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English Pages  Year 2012
September 1613. In Belvoir Castle, the heir of one of England’s great noble families falls suddenly and dangerously ill
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On the morning of Thursday 29 June 1682, a magpie came rasping, rapping and tapping at the window of a prosperous Devon
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An Adventure of investigation for characters of 1st - 4th Level of mixed vocations. In this investigation of the madnes
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On a foggy November day in 1589, when one of the five daughters of Robert and Elizabeth Throckmorton suddenly fell sick,
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When bigotry and power-mania take control, disaster always follows for subjugated persons - even when the power is wield
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'The Pendle Witch Trials of 1612' provides the reader with a complete overview of the famous chain of events l
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This title was first published in 2003. The cotton industry was one of the major motors that powered Britain's indu
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To Siam and Summer
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Let me ponder over the exact words of our British Solomon. I have his learned treatise by heart, and it is fortunate my memory serves me so well, for the sagacious prince’s dictum will fortify me in my resolution . . . ‘If the magistrate’, saith the King, ‘be slothful towards witches, God is very able to make them instruments to waken and punish his sloth’. No one can accuse me of slothfulness and want of zeal. My best exertions have been used against the accursed creatures. And now for the rest. ‘But if, on the contrary, he be diligent in examining and punishing them, God will not permit their master to trouble or hinder so good a work!’ Exactly what I have done. I am quite easy now, and shall go on fearlessly as before. Thomas Potts on the Daemonologie of King James William Harrison Ainsworth, The Lancashire Witches: A Romance of Pendle Forest (1849)
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List of Illustrations
Endpaper, detail of map of Lancashire, from Christopher Saxton, An Atlas of England and Wales, 1579. By permission of the British Library. Frontispiece, title page, Thomas Potts, The Wonderfull Discoverie of Witches in the Countie of Lancaster, 1613. By permission of the British Library. 1. Pendle Hill from Downham. By permission of Getty Images. 2. Anon., The Famous History of the Lancashire Witches,etc. 1780(?). By permission of the British Library. 3. ‘Thomas Potts’, illustration by John Gilbert from William Harrison Ainsworth, The Lancashire Witches: A Romance of Pendle Forest, 1882. 4. Title page, King James I, Daemonologie, 1597. 5. The Trough of Bowland. By permission of Katherine Eastham/ Alamy. 6. Lancaster Castle. By permission of Olaf Protze. 7. The Judges’ Lodgings, Lancaster. By permission of Roger Howard. 8. The witches committed to the Castle at Lancaster, from Thomas Potts, The Wonderfull Discoverie of Witches in the Countie of Lancaster, 1613. 9. St. Mary’s in Newchurch, Lancashire. By permission of the late Jim Sanderson Collection. x
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List of Illustrations 10. Frontispiece, Richard Bovet, Pandaemonium, or the Devil’s Cloyster, 1684. By permission of the British Library. 11. ‘The Ride through the Murky Air’, illustration by John Gilbert from William Harrison Ainsworth, The Lancashire Witches: A Romance of Pendle Forest, 1882. 12. ‘The Incantation’, illustration by John Gilbert from William Harrison Ainsworth, The Lancashire Witches: A Romance of Pendle Forest, 1882. 13. ‘The Witches of Salmesbury’, from Thomas Potts, The Wonderfull Discoverie of Witches in the Countie of Lancaster, 1613. 14. The River Ribble near Dinckley, Lancashire. By permission of Getty Images. 15. Samlesbury Hall, Lancashire. By permission of Andrew Stannard. 16. A circle of demons and witches, from Nathaniel Crouch, The Kingdom of Darkness, 1688. By permission of the British Library. 17. Title page, The Arraignement and Triall of Jennet Preston, 1612. 18. York Castle in 1644, from Thomas Cooper, History of York Castle, 1911. By permission of the British Library. 19. ‘Hanging of Witches’, anon., Englands Grievance Discovered in Relation to the Coal Trade, 1655. By permission of the British Library. 20. Those sentenced to death, Thomas Potts, The Wonderfull Discoverie of Witches in the Countie of Lancaster, 1613. 21. Plaque commemorating the Lancashire witches, The Golden Lion, Moor Lane, Lancaster. By permission of Ian Taylor.
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he year 2012 is the four hundredth anniversary of the trials of the witches of Lancashire. This book is written in memory of those who were executed for crimes they could not possibly have committed (although some of them did try), and in memory of those who, although they believed that they were acting in the interests of justice, persecuted those who could not but have been innocent. The story of the Lancashire witches is arguably England’s best known account of early modern witchcraft. In 1911, Wallace Notestein in his classic history of witchcraft in England remarked that no case in the history of witchcraft in England gained such wide fame. This is as true a hundred years later as it was then. That it is so is, in part at least, due to the ongoing accessibility of the key source of our knowledge of the trials, Thomas Potts’s The Wonderfull Discoverie of Witches, first published in 1613. This was republished as a critical edition by James Crossley for the Chetham Society in 1845 (reissued in 2006), again in a readily available facsimile edition in 1929 by G.B. Harrison (reissued in 1971), and most recently by Arthur Stuttard in 2003. But its popularity is not so much the result of the various editions of Potts’s work, as the consequence of James Crossley having persuaded William Harrison Ainsworth to base a Gothic romance on the story. Ainsworth’s novel, The Lancashire Witches, was first published in 1849. It is the most enduring of the copious works of a writer who was hailed as early Victorian Britain’s major historical novelist, a successor to Walter Scott, and a competitor xii
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Preface to Charles Dickens and William Thackeray. By 1854 it was in its first illustrated edition, and reissued in this form in 1878 and 1884. Since then it has been continually in print, a continuing memorial to those events, upon which it was based, that took place in Lancashire four centuries ago. This work was undertaken many miles from Lancashire in the Centre for the History of European Discourses at the University of Queensland in Australia. I have been privileged to have been a member of this Centre for the past six years. It has continued to provide a congenial, stimulating and, more often than one can hope to expect, an exciting context in which to work. For this, I am indebted in particular to Professor Peter Cryle, the Director of the Centre, Professor Ian Hunter, Australian Professorial Fellow in the History of Political Thought, Dr. Elizabeth Stephens, Australian Research Fellow, and to the postdoctoral fellows of the Centre, all of whose dedication to their work has provided much encouragement to my own. I am also grateful to those scholars who have previously researched the witches of Lancashire, the work of whom has provided such a stimulus to my own. In particular, I am grateful to James Crossley, G.B. Harrison, Edgar Peel and Pat Southern, James Sharpe, Jonathan Lumby, Stephen Pumfrey, Marion Gibson, John A. Clayton, and Jeffrey Richards. I take the opportunity to express my thanks to Alex Wright of I.B.Tauris. Bec Stafford copy-edited the text and I appreciate her interest and care. I owe a debt of gratitude too to the people of Lancashire who were so welcoming to me as a young graduate student at the University of Lancaster in 1972 and 1973, and again during a period of extended sabbatical leave in 1980 and 1981. I have enduring and fond memories of my times there, though I little then suspected that it would be the witches of Lancashire that would draw me back again to the north west of England. I hope that this work will in some way repay them for the kindness that so many of them showed to me then. I am grateful to my friend John Alcock, a Lancashire man, for many enjoyable conversations xiii
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T he Lancashire Witches about the Lancaster we both know and remember so well. I am indebted also to my partner Patricia Lee. She has endured my reading the text to her as it was written, and has provided much helpful criticism. This book is dedicated to my granddaughters, Siam and Summer Almond, who are bewitching in their own ways. I have left all place names and personal names in citations from original sources as they originally appeared. In my own text, I have modernised all place names. There is much variation in the spelling of personal names within the sources. I have fixed on one consistent spelling of personal names throughout my text. Punctuation, capitalisation and spelling are given in their original form. The following changes have been made where appropriate: i to j, u to v and vice versa, vv to w.
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List of Characters
The Characters Alker, William, one of the Southworth family retainers Altham, James, judge at the Lancaster and York Assizes Anderton, James, a magistrate from Clayton, near Lancaster Assheton, Richard, of Downham, murdered by Demdike Astley, Elizabeth, of Samlesbury, tried for witchcraft and found innocent Baldwin, Richard, of Wheathead in Pendle Forest, father of child murdered by Demdike Baldwyn, a schoolmaster in Colne Bannester, Nicholas, of Altham, witch hunter and justice of the peace Bierley, Ellen, of Samlesbury, tried for witchcraft and found innocent Bierley, Jennet, of Samlesbury, tried for witchcraft and found innocent Booth, Jennet, the wife of James Booth, of Padiham Boothman, Jane, witch and colleague of Chattox Bromley, Edward, lead judge at the Lancaster and York Assizes Bulcock, Henry, accused Alizon Device of bewitching one of his children Bulcock, Jane, wife of Christopher Bulcock of Moss End, tried for witchcraft Bulcock, John, son of Jane Bulcock, tried for witchcraft Chaddock, Peter, of Windle, bewitched by Isabel Robey Chattox, alias of Anne Whittle xv
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T he Lancashire Witches Chisnal, Edward, of Standish, justice of the peace Covell, Thomas, the Lancaster gaoler, coroner, magistrate and sometime Mayor of Lancaster Crooke, Margaret, sister of Robert Nutter Crouckshey, Anne, of Marsden Demdike or Dembdike, alias of Elizabeth Sowtherns Device, Alizon, granddaughter of Elizabeth Sowtherns, daughter of Elizabeth Device, brother of James Device, sister of Jennet Device, tried for witchcraft Device, Elizabeth, daughter of Elizabeth Sowtherns, mother of James, Alizon, and Jennet Device, tried for witchcraft Device, James, grandson of Elizabeth Sowtherns, son of Elizabeth Device, brother of Alizon and Jennet Device, tried for witchcraft Device, Jennet, granddaughter of Elizabeth Sowtherns, daughter of Elizabeth Device, brother of James Device, sister of Alizon Device Device, John, husband of Elizabeth Device, and father of James, Alizon, and Jennet Device, murdered by Chattox Deyne, Jennet, the wife of John Deyne, of New Field Edge in Middop, Yorkshire, bewitched by John and Jane Bulcock Dodgson, Thomas, son of Edward Dodgson, murdered by Jennet Preston Duckworth, John, of the Laund, murdered by James Device Foulds, Anne, child of the Foulds of Colne, murdered by Katherine Hewyt Gerrard, Thomas, of Windle, witch hunter and justice of the peace Glover, James a, of Windle, cunning man consulted by Peter Chaddock Gray, Alice, of Colne Gray, Alice, of Samlesbury, tried for witchcraft and found innocent Halseworths, of Windle, cunning man consulted by Peter Chaddock Hargraves, Blaze, of Higham, murdered by James Device Hargraves, Christopher, also called Christopher Jackes, of Thornholme xvi
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List of Characters Hargraves, Elizabeth, wife of Christopher Hargraves Hargraves, John, of Gould-shey-booth, murdered by James Device Hargreives, Henry, constable for Pendle Forest Hargreives, Jennet, wife of Hugh Hargreives of Under Pendle Hay, Grace, of Padiham Haye, Lawrence, of Samlesbury, tried for witchcraft and found innocent Hewyt, Katherine, alias Mould-heeles, of Colne, tried for witchcraft Heyber, Jane, wife of Thomas Lister junior, daughter of Thomas Heyber Heyber, Thomas of Marton, witch hunter, prosecutor in the trial of Jennet Preston, father-in-law of Thomas Lister junior Holden, Robert, of Holden Hall in Haslingden, witch hunter and justice of the peace, son-in-law of his colleague on the bench, Nicholas Bannester Howgate, Christopher, of Pendle, the son of Demdike, uncle of James, Alizon, and Jennet Device Howgate, Elizabeth, wife of Christopher Howgate Knyvet, Elizabeth, dedicatee of The Wonderfull Discoverie of Witches Knyvet, Thomas, Baron of Escrick, Yorkshire, and discoverer of the Gunpowder Plot, dedicatee of The Wonderfull Discoverie of Witches Law, Abraham, a clothier from Halifax in Yorkshire, and John Law’s son Law, John, a pedlar, bewitched by Alizon Device Leigh, William, rector of Standish and justice of the peace Lister, Leonard, brother of Thomas senior, bewitched by Jennet Preston Lister, Thomas junior, son of Thomas Lister senior Lister, Thomas senior, of Gisburn, murdered by Jennet Preston Loomeshaw’s wife, witch and colleague of Chattox Lyon, Margaret, of Windle, wife of Thomas Lyon, friend of Peter Chaddock’s wife Moore, Hugh, of Pendle, murdered by Chattox Moore, John, a gentleman of Higham xvii
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T he Lancashire Witches Moore, John, infant son of John Moore of Higham, murdered by Chattox Mytton, Henry, of Roughlee, murdered by Elizabeth Device, together with Alice Nutter and Demdike Nowell, Roger, of Read, witch hunter and justice of the peace Nutter, Alice, of Roughlee, also known as ‘Dicke Miles wife’, ‘the wife of Richard Nutter’, and ‘the mother of Myles Nutter’, tried for witchcraft Nutter, Anne, daughter of Anthony Nutter of Pendle, murdered by Chattox Nutter, Christopher, father of Robert Nutter, murdered by Anne Redfearne Nutter, Elizabeth, the wife of Robert Nutter the elder, the grandfather of the Robert Nutter, murdered by Chattox Nutter, John, brother of Robert Nutter Nutter, John, of Bull Hole, owner of cows killed by Demdike and Chattox Nutter, Marie, wife of Robert Nutter Nutter, Robert, of Greenhead, murdered by Chattox Parre, Margaret, acquaintance of Isabel Robey Pearson, Margaret, wife of Edward Pearson, of Padiham, killed a mare, the property of Dodgson of Padiham Potts, Thomas, author of The Wonderfull Discoverie of Witches, assize clerk for the northern circuit Preston, Jennet from Gisburn, tried for witchcraft Preston, William, husband of Jennet Preston Ramesden, John, of Samlesbury, tried for witchcraft and found innocent Redfearne, Anne, daughter of Anne Whittle, tried for witchcraft Redfearne, Thomas, of Greenhead, husband of Anne Redfearne Robey, Isabel, of Windle, tried for witchcraft Robinson, Anne, a family retainer of the Listers Robinson, James, a friend of the Nutters of Greenhead xviii
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List of Characters Robinson, James, alias Swyer, brother of John Robinson, murdered by Elizabeth Device Robinson, John, alias Swyer, John, of Barlow, murdered by Elizabeth Device Sandes, William, the then Mayor of Lancaster Shuttleworth, Richard, of Gawthorpe Hall near Burnley Sidegraves, Isabell, of Samlesbury, tried for witchcraft and found innocent Singleton, John, a family retainer of the Southworths Southworth, Christopher, alias Master Thomson, Jesuit priest, son of Sir John Southworth Southworth, Jane, of Samlesbury, daughter of Richard Sherburne of Stonyhurst, tried for witchcraft and found innocent Southworth, John, of Samlesbury Hall Sowerbutts, Grace, the fourteen-year-old daughter of Thomas Sowerbutts, tenant of the Southworths Sowerbutts, Thomas, of Samlesbury, father of Grace Sowerbutts, tenant of the Southworths Sowtherns, Elizabeth, alias Demdike, of Malkin Tower, mother of Elizabeth Device, grandmother of James, Alizon, and Jennet Device, died before being brought to trial Swyer, Christopher, of Barley, owner of sheep stolen by James Device for feast at Malkin Tower Towneley, Anne, wife of Henry Towneley of Carr Hall, murdered by James Device Towneley, Henry, the grandson of Henry Towneley and Anne Catterall, nephew of Jane Southworth Walshman, Hugh, boatman on the river Ribble Walshman, Thomas, yeoman of Samlesbury, son of Hugh Walshman, father of child murdered by Ellen and Jennet Bierley, and Jane Southworth Whittle, Anne, alias Chattox, mother of Anne Redfearne, tried for witchcraft Wilkinson, Jane, of Windle, bewitched by Isabel Robey xix
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T he Lancashire Witches
The Witches Bierley, Ellen, of Samlesbury, tried for murder and found innocent Bierley, Jennet, of Samlesbury, tried for murder and found innocent Bulcock, Jane, of Moss End, tried for murder and found guilty Bulcock, John, of Moss End, tried for murder and found guilty Device, Alizon, tried for murder and found guilty Device, Elizabeth, tried for murder and found guilty Device, James, tried for murder and found guilty Hewyt, Katherine, alias Mould-heeles of Colne, tried for murder and found guilty Nutter, Alice, of Roughlee, tried for murder and found guilty Pearson, Margaret, of Padiham, tried for killing an animal and found guilty Preston, Jennet, of Gisburn, tried for murder and found guilty Redfearne, Anne, of the forest of Pendle, tried for murder and found guilty Robey, Isabel, of Windle, tried for bewitching and found guilty Southworth, Jane, of Samlesbury, tried for murder and found innocent Sowtherns, Elizabeth, alias Demdike, of Malkin Tower, accused of murder, died before being brought to trial Whittle, Anne, alias Chattox, of the forest of Pendle, tried for murder and found guilty
The ‘Victims’ Assheton, Richard, of Downham, murdered by Elizabeth Sowtherns, alias Demdike Baldwin Richard, child of, murdered by Elizabeth Sowtherns, alias Demdike Bulcock, Henry, child of, bewitched by Alizon Device Device, John, murdered by Anne Whittle, alias Chattox Deyne, Jennet, bewitched by John and Jane Bulcock xx
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List of Characters Dodgson, Thomas, murdered by Jennet Preston Duckworth, John, murdered by James Device Foulds, Anne, murdered by Katherine Hewyt Hargraves, Blaze, murdered by James Device Hargraves, John, murdered by James Device Law, John, bewitched by Alizon Device Lister, Leonard, bewitched by Jennet Preston Lister, Thomas senior, murdered by Jennet Preston Moore, Hugh, murdered by Anne Whittle, alias Chattox Moore, John, infant, murdered by Chattox Mytton, Henry, murdered by Elizabeth Device, together with Alice Nutter and Elizabeth Sowtherns, alias Demdike Nutter, Anne, murdered by Anne Whittle, alias Chattox Nutter, Christopher, murdered by Anne Redfearne Nutter, John, owner of cows killed by Elizabeth Sowtherns, alias Demdike, and Anne Redfearne, alias Chattox Nutter, Robert, murdered by Anne Redfearne, alias Chattox Robinson, James, alias Swyer, murdered by Elizabeth Device Robinson, John, alias Swyer, murdered by Elizabeth Device Towneley, Anne, murdered by James Device Walshman, Thomas, child of, murdered by Ellen and Jennet Bierley, and Jane Southworth Wilkinson, Jane, bewitched by Isabel Robey
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Events before 1612 1584 c. 1592 1594 1595 1595 c. 1595 1597 c. 1597 c. 1598
c. 1598 c. 1600 c. 1601 c. 1601 1603
Reginald Scot’s The Discoverie of Witchcraft is published. Elizabeth Sowtherns, alias Demdike, first meets her familiar spirit, Tibb. Robert Nutter complains that Chattox and her daughter Anne Redfearne are bewitching him. Robert Nutter dies in February on his way back from Wales. Sir John Southworth dies on 3 November. Christopher Nutter dies, claiming that he was bewitched. King James’s Daemonologie is published. Richard Assheton dies. Demdike’s spirit appears in the likeness of a brown dog and sucks blood. For the next eight weeks, she is almost stark raving mad. Anne Whittle, alias Chattox, gives her soul to a thing ‘like a Christian man’ called Fancie. Chattox takes eight teeth from three skulls in Newchurch churchyard. Alizon Device and her mother Elizabeth have linen and oat meal stolen by Chattox’s daughter. John Device dies after ceasing payment of protection to Chattox. King James’s Daemonologie is republished in London in 1603, the year of James’s accession to the English throne. xxii
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Chronology 1604 1605 c. 1606 c. 1606 1607 1607 1608 1608
1610 1610 1610 c. 1610 c. 1610 c. 1610 c. 1610 c. 1610 1610 1610 c. 1611 1611
The Witchcraft Act of 1604 supercedes the Elizabethan version of 1563. Guy Fawkes is arrested by Thomas Knyvet. Hugh Moore of Pendle dies, and Chattox is blamed. After an argument between Chattox and his son, John Nutter has a cow die unexpectedly. February, Thomas Lister junior marries Jane Heyber. 8 February, Thomas Lister senior is buried at Gisburn ‘Mort: apud Braswell’. Jane Lister, widow of Thomas Lister senior, dies on 20 February. John Robinson, alias Swyer, dies after Elizabeth Device makes a clay picture four years ago, according to her, three years ago according to James. James Device becomes a witch after encounter with a spirit on Easter Monday. James Robinson dies. Richard Baldwin has argument with Demdike and his daughter falls ill. Demdike magically turns milk into butter. Anne Nutter dies shortly after laughing at Chattox. Chattox is suspected of bewitching the drink of John Moore of Higham. John, John Moore’s son, languishes for about six months and then dies. After an argument with Chattox, a cow of John Moore’s wife goes mad and dies about six weeks later. Thomas, the son of Edward Dodgson, is baptised on 10 September. Anne Towneley dies after argument with James Device. A daughter of Richard Baldwin dies after languishing for about a year. The one-year-old child of Thomas Walshman dies after languishing for two or three weeks. xxiii
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T he Lancashire Witches 1611 1611 1611
Thomas, the son of Edward Dodgson, is buried on 6 April. Around 29 June, Henry Bulcock accuses Alizon of bewitching one of his children. Around Lent, John Duckworth dies after reneging on a deal with James Device.
Events during 1612 18 March
John Law meets Alizon Device along the road through Colne Field. 21 March Abraham Law receives a letter in Halifax from his father John Law. 29 March Abraham Law brings Alizon Device to his father in Colne. Alizon confesses. 30 March Abraham Law gives evidence to Roger Nowell. Alizon Device, her mother Elizabeth Device, and James are questioned by Roger Nowell at Read. Alizon is imprisoned. The others are released. 2 April Roger Nowell examines Demdike, Chattox, Anne Redfearne, John Nutter, Margaret Crooke and James Robinson. 4 April Demdike, Alizon Device, Chattox and Anne Redfearne are sent to the gaol in Lancaster Castle. 6 April Jennet Preston is tried for the murder of Dodgson’s child, and acquitted. 9 April Maundy Thursday, and James Device steals a sheep from John Robinson of Barley. 10 April The Malkin Tower meeting is held on Good Friday. 15 April Robert Holden hears evidence against the Samlesbury witches. 27 April Roger Nowell and Nicholas Bannester question Elizabeth, James, and Jennet Device at Fence. 5 May Roger Nowell, Nicholas Bannester, and Robert Holden examine Henry Hargreives. xxiv
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Chronology c. 7 May 19 May
12 July 27 July 7 August 9 August 16 August 17 August 18 August 18 August 19 August 19 August 19 August
20 August 16 November
Grace Sowerbutts is again examined by Robert Holden. William Sandes, James Anderton, and Thomas Covell examine Chattox and James Device in Lancaster Gaol. Evidence taken by Sir Thomas Gerrard at Windle against Isabel Robey. Jennet Preston is tried in York, found guilty and later hanged. Robert Holden takes further evidence in the case of the Samlesbury witches. Jennet Booth of Padiham gives evidence to Nicholas Bannester against Margaret Pearson. Judges Bromley and Altham arrive in Lancaster from Kendal in the North. Lancaster Assizes begin. Chattox, Elizabeth Device, and James Device are tried and found guilty. Anne Redfearne is tried for the murder of Robert Nutter and found not guilty. Anne Redfearne is tried for the murder of Christopher Nutter and found guilty. The Samlesbury witches are tried and found innocent. Alizon Device, Alice Nutter, Katherine Hewyt, Jane and John Bulcock, Margaret Pearson, and Isabel Robey are tried and found guilty. Those sentenced to death are taken from Lancaster Castle and hanged. Thomas Potts completes ‘The Epistle Dedicatorie’ to The Wonderfull Discoverie of Witches.
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A Guide to The Wo n d e r f u l l D i s c o v e r i e o f Wi t c h e s
The Life and Death of Elizabeth Sowtherns Those Committed to the Castle of Lancaster The Arraignment and Trial of Anne Whittle The Arraignment and Trial of Elizabeth Device The Arraignment and Trial of James Device The Verdict on Whittle and Elizabeth and James Device The Arraignment and Trial of the Samlesbury Witches The Verdict on the Samlesbury Witches The Arraignment and Trial of Anne Redfearne The Arraignment and Trial of Alice Nutter The Arraignment and Trial of Katherine Hewyt
sigs. B.2.v–C.3.v. sig. C.4.r. sigs. D.1.v–F.1.v. sigs. F.2.r–H.1.r. sigs. H.1.v–K.2.v. sig. K.2.v. sigs. K.3.r–N.3.r. sig. Q.i.v. sigs. N.3.v–O.2.v. sigs. O.3.r–P.2.v sigs. P.3.r–Q.1.v.
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A G u i d e t o T h e Wo n d e r f u l l D i s c o v e r i e o f W i t c h e s The Verdict on Redfearne, Nutter, and Hewyt The Arraignment and Trial of John and Jane Bulcock The Names of the Witches at Malkin Tower The Arraignment and Trial of Alizon Device The Verdict on the Bulcocks and Alizon Device The Arraignment and Trial of Margaret Pearson The Arraignment and Trial of Isabel Robey The Verdict on Pearson and Robey Those Found Not Guilty The Judgement of Sir Edward Bromley The Execution The Arraignment and Trial of Jennet Preston The Verdict on Jennet Preston
sig. Q.1.v. sigs. Q.2.v–R.1.r. sig. R.1.v–R.2.r. sigs. R.2.v–S.2.v. sig. S.3.r. sigs. S.3.v–T.1.v. sigs. T.2.r–V.1.r. sigs. V.1.r–v. sigs. X.1.r–v. sigs. V.2.v–X.1.v. sig. X.1.v. sigs. X.3.r–Z.3.v. sig. Z.2.v.
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N T R O D U C T I O N
T h e Wo n d e r f u l D i s c o v e r y of Witches in the County of Lancaster
A Lamentable Spectacle
ohn Law was a pitiful sight, a ‘lamentable spectacle’, as he entered the Lancaster Court of Assizes in Lancaster Castle on the after-
noon of Wednesday 19 August 1612. His head was awry, his eyes and face deformed, his speech unintelligible. He could hardly walk, and his arms – especially his left – were virtually useless. His hands were twisted outwards. Just five months before, ‘a verie able sufficient stout man of Bodie, and a goodly man of Stature’,1 he had
been earning his living as a travelling pedlar. But no more. John Law was in court to give evidence against Alizon Device. She had been arraigned and indicted ‘for that shee felloniously had practiced, exercised, and used her Devillish and wicked Arts, called Witchcrafts, Inchantments, Charmes, and Sorceries, in and upon one John Law, a Petti-chapman, and him had lamed, so that his bodie wasted and consumed’.2 We know the story of Alizon Device and the pedlar because the clerk at Alizon’s trial produced an account of the trial of Alizon and another thirteen witches. Within four months of the end of the trials, in November 1612, the work was completed by Thomas Potts at his lodging in Chancery Lane in London. Entitled The Wonderfull
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T he Lancashire Witches Discoverie of Witches in the Countie of Lancaster, it is arguably the most famous account of English witchcraft to have been written. How then, according to Thomas Potts, did John Law arrive at such a pathetic state? Potts presented a number of versions of how John Law’s predicament arose. According to the evidence of John Law, on 18 March 1612, he was travelling with his backpack of wares along the road through Colne Field near the village of Colne, about five miles east of Pendle Hill in the county of Lancashire. Along the way, he met Alizon Device who begged pins from him. He refused to give her any, and as a result she became very angry. After going on just a short way past her, he fell down lame ‘in great extremitie’.3 Eventually, he was able to reach an alehouse in Colne, close to where he ‘was first bewitched’.4 As he lay there in great pain, unable to move hand or foot, he was terrified by the sight of a great black dog standing by him, ‘with very fearefull firie eyes, great teeth, and a terrible countenance, looking him in the face’.5 Immediately afterwards, Alizon Device came into the room. She left soon after. Alizon herself gave a different version in her examination that was conducted on 30 March at Read in Lancashire. This was the home town of Roger Nowell, the justice of the peace who conducted her interrogation. According to this account, on the day in question, she met John Law near Colne and asked to buy some pins from him. John Law however refused to remove his pack to sell her pins. That it was her custom to go begging would suggest that his version of her request was more likely correct. Be that as it may, while not admitting to having been angry at him, she does admit to having met a black dog, one which she had encountered before, who asked her in English what she would have him do to the pedlar. She asked the dog what it was that he could do. ‘I can lame him’, replied the dog, upon which Alizon admitted to saying, ‘Lame him’. Before the pedlar had gone ‘fortie Roddes further, he fell downe Lame’.6 Alizon admitted to following him and to finding him lying lame in a house. But there was a third version of the story, given by Abraham Law, a clothier from Halifax in Yorkshire, and John’s son. Although
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T h e Wo n d e r f u l D i s c o v e r y o f W i t c h e s we are not told so, this was probably also the result of an examination of Abraham by Roger Nowell in Read on 30 March. According to Abraham, on 21 March he had received a letter from his father that he should come to him in Colne since he was lying speechless, and lamed all down his left side except for his eye. By the time he arrived in Colne, his father had recovered his speech somewhat, and was complaining that he was being pricked by knives, drill bits, and sickles. It was the same pain, his father said, as he had in Colne Field, after Alizon asked to buy some pins for which she had no money. He had given her some nonetheless, his father claimed. Abraham also reported that his father blamed Alizon for having caused his lameness through witchcraft. Abraham Law also heard his father say that Alizon Device ‘did lie upon him and trouble him’.7 John Law was also being tormented by another woman whom he did not know. Abraham Law then searched for Alizon and, having found her on 29 March, brought her to his father the same day. John Law then publicly accused Alizon of having bewitched him. According to Abraham, Alizon confessed to having done so. On her knees, she begged for John’s forgiveness. And he gave it. Abraham Law, we can assume, was not so forgiving. And within twenty-four hours, he reported the matter to Roger Nowell who took statements, examined Alizon, and extracted a confession from her. And with the arrest and confession of Alizon Device, the story of the witches of Lancashire began. Thomas Potts gave all three versions of these events. He made no attempt to point out the inconsistencies or to resolve the contradictions. But he seems to have accepted that Alizon had begged John Law for pins, that he had refused to give her any, and that she had revenged herself upon him through witchcraft: ‘Behold, above all the rest, this lamentable spectacle of a poore distressed Pedler; how miserably hee was tormented, and what punishment hee endured for a small offence, by the wicked and damnable practise of this odious Witch’.8 It was, after all, the story most likely to secure a conviction.
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T he Lancashire Witches
The Commissioning of Thomas Potts Thomas Potts was ideally situated to produce such a book. He was probably an attorney, perhaps admitted to the Inns of Court in London. Appointed by the Assize Clerk, with the approval of the relevant circuit judges, he would have had a sound practical knowledge of the law. As Associate Clerk on the Northern Assizes circuit, with responsibility for the smooth running of the Assizes, he had access to all the trial documentation.9 And he carefully selected, mixed and matched his materials, and placed them within a narrative of the trial process. His is an account that, in part, mirrors actual trial proceedings; in part, is selected and constructed by him for maximum dramatic effect: ‘Heere you may not expect the exact order of the Assises, with the Proclamations, and other solemnities belonging to so great a Court of Justice; but the proceedinges against the Witches, who are now upon their deliverance [to the court] here in order as they came to the Barre, with the particular poyntes of Evidence against them’.10 The judge in the case, Edward Bromley, declared in the prefatory material that he had revised and corrected Potts’s work as necessary, to ensure ‘that nothing might passe but matter of Fact, apparant against them by record’.11 And he was determined to point out that Potts had inserted very little, ‘and that necessarie, to shew what their offences were, what people, and of what condition they were’.12 However, Potts did more than this. For the editorial insertions woven into his account of the proceedings, and his selections of the evidence presented or given during them, went to the strategic intention of the text. This was to show that, in the trial of the Lancashire witches, justice had been done to a particularly vicious and evil group of people, all of whom were worthy of the punishment that was eventually to be inflicted on them. Nothing of his own here, he claimed a little disingenuously. He was merely laying out the work of ‘those Reverend Magistrates, His Majesties Justices of Assizes in the North partes, and no more then a Particular Declaration of the proceedings of Justice in those partes’.13 But it was far more than this, for Potts was determined to show that the actions of the judges in these cases were emblematic of the
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T h e Wo n d e r f u l D i s c o v e r y o f W i t c h e s conduct of justice in England. And, as we will see, it was justice directed against what were perceived to be the two most serious threats to the stability of the Jacobean state, witchcraft and popery. ‘Here shall you behold the Justice of this Land,’ he trumpeted, ‘truely administred, Proemium & Poenam, Mercie and Judgement, freely and indifferently bestowed and inflicted; And above all thinges to bee remembred, the excellent care of these Judges in the Triall of offendors.’14 For Potts, the judges at the Lancashire Assizes were the very models of the godly judiciary, appointed by God: ‘GOD Almightie hath singled them out,’ wrote Potts on the last page of his work, ‘and set them on his Seat, for the defence of Justice . . . let us all pray to GOD Almightie, that the memorie of these worthie judges may bee blessed to all Posterities’.15 So Potts had a job to do, and he was doing it on behalf of the reputations of the two judges of the Northern Circuit, Edward Bromley and James Altham. Bromley had taken responsibility for the witchcraft cases at the Lancaster Assizes. It was no doubt the most important event in his judicial career, and it was he who had carried the primary responsibility for the outcomes. He was proud of his work, and he wanted the world to know of it. It was Judges Bromley and Altham who commissioned the work: [B]ecause upon the caryage, and event of this businesse, the Eyes of all the partes of Lancashire, and other Counties in the North partes thereunto adjoyning were bent: And so infinite a multitude came to the Arraignement & tryall of these Witches at Lancaster, the number of them being knowen to exceed all others at any time heretofore, at one time to be indicted, arraigned, and receive their tryall, especially for so many Murders, Conspiracies, Charmes, Meetinges, hellish and damnable practises, so apparant upon their owne examinations & confessions. These my honourable & worthy Lords, the Judges of Assize, upon great consideration, thought it necessarie & profitable, to publish to the whole world, their most barbarous and damnable practises, with the direct proceedinges of the Court against them.16
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T he Lancashire Witches But the motives of Justices Bromley and Altham were mixed. Their commissioning of Potts to write The Wonderfull Discoverie of Witches was not only to sing their praises, but also to quell criticism of them. On their way to Lancaster, they had been involved in the trial of Jennet Preston for witchcraft in York. She had been found guilty and executed. It was not a popular verdict in the community. And the husband, family, and friends of Jennet Preston believed that she had been maliciously persecuted, had been wrongly convicted, and had died on the gallows an innocent woman. Thus, before Thomas Potts had set to work on The Wonderfull Discoverie of Witches, Bromley and Altham had commissioned The Arraignement and Triall of Jennet Preston, of Gisborne in Craven to justify the guilty verdict imposed on Jennet Preston in opposition to those who were slandering the exercise of justice in the land, and themselves.17 Although The Arraignement and Triall of Jennet Preston was completed in late 1612, it was nonetheless added as a separate pamphlet to the end of The Wonderfull Discoverie of Witches. The Wonderfull Discoverie of Witches was also written to quieten other quite different local Lancashire rumblings. False reports of the evidence were circulating in the community, and there was a number of people who had attended the trials, ready to give evidence against those accused ‘that were not found guiltie, and so rest very discontented, and not satisfied’.18 As we will see, a number of those accused of witchcraft in the region around Lancaster were found innocent; but the complaints within the community more likely went to the trial of the so-called Witches of Samlesbury who were tried in the same Lancaster Assizes as the witches of Pendle. Reported on at length by Potts in The Wonderfull Discoverie of Witches, with his most extensive editorialising, the trial of the Samlesbury witches went in particular to sectarian conflict in Lancashire between Catholics and Protestants, and the not guilty verdict in this trial would have been a likely cause of community dissent and division. Edward Bromley was undoubtedly the prime mover in commissioning Potts to write The Wonderfull Discoverie of Witches. His brother
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T h e Wo n d e r f u l D i s c o v e r y o f W i t c h e s judge, James Altham, had less to gain, and less to lose, than Bromley. Born around 1555, Altham had had a solid, if not spectacular, career in the law. That in 1612, towards the end of his career, he was still working the Northern Circuit, is suggestive of this. Of the six Assize circuits, the Northern was the least desirable, and judges were keen to be promoted to the more desirable southern circuits. The Northern Circuit traversed a wild and lawless region. Travel was difficult and dangerous. In parts, the judges had to travel on horseback on roads impassable for coaches. Often they were accompanied by an armed escort.19 Lancashire was known generally as a dark corner of superstition, witchcraft, and popery. In 1590, a communication from several Lancashire clergy to officialdom in London bemoaned the ‘continuall recourse of Jesuites & Seminarie Priestes into these partes’.20 Catholic fasts, festivals, and traditions continued to be observed, together with a resistance to the ‘new morality’ of Protestantism. The Sabbath was ignored: ‘Wackes, Ales, Greenes, Maigames, Rushbearinges, Bearebaites, Doveales, Bonfiers, all maner unlawfull Gaming, Pipinge and Daunsinge, and such like, ar in all places frely exercised upon ye Sabbaoth’.21 Church services were disturbed by crowds of people remaining in the churchyard, streets, and alehouses ‘ffrom whence stones ar often times throwen upon the leades of the Churche, and many a clamorowse noise and showte geven owte to the disquieting of the Congregation’.22 As it turned out, it was Altham’s last year as a judge; and he died in 1617. Edward Bromley, on the other hand, was no doubt ambitious to progress beyond the least desirable Assize circuit in the country. Born in 1563, he was in the middle of his career in 1612, and, in his third year of riding the Northern Circuit, he was anxious to be promoted to one of the more prestigious southern circuits.23
A Book Fit for a King Promotion to another circuit was dependent on royal patronage. Bromley was an honest judge, but he was also ambitious. Potts and
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T he Lancashire Witches his patrons, and Bromley especially, had a particular readership in mind for Potts’s book, namely the court of King James I of England and VI of Scotland, and no doubt the king himself. So in an attempt to curry favour with the king, Potts constructed The Wonderfull Discoverie of Witches with a copy of King James’s Daemonologie close at hand.24 First published in 1597 in Edinburgh, the Daemonologie was published twice in London in 1603, the year of James’s accession to the English throne, and subsequently translated into Latin, Dutch, and French.25 The publication of the Daemonologie was a key moment in English witchcraft and demonology, for it it was one of the first works to introduce Continental notions of demonology, and particularly those of the demonic compact and the Sabbath, into England. And with its royal author, it was no doubt the most widely read of any demonologies in England and Scotland. With its continentally inspired demonology came the conviction that witchcraft was not only a matter of crimes against persons and property, but also a satanic heresy. The practices of the witches of Lancashire appeared to confirm the king’s work. ‘What hath the King’s Majestie written and published in his Daemonologie, by way of premonition and prevention,’ inquired Potts, ‘which hath not here by the first or last beene executed, put in practise or discovered?’26 This is the only direct reference to the Daemonologie in Potts’s work; however, as we will see, at numerous places and without referencing it, Potts drew upon it to illuminate and validate his narrative of the witches of Lancashire. Readers familiar with the Daemonologie may not have understood it, or at least not all of it, but its author, King James, certainly would have. We do not know whether Bromley or Altham were aware of the king’s position on witchcraft in 1612, nor the extent of their awareness. But there is no good reason to believe that, by 1612, James had changed his demonological beliefs from those he first developed in the 1590s and expressed in the Daemonologie, a work that he believed was one of his most important, in 1597. So Potts, therefore, ought to have found in the king a sympathetic reader, albeit not a gullible one. James was no credulous demonologist, but rather a sceptical one,
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T h e Wo n d e r f u l D i s c o v e r y o f W i t c h e s particularly with regard to religious imposters and counterfeit demoniacs. Potts and his sponsors would have known this too which was all the more reason for Potts to combine the discovery of witchcraft with a literary demonstration of judicial diligence, a careful and critical scrutiny of the evidence, and an appropriate level of incredulity. The Wonderfull Discoverie of Witches was dedicated to Thomas Knyvet and his wife Elizabeth. Potts had close connections to the Knyvet household, and who better to dedicate the first fruits of his learning to than Thomas Knyvet. He wrote, ‘who nourished then both mee and them, when there was scarce any being to mee or them?’27 His gratitude was however strategic, for Knyvet had been closely connected to the court of King James since the accession. In recognition of his long career of service to James, and Elizabeth I before him, he was elevated to the peerage as Baron of Escrick, Yorkshire in 1607. Who better then to bring to the attention of the king the loyal service of his judicial functionaries in the wilds of the English North? Thomas Potts may well have thought that Thomas Knyvet too would have had a vested interest in bringing the attention of the king to The Wonderfull Discoverie of Witches. In 1612, Knyvet’s influence with the king was on the wane. Rumours of more papist plots against him were in the air in that summer of 1612, and Knyvet may well have wished James to be reminded of his role, before and still, as the guardian of his safety. At the centre of the Lancashire trials was a plan to blow up Lancaster Castle. Potts’s book would have reminded James, not only of the threats that he himself had faced from witches in Scotland in the 1590s, but also from Papists and gunpowder plots in England in the 1600s. More particularly, it would have reminded him of the personal debt of gratitude he owed to Thomas Knyvet, for it was on the night of 4 November 1605, as part of his duties as keeper of Whitehall Palace, that Knyvet conducted a search of the vaults under the House of Lords. There he found, and arrested, the Catholic Guy Fawkes, who was standing guard over eighteen hundredweight of gunpowder, preparing to blow up the Houses of Parliament.28
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T he Lancashire Witches
Matters of Fact and Fiction We know that Edward Bromley took it upon himself to revise and correct The Wonderfull Discoverie of Witches. What we do not know is the extent to which he did so. However, it is likely that Bromley determined the form that the work took, that is, large extracts from the evidence within a narrative structure intended to give the appearance of a ‘verbatim’ account of the court’s proceedings, together with an editorial spin intended to engage a courtly readership. Additionally, we do get a hint from Potts that he might not have had the kind of literary liberty that he would have liked. ‘My charge,’ he wrote, ‘was to publish the proceedings of Justice, and matter of Fact, wherein I wanted libertie to write what I would, and am limited to set forth nothing against them, but matter upon Record, even in their owne Countrie tearmes, which may seeme strange.’29 Even then, as we read the text, it is often difficult, sometimes impossible, to determine what evidence was actually given live in court, rather than read from earlier statements prepared by examining justices of the peace from the interrogations of suspects and the examinations of witnesses. Potts often presented statements that would have been read to the court as if they were evidence that was delivered viva voce, thus omitting the dates upon which these statements were originally written. It is also difficult to determine what cutting, pasting, editing, and summarising Potts himself did with the materials given to him by the examining justices of the peace.30 Thus his so-called ‘proceedings of Justice, and matter of Fact’ were themselves carefully selected, edited, and presented within the text to serve its strategic intention – to demonstrate that justice had been done. Of course, the various trial documents that are reproduced within The Wonderfull Discoverie of Witches were not themselves simply ‘matters of Fact’. They too were the brief and subsequent summaries of complex and no doubt long interrogations and examinations, of leading questions and elicited answers, of truth and fiction, construction and invention.
