Imágenes de página

the preamble, this offence is stated to have arisen in consequence of giving faith and credit to the ' fantastical practices' which it enumerates. The statute 1 Ed. VI. cap. 12. repealed all felonies created by statute after the 23d of April in the first year of Henry VIII. But by the statute 5 Eliz. c. 16. enchantments and witchcrafts were again made cognizable by the common law, but with a graduation of punishment. Invocations or conjurations of wicked spirits, witchcraft, enchantment, charm or sorcery, whereby death ensued, were declared felony without benefit of clergy. Persons practising witchcraft, enchantment, charm or sorcery, to the bodily harm of any one, suffered imprisonment and the pillory for the first offence, and became felons without benefit of clergy for the second; but if these arts were merely used to discover treasure, provoke unlawful love, or to the intent of doing bodily harm, then the punishment for the second offence was forfeiture of goods and chattels, and imprisonment for life. In these statutes it is very observable, that the word witchcraft is used wholly in its Saxon sense, and there is some doubt whether the 'conjurations and invocations* could be extended to the popular notions of commerce and acquaintance with Satan; probably, for this reason, the act was repealed in the following reign, when the act (1 Jac. I. c. 12.) was passed by which it was declared, that 'one that shall use, practise, or exercise any invocation or conjuration of any evil or wicked spirit, or consult, covenant with, entertain, or employ, fee or reward any evil or wicked spirit, to or for any intent or purpose, or take up any dead man, woman, or child, out of his, her, or their grave, or any other place wherein the dead body resteth; or the skin, bone, or other part of any dead person, to be employed or used in any manner of witchcraft, sorcery, charm, or enchantment, such offenders, duly and lawfully convicted and attainted, shall suffer death.' Coke, in commenting upon the sorcerer's escape, remarks, with an appearance of ill humour, that the ' head and book of sorcery had the same punishment that the sorcerer should have had by the ancient law, if he had by his sorcery prayed in aid of the devil.' As the act is so penned as to make the mere taking up of a dead body, with the intent to be employed in witchcraft, a capital crime, it appears to have arisen out of the consideration of the case before quoted. A few passages from the delectable dialogue of King James will exemplify the temper in which he wished that the new law should be administered.

Epistemon replies to a question respecting the competency of accomplices as witnesses for the prosecution: 'The assize (i. e. the jury) must serve for an interpreter of our laws in that respect; but in my opinion, since in a matter of treason against the prince, barnes or wives, or never so diframed persons, may of our lawe

Vol. xxix. No. Lviii. G G servo serve for sufficient witnesses and proofes; I think surely, that by a fane greater reason, such witnesses may be sufficient in matters of high treason against God; for who but witches can be prooves, and so witnesses of the doings of witches'? Philomathes has now a slight suspicion that the witnesses may be deceived by raising up the semblances of innocent persons; but his scruples are removed by the following arguments.—' God will not permit that any innocent persons shall be slandered with that vile defection, for then the Divell would find waies enow to calumniate the best; and this we have in proof, by them that are carried with thepharie, who never see the shadow of any in that court but of them that thereafter are tried to have been brethren and sisters of that crafte. And besides that, I think it hath been seldom heard tell of, that any of those persons guilty of that crime accused, as having known them to be their marrows by eyesight, and not by heresay, but such as were so accused of witchcraft, could not be clearly tried upon them, were at the least publicly known to be of a very evil life and reputation. And besides that, there are two other good helps that may be used for their trial. The one is, the fmding of their mark, and the trying the insensibleness thereof; the other is their floating in the water. For, as in a secret murder, if the dead carkass be at any time thereafter handled by the murtherer it will gush out blood; so it appears, that God hath appointed (for a supernatural sign of the monstrous impiety of witches) that the water shall refuse to receive them in her bosom, that have shaken off them the sacred water of baptism, and wilfully refused the benefit thereof. No, not so much as there eyes are able to shed teares (threaten and torture them as ye please) while first they repent, (God not permitting them to dissemble their obstinacie in so horrible a crime.) Albeit the woman kind especially, be able otherwayes to shed teares at every light occasion when they will, yea although it were dissemblingly like the crocodiles.'

