; cats and hares were the usual animals, occasionally but rarely dogs, mice, crows, rooks, and bees. In France, where the solemn sacrifice of a goat at the Sabbath points to that animal being sacred, it is not surprising to find both men and women witches appearing as goats and sheep. Unless there were some definite meaning underlying the change of shape, there would be no reason to prevent the witches from transforming themselves into animals of any species. It would seem then that the witches, like the adorers of animal gods in earlier times, attempted to become one with their god or sacred animal by taking on his form; the change being induced by the same means and being as real to the witch as to Sigmund the Volsung or the worshipper of Lycaean Zeus.
In the earlier cults the worshipper, on becoming an animal, changed his outward shape to the eye of faith alone, though his actions and probably his voice proclaimed the transformation. The nearest approach to an outward change was by covering the body with the skin of the animal, or by wearing a part of the skin or a mask. The witches themselves admitted that they were masked and veiled, and the evidence of other witnesses goes to prove the same. Boguet suggests that the disguise was used to hide their identity, which was possibly the case at times, but it seems more probable, judging by the evidence, that the masking and veiling were for ritual purposes.
[1. Volsung Saga, Bks. I, II; Wm. Morris, Collected Works, xii, pp. 32, 77.
2. Pausanias, viii, 2, 3, 6, ed. Frazer. Cp. also the animal names applied to priests and priestesses, e. g. the King-bees of Ephesus; the Bee-priestesses of Demeter, of Delphi, of Proserpine, and of the Great Mother; the Doves of Dodona; the Bears in the sacred dance of Artemis; the Bulls at the feast of Poseidon at Ephesus; the Wolves at the Lupercalia, &c.]
In Lorraine in 1589 a male witness stated that 'indem wird er eine Höle, welche sie nennen die Morelianische Klippe, gewahr, darinnen sechs Weiber mit Larven umb ein Tisch, voll guldernen und silbernen Geschieren herumb tanzten.'--Bernhardt's Nicolaea said that she had seen in an open field 'mitten am hellen Tage, einen Tantz von Männern und Weibern, und weil dieselben auff eine besondere Weise und hinterücks tantzten, kam es ihr frembd für, stunde derhalben still, und sahe mit allein Fleiss zu da ward sic gewahr, das etliche in dem Reyhen waren so Geiss und Kuhfuss hatten'. At North Berwick in 1590 seven score witches 'danced endlong the Kirk yard. John Fian, missellit [muffled, masked] led the ring.' The witches whom Boguet examined in 1598 confessed to using masks: 'Les Sorciers dansent doz cõtre doz, pour ne pas estre recogneus; pour la mesme raison its se masquent encor' auiourd'huy pour la plus part--Ils se masquent pour le iour d'huy, selon que Clauda Paget l'a confessé, & auec elle plusieurs autres--Estienne Poicheux rapportoit que partie des femmes, qu'elle auoit veuës au Sabbat, estaient voilées. Et pour cela aussi les Lombards par leurs loix les appellent Mascas.' In 1609 de Lancre points out that in the Basses-Pyrénées there were two grades of witches: 'Il y en a de deux sortes. Aucu[n]s sont voilez pour doñer opinion aux pauures que ce sont des Princes & grãds seigneurs. Les autres sont decouuerts & tout ouuerteme[n]t dãcent, & ceux cy ne sont si prés du maistre, si fauoris ne si employez.' In 1613 Barbe, the wife of jean-Remy Colin de Moyemont, said that 'elle a veu dancer les assistans en nombre de sept à huict personnes, partie desquelles elle ne cognoissoit ad cause des masques hideux qu'elles auoient de noire.'
Josine Deblicq in Hainault (1616) was asked, 'Que savez vous de la troisième danse? R. Elle eut lieu an Rond-Chêneau, sur le chemin de Nivelles, près d'unc fontaine. Il y avait bien 21 ou 22 femmes, toutes masquées, chacune avec son amoureux accoutré d'un déguisement bleu, jaune ou noir.' In 1652 a French witch 'dist qu'elles dansoient les dots l'une à
[1. Remigius, pt. i, pp. 65, 67.
2. Pitcairn, i, pt. ii, pp. 245 6.
3. Boguet, pp. 120, 132-3.
4. De Lancre, Tableau, p, 129.
5. Fournier, p. 16.
6. Monoyer, p. 30.]
l'autre et qu'au milieux it y auoit vne feme masquée tenant vne chandelle'.