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T h e Wo n d e r f u l D i s c o v e r y o f W i t c h e s Behind these documents, there were the ‘facts’ and ‘events’ themselves – ‘natural’ events such as the death of a child, the lameness of a pedlar, the madness of a wife, but also magical, demonic, supernatural, and preternatural ‘facts’ and ‘events’. So the difficulty in reading behind the texts to find the facts and events is exacerbated by radically different seventeenth-century understandings of what counts as ‘fact’ and ‘event’. For us, as we read The Wonderfull Discoverie of Witches, ‘fact’ and ‘event’ end where the magical, the preternatural, and the supernatural come into play, but for the seventeenth-century participants in these stories, the boundaries between ‘fact’ and ‘fiction’, ‘event’ and ‘interpretation’, as we understand these, are blurred. So this book is as much about illuminating what counted as ‘fact’ and ‘event’ for the seventeenth-century reader of The Wonderfull Discoverie of Witches, as it is about our finding the truth behind the texts. This book also constructs a narrative and tells a story, one that adheres to the conventions of modern historical writing while being sensitive to the alien and elusive world that The Wonderfull Discoverie of Witches presents and represents. Thus, it aims to bring us as close to the ‘truth’ behind the stories as is possible, while recognising nonetheless that, ‘The more one learns the more difficult it is to establish what happened, and a point arrives where establishing the “truth” recedes behind the equally challenging task of interrogating the story’.31
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H A P T E R
A Witch Hunt Begins
The Witch Hunter
n the annals of seventeenth-century witchcraft, it is Matthew Hopkins who is most remembered as the witch-finder, responsi-
ble for the hunting and executing of some sixty witches in the year 1645.1 Roger Nowell’s tally of witches discovered was much lower.
Nonetheless, it was he whose carefully constructed interrogations and examinations of suspects and witnesses appeared to lay bare a thick network of witches and witchcraft in Pendle Forest and its surrounds in the spring of 1612. Certainly Thomas Potts saw his activities as crucial. ‘In the end,’ he declared, ‘Roger Nowell Esquire, one of his Majesties Justices in these partes, a very religious honest Gentleman, painefull in the service of his Countrey: whose fame for this great service to his Countrey shall live after him, tooke upon him to enter into the particular examination of these suspected persons: And to the honour of God, and the great comfort of all his Countrey, made such a discovery of them in order, as the like hath not been heard of.’2 Potts was right. Outside of the East Anglian witch hunt in 1645 associated with Matthew Hopkins, the execution of ten persons in Lancashire, together with some eight found innocent, was unusual within the history of English witch trials. England was one of those parts of Europe, as James Sharpe notes, ‘where witchcraft was an endemic rather than an epidemic problem, where witch trials were sporadic and few, where accusations were usually levelled against
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A Witch Hunt Be gins individuals or groups of three or four suspects, and where the acquittal rate was high in witchcraft cases’.3 Thus, the nineteen persons tried at the Lancaster Assizes in August 1612 constituted the largest number of witches to be tried at one Assize in England up until that time. The ten executions that resulted are of numerical significance among the estimated five hundred executions for witchcraft that took place in England over the period from the passing of the first witchcraft statute in 1542 to the repeal of all witchcraft statutes in 1736.4 The ten executed were accused, during the course of The Wonderfull Discoverie of Witches, of having murdered some nineteen persons. Born in 1551, Roger Nowell was about sixty-two years of age when he began his hunt for witches. Of a staunchly Protestant heritage, he had succeeded his father in 1591 to the family estate in Read, Lancashire, in the neighbourhood of Pendle. We do not know what drove his understanding of demonology or witchcraft, though he was always more interested in criminal law than demonological lore. There is no sign in The Wonderfull Discoverie of Witches that he had read, for example, classic Catholic demonologies such as the Malleus Maleficarum, or English Protestant variants such as George Gifford’s A Discourse of the Subtill Practices of Devilles by Witches and Sorcerors (1587), his A Dialogue Concerning Witches and Witchcraftes (1593), or William Perkins’s Discourse of the Damned Art of Witchcraft (1608). Nor do we know whether he was familiar with King James’s Daemonologie.5 What we can say with certainty is that he was familiar with the Witchcraft Act of 1604. As a magistrate, we would expect him to be, but more than this, it formed the intellectual framework which underpinned all his activities, and his interrogations and examinations were driven by it. The Witchcraft Act of 1604 superseded the Elizabethan version of 1563. In that earlier version, ‘against Conjurations, Enchantments, and Witchcrafts’, the penalty for damage caused to persons or their property by witchcraft was one year’s imprisonment, and being pilloried for six hours once in every quarter of that year for the first offence. For any subsequent infraction, an offender faced the death
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T he Lancashire Witches sentence. Treasure seeking, the restoration of lost or stolen property, or provoking any person to unlawful love by witchcraft met the same penalties for a first offence. For a further offence, the punishment was the forfeiture of all goods to the Crown, and life imprisonment. The penalty was harsher for murder by means of witchcraft. The invocation of any evil and wicked spirits for any purpose whatsoever, or the use of any witchcraft, enchantment, charm, or sorcery to cause the death of any person, warranted the death sentence. The 1604 Act, ‘for the better restraining of said offences, and more severe punishing the same’ significantly modified the earlier statute. Now, not only the invocation or convocation of evil and wicked spirits was forbidden, but the death sentence was mandatory for any person who ‘shall consult, covenant with, entertaine, imploy, feed, or reward any evil and wicked spirit, to or for any intent or purpose’. The death penalty was also the punishment for taking up ‘any dead man, woman, or child, out of his, her, or their grave, or any other place where the dead body resteth; or the skin, bone, or any other part of the dead person, to be imployed, or used in any manner of Witchcraft, Sorcery, Charme, or Inchantment’. The death sentence for killing persons by witchcraft was extended to any witchcraft in which a person is ‘Wasted, Consumed, Pined, or Lamed, in His or Her body, or any part thereof’. The penalty for a second offence in treasure hunting, finding lost or stolen goods, or love magic was increased beyond forfeiture of goods and life imprisonment to death.6 Roger Nowell and his fellow justices of the peace, therefore, knew what they were looking for; and, as we will see, for the most part, they found it. Still, if Nowell and his Lancashire colleagues took up the new legislation, it was not similarly taken up at the Lancaster Assizes. Rather surprisingly, although there was plenty of evidence to support such charges, none of the indictments for witchcraft in the Lancashire trials were for consulting, covenanting with, entertaining, employing, feeding, or rewarding spirits; and Potts, in his editorialising, made little of it. Even though the legislation allowed for charges that amounted to heresy, the indictments in The Wonderfull Discoverie
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A Witch Hunt Be gins of Witches stayed focused on crimes – murdering and harming people and animals.7
The Satanic Covenant However, for Roger Nowell, if not for Thomas Potts and Judges Bromley and Altham, the satanic compact or, perhaps better for the Protestant Nowell, the Presbyterian version embedded in the legislation – the satanic covenant – was the core of witchcraft. In English witchcraft cases, torture was not used to extract information or confessions. We do not know what enticements or threats, if any, Nowell might have used to persuade Alizon Device to confess to having lamed John Law through witchcraft in his examination of her on 30 March. She had, after all, at least according to Abraham Law, confessed the day before. He was no doubt a skillful interrogator; and, as Lyndal Roper has pointed out, the role of the interrogator was especially important. Particularly crucial was his capacity to create a relationship with the suspect, albeit one that was ambivalent and unbalanced. ‘It was a brutally unequal relationship,’ writes Lyndal Roper. ‘The interrogators shaped the story that the witch confessed, even if they did not consciously believe themselves to be doing so; the witch, though she provided the substance and detail of the material was not free to provide any narrative she liked. Consciously or unconsciously, she learned what she had to say.’8 Having extracted a confession from Alizon Device, we can imagine Roger Nowell moving excitedly to his next question, ‘How did you become a witch?’, and leading Alizon through a series of questions which elicited from her just how she had done so. No doubt, her account of how she became a witch came later in his interrogation of her, but it was with her account of this Satanic covenant that Nowell began his report of her confession: She saith, That about two years agone, her Grandmother, called Elizabeth Sothernes, alias Dembdike, did (sundry times in going or walking together, as they went begging) perswade and advise this Examinate to let a
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T he Lancashire Witches Divell or a Familiar appeare to her, and that shee, this Examinate would let him suck at some part of her; and she might have and doe what shee would. And so not long after these perswasions, this Examinate being walking towards the Rough-Lee, in a Close of one John Robinsons, there appeared unto her a thing like unto a Blacke Dogge: speaking unto her, this Examinate, and desiring her to give him her Soule, and he would give her power to doe any thing she would: whereupon this Examinate being therewithall inticed, and setting her downe; the said Blacke-Dogge did with his mouth (as this Examinate then thought) sucke at her breast, a little below her Paps, which place did remaine blew halfe a yeare next after.9
She had never seen the black dog again, she went on to say, until that fateful day of 18 March when, having had her argument with the pedlar, it appeared again to her and offered to lame John Law. There were here neither charms, nor potions, nor spells, nor images – the usual accompaniments of witchcraft. The laming of John Law was, in Nowell’s account, the direct consequence of the spirit’s offer to Alizon. We can assume too, that at some time on the same day, John Law was asked by Roger Nowell about the black dog. He remembered a fierce black dog, and Alizon shortly afterwards, appearing in his room in the ale house, as he lay in great pain unable to move. Roger Nowell wove it into his written account. Nevertheless, Alizon was not indicted for covenanting with spirits, but, in accordance with the 1604 Act, only for having lamed John Law as Potts, in his customary formally legal way, put it ‘so that his bodie wasted and consumed, &c. Contra Formam Statuti, &c’.10 Alizon was held for trial at the Lancaster Assizes in August. Nowell now had another inquiry to initiate, for he had ‘turned’ Alizon. She had implicated her grandmother, Elizabeth Sowtherns, alias Demdike, in her initiation into witchcraft. According to Thomas Potts, Demdike (or Dembdike), was an old woman of eighty years of age. She had been a witch for fifty years, though her daughter said forty, and she herself was to admit to only twenty. Potts was never
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A Witch Hunt Be gins to lay eyes on her, nor, though for different reasons, she on him, for she was both lame and blind. Apart from this, we have no physical description of her from him or any of the other sources. Potts, to his credit, resisted inventing one. She was a widow, but we know nothing of her husband. She was the ‘Sincke of villanie and mischiefe’ from which it all began.11 She lived in the forest of Pendle, ‘a vaste place, fitte for her profession’,12 at Malkin Tower, close to the home of her widowed daughter Elizabeth Device, and her grandchildren Alizon, James, and Jennet Device.13 She was a powerful matriarch. The location of Malkin Tower is disputed,14 but no doubt it was within sight of Pendle Hill, the sombre ridge that brooded over the intersecting pastures, meadows, and moorland of the Ribble Valley as the events of 1612 unfolded. William Harrison Ainsworth in his The Witches of Lancashire in 1849 described the landscape in terms that evoke the dire social and economic situation faced by the inhabitants of Pendle at that time. ‘Dreary was the prospect on all sides,’ he wrote, ‘Black moor, bleak fell, straggling forest, intersected with sullen streams as black as ink, with here and there a small tarn, or moss-pool, with waters of the same hue – these constituted the chief features of the scene.’ Apart from occasional signs of human habitation, ‘All else was heathy waste, morass, and wood’.15 John Swain has recently informed us that substantial population growth in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries in the Pendle region had put severe pressure on the local economy, primarily based on cattle rearing and woollen cloth making. There seems to have been a number of families in Pendle who were forced to rent or squat in cottages with very little land, in spite of an Act of 1589 prohibiting the use of cottages with fewer than four acres attached to them. Malkin Tower was probably one of these.16 Demdike and her family would have lived on the edge of dire poverty, hence their involvement in begging as a necessary supplement to any other cottage industry in which they were engaged. The other major cunning family in this story, that of Anne Whittle, alias Chattox, also lived on the edge of penury as small tenant farmers.17
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T he Lancashire Witches Demdike was also a professional ‘cunning woman’. The ‘cunning’ or ‘wise’ folk were practitioners of beneficent magic. They used herbal and magical medicine to heal the sick and the bewitched, find buried treasure, identify thieves, tell fortunes, induce love, and undo malevolent magic.18 They were prolific in early modern England, and popular: ‘they attaine such credit,’ declared Reginald Scot in 1584, ‘as I have heard (to my greefe) some of the ministerie affirme, that they have had in their parish at one instant, xvii. or xviii. witches: meaning such as could worke miracles supernaturallie’.19 Reginald Scot, like most Protestant theologians, did not distinguish the cunning folk from practitioners of malevolent witchcraft. Both had made compacts with the Devil, if only tacit ones in the case of the cunning folk. Indeed, William Perkins saw cunning or wise folk, the ‘unbinding’ witches, as more abhorrent than the ‘binding’ ones. ‘The good witch,’ he declared, ‘is he or shee that by consent in a league with the devill, doth use his helpe, for the doing of good onely. This cannot hurt, torment, curse, or kill, but onely heale and cure the hurts inflicted upon men or cattell, by badde Witches . . . Now howsoever both these be evil, yet of the two, the more horrible & detestable Monster is the good Witch: for look in what place soever there be any bad Witches that hurt onely, there also the devil hath his good ones, who are better knowne then the bad, being commonly called Wisemen, or Wise-women.’20 No doubt Perkins found the good witch more threatening because he or she was in direct competition with the clergy. As Leland Estes points out, for the Puritan clergy, in their competition for the favour of the populace, ‘no weapon proved more serviceable than the charge that the opposition was in league with the Devil’.21 We can say the same of Protestant gentry such as Roger Nowell. If among the Protestant elite, the boundary between cunning folk and witches, white and black magic was blurred in principle, it was blurred in practice among the middling and lower classes. Cunning folk could cross the boundary between good and evil, and when they did so, their powers were to be feared. This was no doubt a useful
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A Witch Hunt Be gins reputation to have when you went begging. ‘Shee was a generall agent for the Devill in all these partes,’ wrote Potts, ‘no man escaped her, or her Furies, that ever gave them any occasion of offence, or denyed them any thing they stood need of: And certain it is, no man neere them, was secure or free from danger.’22 Cunning practices ran in families, so there is no need to doubt Potts’s claim that Demdike had instructed her children and grandchildren in their particular form of cottage industry.
The Mark of the Devil Having extracted a confession of covenanting with a spirit from Alizon, Roger Nowell turned his attention to asking her about her grandmother, Demdike.23 Potts grouped all the documents relevant to particular suspects together within his text. So we find Nowell’s account of his questioning of Alizon about her grandmother located among other materials relevant to Demdike’s case. Reading the document, we can see that Nowell was adopting the role of curious and interested inquirer after Demdike’s business practices, for Alizon appears to have had no qualms in admitting that her grandmother was a cunning woman. She was, for example, called on to heal sick animals. Once, said Alizon, John Nutter of the Bull Hole in Pendle had a cow that was sick, and sent for Demdike to heal it. Her grandmother said that she would; and so, about ten o’clock one evening, Alizon led her to Nutter’s farm. She stayed about half an hour with the animal, and then Alizon took her home again. Alizon did not know what Demdike had done during that time. It was not until the next morning that she heard that the cow had died during the night. We might conclude that Demdike’s benevolent magic had not worked, but Nowell probably suggested to Alizon that it was not benevolent but malevolent. ‘Do you think that your grandmother might have bewitched the cow?’ ‘Perhaps,’ Alizon might have said. And Nowell later wrote it up: ‘this Examinate verily thinketh, that her sayd Graund-mother did bewitch the sayd Cow to death’.24
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T he Lancashire Witches Demdike could also magically make butter. About two years ago, Alizon informed Nowell, she had been out begging and had returned with a pail of milk. Half an hour later, there was a quarter of a pound of butter in the milk. There was just as much milk as there was before, and her grandmother was in bed all the time. With such scant evidence, Nowell probed further. He may well have heard or read of stories of revenge by witches for requests refused, insults given, and arguments had. As he was hunting for motives to murder, or at least to injuries, so he may well have asked Alizon whether Demdike had any enemies. Alizon remembered an argument between her grandmother and Richard Baldwin of Wheathead in Pendle Forest several years before, the result of which was that Baldwin denied Demdike access to his land. About four or five days later, around ten o’clock one evening, she recalled, Demdike had asked her to take her outside. Demdike was away for about an hour, before Alizon’s sister, probably Jennet, fetched her in again. The next morning, Alizon heard that a daughter of Richard Baldwin had fallen ill. The child had languished for about a year, and then died. This child was probably Ellena, the daughter of Richard Baldwin, who is recorded as having been buried at Colne on 8 September 1610.25 Nowell asked Alizon the same kind of leading question as he had used previously. He probably received the same sort of answer and wrote it up later in the same form of words: ‘this Examinate verily thinketh, that her said Graund-mother did bewitch the sayd Child to death’.26 We can assume that Alizon’s mother, Elizabeth Device, accompanied Alizon to this interrogation, for Potts included a document concerning Elizabeth Device’s examination on that day. Nowell extracted little from her, or at least little that was worth reporting, but she did make one statement of significance that led to a physical examination of Demdike. ‘The said Elizabeth Device the Examinate, sayth, that the sayd Elizabeth Sowtherns, alias Demdike, hath had a place on her left side by the space of fourty years, in such sort, as was to be seene at this Examinates Examination taking, at this present time.’27
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A Witch Hunt Be gins Potts offered his readers no explanation of what this ‘place on her left side’ might have meant, nor did he give any indication that Nowell organised a female search committee to examine her.28 Readers of Protestant demonologies, or of Catholic ones, would however have known straightaway what he was hinting at. Demdike had the mark of the Devil upon her, a visible sign that she had made a pact with the Devil, sealed by the Devil marking the witch either with his teeth or his claws. This suggested that she had been in league with Satan for half of her lifetime. As the Protestant Lambert Daneau had suggested in his Les Sorciers in 1574, it was a mark that the witch [A]lwayes beareth aboute him, some under theyr eye liddes, others betwene their buttockes, some in the roofe of their mouth, and in other places where it may be hid & concealed from us . . . yet may I say thus more certenly and truely, that there is none of them upon whom he hath not set some note or token of his power & prerogative over them: which to thintent [sic] the judges and such as are set in aucthoritie of life and death . . . let them specially provide, that when any of these shalbe convented before them, to poulie [polle] and shave them where occasion shall serve, al the body over, least haply the marke may lurke under the heare in any place.29
Within Protestant Geneva from 1537 onwards, the Devil’s mark became part of every witchcraft confession, and by 1548 those suspected of witchcraft were being routinely and systematically searched for it. Daneau would no doubt have been familiar with the practice of searching for the Devil’s mark from his time in Protestant Geneva from 1560 to 1562, and again from 1572 to 1581. The Scottish reformer, John Knox, had also learnt not only his theology but also his demonology from Calvinist Geneva. It is thus not surprising that the Devil’s mark, as evidence of the demonic pact, often accompanied by the ‘pricking’ of the witch in search of a mark insensible to pain that did not bleed, was a common feature of witchcraft in Reformation Scotland (as it was in parts of Protestant Europe) from the late sixteenth to
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T he Lancashire Witches the early eighteenth century.30 Potts’s intended royal reader would not have missed the silent reference to the satanic compact, for James declared that the Devil ‘gives them his marke upon some secreit place of their bodie, which remains soare unhealed, while his next meeting with them, and thereafter ever insensible, how soever it be nipped or pricked by any, as is dailie proved, to give them a proofe thereby, that as in that doing, hee could hurte and heale them; so all their ill and well doing thereafter, must depende upon him’.31 Alizon was held in custody. Nowell, we can assume, continued to make further inquiries and gather further evidence, for within three days, he had Demdike arrested for questioning and held at Fence, a village in the middle of Pendle Forest, about half way between Read and Demdike’s home at Malkin Tower. Alizon had also implicated two other women, Anne Whittle, alias Chattox, and her daughter Anne Redfearne, and they too were brought in. Their examinations took place on 2 April. As in the case of Alizon’s ‘confession’, Nowell begins his telling of Demdike’s with her compact with Satan. According to Nowell, some twenty years earlier, near a stonepit in Gouldshey in the Forest of Pendle, Demdike was coming home from begging when she met ‘a Spirit or Devill in the shape of a Boy’,32 wearing a coat half black and half brown. The spirit said to her that, if she would give him her soul, she could have whatever she asked. Demdike asked the spirit his name, to which he replied ‘Tibb’. In hope of gaining what he promised, Demdike gave her soul to the spirit. For the next five or six years afterwards, the spirit appeared to her often, at sunset, asking her what she would have him do. Demdike, wanting nothing, always replied, ‘nothing yet’. Tibb was a shape-shifter, and he crossed the boundaries between the animal and the human. For, about six years after she had made her agreement with him, he appeared one Sunday morning in the likeness of a brown dog. At the time, Demdike was dozing while nursing a small child. Wearing nothing but her smock, she was unable to prevent him sucking blood from under her left arm. She woke up and said, ‘Jesus save my child,’ but had no power
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A Witch Hunt Be gins to say ‘Jesus save me’. On awakening, the brown dog disappeared from her sight. For the next eight weeks, she reported, she was almost stark raving mad. A similar story emerges in Nowell’s account of the confession of Anne Whittle, alias Chattox, probably taken on the same day as that of Demdike. According to this, about fourteen or fifteen years previously, ‘a thing like a Christian man’,33 over the space of four years, came to her many times asking for her soul. In the end, the thing came to her in her own house, in the forest of Pendle, and she consented. ‘The Devill then in the shape of a Man’ told her ‘Thou shalt want nothing; and be revenged of whom thou list’. 34 He told her his name was Fancie, and if she wanted anything, or wanted revenge on anyone, she should call on him. English readers would have felt quite at home with this account, for they would have been far more likely to read the mark on Demdike as a sign, not (or not only) of a compact with the Devil so much, as a place where she fed her familiar spirit(s). In England, where maleficium was more the focus of persecution than heresy, the notion of the demonic pact was less marked; and consequently the belief in the demonic mark as key evidence of it was marginalised. The demonic mark subtly changed its meaning in England as a result of that distinctive feature of English witchcraft, the keeping of familiar spirits. The keeping and nurturing of familiars in animal or human form became in England one of the decisive features of witchcraft. As Michael Dalton put it in his The Countrey Justice in 1618, witches ordinarily have a familiar or spirit ‘which appears to them, sometimes in one shape, sometimes in another; as in the shape of a man, woman, boy, dog, cat, foal, hare, rat, toad, &c. And to these their spirits they give names’.35 Witches paid a price for their familiars. They had to be fed bread, milk, animals – even the witch’s own blood. Thus the European Devil’s mark was supplemented in England by the witch’s mark – a super-numinary nipple or teat by which the English witch fed her familiars. Where European witches were demonic lovers, English witches were demonic mothers; or perhaps rather, in the
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T he Lancashire Witches English context, the sexual, the maternal, and the demonic were complexly interwoven. Hence the nipple was often sought for in the genital region. In the case of Alice Samuel, one of the witches of Warboys, the gaoler stripped her after her execution, and found on the body of Alice a small lump of flesh ‘sticking out, as if it had been a teate to the length of halfe an inch’. Initially, the gaoler and his wife intended to say nothing, ‘because it was adjoyning to so secrete a place which was not decent to be seene’. In the end, they decided to show it to the forty people present there. The gaoler’s wife squeezed the teat. From it there came ‘beesenings’, a mixture of yellow milk and water, then a liquid like clear milk, and finally blood.36 It was the post-mortem proof of her guilt. Thus, the European search for the sign of the demonic pact was transformed in England into the search for the place from which the familiar was nurtured by the witch’s ‘milk’ (blood), and the meaning of the marks became fluid and ambiguous. The two ideas continued to run parallel for another hundred years. Thus, for example, in the 1697 edition of Michael Dalton’s The Countrey Justice, judges were encouraged to look for both nipples and marks – the former evidence of their having familiar spirits, the latter of their having made a bargain with the Devil. The witch, he declared, [H]ath some big or little Teat upon their Body, and in some secret place, where he sucketh them. And besides their sucking, the Devil leaveth other marks upon their body, sometimes like a blew spot or red spot, like a flea-biting . . . And these the Devils marks be insensible and being pricked will not bleed, and be often in their secretest parts, and therefore require diligent and careful search.37
The marks on Demdike’s body were then either maternal or erotic, or both. This peculiarly English hybrid of the Devil’s mark was no doubt the consequence of the introduction of the European Devil’s mark into England by a Scottish king, who as both James VI of Scotland and James I of England was something of a hybrid himself.
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A Witch Hunt Be gins But what are we to make of these three accounts by Alizon, Demdike, and Chattox of how they became witches? All of them have a similar form – the approach by a spirit in human or animal form, the description of it as a (or the) devil by the texts, the feeding and naming of the spirits (or their telling of their names), the exchange of the soul for the fulfilment of wishes and desires. Where do we draw the line between the suggestions of the examining magistrate and the stories told by the suspects? That cunning persons had the assistance of spirits that required to be fed may well reflect popular and not elite beliefs. Think of how John Law linked the appearance of a great black dog standing by him ‘with very fearefull firie eyes, great teeth, and a terrible countenance’ with the entrance of Alizon Device into his room moments afterwards.38 Still, far from being by nature evil and therefore essentially demonic, the Lancashire spirits seem to be morally ambivalent, willing to do both good and bad, depending on the needs of the witch; or perhaps better, in Rudolf Otto’s terms, they are numinous entities and therefore outside of the moral realm.39 In this way, they were not unlike fairies in the early modern world. They too were morally ambiguous, capable of doing good, but just as likely to do harm. They offered to help, but they could also demand your soul, and parts of your body, in return. Little surprise then that both fairies and familiars could be melded into the satanic. What were tutelary spirits for the cunning person were, for the witch hunter, the witch’s demonic pets.40 Moreover, there was no good demonological reason to invent familiars. In fact, that the Devil presented himself in such forms – cats, dogs, mice, toads, weasels, and so on – itself required an explanation, one most often given in the form of Satan’s subtlety, his guile, or his use of lower order demons to satisfy the lower orders of people.41 we might reasonably conclude therefore that familiars were not an invention of the persecuting authorities. It is of course another question altogether whether those who practised magic did themselves have extraordinary preternatural
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T he Lancashire Witches experiences in which they entered into agreements with animal spirits (or believed that they had). This is a question that we could answer affirmatively, without having to embrace those kinds of grand theories that would see such experiences as local variants of phenomena as widespread as Native American traditions, Siberian shamanism, or pre-Christian shamanistic visionary traditions more generally.42 Thus, we could argue that the preternatural experiences of familiars that such witches had were themselves highly contextualised, were themselves shaped by the culture of witch beliefs that were incorporated into the experiences, and not indicative of forms of religious experience that transcend their specific contexts.43 Perhaps even this is a step too far, at least on the basis of the evidence that we have, and a simpler hypothesis can be put forward, though one not necessarily inconsistent with the former. This would go to its being a part of local (English) magical lore, known by both witches and their clients, that witches made agreements with tutelary spirits. Consequently, regardless of whether they had preternatural experiences of such spirits or not, witches declared their relations with familiars to consolidate their own status within the community as men and women of magical power, to be both feared and respected, hence their willingness, without compulsion, to tell their ‘familiar’ stories. What is imposed from above and what is derived from below is often opaque, and we must be wary of assuming too readily a distinction between elite and popular beliefs; especially where, in the context of witchcraft depositions, the two continually interweave. What is clear however is that familiar spirits and fairies are demonised by the elites. In the 1604 Act, the familiar of popular belief is simply an ‘evil and wicked spirit’. For Nowell then, the familiar is demonic: Alizon’s black dog and the Devil are indistinguishable, Demdike’s shape-shifting boy called Tibb is an evil spirit, Chattox’s ‘thing’ called Fancie is Satan in human form, and only a devil by the name of Dandye would ask James to give him his soul. Alizon, Demdike, James, and Chattox might have been less willing to show their witchcraft credentials, had they known that they would be satanically read.
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A Witch Hunt Be gins
A Malevolent Matriarch Alizon, we recall, had implicated her grandmother Demdike in the death of a child of Richard Baldwin several years earlier, subsequent to her having been banned from Baldwin’s land. It wasn’t much to go on, but it was probably here that Nowell began his interrogation of Demdike. She did not deny that there was bad blood between her and Richard Baldwin, the owner of a mill at Wheathead. We can assume that Demdike was confused about the date when she and Baldwin fell out, for according to her, in contrast to Alizon who remembered it as several years before, it was in 1611, only a short time before the previous Christmas. At that time, Elizabeth Device, Demdike’s daughter, had been working for the Baldwins at the mill. Demdike believed that she had been underpaid for her work, so she set off, with Alizon leading her, to talk to Baldwin. Shortly before she reached his house, she came across him. Demdike made it clear that she was the victim of a verbal assault: ‘[G]et out of my ground Whores and Witches, I will burne the one of you, and hang the other’. To this attack, Demdike replied, ‘I care not for thee, hang thy selfe’.44 At that point, Nowell left the matter; however, having extracted from Demdike the story of her relationship with Tibb, he later returned to the matter of what happened after she told Baldwin to go and hang himself. ‘At this Examinates going over the next hedge,’ we read in Nowell’s report, ‘the said Spirit or Divell called Tibb, appeared unto this Examinat, and said, Revenge thee of him. To whom, this Examinate sayd againe to the said Spirit. Revenge thee eyther of him, or his. And so the said Spirit vanished out of her sight, and she never saw him since.’45 To the reader, it appears that Demdike is confessing to using the assistance of Tibb to have her revenge on Baldwin or one of his family, a revenge that we are soon to learn from Alizon’s account, resulted in the death of a child of Baldwin. Certainly, it would appear that this is the way that Nowell is interpreting her words; however, we can read them quite differently, not as a confession to sending Tibb to do harm to Baldwin or his family, but as a rejection of the
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T he Lancashire Witches revenge offer made by Tibb, and a consequent severing of their relationship. She tells Tibb that she wants nothing to do with it, it’s up to him. Demdike is not denying that Baldwin or his kin might come to harm from Tibb, but rather that, if they had, she had anything to do with it. After this, she never sees Tibb again. So, far from having sold her soul to the Devil, Demdike’s contact with the Spirit is one that can be broken by her when she will not seek the revenge that Tibb wants. What is written up as a confession of maleficium by Demdike may well have been quite the opposite. Nowell was, however, able to extract from Demdike some incriminating circumstantial evidence, for she certainly was familiar with the use of image magic to maim or kill somebody: [T]his Examinate confesseth, and sayth, that the speediest way to take a mans life away by Witchcraft, is to make a Picture of Clay, like unto the shape of the person whom they meane to kill, & dry it thorowly: and when they would have them to be ill in any one place more then an other; then take a Thorne or Pinne, and pricke it in that part of the Picture you would so have to be ill: and when they would have any part of the Body to consume away, then take that part of the Picture, and burne it. And when they would have the whole body to consume away, then take the remnant of the sayd Picture, and burne it: and so thereupon by that meanes, the body shall die.46
Demdike knew how image magic worked, but Nowell was not able to extract from her any admission that she herself had used such magic to harm or kill. Additionally, she vehemently denied having ever done so on one occasion when the opportunity arose. Her familiar Tibb had tried to involve her in image magic, but she resisted. Her account of her resistance became part of the evidence that was to be used against Anne Whittle. In incriminating Anne Whittle, Demdike had to go back eighteen years to mid-summer 1594 when she went to the house of Thomas Redfearne. Thomas Redfearne lived with his wife Anne, and her mother Anne Whittle, nicknamed Chattox, at Greenhead, within
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A Witch Hunt Be gins Pendle Forest, some five miles from Demdike’s home at Malkin Tower. There, within three yards of the east end of the house, she saw Chattox and Anne Redfearne with two pictures made of clay lying by them, and both of them busy making a third. As she went by a black cat appeared; it was Tibb. ‘Turn back and do as they do,’ he said to her. ‘What are they doing?’ she asked. ‘They are making three pictures,’ replied the spirit. ‘Whose pictures are they? she inquired. ‘They are the pictures of Christopher Nutter, Robert Nutter, and Marie, his wife,’ answered Tibb. The spirit’s attempt to involve her in image magic with Chattox and Anne was rejected by Demdike, much to the fury of Tibb who pushed her into a ditch, spilling the milk that she had been carrying in a can. The black cat then disappeared. Soon after, Demdike reported, the spirit reappeared in the form of a hare and went with her a quarter of a mile. It said nothing to her, nor she to it. Demdike then, far from confessing to any maleficium, as Roger Nowell and Thomas Potts would have had their readers believe, vehemently denied any wrongdoing. She presented herself, however, as having resisted the offers by her familiar spirit to do the Baldwins or the Nutters harm. No doubt she believed her refusal to confess to any crimes, and the paucity of evidence against her, would see her released. She was probably unaware that the Act forbade any consorting with animal familiars. It was perhaps a trap into which Nowell led her. What was evidence to her of her innocence of evildoing – her refusal to succumb to the temptations of Tibb – was evidence to Nowell of her consorting with evil spirits, a crime punishable by death. As a result, she was held in custody. Chattox and Anne Redfearne were arrested along with her. On that day, 2 April 1612, or soon after, as Thomas Potts reports, Roger Nowell had Demdike, Alizon Device, Chattox, and Anne Redfearne committed for trial and he ‘sent them away to the Castle at Lancaster, there to remaine until the comming of the Kinges Majesties Justices of Assise, then to receive their tryall’.47 Roger Nowell was probably dissatisfied with the Demdike outcome, having failed to find any evidence of maleficium against
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T he Lancashire Witches Demdike. The charge of covenanting with evil spirits would stick, but he would have known that the courts would not like it. In England, it was the crime of maleficium, not the heresy of supposed satanic covenants that had engaged the interest of the courts, and the charge of consulting, covenanting, entertaining, employing, feeding, or rewarding evil spirits had yet to be tested at law. He kept looking. No doubt his hopes were high when, on 27 April, he questioned James Device at the house of James Wilsey. On this occasion, Nowell enlisted another justice of the peace, Nicholas Bannester, a near neighbour of his, from the manor house at Altham, As we will see, Bannester, perhaps encouraged by Nowell, was to find witch hunting to his taste. Though most of Nowell’s ambitions of finding more evidence of maleficium against Demdike from her grandson, James Device, remained unfulfilled, he did go looking for familiars, and he found them. He led James along a path that went from his encounter with a brown dog about a month before coming from his grandmother’s house, to children ‘Screiking and crying pittifully’48 some two or three nights later around a few hundred feet from the same place about sunset, to five nights later when he heard ‘a foule yelling like unto a great number of Cattes’49 within about four hundred feet of her home. Within three nights after that, James went on to say, ‘about midnight of the same, there came a thing, and lay upon him very heavily about an houre, and went then from him out of his Chamber window, coloured blacke, and about the bignesse of a Hare or Catte’.50 Nowell had clearly tapped into the imaginary, frightening world of the early modern child in which the everyday and the supernatural continually collided, and the one could be easily mistaken for the other. As Reginald Scot put it: But in our childhood our mothers maids have so terrified us with an ouglie divell having hornes on his head, fier in his mouth, and a taile in his breech, eies like a bason, fanges like a dog, clawes like a beare, a skin like a Niger, and a voice roaring like a lion, whereby we start and are afraid when we heare one crie Bough [Boo]: and
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A Witch Hunt Be gins they have so fraied us with bull beggers, spirits, witches, urchens, elves, hags, fairies, satyrs, pans, faunes, sylens, kit with the cansticke, tritons, centaurs, dwarfes, giants, imps, calcars, conjurors, nymphes, changlings, Incubus, Robin good-fellowe, the spoorne, the mare, the man in the oke, the hell waine, the firedrake, the puckle, Tom thombe, hob gobblin, Tom tumbler, boneles, and such other bugs, that we are afraid of our owne shadowes: in so much as some never feare the divell, but in a darke night.51
He did garner one apparently very strong piece of evidence from James about Demdike’s witchcraft, though surprisingly, Potts did not include it in the evidence he assembled against Demdike; rather we find it amongst the materials assembled by Potts relevant to James’s own trial. There, it functions as an introductory story to his own satanic compact. Does it reflect Demdike’s use of the bread of the Mass for magical purposes on particularly auspicious days? It may well do, but at the least, it goes to James’s awareness of the belief in the magical power inherent in the Eucharistic host. It also reflects the way in which Catholic piety and magic intersected in the period.52 According to Nowell’s report, on Maundy Thursday, some two years before, in 1610, Demdike asked James to go to the church and receive the communion. He was told not to eat the bread that the Minister gave him, but to take it away with him and give it to whatever should meet him on the way home. Notwithstanding her wishes, he did eat the bread. On the way home, he met ‘a thing in the shape of a Hare’ that asked him whether he had brought the bread as his Grandmother had asked him. When he answered ‘No’, ‘the said thing threatned to pull this Examinate in peeces’.53 James crossed himself, and the spirit vanished from his sight. Again, this could be construed as evidence of Demdike’s involvement in magical practices. But, as to evidence of maleficium, Nowell came up very short. We are left wondering how Demdike would have fared in court. Would evidence of covenanting with familiars and involvement in white magic have been enough to convict her?
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T he Lancashire Witches We will never know. Gaols in sixteenth and seventeenth-century England were notoriously cold, damp, overcrowded, unsanitary, and disease-ridden.54 It would not have been uncommon for prisoners to die before trial. Thomas Potts presented the evidence that would have been used against Demdike. But, in his list of the names of those committed to Lancaster Castle, against that of Elizabeth Sowtherns alias Old Demdike, he wrote, ‘Who dyed before shee came to her tryall’.55
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H A P T E R
Cunning and Deadly Families
The Trials Begin
n the afternoon of Sunday, 16 August 1612, Judges Bromley and Altham arrived in Lancaster from Kendal in the North.