Precepts like these seemed to meet with universal approbation; and the Scottish clergy, urged by mistaken zeal, and influenced by false explanations of the scriptures, persecuted the criminals denounced before them with all the alacrity of the Inquisition. The cruelty of the proceedings appears enhanced by the formality and precision with which they are narrated. The following account may be instanced:—

* The town's part of expenses disbursed, extraordinarily, upon William Coke and Alison Dick:

£. *. d.

For ten loads of coals to burn them—5 merks 3 6 8
For a tar barrel, 14j. . . . .0140
For towes 0 6 0

For £• s. d.

For harden to be jumps for them . . . 3 10 0

For making of them . . . . 0 8 0,.

For one to go to Finmouth for the Laird, 7 o 6 0

to sit upon their assize as judge 3

To the executioner for his pains . . 8 14 0

For his expenses here .... 0 16" 4

The depositions on the trial are very remarkable. Alison was the wife of William Coke, and it appears, from the depositions of many witnesses, that she was in the habit of wrangling with her husband. The speeches on these occasions are stated in the informations to be ' tending to witchcraft.' She would say, ' thou hast put down many ships.' 'It had been gude for the people of Kirkaldie that they had knit a stone about thy neck and drowned thee.' It appears that this luckless couple were poor and wretched. They would bitterly curse the fishermen and the mariners; and if the storm arose, or the enemy captured the vessel, they themselves thought that the Evil Spirit was obedient to their call. The tragedy was consummated by Alison's declaration. 'Being demanded by Mr. James Simpson, minister, when and how she fell in convenant with the devil? she answered, her husband many times urged her, and she yielded only two or three years since. The manner was thus—he gave her soul and body, quick and quidder, to the devil; but she in her heart said, God guide me; and then she said to him, I shall do any thing that you bid me, and so she gave herself to the devil in the foresaid words. This she confessed about four hours at even, freely, without compulsion, before Mr. James Simpson, minister, William Tennant, baillie, Robert French, town clerk, Mr. John Malcolm, schoolmaster, William Craig, and James Miller, writer hereof.'

In this instance the confession by no means passes credibility. But the confession of Lillias Adie, made before the minister and elders of Torryburn, in Fifeshire, shows a much more intense delusion. They exhorted her to declare the truth. She answered, ' what I am going to say shall be as true as the sun in the firmament.' Being interrogated whether she was in compact with the devil, she replied she had been so since the second burning of .witches in this place,—an assertion well deserving of note.—All her statements were given with great accuracy and minuteness as to circumstances. The second time she saw the devil was at a meeting at the Barn rods, to which she was summoned by Grisel Auderson. Their number was about twenty or thirty; it was a moonlight night, and they danced some time before the devil came on a pony, and they clapt their hands and cried, thou our prince, thou our prince! with whom they danced about an hour. To these confessions she

G G 2 steadfastly steadfastly adhered, and she was accordingly executed in the year 1704, at Fairburn.

We are informed by Mr. Kirkpatrick Sharpe, that the last execution of a Scottish witch took place in Sutherland, A. D. 1722, the sentence having been pronounced by Captain David Ross, of Little Dean. This old woman belonged to the parish of Loth, and, among other crimes, was accused of having ridden upon her own daughter, transformed into a pony, and shod by the Devil, which made the girl ever after lame both in hands and feet—a misfortune entailed upon her son, who was alive of late years. The grandmother was executed at Dornock. After being brought out for execution, the weather proving very severe, the poor old woman sat composedly before the pile, warming herself by the fire prepared to consume her, while the other instruments of death were making ready. The witch-laws of England and Scotland were repealed in the reign of George the Second. Those of Ireland were allowed to remain upon the statute-book til! the year 1821. In some parts of Europe they, perhaps, continue in force; in the year 1786, a servant maid was executed at Glarus, on the charge of having bewitched the children of her master, one Doctor Tschudi. One Steinylter, accused at the same time of being her fellowwizard, hanged himself in prison.

