The Burning Times
Witchcraft Act of 1604 - 1 Jas. I, c. 12
An Acte against conjuration Witchcrafte and dealinge with evill and wicked Spirits.
”BE it enacted by the King our Sovraigne Lorde the Lordes Spirituall and Temporall and the Comons in this p'sent Parliment assembled, and by the authoritie of the same, That the Statute made in the fifte yeere of the Raigne of our late Sov'aigne Ladie of the most famous and happy memorie Queene Elizabeth, intituled An Acte againste Conjurations Inchantments and witchcraftes, be from the Feaste of St. Michaell the Archangell nexte cominge, for and concerninge all Offences to be comitted after the same Feaste, utterlie repealed.
AND for the better restrayning of saide Offenses, and more severe punishinge the same, be it further enacted by the authoritie aforesaide, That if any pson or persons after the saide Feaste of Saint Michaell the Archangell next comeing, shall use practise or exercsise any Invocation or Conjuration of any evill and spirit, or shall consult covenant with entertaine employ feede or rewarde any evill and wicked Spirit to or for any intent or pupose ; or take any dead man woman or child out of his her or theire grave or any other place where the dead body resteth, or the skin, bone or any other parte of any dead person, to be imployed or used in any manner of Witchecrafte, Sorcerie, Charme or Inchantment ; or shall use practise or exercise any Witchcrafte Sorcerie, Charme or Incantment wherebie any pson shall be killed destroyed wasted consumed pined or lamed in his or her bodie, or any parte therof ; then that everie such Offendor or Offendors theire Ayders Abettors and Counsellors, being of the saide Offences dulie and lawfullie convicted and attainted, shall suffer pains of deathe as a Felon or Felons, and shall loose the priviledge and benefit of Cleargie and Sanctuarie.
AND FURTHER, to the intent that all manner of practise use or exercise of declaring by Witchcrafte, Inchantment Charme or Sorcerie should be from henceforth utterlie avoyded abolished and taken away, Be it enacted by the authorite of this p'sent Parliament, that if any pson or psons shall from and after the saide Feaste of Saint Michaell the Archangell next cominge, take upon him or them by Witchcrafte Inchantment Charme or Sorcerie to tell or declare in what place any treasure of Golde or silver should or had in the earth or other secret places, or where Goodes or Thinges loste or stollen should be founde or become ; or to the intent to Pvoke any person to unlawfull love, or wherebie and Cattell or Goods of any pson shall be destroyed wasted or impaired, or to hurte or destroy any Pson in his bodie, although the same be not effected and done : that then all and everie such pson or psons so offendinge, and beinge therof lawfullie convicted , shall for the said Offence suffer Imprisonment by the space of one whole yeere, without baile or maineprise, and once in everie quarter of the saide yeere, shall in some Markett Towne, upon the Markett Day, or at such tyme as any Faire shalbe kept there, stande openlie upon the Pillorie by the space of sixe houres, and there shall openlie confesse his or her error and offence ; And if any pson or psons beinge once convicted of the same offences as is aforesaide, doe eftsones ppetrate and comit the like offence, that then everie such Offender, beinge of the saide offences the second tyme lawfullie and duelie convicted and attainted as is aforesaide, shall suffer paines of deathe as a Felon or Felons, and shall loose the benefitt and priviledge of Clergie and Sanctuarie : Saving to the wife of such person as shall offend in any thinge contrarie to this Acte ; her title of dower ; and also to the heire and successor of everie such person his or theire titles of Inheritance Succession and other Rights, as though no such Attaindor or the Ancestor or Predecessor had been made ; Provided alwaies that if the offender in any cases aforesaide shall happen to be a Peere of this Realme, then his Triall therein is to be had by his Peeres, as it is used in cases of Felonie or Treason and not otherwise.”
Picture of two witches discussing the Act and conjuring up a spell to set upon the King in the 1600’s
Now….the moral and wisdom in understanding that particular Act of Parliament from London, England is if you believe in time travel, or in astral projection and are a witch, or sorcerer then stay away from 17th century Europe! It is frightening to believe that estimated nine million women were put to death for being perceived as witches, which incidentally by modern day standards would leave any trade activist waving his union cap and citing the Discrimination Act. Perhaps this could have been because good ole King James in his own words said, “I asserts the power of witches to weaken the nature of some men, to make them unavailable for women” and a book entitled, Malleus Maleficarum (Hammer or Witches) describes how witches were able to make men impotent, or even make their penises disappear, so any trainee Mrs Bobbits’ reading this article should maybe consider the good advise of our ancestors and learn the magic instead!