Lancaster was the last judicial sitting in their journey through the North of England. The judges started in Hull, travelled north to reach York around 26 July, and from there they journeyed north again to Durham and Newcastle. They then headed westward to Carlisle, before turning south to the Lake District town of Kendal, and thence to Lancaster.1 Bromley and Altham were joined on that summer afternoon by Thomas Covell, the Lancaster gaoler, coroner, magistrate and sometime Mayor of Lancaster. He presented the judges with the gaol calendar that contained the list of prisoners committed to the gaol who were to be tried during the Assizes. Potts presented his readers (as if it were the official calendar) with a list of the names of the witches committed to Lancaster Castle.2 Though it lists only the witches committed and mentions no others who were no doubt languishing in gaol awaiting their trials at the August Assizes, it is at best only an excerpt from the calendar or even only an imaginary construction of it by Potts. As Marion Gibson reminds us, ‘The way Potts, the publisher (William Stansby) and the printer (John Barnes) exhibit them,
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T he Lancashire Witches suggests they hoped to convince readers that what they saw was an exact copy as good as seeing the document itself’.3 Nevertheless, it does list the nineteen persons, the trials of whom were to occupy the better part of the rest of Potts’s work. As we have noted, Potts was selective in his details about the trial process, no doubt to heighten the dramatic impact of his account.4 Although he reported that the Assizes began on the following day, Monday 17 August, he was silent about the events of that day. Thus, he made no mention of the role of the grand jury, prior to the trials proper, whose task it was to examine the indictments to determine whether an answerable case had been established, in which case the indictment was endorsed ‘billa vera’ (‘true bill’); nor did he point out that it was at the point when the grand jury had decided that there was a case to answer that the prisoner pleaded ‘guilty’ or ‘not guilty’ to the charge. Those who pleaded ‘guilty’ were set aside until the time of sentence; those who pleaded ‘not guilty’ were asked how they wished to be tried, replying formally (as Potts correctly informs us) that they put themselves upon God and their country.5 Prisoners were then tried in batches, before the one ‘petty jury’, the equivalent of our modern twelve-person jury, and formed from male freeholders called to court for that reason.6 It was Potts’s intention to focus on the majesty of the process of justice, and, as well as beginning his account formally in Latin (Deliberatio Gaole Domini Regis Castri sui Lancastrii ac Prisonarioru in eadem existent . . .’), Potts also gives us some sense of the solemnity of the formal opening of the Assizes: my Lord Bromley . . . coming into the Hall to proceede with the Pleaes of the Crowne, & the Arraignement and Tryall of Prisoners, commaunded a generall Proclamation, that all Justices of Peace that had taken any Recognisaunces, or Examinations of Prisoners, should make Returne of them: And all such as were bound to prosecute Indictmentes, and give Evidence against Witches, should proceede, and give attendance.7
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C u n n i n g a n d D e a d l y Fa m i l i e s These legal proprieties were, however, counterpointed by collective chaos, for early modern trials were public spectacles, noisy, boisterous, almost carnivalesque, with the crush of spectators, prisoners, jurymen, prosecutors and court officials. They were conducted with what appears, at least to us, to be unseemly haste. Crown pleas, J.S. Cockburn remarks, ‘were conducted at top speed, a full day’s business beginning, even in winter, at seven o’clock in the morning and continuing, by candlelight, as late as eleven at night’.8 Trials themselves were short and sharp, taking as little as fifteen to twenty minutes for those who pleaded not guilty. The accused had no defence counsel, no forewarning of the evidence against them and thus no opportunity to organise a defence. Trials would often therefore take the form of altercations between prisoner, prosecutor and witness, with ongoing interjections from the judge.9 In the case of Anne Whittle, alias Chattox, the Grand Jury returned a ‘billa vera’. She was indicted for the murder of Robert Nutter of Greenhead. She pleaded not guilty, and Judge Bromley ordered the Sheriff of Lancaster ‘to returne a Jurie of worthy sufficient Gentlemen of understanding, to passe betweene our soveraigne Lord the Kinges Majestie, and her, and others the Prisoners, upon their lives and deathes’.10 On Tuesday 18 August, in the afternoon, the trial of Anne Whittle began with Roger Nowell presenting the evidence on behalf of the Crown.
A Witch not to be Crossed Chattox, like Demdike, was the matriarch of a cunning family. And within these two families, the descent was predominantly matrilineal – Demdike to Elizabeth Device to her children Alizon, James and Jennet11; Chattox to her daughter Anne Redfearne, and to Anne’s daughter Marie. The social relations between these families and their neighbours were complex ones. Those who were not involved in the cunning business lived in the midst of those who were. As Clive Holmes notes of the villagers within Pendle Forest, they ‘not only tolerated the petty thefts, begging and extortion of the suspected
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T he Lancashire Witches witches, but employed them routinely both in domestic industry and in healing’.12 In the case of the witches of Lancashire, the initial impetus for the witch hunt came from outside the local community. The Laws after all came from Halifax. The people of Pendle were surrounded every day by the magical practices of Demdike, Chattox and their families, and seem to have tolerated them. Nevertheless, once Roger Nowell determined to root out witchcraft, there was no shortage of accusations from the locals who, however much they may have relied upon the services of the local cunning persons, seized the opportunity for some payback when the occasion arose. In The Wonderfull Discoverie of Witches, Thomas Potts tends to introduce each accused witch as if they were the worst of all. We need, therefore, to view his opinion on the relative wickedness of any as tending to dramatic hyperbole. Still, he seems to have adhered to the belief that, the more senior the witch, the more wicked she is. He ranked Chattox in order of wickedness next to Demdike. From these two, he declared, ‘sprung all the rest in order: and were the Children and Friendes, of these two notorious Witches’.13 The relationships between these families were complicated too. We know that there was enmity, no doubt born of economic competition (in terms of begging, magic and perhaps extortion) between the two families and their matriarchs. Around 1601, Alizon and her mother Elizabeth had linen and oat meal (to the value of twenty shillings or more) stolen from their home by Chattox’s daughter. John Device, the husband of Elizabeth Device, had married into a witchcraft lineage, although he himself seems not to have become involved in the business. We might have expected him, as the husband of a powerful woman, to have been safe from witchcraft, but he felt sufficiently threatened by Demdike to have paid her protection ‘money’. At the least, he may have believed it ‘money’ well spent to try and keep the peace between the two families. Moreover, between Chattox and Demdike, no love was lost, ‘For whom the one favoured, the other hated deadly,’14 and each was more than ready to incriminate the other. Potts presented Chattox in the
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C u n n i n g a n d D e a d l y Fa m i l i e s worst possible light. Her contrition and repentance in Lancaster Gaol, he claimed, was sufficient to have moved all to pity, but such was the nature of her offences, and the multitude of her sins, ‘it tooke away all sense of humanity’.15 Chattox and Demdike were undoubtedly women of power and, through their magical activities, were engaged in a struggle for female social power. Chattox, like Demdike, was said to be eighty years of age. She claimed to have been introduced into witchcraft by Demdike, though this is most likely a belated claim to lay the blame for her own activities on a hated rival. She was ‘a very old withered spent & decreped creature, her sight almost gone’.16 She talked to herself incessantly, though no one could understand what she said. Although indicted for murder, Potts admitted that she was more likely to do damage to men’s goods than themselves. Chattox, like Demdike, fitted the contemporary stereotype of the witch constructed by the Anglican Samuel Harsnett: ‘an olde weather-beaten Croane, having her chinne, & her knees meeting for age, walking like a bow leaning on a shaft, hollow eyed, untoothed, furrowed on her face, having her lips trembling with the palsie, going mumbling in the streetes, one that hath forgotten her pater noster, and hath yet a shrewd tongue in her head, to call a drab, a drab’.17 Roger Nowell had collected a significant amount of evidence against Chattox. In addition to the two confessions that she had made, one at Fence on 2 April and another in Lancaster Gaol on 19 May, and both of which she was to renege on before her trial, he had statements from Demdike, James Device the grandson of Demdike, Alizon Device his sister and James Robinson, a friend of the Nutters. These referred, not only to the alleged murder of Robert Nutter, but also to the murders of Alizon’s father John Device, little Anne Nutter, Hugh Moore and the infant John Moore of Higham. The only statements of relevance in The Wonderfull Discoverie of Witches to the actual charge against Chattox were those relating to Robert Nutter. We cannot know whether those relating to other alleged offences were used in court. More likely, the additional offences were included by Potts as
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T he Lancashire Witches corroborative evidence to his readers of the likely guilt of Chattox in the crime for which she was actually charged. Be that as it may, Chattox and her daughter Anne Redfearne, we may recall, had been fingered by Alizon Device for involvement in witchcraft, and Chattox was questioned by Nowell on 2 April. The conversation that they had on this day has to be reconstructed from the document that Nowell presented at the trial headed ‘The voluntary Confession and Examination of Anne Whittle, alias Chattox’.18 It was a conversation that, at least initially, was unthreatening, for Chattox seems willingly enough to have admitted that she consulted with spirits. It was around 1598, she informed Nowell, that ‘a thing like a Christian man’ would regularly come to her asking for her soul. She had always declined the offer, but after a period of four years, she relented, in exchange for having whatever she wished, and exacting revenge on whomever she wanted. Although we can assume that Chattox did not see herself as assenting to a compact with the Devil, Nowell did: ‘the Devill then further commanded this Examinate, to call him by the name of Fancie; and when she wanted any thing, or would be revenged of any, call on Fancie, and he would be ready’.19 Nevertheless, even though she admitted to consulting with spirits, initially at least she would not admit to the practice of ‘black magic’, nor to being a servant of Satan. On the contrary, for not long after her covenant with Fancie, he it was who came to her, she said, seeking permission to hurt the wife of Richard Baldwin of Pendle, he who had made such an enemy of Demdike. Chattox refused to allow it. Fancie was enraged and tried to bite Chattox on the arm, before disappearing. This was an account of her initiation into witchcraft that she significantly elaborated upon on 19 May while imprisoned in Lancaster Castle. On that occasion, she was questioned by William Sandes, the then Mayor of Lancaster, the gaoler Thomas Covell and James Anderton, a local magistrate. We can suppose that Nowell, dissatisfied with the evidence that he had against Demdike, had suggested
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C u n n i n g a n d D e a d l y Fa m i l i e s that Chattox be asked for information further to incriminate Demdike, and Chattox obliged. Now, she said, it was ‘through the wicked persuasions’20 of Demdike that she became a witch. Only after that did the Devil appear to her in the likeness of a man, and at Demdike’s house. At first, she now claimed, she refused to give her soul to the Devil, but was again persuaded by Demdike. We can assume that they asked her on this occasion whether the familiar sucked on any part of her body. She admitted that the wicked Spirit had demanded of her one part of her body upon which to feed. Initially, she refused, but she did ask what part of her body he wished to use. When he asked for ‘a place of her right side neere to her ribbes’,21 she agreed. She finally had to rid herself of Fancie. It was he who had taken most of her sight away. He had last come to her, ‘in the likenesse of a Beare’ on a Thursday on Midsummer Eve, that most magical of days, the year before last. She refused to speak to him. To punish her, he had brought her down. Her inquisitors were also keen to link her familiar with that of Demdike – the brown dog, sometimes young boy, black cat or hare, called Tibb. Chattox admitted that Fancie was accompanied by Tibb. He too promised her gold, silver and worldly wealth. The bargain was sealed with a meal illuminated by magical light – bread, meat, butter, cheese and drink, though they were as hungry after it as before. The inquisitors were no doubt hinting at a Sabbatical meal. In the Continental tradition, compacts with the Devil were often sealed with sexual acts between demons and witches. Was it to avoid any accusation of sexual improprieties with Fancie, that she surprisingly said that Fancie and Tibb were ‘both shee Spirites, and Divels?’22 It was the information that Alizon Device had given to Roger Nowell on 30 March that provided the grounds for bringing Chattox in for questioning. With Alizon, he struck pay dirt, for she had a fund of stories about Anne Whittle, alias Chattox, and all of them went to Chattox and her family not being people you would want to cross. Around 1601, about eleven years prior to this, Alizon and her mother Elizabeth had linen and oat meal (to the value of twenty shillings or
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T he Lancashire Witches more) stolen from their home, by Chattox’s daughter. The Device family feared Chattox sufficiently for John Device, Alizon’s father, to pay her protection, afraid that Chattox should do them harm by witchcraft. He struck a deal with Chattox to give her an amount of meal annually. This continued almost until he died some eleven years before in 1601. As far as John Device was concerned his failure to do so once was fatal: ‘Her [Alizon’s] father upon his then-death-bed, taking it that the said Anne Whittle, alias Chattox, did bewitch him to death, because the said meale was not paid the last yeare’.23 It did not take much to enrage Chattox, as the Nutter family of Pendle were to discover. Several years ago, declared Alizon, she was in the house of her friend Anne Nutter, daughter of Anthony Nutter of Pendle, when Chattox came into the house. Mistaking the laughter of Anne Nutter to be directed at her, Chattox threatened revenge. The next day Anne fell sick and died within three weeks. The death of Anne Nutter, as the result of bewitchment by Chattox, received some further corroboration in the evidence given by James Device, Alizon’s brother. He had been questioned by Roger Nowell and his neighbour Nicholas Bannester. Prior to his interrogation, James had been co-operating with the enquiry, for it is clear that he had gone with the constable for Pendle Forest, Henry Hargreives, seeking for hard evidence. James must have led Hargreives to the western end of his grandmother Demdike’s house. For there, we are told, Hargreives uncovered four teeth and a clay picture buried in the earth. The clay picture was, of course, evidence of image magic, but the teeth were also significant. Remnants of the dead were potent in magic – hair, nails, skulls, bones generally. The teeth of the dead were particularly useful in curing toothaches.24 The evidence found in Demdike’s house, Malkin Tower, pointed far more in the direction of Demdike than of Chattox. Perhaps Demdike was already dead by the time the discoveries were made, and they were not needed as evidence against her. We do not know whether Nowell or Bannester hinted to James that these may have had more to do with Chattox than with Demdike, or if James’s vivid
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C u n n i n g a n d D e a d l y Fa m i l i e s imaginings were the cause of his explanation for these discoveries. If the latter, then it must have stretched even the credulity of the magistrates, although not sufficiently for them to have left it out of their evidence against Chattox. For, according to James, in 1600, [T]he said Anne Chattox at a Buriall at the new Church in Pendle, did take three scalpes of people, which had been buried, and then cast out of a grave, as she the said Chattox told this Examinate; and tooke eight teeth out of the said Scalpes, whereof she kept foure to her selfe, and gave other foure to the said Demdike, this Examinates Grand-mother: which foure teeth now shewed to this Examinate, are the foure teeth that the said Chattox gave to his said Grand-mother, as aforesaid ; which said teeth have ever since beene kept, untill now found by the said Henry Hargreives & this Examinate, at the Westend of this Examinates Grand-mothers house, and there buried in the earth, and a Picture of Clay there likewise found by them, about halfe a yard over in the earth, where the said Teeth lay, which said picture so found, was almost withered away, and was the Picture of Anne, Anthony Nutters daughter; as this Examinates Grand-mother told him.25
Anne Nutter was not the only alleged child victim of Chattox, for in 1610, around the same time that Chattox was supposed to have murdered Anne Nutter, Alizon had heard that Chattox was suspected of bewitching the drink of a John Moore, a gentleman of Higham. She had also heard Chattox threaten him for making the accusation that she had done so. Shortly afterwards, a child of John Moore, also called John, fell sick, languished for about six months, and then died. Nowell knew from Demdike that Chattox practised image magic, so he probably asked Alizon if she had ever seen Chattox with any images, and Alizon obliged. During the languishing of Moore’s son, wrote Nowell, ‘this Examinate saw the said Chattox sitting in her owne garden, and a picture of Clay like unto a child in her Apron; which this Examinate espying, the said Anne Chattox would have hidde with her
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T he Lancashire Witches Apron’.26 When she told her mother Elizabeth Device what she had seen, her mother thought it was the picture of John Moore’s child. Chattox had a quite different account of all this. According to her, she was sent for by the wife of John Moore to un-bewitch ale. It was a piece of benevolent magic for which she had used the following prayer: Three Biters hast thou bitten, The Hart, ill Eye, ill Tonge: Three bitter shall be thy Boote, Father, Sonne, and Holy Ghost a Gods name. Five Pater nosters, five Avies, and a Creede, In worship of five wounds of our Lord.27
It was after Chattox’s favour to the Moores that John Moore’s wife had an argument with Chattox. She was duly aggrieved and sent Fancie to bite one of Moore’s brown cows on the head. The cow subsequently went mad and died about six weeks later. Chattox was also willing to admit to bad blood between her and the family of Anthony Nutter, for the Nutter family did their magical dealings with Demdike, and not with her. However, she would not confess to the murder of Anne Nutter. Rather, she had merely given a powerful demonstration that it was in their interests to do business with her and not with Demdike: Chattox ‘called Fancie to her, (who appeared like a man) and bad him goe kill a Cow of the said Anthonies; which the said Devill did, and that Cow died also’.28 Nevertheless, in Alizon’s opinion, at least, Chattox was a serial killer. She proceeded to tell the story of the death of a Hugh Moore of Pendle. He had accused Chattox of having bewitched his cattle. For this accusation, Chattox was heard to have sworn revenge on him. Shortly afterwards, Hugh Moore fell ill and died, having languished for about half a year. Like John Device, he accused Chattox upon his death bed of having bewitched him to death.
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C u n n i n g a n d D e a d l y Fa m i l i e s Bewitching livestock was apparently a common charge against Chattox, as it was against Demdike. This is not surprising, for rearing cattle was, along with woollen cloth making, one of the two main economic activities around Pendle, so cattle were a likely target of malevolent witchcraft.29 Alizon told how a cow of John Nutter of Bull Hole met its end. This was the same John Nutter who had lost a cow to the malevolent magic of Demdike. About six or seven years before, she said, a daughter of Chattox, Elizabeth, had begged milk from John Nutter’s house that she took to her mother who was close by. She poured the milk into a can, placed two sticks across the top and began to recite a charm. John Nutter’s son came to her, perhaps angry at her being given the milk, and kicked over the can. Next morning, a cow of John Nutter fell sick, and died some three or four days later. Altogether thus far, Chattox was accused by Alizon Device of the murder of her father John Device, and three others, Anne Nutter, John Moore and Hugh Moore. It was her word against Chattox’s. Roger Nowell must have realised that the history of conflict between the Devices and the Whittles would have rendered the accusations doubtful. We can only assume that he was unable to find other witnesses to corroborate her stories. The evidence was stronger in the case of the murder of Robert Nutter, the charge upon which he eventually had her brought to trial. At this point, the trials of Chattox and her daughter, Anne Redfearne, intersect in complicated ways. For she too had been indicted by the grand jury for the murder of, among others, Robert Nutter. At least, in part, this was the result of accusations made by Demdike, for she, we may recall, claimed to have come across Chattox and her daughter Anne Redfearne making clay images of Christopher Nutter, his son Robert Nutter, and Marie, Robert’s wife; or at least, this was what Tibb, her familiar spirit, had told her was going on. Chattox and her daughter Anne had a reputation as witches, one that perhaps they had fostered. Their livelihood, in part at least, depended on it. As James Robinson reported, ‘the said Anne Whittle, alias Chattox, and Anne Redfearne her said Daughter, are commonly
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T he Lancashire Witches reputed and reported to bee Witches’.30 If Chattox is to be believed, she had been a witch since 1598, but, according to another tale that she told, her activities and her reputation as a witch went back to at least before the death of Robert Nutter in 1595. It was a story that placed Chattox at the centre of internal family strife among the Nutters of Greenhead. According to Chattox, it was before 1595 that Elizabeth Nutter approached her and two other cunning women, Loomeshaw’s wife and a Jane Boothman (both of whom were from Burnley, and both of whom were now dead) with a request. Elizabeth Nutter was the wife of Robert Nutter the elder, the grandfather of the Robert Nutter with whose murder Chattox was charged. She wanted her grandson murdered so that, if he were dead, ‘the Women their Coosens might have the Land’.31 Is this a credible story? Probably not, for even in early modern England, where the law of inheritance was dominated by primogeniture (where land is conferred on the eldest son and not divided up amongst the heirs), and couverture (the fiction that a husband and wife were one person, and that person was the husband), there were more effective and less drastic ways for women to control, inherit and confer property than employing witches to murder male heirs.32 What it does perhaps suggest is that Chattox was well aware of internal family squabbles within her landlord’s family, and that even within the Nutter household, young Robert Nutter was regarded as a particularly nasty piece of work. And for good reason, as we will see. Chattox was clearly fixed on diverting attention away from herself and onto Loomeshaw and Boothman, for she went on to say that, although all three of the witches had initially assented to Elizabeth Nutter’s request, Chattox was dissuaded from carrying through on the deal by her son-in-law and Anne Redfearne’s husband Thomas Redfearne. As a result of his interference, he attracted the wrath of Loomeshaw’s wife. For wrecking what would no doubt have been lucrative, she ‘had like to have killed the sayd Redfearne’.33 Fortunately for Thomas Redfearne, Loomeshaw’s wife was dissuaded
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C u n n i n g a n d D e a d l y Fa m i l i e s from her murderous intent by a Master Baldwyn, who at the time was the schoolmaster in Colne. By his learning, we are informed, he was able ‘to stay the sayd Loomeshaws wife, and therefore had a Capon from Redfearne’.34 Chattox believed that, although she had withdrawn from the deal with Elizabeth Nutter, that both Loomeshaw’s wife and Jane Boothman remained committed to it, and did what they could to kill Robert Nutter. It was perhaps not Chattox’s wisest move, for it was as likely to confirm opinion that she was a person capable of agreeing to a contract for murder as it was to direct attention away from her and onto her fellow witches. The evidence of James Robinson, as someone outside of both families, given to Nowell on 2 April in Fence, was also undoubtedly crucial. James Robinson himself had been a victim of Chattox, or so he claimed. Around the year 1604, his wife had employed Chattox to card wool. On the third day of her employment, Chattox had drunk some of their freshly fermented beer. The drink was spoiled, as a consequence, he claimed, for two months afterwards. That he was willing to employ her within his own house is perhaps a matter for surprise, particularly in light of the story that he then told of his knowledge of Chattox from some eighteen years earlier, around 1594. But it is in keeping with the way in which the practice of magic and other rural activities were bound into the life of the everyday. Nonetheless, according to James Robinson, he was then boarding with Robert Nutter the elder, grandfather to his friend Robert Nutter. In the late summer of 1594, Robert Nutter the younger fell sick. Several times, while he was ill, he complained that he had been made ill by Chattox and her daughter Anne having bewitched him. Soon after, he accompanied his employer, Sir Richard Shuttleworth of Gawthorpe Hall in Padiham to Wales. Before he left, Robinson reported, he had heard Robert Nutter tell Thomas Redfearne, Anne’s husband, that when he returned from Wales, ‘he would get his Father to put the said Redfearne out of his house, or he himself would pull it downe’.35 Thomas Redfearne, attempting to make peace, replied to him that he
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T he Lancashire Witches would feel differently when he returned. Nutter’s determination to remove Chattox and the Redfearne’s from his family’s land was never put to the test, for he was to die shortly before 2 February in 1595 in Cheshire on his way back from Wales. Thomas Potts read this as the story of a heinous crime committed for what he said was ‘so small an occasion, as to threaten to take away his owne land from such as were not worthie to inhabite or dwell upon it’.36 Being made homeless was not perhaps so small an occasion to the Redfearnes as Potts saw it, but Robinson’s story did fit the stereotype of the witch seeking revenge for threats made to her family and herself. When questioned by Nowell about Robinson’s account, Chattox had another story to tell, and one that went to the underlying cause of the enmity between Chattox, the Redfearnes generally and Robert Nutter. This was a story of attempted rape, or at least attempted seduction. According to Chattox, while Robert Nutter was visiting Anne Redfearne he desired ‘to have his pleasure of her’.37 When she refused him, he left in a rage saying ‘that if ever the Ground came to him, shee should never dwell upon his land’.38 Was this a sixteenth-century Lancashire variation of droit du seigneur, the right that is alleged to have existed in medieval Europe according to which the landowner had the right to take the virginity of his serfs’ virgin daughters? Perhaps, but more likely, he was just a thug who thought he could do to the tenants what he wished. This story of the conflict between Anne and Robert receives some support from a surprising source, namely Margaret Crooke, the sister of Robert Nutter, though it is to be found not in the evidence assembled against Chattox but in that against her daughter Anne. It was originally given on the same day as that of James Robinson, 2 April 1612. Here there was no evidence of attempted rape, or even of attempted seduction. We would not expect Robert to have admitted as much to his sister, but she did say that, around the middle of 1594, her brother had told her that ‘upon some speeches betweene them [he and Anne] they fell out’.39 Within a
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C u n n i n g a n d D e a d l y Fa m i l i e s week or two, she told Nowell, her brother had fallen ill until about February of the following year when he had died. James Robinson, in his evidence, had claimed that Robert Nutter blamed both Chattox and Anne Redfearne for his bewitchment. Margaret made no specific reference to Chattox, but it is reasonably clear that she was pointing the finger at both Anne and Chattox. During the time of Robert’s illness, she testified, ‘he did a hundred times at the least say, That the said Anne Redferne and her associates had bewitched him to death’.40 Further evidence against Chattox and Anne Redfearne was given by John Nutter, Robert’s brother, to Nowell on that same April day. As with the previous evidence given by James Robinson and his sister Margaret, it confirmed Robert’s conviction that Chattox and her daughter were responsible for his illness. According to John Nutter, it was around Christmas 1594, shortly before Robert went to Wales with Sir Richard Shuttleworth, that he and his brother Robert, together with their father Christopher, were travelling homewards from Burnley. He heard Robert tell their father, ‘Father, I am sure I am bewitched by the Chattox, Anne Chattox, and Anne Redferne her daughter, I pray you cause them to bee layd in Lancaster Castle’.41 His father was sceptical and unconvinced, and accused him of being foolish and mistaken. Robert was adamant – and vengeful: ‘Then this Examinates Brother weeping, said; nay, I am sure that I am bewitched by them, and if ever I come againe (for hee was readie to goe to Sir Richard Shuttleworths, then his Master) I will procure them to bee laid where they shall be glad to bite Lice in two with their teeth’.42 Perhaps Demdike did come across Chattox and Anne preparing to do magic against Robert, for, with this threat hanging over the family, it is feasible that Chattox and Anne may have practised image magic against Robert Nutter with a view to protecting themselves. If so, it was not something that Anne ever admitted to; nor did Chattox during her own trial. Chattox was however brought into court after the evidence against Anne had been presented. She confessed then to
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T he Lancashire Witches the making of all of the pictures of clay, ‘and cried out very heartily to God to forgive her sinnes’.43 Moreover, Chattox did admit before her trial to using her familiar Fancie against Robert Nutter. After Nutter left, she told Nowell, she called her familiar Fancie to her, ‘who came to her in the likenesse of a Man in a parcell of Ground called, The Laund; asking this Examinate, what shee would have him to doe? And this Examinate bade him goe revenge her of the sayd Robert Nutter. After which time, the sayd Robert Nutter lived about a quarter of a yeare, and then dyed’.44 No doubt, this admission was damning. Chattox admitted again to murdering Nutter in her later confession in Lancaster Gaol on 19 May, but this time she again implicated Demdike. Though there was no mention of Jane Boothman, she reiterated her claim of the involvement of the Loomeshaw’s wife in the murder of Nutter. It was at the same time that she took the opportunity to accuse Demdike of another murder, that of a member of another leading family in the Pendle area, Richard Assheton of Downham. He had died in 1597 or thereabouts.45 This accusation was presumably not treated as a credible one, for we hear no more of this alleged killing from Potts. Chattox had, therefore, strong motives to do Nutter harm – he had attempted to seduce her daughter, and to take away the roof over their heads as a result of Anne’s refusal. As a witch, she had the means and the opportunity to do Robert Nutter serious harm – she knew how to do image magic, and she had a familiar spirit at her disposal. And Nutter had died. Moreover, she had admitted to it. It would not have been surprising, either to her or her contemporaries, that her malevolent magic was the cause of his death, so it is not unfeasible that her confession on 2 April was a ‘true’ one, albeit to an impossible crime. She really had tried to kill Nutter, and she believed, retrospectively at least occasionally, that she had actually done so. Certainly Robert Nutter believed so. He must have rued the day he attempted to have sex with Anne Redfearne. The jury considered its verdict for life or death in the trial of Anne Whittle, alias Chattox. She was found guilty.
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C u n n i n g a n d D e a d l y Fa m i l i e s
Anne Redfearne, Guilty and not Guilty Chattox’s daughter Anne Redfearne had also been charged with the murder of Robert Nutter. Her trial on this charge had begun on Tuesday night, 18 August 1612. The evidence against her was not strong. Even Potts admitted that it was ‘not very pregnant against her’.46 There was, of course, the evidence of Demdike. It was the same as she had given against Chattox – that she had, in mid-summer 1594, come across Chattox and her daughter Anne Redfearne making clay images of Christopher Nutter, his son Robert Nutter and Marie, Robert’s wife. There was too some evidence given by James Device to Roger Nowell on 2 April. He claimed that, several years before, he saw three pictures of clay at the end of Thomas Redfearne’s house. Thomas was holding one of these, Anne was holding another which she was crumbling and their daughter Marie a third. Whose pictures they were he could not tell. On his way home, he encountered ‘a thing like a Hare’ that spat fire at him.47 This was no doubt intended to be a reference to ‘Fancie’, Chattox’s familiar, though he seems to have confused Fancie who didn’t appear as a hare with Demdike’s familiar Tibb who did. Even if this were evidence of Chattox, Anne (and her husband and daughter) being involved in image magic, it bore no relevance to the images of the Nutters that were putatively made some sixteen years before. None of the evidence given by Margaret Crooke, John Nutter, or James Robinson implicated her in the death of Robert Nutter. On the contrary, it pointed, as did the evidence of Chattox herself, to her having been the victim of Robert Nutter’s sexual aggression. It is, therefore, not surprising that, in the case of the murder of Robert Nutter, she was found innocent. It was a verdict about which Thomas Potts was unhappy, and one with which he passionately disagreed. Potts did not believe Chattox’s late confession to having made all of the clay pictures, seeing it merely as a belated attempt on her part to save her daughter. He claimed there were any number of other witnesses who orally had
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T he Lancashire Witches ‘charged her with many strange practices, and declared the death of the parties’.48 He went as far as to claim that she was more dangerous than her mother since it was she who made all or most of the pictures of clay that were found: ‘in making pictures of Clay, she was more cunning then any’.49 His vindication was yet to come: But the innocent bloud yet unsatisfied, and crying out unto GOD for satisfaction and revenge; the crie of his people (to deliver them from the danger of such horrible and bloudie executioners, and from her wicked and damnable practices) hath now againe brought her to a second Triall.50
On the next day, Wednesday 19 August, the trial of Anne Redfearne for the murder of Christopher Nutter began. To this charge, Anne had again pleaded not guilty. Potts presents us with only two pieces of evidence against her. The first is again the evidence of Demdike about Chattox and Anne making images of Christopher, Robert and Marie Nutter. The second was contained in evidence given by Margaret Crooke, Robert Nutter’s sister, and Christopher Nutter’s daughter. She told Roger Nowell that around the middle of 1595, the year in which Christopher’s son Robert had died, he too had fallen ill, and died in October of that year. He too died, she claimed, having said on many occasions that ‘hee was bewitched’.51 However, she pointed out, he neither named anyone as having done so, nor knew of anybody who would have. Margaret Crooke’s evidence thus pointed to no one in particular. As we have seen, the jury was not persuaded by Demdike’s evidence against Anne in the case of Robert Nutter. It was no more convincing against Anne in the case of Christopher Nutter, so it is difficult to know why the jury may have been persuaded in this case. Perhaps it was a different jury, one that took Demdike’s evidence more seriously. Perhaps, Judge Bromley, having felt that the jury had erred in finding her innocent of the murder of Robert Nutter, became significantly more directive in her second trial. As J.S. Cockburn reminds us, ‘If there is one feature of assize trial on which all contemporary
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C u n n i n g a n d D e a d l y Fa m i l i e s accounts agree, it is the constant and pervasive influence of judicial interference’.52 We don’t know. In effect all this was no evidence at all, so it is difficult to see why she could have been found guilty. But found guilty she was, although she continued to maintain her innocence: ‘but no meanes could move her to repentance, for as shee lived, so shee dyed’.53
Alizon and the Laws Alizon Device, Demdike’s granddaughter, we may recall, was the first of the Pendle witches to be interrogated by Roger Nowell on 30 March 1612. She was the last of those committed by Nowell to Lancaster Gaol to be tried on the afternoon of Wednesday 19 August, the same year. Recruited by Demdike as a witch in 1610 according to her own confession, she was charged with having bewitched the pedlar John Law, having so lamed him that ‘his bodie wasted and consumed’.54 Unlike Demdike and Chattox, she had not been charged with murder, but the charge against her was nonetheless a capital one. She had confessed to it on 30 April when interrogated by Nowell at Read. It wasn’t enough for Thomas Potts. He wanted to reassure his readers that, though she was but ‘a young Witch, of a yeares standing’, she was ‘spotted with innocent bloud’ for having bewitched a child. 55 Thus, although it was most likely not presented in evidence in the trial of Alizon, Potts printed a further piece from Nowell’s account of his examination of James Device on 30 March. According to James, around St. Peter’s Day (29 June) in 1611, a Henry Bulcock had come to Demdike’s house and accused Alizon of having bewitched one of his children. He wanted Alizon to accompany him to his home, presumably in order to ‘unbewitch’ the child. Alizon, James reported, went with Bulcock; and presumably James did too, for he went on to tell Nowell that, on her arrival at Bulcock’s, Alizon fell down on her knees, confessed to Henry Bulcock that she had bewitched the child and asked for his forgiveness. We can assume that no evidence to this effect was given by Henry Bulcock himself, else Nowell might
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T he Lancashire Witches have added a charge of bewitching Bulcock’s child, and Potts would have presented it. Perhaps the ‘unbewitching’ worked, and Bulcock wished to take the matter no further for fear of the Devices. What we can say is that it was general knowledge that Alizon was part of the family witchcraft business and, for reasons that are not clear, when his child fell ill, Bulcock knew where to lay the blame, and where to seek help. We do not know what her plea might have been, had John Law not made his appearance in court, prepared to give evidence against her. His appearance seems to have confirmed her intention to plead guilty and, despite the fatal consequences to her of such a guilty plea, to have confirmed her in her belief in her own guilt: ‘The Prisoner being at the Barre, & now beholding the Pedler, deformed by her Witch-craft, and transformed beyond the course of Nature, appeared to give evidence against her; having not yet pleaded to her Indictment, saw it was in vaine to denie it, or stand upon her justification’.56 Alizon wept, and asked the court to forgive her. It didn’t, and she was condemned to death.
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H A P T E R
H R E E
A ‘Sabbat of Witches’ at Malkin Tower?
A Good Friday Meeting
ith the arrest of her daughter Alizon by Roger Nowell on 30 March, the imprisonment of her mother Demdike, Chattox
and Anne Redfearne on 2 April, and the subsequent transportation of all four to Lancaster Gaol, Elizabeth Device must have been terrified.
She herself had been interrogated on 30 March by Nowell. She had given information about a suspicious mark on Demdike’s left side, but no accusations were made against her at that time for she was allowed to leave Read Hall to make the return journey to her home near Malkin Tower some ten miles away. Elizabeth called a meeting of friends and neighbours, no doubt to discuss what was to be done for those arrested, and to determine strategies to avoid the witch hunter, Nowell. It was to be held on 10 April, Good Friday. Although Protestant reformers had railed against it, the late medieval Good Friday tradition of clergy and people creeping barefooted on their knees to kiss the cross had lasted well into the Elizabethan period.1 In early modern Protestant England, Good Friday was still a holiday, although a day of deep mourning in remembrance of the crucifixion of Christ. Good Friday was, perhaps then, the first day since the arrests were made that people would have been able to get together.
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T he Lancashire Witches Thomas Potts read the meeting at Malkin Tower differently, in fact, as the binary opposite of those services devoted to the worship of God that occurred on that day.2 So for Potts, regardless of its actual intentions, it was an inversion of the solemnity and sobriety more fitting for a Good Friday; and as an inversion of the piety appropriate for such a day, it was therefore suggestive of Satanic doings. The children and friends of those imprisoned, he wrote, organised a speciall meeting at Malking Tower in the Forrest of Pendle, upon Good-fryday, within a weeke after they were committed, of all the most dangerous, wicked, and damnable Witches in the County farre and neere. Upon Good-fryday they met, according to solemne appoyntment, solemnised this great Feastivall day according to their former order, with great cheare, merry company, and much conference.3
It was a ‘great Assemblie,’4 he said elsewhere, ‘a solemn meeting at Malkyn Tower of the Graund Witches of the Counties of Lancaster and Yorke, being yet unsuspected and untaken,’5 ‘a solemne meeting at Malking-Tower, of these hellish and divellish band of Witches, (the like whereof hath not been heard of)’.6 It was, in short, a satanic Sabbath, or at least that was what Potts was wanting to suggest. That witches were members of a heretical cult, a Christianity turned upside down, who periodically met together to worship the Devil was a key component of Continental demonology. We do not know whether Thomas Potts was familiar with Reginald Scot’s 1584 book The Discoverie of Witchcraft. The title of his own work may suggest that he did, though there is no hint of this in The Wonderfull Discoverie of Witches. Be that as it may, Scot’s Discoverie was a work sufficiently sceptical about witchcraft and demonology to have provoked King James to write his Daemonologie in 1597,7 and according to tradition, to have had it burnt upon his accession to the English throne in 1603.8 Nevertheless, Scot, drawing on a number of Continental demonologies, neatly summarised the Sabbath for his readers.9 According to him, witches come together at certain assemblies at fixed times
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A ‘ S a b b a t o f Wi t c h e s ’ a t M a l k i n To w e r ? where they not only see the Devil, but also hold familiar conversations with him in which the Devil exhorts them to remain faithful to him, promising them prosperity and long life in return. The witches thus assembled commend a new disciple (whom they call a novice) to him. If the Devil finds the young witch ready to renounce the Christian faith, despise the sacraments, spit at the time of the elevation of the Host and ignore fasting, he joins his hand with hers, and she promises to observe and keep all the Devil’s commandments. The Devil also demands that she worship him, and that she grant him both her body and soul to be tormented in everlasting fire, an offer which, as Scot will argue elsewhere, is ultimately not really much of a bargain. The Devil also charges her to bring as many people as possible to join their society. He teaches the witches how to make ointments from the bowels and other parts of unbaptised children to fulfil all of their desires. The bargain with the Devil was ratified, according to Scot, by a verbal oath or in writing, sealed with wax and often signed in blood, sometimes by kissing the Devil’s bare buttocks. Scot told too of the dancing that was always included in the Sabbath and the witches singing ‘Har, Har, divell, divell, danse here, danse here, plaie here, plaie here, Sabbath, Sabbath. And whiles they sing and danse, everie one hath a broome in hir hand and holdeth it up aloft. Item he [Bodin] saith that these night-walking or night-dansing witches, brought out of Italie into France, that danse, which is called La Volta’.10 Scot’s contemporaries would have been familiar with the volta’s erotic postures, and court circles would have known that Elizabeth I danced it with the Earl of Leicester around 1580. If Potts had not read Scot, he had read King James’s Daemonologie. James’s Satan was an inversion of the Protestant clergyman as teacher: ‘As the Minister sent by GOD, teacheth plainely at the time of their publicke conventions, how to serve him in spirit & truth: so that uncleane spirite, in his owne person teacheth his Disciples, at the time of their conveening, how to worke all kinds of mischiefe’.11 And he does so by occupying the pulpit, prior to his slaves ‘kissing of his hinder partes’.12 Perhaps to Potts’s disappointment, there was none of
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T he Lancashire Witches this to be found in the statements by witnesses to the events at Malkin Tower that he had at his disposal. In his classic work A History of Witchcraft in England from 1558 to 1718, Wallace Notestein suggests that the meeting at Malkin Tower never occurred, and that it was the invention of one of the accused, or developed under the stimulus of suggestive questions from a justice.13 Had it been an invention, it would more likely have taken the form of the Sabbaths related by Scot or King James; however, it was a much more mundane affair than Scot or James luridly imagined, and there is no reason to believe that a meeting did not take place. But who was there, what was its purpose and what occurred during and after it is much less clear. What we do know is that word of the meeting reached the ears of Roger Nowell, and he arrested as many of those who were at Malkin Tower as he could lay hands on, including Elizabeth Device, her son James and her nine-year-old daughter Jennet. For our knowledge of what went on at Malkin Tower, we are reliant on evidence given (on 27 April) by these three to Roger Nowell and Nicholas Bannester at Fence. Elizabeth Device was the first to be questioned by Roger Nowell. Thomas Potts portrayed her in as bad a light as was possible. Amongst all of the witches, he declared, ‘there was not a more dangerous and devillish Witch to execute mischief, having old Dembdike her mother, to assist her; James Device and Alizon Device, her owne naturall children, all provided with Spirits, upon any occasion of offence readie to assist her’.14 John Clayton has argued that certain records that appear in the Newchurch parish registers under the name ‘Denis’ refer in fact to Elizabeth Device and her family.15 If this were the case, then her maiden name would have been Ingham, and she would have married John Device in 1590. Thus, in 1612, we can surmise that she would have been around forty years of age. The registers also note the baptism of a Jacobus (James) Denis in 1590, of an Alicea (Alizon) in 1593 and of a Jenneta in 1600. If these are the children of Elizabeth Device,
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A ‘ S a b b a t o f Wi t c h e s ’ a t M a l k i n To w e r ? then James would have been a young man of around twenty-two years (though Potts gives us the impression of a younger man), Alizon a young woman of around nineteen years and Jennet a child of around twelve years (though Potts has her as a child of nine) when the trials took place. If we are to believe Potts, Elizabeth Device ‘was branded with a preposterous marke in Nature, even from her birth,’ though it does not seem to have dented her marriage prospects. Her left eye was placed in her face significantly lower than her right eye, so that the one eye looked down while the other looked up.16 Her physical deformity, he was no doubt suggesting, reflected her moral nature. Circumspect in his accusation and careful in his interrogations, Nowell was unable to get Elizabeth to admit to anything. Only after Nowell had been able to obtain evidence against her from her son and daughter, James and Jennet, did Elizabeth become co-operative. Potts saw it as providential that Nowell lighted unexpectedly upon Jennet Device as a witness to everything that happened at the Tower. The evidence of the nine-year-old Jennet Device, both with respect to the meeting at Malkin Tower and other matters, as we will see, was crucial to the case. Nowell had encountered her before as the child who had fetched Demdike indoors after she had been left outside to work her magic. She was the only person at Malkin who, by virtue of her age, could be said not to be complicit in what occurred there; and, with respect to who was at the meeting, she would be the chief witness for the prosecution at the trials of those arrested. Thomas Potts would also have been aware that the king was wary of taking at face value evidence in matters concerning witchcraft, for he would have known that James had personally been involved in exposing fraud in the case of Anne Gunter in 1606.