It will be seen from the above that the witches were often disguised at the dance, a fact strongly suggesting that the masking was entirely ritual. As the witch trials in Great Britain seldom mention, much less describe, the dance, it follows that the greater number of the cases of masks are found in France, though a few occur in Scotland, still fewer in England.
The transformation by means of an animal's skin or head is mentioned in the Liber Poenitentialis of Theodore in 668 (see p. 21). It continued among the witches, and in 1598 in the Lyons district 'il y a encor des Demons, qui assistent à ces danses en forme de boucs, on de moutons. Antoine Tornier dit, que lors qu'elle dansoit, vn mouton noir la tenoit par la main auec ses pieds bien haireux, c'est à dire rudes & reuesches'.
In many cases it is very certain that the transformation was ritual and not actual; that is to say the witches did not attempt to change their actual forms but called themselves cats, hares, or other animals. In the Aberdeen trials of 1596-7 the accused are stated to have 'come to the Fish Cross of this burgh, under the conduct of Sathan, ye all danced about the Fish Cross and about the Meal market a long space'. Here there is no suggestion of any change of form, yet in the accusation against Bessie Thom, who was tried for the same offence, the dittay states that there, accompanied with thy devilish companions and faction, transformed in other likeness, some in hares, some in cats, and some in other similitudes, ye all danced about the Fish Cross'. In 1617 in Guernsey Marie Becquet said that 'every time that she went to the Sabbath, the Devil came to her, and it seemed as though he transformed her into a female dog'. Again at Alloa in 1658, Margret Duchall, describing the murder of Cowdan's bairns, said 'after they war turned all in the liknes of cattis, they went in ouer jean Lindsayis zaird Dyk and went to Coudans hous, whair scho declared, that the Dewitt being with
[1. Van Elven, v, p. 215.
2. Boguet, p. 132.
3. Spalding Club Misc., i, pp. 97, 114-15, 165; Bessie Thom, p. 167. Spelling modernized.
4. Goldsmid, p. 110.]
tham went up the stair first with margret tailzeor Besse Paton and elspit blak'. On the other hand, Jonet Blak and Kathren Renny, who were also present and described the same scene, said nothing about the cat-form, though they particularize the clothes of the other witches. Jonet Blak said, 'the diwell, margret tailzeor with ane long rok, and kathren renny with the short rok and the bony las with the blak pok all went up the stair togidder'; while Kathren Renny said that 'ther was ane bony las with ane blak pok, who went befor ower jean Lindsayis zaird dyk and Margret tailzeor with hir'. The evidence of Marie Lamont (1662) suggests the same idea of a ritual, though not an actual, change; 'shee confessed, that shee, Kettie Scot, and Margrat Holm, cam to Allan Orr's house in the likenesse of kats, and followed his wif into the chalmer'; and on another occasion 'the devil turned them in likeness of kats, by shaking his hands above their heads'. In Northumberland (1673) the same fact appears to underlie the evidence. Ann Armstrong declared that at a witch meeting Ann Baites 'hath been severall times in the shape of a catt and a hare, and in the shape of a greyhound and a bee, letting the divell see how many shapes she could turn herself into.--They [the witches] stood all upon a bare spott of ground, and bid this informer sing whilst they danced in severall shapes, first of a haire, then in their owne, and then in a catt, sometimes in a mouse, and in severall other shapes.--She see all the said persons beforemencioned danceing, some in the likenesse of haires, some in the likenesse of catts, others in the likenesse of bees, and some in their owne likenesse.'
The method of making the ritual change by means of magical words is recorded in the Auldearne trials, where Isobel Gowdie, whose evidence was purely voluntary, gives the actual words both for the change into an animal and for the reversion into human form. To become a hare:
'I sall goe intill ane haire,
With sorrow, and sych, and meikle caire,
And I sall goe in the Divellis nam,
Ay whill I coin hom againe.'
[1. Scottish Antiquity, ix, pp. 50-2.
2. Sharpe, pp. 132, 134.
3. Surtees Soc., xl, pp. 191, 193, 194.]
To become a cat or a crow the same verse was used with an alteration of the second line so as to force a rhyme; instead of 'meikle caire', the words were 'a blak shot' for a cat, and 'a blak thraw' for a crow or craw. To revert again to the human form the words were:
Hare, hare, God send thee care.