To get seriously into this article witchcraft hysteria in Europe was at its peak during 1560-1660, and probably at its worst by the German inquisitors, were the trial of woman accused to be witches is recorded by the following transcriptions:
“The method of beginning an examination by torture is as follows: First, the jailers prepare the implements of torture, then they strip the prisoner (if it be a woman, she has already been stripped by other women, upright and of good report). This stripping is lest some means of witchcraft may have been sewed into the clothing-such as often, taught by the Devil, they prepare from the bodies of un-baptized infants, [murdered] that they may forfeit salvation. And when the implements of torture have been prepared, the judge, both in person and through other good men zealous in the faith, tries to persuade the prisoner to confess the truth freely; but, if he will not confess, he bid attendants make the prisoner fast to the strappado or some other implement of torture. The attendants obey forthwith, yet with feigned agitation. Then, at the prayer of some of those present, the prisoner is loosed again and is taken aside and once more persuaded to confess, being led to believe that he will in that case not be put to death.
Here it may be asked whether the judge, in the case of a prisoner much defamed, convicted both by witnesses and by proofs, nothing being lacking but his own confession, can properly lead him to hope that his life will be spared when, even if he confess his crime, he will be punished with death.
It must be answered that opinions vary. Some hold that even a witch of ill repute, against whom the evidence justifies violent suspicion, and who, as a ringleader of the witches, is accounted very dangerous, may be assured her life, and condemned instead to perpetual imprisonment on bread and water, in case she "I give sure and convincing testimony against other witches; yet this penalty of perpetual imprisonment must not be announced to her, but only that her life will be spared, and that she will be punished in some other fashion, perhaps by exile. And doubtless such notorious witches, especially those who prepare witch-potions or who by magical methods cure those bewitched, would be peculiarly suited to be thus preserved, in order to aid the bewitched or to accuse other witches, were it not that their accusations cannot be trusted, since the Devil is a liar, unless confirmed by proofs and witnesses.
Others hold, as to this point, that for a time the promise made to the witch sentenced to imprisonment is to be kept, but that after a time she should be burned.
A third view is, that the judge may safely promise witches to spare their lives, if only he will later excuse himself from pronouncing the sentence and will let another do this in his place....
But if, neither by threats nor by promises such as these, the witch can be induced to speak the truth, then the jailers must carry out the sentence, and torture the prisoner according to the accepted methods, with more or less of severity as the delinquent's crime may demand. And, while he is being tortured, he must be questioned on the articles of accusation, and this frequently and persistently, beginning with the lighter charges-for he will more readily confess the lighter than the heavier. And, while this is being done, the notary must write down everything in his record of the trial - how the prisoner is tortured, on what points he is questioned and how he answers.
And note that, if he confesses under the torture, he must afterward be conducted to another place, that he may confirm it and certify that it was not due alone to the force of the torture.
But, if the prisoner will not confess the truth satisfactorily, other sorts of tortures must be placed before him, with the statement that unless he will confess the truth, he must endure these also. But, if not even thus he can be brought into terror and to the truth, then the next day or the next but one is to be set for a continuation of the tortures - not a repetition, for it must not be repeated unless new evidences produced.
The judge must then address to the prisoners the following sentence: We, the judge, etc., do assign to you, such and such a day for the continuation of the tortures, that from your own mouth the truth may be heard, and that the whole may be recorded by the notary.
And during the interval, before the day assigned, the judge, in person or through approved men, must in the manner above described try to persuade the prisoner to confess, promising her (if there is aught to be gained by this promise) that her life shall be spared.
The judge shall see to it, moreover, that throughout this interval guards are constantly with the prisoner, so that she may not be I alone; because she will be visited by the De and tempted into suicide.”
I, ponder at this time if the ducking ponds would have been a preferable means of torture, they certainly would have been a quicker way to die. Expedited death would of be less, umm less “ Freddyish” but after all is this the stuff Hollywood is full of?
Here in my home in Ireland, our Halloween belief is to shoot of fireworks, and folklore still exists to this day that the bright lights and firework display is to ward off evil spirits that may land on the earth around our homes.
I am not sure about you, but for me I believe in all things spiritual and when I am using my ducking bowl and chasing my apple on this Hallow’s Eve, I wonder if it is your face that I will see and wrap my spell around.
Happy Halloween to all Readers – Merry Meet.