A Young Woman Possessed? In the summer of 1604, Anne Gunter, a young woman from Hungerford in Berkshire, began to show the symptoms of being possessed by the Devil. Her illness was characterised by severe fits. In these fits, it was
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T he Lancashire Witches said, she underwent various extreme physical contortions, her body became extraordinarily heavy, she had preternatural knowledge of the actions and conversations of others, her clothing would move of its own accord and she brought up pins through her mouth and her nose, out of her chest and in her urine. Early attempts to diagnose her illness as natural were abandoned, and witchcraft was eventually diagnosed as the cause. Anne accused three women of bewitching her – Elizabeth Gregory, assisted by two others, Agnes Pepwell and her illegitimate daughter Mary. Anne’s father Brian had been involved in conflict with the Gregory family since 1598, after killing two members of that family in a brawl during a village football match. It is perhaps unsurprising that she blamed enemies of her family for her apparent misfortunes. She had visions of the ‘familiars’ of these three alleged witches, named Catch, Vizit and Sweat. Agnes Pepwell fled, but Brian Gunter launched legal proceedings against Elizabeth Gregory and Mary Pepwell. After a ‘lengthy’ trial of some eight hours on 1 March 1605, the jury retired to consider its verdict. Gregory and Pepwell were found not guilty, but Brian Gunter did not let matters rest there. On 27 August 1605, King James entered Oxford. Brian Gunter took his possessed daughter to meet the king. The king delegated an investigation of Anne to Richard Bancroft, formerly Bishop of London and by then Archbishop of Canterbury, who put her in the custody of his chaplain Samuel Harsnett. Bancroft and Harsnett had been involved in investigating both Catholic and Protestant demoniacs and exorcists, and they were known for their scepticism in such matters.17 Anne was medically examined by Edward Jorden, another sceptic, who had earlier diagnosed the demoniac Mary Glover as suffering from the Mother (hysteria).18 The reports that the king received about Anne were sufficient for him to become convinced that Anne was counterfeiting her symptoms. Anne was to meet the king three more times, the last on 10 October. Eventually, she confessed to King James that she had been faking,
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A ‘ S a b b a t o f Wi t c h e s ’ a t M a l k i n To w e r ? and she went on to blame her father for putting her up to accusing Elizabeth Gregory and the Pepwells. In February 1606, proceedings against Anne Gunter and her father were begun in the Star Chamber, formally initiated by the king’s Attorney General, Sir Edward Coke. That we do not know the outcome of this trial is regrettable, and Anne Gunter passed out of history at that point.19 As for the king, he had other more weighty matters on his mind, for it was in late October 1605 that the government began to hear of the conspiracy that was to become known as the Gunpowder Plot, which led to the arrest on 5 November 1605 of Guy Fawkes. The observation of Thomas Fuller that ‘the frequency of such forged possessions wrought such an alteration upon the judgement of King James that he, receding from what he had written in his Daemonologie, grew first diffident of, and then flatly to deny the workings of witches and devils, as but falsehoods and delusions’20 goes too far in crediting the king with a developing scepticism and incredulity. That he appointed known sceptics like Bancroft, Harsnett and Jorden to investigate Anne Gunter does suggest that, however committed he was in principle to demonology and witchcraft, he was not credulous in practice. Thomas Potts would, therefore, have known that, with evidence such as that of Jennet Device, he had to present a persuasive case to persuade his hoped-for royal reader of the validity of Device’s evidence. Thus, he wrote, [I]t pleased God to raise up a yong maid Jennet Device, her [Elizabeth’s] owne daughter, about the age of nine yeares (a witnesse unexpected) to discover all their Practises, Meetings, Consultations, Murthers, Charmes, and Villanies: such, and in such sort, as I may justly say of them, as a reverend and learned Judge of this Kingdome speaketh of the greatest Treason that ever was in this Kingdome, Quis haec posteris sic narrare poterit, ut facta non ficta esse videantur? That when these things shall be related to Posteritie, they will be reputed matters fained not done.21
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T he Lancashire Witches The ‘reverend and learned Judge of this Kingdome’ was Sir Edward Coke, the king’s Attorney General, and he was speaking at the trial of Guy Fawkes on 27 January 1606. Potts was reminding his readers at the Royal Court that, incredible as it may appear to posterity, the evidence of Jennet Device in the case of the witches of Lancashire was just as cogent as that in the Guy Fawkes trial. And as we will see, the witches of Pendle had their own gunpowder plot.
Witches and Neighbours Under questioning on 27 April, Jennet Device told Roger Nowell and Nicholas Bannester that, on the night of Maundy Thursday, her brother James brought home to Malkin Tower a sheep that he got from Christopher Swyer of Barley, and that he had later slaughtered it in preparation for the meal the next day.22 James Device agreed with his sister’s evidence, adding only that he had stolen the sheep.23 Jennet informed her questioners that the meal on Friday consisted of beef, bacon and roast mutton. There were about twenty persons present, ‘whereof only two were men’,24 she said. Her mother told her that all of them were witches. Apart from her mother and brother, Potts says that she was able to name six of them.25 James was unable to specify how many were present, though he claimed that there were only three men. He was, however, able to give a longer list than Jennet, with only four of those on her list repeated on his list (the wife of Hugh Hargreives, Christopher Howgate who was Demdike’s son and Elizabeth his wife, and Alice Nutter, known as the mother of Myles Nutter and Dick Myles’s wife).26 Only after Elizabeth was confronted by Nowell and Bannester with the names of those whom James and Jennet had said were present at Malkin Tower, did she admit that those who had dined there were witches. Elizabeth agreed with James’s list, but added two women of Burnley parish whose names she did not know, together with Anne Crouckshey of Marsden. Thomas Potts’s list of ‘the Witches at the Great Assembly and Feast at Malking Tower’ added only Grace Hay of Padiham to those variously mentioned
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A ‘ S a b b a t o f Wi t c h e s ’ a t M a l k i n To w e r ? by Jennet, James and Elizabeth.27 All of those named by James and Elizabeth (with the exception of the two anonymous women from Burnley) appear on Potts’s list.28 Potts was to claim that, in addition to those he named, there were many more ‘which being bound over to appeare at the last Assizes, are since that time fled to save themselves’.29 However, if we take the various lists in combination, we can say that there were, in addition to Elizabeth, James and Jennet Device, some fifteen people. So those who sat down to the ‘Feast’ were eighteen in all: Elizabeth Device, the daughter of Demdike, and now the owner of Malkin Tower; James Device, son of Elizabeth; Jennet Device, the nine-year-old daughter of Elizabeth; Christopher Howgate of Pendle, the son of Demdike and an uncle of James and Jennet; Elizabeth Howgate, his wife; Christopher Hargraves, also called Christopher Jackes, of Thornholme and his wife Elizabeth; Jennet Hargreives, wife of Hugh Hargreives of Under Pendle; Jane Bulcock, the wife of Christopher Bulcock of Moss End, and her son John; Alice Nutter of Roughlee, also known as ‘Dicke Miles wife’, and ‘the mother of Myles Nutter’; Alice Gray of Colne; Katherine Hewyt of Colne, alias Mould-heeles; Anne Crouckshey of Marsden; Jennet Preston from Gisburn; Grace Hay of Padiham; and the two women from Burnley whose names, claimed Elizabeth Device, ‘the wife of Richard Nutter doth know’.30 A ‘Great Assembly and Feast’ of witches? Well, probably not. Of the fifteen persons present, apart from Elizabeth, James and Jennet Device, only five of those were to be arrested and tried for witchcraft: Jane and John Bulcock, Alice Nutter, Katherine Hewyt and Jennet Preston (in York).31 Granted that those who were tried and arrested were cunning folk, then only half of those present could be deemed to be ‘witches’. The meeting consisted of friends, family, and business rivals and associates, who were sufficiently troubled by the arrests of Demdike, Chattox, Anne Redfearne and Alizon Device to gather together over a meal to consider what was to be done. For Potts, of course, all those gathered at Malkin Tower were witches. Of the eighteen people gathered, there were four men, so he
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T he Lancashire Witches had no problem with the notion that there could be male witches. Of these four, only two of them – James Device and John Bulcock – were tried as witches. The assumption could be made that the other two – Christopher Howgate (Demdike’s son) and Christopher Hargraves – were not involved in the cunning trade, that no charges of maleficium were brought against them, or that Nowell could not find them and they quietly disappeared until the dust settled. That there were more women than men present is perhaps unsurprising. If magic pervaded the everyday as much as I have suggested, women were highly likely to be involved in magical rituals and practices, whether as practitioners or clients. They were more likely to transgress the boundaries established by patriarchal norms, and therefore more open to accusations of witchcraft. With Roger Nowell on the hunt for witches, women had more reasons for concern than men. Of the nineteen persons whom Potts records as having been tried for witchcraft, there were four men, two of whom were found guilty – James Device and John Bulcock – and two of whom were found not guilty – John Ramesden and Lawrence Gray. Statistics for witchcraft persecutions are notoriously unreliable, and there are significant variations across countries and regions in the ratios of male to female prosecutions.32 However, the percentage of men tried at the Lancaster Assizes in 1612, some twenty-two per cent, is significantly greater than the thirteen percent in the Essex Assizes from 1560 to 1602. Still, the Lancashire trials in 1612 do reflect the general pattern in England that the significant majority of those tried for witchcraft were women, inevitably so perhaps, for both elite and popular conceptions of witchcraft reinforced its connection with women. As James Sharpe remarks, On the level of contemporary demonological theory, the connection between women and witchcraft can, perhaps, be interpreted as evidence of the misogynistic and patriarchal level ingrained in educated, and frequently clerical, male writers. On the level of the village accusation,
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A ‘ S a b b a t o f Wi t c h e s ’ a t M a l k i n To w e r ? the connection seems to have rested much more on how female power and female rivalries worked themselves out in a social and cultural framework whose values may well ultimately have been patriarchal, but which left ample room for women to interact, to argue, to come into friction with each other, to develop and follow their own social strategies.33
That women were more prone to become witches was a demonological commonplace. It was a tradition that went back to the Formicarius (Anthill) of the Dominican theologian Johannes Nider and was consequently and subsequently imbedded in the Malleus Maleficarum. Nider and Kramer linked witchcraft to feminine spiritual weakness and carnal susceptibility to the demonic.34 It was as uncontroversial within English discussions of witchcraft as it was within Continental accounts. Thus, for example, Alexander Roberts, in his A Treatise of Witchcraft in 1616, listed those attributes of women which made them prone to witchcraft. They outnumbered males by one hundred to one, he declared, because they were more credulous, desired to know improper things, were more open to receive the impressions offered by the Devil, talked too much, were more prone to sin and were generally thoroughly nasty pieces of work when crossed: This sex, when it conceiveth wrath or hatred against any, is unplacable, possessed with unsatiable desire of revenge . . . and when their power herein answereth not their will . . . the Divell taketh the occasion, who knoweth in what manner to content exulcerated mindes, windeth himselfe into their hearts, offereth to teach them the meanes by which they may bring to passe that rancor which was nourished in their breasts, and offereth his helpe and furtherance herein.35
Furthermore, it was a theological commonplace that the evidence for the weakness of women, and their capacity to be seduced – literally for some, metaphorically for most – by Satan was grounded in the story of Eve in the Garden of Eden. The most commonly adduced
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T he Lancashire Witches reason for Satan approaching Eve in the Garden when she was alone was her status, as 1 Peter 3.7 put it, as ‘the weaker vessel’. Henry Holland spoke for most when he declared that ‘Sathan begins his battery where the wall is weakest, he knew that even then the woman was the weaker vessel’.36 Thomas Browne made the same point more elegantly: ‘the Serpent was cunning enough,’ he wrote, ‘to begin the deceit in the weaker; and the weaker of strength, sufficient to consummate the fraud in the stronger’.37 That, like Eve, women were more prone to the temptations of Satan made them more likely to be witches. John Stearne, for example, in 1648 explained witchcraft as a female phenomenon, since women were more easily displeased with and vengeful to men because of Satan’s ‘prevailing with Eve’.38 Male witches were often similarly ‘gendered’ as ‘weak-minded’.39 At the popular level too, women were more likely to be perceived as witches. This is, at least in part because, more often, they were just that. As practitioners of magic, they could be benevolent, but they could turn malevolent. As Christina Larner has argued, except during mass panics, women who were prosecuted for witchcraft were not randomly selected. ‘The cursing and bewitching women,’ she writes, ‘were the female equivalent of violent males. They were the disturbers of social order; they were those who could not easily co-operate with others; they were aggressive.’40 This is a profile that fits a number of the Lancashire suspects. Or at least, it was a profile constructed by Potts and many of the witnesses (including female witnesses) of women who failed to fulfil the dominant male view of how women ought to behave.41
The Baptism of the Spirit What then was the substance of the conversations at Malkin Tower? According to Jennet, it had nothing to do with the arrests of her grandmother, her sister and the others. They all came, she said, ‘to give a name to Alizon Device Spirit, or Familiar’.42 When asked by Nowell whether this was the reason for the get-together, James later agreed, though he went on to say that it did not happen due to
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A ‘ S a b b a t o f Wi t c h e s ’ a t M a l k i n To w e r ? Alizon’s absence.43 Elizabeth admitted to their meeting to hold a ceremony that she called the ‘Christning of her [Alizon’s?] Spirit’, or the ‘Christening of the Spirit’, or so Nowell reported it. Alizon, we may recall, had ‘confessed’ to Roger Nowell that she had been recruited by her grandmother Demdike into the witchcraft trade, was advised by Demdike to get a familiar, had allowed a spirit in the form of a black dog to suck at her breast and had been persuaded by it to harm John Law.44 Was this black dog to be given a name at a ceremony at Malkin Tower that had been planned before Alizon had been arrested? Such a ceremonial inversion of the Christian sacrament of baptism would certainly give credence to the idea that the Malkin event was a formal meeting of a sect of witches. However, this is unlikely for a number of reasons. First, there is no hint of any naming ceremony for any of the other familiars who appear in The Wonderfull Discoverie of Witches. Rather, the familiars come with names attached. When in around 1592, Demdike first encountered her familiar ‘in the shape of a Boy’,45 she asked him his name, to which he replied ‘Tibb’. The thing ‘like a Christian man’ that regularly came to Chattox asking for her soul commanded her ‘to call him by the name of Fancie’.46 James Device was told by his familiar spirit that came in the form of a black or brown dog ‘to call it Dandy’.47 Elizabeth Device admitted to having a spirit in the shape of a brown dog that she called Ball, but there is no suggestion that she so christened him.48 Moreover, there is no tradition within English witchcraft generally of naming ceremonies for witches’ familiars. Affectionate names for familiars abound. Ursley Kemp had four spirits, Tettey, Jack, Pygin and Tyffyn; Elizabeth Bennet had two, Suckyn and Lyard; Marjory Sammon had Tom and Robyn, while Cysley Celles had the rather exotic Sotheons Hercules and Jack or Mercury; Ales Manfield and Margaret Grevell shared Robin, Jack, Will and Puppet alias Mamet.49 In short, they were the sorts of names that children or pets would have. However, in spite of this, witchcraft narratives prior to The Wonderfull Discoverie of Witches do not imply that familiars received their names from witches; rather, they bore their names prior to any
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T he Lancashire Witches encounter of the witch and the familiar. There are few exceptions to this. The case of Arthur Bill in The Witches of Northamptonshire in 1612 was one: ‘It is said that hee had three Spirits to whom hee gave three speciall names, the Divell himselfe sure was godfather to them all. The first hee called Grissill, The other was named Ball, and the laste Jacke’.50 The language of baptism was invoked, but there is no suggestion of a formal liturgy. The only formal liturgy mimicking a baptism occurs in the 1591 work Newes from Scotland, Declaring the Damnable Life and Death of Doctor Fian. This gave an account of the interrogations of the suspected witch and schoolmaster John Cunningham, alias Dr. Fian, and his accomplices before James, then King of Scotland. The chief of these accomplices was Agnis Tompson. After her arrest, she was brought before the king and other Scottish nobility at Holyrood House. Refusing to co-operate, she was taken away to be searched for the Devil’s mark, and to be tortured. She resisted for an hour until such time as the Devil’s mark was found upon her genitals. Tompson then confessed that, on the last All Hallow’s Eve, she and two hundred others went by sea in sieves to the Church of North Berwick in Lothian. There they were joined by the Devil in the likeness of a man who, having extracted from them all the penance of kissing his buttocks, ‘did greatlye enveighe against the King of Scotland’51 as his greatest enemy in the world. James believed that she and the others were all ‘extreame lyars’, but he was persuaded of the truth of Agnis’s confession when she was able to tell him the very words that had passed between him and his Queen, Anne of Denmark, at Oslo in Norway on the first night of their marriage. Tompson went on to confess that, when the king was in Denmark in late 1589 and early 1590, she had along with others conspired to kill him: [she] tooke a Cat and christened it, and afterward bound to each parte of that Cat, the cheefest partes of a dead man, and severall joynts of his bodie, and that in the night following the saide Cat was conveied into
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A ‘ S a b b a t o f Wi t c h e s ’ a t M a l k i n To w e r ? the midst of the sea by all these witches sayling in their riddles or Cives . . . and so left the saide Cat right before the Towne of Lieth in Scotland.52
The storm created by this magic sank the ship coming to Leith carrying jewels and gifts for the new Queen. The christened cat was also, she claimed, the cause of the king’s ship being unable to make headway against unfavourable winds on his return journey from Denmark. The baptism of animals, especially dogs or cats, and occasionally their subsequent killing, as a powerful means of commanding demons, was a practice not unknown in England, as well as Scotland.53 Had Roger Nowell read Newes from Scotland, and did he know of the ritual of animal christening in England and Scotland? Was he hoping to find its like in Lancashire through his interrogation of Jennet Device? It seems unlikely that he would have read this work. Even if he had, or knew of the practice more generally, the story of the baptism of a cat by the Scottish witch Agnis Tompson and its subsequently being thrown in the ocean to create storms and adverse winds, or the more general tradition of the baptism of animals to conjure devils, is very different from rituals intended to name the familiar spirits of Lancashire witches. Therefore, it seems unlikely that Jennet’s talk of giving ‘a name to Alizon Device Spirit, or Familiar’ was ‘suggested’ to her by Nowell.54 Perhaps Nowell did suggest to Jennet that Alizon was to be initiated into the heresy of satanism – not so much a baptism of her familiar as of Alizon herself. Now for demonic christening, there was some precedent in demonological literature. While it was necessary for aspiring witches, according to the early demonologies, to renounce their Christian faith and baptism before worshipping Satan, descriptions of diabolical baptism were rare. However, along with much more embellished accounts of the witches’ Sabbath, they had become far more common in late seventeenth-century demonologies. Thus, for example, in the jurist Jean Bodin’s 1580 Daemonomanie, we read that ‘most witches are not satisfied to renounce God, but also have themselves rebaptised in the name of the Devil, and given
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T he Lancashire Witches another name, which is the reason why witches usually have two names’.55 Twenty years later, the Jesuit scholar Martín Del Rio in his Disquisitiones Magicae libri sex (Six Books on Investigations into Magic) saw demonic rebaptism as a key moment in the satanic compact between the witch and Satan. Having compelled the witch to rub the holy oil of their infant baptism from their foreheads, Satan ‘re-baptises them with water, gives them a new name, forces them to deny their Christian god-parents and assigns them others’.56 Similarly, in his 1608 Compendium Maleficarum, the Italian Barnabite friar Francesco Maria Guazzo informed his readers that the Devil compels the witches to deny the creator of heaven and earth, to renounce their baptism and to commit to the Devil. Having rubbed off the holy oil of their baptism, he ‘bathes them in a new mock baptism’ before giving them a new name and new godparents.57 We do not know if Roger Nowell had read any of these demonologies, though it’s unlikely. Had he done so, like some Continental witch hunters, he probably would have found what he went looking for,58 and we would have expected a much more elaborate account from Nowell of whatever went on at Malkin Tower. As it is, it is hard to see any connection between the demonic baptism of the Continental demonologies and the phrase ‘the Christening of the Spirit’ or other similar phrases. Another alternative is that there was a liturgical baptismal or initiatory rite of some kind at Malkin Tower that was not a satanic one. This is the intriguing suggestion of Jonathan Lumby in his The Lancashire Witch-Craze. According to Lumby, the meeting at Malkin Tower was a pre-planned event for the initiation of Alizon Device into a radical Protestant group of Anabaptists or Seekers, that is, one of those groups for whom ‘Spirit-baptism’ ‘symbolised and accompanied the inrush of God’s grace that established one as a member of the elect’.59 Thus, the intended ‘Christening of the Spirit’ would have been a ritual intended to mark Alizon’s entrance into the inner life of a group of Seekers. Lumby goes on to argue that the meeting at Malkin Tower was influenced by the ‘Familism’ of the village of
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A ‘ S a b b a t o f Wi t c h e s ’ a t M a l k i n To w e r ? Grindleton lying at the foot of Pendle Hill that was to become more widely known when Roger Brereley became curate there in 1615.60 We know that English Familists practised a form of baptism in which a baptismal name was given, though they believed that no man should be baptised until the age of thirty.61 We also know that it was said of the Grindletonians that they practiced a form of ‘Spiritbaptism’. Thus, of the Grindletonians, Richard Baxter reported, ‘I had an old, godly friend that lived near them, and went once among them, and they breathed on him as to give him the Holy Ghost’.62 Unfortunately, however, there is no sign in any of the statements within The Wonderfull Discoverie of Witches of any other Familist beliefs or doctrines amongst the Pendle witches. And we look in vain for any of the teachings of Brereley that went to the indwelling of Christ within the believer, a mystical, inward piety ‘in which traditional puritan ideas of assurance and regeneration were seized, embellished, and in certain respects distorted to produce a mode of religiosity stressing the transformative effects of grace and the exalted state of believers’.63 And neither Demdike, Chattox nor the other members of their families were obvious exemplars of the godly spirit of love that guided the Familists.64 Thus far, we can say that it is unlikely that Nowell would have planted in Jennet Device the idea that the Malkin meeting was concerned with the baptism of animal familiars. He had no historical precedent for that as an activity of witches, nor is it likely that he was hunting for demonic baptisms. Unfortunately, engaging as the suggestion is, there is insufficient evidence that, along with their occasional adherence to the forms of Catholicism and their cunning business interests, the Pendle witches were part of a group of Grindletonian religious enthusiasts engaged in the ‘Spirit-baptism’ of a ‘spirit-filled’ Alizon Device. Nevertheless, there does seem to have been some form of religious ritual planned for that day at Malkin Tower. As we will see, Elizabeth was willing to deny some of Jennet’s and James’s other claims about what occurred there. Therefore, if no religious ritual of
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T he Lancashire Witches any kind occurred, why did Elizabeth agree to there having been a planned ‘Christning of her Spirit’ or a ‘Christening of the Spirit’ that had been cancelled due to Alizon’s imprisonment.65 Perhaps it was intended formally to induct Alizon into the family business on this day, though, as we know, she had already been a witch for several years. For his part, Nowell never pursued this. Perhaps, it was as puzzling to him as it is to us, moreover it was crime and not heresy that he was seeking. And of that, he found plenty. According to Jennet Device, the only reason for the meeting at Malkin Tower was to give a name to Alizon’s familiar. James agreed that this was the original intention of the gathering, but he added two others. The first of these was ‘for the killing of Master Lister of Westby’.66 We will return to this in the next chapter. The second of these was, ‘for the deliverie of his said Grandmother, old Dembdike; this Examinates said sister Allizon; the said Anne Chattox, and her daughter Redferne; killing the Gaoler at Lancaster; and before the next Assises to blow up the Castle there: and to that end the aforesaid prisoners might by that time make an escape, and get away’.67
A Gunpowder Plot The arrests of Demdike and her granddaughter Alizon, together with Chattox and her daughter Anne Redfearne, were undoubtedly a key reason for the meeting at Malkin Tower. No doubt the talk would have been, not only of how those present could avoid being swept up in Nowell’s witch hunt, but also about what might be done for the prisoners. It is quite probable that such a bold suggestion was put forward in the heat of the moment; and, no doubt, it was as quickly rejected. Lancaster Castle was (and is) a formidable fortress, the destruction of which was well beyond the capacities of Elizabeth Device and her friends. When questioned by Nowell about this, Elizabeth was quick to see that it was best to deny any suggestions that this was on the agenda at the Malkin meeting. As Nowell noted, she ‘denieth that any talke was amongst the said Witches, to her now remembrance, at the
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A ‘ S a b b a t o f Wi t c h e s ’ a t M a l k i n To w e r ? said meeting together, touching the killing of the Gaoler at Lancaster; blowing up of the Castle; thereby to deliver old Dembdike her Mother; Alizon Device her Daughter, and other Prisoners, committed to the said Castle for Witchcraft’.68 Even if he did believe James Device, Roger Nowell also probably thought that such plans were not seriously contemplated by Elizabeth Device and her friends; and even if he knew that, late in the reign of Henry VII, a John Lawrence broke into Lancaster Gaol with a mob of three hundred men in an attempt to free two of his servants,69 he would not have been unduly worried about a small crowd of men and women from Pendle attempting to breach the gates, murder officials like Thomas Covell the gaoler, and free captives. Still, witches and gunpowder plots? This was ‘political gold’. For Nowell would have known that the two greatest imagined threats to James’s kingdom were papists and witches, and here was another gunpowder plot to match that of Guy Fawkes. Although no charges for this conspiracy were to be laid, certainly not on the word of James Device alone, Nowell surmised that this would attract the attention of those in high places, and it did. It was, more than likely, the event that motivated Justice Bromley to ask Potts to write up the trials for courtly consumers, that inspired Potts to dedicate the work to the discoverer of Guy Fawkes in the Houses of Parliament, Thomas Knyvet, and that led Knyvet to hope that it might help to restore him to the king’s good graces.
Flying Witches James Device also told Roger Nowell and Nicholas Bannester that, before those at Malkin Tower dispersed, they agreed that they would all reconvene in twelve month’s time at the house of Jennet Preston where she promised ‘to make them a great Feast’.70 Should the need arise for them to meet in the meantime, they would all gather on Romleyes Moor. James went on: [A]ll the said Witches went out of the said House in their owne shapes and likenesses. And they all, by that they
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T he Lancashire Witches were forth of the dores, were gotten on Horsebacke, like unto Foales, some of one colour, some of another; and Preston’s wife [Jennet] was the last; and when shee got on Horsebacke, they all presently vanished out of this Examinate’s sight.71
At the most simple level, this was merely a story of their leaving on horseback, but there is a strong hint of magical transportation. James was also reported as having said that, when she came to the meeting, Jennet Preston ‘had a Spirit with her like unto a white Foale, with a blacke-spot in the forehead’.72 To some readers of Potts’s book, this must have looked like further evidence of the Sabbatical nature of the meeting at Malkin Tower. Thus, for example, Richard Bernard in his A Guide to Grand-Jury Men informs us that he had read Bodin’s Daemonomanie and Del Rio’s Disquisitiones Magicae libri sex on the transportation of witches to the Sabbath. Bodin had reported that witches went to the Sabbath ‘sometimes on a billy goat, sometimes on a flying horse, sometimes on a broom, sometimes on a pole’.73 Also, Guazzo, following on from Del Rio, declared, ‘I hold it to be very true that sometimes witches are really transported from place to place by the devil who, in the shape of a goat or some other fantastic animal, both carries them bodily to the Sabbat and himself is present at its obscenities’.74 Therefore, it is perhaps unsurprising that Bernard read James’s account of the departures from Malkin Tower on horseback in terms of demonological accounts of the transportation of witches to and from there: ‘also the relations of the Lancashire Witches,’ he wrote, ‘meeting at Malkin Tower, some 20. together, and were carried by spirits in likenesse of Foales, as those Witches confessed’.75 Bernard’s comment is part of an intellectual tradition of debate about the corporeal transportation of witches to the Sabbath that goes back to the tenth-century canon Episcopi, wrongly attributed to the Council of Ancyra held in 314. Its authority derived from its having been included in the mid-twelfth century in what was to become
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A ‘ S a b b a t o f Wi t c h e s ’ a t M a l k i n To w e r ? the most important collection of ecclesiastical law, namely Gratian’s Decretum. According to the canon Episcopi, It is also not to be omitted that some wicked women perverted by the devil, seduced by illusions and phantasms of demons, believe and profess themselves, in the hours of night, to ride upon certain beasts with Diana, the goddess of pagans, [or else with Herodias] and an innumerable multitude of women, and in the silence of the dead of night to traverse great spaces of earth, and to obey her commands as of their mistress, and to be summoned to her service on certain nights . . . . Wherefore the priests throughout their churches should preach with all insistence to the people that they may know this to be in every way false . . . . Whoever therefore believes that anything can be made, or that any creature can be changed to better or to worse or be transformed into another species or similitude, except by the Creator himself who made everything and through whom all things were made, is beyond doubt an infidel [and worse than a pagan].76
This passage, with its suggestion that ‘night flying’ was illusory, was to be a core problem for later demonologists who wished to argue for the reality of magical travel to the Sabbath, especially since the canon Episcopi was later incorporated into canon law via Gratian’s Decretum. The theoretical feasibility of the Sabbath depended on the possibility of there being a defensible means for witches to travel to it. It was, therefore, a problem that the demonologists had exegetically to overcome. Thus, Bartolomeo della Spina, for example, not only suggested that the Council of Ancyra was not authoritative but also that, even if it were, the witches of his time differed so much from those described in the canon Episcopi that its description of flying women was not relevant to contemporary circumstances.77 The opinion of the canon Episcopi, that night flying was nothing but dreams and illusions, had been reinforced by a story from the Vita Sancti Germani (Life of St. Germain). Written by Constantius of Lyon sometime before AD 494, it was well known in the later medieval
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T he Lancashire Witches period as a consequence of its incorporation into one of the most popular works of the later medieval period, namely the Golden Legend of Jacobus de Voragine (c. AD 1228–1298). Among demonologists, it was known because of its inclusion in Johannes Nider’s Formicarius, together with a condensed version of the canon Episcopi account, and the story of a woman who claimed to fly by night with Diana and other women but who was decisively shown by a Dominican monk never to have left her bed.78 According to the Golden Legend, St. Germain, while visiting a house, is surprised to see the table being laid again. On asking why this was being done, he was told that the table was being prepared for certain good women who journeyed through the night. Germain stayed up to see who would turn up for the evening meal. He saw a troop of spirits enter in the form of men and women and inquired of his hosts if they knew these persons. They were identified as the neighbours (in Nider, the female neighbours) of the host. Germain forbade the spirits to leave, and made inquiries in the homes of the neighbours, all of whom were found sleeping in their beds. He then called upon the spirits to tell the truth, and they declared that they were demons who in this way sought to deceive men.79 There was another possibility raised by the Malleus Maleficarum in response to the story from the Life of St. Germain: ‘it was clearly possible for the demons to set themselves alongside their husbands as they slept, as if the women were sleeping with their husbands, during the intervening period of time when the search for the wives was being conducted’.80 It was a possibility raised in another anecdote given in the Malleus Maleficarum concerning a woman from the village of Bühl, in the diocese of Basel, who had been arrested and burnt to ashes. For six years, we are told, she had an incubus demon impersonating her beside her husband as he slept. This occurred three times a week and on other holy nights while she was paying homage to the Devil.81 It is illuminating to see the way in which the Malleus Maleficarum dealt with the nest of issues surrounding these Sabbatical travels: the travel of witches to these Sabbaths in their physical bodies; the
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A ‘ S a b b a t o f Wi t c h e s ’ a t M a l k i n To w e r ? apparent travel of witches in visions, dreams or imaginations; the capacity of demons to impersonate at feasts the innocent who were lying by night asleep in their beds; and, the capacity of demons to impersonate the witches at their feasts by replacing them in their beds at night. The Malleus Maleficarum, in spite of the canon Episcopi, was strongly committed to the physical transportation of witches. It did so by melding infanticide and Sabbatical travels. Witches made a paste from the limbs of children, especially those killed by them before baptism. Following the demon’s instructions, they smeared the paste on a seat or a piece of wood. When this had been done, ‘they are immediately carried into the air, whether by day or night, and visibly or (if they wish) invisibly’.82 In some cases, rather than using ointments, the witch was transported by means of demons in the form of animals, at other times merely by the demon’s invisible power. But how was the Malleus Maleficarum to reconcile this with the claim of the canon Episcopi that the women who believed that they physically flew by night were deluded by the Devil? It did so, like Bartolomeo della Spina, by distinguishing between the women described in the canon Episcopi, and real witches who committed crimes and had made a bargain with the Devil, and by claiming that the delusions of the former did not also apply to the latter: ‘it is a false interpretation of the Canon when they wish to ascribe such imaginary transportations of bodies to the entire category of superstition and to all its varieties, so that all sorceresses are transported only in the imagination in the way that those women are’.83 What is clear is that the relationship between the Malleus Maleficarum and the canon Episcopi is a complex one. On the one hand, we can discern a continuity between the flying women of the tenthcentury canon and the Sabbatical travels of the witches of the fifteenth century. The Malleus Maleficarum combined the dreaming old women of the canon Episcopi with the Devil who caused their dreams to create witches committed to him. On the other hand, the discontinuities are just as, or even more, striking. For the women of the canon
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T he Lancashire Witches served Diana rather than the Devil. They were the innocent victims of demonic machinations rather than active and voluntary participants in a satanic cult. Most importantly, what the canon Episcopi claimed to be illusory, the Malleus Maleficarum accepted as completely true. Indeed, as the Malleus Maleficarum saw it, there was nothing in common between the two groups of women. Only thus was it able to sustain the authority of canon law and its own commitment to the reality of Sabbatical travelling. The Malleus Maleficarum was, in short, committed to both the continuity and the discontinuity between itself and the canon Episcopi. That the witches truly travelled to the Sabbath in their imaginations also enabled the Malleus Maleficarum to dispense with the problem discerned by St. Germain: that is, the apparent presence of witches in their beds while putatively elsewhere. Also, in a piece of more than obscure casuistry, the Malleus Maleficarum claimed that the possibility that demons impersonated women at the Sabbatical feasts, as St. Germain had supposed, was mentioned only so that no one would believe in the impossibility of demons impersonating women in their beds.84 In short, there was much uncertainty among the Continental demonologists about how witches reached their Sabbath meetings. Nonetheless, Richard Bernard had ample demonological precedent for his weaving together of James Device’s story of the departure, on horseback, of the attendees at Malkin Tower with the tradition of witches flying to their Sabbaths. And with James’s claim that Jennet Preston came with a spirit in the form of a white foal and the departure on horses ‘like unto Foales’ by the guests, it is easy to see how Bernard would do so. Was Roger Nowell implying as much in his recording of the interrogation of James Device? Certainly, Jonathan Lumby thinks so. According to Lumby, Nowell suggests that, after leaving the house, ‘the witches did not retain their own shapes, but were transmuted for their journey’.85 Lumby is convinced too that the Daemonologie of King James is shaping Nowell’s interrogations so that ‘The pattern to
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A ‘ S a b b a t o f Wi t c h e s ’ a t M a l k i n To w e r ? which Nowell sought to match his witness’s evidence is in chapter 4 of King James’s Daemonologie where the king told of the magical flight of witches to their “unlawful convention”’.86 Lumby’s conjecture is doubtful for a number of reasons. First, a close reading of chapter four of the second book of James’s Daemonologie indicates that James is highly ambivalent on this issue, and demonstrates many of the complexities and uncertainties canvassed above in the discussion of transportation to the Sabbath. Thus, in his guise as Epitemon, the king outlines three different ways in which witches transport themselves to their conventions. The first of these is as anyone else would travel, ‘natural riding, going or sayling, at what houre their Master comes and advertises them’.87 The second way, which James believes may be possibly true, is to be carried by the ‘force of the Spirite which is their conducter, either above the earth or above the Sea swiftlie, to the place where they are to meet’.88 Intriguingly however, he went on to say that, by this method, it could only be a short distance equivalent to that in which the witch could hold her breath, the speed of travel disabling the body from being able to breathe air in. The third way is ‘that being transformed in the likenesse of a little beast or foule, they will come and pearce through whatsoever house or Church, though all ordinarie passages be closed, by whatsoever open, the aire may enter in at’.89 Of this method, the king was completely unpersuaded. Those who propose this, he declared, ‘I think them deluded’.90 Later he was to suggest that those who believed that they were werewolves suffered from ‘a super-abundance of Melancholie, . . . that it hath made some thinke themselves Pitchers, and some horses, and some one kinde of beaste or other’.91 The popular classical and medieval belief that people can transform themselves or be transformed by another into an animal, often a wolf (lycanthropy), was demonologised into the capacity of the Devil to adopt an animal form, of witches to change themselves into animals empowered by the Devil, and of witches to turn people into animals. It was a belief that Reginald Scot in 1584 described as ‘this
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T he Lancashire Witches impossible, incredible, and supernaturall, or rather unnatural doctrine of transubstantiation’.92 He brought the authority of the canon Episcopi to bear upon it: ‘Whoever therefore believes that anything can be made, or that any creature can be changed to better or to worse or be transformed into another species or similitude, except by the Creator . . . is beyond doubt an infidel’.93 Scot wasn’t alone in this. It was the authority of the canon Episcopi, along with a rejection by St. Augustine, reinforced and refined by Thomas Aquinas, that left most demonologists unconvinced. The transformation of men into animals was beyond the order of nature, and therefore miraculous, and all agreed that Satan could not perform miracles. Even the Malleus Maleficarum argued only for the demonically created illusion of it,94 and King James, as we have seen, was underwhelmed. So if Nowell were following James’s Daemonologie, or even the mainstream of demonology, both Catholic and Protestant, metamorphosis into animals was not something he would be advocating to those he was questioning. Lumby might have been influenced here by an ‘easy-to-do’ misreading of the Daemonologie. Thus, he remarks in a note, ‘The use of the word ‘foal’ by both King James and by Nowell helps to confirm that Nowell use [sic] Daemonologie as his stereotype’.95 However, while Nowell wrote of ‘foale’, the King wrote of ‘foule’ (bird). Furthermore, were Nowell looking for magical flights of the witches to and from Malkin Tower, he would have made much more of this. That he did not do so suggests that he accepted that the participants at the Tower left ‘naturally’ (as the king would put it), on the horses upon which they had come. Also, the text does not suggest that the witches were transmuted. On the contrary, all of the witches, we read, ‘went out of the said House in their owne shapes and likenesses’96 and then left on horseback. Richard Bernard, for example, actively seeking a demonological reading of their departure, far from proposing metamorphosis into horses, had them riding on Satan in animal form. Still, we do have two unsolved puzzles. The first of these is James Device’s claim that Jennet Preston ‘had a Spirit with her like unto a
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A ‘ S a b b a t o f Wi t c h e s ’ a t M a l k i n To w e r ? white Foale, with a blacke spot in the forehead’.97 This is most likely a piece of inventiveness on James’s part. As we will see later, James Device did inhabit an especially magical world. The second is more intriguing. It concerns the meaning of the clause ‘went out of the said house in their owne shapes and likenesses’. This may point to James Device having suggested that during the meeting, if not after it, they had transformed into animals, reflecting the folk tradition of shapeshifting. Although ‘shape-shifting’, and particularly from human to animal, has been recorded in folk traditions in Europe since antiquity, evidence of this tradition in England is not strong; however, it does emerge occasionally. Thus, for example, in 1579 Elizabeth Stile confessed that ‘Father Rosimond can transform hym selfe into the likenesse of an Ape or a Horse’.98 In 1654, John Greencliffe testified that Elizabeth Roberts appeared in the likeness of a bee, and threw his body from place to place. In 1659, a Cambridgeshire woman, Jane Phillips, claimed to have been transformed by Quakers into the shape of a mare and ridden to a Quaker meeting. Fourteen years later, in 1673, Anne Armstrong testified in Northumberland that she had been transformed into a horse in spirit by a witch who put a bridle on her and rode her to a meeting of witches where they appeared as hares, cats, and mice.99 So perhaps we do have a written trace of the imaginings of James Device that, at the meeting, the participants had been transformed into animals but had returned to normal shape before they left. If this were true, Nowell seems not to have known what to do with it, for, even at the popular level, shape-shifting and witchcraft only intersected occasionally. As Robin Briggs remarks, ‘The whole business of shapeshifting is a curious mixture of ancient folklore and practical everyday fears, which lurks around the fringes of witchcraft belief without ever becoming part of it’.100
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H A P T E R
O U R
The Killing of Master Lister
A Murder Planned?
hen Roger Nowell and Nicholas Bannester questioned Jennet Device on 27 April 1612 at Fence, she had informed them that
the meeting held at Malkin Tower on 10 April was to name the familiar spirit of her sister Alizon Device. To this evidence, on the same day, James Device had added that the meeting also discussed the blowing up of Lancaster Castle, the killing of the gaoler and the freeing of the prisoners held there. Elizabeth Device, under interrogation, and probably being presented with the evidence of Jennet and James, had agreed about the ‘Christening of the Spirit’ but had rejected any suggestions of gunpowder plots. According to James, there was a third reason for the meeting at the Tower, ‘the killing of Master Lister of Westby’. The most elaborate
account of what happened is given in the evidence of James Device, evidence presented by Thomas Potts in James’s own trial. The third cause, we read, was For that there was a woman dwelling in Gisborne Parish, who came into this Examinates said Grandmothers [Demdike’s] house, who there came and craved assistance of the rest of them that were then there, for the killing of Master Lister of Westby because (as shee then said) he had borne malice unto her, and had thought to
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The Killing of Master Lister have put her away at the last Assises at Yorke, but could not: and this Examinate heard the said woman say, That her power was not strong ynough to doe it her selfe, being now lesse then before time it had beene.1
Elsewhere the evidence was much less specific. In the account of James’s evidence given at the trial of John and Jane Bulcock, we read only, ‘That at the said Feast at Malking-Tower, this Examinat heard them all give their consents to put the said Thomas Lister of Westby to death’.2 In this case though, another name is added to those whom the participants at Malkin had in their sights: ‘And after Master Lister should be made away by Witch-craft, then all the said Witches gave their consents to joyne all together, to hanck [bind by spells] Master Leonard Lister, when he should come to the dwell at the Cow-gill, and so put him to death’.3 For her part, James’s mother, Elizabeth Device, did not deny that the meeting had agreed to ‘the killing of Master Lister of Westbie as the said James Device hath before confessed’.4 And elsewhere, she agreed with James that the ‘killing of the said Master Leonard Lister’ had been on the agenda.5 Interestingly, while James declared that a woman from Gisburn was the initiator of a plot to do away with the Listers, it is clear that, at the time of the Malkin meeting he did not know her by name, and it was necessary for Nowell to engineer a formal identification. James was sent with Henry Hargreives, the constable for Pendle Forest, to identify her. It was probably on the same journey that James had led the constable to the western end of his grandmother Demdike’s house where Hargreives uncovered four teeth and a clay picture buried in the earth. When brought face to face with Jennet Preston, James declared that ‘she was the selfe-same woman which came amongst the said Witches on the said last Good-Friday, for their aide for the killing of the said Master Lister; and that brought the Spirit with her, in the shape of a White Foale, as aforesaid’.6 There was another piece of rather strange evidence against Jennet Preston given by the constable Henry Hargreives. He was interviewed by Nowell, Bannester and another justice of the peace,
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T he Lancashire Witches Robert Holden on 5 May, while the case against Jennet was being prepared. Holden, like Bannester, had probably been enlisted by Nowell in a hunt for witches, for, as we will see in the next chapter, he had been the key player in bringing the ‘witches of Salmesbury’ to the bar of Justice at the August assizes at Lancaster. Married to an Alice Bannester, he was the son-in-law of his colleague on the bench, Nicholas Bannester.7 On this day, 5 May 1612, Henry Hargreives gave evidence to the effect that Anne Whittle, alias Chattox, confessed to him that she knew Preston’s wife near Gisburn, and ‘that the said Preston’s wife [that is, Jennet] should have beene at the said feast, upon the said Good-Friday, and that shee was an ill [wicked] woman, and had done Master Lister of Westby great hurt’.8 It is unclear from the evidence presented whether the Master Lister, to whom harm had been putatively done, was Thomas Lister senior or his son of the same name. However, it is interesting that it implies that the meeting was prearranged, and not merely an ad hoc response to the arrests of Demdike, her granddaughter Alizon Device, Chattox, and her daughter Anne Redfearne. Therefore, perhaps it did have to do with the business of local cunning folk; and, although not too much ought to be made of it, it does suggest that Jennet Preston may have had a reputation as someone not to be crossed. Nevertheless, as we will see, Jennet Preston did have good reason to fear Thomas Lister, as he too appeared to fear her; and there is little reason to doubt that she went to the meeting at Malkin Tower to seek advice on how she might protect herself from him. That it was she who suggested that both Thomas Lister junior and his uncle, Leonard Lister, brother to Thomas Lister senior, should be murdered is more doubtful. No doubt, as with the blowing up of Lancaster Castle and the murder of the gaoler, it was suggested by one of those present and perhaps, as Elizabeth confessed, agreed to by the meeting. Certainly, to kill Thomas and his uncle by witchcraft would have seemed to those present more ‘do-able’ than blowing up gaols and murdering gaolers.