I am in an hare's likeness just now,
But I shall be in a woman's likeness even now',
with the same variation of 'a black shot' or 'a black thraw' for a cat or a crow. The Auldearne witches were also able to turn one another into animals:
'If we, in the shape of an cat, an crow, an hare, or any other likeness, &c., go to any of our neighbours houses, being Witches, we will say, I (or we) conjure thee Go with us (or me). And presently they become as we are, either cats, hares, crows, &c., and go with us whither we would. When one of us or more are in the shape of cats, and meet with any others our neighbours, we will say, Devil speed thee, Go thou with me. And immediately they will turn in the shape of a cat, and go with us.'
The very simplicity of the method shows that the transformation was ritual; the witch announced to her fellow that she herself was an animal, a fact which the second witch would not have known otherwise; the second witch at once became a similar animal and went with the first to perform the ritual acts which were to follow. The witches were in their own estimation and in the belief of all their comrades, to whom they communicated the fact, actually animals, though to the uninitiated eye their natural forms remained unchanged. This is probably the explanation of Marie d'Aspilcouette's evidence, which de Lancre records in 1609:
'Elle a veu aussi les sorcieres insignes se changer en plusieurs sortes de bestes, pour faire peur à ceux qu'elles rencontroient: Mais celles qui se transformoyent ainsi, disoyent qu'elles n'estoyent veritablement transformees, mais seulement qu'elles sembloyent l'estre & neantmoins pendant qu'elles sont ainsi en apparences bestes, elles ne parlent du tout point'.
[1. Pitcairn, iii, pp. 607, 608, 611. Spelling modernized.
2. De Lancre, Tableau, p. 128.]
The best example of transformation by means of a magical object placed on the person is from Northumberland (1673), where Ann Armstrong stated that 'Anne Forster come with a bridle, and bridled her and ridd upon her crosse-leggd, till they come to [the] rest of her companions. And when she light of her back, pulld the bridle of this informer's head, now in the likenesse of a horse; but, when the bridle was taken of, she stood up in her owne shape. . . . This informant was ridden upon by an inchanted bridle by Michael Aynsly and Margaret his wife, Which inchanted bridle, when they tooke it of from her head, she stood upp in her owne proper person. . . . Jane Baites of Corbridge come in the forme of a gray catt with a bridle hanging on her foote, and bridled her, and rid upon her in the name of the devill.' This is again a clear account of the witch herself and her companions believing in the change of form caused by the magical object in exactly the same way that the shamans believe in their own transformation by similar means.
The Devil had naturally the same power as the witches, but in a greater degree. The evidence of Marie Lamont quoted above shows that he transformed them into animals by a gesture only. It seems possible that this was also the case with Isobel Shyrie at Forfar (1661), who was called 'Horse' and 'the Devil's horse'. The name seems to have given rise to the idea that 'she was shod like a mare or a horse'; she was in fact the officer or messenger who brought her companions to the meetings. She was never seen in the form of a horse, her transformation being probably effected by the Devil, in order that she might 'carry' the witches to and from the meetings; Agnes Spark said that Isobel 'carried her away to Littlemiln, [and] carried her back again to her own house'.'
There is also another method of transformation, which is the simplest. The witches themselves, like their contemporaries, often believed that the actual animals, which they saw, were human beings in animal form. Jeannette de Belloc, aged twenty-four, in the Basses-Pyrénées (1609), described the
[1. Surtees Soc., x1, pp. 192, 194, 197
2. Kinloch, p. 129. Spelling modernized.]
Sabbath as 'vne foire celebre de toutes sortes de choses, en laquelle aucuns se promene[n]t en leur propre forme, & d'autres sont transformez ne scayt pourquoy, en animaux. Elle n'a iamais veu aucune d'elles se trãsformer en beste en sa presence, mais seulement certaines bestes courir par le sabbat.' Helen Guthrie of Forfar (1661) states the case with even greater simplicity: 'The last summer except one, shee did sie John Tailzeour somtymes in the shape of a todde, and somtymes in the shape of a swyn, and that the said Johne Tailzeour in these shapes went wp and doune among William Millne, miller at Hetherstakes, his cornes for the destructioune of the same, because the said William hade taken the mylne ouer his head; and that the diuell cam to her and pointed out Johne Tailzeour in the forsaid shapes unto her, and told her that that wes Johne Tailzeour.'
[1. De Lancre, Tableau, pp. 129, 130.
2. Kinloch, p. 123.]