In this country, however barbarous the law may have been, still the strict forms of our jurisprudence, administered by the highest judges of the land, contributed to keep these persecutions somewhat within bounds. Where these checks were wanting, the numbers persecuted, in consequence of the belief in witchcraft, almost pass credibility. In New England, in the year 1692, nineteen were hanged, one refused to plead and perished by the ' peine forte et dure.' Fifty confessed themselves to be witches, and were pardoned. One hundred and fifty were in prison, when the trials ceased, and informations had been laid against upwards of two hundred more; and this in a newly settled and thinly peopled colony! Wurtzburgh was the scene even of greater horrors in the years 1627, 1628, and 1629. In this short period upwards of one hundred and fifty victims perished. They included persons of every rank and station; many of the dignified clergy belonging to the cathedral, and some of the richest citizens. Neither age, nor sex could excite compassion. In a list drawn up by a contemporary, dated Feb. 16, 1629, and from which the following extracts are translated, he mentions twenty-nine brandten, or executions, and he adds, that many more took place.

* List of the witch folks (hexen leute) who were burnt at Wurtzburgh, in the years 1627,1628, and the beginning of 1629.

'In the fourteenth Brandt four persons:—. ...
The old smith belonging to the court.
An old woman.

A little girl eight or nine years old.

A younger one, her sister.
In the fifteenth Brandt two persons :—

The mother of the before mentioned little girls.

Liebler's daughter, aged twenty-four years. In the nineteenth Brandt six persons:—

Ga?bel Babelin, the most beautiful girl ill Wurtzburgh.

A student, who understood many languages, and was an excellent musician.

Two children out of the new minster, aged twelve years.

The daughter of Stepper Babel.

The woman who kept the Bridge-gate. In the twenty-first Brandt six persons:—

The master of the Dietricher hospital, a very learned man,

Christopher Holtzraan.

A boy aged fourteen years.

Two alumni, the little sons of Senator Stolzenberg. In the twenty-second Brandt six persons:—

Sturmer, a rich cooper,

A strange boy.

The grown-up daughter of Senator Stolzenberg.
The wife of Senator Stolzenberg herself.
The washerwoman in the new buildings.
A strange woman.
In the twenty-sixth Brandt seven persons.

David Hans, a prebendary in the new minster.

Leydenbuscb, a Senator.

The innkeeper's wife at Baumgarten.

An old woman.

The little daughter of Valckenbergh; she was privately executed, and burnt

on her bier.
The little son of the bailiff of the Senate.
Wagner, a vicar in the cathedral chapter; he was burnt alive.
In the twenty-eighth Brandt after Candlemas, 1629, six persons :—
The wife of Knertz the butphef.
Babel, daughter of Doctor Schutz,
A blind girl.

Schwart, a canon of Hack.
Ehling, a vicar.

Bernard Marck, vicar at the cathedral; he was burnt alive.*

From these returns it appears that, unless in what are considered as aggravated cases, the judges had so much mercy as to conr tent themselves with burning the dead bodies of their victims. Upwards of six hundred women were executed in the bishopric of Bamberg alone. The accusations bear the stamp of raving madness. Priests were convicted of baptising in the following form ;^Ego non baptizo te in nomine Patris et Filii et Spiritus Sancti—sed in nomine Diaboli.—Parents devoted their unborn offspring to Satan; and the babes were so emhued with witchcraft, that they instructed each other in the public streets: and, according to the confession of the witches, upwards of three thousand assembled at their grand annual chapter pr assembly, held on the

G o 3 eve

« AnteriorContinuar »