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The Killing of Master Lister Still, Jennet Preston was scooped up in the net of those whom Roger Nowell could find who were present at Malkin Tower. Jennet Preston’s home town, Gisburn, was then in Yorkshire, so she, along with the relevant examinations about her presence at Malkin Tower, was sent to York where she was imprisoned awaiting the Assizes in the Castle of York on Monday 27 July 1612.9 There is, however, no evidence that there was ever an attempt to harm Thomas Lister junior or his uncle by witchcraft. As it eventuated, it was not for conspiring against Thomas Lister junior or his uncle Leonard that she was committed for trial; but that she was charged with the murder some four years earlier of Thomas Lister senior, Thomas’s father, and Leonard’s brother.
The Arraignement and Triall of Jennet Preston We know about the trial of Jennet Preston in July 1612 from a small pamphlet of some sixteen pages entitled The Arraignement and Triall of Jennet Preston, of Gisborne in Craven, in the Countie of Yorke. According to its title page, it was published in 1612. From the fact that The Arraignement and Triall of Jennet Preston mentions the court proceedings in Lancaster, we can assume that it was not written immediately after the trial of Jennet Preston in late July and before the Lancaster proceedings in late August. Rather, like The Wonderfull Discoverie of Witches, it was written after the Lancaster Assizes. If The Arraignement and Triall of Jennet Preston were written and published in 1612, it predated the publication of Thomas Potts’s The Wonderfull Discoverie of Witches in the Countie of Lancaster, for the title page of this latter work lists 1613 as the year of its publication. Unfortunately, if The Arraignement and Triall of Jennet Preston were published as a separate pamphlet in 1612, no copy of it exists. It was not registered in The Stationers’ Register, the record book maintained by the Stationers’ Company of London, which allowed publishers to document their claim to print a particular work, so the only copy that we do have is the one appended to Potts’s The Wonderfull Discoverie of Witches.
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T he Lancashire Witches This raises an intriguing bibliographical issue, for although it appears that The Arraignement and Triall of Jennet Preston was published in 1612 and The Wonderfull Discoverie of Witches in 1613, the author of the former is aware that this work is to be placed at the end of The Wonderfull Discoverie of Witches.10 Thus, he wrote, although Jennet Preston ‘died for her offence before the rest, I yet can afford her no better place then in the end of this Booke in respect the proceedings was in an other Countie’.11 How can this be explained? One simple solution would be that the date of 1612 on the title page of The Arraignement and Triall of Jennet Preston was a printing error and that it should have read 1613. Another solution is that proposed by Jonathan Lumby that, although he believes that both texts were written by Potts, the 1612 The Arraignement and Triall of Jennet Preston has been appended to the 1613 work, and the wording of the former adapted to its new position as an appendix.12 Lumby’s interesting suggestion is more than likely correct, but we can perhaps refine it a little more. Although The Wonderfull Discoverie of Witches is dated 1613, the decision to publish it in combination with The Arraignement and Triall of Jennet Preston had in fact been made in early November of 1612, for under the entries in The Stationers’ Register for 7 November 1612, we read, ‘a booke called the great discovery of Wytches in the County of Lancaster with the Array[g]nement and triall of 19 notorious witches at th[e] assises and general gaole Delyverye at the castell of Lancaster the 17. of August 1612, and of JENNETT PRESTON at th[e] assises at York the 27 of July  codem Anno with her execucon for the murther of Master LYSTER by Wytch-craft’.13 All this would suggest that the publisher of both works, John Barnes, ready to go to press with the pamphlet on Jennet Preston, knew that the manuscript with the working title The Great Discovery of Wytches in the County of Lancaster was imminent, and believed the joint publication to be a better sales prospect; and thus, although at least the title page was set, The Arraignement and Triall of Jennet Preston was never published as a separate pamphlet. By 7 November 1612, it was intended to be added as an appendix to The Wonderfull Discoverie
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The Killing of Master Lister of Witches. Sections of The Arraignement and Triall of Jennet Preston were appropriately rewritten to fit its new position at the back of The Wonderfull Discoverie of Witches, though by whom remains an open question for the moment. We can surmise that Barnes had hoped to have the joint volume published in 1612, and the title page of The Wonderfull Discoverie of Witches dated 1612 also. Potts was working as fast as he could, but was unable to meet his publisher’s deadline, so Potts delivered the manuscript of the work to the publisher for printing at least after 16 November 1612, the day on which he finished writing the Epistle Dedicatorie to The Wonderfull Discoverie of Witches.14 And, if he wrote the remainder of the The Wonderfull Discoverie of Witches after completing the Epistle Dedicatorie, it was probably at least a month later that he delivered the manuscript to Barnes. It is, therefore, not surprising that it was early in 1613 when the title page of the work now entitled The Wonderfull Discoverie of Witches was finally typeset, and the work was finally published. Who was the author of The Arraignement and Triall of Jennet Preston? There is no ascription of authorship on the title page of The Arraignement and Triall of Jennet Preston. However, the title page of The Wonderfull Discoverie of Witches announces this work ‘Together with ‘the Arraignement and Triall of Jennet Preston . . .’, and follows this with an ascription of authorship to Thomas Potts. It strongly suggests that Potts was the author of both works. Consequently, that Potts was the author of both has been the virtually unquestioned assumption of historians since its publication. Although Jonathan Lumby’s study of The Arraignement and Triall of Jennet Preston is motivated by his belief that its presence at the back of The Wonderfull Discoverie of Witches has marginalised it in the history of witchcraft studies, his work is predicated on its having been written by Thomas Potts.15 On the other hand, Marion Gibson, who brings to the study of witchcraft texts an eye trained to detect their more literary nuances, has recently argued, primarily on stylistic grounds, that The Arraignement and Triall of Jennet Preston is by another author altogether.16
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T he Lancashire Witches An alternative solution is that, in keeping with the bibliographical history above, Potts substantially edited and enlarged an earlier work by another author, subsequent to the decision that the two works would be published jointly, and after he had finished The Wonderfull Discoverie of Witches. In brief, Potts ‘bookended’ the original story with an introduction and conclusion, inserted materials from the Lancaster trials that he had at his disposal, and editorially provided appropriate links between his materials and the original with which he was working. Thus, the materials inserted from the Lancaster trials all pointed to Jennet Preston having been at Malkin Tower. They were hardly relevant to the charge against Jennet Preston, and may not have even been presented to the court in York. If this were the case, all mentions of her presence at Malkin Tower within the body of The Arraignement and Triall of Jennet Preston were probably inserted by Potts. The material at the end of the work that concerns Jennet Device, during the Lancaster trial, questioning Jennet Preston’s absence from the court, was clearly added by Potts. Moreover, unlike evidence presented in the The Wonderfull Discoverie of Witches, the evidence in The Arraignement and Triall of Jennet Preston does not take the form of ‘verbatim’ accounts of examinations, nor does it have the legal style of the evidence given there. Marion Gibson notes, correctly, that the evidence given is dramatised rather than reported. She goes on to remark that the author of The Arraignement and Triall of Jennet Preston (whom she believes is not Potts) ‘does not have access to the informations behind this court testimony’.17 If Potts had been the author of The Arraignement and Triall of Jennet Preston, then, as the assize clerk, we might have expected the ‘form’ of evidence to be the same as we have in The Wonderfull Discoverie of Witches. That we do not is strong evidence that Potts was not the original author; so the apparently rather odd circumstance that the ‘author’ would have access to the Lancaster documents but not to those of the trial on which he is directly reporting, is neatly explained by the hypothesis of dual authorship.
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The Killing of Master Lister Although the final product was not seamless, Potts was able to give The Arraignement and Triall of Jennet Preston a literary form that mimicked The Wonderfull Discoverie of Witches and to create a narrative sufficiently coherent to lead readers to the assumption that Potts was indeed the sole author of The Arraignement and Triall of Jennet Preston. Nevertheless, the hypothesis that he was the second author and editor of an already existing text that was ready for publication in late 1612 in an earlier form enables us to account both for the unity of the form of the two texts as well as their different strategic intentions and styles.
A Matter of Family Honour The trial of Jennet Preston took place in York Castle on 27 July 1612. It was the same summer Assizes that would end up, after winding north, west and then south, in Lancaster some three weeks later; and thus it took place before the same two judges, Sir Edward Bromley and Sir James Altham. In this case, as we know from the indictment that Potts inserted into the original, the lead judge was Sir James Altham.18 As we know, The Wonderfull Discoverie of Witches was commissioned by Justice Bromley to demonstrate his judiciousness on the bench and to curry favour with the royal court. And, in order to give The Arraignement and Triall of Jennet Preston something of the same intention, Potts concluded the work with a paean of praise to the judges of the Northern circuit. ‘GOD graunt us,’ he prayed, ‘the long and prosperous continuance of these Honorable and Reverend Judges, under whose Government we live in these North parts: for we may say, that GOD Almightie hath singled them out, and set them on his Seat, for the defence of Justice.’19 However, the strategic intention of the original text of The Arraignement and Triall of Jennet Preston was quite different. It was to defend the Lister family, and especially Thomas Lister junior, from the charge circulating within the local community that they had maliciously persecuted an innocent woman.
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T he Lancashire Witches On 27 July 1612, the jury found Jennet Preston guilty of the murder of Thomas Lister senior some five and a half years earlier in late January or early February 1607. In early modern terms, they had deliberated for an unusually long time, indeed, ‘the most part of the day’.20 The length of their deliberation suggests that the jury itself was having problems deciding on a verdict. The judge’s clear indication to them in his summation was that they should find Jennet guilty, but he, like them, had to draw attention to the fact that there was no ‘direct evidence’ against her from any of the witnesses. Also, he had had to justify this by appeal to the peculiar nature of witchcraft cases: ‘And against these people [i.e. witches],’ he concluded his summation, ‘you may not expect such direct evidence, since all their workes are the workes of darkenesse, no witnesses are present to accuse them, therefore I pray God direct your consciences’.21 As we will shortly see, the only evidence against her was ‘supernatural’; and the jury was probably troubled by it. The local community would also have been aware that Jennet had not admitted to anything, and had declared herself ‘not guilty’ of the murder of Thomas Lister senior. Before her trial, she herself believed, and had no doubt made it plain to many others, that Thomas Lister was out to get her. As James Device reported, she had come to Malkin Tower ‘because, as she then said, he [Thomas Lister junior] had borne malice unto her, and had thought to have her put away at the last Assizes at Yorke; but could not’.22 Moreover, the guilty verdict had not led her at the scaffold, as it often did, to confess her guilt in the hope of divine forgiveness. On the contrary, Jennet Preston went to the gallows ‘where shee died impenitent and void of all feare or grace’, confessing nothing and declaring her innocence.23 The prosecutor in her trial for the murder of Thomas Lister senior was Thomas Heyber of Marton, a village in the North Riding of Yorkshire. He played a similar role in this case to the one that Roger Nowell played in the Lancaster trials. He was, as Potts put it, ‘best instructed of any man of all the particular points of Evidence against her’.24 However, he was hardly impartial, for in February 1607, in the
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The Killing of Master Lister parish church of Bracewell near Gisburn, his daughter Jane had married Thomas Lister junior.25 Little wonder then that the community thought it a set-up. Thus, there was any number of reasons, after the execution of Jennet, for her husband of some twenty-six years, William Preston, and her friends and relations, to be in an uproar, sufficiently so for the Listers to take steps to commission a defence of their actions in bringing a case against her. And The Arraignement and Triall of Jennet Preston was written to ‘You that were husband to this Jennet Preston; her friends and kinsfolkes, who have not beene sparing to devise so scandalous a slander out of the malice of your hearts, as that shee was maliciously prosecuted by Master Lister and others; Her life unjustly taken away by practise [conspiracy]’.26 And its express aim was ‘to oppose your idle conceipts able to seduce others’.27 Community discontent around the executions of Alice Samuel, and her husband John and daughter Agnes, on 5 April 1593 from charges brought against them by the Throckmortons of Warboys had motivated Robert Throckmorton to become involved in a written defence of his family. Perhaps the Throckmorton’s example was known and followed by Thomas Lister. At the very least, the motivations were the same in each case – to defend the reputations of a gentry family against community accusations of malicious prosecutions for witchcraft of innocent folk.28 In the case of The Arraignement and Triall of Jennet Preston, the absence of strong evidence was construed as a virtue. That the case was brought to trial was attributed, not to the vindictiveness of Thomas Lister, but to the providence of God and his intervention with supernatural ‘signes and tokens’ of spectres, nightmares, and bleeding corpses. Jennet, we read, began to practise the utter ruine and overthrow of the name and bloud of this Gentleman . . . . Which it pleased God in his mercie to discover, and in the end, howsoever he had blinded her, as he did the King of Egypt and his Instruments, for the brighter evidence of his
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T he Lancashire Witches own powerfull glory; Yet by a Judiciall course and triall of the Law, cut her off, and so delivered his people [the Listers] from the danger of her Devilish and wicked practises; which you shall heare against her, at her Arraignement and Triall . . . with the wonderfull signes and tokens of GOD, to satisfie the Jurie to find her guiltie of this bloudie murther, committed foure yeares since.29
In The Arraignement and Triall of Jennet Preston, divine providence and popular print combine in a salutary tale about the overcoming of demonic evil by justice, both human and divine.30 Here popular Protestantism casts witchcraft against a backdrop of cosmic struggles between God and the wicked. We know little about Jennet Preston. On 10 May 1587, a Jennet Balderston is recorded in the Gisburn parish register as having married a William Preston. If she were eighteen at the time of her marriage, then she would have been born around 1570, and about forty-three years of age at the time of her trial. William Preston may have been a little older, for the same parish records for 1564 the birth of a William, son of Henry Preston, at the beginning of March.31 Jennet and her husband lived near the home of Thomas Lister at Westby Hall, only a short distance from Gisburn. According to The Arraignement and Triall of Jennet Preston, she was for many years well thought of and well looked after by Thomas Lister senior. She was granted free access to his house, and she wanted for nothing. It was something that all in the neighbourhood were aware of. It would have encouraged a ‘Woman of any good condition to have runne a better course’.32 After the death of Thomas Lister senior, his son extended to her (so obviously to all that none could deny it) the same favours as his father. In spite of the kindness of Thomas Lister senior towards her, her ingratitude was such that, even from the beginning, she began to work her mischief against him, and was the cause of ‘his miserable and untimely death’.33 Moreover, having murdered the father, ‘shee
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The Killing of Master Lister revenged herself upon his sonne: who in short time received great losse in his goods and cattell by her meanes’.34 Nevertheless, it was not for any damage putatively done to Thomas Lister junior that she made her first appearance before the courts in April of 1612; nor was it this time for the murder of his father. Rather, she was indicted and arraigned for the murder of the child of a man called ‘Dodg-sonnes’. ‘Dodgson’ was a popular name in the environs of Gisburn. Jonathan Lumby has noted that there are some forty-eight baptisms with the surname of ‘Dodshon’ or ‘Dodgshon’ in the Gisburn parish church between 1575 and 1675; therefore, it is difficult to identify who this child might be. He does, however, go on to note a good candidate for the child of Dodg-sonnes in the records of the parish of Bolton-by-Bowland, in the Ribble Valley, close to Gisburn, for, in the register of that parish for 1610, is recorded the baptism, on 10 September, of Thomas, ‘the sonne of Edward Dodgson’ and, some seven months later, among the burials of 14 April 1611, that of ‘Thomas, the sonne of Edward Dodgsonne’.35 Thus, only a year elapsed between the death of this child and Jennet Preston being brought to court charged with his murder in the Lenten Assizes in 1612. Thus it was that on Monday 6 April, Jennet Preston made her first appearance in court. More than likely, the charge was brought by Thomas Lister junior. We know that Jennet Preston believed so. More than likely too, the prosecuting magistrate was Thomas Heyber who was again to prosecute her in late July; and Edward Bromley was in the judge’s seat, having his first experience of witchcraft in Lancashire. That the evidence against Jennet Preston was scant, and Judge Bromley unimpressed, may be deduced from the fact that ‘by the favour and mercifull consideration of the Jurie’, Jennet was found not guilty. It was a lucky escape, but in Thomas Lister, she had made a powerful enemy. It is likely that, upon her return home, she heard of the arrests only a few days before, on 4 April, of Demdike, Chattox, Anne Redfearne, and Alizon Device, and got wind that a meeting was to be held of their friends and relatives to discuss what was to be done.
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T he Lancashire Witches Terrified at the prospect of further persecution by Thomas Lister, Jennet made the fateful decision to go to Malkin Tower to seek advice from those gathered there. Apart from the accusations probably inspired by Thomas Lister that he had lost cattle and goods to her malevolence, and the mysterious death of a child attributed to her probably by the same person, we have no evidence that Jennet Device was a cunning person and that she practised any form of magic, black or white. No evidence of other acts of maleficia was presented at her first trial. And the jury clearly did not accept that she was malevolent. On the other hand, that she headed for Malkin Tower at which she may well have known that cunning persons would be present does suggest that she may well have been in the witchcraft trade. In any case, whether a cunning woman or not, she had good reason to be fearful. Thomas Lister, having been unsuccessful in having her convicted of the murder of the child of Edward Dodgson, quickly began to look for another capital crime for which she could be held responsible. He began to reflect on the circumstances of his father’s surprising and sudden death at around the age of thirty-nine; and it was Jennet Preston that he now decided had to bear the blame. He had heard from Roger Nowell that she had been at Malkin Tower engaging in a plot to kill both him and his Uncle Leonard. Thus, within a short time after she had been apprehended by Roger Nowell in his witch hunt after the Malkin Tower meeting, Thomas Lister had her charged with the death of his father some five and and a half years earlier; and on 27 July 1612, she found herself in court, charged with murder for the second time.
A Mistress Scorned? In spite of Thomas Lister’s kindness to her, and his son’s initial care of her after the death of his father, animosity between them must gradually have developed. What was the cause of the antipathy between Jennet Preston and Thomas Lister junior? To explain it, Jonathan Lumby has constructed a narrative of a man’s adultery, a widow’s sexual
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The Killing of Master Lister resentment and an angry son’s revenge. According to this account, the kindness of Thomas Lister senior to Jennet Preston was the result of her having been his mistress. They were, after all, about the same age. The Arraignement and Triall of Jennet Preston suggests that Thomas Lister senior died at his home, Westby Hall in Gisburn; but, as Lumby has noted, the parish registers from Gisburn tell us that, although he was buried in Gisburn on 8 February, he had died at Bracewell, the parish to the West of Gisburn.36 He was in Bracewell for the marriage of his son, Thomas, to Jane Heyber, daughter of the magistrate, Thomas Heyber, that took place shortly before, probably in the first week of February. In the midst of the celebrations of the wedding, tragedy struck. Thomas Lister senior fell seriously ill, and died within a few days at most. After the death of Thomas Lister, Jennet no longer had her family protector. Accustomed as she had been to having access to his house and wanting for nothing, Jennet Preston would have continued to expect some charity. However, the resentment of Thomas’s widow, Jane, and her son, gradually led to the door being closed against Preston. Thomas’s widow, Jane, died a year later and was buried in Gisburn on 20 February 1608. The death of his mother only angered Thomas Lister junior the more, as it did his Uncle Leonard. According to Lumby, knowing of his father’s affection for Jennet, Thomas Lister junior was filled with guilt at his failure to provide for her – unless, of course, she was responsible for his death: Were Jennet thoroughly malign, were she a witch, his churlishness would be vindicated, his anxiety released, his equilibrium restored. Yet more secure would be the new balance of his psyche if other disasters were attributed to the malignity of Jennet. Hence besides the death of his father we find Jennet accused of causing loss to his “goods and Cattel” and of killing the Dodgson child.37
The key piece of evidence for Lumby’s construction is the deathbed words of Thomas Lister senior. According to Lumby, Thomas Lister is not so much crying out against Jennet Preston as a witch but, in his
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T he Lancashire Witches death throes, crying out for her to come and comfort him. Here are the words of Thomas Lister summarised from the evidence given by Anne Robinson, a family retainer of the Listers: That M. Lister lying in great extremitie, upon his deathbedde, cried out unto them that stood about him; that Jennet Preston was in the house, looke where shee is, take hold of her: for Gods sake shut the doores, and take her, shee cannot escape away. Looke about for her, and lay hold on her, for shee is in the house: and so cryed very often in his great paines, to them that came to visit him during his sicknesse.38
For his construction of Thomas Lister junior as the vindictive persecutor of his dead father’s mistress, Jonathan Lumby invokes the authority of Keith Thomas and his magisterial Religion and the Decline of Magic. According to Thomas, a person who felt, as a result of misfortune, that he was the victim of witchcraft identified the suspect by asking who might be likely to bear a grudge against him. The charge was usually levelled, according to Thomas, when the accuser felt, not merely that the witch bore a grudge against him, but that the grudge was a justifiable one. The witch, in other words, was not thought to be acting out of mere vindictiveness; she was avenging a definite injury. It was not just that victim and witch had quarreled. The important point is that, paradoxically, it tended to be the witch who was morally in the right and the victim who was in the wrong.39
The revenge thesis was itself already recognised in the sixteenth century. Reginald Scot, in 1584, saw a witchcraft accusation as grounded in neighbourly conflict, a consequence of demands for charity, charity refused, neighbourly conflict and guilt, revenge, inexplicable misfortunes, suspicion and formal accusation. As Scot summarised it, She was at my house of late, she would have had a pot of milke, she departed in a chafe because she had it not, she railed, she curssed, she mumbled and whispered,
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The Killing of Master Lister and finallie she said she would be even with me: and soone after my child, my cow, or my pullet died, or was strangelie taken. Naie (if it please your Worship) I have further proofe: I was with a wise woman, and she told me I had an ill neighbour, & that she would come to my house yer it were long, and so did she; and that she had a marke above hir waste, & and so had she: and God forgive me, my stomach hath gone against hir a great while. Hir mother before hir was counted a witch, she hath beene beaten and scratched by the face till bloud was drawne upon hir, bicause she hath beene suspected, & afterwards some of those persons were said to amend.40
Thus, based on this scenario, Jennet Preston is eventually mistreated by Thomas Lister junior as a consequence of her having been his father’s mistress. She, out of revenge, causes loss to him of goods and cattle; and Thomas Lister junior, recognising her justifiable grudge against him, becomes convinced that she has used witchcraft against his property.
The Spectre of a Witch Unfortunately, The Arraignement and Triall of Jennet Preston only exemplifies the ‘witchcraft as revenge’ thesis of Keith Thomas when it is radically reconstructed by Lumby in terms of his thesis of ‘a mistress scorned’. There is no suggestion in the text itself that Jennet Preston was seeking revenge on Thomas Lister for some wrong done to her by him, and therefore blighted his goods and cattle; and more importantly, there is no hint in the text that she had any ‘right’ motive for the murder of Thomas Potts senior. Rather, the characterisation of Jennet Preston is not that of a person treated uncharitably, but of a woman of ‘motiveless malignity’,41 driven by a morally indefensible ingratitude: ‘But such was her execrable Ingratitude,’ we read, ‘as even this grace and goodnesse was the cause of his miserable and untimely death’.42 The defence of the Listers against the accusations that they had victimised Jennet Preston is precisely that she had absolutely no reason to
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T he Lancashire Witches victimise them, having been treated more than kindly and generously by both father and son. In short, both father and son are innocent. This is not perhaps surprising if it were the case, as suggested above, that the pamphleteer had been commissioned by the Listers.43 Therefore, Jennet Preston’s wickedness remains unexplained; and The Arraignement and Triall of Jennet Preston does not even hint at Potts’s own account elsewhere in The Wonderfull Discoverie of Witches of the two types of persons that were drawn to witchcraft. Drawing on the Daemonologie of King James, Potts declared, The two degrees of persons which chiefly practise Witchcraft, are such, as are in great miserie and povertie, for such the Devill allures to follow him, by promising great riches, and worldly commodities; Others, though rich, yet burne in a desperate desire of Revenge; Hee allures them by promises, to get their turne satisfied to their hearts contentment.44
Jennet Preston was neither in great misery and poverty, nor was she rich. Nor, in her case, is there any narrative of a compact with the Devil or with familiar spirits for any reasons. What then was the cause of Thomas Lister junior’s apparent change in attitude to Jennet? Rather than adulterous landlords, aggrieved widows and angry sons, perhaps the simpler explanation is to be preferred. Jennet Preston was a local cunning woman. As we have seen, with the cunning folk, when things went wrong, they were often perceived as being the cause. Thomas Lister junior had had an unusually bad run of misfortunes. His cattle had mysteriously been dying. He had heard that the child of Dodgson had died unexpectedly, and rumours of witches in Pendle were rife. He looked back on his own recent history. His mother had died at a young age, and his father of a mystery illness within days of his own wedding. With such a series of personal misfortunes, at home and abroad, present and past, it would not be surprising for him to suspect that he, and his family, were the victims of witchcraft. he therefore looked to the local witch as the perpetrator.
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The Killing of Master Lister And he remembered again his father’s dying words: ‘Jennet Preston is in the house, look where she is, take hold of her: for God’s sake, shut the doors and take her, she cannot escape away. Look about for her, and lay hold on her, for she is in the house’.45 The cry of a man calling for comfort from his mistress? Rather, this was the first of the three supernatural ‘signes and tokens’ that were the key pieces of evidence against her, for Thomas Lister senior was seeing the spectre of Jennet Preston. Ghosts of the dead, spectres of the living and criminal justice often worked hand in hand. Contemporary pamphlets told of the ghosts of murderers who returned to protest their innocence or to confess. More commonly, apparitions of victims led to the confessions or suicides of murderers, or to the alerting of magistrates. On occasion too, divine providence intervened: ‘so certainly does the Revenge of God pursue the Abominated Murderer that when Witnesses are wanting of the Fact, the very Ghost of the Murdered-Parties cannot rest quiet in their Graves, till they have made the Detection themselves’.46 In cases of witchcraft, spectral evidence came into play. In this case, it was not the ghost of the dead that appeared, but an apparition of the living. It was the witch herself who appeared in the form of a spectre.47 Thus, in the case of Thomas Lister senior, his crying out on his deathbed was a sign that a murder had been committed, that he had been killed by witchcraft, and that, since she appeared in spectral form, Jennet Preston was the witch; and it was taken seriously. As Malcolm Gaskill puts it, ‘Crucially the last words of any person in extremis had strong evidentiary status in law on the assumption that those about to be judged by God were unlikely to lie’.48 To us, a ‘naturalistic’ reading of the dying words of Thomas Lister seems natural, although Lumby’s view that Lister’s words were a cry of desire for comfort rather than of fear and accusation, is perhaps to read too far ‘against the grain’. However, the early modern reader would have read the ‘supernaturalist’ intent of the text. Justice Altham certainly heard the evidence of Anne Robinson in this way. He was simply able to say to the jury, as one of the three indications of Jennet’s
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T he Lancashire Witches guilt, that ‘Master Lister in his great extremitie, to complaine hee saw her, and requested them that were by him to lay hold on her’.49 Directly influenced by The Wonderfull Discoverie of Witches, it was certainly the way in which Michael Dalton read it in his guide for justices of the peace, The Countrey Justice. Dalton welcomed spectral evidence since all the deeds of witches were ‘works of darkness, and no witnesses present with them to accuse them’.50 Among his fifteen observations on witchcraft, we find ‘Their Apparition to the sick Party in his Fits’.51 Similarly influenced by the case of Thomas Lister, although not as credulous as Michael Dalton, Richard Bernard advised jurymen of the difficulties inherent in witchcraft trials, not least of which was Because of the strong imagination of such as suspect themselves to bee bewitched, which will make them thinke verily that they see strange apparitions; and for feare will dreame of the suspected, and so may cry out and talke of him or her in their fearefull dreames, the fantasie being oppressed. And if the disease called the Mare, happen to such an one, then their sweating, their moving, and struggling, with an imagination of one creeping upon them, from the feete to their brest, (they awaking in feare and trembling) will make them say and sweare too, that they are bewitched.52
That the appearance of a witch in spectral form to the dying was a sign of murder by witchcraft appears to have been a popular belief among the common folk, as was the belief that the bewitched were often tormented by apparitions of the witch responsible. Unlike the author of The Arraignement and Triall of Jennet Preston, Thomas Potts was not interested in spectral evidence. Nor, we can surmise, was Roger Nowell, for, as far as we know, he made nothing of the evidence presented by John Law against Alizon Device that, as he lay in ‘great extremitie’ in the ale house at Colne, he was confronted not only by the apparition of a fearsome black dog with ‘verie fearefull firie eyes, great teeth, and a terrible countenance, looking him in the face’, but
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The Killing of Master Lister also of Alizon Device who came into the room, looked briefly at him and then left. ‘After which time,’ we read, ‘hee was tormented both day and night with the said Alizon Device.’53 At the elite level, such apparitions were often read as the Devil impersonating the witch. While this reinforced the connection of the person whose shape the Devil had assumed to Satan, it rendered spectral evidence more corrigible, for it opened the possibility that Satan, ever the mischief-maker, was impersonating an innocent person. Nevertheless, whether spectral forms of the witch, or demonic illusions of her, apparitions were a sign of maleficium.
Thomas Lister’s Night Mare In The Arraignement and Triall of Jennet Preston, there is no suggestion that the apparition seen by Lister is a demonic illusion. Indeed, unlike The Wonderfull Discoverie of Witches, the Devil has virtually no role in this text. Therefore, we seem here to be in touch with a genuine popular belief, as yet unramified by elite demonologies. The same can be said of the second supernatural ‘signe and token’ that pointed to Jennet’s guilt. It was contained in evidence that was apparently given by both Anne Robinson and Thomas Lister junior. ‘Being examined further,’ we read, ‘they both gave this in evidence against her, That when Master Lister lay upon his death-bedde, hee cryed out in great extremitie; Jennet Preston lyes heavie upon me, Prestons wife lyes heavie upon me; helpe me, helpe me: and so departed, crying out against her.’54 This is not the cry of a dying man feeling guilty about his treatment of his mistress, as Lumby hints; but rather, on his deathbed, Thomas Lister is being laid upon by Jennet Preston, now in the form of a ‘mare’ or ‘night mare’. As Thomas Potts and Roger Nowell were not interested in spectral evidence, neither were they interested in night mares. Although they cannot have missed it, neither of them took up the matter in the case of Alizon Device. For concealed in the evidence of John Law’s son Abraham is his father’s being tormented by Alizon as a night mare or witch hag. Abraham had given evidence
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T he Lancashire Witches that ‘hee heard his said Father further say, that the said Alizon Device did lie upon him and trouble him’.55 Nor were they apparently interested in a similar experience of James Device. He had testified to Roger Nowell and Nicholas Bannester on 27 April that, around midnight about three nights after he had heard screams in the night like a great number of cats, ‘there came a thing, and lay upon him very heavily about an houre, and went then from him out of his Chamber window, coloured blacke, and about the bignesse of a Hare or Catte’.56 The appearance of the ‘mare’ in the form of a cat was not uncommon. Thus, in the trial of Olive Barthram for witchcraft in 1599 at the Suffolk Assizes, Joan Jorden testified that she was assaulted by a spirit in the shape of a cat that came [A]t 11 o’clock at night, first scraping on the walls, then knocking, after that shuffling in the rushes; and then (as his usual manner was) he clapped the maid on the cheeks about a half score times as to awake her . . . kissed her three or four times, and slavered on her, and (lying on her brest) he pressed her so sore that she could not speak, at other times he held her hands that she could not stir, and restrained her voice that she could not answer.57
How did the early modern period account for this experience of being paralysed while asleep as if pressed down by a heavy weight on the chest, of choking sensations, of difficulty in speaking, and of the visual or aural sense of another presence in the room? A question and answer in the late seventeenth-century coffee-house journal, the Athenaean Mercury, probably written by Samuel Wesley, John Wesley’s father, gives us an excellent account of the phenomenon and the two dominant contemporary explanations of it: Q. Whether there’s any such thing as a hag, which the common people fancy to be witch-riding, when they are in their beds in the night time, and, as some say, when they are perfectly awake, and with such a vehemency that they are not able to stir either hand or foot, or move
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The Killing of Master Lister the least member of their bodies, nor can utter one word distinctly but make a kind of grumbling noise? If in the affirmative, what instance meet you with it in history? If in the negative, what is it that is the cause of it? A. ‘Tis effected both ways, by vapours from crude and undigested concoctions, heat of blood, as after hard drinking, and several other natural ways; but sometimes ‘tis really effected by witches, which first gave the name to the common oppression in sleep called the night-mare: History is full of such instances.58
As early as 1584, Reginald Scot had expressed his scepticism that such experience was to be interpreted supernaturally. He drew on the Galenic medical tradition to give a purely physiological account of it. ‘But in truth,’ he declared, [T]his Incubus is a bodilie disease . . . although it extend unto the trouble of the mind: which of some is called The mare, oppressing manie in their sleepe so sore, as they are not able to call for helpe, or stir themselves under the burthen of that heavie humor, which is ingendred of a thicke vapor proceeding from the cruditie and rawnesse in the stomach: which ascending up into the head oppresseth the braine, in so much as manie are much infeebled thereby, as being nightlie haunted therewith.59
We can imagine that Potts was not unhappy that The Arraignement and Triall of Jennet Preston contained such an unelaborated and minimalist version of the night mare experience of Thomas Lister, for convictions for witchcraft, based on evidence of night mares, was unlikely to impress the king. Even King James, no slouch when it came to credulity in matters to do with witchcraft, was sceptical. In response to Philomathes’ question ‘It is not the thing which we cal the Mare, which takes folkes sleeping in their bedds, a kinde of these spirites, whereof ye are speaking?’, Epistemon replied, ‘No, that is but a naturall sicknes, which the Mediciners hath given that name of Incubus unto ab incubando, because it being a thicke fleume, falling
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T he Lancashire Witches into our breast upon the harte, while we are sleeping, intercludes so our vitall spirites, and takes all power from us, as maks us think that there were some unnaturall burden or spirite, lying upon us and holding us downe’.60 Judge Bromley, anxious to improve his reputation with the Royal Court, might have taken a more sceptical approach, in keeping with the king’s thoughts on the matter. Judge Altham had no such qualms. He simply asked the jury to observe that ‘shee lay heavie upon him, even at the time of his death’.61 He had, we can presume, no doubts about the way the jury would interpret Thomas Lister’s last words.
A Corpse Bleeds Nevertheless, if Judge Altham saw the two supernatural ‘signes and tokens’ of the spectre and the mare as important for the jury to take into account, it was the third of these that he viewed as being of far more consequence.62 As the author of The Arraignement and Triall of Jennet Preston put it, this ‘hath ever beene held a great argument to induce a Jurie to hold him guiltie that shall be accused of Murther, and hath seldom, or never, fayled in the Tryall’.63 Anne Robinson, Thomas Lister junior, together with many other witnesses, so we are told, ‘were further examined and deposed, That Jennet Preston, the Prisoner at the Barre, being brought to M. Lister after hee was dead, & layd out to be wound up in his winding-sheet, the said Jennet Preston comming to touch the dead corpes, they bled fresh bloud presently, in the presence of all that were there present’.64 The belief that a corpse would bleed in the presence of, or at the touch of, the murderer in the expectation that, were he guilty, the corpse would freshly bleed was a common belief in early modern England, as was compelling a person suspected of murder to touch the corpse with the same expectation. Along with the ordeal of ‘swimming the witch’, it was endorsed by King James in his Daemonologie: [F]or as in a secret murther, if the deade carcase be at any time thereafter handled by the murtherer, it wil gush out of bloud, as if the blud wer crying to the heaven
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The Killing of Master Lister for revenge of the murtherer, God having appoynted that secret super-naturall signe, for tryall of that secrete unnaturall crime, so it appeares that God hath appoynted (for a super-naturall signe of the monstruous impietie of the Witches) that the water shal refuse to receive them in her bosom, that have shaken off them the sacred Water of Baptisme, and wilfullie refused the benefite thereof.65
It was, as Malcolm Gaskill puts it, a ‘controlled miracle’, one that allowed the authorities to intervene between God and man, and God to intervene between man and the authorities.66 Human and divine justice were aligned. Even those less theologically inclined were prepared to concede that it worked as a form of natural magic. Thus, for example, Reginald Scot: ‘And as we see in stones, herbs, &c: strange operation and naturall love and dissention: so doo we read, that in the bodie of a man, there be as strange properties and vertues naturall. I have heard by credible report, and I have read many grave authors constantlie affirme, that the wound of a man murthered reneweth bleeding; at the presence of a deere freend, or of a mortall enimie’.67 The Restoration physician, John Webster, was sceptical about witchcraft. Although he qualified his commitment to the tradition by declaring that the victim needed still to be alive at the approach or the touch of the murderer, he nonetheless declared, ‘through the vehement desire of revenge, the irascible and concupiscible faculties do strongly move the blood, that before was beginning to be stagnant, to motion and ebullition’.68 The ‘ordeal’ of touching a corpse was not uncommon. Rather like a modern lie-detector test, the willingness to undertake it was an indication of innocence, the refusal to do so was a sign of guilt. But what are we to make of the bleeding of the corpse of Thomas Lister in the presence of Jennet Preston? We do not know that she was forced to touch the corpse by the relatives of Thomas Lister. The hint in the text is that the bleeding happened serendipitously, as a result of her mere presence. That it did so bleed in her presence, we can only take
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T he Lancashire Witches to be a piece of fiction in the archive. However, for the early modern legal system, that it could have done so, and that there was evidence that it did, was crucial. Unlike Thomas Lister’s ‘private’ experience of the apparitions of Jennet Preston, the bleeding of his dead corpse, in the physical and not ghostly presence of Jennet, was a public event witnessed apparently by many; and the belief that a corpse would bleed in the presence of, or at the touch of, the murderer was one that was common to both the populace and the elites. This was what made this third ‘supernatural’ ‘signe and token’ legally more significant for Justice Altham, and probably at least as important for the jury too. They duly found Jennet guilty of the murder of Thomas Lister senior, and she was sentenced by Judge Altham to be hanged for the offence. The story of Jennet Preston can perhaps now be told. Jennet Preston was a local cunning woman. For reasons that are not clear, there was conflict between the Listers and the Prestons, and the community was divided. Thomas Lister junior searched for an explanation for the series of unexpected misfortunes that had begun with the untimely death of his father. He seized upon the local witch, Jennet Preston, as the cause of the loss of his family and possessions. As he and his family and friends reflected on the circumstances surrounding his father’s death, Jennet Preston came more and more to the fore. The word spread. Reports began to circulate about his father’s dying words. The story of the ‘bleeding corpse’ gained credence. His conviction that Jennet was responsible for the death of his father encouraged these stories, the stories reinforced the conviction that Jennet was responsible. Fact and fiction began to blur in the public narrative that was being constructed. Thomas Lister junior finally took action and initiated legal proceedings against Jennet for the death of his father. The depositions made by Anne Robinson, Thomas Lister junior and other members of the Lister faction reflected the concerns of the Lister family and their allies, and expressed fears for their own safety. In the context of the legal proceedings, they took on the status of legal facts. Jennet Preston had become a dangerous person in the community for
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The Killing of Master Lister the Listers and their allies, and the testimony about spectres, mares and bleeding corpses was bringing to the court their conviction that this was a woman who needed to be removed from the community. After the conviction and execution of Jennet Preston, the broader community, outside of the Listers and their allies, believed that a gross injustice had been committed. This was, as we have seen, the reason for the commissioning of The Arraignement and Triall of Jennet Preston. Potts’s key contribution to the clearing of the Listers’ names was to add a story to the end of The Arraignement and Triall of Jennet Preston that would indicate that, during the trial of the Pendle witches at Lancaster Castle, even the family of Jennet Preston became satisfied of her guilt. Judge Bromley, Potts tells us, was suspicious of the evidence of the nine-year-old Jennet Device about those who were present at the meeting at Malkin Tower. Accordingly, he asked Jennet to look at the prisoners that were present and declare which of them were present at the meeting. Jennet went to the prisoners, took many by the hand, and declared them to have been there, but she then told the Judge that there was a woman from Craven, i.e. Jennet Preston, that was at Malkin Tower whom she did not see among the prisoners at the bar. Potts drove the point home: What a singular note was this of a Child, amongst many to misse her, that before that time was hanged for her offence, which shee would never confesse or declare at her death? Here was present old Preston her husband, who then cried out and went away: being fully satisfied his wife had Justice, and was worthie of death.69
That Jennet Preston’s husband was present at the Lancaster trials, we need not question. That he went home satisfied that justice had been done to his wife in her execution for the murder of Thomas Lister senior we can be forgiven for doubting. That Potts himself had some doubts about the strength of the evidence against Jennet Preston is suggested by his repeating for his readers the judge’s charge to the jury that, in the case of witches, they
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T he Lancashire Witches should not expect evidence as apparent as in other cases, ‘since all their workes, are the workes of darkenesse’.70 Yet, they needed to remember that the blood of the victims cried out to God for revenge. On the other hand, he went on to entreat them to recall ‘that it is as great a crime (as Salomon sayth. Prov. 17) to condemne the innocent, as to let the guiltie escape free’.71 This is the only biblical reference in the text of The Wonderfull Discoverie of Witches and The Arraignement and Triall of Jennet Preston. Its strategic intention is clear, for it is a final reminder to his intended royal reader, King James, of the wisdom of his judges. The king knew the reference and would have appreciated it, for he too had reminded his readers at the end of the Daemonologie that judges ought to beware whom they condemn: ‘for it is a great a crime (as SALOMON sayeth,) To condemne the innocent, as to let the guiltie escape free’.72 Both the judge and the king, it was being suggested, had the wisdom of Solomon.
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H A P T E R
I V E
A Discovery of Papists
The Women from Samlesbury
andwiched between the trials of the Pendle witches who pleaded guilty – Chattox, Elizabeth Device and James Device – and those
who pleaded not guilty, Potts placed the story of the witches of Samlesbury, a small Lancashire village near Preston, and some thirteen miles south-west of Pendle Hill. He probably did so at the direct request of Judge Bromley. The story of the women of Samlesbury, Potts informs us, ‘is heere placed amongst the Witches, by special order and commandement’.1 Bromley’s intention was twofold: first to demonstrate his judicial capacities in ensuring that the women accused of witchcraft were found innocent; and second, in exposing ‘to the World the practise and conspiracie of this bloudy Butcher’,2 the Jesuit priest Christopher Southworth, alias Master Thomson. The story of the witches of Samlesbury is not about witchcraft, but about popish conspiracies against Protestants, about devious priests, innocent Anglicans and divine providence: ‘[H]ow and in what sort Almightie GOD delivered them from the stroake of Death, when the Axe was layd to the Tree, and made frustrate the practise of this bloudie Butcher, it shall appeare unto you upon their Arraignement and Triall’.3 We know from the list of names of those committed for witchcraft offences to Lancaster Castle that, alongside those from Pendle Hill, there were eight from Samlesbury. We know too that another
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T he Lancashire Witches woman, who went by the name of Old Doewise, was fingered, but not arrested. All of these were to be found innocent. Of five of them – John Ramesden, Elizabeth Astley, Alice Gray, Isabell Sidegraves and Lawrence Haye – we have no account in The Wonderfull Discoverie of Witches.4 Potts does give us, however, the story of the trial on Wednesday 19 August 1612 of the remaining three – Jennet Bierley, Ellen Bierley and Jane Southworth. Each was charged under that section of the 1604 Witchcraft Act that went to practising ‘any manner of Witchcraft, Incantment, Charme or Sorcery, whereby any person shall be Killed, Destroyed, Wasted, Consumed, Pined, or Lamed, in His or Her body, or any part thereof’.5 Each pleaded not guilty. It was a young fourteen-year-old girl by the name of Grace Sowerbutts that they were accused of bewitching, and, as we shall see, she was both a deluded demoniac and a deceiver. The investigating magistrate was Robert Holden from Holden Hall in Haslingden. He had been a bit player in the collecting of evidence against Jennet Preston, for he had been part of the team, along with Roger Nowell and his father-in-law Nicholas Bannester, who had interviewed the constable Henry Hargreives on 6 May. His evidence had placed Jennet at the Malkin meeting. Unlike Roger Nowell, whose sympathies were Protestant, Robert Holden was a Catholic from a well-known Catholic family. He had been listed as such in the Lancashire freeholders list of 1600.6 As a Catholic and a justice of the peace, he was no doubt anxious to show that a Catholic too could be loyal to the Crown, part of the give and take between northern Catholics generally, powerful Catholic gentry and Protestant authorities in the north of England.7 No better way to show that than in a rigorous pursuit of witches around Samlesbury. It was not, perhaps, a great career move, for he may well have been the dupe of another powerful Catholic family, the Southworths of Samlesbury Hall. From the evidence that Potts gives us, it is difficult to piece together the chronology of the witches of Samlesbury. We can probably say that Robert Holden was on the hunt for witches by early April 1612, and most likely from when he heard of the sending of Demdike,
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A Disco ver y of Papists Chattox, Alizon Device and Anne Redfearne to Lancaster Gaol on 4 April, for Jane Southworth, at least, is in gaol by 15 April. The earliest piece of evidence from the trial of the witches of Samlesbury that Potts gives us is from the examination of a William Alker of Samlesbury, taken on that day, 15 April, and presumably written up by Robert Holden. It went to the mistrust of Sir John Southworth for one of the accused, Jane Southworth, the widow of his son John. Jane herself, the daughter of Sir Richard Sherburne of Stonyhurst, belonged to another well-known Catholic family.8 The Southworths, in general, did not compromise with Protestantism. Sir John Southworth was no exception. After the accession of Elizabeth to the throne, he had served as Sheriff of Lancashire in 1562, 1568 and 1569. However, as a fervent Catholic, he came to the notice of the Privy Council in February 1576 when the Bishop of Chester reported that he, among other members of his family, were ‘obstinate recusants in the Blagburne Parish’. In 1581, he was arrested for harbouring the renowned Jesuit Edmund Campion at Samlesbury, and committed to the New Fleet prison in Manchester where he remained until 1584. He was then summoned to live in London, being considered less dangerous there than in the north. In 1586, one of his younger sons, Thomas, was reported for harbouring a priest at the lodge in Samlesbury Park, where many of the family, servants and friends resorted to hear mass.9 Perhaps Robert Holden was one of these. According to the evidence given by William Alker, presumably one of the Southworth family retainers, on 15 April, Sir John Southworth disliked Jane Southworth and avoided meeting her, being convinced that ‘she would bewitch him’.10 Similar evidence was given by another of the family’s servants, a John Singleton, to Robert Holden on 7 August. According to him, he had often heard his old master, Sir John Southworth, say that ‘the said wife was as he thought an evill woman, and a Witch: and he said that he was sorry for her husband, that was his kinsman, for he thought she would kill him’.11 He also testified that Sir John avoided going anywhere near her house
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T he Lancashire Witches for fear of her. As evidence went, this was pretty useless, not least because it was at least seventeen years old, Sir John Southworth having died on 3 November 1595. Nonetheless, what it shows us is that memories were long, and revenge against Jane, for reasons yet to be discerned, was a dish the Southworths were clearly willing to eat very cold.
Grace Sowerbutts, a Girl Obsessed The only strong evidence against Jane Southworth, as well as against Jennet and Ellen Bierley, was that provided by Grace, the fourteen-year-old daughter of Thomas Sowerbutts, a husbandman of Samlesbury and a tenant of the Southworths. The Sowerbutts too were part of the Southworth’s Catholic circle. With Grace’s evidence, Holden had struck pay dirt. The evidence Grace provided against Jane Southworth, and against her grandmother Jennet Bierley and her aunt Ellen Bierley, ought to have been more than sufficient to secure a conviction. Grace Sowerbutts was present in court and she identified the three accused. As he often did, Potts presented her evidence as if it were then given live before the court. More likely, we have Potts’s version of evidence given by Grace on at least two, and probably three earlier occasions. The account that is given to us by Potts is more messy and confusing than usual. And we have no indication within The Wonderfull Discoverie of Witches when the examinations of Grace might have taken place. From internal evidence within the text though, we can probably say that the first two examinations took place at Blackburn after Friday 10 April, perhaps on 15 April, and went primarily to evidence against Jennet and Ellen Bierley.12 The third examination occurred at some unspecified place approximately three weeks later. Though it did go over some of the evidence from the first interrogation, it was concerned primarily with the interaction between Jane Southworth and Grace Sowerbutts that had taken place about ten days after her first examination. The evidence against Jane Southworth given at this third examination was
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A Disco ver y of Papists weak. Therefore, it is tempting to suggest that in the original examination of Grace only Jennet and Ellen Bierley (and the mysterious Old Doewise) were mentioned, but that Jane Southworth’s name was later inserted into the evidence from the first two examinations of Grace by Robert Holden to strengthen the argument against her. In her first examination, we read that Grace Sowerbutts declared that, ‘for the space of some years now’, she had been tormented and vexed by her Aunt Ellen and her grandmother Jennet Bierley, by Jane Southworth and by Old Doewise. We can interpret this as a piece of editorialising by Robert Holden. The specific instances to which she drew attention were quite recent, and none of them involved Jane Southworth. Thus, for example, near to where she lived, she had encountered Jennet Bierley who initially appeared to her in her own likeness, and later in the form of a black dog. As she went over a stile, Jennet had thrown her off. She had been uninjured. She got up, and went to her aunt’s house in Osbaldeston, whence she was brought home by her father. She said that, although she had never told anyone else, she had then told her father how this had happened many times before. When her father asked her why she had not said something before, she told him that ‘she could not speake thereof, though she desired so to doe’.13 Grace was more specific about another encounter, this time on Saturday 4 April. She was heading towards the boat that crossed the River Ribble between Preston and Samlesbury to meet her mother who was coming from Preston. Again, she met Jennet Bierley at a place called the Two Brigges or Bridges, first in her own shape and then again in the likeness of a black dog, with only two legs. This dog shadowed her until they came to a pond. The dog then spoke, trying to persuade her to drown herself there, saying ‘that it was a faire and an easie death’.14 Fortunately, ‘there came one to her in a white sheete’15 that carried her away from the pond. Upon its arrival, the black dog disappeared, followed soon after by her rescuer. However, only a short time later, the distance of some two or three fields, the black dog appeared again. It carried her into the nearby barn of a
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T he Lancashire Witches Hugh Walshman, who had charge of the boat across the Ribble.16 It laid her upon the floor of the barn, covered her all over with straw, and then laid itself on top of her. She did not know how long she had lain there, for ‘her Speech and Senses were taken from her’.17 Her sojourn in the barn received some support from evidence said to have been given by a Thomas Walshman, yeoman of Samlesbury. According to Walshman, ‘about the fifteenth of Aprill last, or thereabouts, the said Grace Sowerbutts was found in this Examinates fathers Barne [i.e. Hugh Walshman], laid under a little hay and straw, and from thence was carried into this Examinates house, and there laid till the Monday at night following: during which time shee did not speak, but lay as if shee had beene dead’.18 Grace was later told, she reported to Robert Holden, that she had been ‘out to it’ until Monday night of 6 April. She had been found by friends in the barn within a few hours of her having been laid there, and was carried into the house of Hugh Walshman. Only one day later, Tuesday 7 April, and we find Grace once more at Two Brigges. On this occasion, both Jennet and Ellen Bierley appeared to her. According to Grace, she fell down, ‘and after that was not able to speake, or goe [move], till the Friday following’.19 During this time, even as she lay in her father’s house, the Bierleys appeared to her in their owne shapes, ‘but they did nothing unto her then, neither did shee ever see them since’.20 As an early modern child, Grace Sowerbutts lived in a world in which the boundaries between the natural and the supernatural realms were fluid and permeable. Even so, the experiences of Grace Sowerbutts went beyond the norm, for the kinds of experiences that Grace Sowerbutts is described as having suggest that she was possessed or at least obsessed by demons. She was of the right age and sex to be so possessed. The majority of demoniacs in early modern England were adolescents: around two-thirds were female children or adolescents, and around one-fifth boys or adolescent males.21 The passive body in general was a sign of possession. To be possessed by another was to be closed to external sensations. Thus, Grace’s
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A Disco ver y of Papists periods of apparent coma, together with her immobility and inability to speak even though she wished to, all point to this. Other demoniacs around the turn of the seventeenth century showed the same symptoms. The demoniac William Sommers, for example, would lie as cold as ice, as if dead, ‘senseless and speechless’.22 According to George More, the Lancashire demoniac Margaret Byrom’s ‘senses were taken from her, her eyes were closely shut up, her tongue was plucked double into her throat, her mouth was open, her jaws set, and all her body stretched out as stiff as iron’.23 Mary Glover from London was rendered blind, dumb and often paralysed.24 Joan Harvye from Hockham was afflicted with blindness, dumbness, deafness and lameness.25 Interestingly, unlike a number of the Pendle witches, there is no suggestion that Grace dealt with witches’ familiars. Her evidence points rather to the ‘popular’, if rarely found, belief in witches who can shift shapes, from human to animal and back again. It was a belief which, as we saw in chapter three above, rarely gained purchase among demonological elites. Grace Sowerbutts’s experiences also suggest obsession rather than possession. This distinction went to the capacity of demons either outwardly to assault and inwardly to tempt (obsession) or, having actually entered persons (through the bodily openings – mouth, nostrils, vagina, anus), both inwardly to assault and tempt. It was of course a distinction that depended on the belief in the capacity of demons to assume a quasi-corporeal form, as a result of which they could be said to be here rather than there, inside a person rather than outside. It was open to theoretical attack by the denial of the possibility of demons, or spirits more generally, being able to take on bodily forms.26 However, the distinction was a fine one, even within elite early modern demonology, probably even finer, at the popular level. However, we do have, in the above story of temptation to suicide that Grace told Robert Holden, not only the attempt by a ‘black’ spirit to entice Grace to suicide, a spirit that later laid
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T he Lancashire Witches on top of her, but her rescue by an angelic figure – a spirit ‘in a white sheete’, that if only for a brief time was able to drive the evil one away. Good and evil were engaged in combat for her – body and soul. These matters were further complicated by the possibility of two modes of possession. In the one case, the demoniac was possessed as a result of the direct action of devils, in the other as the consequence of witchcraft. Only rarely in early modern England did cases of the first sort occur. The difference had an important moral tone, for in general, where possession occurred directly, it was as the consequence of the sin of the possessed; and the possessed were deemed ultimately responsible for their plight. Thus, for example, in the case of Alexander Nyndge in 1573, his possessed body is the sign of his sinfulness, and the account of his troubles functioned as a reminder to its readers of the need for rigorous moral examination of the self to avoid the punishment of God: ‘for describing the horror of and unheard of misery that fell on him, we may be thereby drawn to descend into ourselves, and to look into our souls while there is yet time, lest Heaven pour down its vials of wrath on us’.27 Far more common in the English literature were tales of possession as the consequence of witchcraft. Grace’s story is a variation on this theme. As noted above, hers is more a case of obsession than possession, and while there is no doubt of the evil intent of the spirits that she encounters, they are not demons independent of the bewitcher, but the witch herself transmuted into a ‘non physical’ form of herself, or into an animal spirit. We need to recall that we are only hearing Grace’s story third-hand, via the mediation of both Robert Holden and Thomas Potts, and no doubt in a much summarised form. Nevertheless, we can probably conclude that, in the imaginary world of Grace Sowerbutts, witches in physical and shape-shifting spectral bodies, obsessing and possessing demons, angels and demons were all part of her everyday mix, and if distinguishable by her, only inchoately so by us.
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A Disco ver y of Papists It is impossible to make an accurate estimate of demoniacal behaviour in the early modern period. The Puritan exorcist, John Darrell, reported in 1599 that he had seen ten demoniacs, and had heard of six more.28 The physician Richard Napier treated one hundred and forty-eight people who were believed to be obsessed or possessed by spirits.29 During the period 1550–1700, we can find references in the contemporary literature in England to over one hundred possessed persons. Daniel Walker makes the observation that cases of possession were common enough ‘for ordinary people to understand them and believe in them’, but as he points out, and as contemporary writings confirm, they were ‘rare enough to be an exciting novelty and thus attract large audiences’.30
The Lancashire Seven Many who lived in Lancashire would have been familiar with the case of the Lancashire Seven, the seven members of the Starkie household who in 1595 were possessed by the Devil. Roger Nowell was intimately connected, for he was a half uncle to Nicholas Starkie, the son and heir of Roger’s half-brother Edmund Starkie. It was December 1596 when Nicholas Starkie, then a gentleman of Cleworth in Lancashire, visited the celebrated John Dee, astronomer and alchemist of Manchester, about the possession of a number of persons in his household. In February 1595, his daughter Anne and his son John, nine and ten years of age respectively, began to show signs of possession. Later three other children in the household, Margaret Hurdman, Ellinor Hurdman and Ellen Holland, became similarly possessed. Eventually a maid, the thirty-year-old Jane Ashton, and a poor relation Margaret Byrom, thirty-three years old, acted demoniacally. John Dee had had experience of the possessed. In August 1590, a nurse in his household, Ann Frank, had become possessed by an evil spirit which he had attempted to exorcise by prayer and the anointing of her breast with holy oil. The exorcism was unsuccessful. Two weeks later she tried to drown herself in his well, and three weeks after that she successfully cut her own throat.
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T he Lancashire Witches John Dee, perhaps as a consequence wary of any further involvement in possession, counselled Nicholas Starkie to gain the assistance of ‘some godly preachers, with whom he should join in prayer and fasting for the help of his children’.31 It was upon this advice that Starkie sought the services of the Puritan exorcist, John Darrell and his assistant, George More. Nicholas Starkie’s first attempt to assist his children had been an abject failure. In mid-1595, he had engaged a cunning man, Edmond Hartley, to treat his children, Anne and John, and the others who became possessed after his arrival. They responded well to his treatment of ‘certain popish charmes and herbs’ for eighteen months, although not sufficiently to be ‘cured’.32 Threatening to go overseas, Hartley, a cunning man in more ways than one, was able to extract forty shillings a year from Starkie on the condition that he would stay and treat the children. It was his further demand of a house and grounds from Starkie, and Starkie’s suspicion that he was as much the cause as the cure of the children’s condition, that had prompted him to go to Manchester to consult Dee. For his part, John Dee called in Hartley and sharply reproved him, with the result that the children were quiet for three weeks. However, three weeks later, they resumed their accustomed fits, now joined by the two older women, Margaret Byrom and Jane Ashton. Hartley was not only greedy, but probably lecherous. He had kissed all of the possessed, George More alleged. This was his downfall. Although rare for the English cases of demonic possession, here the sexual and the demonic seem to have combined. Even with the best possible interpretation of his actions, that he was trying to suck the Devil out of them, the staunchly Puritan Starkie family must have been aghast. George More saw him as doing the Devil’s work: ‘His manner was that, when he meant them a mischief, then he would kiss them if he could, and therewith breathe the Devil into their bodies’.33 Only the maid, Joan Smith, was able to escape his advances. Margaret Byrom seems to have escaped to her home in Salford.
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A Disco ver y of Papists It was Hartley’s pursuit of Margaret Byrom to Salford that was to be his undoing. There he was found with her by some preachers, who suspected witchcraft and had him arrested. He was tried at the Lancaster Assizes in early March 1597, and convicted of having bewitched the children. Hartley denied any wrongdoing, but at his execution, the rope broke whereupon, we are informed, he ‘penitently confessed’.34 He was hanged again, and this time the rope held.
A Jesuit Priest in Hiding Therefore, possession or obsession by the Devil was not unheard of in early modern Lancashire. And Grace Sowerbutts’s mother was sufficiently astute and sufficiently worried about her apparent possession that she took her to Samlesbury Hall where she knew that Christopher Southworth, a Jesuit priest, was hidden away in his family home, Samlesbury Hall. Perhaps it was her hope that he would restore Grace to good health, by driving out the demons. Christopher Southworth, the fourth son of Sir John Southworth, and uncle to the accused Jane Southworth’s husband John, is one of those English priests who risked their lives supporting the English Catholic faithful. Like other young Catholics from gentry families, Christopher had left England in 1579 to train for the Catholic priesthood at the English College at Douai in France. Founded in 1569, its original intention was to provide a context within which English Catholics could be trained for the priesthood while awaiting the re-establishment of Catholicism in England, though it gradually became a place from which missionary priests were sent to England to support English Catholics in defiance of the English law. From 1581 to 1586, Christopher continued his training at the newly established Jesuit English College in Rome. Ordained to the priesthood in 1583, he was sent to England in 1586 where he was soon arrested. Initially imprisoned in London in the Counter Prison, he was subsequently transferred to the dungeons of Wisbech Castle, where he was interrogated. He refused to conform to Protestantism, declaring that he had ‘been taught that doctrine and religion at Rome wherein he
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T he Lancashire Witches would stand and hoped to die’.35 He was still a prisoner there when his father died in 1595, though around 1599 he was transferred to the Gatehouse at Westminster in London.36 Between the turn of the century and his eventual re-emergence in Lancashire in 1612, at the age of about fifty-four, we know nothing of the life of Christopher Southworth. What we do know is that, as a consequence of her visit to Christopher Southworth, Grace Sowerbutts’s possession took a decidedly different turn. For Christopher Southworth no doubt took the opportunity to use Grace to implicate Jane Southworth, his widowed niece by law, in witchcraft. He seized the chance to introduce Grace to some of the intricacies of elite European demonology. The information that she gave to Robert Holden must have surpassed the hopes of the most avid witch hunter.
Infanticide, Cannibalism and Shape-Shifting Witches According to Grace, sometime before her encounter with her grandmother Jennet Bierley in the shape of a black dog, she went one night with her grandmother and her Aunt Ellen Bierley to the house of Thomas Walshman in Samlesbury. This was the same Thomas Walshman in whose father’s barn Grace had later been found. All the household were asleep, and the doors were locked. Somehow, Jennet Bierley opened them, and the three of them entered the house. Jennet Bierley went alone into the room where Thomas Walshman and his wife were asleep. She brought out a small child that had been in bed with its parents, and then sat Grace down by the fire with the child. Jennet Bierley then took a nail and thrust it into the child’s navel. After that, she took a quill, placed it in the hole made by the nail, ‘and did suck there a good space’.37 She then placed the child back in bed again. Jennet and Ellen then returned with Grace to their own homes. Grace told Robert Holden that neither Thomas Walshman nor his wife were aware that the child had been taken. And she added that, when Jennet pushed the nail into the child’s navel, it did not cry
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A Disco ver y of Papists out. The child had not thrived from that time on, she informed him, and had subsequently died. Having been called in for questioning on the basis of this information, Thomas Walshman admitted that, in Lent 1611, he had a child that had died at about the age of one, after languishing for two or three weeks; and, that it had been buried in Samlesbury Church. He was clearly unwilling to point the finger at the Bierleys, although no doubt he was pressed to do so by Holden: ‘how it came to the death of it this Examinate knoweth not’.38 Here there was no conflict between the Bierleys and Thomas Walshman, and no hint of revenge. It was just the result of malevolence on the part of a group of witches. Grace further testified that, the night after the child had been buried, she accompanied Jennet and Ellen to the graveyard. There, they ‘did take up the said child’.39 Jennet Bierley carried the body to her own house. Some of it she boiled in a pot, some of it she roasted on the fire. Both Jennet and Ellen ate some of each. They tried to persuade Grace, and also Ellen’s daughter Grace Bierley, to eat some of the child with them, but they refused to do so. Jennet and Ellen Bierley then boiled the bones of the Walshman child in a pot. According to Grace, they said that they intended to anoint themselves, ‘that thereby they might sometimes change themselves into other shapes’.40 This was all too much for Robert Holden and he closed the first examination of Grace Sowerbutts. This evidence was quite unique in the annals of English witchcraft. Prior to this, there are no reports of blood-sucking witches, nor of cannibalism. Therefore, we should look, not to English folk traditions for the origins of Grace’s tale, but to European demonology as its source, mediated through the Jesuit, Christopher Southworth. Witches that killed children through sucking their blood were part of a European tradition that went back to the early part of the fifteenth century. Thus, for example, in the 1420s, Bernardino of Siena preached a sermon in which he told of a number of women who,
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T he Lancashire Witches suspected of witchcraft, were taken into custody. ‘And there was taken among others,’ he said, [O]ne who had told and confessed, without being put to torture, that she had killed thirty children or thereabouts, by sucking their blood; and she said that every time she let one of them go free she must sacrifice a limb to the devil, and she used to offer the limb of an animal; and she had continued for a long time acting in this manner. And furthermore she confessed, saying that she had killed her own little son, and had made a powder from him, which she gave people to eat in these practices of hers.41
Blood-sucking witches became a common feature of the persona of the witch that went beyond trial documents and demonologies. Thus, for example, in the dialogue entitled Strix, first published in 1523, and written by the Italian humanist Gianfrancesco Pico della Mirandola, nephew of the more renowned Giovanni Pico, we find a description of blood-sucking witches that remarkably mirrors that of Grace Sowerbutts. In answer to the question by the sceptic Apistius how the witch, Strix, killed children, she replied, We entered the houses of our enemies at night, by doors and entranceways that were opened for us, and, while their fathers and mothers were sleeping, we picked up the tiny children and took them over by the fire. There we pierced them under their nails with the needle, and then, putting our lips to the wounds, we sucked out as much blood as our mouths would hold.42
Apistius went on to wonder why the children didn’t cry out. ‘While we are doing it,’ the witch informed him, ‘they are so sound asleep that they don’t feel it. But afterward, when they are awakened, they cry out loud, and weep, and wail, and get sick, and sometimes even die.’43 We do not know whether Christopher Southworth was familiar with Pico’s Strix. The Strix was a highly popular work, and went
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A Disco ver y of Papists through four Italian editions from 1524 to 1556, so it is not impossible. However, we are on firmer ground with the matter of cannibalism. Like blood-sucking, the eating of children by witches was also part of a European tradition that went back to the early part of the fifteenth century, though it had precursors in earlier stereotypes about medieval heretics.44 It exemplifies the metaphor of the witch as the anti-mother. Rather than blood sucking, this was a tradition of witches killing, burying, exhuming, cooking and then eating children in their assemblies. Thus, for example, in the anonymous Errores Gaziorum,45 written around 1437 in north-western Italy, we read, Likewise, when they wish to strangle children as their father and mother are sleeping, by diabolical mystery they enter the parents’ house in the dead of night, they grab the child by the throat or sides, and strangle him until he expires. In the morning, when he is borne to burial, the man or woman or all those who have strangled and killed the child come up and mourn the child’s death with the parents and friends. But the following night, they open the grave and take the child, sometimes leaving the boy’s head in the grave, and they never take hands and feet with themselves, unless they want to perform some bewitchment [sortilegium] with the child’s hand. After they have removed the child and refilled the grave, they carry him to the synagogue, where he is roasted and eaten.46
It is, however, the 1486 Malleus Maleficarum of the Dominican inquisitors, Heinrich Kramer (Institoris) and Jacob Sprenger that we find behind Robert Holden’s account of Jennet Bierley’s cooking and eating of the Walshman child, as realted to him by Grace.47 There is little doubt that Southworth would have been familiar with the Malleus Maleficarum, the first printed handbook of witchcraft and witch hunting. By 1612, it had been through twelve Latin editions in Germany and France between the year of its first publication 1486 and 1523, was reprinted twice in Venice in 1574 and 1576, with four further
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T he Lancashire Witches editions in 1580, 1582, 1588 and 1600 in Frankfurt, and another three in Lyons in 1584, 1595 and 1604.48 In the Malleus Maleficarum, Kramer elaborated demonic infanticide with a story that he had found in an earlier demonology, the 1437–8 Formicarius by Johannes Nider. According to Kramer, when asked about the method by which infants were captured, a certain captured sorceress replied, We prey on babies, especially those not yet baptized but also those baptized. . . . With our ceremonies we kill them in their cribs or while they lie beside their parents, and while they are thought to have been squashed or to have died of something else, we steal them secretly from the tomb and boil them in a cauldron until all the flesh is made almost drinkable, the bones having been pulled out. From the more solid matter we make a paste suitable for our desires and arts and movements by flight, and from the more runny liquid we fill a container . . . Whoever drinks from this container is immediately rendered knowledgeable when a few ceremonies are added, and becomes the master of our sect.49
According to the evidence of Grace though, the ‘soup’ that had been made from the bones of the Walshman child was so ‘that thereby they might sometimes change themselves into other shapes’. As we saw in chapter three, in England at the popular level, shape-shifting and witchcraft only intersected occasionally. Nowhere in England was it said to have occurred as the result of witches applying the remains of dead infants to themselves to effect self transformations. Moreover, as we have noticed earlier, however much the belief in the transmutation of humans into animals may have had purchase at the popular level, most of the European demonologies were against it, as was King James in his Daemonologie.50 Even the Malleus Maleficarum did not argue for a real transformation into animal form, but only for the demonically created illusion of it. However, there was one highly influential exception to this, first published in Paris in 1580, while Christopher Southworth was in
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A Disco ver y of Papists France at Douai, training for the priesthood. This was Jean Bodin’s De la Démonomanie des Sorciers. Bodin endorsed the reality of transformation into animal form.51 Moreover, he viewed infanticide by witches raising their children into the air and then killing them by inserting ‘a large pin into their head’ as one of the key crimes of witchcraft,52 and he is aware of the use of ointments to enable ‘magical’ travel to witches’ assemblies.53 However, nowhere does he suggest that ointments from murdered children played a role in shape-shifting. I am unable to find another European source for the belief in the shape-shifting powers of ointments produced from murdered children. We can only conclude that Grace Sowerbutts has creatively imagined the use of the broth from the bones of the infant child of Thomas Walshman to shift shapes.
A ‘Ribbleasian’ Sabbath When Robert Holden had Grace Sowerbutts re-sworn, and began his interrogation of her again, she did not disappoint him. For she now told of an event that was far more a witches’ Sabbath than anything that had occurred at Malkin Tower, and for the first time, Jane Southworth enters the picture. According to Grace, about six months earlier, in late 1611, Jennet Bierley, Ellen Bierley, Jane Southworth and Grace met at a place called Red Bank, on the north side of the River Ribble every Thursday and Sunday night for a fortnight. They had crossed the river magically from the Samlesbury side of the river, with the help of ‘foure blacke things’, that stood upright, yet did not have the faces of humans.54 At Red Bank, they found magical food which the other three women ate. Although Grace was encouraged to eat by her grandmother, the food looked too strange to her, and she did not eat it. After they had eaten, the three women, together with Grace, danced, each of them with one of the black things. After their dancing, she assumed that the three women had sex with three of the black things, for she herself too believed that ‘the black thing that was with her, did abuse her bodie’.55 She elaborated a little on this at her third examination, some three weeks later, in early May. Holden began by asking her how the
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T he Lancashire Witches four of them had got back to the south side of the river from its opposite bank. She replied that they were carried back by the same black things that had carried them over there. She went on to say that there were many other women – some old, some young – who were present at the meetings. She thought that they lived on the north side, for she had not seen them come over the water. She did not know any of them, and, any road, they did not eat or dance, ‘or doe any thing else that the rest did, saving that they were there and looked on’.56 Although Grace’s account was not highly ramified in terms of demonological theories – there is no mention of the Devil, demons or even evil spirits, for example – these meetings had all the features of a European witches’ Sabbath, with magical transportation, night-time gatherings, eating, dancing and sex with black things with (perhaps) the faces of animals. It is the first English description of an assembly of witches on English soil. These features of the Sabbath are so generic that it is difficult to specify just which demonology they might have been drawn from by Christopher Southworth, or whether they represent a synthesis of many familiar to him. However, granted that Southworth did not have access to demonologies published after his return to England, and given that it would have been the latest thing while he was studying in France, Bodin’s De la Démonomanie des Sorciers is perhaps the most likely source, for all of the features mentioned above can be found there, though much more explicitly.57 At any rate, what is clear is that blood-sucking witches, cannibalism, infant unguents, magical travel, eating, dancing, and sex with ‘things’ in witches’ assemblies are all components of Grace’s story, parallels to which cannot be found in English traditions. Nevertheless, they are common features of European witchcraft and demonology to which Christopher Southworth would have been exposed during his time in France and Italy. To this little known Catholic priest belongs the dubious privilege of having been responsible for their becoming part of an English witchcraft trial for the first time. Grace’s story of the murder and subsequent consuming of the Walshman child, even if only on the word of a fourteen-year-old
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A Disco ver y of Papists girl, was certainly sufficient to indict Jennet and Ellen Bierley. Jane Southworth’s only involvement with the Bierleys had been on the banks of the Ribble at Red Bank. She was certainly culpable, under the witchcraft act of 1604, for her dealings with spirits on those occasions. However, there was as yet no specific act of maleficium with which she could be charged. Thus, in his third examination, Holden was clearly seeking more evidence against Jane Southworth than her attendance at a witches’ assembly. Grace was willing to provide it, for she went on to detail a series of encounters that had occurred between her and Jane since the time of her first examinations at Blackburn some weeks earlier. All of these suggested that Jane Southworth was bewitching Grace Sowerbutts. According to Grace, about ten days after her first examinations, Jane Southworth came to the door of her father’s house. Jane then carried her into the loft and laid her upon the floor. A short time later, she was found there by her father. He brought her down from the loft, and put her to bed. Grace knew nothing of all this for, from the moment of first encountering Jane at her father’s door, she ‘had her speech and senses taken from her’.58 The next day she had recovered somewhat. Again, she told Holden, Jane came to her bedside, and took her out of bed. ‘I did you no harm last time, compared to what I am now going to do,’ Jane told her, and she put Grace on the top of a haystack, some three or four yards above the ground. After a long search by family and friends, the wife of a neighbour found her there and put her back to bed. This time, she was ‘speechlesse and senseless as before’, for two or three days.59 A week later, and now recovered, Jane Southworth came and took her away again. This time, according to Grace, Jane laid her in a ditch nearby, face down, and left her there. Again, she was found a short time later, and put back into bed. As before, she was without speech and senses for a day and a night. Only last Tuesday, she reported, Jane came again to her home. There she found Grace outside, took her and carried her into the barn. She ‘thrust her head amongst a companie of boards that were there standing’.60 She was
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T he Lancashire Witches found there soon after, put back to bed, ‘and remained in her old fit till the Thursday at night following’.61 If Christopher Southworth had tried to cure her of her apparent bewitchment, then he had been notably unsuccessful, and whereas, before her first examinations, Jennet and Ellen Bierley were the bewitchers, now it was Jane Southworth. According to Thomas Potts, evidence against Jennet and Ellen Bierley, and Jane Southworth, was offered by many witnesses to no useful purpose, for there was no direct evidence of the Bierleys or of Southworth being actively engaged in malevolent magic. Even Thomas Sowerbutts, who was convinced of their guilt, was unable to offer anything except that he had on occasion found Grace upon the hay in her ‘fits’.62 Still, although it may be hyperbole on his part, Potts informs us that, on the basis of the evidence that was presented, the accused were ‘in opinion of many of that great Audience [in the court] guilty of this bloudie murther, and more worthy to die then any of these Witches’.63
A Fraud Exposed Fortunately, for the accused, Potts wrote, God had provided a means for their deliverance in the appointment of Judge Bromley: ‘GOD had prepared and placed in the Seate of Justice, an upright Judge to sit in Judgement upon their lives’.64 Bromley asked the prisoners what they had to say in reply to the evidence presented. They, on their knees and weeping, begged him to examine Grace Sowerbutts to determine who had encouraged her, or who held a grudge against them. The witnesses, gathered behind her, began quarrelling and accusing each other. Grace Sowerbutt’s face told it all, but she attempted to bluff her way through it. She would admit to nothing, but she did say that she had been sent to ‘a Master’ to learn. He did not, she claimed, have anything to do with this. Bromley smelled popery: ‘if a Priest or Jesuit had a hand in one end of it,’ he told the court, ‘there would appeare to bee knaverie, and practise [chicanery] in the other end of it’.65 ‘Who is the Master who taught your daughter?’ he asked Thomas Sowerbutts, but he claimed to know nothing.
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A Disco ver y of Papists Making little progress, Judge Bromley adjourned the case, and handed Grace over to the puritan clergyman William Leigh, rector of Standish, and to an Edward Chisnal, also of Standish, both of them justices of the peace. Now William Leigh was a key player in Stuart patriotic Protestantism. He had marked the first anniversary in 1606 of the Gunpowder Plot with a work entitled Great Britaine’s, Great Deliverance, from the Great Danger of Popish Powder. King James would have recognised his name instantly. Leigh had preached before him, and he had been a tutor to his son Prince Henry. Currying favour with the king was his specialty. In 1612, Leigh had preached of the king under whose rule ‘the flowers flourish and the kingdoms are united, religion prospereth and superstition withereth’.66 If there was a papist conspiracy afoot, Leigh was the man to find it. Leigh and Chisnal wasted no time. They examined Grace on that same day, Wednesday 19 August, and made their report to the judge. Grace was first asked whether the accusation she had made against her grandmother Jennet, her Aunt Ellen, and Jane Southworth of ‘the killing of the child of Thomas Walshman, with a naile in the Navell, the boyling, eating, and oyling, thereby to transforme themselves into divers shapes’ was true.67 If we believe the report, she capitulated instantly, denied it all, and laid the blame on Christopher Southworth: ‘one Master Thompson, which shee taketh to be Master Christopher Southworth, to whom shee was taken to learne her prayers, did perswade, counsell, and advise her, to deale . . . against her said Grand-mother, Aunt, and Southworths wife’.68 She went on to say that she never ‘did know, or saw any Devils, nor any other Visions, as formerly by her hath beene alleaged and informed’.69 She also confessed that she was not thrown or cast upon the ‘Henne-ruffe, and Hay-mow in the Barne’, but that she had climbed to the top of the hay by herself.70 They assured themselves that she too was a Catholic, for when asked if she ever went to the Protestant church, she answered ‘no!’. But she did promise, perhaps not surprisingly, that she would be very willing to go from now on. Was it all pretence on the part of Grace Sowerbutts? In early modern England, three possible causes of possessed behaviour were
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T he Lancashire Witches recognised: genuine possession, illness or fraud. Grace Sowerbutts was not the first to be exposed as a fraud. Agnes Briggs and Rachel Pinder in 1574 confessed to feigning their possessions. William Sommers confessed and then reneged on a number of occasions, although his supporters continued to point to a number of features of his possession that could not have been counterfeited. With King James actively involving himself in possession cases from the time of Mary Glover’s possession in 1602, and Samuel Harsnett’s involvement in the cases of the Puritan exorcist John Darrell and the Jesuit exorcists at Denham, secular and ecclesiastical politics were operating, and well-publicised exposures were not uncommon. The medical explanation of Edward Jorden, that possession was actually a matter of a disease of the womb (‘hysteria’), in the case of Mary Glover and the exposure of Anne Gunter as a fraud, no doubt created readers who were more open to the possibility of naturalistic explanations of possession.71 Four years after the events in Lancashire, on 18 July 1616, nine people were hanged at Leicester after having been charged with bewitching a boy named Smith or Smythe. A month later, King James examined the boy and, having decided that he was lying, sent him to George Abbott, the Archbishop of Canterbury, who confirmed the king’s opinion. The judges, it was reported, were ‘somewhat discountenanced’ when they learned they had hanged nine innocent people.72 Nonetheless, it would be as unwise to take at face value all confessions of fraud, as it would to believe all confessions to witchcraft by those accused of maleficium. What is clear is that the line between simulated and non-simulated behaviour was a fine one, and the one possessed person could be both actively associated with fraud on some occasions, and dissociated from their behaviour on others. The boundary between ‘authentic’ behaviour that was the result of some form of physical or mental disorder, and faking it, shifted at different points in a demoniac’s career. Grace Sowerbutts’s descriptions of her fits, her lack of speech, the loss of her senses and her dissociated behaviour during them,
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A Disco ver y of Papists suggest the kinds of experiences that she, probably her parents, and perhaps others, read as the effects of bewitchment. Hence the willingness of the crowd in the court to believe her evidence. She was deluded, but sincerely so. On the other hand, her lurid, highly ramified descriptions of the murder and cannibalising of the Walshman child, together with that of the Sabbatical orgy on the banks of the Ribble, have all the hallmarks of the Jesuit Southworth’s influence and, consequently, of invention on her part. Here she was deluding others, and insincerely so. Thomas Potts had no doubt that Grace was simply a fraud, acting on the orders of Christopher Southworth, and he took the opportunity to provide his readers with an obscure set of arguments, the point of which seems to be to demonstrate to us that all of the evidence that Grace gave was flawed because of its Catholic origins. Thus, for example, he cavilled at Grace’s claim that Jennet Bierley transformed herself into a dog on the grounds that even a Catholic priest ought not to maintain this. Only a Catholic priest, he hinted, would tell a child that she could be thrown over a stile and miraculously not hurt herself, could invent a story of Grace’s co-operation in a murder with the same women who were allegedly tormenting her, and would suggest that a child would not cry out when being murdered. For Potts, it is all too ‘Catholic’ for an English judge and jury, and more redolent of the ‘Legend of Lyes’, that collection of the fabulous and miraculous lives of the saints known as ‘The Golden Legend’. Potts even took the opportunity to perform some irony. Why, Southworth doesn’t even know his demonology. Thus, of Grace’s description of the ‘things’ with non-human faces, ‘The Seminarie mistakes the face for the feete: For Chattox and all her fellow Witches agree, the Devill is cloven-footed: but Fancie had a very good face, and was a very proper Man’.73 He doesn’t even know about familiars: ‘the Seminarie forgot to devise a Spirit for them’.74 It is all typical of the Jesuits: How well this project, to take away the lives of three innocent poore creatures by practise and villanie; to induce a young Scholler [i.e. Grace] to commit perjurie,
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T he Lancashire Witches to accuse her owne Grand-mother, Aunt, &c. agrees either with the Title of a Jesuite, or the dutie of a religious Priest, who should rather professe Sinceritie and Innocencie, then practise Trecherie . . . . But by the course of Times and Accidents, wise men observe, that very seldom hath any mischievous attempt beene undertaken without the direction or assistance of a Jesuit, or Seminarie Priest.75
The magistrates, Leigh and Chisnal, were also given the opportunity to interrogate the prisoners, and, having heard from Grace that Christopher Southworth was the instigator of the accusations against Jennet, Ellen and Jane, they explored his motives. Their account of their questioning of the prisoners was also presented to the court. The Bierleys and Jane knew why Southworth had been out to get them. Thus, Jennet Bierley said that ‘the cause why the said Thompson, alias Southworth Priest, should practise with the Wench to doe it was, for that she went to the Church’.76 Jane Southworth said that she had seen Christopher Southworth a month to six weeks before she was committed to the gaol. She had heard rumours that he was calling her a witch, and she had challenged him on it. He had replied that he was only repeating what he had heard from her mother and her aunt. She was unconvinced, believing that he was the instigator, and he was persecuting her, she believed, because ‘shee would not be disswaded from the Church’.77 Ellen Bierley too had seen him some six or eight weeks before being committed to prison. She didn’t know why he would have her accused of witchcraft, ‘but because she goeth to the Church’.78 In short, all the accused were agreed that they had been incriminated by Southworth for having converted to Protestantism and left the Catholic faith. Potts added the explanation that, when Southworth had been unable to convert them back to Catholicism, then he devised this plan in revenge. With the confession of fraud and conspiracy with Christopher Southworth by Grace Sowerbutts, and the revelation that Southworth was conspiring against them for having converted to Protestantism,
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A Disco ver y of Papists the case against the Samlesbury witches fell apart. Bromley promptly ordered the jury to find them innocent. Potts ended with a prayer: God of his great mercie deliver us all from them and their damnable conspiracies: and when any of his Majesties subjects, so free and innocent as these, shall come in question grant them as honorable a Triall as Reverend and worthy a Judge to sit in judgment upon them; and in the end as speedie a deliverance.79
As for Christopher Southworth, he seems to have escaped without himself being brought to trial. He is not listed among those who were hung, drawn and quartered for their faith during the reign of King James I.
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H A P T E R
An Incantation of Witches
Malfeisance at Malkin
n the first day of the trials at the Lancaster Assizes, 18 August 1612, chaos had broken out in the court of Judge Bromley. Anne
Whittle, alias Chattox, had pleaded guilty, and it was expected that Elizabeth Device, the daughter of Demdike, would do the same, for she had confessed on 27 April to both Roger Nowell and Nicholas Bannester. However, when Elizabeth Device came to the prisoners’ bar for her trial to begin, she screamed out ‘in very outragious manner’1 against everyone involved in her trial, and against no one more so than her nine-year-old daughter Jennet. Although we can conclude that Jennet had given her evidence to Roger Nowell and Nicholas Bannester on 27 April, Potts leads us to the impression, which may well be true, that Jennet Device also gave her evidence orally to the court.2 If things did occur as Potts tells us, it was undoubtedly a moment of high drama, for when Jennet Device was ordered to stand up to give her evidence against Elizabeth, her mother, ‘outragiously cursing, [she] cryed out against the child in such fearefull manner, as all the Court did not a little wonder at her, and so amazed the child, as with weeping teares shee cryed out unto my Lord the Judge, and told him, shee was not able to speak in the presence of her Mother’.3 We saw in an earlier chapter that Elizabeth, with one eye set below the other, the one looking down while the other looked up, was a frightening sight at the best of times, and Potts had painted her character
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An Incanta tion of Witches as blackly as possible. Amongst all these witches, he declared, ‘there was not a more dangerous and devilish Witch to execute mischief, having old Dembdike her mother, to assist her; James Device and Alizon Device, her owne naturall children, all provided with Spirits, upon any occasion of offence readie to assist her’.4 Elizabeth, so Potts believed, was hoping, through her cursing and threatening of the child, to force Jennet to deny her previous evidence against her, as she continued to deny her prior confession. In the end, Bromley was forced to have Elizabeth removed from the court. A jury was formed, and Jennet Device, standing upon a table so as to be both seen and heard, gave her evidence to the court. Elizabeth Device, we recall, had been swept up by Roger Nowell in his witch hunt after the meeting at Malkin Tower on Good Friday, 10 April. She had been responsible for organising that meeting. Interrogated by Nowell and Bannester on 27 April, she had denied that there was any talk at the meeting about killing the gaoler at Lancaster Castle, or blowing it up. However, it was not for any of these offences that she was arraigned; rather, she was charged with three totally unrelated incidents: the murders of John Robinson, alias Swyer, of Barlow; of his brother James Robinson, alias Swyer; and, together with Alice Nutter and Demdike, of a Henry Mytton of Roughlee. There is little doubt that Elizabeth Device was in the witchcraft business. Jennet Device had confided to her interrogators that she had been taught two prayers by her mother. The first of these was to be used to get ale. It was clearly drawn from Catholic liturgies, though it had nothing to do with the procuring of refreshments: ‘Crucifixus hoc signum vitam eternam. Amen’.5 She went on to say that her brother James had used this prayer, and ‘within an houre after the saying the said Prayer, drinke hath come into the house after a very strange manner’.6 The other long prayer (or medley of prayers) taught to her by her mother was, at least according to her brother James, for the curing of those bewitched.7 Catholic piety and magic were intimately connected. Nevertheless, if there is anything to the evidence given
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T he Lancashire Witches against her by Jennet and James, and her own confession, then she was a woman not to be crossed, for she could quickly turn her skills in magical benevolence to malevolence; and, as far as they were concerned, she had the help of an animal spirit to do so. At her examination by Nowell and Bannester on 27 April, Elizabeth had begun by denying everything, but before they had begun to question Elizabeth on that day, Nowell and Bannester had already interrogated both Jennet and James Device. When she had heard all the evidence that had been given against her by her children, she had given it up and confessed all. It is difficult to determine whether, having elicited the detail from James, the magistrates merely sought broad corroboration from Jennet, or whether the abbreviated evidence given by Jennet was later elaborated by James. That James had nothing to say about the murder of James Robinson, though Jennet did, perhaps suggests that he gave his evidence first. Nonetheless, according to James Device, about three years before, in 1609, there came ‘a thing’ in the shape of a brown dog to Elizabeth. His name was Ball. It was he who had a grudge against John Robinson, and Elizabeth did his bidding. Ball asked her, in the sight and hearing of James, to make a clay picture in the likeness of John Robinson, to dry it until it was hardened, and then crumble it little and little: ‘and as the said Picture should crumble or mull away, so should the said Jo. Robinson alias Swyer his body decay and weare away’.8 When within two or three days, the picture was mulled and wasted away, so would John Robinson die. When Ball and his mother agreed on this, the dog vanished from James’s sight. The next day, he saw his mother take clay from the western end of their house and make a picture of Robinson. She brought it into the house and dried it for two days. For the next three weeks, she slowly crumbled the picture of clay. Within two days after she had finished crumbling it, John Robinson died. Jennet had little to add to this account. James was more theologically and demonologically imaginative than most of his co-accused. He had seen Ball as the instigator of the conspiracy to murder
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An Incanta tion of Witches Robinson, but Jennet, unlike James, saw her mother as the key conspirator. According to her, Ball had come to their house countless times, at least for the past three or four years, since her mother had become a witch. Once, she remembered, Ball asked her mother what she would have him do, and Elizabeth said to Ball that ‘shee would have the said Ball to helpe her to kill John Robinson of Barley, alias Swyre (sic): by helpe of which said Ball, the said Swyer was killed by witch-craft accordingly’.9 With some minor variations, although we can assume that the questions she was asked were leading ones, Elizabeth’s evidence substantially agreed with that of her children. She agreed that, about four years ago, at Ball’s third visit to her, he had asked her to make a clay picture. She had crumbled it all away within a week, and about a week after that, John Robinson died. Unlike her children though, she offered a motive for her actions, one that went more to her seeking revenge on Robinson rather than Ball’s doing so. She had bewitched Robinson to death, she said, because he had been spreading rumours that she had had an illegitimate child, the father of whom was named Sellers. John Clayton posits the intriguing suggestion that Jennet Device, Elizabeth’s youngest daughter, was the child of Elizabeth and a Seller. The strongest evidence for this is the entry in the Newchurch burial records for 22 December 1635 where we find: ‘Jennet Seller alias Devis’ though it was entered at a date later than this.10 This was a serious accusation, whether a true or a false rumour. In early modern England, aspersions cast on a woman’s sexual reputation were not taken lightly, and it is not surprising that Elizabeth would have taken serious offence. A determination by women of the period to defend their reputation, particularly in matters of sexual morality, was typical of the times. To be called a ‘whore’ was in fact the most common grounds for suing for defamation in the Church Courts of York in the 1590s.11 Therefore, it would not be surprising if Elizabeth Device, having heard of his defaming of her, sought not justice but revenge with the magical power that she believed she had.
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T he Lancashire Witches James had nothing to say about the murder of John Robinson’s brother James, but Jennet did. According to her, about a year after the death of John Robinson, in 1610, Elizabeth Device called again for Ball. He appeared and asked what she would have him do. She asked Ball to kill James Robinson and he agreed. Three weeks later, James Robinson was dead. When presented with this evidence against her, Elizabeth did not demur. She confessed to having bewitched James Robinson to death, although in this case she gave no reason for it, or at least, if she did, Potts did not report it to us. There is also no reason given by Elizabeth for the murder of Henry Mytton, but James Device reported to Nowell and Bannester that while out begging, his grandmother Demdike had asked him for a penny, ‘and he denying her thereof, thereupon she [Demdike] procured his death’.12 Elizabeth then was collaborating with her mother in the latter’s desire for revenge. Jennet appears to know nothing of Demdike’s involvement in this, nor that she is the driving force behind it, but she did give a more elaborate version than James, one that only involved her mother and her spirit, Ball. Jennet was present, she recalled, when Ball appeared, in the form of a brown dog again, and asked her mother what she would have him do. Elizabeth said that she wanted to him to kill ‘one Mitton of the Rough-Lee’.13 Ball had agreed and then vanished. About three weeks later, Mytton too was dead. A more inquiring examiner might have seen the inconsistencies in all this, but when presented with the evidence, as construed by Nowell and Bannester, Elizabeth concurred. She confessed that, along with her mother Demdike, and Alice Nutter, she had bewitched Henry Mytton to death. Elizabeth Device, who was tried in a batch along with Anne Whittle, and her son James, was duly found guilty by her jury.
Alice Nutter, the Rich Witch Alice Nutter, we recall, had been at the meeting at Malkin Tower, and had been one of those whom Roger Nowell was able to lay his hands on and arrest. Alice Nutter was pictured by Thomas Potts as socially
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An Incanta tion of Witches superior to the others tried for witchcraft. Thus, Potts introduced his account of her trial on Wednesday 19 August with a paraphrase of several sections of the Daemonologie of King James. ‘The two degrees of persons,’ he wrote, ‘which chiefly practise Witch-craft, are such, as are in great miserie and povertie, for such the Devil allures to follow him, by promising great riches, and worldly commoditie; Others, though rich, yet burne in a desperate desire of Revenge; Hee allures them by promises, to get their turne satisfied to their hearts contentment.’14 We can only assume that Potts included it to impress his hopedfor royal reader, for it hardly fitted the facts of the cases that were before the court at Lancaster, even as Potts himself had presented them. According to Potts, the examinations of Chattox, Demdike and her children had all indicated their desire for riches and worldly commodities. So they fitted the king’s typology. Yet, as we will see, James Device, though poor like the rest of his family, is promised revenge on his enemies and not wealth. Similarly, Alizon Device was not motivated by a desire for riches, but by revenge against John Law for refusing her request while she was out begging. Demdike was promised the power to do anything, but it was revenge that she sought, as did her daughter Elizabeth, at least in two of the three murders with which she was charged.15 On the other hand, according to Potts, Alice Nutter, a widow of seventy years of age with five children, the eldest of whom was Miles, was rich.16 Therefore, the Devil was unable to tempt Alice, as he had the others, with the promise of wealth: ‘For it is certaine she was a rich woman; had a great estate, and children of good hope: in the common opinion of the world, of good temper, free from envy or malice’.17 Accordingly, as a rich woman, her witchcraft ought to have been motivated by revenge. Yet, although she was charged, along with Elizabeth Device, with the murder of Henry Mytton, no evidence was presented that he had wronged her sufficiently to inspire revenge on her part. She, for her part, had pleaded not guilty. Alice Nutter, like Henry Mytton whose murder she was accused of, was from Roughlee, some six miles north of Burnley. Elsewhere in
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T he Lancashire Witches The Wonderfull Discoverie of Witches, she is referred to as ‘Dicke Miles wife’, ‘the wife of Richard Nutter’ and ‘the mother of Myles Nutter’. On the basis of Harrison Ainsworth’s 1849 novel, The Lancashire Witches, it has been assumed that the ‘great estate’ that she possessed was Roughlee Hall.18 More recently it has been shown that Alice probably lived at a more modest farm at Crowtrees nearby.19 In this case, not so much the rich widow of Roughlee Hall, she was the widow of a yeoman, and of similar status to the other Nutter families around the district. This at least renders more likely her connections with the Devices, though it hardly explains why she would become involved in a revenge murder over a penny. Though Potts was certain that she had been at the meeting at Malkin Tower, he was clearly puzzled by her involvement: ‘yet whether by the meanes of the rest of the Witches, or some other unfortunate occasion, shee was drawne to fall to this wicked course of life, I know not’.20 Judge Bromley also treaded warily, but he was very determined to establish that she had been at Malkin Tower. For him, this seems to have been the key issue. As Potts explains it, her presence there was ‘a very great argument to condemne her’,21 and he was properly very suspicious of Jennet Device’s evidence. Thus he organised the early modern equivalent of an ‘identity parade’. Having had Jennet removed from the courtroom, the Lancaster gaoler, Covell, was ordered to set all the prisoners by themselves, and between every accused witch to close up another prisoner, together with some other unknown women amongst them. Jennet Device was then brought back to the court. Bromley, we are informed, ‘tooke great paines to examine her of every particular Point, What women were at Malking-Tower upon Good-Friday? How she knew them? What were the names of any of them? And how she knew them to be such as she named?’22 Finally, he asked her if she would know them if she saw them again. She replied that she would, and she went and took Alice Nutter by the hand and accused her of being one of those at the meeting at Malkin Tower. She then told Alice where she was sitting at the feast,
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An Incanta tion of Witches who sat next to her, what conversations she had and all the rest of the proceedings. Trying to trick her by asking her whether she knew ‘Johan a Style’, she replied that she did not know any woman by that name to have been there, nor had she ever heard that name.23 Neverthless, granted that she had been at the Malkin Tower meeting, the evidence against her for collaborating with Demdike and Elizabeth Device in the murder of Henry Mytton was very slim. It amounted in fact to hearsay, not that an early modern court would have been too troubled by this in cases of witchcraft. James Device was reported as having said that he had heard his grandmother say, about a year earlier, that ‘his mother, called Elizabeth Device, and his Grand-mother, and the wife of Richard Nutter of the Rough-Lee aforesaid, had killed one Henry Mitton, of the Rough-Lee aforesaid, by Witchcraft’.24 Of Alice’s involvement in this murder, Jennet Device apparently knew nothing. Unfortunately, Elizabeth Device, in her confession, did not deny Alice’s involvement, and she, along with Elizabeth Device, was found guilty. Potts was convinced that justice had been done, her mere presence at Malkin Tower being sufficient to damn her. Nevertheless, the trial of Alice Nutter was, perhaps, the one trial that bothered Thomas Potts, for he did end his account of Alice Nutter by noting that she went to her execution impenitent. Even her own children were unable to move her to confession or repentance. Her refusal ‘was a very fearefull thing,’ he concluded, ‘to all that were present, who knew shee was guiltie’.25 No doubt he too thought she was guilty, but, as a ‘rich witch’, he might have expected more from her than the others, and her determination not to die a good death would have worried him.
A ‘Monster in Nature’ If Thomas Potts has some sympathy for Alice Nutter, he had none for James Device. To Potts, he was ‘this wicked and miserable Wretch’, and a ‘Monster in Nature’.26 He was ‘as dangerous and malicious a Witch, as ever lived in these Parts of Lancashire of his time: and spotted with
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T he Lancashire Witches as much Innocent bloud, as ever any Witch of his yeares’.27 He did not look too dangerous, wicked or malicious when he was brought up for trial. By then, 18 August, he had been imprisoned for almost four months. The conditions in the gaol had probably killed his grandmother before she could stand trial. He too was probably near death. We gain a clear idea of the conditions inside Lancaster Gaol from a more famous prisoner than James Device, namely, George Fox, the founder of the Quakers. Coincidentally, it was on Pendle Hill in 1652, within sight of Malkin Tower, and of Lancaster Castle on a clear day, that George Fox was inspired by God to gather a great people, thus beginning the Quaker movement. Thirteen years later in 1664 and George Fox, like James Device some fifty years earlier, was languishing in Lancaster Gaol. ‘[I]t rained in upon my bed,’ he wrote, [A]nd many times, when I went to stop out the rain in the cold winter-season, my shirt was as wet as muck with the rain that came in upon me while I was labouring to stop it out. And the place being high and open to the wind, sometimes as fast as I stopped it the wind blew it out again. In this manner I lay all that long, cold winter till the next assize, in which time I was so starved, and so frozen with cold and wet with the rain that my body was greatly swelled and my limbs much benumbed.28
Unlike George Fox, James Device had only to survive a summer (though admittedly a Lancashire one) rather than a long, cold winter with the bitter westerly winds blowing across the Irish Sea onto the battlements of Lancaster Castle. Even so, the conditions had debilitated him, and he cut a pathetic figure in the dock. Potts was uncertain whether his condition was the result of an attempt to avoid trial by suicide, shame at his being charged with ‘so many devillish practises’29 or his long imprisonment prior to the trial, but he did remark that, when brought to the bar, James ‘was so insensible, weake, and unable in all thinges, as he could neither speake, heare, or stand, but was holden up when hee was brought to the place of the Arraignement, to receive his triall’.30
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An Incanta tion of Witches Like his mother, Elizabeth Device, he was arrested after the meeting at Malkin Tower, and, also like his mother, he was indicted for crimes that had no connection with that meeting. He was charged with the murders of four people: Anne Towneley, wife of Henry Towneley of Carr Hall; John Duckworth of the Laund; John Hargraves of Gould-shey-booth; and Blaze Hargraves of Higham. Therefore, with four murder indictments, he was equal to Chattox in terms of being charged with the most murders of any of the Lancashire witches. James had confessed to the murders of Towneley and Duckworth on 27 April in his examination by Roger Nowell and Nicholas Bannester, but by the time his trial arrived, he had changed his mind, and pleaded not guilty. As far as we can tell, he never confessed to the murders of John Hargraves and Blaze Hargraves, and when he was asked in court how he pleaded, he said not guilty. The only evidence against James Device for three of these four murders was that provided by his sister Jennet Device. There is little doubt that all this was given prior to the trial, and probably to Nowell and Bannester on 27 April, but Jennet Device was in the court for the trial of her brother. Potts again took the opportunity to present evidence already previously gathered as if it had been given live in court, and he put the initiative for this display of public justice down to Judge Bromley – and to God: ‘Herein do but observe the wonderfull work of God; to raise up a yong Infant, the very sister of the Prisonr [sic], Jennet Device, to discover, justifie and prove these things against him at the time of his Arraignement and Triall’.31 Thus, for the evidence given against James by Jennet in the matters of murder, Potts removed the names of Nowell and Bannester, the date upon which the examinations were taken, and edited the beginning of the pre-trial accounts to read, ‘Being examined in open Court, she saith’,32 and ‘Being sworne and examined in open Court, she saith’.33 Potts was stretching the truth a little, for dramatic effect. Potts declared that ‘it was wonderful to the Court, in so great a Presence and Audience, with what modestie, governement, and understanding, shee delivered this Evidence’.34 But in all probability,
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T he Lancashire Witches statements that Jennet had made previously were read aloud, and Jennet publicly assented to them in court. The documents that we have are Potts’s patchworked version of them. Nevertheless, what we can say is that James Device, like his mother Elizabeth, his grandmother Demdike, and his sister Alizon, was a witch. No doubt, he had been introduced to the techniques by his mother and grandmother. As Potts put it, ‘For although he were but yong, and in the beginning of his Time [as a witch], yet was he carefull to observe his Instructions from Old Demdike his Grandmother, and Elizabeth Device his mother, in so much that no time should passe since his first entrance into that damnable Arte and exercise of Witchcrafts, Inchantments, Charmes and Sorceries, without mischiefe or murder’.35 However, he had a much more interesting version of his initiation than they did. As we recall, in his confession to Nowell and Bannester on 27 April, he had recounted how, on Maundy Thursday in 1610, his grandmother had sent him to the church to receive the communion and, rather than eating the bread that the minister would give him, he should give it to ‘such a thing’ as he would meet on the way home’.36 Notwithstanding her request, he ate it. On the way home, he encountered a thing in the shape of a hare that asked him whether he had brought the bread as his grandmother had told him to. He answered that he hadn’t, at which the thing threatened to pull him to bits. James may have been engaged in errands for his grandmother’s magical practices, but he was also a pious lad. James crossed himself and the thing disappeared. Four days later, on Easter Monday 1610, another animal spirit appeared to him, near Newchurch in Pendle, this time in the form of a brown dog. The spirit asked him to give him his soul, and he could have his revenge on anyone he wished. James replied, ‘my soul is not mine to give, but my Saviour Jesus Christ’s. Still, as much as is mine to give, I am happy you should have it’.37 Jennet seemed to have picked up bits of this story from somewhere. She said that he had been a witch for three years, and that around the beginning of that time, a black dog appeared to him in her grandmother’s house, which her brother called Dandy.38
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An Incanta tion of Witches We get some slight variations from this story in another account that James gave to William Sandes, the Mayor of Lancaster, James Anderton, a justice of the peace and Thomas Covell, the Lancaster gaoler, while he was in prison. James knew that he was in serious trouble, and he was clearly attempting to persuade his listeners that he had never given his soul to the spirit and that, on the contrary he had triumphed over him. He told them that the spirit, whose name was Dandy, said that he was above Jesus Christ, and ‘therefore hee must absolutely give him his Soule’.39 He had refused. He went on to say that the spirit had appeared to him many times since, in the likeness of a dog, and ‘every time most earnestly perswaded him to give him his Soule absolutely: who answered as before, that he would give him his owne part and no further’.40 The spirit had been with him only the Tuesday before he had been arrested. It was the last time he had seen Dandy. The spirit had again not been able to persuade James to give him all his soul, and had left him, ‘giving a most fearefull crie and yell, and withall caused a great flash of fire to shew about him’.41 His listeners would have been unimpressed by James’s claim that his familiar had left him a week before his arrest. It was, after all, evidence of his having consulted with spirits. They would not have felt threatened by his powers for a completely different reason, for they would most likely have believed that James Device was now powerless, not because he had triumphed over Dandy, but because Satan had left him at the time of his arrest. Demons were constrained by the arrest of the witch, and arrested witches lost their powers. This was a view endorsed by King James in his Daemonologie. He had probably derived it from the Malleus Maleficarum which declared that witches could only harm those destitute of divine help, amongst whom were not included all those who administered public justice. Similarly, King James declared that the form of a witch’s detention determined her capacities to continue to do harm. There was no loss of power to a witch apprehended and detained by any private person for personal reasons, but if, on the other hand,
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T he Lancashire Witches their apprehending and detention be by the lawful Magistrate, upon the just respectes of their guiltinesse in that craft, their power is then no greater then before that ever they medled with their master. For where God beginnes justlie to strike by his lawfull Lieutennentes, it is not in the Devilles power to defraude or bereave him of the office, or effect of his powerfull and revenging Scepter.42
According to Jennet Device, it was about a year since James had called for Dandy to appear at Malkin Tower. In reply to Dandy’s inquiry about what James would have him do, James said that he wanted Dandy’s help to kill Anne Towneley. Dandy was willing to do his best. Jennet had heard both James and Dandy say that ‘they would make away the said Mistris Towneley’.43 A week later, Jennet paid a visit to Carr Hall, where she saw a very ill Anne Towneley in the kitchen. The thought then came into her head, she said, that her brother and Dandy were responsible for the decline in Anne’s health. James’s confession suggested that these events had taken place a year earlier than this, only three or four days after he had made his deal with Dandy for that part of his soul that was his to give. Thus, it was late in the first week after Easter in 1610 that, according to James, Dandy, this time in the shape of a black rather than brown dog, appeared and made his offer to assist in the murder of Anne Towneley.44 There is no record of Anne’s death to be found outside of the pages of The Wonderfull Discoverie of Witches. Even her identity is uncertain. James Crossley, in his edition of Potts, asks if she would be Anne Catterall, the daughter of Thomas Catterall who married a Henry Townley, the son of Lawrence Townley in 1559.45 More likely, she was the wife of Henry Towneley, the grandson of Henry Townley and Anne Catterall. Henry Towneley, we know, was present at the Lancaster trials. He was probably there for two reasons. The first of these concerned the murder of his wife; the second, the trial of his aunt, Jane Southworth, one of the Samlesbury witches. His mother was Margaret Sherburne and, like Jane Southworth, the daughter of
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An Incanta tion of Witches Richard Sherburne of Stonyhurst. The Townleys, like the Sherburnes, were prominent Lancashire Catholic gentry. During the course of the trial of James Device, Roger Nowell called Henry Towneley as a witness for the prosecution. And we can assume that evidence from Towneley was placed on the record. For reasons that are not clear, Potts did not include his evidence, suggesting rather feebly that the evidence of Jennet Device would be enough. Had Potts included Towneley’s statement, the circumstances surrounding Anne’s death might have become clear. The evidence of an adult would at least have made a stronger case for the reader than that of a child. Jonathan Lumby makes the feasible suggestion that the absence of Henry Towneley’s evidence in The Wonderfull Discoverie of Witches was the consequence of his being unwilling to have his evidence quoted lest he be seen as partisan to the Protestant cause that was driving the trials. Towneley, he suggests, became personally disgruntled that, on the one hand, charges had been laid against his aunt, and politically troubled, on the other, that the exposure of Christopher Southworth as the source of a Catholic conspiracy against Protestants was being used for anti-Catholic propaganda.46 Against this, it must be said that there is no evidence that Towneley would have known that Potts was writing up the trial, and, even if he had, that he would have had any authority to ban the use of his evidence.47 Nonetheless, Dandy had offered his services to James for purposes of revenge, and it was revenge that motivated the young witch in the case of Anne Towneley. James believed that he and his mother had been treated badly by Anne. It was only two or three days after he had made his initial deal with Dandy that he and his mother went to Carr Hall. There, they were confronted by Anne Towneley who accused them of having stolen some ‘turves’, presumably of peat and used for heating, and told them to get out of the house. As they were leaving, Anne gave James ‘a knocke betweene the shoulders’.48 A day or two later, towards the end of the first week after Easter in 1610, his offer of help having been accepted, Dandy instructed James to
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T he Lancashire Witches use image magic against Anne Towneley. The next morning, James made a picture of clay in the image of Anne Towneley, and dried it that night by the fire. The next day, he began to crumble the picture, and did a little every day for a week. Within two days of its being crumbled away, Anne Towneley was dead. Thomas Potts does not present any evidence against James Device concerning the murder of John Duckworth, but James had confessed to this crime on 27 April during his interrogation by Nowell and Bannester. Again, this was a case of revenge for John Duckworth having reneged on a promise. In Lent in 1611, John Duckworth promised James an old shirt. A fortnight later, James went to Duckworth’s house and demanded the shirt, but Duckworth refused to hand it over. As James left Duckworth’s house, he was confronted by Dandy who said to him, ‘Thou didst touch the said Duckworth’.49 James denied it. Dandy insisted, adding that the touching of Duckworth had given Dandy power over him. James then allied himself with Dandy, and asked the spirit to kill Duckworth. Within a week or so, Duckworth was dead. James clearly envisaged himself as a person of extraordinary power, one whose mere touch was able to harness the supernatural. There was no need for image magic in this case. James Device was probably aware of those traditions, both elite and popular, that vested power in the words, look or touch of a witch. At the popular level, touching or stroking was a common feature of the healing practices of cunning men and women. James Device may also have been reflecting a popular opinion that the touch of a witch, with the assistance of familiar spirits, could as easily be used for malevolent ends. Elite texts, though ramified by a high demonology, held similar views. Thus, for example, the Malleus Maleficarum warned of the dangers in allowing sorceresses to touch the wrist or limbs. They can, it declared, ‘affect people with sorcery by the working of the Devil, sometimes through touch, sometimes through sight or the hearing of words uttered by them’.50 Therefore, it was not so much a natural as a preternatural effect. Henri Boguet put it simply in his Examen
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An Incanta tion of Witches of Witches in 1602. ‘I do not believe,’ he wrote, ‘that the witch can cause injury simply by her hand; but that if he who has been touched becomes ill, it is undoubtedly Satan who strikes the blow.’51 Similarly, Pierre de Lancre in 1622: ‘the charm or sorcery that brings some harm, or some maleficium by touch cannot be natural, either by the artifice or the natural power in the hands of the witch; it results rather from the maleficent property in an evil demon, with whom the witch who brings the harm by her touch has an express or tacit agreement’.52 The court at Lancaster had no trouble accepting murder by touch. It would not have known the opinions of Continental demonologists, but it would have known that the touch of a witch could do good or evil only as the result of a covenant made with the Devil, express or tacit.53 James confessed to the murders of both Anne Towneley and John Duckworth. Yet, as we noted above, about the murders of John Hargraves and Blaze Hargraves he had nothing to say. We know little more from the brief excerpts from the court documents that Potts provides, as to whom they were, why they were killed and how James did it. All we do know is that, according to Jennet, James recruited Dandy to murder them both. Again Potts presents the evidence as if it were given live in court, but its formulaic style, mimicking as it does that of her evidence in the case of the murder of Anne Towneley, not only renders it doubtful that it was given orally, but even opens to question its being an accurate representation of anything Jennet may ever have said. However, in spite of Potts’s claims about the persuasiveness of Jennet as a witness, it is not unreasonable to conclude that her evidence was probably not decisive for the jury. Nor is it likely that evidence from the other witnesses, that Potts said had been given but which he did not include, made any difference. Ultimately, James was no doubt convicted as the consequence of his having confessed to doing a deal with an evil spirit, and to having collaborated with his animal familiar in the murders of at least two people.
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T he Lancashire Witches
Confession, Guilt and Innocence As we know, James was not the only one to have confessed. His grandmother Demdike, Anne Whittle alias Chattox, his mother Elizabeth Device and his sister Alizon had all confessed to crimes of witchcraft prior to their trials. Why had they confessed? In most European countries, although in varying degrees of severity and with different regimes of regulation, torture was used to extract confessions from those suspected of witchcraft, and elicit the names of others purportedly in league with the Devil. We know from modern experience that torture is a technique useless for extracting truth, its victims being willing to confess to anything in order to forestall the torment. For us, early modern confessions to witchcraft are especially corrigible by virtue of the fact that they are confessions to crimes that we believe could not possibly have been committed, or at least not in the ways detailed in the confessions. In early modern Continental Europe, the reverse logic was in play. Torture verified pre-existent truths – that the accused had made a pact with the Devil and, through the naming of accomplices, that he or she belonged to a cult that both engaged in widespread maleficium and worshipped the Devil. High conviction rates and an ever-increasing number of arrests were the consequence.54 In England, torture was allowable under special warrant from the Privy Council, but it was never used in cases of witchcraft. Therefore, the confessions of the Lancashire witches cannot be attributed to their being extracted by force, and we cannot look to torture to explain the apparent alacrity with which Roger Nowell and his colleagues were able to extract confessions from the accused. Perhaps, they had confessed in the hope that, knowing that they were charged with crimes that carried the death sentence and aware that their chances of being acquitted were slim, they would not be executed. It would not have been uncommon then, as now, for promises to be given by prosecutors, and strategic confessions to be made by the accused, both guilty and innocent, in the hope, however forlorn, of receiving a lighter punishment.
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An Incanta tion of Witches There was some precedent for this in England. In his Démonomanie in 1581, Bodin had suggested that ‘one must however always promise impunity, and reduce the penalty of those who will confess without torture, and who will denounce their associates’.55 The justice of the peace Brian Darcy took a leaf out of Bodin’s book in his prosecution of Ursley Kempe in February 1582.56 The story had begun in early 1581. Ursley Kempe was a midwife and wet-nurse, with a side-business in ‘unwitching’ the bewitched. At that time, she was able to help the sick child of Grace Thurlowe.57 Three months later, having given birth to a daughter, she and Ursley fell out when Grace would not allow her to nurse the child. Within three months of their disagreement, the child fell out of her cradle, broke her neck and died. Grace may have suspected that this was a witchcraft revenge, but she accepted Ursley’s help when, in the middle of that year, she had ‘a lamenesse in her bones, & specially in her legges’.58 Ursley offered to help her for the sum of twelve pence. For five weeks after, Grace was well, but when Ursley asked for her payment, in cash or in kind, Grace reneged on the arrangement. Ursley said that she would get even with her. The lameness returned, to the extent that she was unable to get out of her bed or even to turn in it. On 19 February 1582, Grace told her story to Brian Darcy. This information was supplemented on the same day by Annis Letherdall. She gave evidence that, after a falling out between her and Ursley about four months earlier, her son had fallen ill ‘with a great swelling in the bottome of the belly, and other privie partes’.59 On 10 February, she consulted a cunning person who informed her that Ursley had bewitched the child. When confronted by Annis, Ursley denied it. The child’s condition worsened the next day, at which time Annis took him to another cunning woman, Mother Ratcliffe, to seek her help. The next day, 20 February 1582, Ursley Kempe made her first appearance before Brian Darcy. We can assume that she denied the charges made against her by Grace and Annis, though she willingly confessed to having learnt the skills of ‘unbewitching’ some
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T he Lancashire Witches ten years earlier when she herself sought medical help from a cunning woman by then deceased for a ‘lamenes in her bones’;60 and she went on to admit that she had used the same medicine (a mix of pig’s dung and chervil) to cure several villagers from lameness caused by bewitchment. At this point in his examination, Darcy took Ursley aside privately, and promised her immunity were she to confess and to name others. This explains the alacrity with which he appeared now able to draw out of her or (more likely) prompt her towards a richly detailed account of her activities as a malevolent witch. Thus, weeping and falling upon her knees, Ursley confessed to keeping four familiar spirits, two males and two females, two to punish with death, and two to punish with illness and disease both people and animals. The two male spirits were in the likenesses of a gray cat called Tyttey and a black cat by the name of Jacke; the two females were called Pigin like a black toad, and Tyffin, like a white lamb. She admitted to sending Tyttey to punish Grace Thurlowe, and Pigin to Annis Letherdall’s son. According to Darcy, she then confessed of her own free will to killing Grace Thurlowe’s daughter by sending Tyffin to tip her out of her cradle and break her neck. Regardless of any deal made, Ursley Kemp was convicted and sent to the gallows. We do not know if Roger Nowell had made any promises of mitigating the sentences of Chattox and the Devices were they to confess. Nor do we know if their confessions were ‘false’ strategic ones in the hope of reduced sentences. On balance, though, there seems little reason to doubt that they genuinely believed that they had committed the crimes with which they were charged. Thus, in this sense, they made ‘true’ confessions, after all, they were witches; and while benevolence was the core of their business activities, they could turn malevolent. As witches, they not only had the means, but also the motives. The evidence pointed to all of them having various grudges against those they were accused of bewitching. Demdike had had an argument
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An Incanta tion of Witches with Richard Baldwin over payment for work done by the Devices at his mill. Chattox admitted to there being bad blood between her and the Nutter family, to threatening John Moore for putting the word about that she had bewitched his drink, and she was heard to have sworn revenge on Hugh Moore of Pendle who had accused her of having bewitched his cattle. Elizabeth Device had bewitched John Robinson to death, she said, because he had been spreading rumours that she had had an illegitimate child. Henry Mytton had denied her a penny when she had begged one from him. Alizon Device, her daughter, we recall, had been refused pins by John Law when she begged them from him, and James had been in conflict with Anne Towneley who had accused him and his mother of stealing, and with John Duckworth who had reneged on a deal to give him an old shirt. In short, it is not a matter of great surprise that the jury found them all guilty. It would have been far more surprising, given their chosen profession, their confessions, and the belief that they were persons of power, had the jury found them innocent.
The Trial of Mould-heeles According to The Wonderfull Discoverie of Witches, the trial of Katherine Hewyt, alias Mould-heeles, followed that of Anne Nutter on Wednesday 19 August. Potts was worried about the verdict in the case of Anne Nutter, not only because she had died without confessing to her crime, but also because the only evidence against her in the murder of Henry Mytton was from other witches – James Device and his mother Elizabeth, whose evidence might, to say the least, have been seen as lacking credibility. It was the same with Katherine Hewyt. Only James and his mother provided evidence against her. Therefore, it is perhaps not surprising that Potts sought some external authority to bolster their credibility, and he began his account of Katherine’s trial by citing, without any acknowledgement, directly from the pages of King James’s Daemonologie: ‘Who but witches can be proofes, and so witnesses of the doings of Witches?’61
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T he Lancashire Witches Katherine Hewyt was one of the two women from Colne, along with Alice Gray, who had been present at Malkin Tower for the meeting called by Elizabeth Device. She had been mentioned as present by both James Device and his mother,62 but the court did not need to rely only on the word of James and Elizabeth for her presence there, for again, Jennet Device was able to point her out in the identity parade that Judge Bromley had organised. Jennet Device was again commanded by the judge to point out Katherine from among the women assembled at the bar. As with Alice, so with Katherine, Jennet was able, not only to identify her, but also to say in what place she sat at the feast, who sat next to her, and what they talked about, together with the rest of the proceedings. Potts is determined to make a legal virtue from the absence of evidence, for it is clear that Katherine Hewyt, like Alice Nutter, and the Bulcocks whose trial was listed next, were not witches; and there was no suspicion in the community that they were. As a consequence, they were all the more dangerous. More than human evidence was needed, and it was divine providence that flushed them out. And herein I shall commend unto your good consideration the wonderfull meanes to condemne these parties, that lived in the world, free from suspition of any such offences, as are proved against them: And thereby the more dangerous, that in the successe wee may lawfully say, the very finger of God did point them out. And she that never saw them, but in that meeting, did accuse them, and by their faces discover them.63
We know little about Katherine Hewyt except that she was the wife of John Hewyt who is described as a clothier. It is difficult to determine the actual occupation of John Hewyt, for ‘clothier’ in the Colne region in the Elizabethan and Stuart periods could include wool merchants, cloth makers and cloth merchants.64 Nevertheless, at any rate, it is probable that Katherine Hewyt and her husband were socially superior to the Devices and the Whittles, most likely among the yeomanry, and much less likely to be involved in the business of cunning.
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An Incanta tion of Witches Katherine Hewyt, also known as Mould-heeles, was indicted for the murder of a child by the name of Anne Foulds. The evidence against her was scant. Elizabeth Device had told Roger Nowell and Nicholas Bannester on 27 April that Katherine Hewyt and Alice Gray had confessed, at the Good Friday meeting at Malkin Tower, to having murdered Anne Foulds, a child of the Foulds of Colne. We know that a daughter of Nicholai Foulds was buried on 4 July 1608 in Colne.65 Elizabeth also said that Katherine ‘had gotten hold of an other’.66 Even the imaginative James Device could only add that this other child whom they had ‘in hanck’ belonged to Michael Hartley of Colne.67 Nevertheless, the jury found such evidence as there was to be sufficient, and she too was found guilty.
A Mother and Her Son If anything, as we will see, the evidence against John Bulcock and his mother Jane Bulcock, the wife of Christopher Bulcock, from Moss End near Newchurch at the foot of Pendle Hill, was even less substantial than that against Katherine Hewyt. And again, their having been at the Malkin Tower meeting seems to have been sufficient. James Device attested to their being at the Malkin Tower meeting. Elizabeth Device went further, declaring that John Bulcock, together with Katherine Hewyt, had assented to the killing of Master Lister, and implied that Jane Bulcock was present also. There seems little doubt that they were present, but, as with all the rest who attended, no charges arising directly from attending that meeting were laid. We can assume that John and Jane Bulcock were aware that Alice Nutter and Katherine Hewyt had been found guilty. If Potts’s ordering of the trials is accurate at this point, their trials had immediately preceded theirs, so they would have known that, regardless of any other evidence, to have been present at the Malkin Tower meeting was damning. Originally, they had confessed to Roger Nowell to having been present at the meeting, but now they swore that they were never at the meeting, ‘although the very Witches that were present in that action with them, justifie, maintaine, and sweare the same to be true against them’.68
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T he Lancashire Witches The identity parade was probably decisive in convincing the jury that they had been there. Jennet was able to point both of them out. As with Alice Nutter and Katherine Hewyt, Jennet had indicated where Jane had sat, whom she had sat next to, and what conversations she had had. John was not seated at the feast, she implied. His role was ‘to turne the Spitt there’, on which presumably the sheep that James had confessed to having stolen from Christopher Swyer was being roasted.69 They were indicted for having bewitched a woman called Jennet Deyne, the wife of John Deyne, from a farm called New Field Edge in Middop, Yorkshire. They had allegedly so ‘wasted and consumed’ her body that she had gone mad. Having been arraigned they had pleaded not guilty. The only evidence against them was provided by James Device. In the evidence that he had originally given to Roger Nowell and Nicholas Bannester on 27 April, he claimed that he had heard them confess at the Malkin Tower meeting to having bewitched a woman to madness, though he had not heard the name of the woman so bewitched.70 Thomas Potts suggests that, prior to their trial, they had confessed to sending Jennet Deyne insane. Had they done so, we might have expected him to have provided an account of that, as he had done in those other cases where confessions had been made. Potts does seem to have become more and more casual in his presentation of the relevant evidence, the further he wrote his way into his story. Perhaps, on the other hand, there was no confession, and it was the very absence of one or anything like good evidence that impelled Potts to describe them as ‘the most desperate wretches (void of all feare or grace) in all this Packe; Their offences not much inferiour to Murther’.71 Perhaps it was with some sense of relief that readers of The Wonderfull Discoverie of Witches, when they reached the announcement of the jury’s verdict upon the Bulcocks, saw the words, ‘Who upon their Oathes found John Bulcock and Jane Bulcock his mother, not guiltie of the Felonie by Witch-craft, contained in the Indictment
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An Incanta tion of Witches against them’.72 Perhaps too, it was a ‘Freudian slip’ from the printer, who having set the text of the story, may well have expected them to be found innocent. Any relief that readers felt would have been misplaced, for, in the list of faults missed in the proofing of the text, and listed at the front of the book, we read, ‘page, S 3 In the Verdict of Life and Death, Not guiltie, for guiltie’.73 The Bulcocks maintained their innocence to the end, ‘Crying out in very violent & outragious manner, even to the gallowes, where they died impenitent for any thing we know, because they died silent in the particulars’.74 The verdict upon the Bulcocks brought to an end the trials of those who had been present at Malkin Tower, and whom Roger Nowell had been able to find, arrest, charge and transport to Lancaster for trial. Of those tried and found guilty – Elizabeth Device, James Device, Alice Nutter, Katherine Hewyt, and John and Jane Bulcock, only Elizabeth and James Device could be considered on the evidence presented to have been witches, and to have been ‘guilty’ as charged. They had both confessed, while the rest claimed that they were innocent of the charges brought against them. That they were present at the Malkin Tower meeting can be taken as read. The identity parade strongly suggested that, but it was not for their presence there that they were charged. The only evidence against them for murder in the cases of Nutter and Hewyt, and causing madness in the case of the Bulcocks, was provided by one or other of two of the accused, Elizabeth and James Device. In none of these cases was there any evidence to suggest that they had practiced malevolent magic against any of their victims. Nor were there any motives presented for their having done so. They were probably all ‘innocent’ of the charges brought against them, and we can only wonder what motivated Elizabeth and James Device to take them down with them.
A Mare is Murdered After the meeting at Malkin Tower, Nowell had introduced another magistrate Nicholas Bannester, his neighbour from Altham, into his witch hunt. He had been involved with Nowell in all the interrogations
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T he Lancashire Witches that took place on 27 April, but after this, Bannester went solo. The result of his labours was the indictment of Margaret Pearson, the wife of Edward Pearson, from Padiham, a market town near Altham. She was charged with having killed a mare, the property of one Dodgson of Padiham.75 We do not know when she was charged and remanded to Lancaster Gaol, but as late as 9 August, only ten days before her trial late on the Wednesday of 19 August, Nicholas Bannester was still gathering evidence and trying to put a case together. Margaret had pleaded not guilty, and although Potts followed his usual formula – ‘and for the trial of her life put herselfe upon God and her Countrie’76 – the crime with which she was charged was not a capital one. According to the Witchcraft Act of 1604, the penalty for destroying, wasting or impairing any cattle or goods by witchcraft was one year’s imprisonment, and to stand four times during that year in the pillory for six hours, in a market town on market day, there to confess his or her error and offence.77 There is little doubt that Margaret Pearson was a cunning woman. According to Potts, she was little inferior ‘in her wicked and malicious course of life’ to any who had been tried before her.78 Anyone who had come near her had sustained great loss, especially to their goods. She was, Potts wrote, ‘A very dangerous Witch of long continuance, generally suspected and feared in all parts of the Countrie, and of all good people neare her, and not without great cause: For whosoever gave her any just occasion of offence, shee tormented with great miserie, or cut off their children, goods or friends’,79 and she had ‘form’. This was the third time that she had been brought to trial, once before for murder by witchcraft, and once before for bewitching a neighbour. On these two previous occasions, we can assume, she had been acquitted. Potts claimed that the accusations, depositions and examinations on record against her were infinite, and he maintained that there were ‘divers witnesses examined against her in open Court, viva voce, to prove the death of the Mare, and divers other vild [vile] and odious practises by her committed, who upon their Examinations made
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An Incanta tion of Witches it so apparant to the Jurie as there was no question’.80 However, if this were so, Potts’s choice of evidence was not astute. Indirect evidence that Margaret had a familiar was provided by Jennet Booth, the wife of James Booth, also of Padiham. According to her, the Friday before Margaret Pearson had been committed to the gaol at Lancaster, Jennet was carding wool in the Pearsons’ house. She had a small child with her. She asked Marjorie [Margaret] for some milk for the child. Jennet placed some sticks on the fire, and on them placed some coal, to rekindle it. She then set the pan on the fire to heat the milk. When the milk was heated, she took the pan off the fire and ‘from under the bottome of the same, there came a Toade, or a thing very like a Toade, and to this Examinates thinking came out of the fire together with the said Pan’.81 She carried the toad out of the house with a pair of tongs. She did not know what Marjorie had done with the toad. Read literally, the text suggests that these events happened the week after Margaret was gaoled, but then it is difficult to determine the point of the evidence, and who the Margerie referred to was. This is probably the result of some careless editing by Potts. The evidence makes better sense if the Marjorie referred to in the evidence is Margaret Pearson, rather than some unidentified person.82 In any case, there was good circumstantial evidence that Margaret Pearson was a witch, for the association of witches and toads was a commonplace, and familiars often appeared in the form of toads. The Chelmsford witch of 1566, Mother Waterhouse, changed her whitespotted cat into a toad by praying in the name of the Holy Trinity.83 Ales Hunt in 1582 said that her sister Marjorie Sammon had two spirits like toads, one called Tom, and the other Robbyn.84 A year later, Joan Upney of Dagenham confessed to using toads in malevolent magic.85 The event in Margaret’s house could have been given a perfectly everyday interpretation, but no doubt the jury were encouraged to think in terms of familiar animal spirits. The main evidence was more relevant though its source was less credible. Margaret Pearson had been imprisoned with Anne Whittle, alias Chattox, and Chattox claimed that Margaret had confessed to the
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T he Lancashire Witches killing of Dodgson’s mare. According to her, Margaret had confessed that she was a witch, and that she had a spirit that came to her, not as a toad, but in the likeness of a man with cloven feet. She claimed that Margaret and her spirit had squeezed into Dodgson’s stable through a narrow opening and had sat upon the mare (rather like ‘night mares’ themselves) until the horse died. Chattox also claimed that Margaret had confessed to bewitching Childer’s wife and daughter to death. Margaret Pearson, Chattox declared, was as depraved as she was. Margaret Pearson was found guilty and, in accordance with the Act, was imprisoned for a year, to be pilloried in the market place for one day at each of four major market towns – Clitheroe, Padiham, Whalley and Lancaster – during the course of the year. A paper was to be placed upon her head, declaring her offence which she was also publicly to confess. Nicholas Bannester’s career in witch hunting was a brief and not especially illustrious one. He was probably not well throughout the trials, for his will was dated 15 August 1612, two days before the Assizes began,86 and he died on 20 August 1612, the same day as those whose executions he had played a part in orchestrating.87
A Witch from Windle Isabel Robey, like Margaret Pearson, had no connection with the Devices, the Whittles or the Malkin Tower group. She was from Windle, near St. Helens in the south west of Lancashire. Potts may well have included her case to make his point about the breadth and depth of witchcraft in Lancashire. In the Assizes at Lancaster, he wrote, ‘at one time you may behold Witches of all sorts from many places in this Countie of Lancaster which now may lawfully bee said to abound asmuch in Witches of divers kindes as Seminaries, Jesuites, and Papists’.88 He took the opportunity, for the first and only time in his work, to directly praise the Daemonologie of King James for having foreshadowed what had been discovered in Lancashire.89 Potts fails to tell us for what the crimes Isabel Robey was being indicted, but we can conclude from the material that he does provide,
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An Incanta tion of Witches that she was charged under the Witchcraft Act of 1604 with having used witchcraft to waste, consume, pine or lame Peter Chaddock and Jane Wilkinson, both of Windle. In spite of no deaths having resulted, this was nonetheless a capital offence. The case was brought forward by Sir Thomas Gerrard of Bryn, a justice of the peace, a newly converted Protestant, and head of the leading family in the area. It was he who had collected the evidence at Windle on 12 July. He had been in court for the trial of Alizon Device, at the end of which he so pitied John Law that he ‘promised some present course should be taken for his reliefe and maintenance’.90 We cannot be certain from the evidence provided that Isabel Robey was a cunning person by trade, though it is more than likely. She was certainly not averse to letting people think that she was a woman of power, and, like the Devices, charitable requests from her were rejected at their peril. When Margaret Parre told her that she trusted that she could protect herself from witches by prayer and thus defy them, Isabel said twice, ‘would you defie me?’91 At any rate, there appears to have been a long history of conflict between Peter Chaddock and Isabel Robey. According to him, prior to his marriage, Isabel had disapproved of his marrying his now wife who was her goddaughter. He had called her a witch, ‘and said that hee did not care for her’.92 Within two days, he said, he had severe pains in his bones. These pains reoccurred regularly. On one occasion, he told Gerrard, he and a friend, Thomas Lyon, had travelled to Peasley Cross to visit John Hawarden. Both of them were ill on the journey home, though, he added, they both became well again a short time later. Peter Chaddock’s wife and Isabel had been close at one time, but they too had had a falling out about four years earlier. Isabel was visiting his wife, who had become sufficiently angry at Isabel to storm out of the house, followed shortly afterwards by an angry Isabel. That same day, while working with his wife in the hay, Peter had pain and stiffness in his neck ‘which grieved him very sore’.93 We can assume that he thought that he had again been bewitched, for he sent
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T he Lancashire Witches a message to a cunning man who lived in Windle, James a Glover, asking him to pray for him. For four or five days, he was in terrible pain. Although he was extremely thirsty, he was unable to drink. The cunning man was called in for a ‘home visit’ and Peter’s inability to drink was explained to him. Glover said to him, ‘take that drinke, and in the name of the Father, the Sonne, and the Holy Ghost, drinke it, saying; the Devill and Witches are not able to prevaile against GOD and his Word’.94 Peter did as he was told, and was well within four or five days. He continued in good health until Lady Day, 25 March in 1611, when the pains returned. His wife was convinced that Isabel was responsible for Peter Chaddock’s ongoing pain. Her friend Margaret Lyon, the wife of Thomas Lyon, would have left her in no doubt. According to Margaret, Isabel Robey had one time visited her house. Isabel, Margaret told Thomas Gerrard, had said that Peter Chaddock would never be well until he had asked her forgiveness, and, Margaret went on, Isabel said that she knew that he would never do that. Margaret asked Isabel, ‘How doe you know that, for he is a true Christian, and hee would aske all the world for forgivenesse’.95 ‘That’s as may be,’ replied Isabel, ‘but he will never ask me for forgiveness, and therefore he will never mend’.96 For his part, at least at this time, Peter Chaddock was convinced that Isabel was not a witch. No doubt concerned that his pains were the result of bewitchment, he had consulted another cunning man by the name of Halseworths, who had assured Peter that he was not bewitched. His wife remained unconvinced and told Peter to accept it, that he would never be well until he had asked forgiveness of Isabel. He tried to reassure her by saying that, when he needed to ask her forgiveness, he would. However, as far as he knew, there was no need for him to do so at that time. He may have been merely putting up a brave front, for Margaret Lyon also said that Peter’s wife had often told her that Isabel had done him much harm. He was afraid of running into her, and, when he saw her coming he would avoid her. Isabel too had apparently said that he turned back when he met her in
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An Incanta tion of Witches the lane. Whatever doubts he may have harboured before, by the time he gave his evidence to Thomas Gerrard on 12 July, he was convinced that Isabel was responsible. The pains had been constant for well over twelve months. His pains, he said ‘came to him rather by meanes of the said Isabel Robey, then otherwise, as he verily thinketh’.97 Peter Chaddock’s conflict with Isabel Robey had all the features of an irresolvable family dispute, but Isabel’s conflict with Jane Wilkinson had features with which we have become quite familiar. According to Jane, Isabel had once begged her for some milk, and she had refused. The next time she met Isabel, she had become very afraid of her. She was soon so ill and in such pain that she could not stand. The next day, while travelling to Warrington, she ‘was suddenly pinched on her Thigh as shee thought, with foure fingers & a Thumbe twice together’.98 She was so ill that she could not walk and had to journey home on horseback. She did admit to Sir Thomas that the pain had soon disappeared. All this seemed insubstantial evidence upon which to base a capital charge, so it was fortunate that, although she had pleaded not guilty, she had virtually confessed to Margaret Parre. She had told Gerrard that Isabel Robey had once visited her and Margaret had asked her how Peter Chaddock was. Isabel had replied that she did not know, for she had not been to find out. She had then, perhaps innocently, asked Isabel how Jane Wilkinson was faring, ‘for that she had beene lately sicke and suspected to have beene bewitched’.99 According to Margaret, Isabel had then twice said ‘I have bewitched her too’.100 It wasn’t quite a confession, but it was enough for the jury, and they found her guilty of having bewitched both Peter Chaddock and Jane Wilkinson.
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t was late on the afternoon of Wednesday 19 August 1612 when Judge Bromley ordered Thomas Covell, the Lancaster gaoler, to
bring out all of the prisoners – those that had been found innocent to be addressed, and those that had been convicted to receive their sentences. The prisoners were brought to the bar and, three times, silence was called for. This was the moment for which the crowd in court had been waiting, and they fell silent. There were eight prisoners found not guilty – Elizabeth Astley, John Ramesden, Alice Gray, Isabel Sidegraves and Lawrence Haye, along with the three Samlesbury witches: Jennet Bierley, Ellen Bierley and Jane Southworth. Bromley was clearly not convinced of the innocence of any of the first five who, we can assume, were tried for witchcraft. ‘[W]ithout question,’ he declared, ‘there are amongst you, that are as deepe in this Action, as any of them that are condemned to die for their offences: The time is now for you to forsake the Devill.’1 He placed them on ‘a good behaviour bond’ to appear at the next Assizes in Lancaster. As for the Samlesbury witches, he simply ordered them to be freed. It was the task of Thomas Potts to present to Judge Bromley the names of the prisoners who were then to receive their sentences of death. He intoned them aloud: Anne Whittle, alias Chattox, Elizabeth Device, James Device, Anne Redfearne, Alice Nutter, Katherine Hewyt, John Bulcock, Jane Bulcock, Alizon Device and Isabel Robey. Judge Bromley then delivered his considered judgement, together with an eloquent statement of the grounds upon which he
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Epilogue made it. It would be easy to be cynical, but the Lancaster Assizes was no kangaroo court. However much we view the trials as exemplars of injustice, we should nevertheless take his words as expressing his deeply held belief that, in these cases, the rule of law had been applied, justice done, and the peace and security of the realm assured: There is no man alive more unwilling to pronounce this wofull and heavy Judgement against you, then my selfe: and if it were possible, I would to God this cup might passe from me. But since it is otherwise provided, that after all proceedings of the Law, there must be a Judgement; and the Execution of that Judgement must succeed and follow in due time: I pray you have patience to receive that which the Law doth lay upon you. You of all people have the least cause to complaine: since in the Triall of your lives there hath beene great care and paines taken, and much time spent: and very few or none of you, but stand convicted upon your owne voluntarie confessions and Examinations, Ex ore proprio: Few Witnesses examined against you, but such as were present, and parties in your Assemblies. Nay I may further affirme, What persons of your nature and condition, ever were Arraigned and Tried with more solemnitie, had more libertie given to pleade or answere to everie particular point of Evidence against you? In conclusion such hath beene the generall care of all, that had to deale with you, that you have neither cause to be offended in the proceedings of the Justices, that first tooke paines in these businesses, nor with the Court that hath had great care to give nothing in evidence against you, but matter of fact; Sufficient matter upon Record, and not to induce, or leade the Jurie to finde any one of you guiltie upon matter of suspition or presumption, nor with the witnesses who have beene tried, as it were in the fire: Nay, you cannot denie but must confesse what exraordinarie meanes hath beene used to make triall of their evidence, and to discover the least intended practice [deceit] in any one of them, to touch your lives unjustly.
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T he Lancashire Witches As you stand simply (your offences and bloudie practises not considered) your fall would rather move compassion, then exasperate any man. For whom would not the ruine of so many poore creatures at one time, touch, as in apparance simple, and of little understanding? But the bloud of those innocent children, and others his Majesties Subjects, whom cruelly and barbarously you have murdered, and cut off, with all the rest of your offences, hath cryed out unto the Lord against you, and sollicited for satisfaction and revenge, and that hath brought this heavie judgement upon you at this time. It is therefore now time no longer wilfully to strive, both against the providence of God, and the Justice of the Land: the more you labour to acquit yourselves, the more evident and apparant you make your offences to the World. And unpossible it is that they shall either prosper or continue in this World, or receive reward in the next, that are stained with so much innocent bloud. The worst then I wish to you, standing at the Barre convicted, to receive your Judgement, is, Remorse, and true Repentance, for the safegard of your Soules, and after, an humble, penitent, and heartie acknowledgment of your grievous sinnes and offences committed both against GOD and Man . . . . It only remaines I pronounce the Judgement of the Court against you by the Kings authoritie, which is; You shall all goe from hence to the Castle, from whence you came; from thence you shall bee carried to the place of Execution for this Countie: where your bodies shall bee hanged until you be dead; And GOD HAVE MERCIE UPON YOUR SOULES.2
An Execution and a Summary On Thursday 20 August 1612, the witches of Lancashire were hanged at Gallows Hill, on the windswept moors outside of the Lancaster city gates. It is difficult to determine precisely why this persecution of those men and women who were thought to be guilty of heinous crimes
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Epilogue through the practising of witchcraft arose in Lancashire at this time. However, there were many contributing social and economic factors. Difficult economic times in the Pendle region no doubt contributed to village tensions between and within families. Refusals of charity and threatened revenge loom large. The new Protestantism saw both the old ways of witchcraft and Catholicism, both still deeply embedded in Lancashire, as inimical to the establishing of the new religion, both equally superstitious and equally worthy of being rooted out. Unforeseen, sudden, and unexpected deaths, illnesses and injuries combined with the magical world of the everyday to foster witchcraft accusations, especially when the authorities were actively interested. So too, therefore, an activist magistracy was concerned to demonstrate its allegiance to the state, and willing to follow a trail of witches, if not actively to hunt them down, and an ambitious judge was seeking personal advancement from the king. Both played their roles in the framework of the new Witchcraft Act of 1604. Elite and popular belief in magic and witchcraft intertwined. Among the elite, Continental demonology, fostered not only by the Daemonologie of a Protestant king but also through the advocacy of Catholic priests like Christopher Southworth, saw the demonisation of the English familiar spirit, the development of the notion of the satanic compact, cannibalism, infanticide and the witches’ Sabbath come into play. Also, there were witches in Lancashire competitively engaged in the business of magic for good and ill, assisted by familiar spirits, both needed and feared by their local communities. They were mostly women of power finding their place in a patriarchal world. The meeting at Malkin Tower on April 10 was crucial. To have been there at all was sufficient to have predisposed everyone to believe those present were guilty of murders, committed and planned, for it indicated that many of them were not only criminals, but that they were also involved in ‘organised crime’, both against individuals and against the state. Though no single factor was decisive, all of them combined to create the persecution of witches in Lancashire in 1612. Nevertheless, the
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T he Lancashire Witches immediate cause of the events is clear – that fateful meeting between the young witch, Alizon Device, and the pedlar, John Law. All might have been different had Alizon Device not encountered John Law along the road through Colne Field on that fateful March day in 1612 and asked if he had any pins. And the trials of the Lancashire witches might never have begun had John Law and his family not brought Alizon before the magistrate, Roger Nowell, on a charge of maleficium, determined to seek justice and to have their revenge.
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Introduction The Wonderful Discovery of Witches in the County of Lancaster 1. Thomas Potts, The Wonderfull Discoverie of Witches in the Countie of Lancaster (London, 1613), sig. S.1.v. 2. Potts, The Wonderfull Discoverie of Witches, sig. R.3.r. 3. Potts, The Wonderfull Discoverie of Witches, sig. R.4.v. 4. Potts, The Wonderfull Discoverie of Witches, sig. R.4.v. 5. Potts, The Wonderfull Discoverie of Witches, sig. R.4.v. 6. Potts, The Wonderfull Discoverie of Witches, sig. R.4.r. 7. Potts, The Wonderfull Discoverie of Witches, sig. S.1.v. 8. Potts, The Wonderfull Discoverie of Witches, sig. R.2.r. 9. See John S. Cockburn, A History of English Assizes, 1558–1714 (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1972), ch. 5. 10. Potts, The Wonderfull Discoverie of Witches, sig. D.1.r. 11. Potts, The Wonderfull Discoverie of Witches, sig. A.3.v. 12. Potts, The Wonderfull Discoverie of Witches, sig. A.3.v. 13. Potts, The Wonderfull Discoverie of Witches, ‘The Epistle Dedicatorie’. 14. Potts, The Wonderfull Discoverie of Witches, ‘The Epistle Dedicatorie’. 15. Potts, The Wonderfull Discoverie of Witches, sig. Z.3.v. 16. Potts, The Wonderfull Discoverie of Witches, sigs. B.1.r–v. 17. The authorship of The Arraignement and Triall of Jennet Preston is discussed in chapter four. 18. Potts, The Wonderfull Discoverie of Witches, sig. B.1.v. 19. See Cockburn, A History of English Assizes, 1558–1714, p. 46. 20. F.R. Raines (ed.), A Description of the State, Civil & Ecclesiastical, of the County of Lancaster, about the year 1590 (Manchester: Chetham Society Publications, 1875), p. 1.
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T he Lancashire Witches 21. Raines, A Description of the State, Civil & Ecclesiastical, of the County of Lancaster, p. 2. 22. Raines, A Description of the State, Civil & Ecclesiastical, of the County of Lancaster, p. 4. 23. He remained in the Northern Circuit until the end of 1617, being promoted to the Midland Circuit in the following year, where he served until his death in 1626. 24. See especially the important article by Stephen Pumphrey, ‘Potts, Plots and Politics: James I’s Daemonologie and The Wonderfull Discoverie of Witchcraft’ in Robert Poole (ed.), The Lancashire Witches: Histories and Stories (Manchester: Manchester University Press, 2002), pp. 22–41. 25. See Stuart Clark, ‘King James’s Daemonologie: Witchcraft and Kingship,’ in Sydney Anglo (ed.), The Damned Art: Essays in the Literature of Witchcraft London: Routledge & Kegan Paul), pp. 156–81. See also, P.G. Maxwell-Stuart, ‘King James’s Experience of Witches, and the 1604 English Witchcraft Act,’ in John Newton and Jo Bath (eds.), Witchcraft and the Act of 1604 (Leiden: Brill, 2008), pp. 31–46. 26. Potts, The Wonderfull Discoverie of Witches, sigs. T.2.r–v. 27. Potts, The Wonderfull Discoverie of Witches, ‘The Epistle Dedicatorie’. 28. See ‘Knyvet, Thomas,’ D.N.B. 29. Potts, The Wonderfull Discoverie of Witches, sig. X.1.v. 30. See Edgar Peel and Pat Southern, The Trials of the Lancashire Witches: A Study of Seventeenth-Century Witchcraft (Newton Abbot: David & Charles, 1972), p. 58. 31. David Cressy, Agnes Bowker’s Cat: Travesties and Transgressions in Tudor and Stuart England (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2000), p. 26.
Chapter One A Witch Hunt Begins 1. See Malcolm Gaskill, Witchfinders: A Seventeenth-Century English Tragedy (London: John Murray, 2006). 2. Potts, The Wonderfull Discoverie of Witches, sig. B.2.r.
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Notes 3. James Sharpe, ‘Introduction,’ in Robert Poole (ed.), The Lancashire Witches: Histories and Stories (Manchester: Manchester University Press, 2002), p. 3. 4. See James Sharpe, Instruments of Darkness: Witchcraft in England 1550–1750 (London: Hamish Hamilton, 1996), p. 125. The most recent estimate for overall executions for witchcraft in Europe is 45,000. See Brian Levack, The Witch-Hunt in Early Modern Europe (Harlow: Pearson Longman, third edition, 2006), p. 23. 5. Jonathan Lumby, however, assumes that he had read the Malleus, Perkins and James’s Daemonologie. See Jonathan Lumby, The Lancashire Witch-Craze: Jennet Preston and the Lancashire Witches, 1612 (Lancaster: Carnegie Publishing, 2003), p. 23. But I can find no internal evidence within the reports written by him that would substantiate this. 6. For the texts of Witchcraft Acts, see John Newton and Jo Bath (eds.), Witchcraft and the Act of 1604 (Leiden: Brill, 2008), appendix 1. 7. For the take-up of the 1604 Act more generally, see Marion Gibson, ‘Applying the Act of 1604: Witches in Essex, Northamptonshire, and Lancashire, before and after 1604,’ in Newton and Bath (eds.), Witchcraft and the Act of 1604, pp. 116–28. 8. Lyndal Roper, Witch Craze: Terror and Fantasy in Baroque Germany (New Haven and London: Yale University Press, 2004), p. 58. 9. Potts, The Wonderfull Discoverie of Witches, sig. R.3.v. 10. Potts, The Wonderfull Discoverie of Witches, sig. R.3.r. 11. Potts, The Wonderfull Discoverie of Witches, sig. B.1.v. 12. Potts, The Wonderfull Discoverie of Witches, sig. B.1.v. 13. James Device distinguishes between his grandmother’s house and his mother’s house, though no doubt they were close by. See Potts, The Wonderfull Discoverie of Witches, sig. C.2.r. 14. For an extensive discussion of possible locations of Malkin Tower, see John A. Clayton, The Lancashire Witch Conspiracy: A History of Pendle Forest and the Pendle Witch Trials (Barrowford: Barrowford Press, 2007), ch. 16.
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T he Lancashire Witches 15. William Harrison Ainsworth, The Lancashire Witches: A Romance of Pendle Forest (London: George Routledge and Sons, 1882), p. 1. 16. John Swain, ‘Witchcraft, economy and society in the forest of Pendle,’ in Robert Poole (ed.), The Lancashire Witches: Histories and Stories (Manchester: Manchester University Press, 2002), p. 78. 17. See Clayton, The Lancashire Witch Conspiracy, p. 173. 18. See Owen Davies, Cunning-Folk: Popular Magic in English History (London and New York: Hambledon, 2003). 19. Reginald Scot, The Discoverie of Witchcraft (London, 1584), p. 4. 20. William Perkins, A Discourse of the Damned Art of Witchcraft (London, 1608), pp. 174–5. 21. Leland L. Estes, ‘Good Witches, Wise Men, Astrologers, and Scientists: William Perkins and the Limits of the European WitchHunts,’ in Ingrid Merkel and Allen G. Debus, Hermeticism and the Renaissance: Intellectual History and the Occult in Early Modern Europe (Washington: Folger Shakespeare Library, 1988), p. 160. 22. Potts, The Wonderfull Discoverie of Witches, sig. B.2.r. 23. The document labelled ‘The Examination of Alizon Device’ (sig. C.1.r.) is dated 13 March. This is an error, for the place of the document within the text as a whole indicates that it arose from the interrogations on 30 March. 24. Potts, The Wonderfull Discoverie of Witches, sig. C.1.v. 25. See Clayton, The Lancashire Witch Conspiracy, p. 180. 26. Potts, The Wonderfull Discoverie of Witches, sig. C.1.v. 27. Potts, The Wonderfull Discoverie of Witches, sig. C.2.v. 28. On the role of women in searching for physical marks thought to characterise a witch, see Clive Holmes, ‘Women: Witnesses and Witches ,’ Past and Present, no. 140 (1993), pp. 65–75. 29. Lambert Daneau,, A Dialogue of Witches ([London], 1575), sig. F.4.v. 30. See Christina Larner, Enemies of God: The Witch-hunt in Scotland (London: Blackwell, 1981), pp. 110–12. 31. G.B. Harrison, King James the First: Daemonologie (1597) (New York: Barnes and Noble, 1966), p. 33.
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Notes 32. Potts, The Wonderfull Discoverie of Witches, sig. B.2.v. 33. Potts, The Wonderfull Discoverie of Witches, sig. D.3.r. 34. Potts, The Wonderfull Discoverie of Witches, sig. D.3.r. 35. Michael Dalton, The Countrey Justice Containing the Practice of the Justices of the Peace out of their Sessions (London, 1630), p. 273. 36. See Anon., The Most Strange and Admirable Discoverie of the Three Witches of Warboys, Arraigned, Convicted, and Executed at the Last Assises at Huntington (London, 1593), sig. P.4.v. See also Philip C. Almond, The Witches of Warboys: An Extraordinary Story of Sorcery, Sadism and Satanic Possession (London: I.B.Tauris, 2008). 37. Michael Dalton, The Countrey Justice (London, 1697), p. 384. 38. Potts, The Wonderfull Discoverie of Witches, sig. R.4.v. 39. See Rudolf Otto, The Idea of the Holy (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1958). 40. On fairies and familiars, see Emma Wilby, ‘The Witch’s Familiar and the Fairy in Early Modern England and Scotland,’ Folklore 111 (2000), pp. 283–305; James A. Serpell, ‘Guardian Spirits or Demonic Pets: The Concept of the Witch’s Familiar in Early Modern England, 1530–1712,’ in Angela N.H. Creager and William C. Jordan (eds.), The Animal/Human Boundary: Historical Perspectives (Rochester, NY: University of Rochester Press, 2002), pp. 157–90; and James Sharpe, ‘The Witch’s Familiar in Elizabethan England,’ in G.W. Bernard and S.J. Gunn (eds.), Authority and Consent in Tudor England (Aldershot: Ashgate, 2002), pp. 219–32. 41. See Clive Holmes, ‘Popular Culture? Witches, Magistrates, and Divines in Early Modern England,’ in Steven L. Kaplan, Understanding Popular Culture: Europe from the Middle Ages to the Nineteenth Century (Berlin: New York, 1984), pp. 85–111. 42. See Carlo Ginzburg, Ecstasies: Deciphering the Witches’ Sabbath (London: Hutchinson Radius, 1990); and Emma Wilby, Cunning Folk and Familiar Spirits: Shamanistic Visionary Traditions in Early Modern British Witchcraft and Magic (Brighton and Portland: Sussex Academic Press, 2005).
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T he Lancashire Witches 43. On the way in which pre-existing conceptual systems are incorporated into preternatural experiences, see Philip C. Almond, Mystical Experience and Religious Doctrine: An Investigation of the Study of Mysticism in World Religions (Berlin: Mouton, 1982), part 2. 44. Potts, The Wonderfull Discoverie of Witches, sig. B.3.r. 45. Potts, The Wonderfull Discoverie of Witches, sig. B.3.r–v. 46. Potts, The Wonderfull Discoverie of Witches, sig. B.3.v. 47. Potts, The Wonderfull Discoverie of Witches, sig. C.2.v. 48. Potts, The Wonderfull Discoverie of Witches, sig. C.2.r. 49. Potts, The Wonderfull Discoverie of Witches, sig. C.2.r. 50. Potts, The Wonderfull Discoverie of Witches, sig. C.2.r. 51. Scot, The Discoverie of Witchcraft, pp. 152–3. 52. See George L. Kittredge, Witchcraft in Old and New England (Cambridge, Massachusetts, 1929), pp. 149–50. 53. Potts, The Wonderfull Discoverie of Witches, sig. H.3.r. 54. See Cockburn, A History of English Assizes, 1558–1714, p. 107. 55. Potts, The Wonderfull Discoverie of Witches, sig. C.4.r.
Chapter Two Cunning and Deadly Families 1. J.S. Cockburn has remarked that only once, during the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, namely in 1570, was the Assize held in Kendal, rather than in Appleby. The 1612 Assize may have been held in Appleby rather than Kendal, though Potts remarks that the judges ‘came from Kendall to Lancaster’. See J.S. Cockburn, ‘The Northern Assize Circuit,’ Northern History, 3 (1968), p. 129. See also Potts, The Wonderfull Discoverie of Witches, sig. C.3.v. 2. Potts, The Wonderfull Discoverie of Witches, sig. C.4.r. 3. Marion Gibson, ‘Thomas Potts’s “dusty memory”: Reconstructing Justice in The Wonderfull Discoverie of Witches,’ in Robert Poole (ed.), The Lancashire Witches: Histories and Stories (Manchester: Manchester University Press, 2002), p. 45. However, I read the title page as indicating the publisher as John Barnes and the
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Notes printer as William Stansby. I recognise the ‘anachronism’ in talking of ‘publisher’ during this period. See Adrian Johns, The Nature of the Book: Print and Knowledge in the Making (Chicago and London: The University of Chicago Press, 1998), p. xix. 4. Potts, The Wonderfull Discoverie of Witches, sig. D.1.r. 5. Potts, The Wonderfull Discoverie of Witches, sig. D.2.v. 6. On early modern criminal proceedings, see Cockburn, A History of English Assizes, 1558–1714, ch. 6. 7. Potts, The Wonderfull Discoverie of Witches, sig. C.4.v. 8. Cockburn, A History of English Assizes, 1558–1714, pp. 110–11. 9. See Cockburn, A History of English Assizes, 1558–1714, p. 122. 10. Potts, The Wonderfull Discoverie of Witches, sig. D.2.v. Anne Whittle was tried in a batch along with Elizabeth and James Device. 11. Jennet Device was to be the chief witness for the prosecution though she was not charged with any witchcraft in 1612. However, we find a Jennet Davies who was tried and condemned at the Lancashire Assizes on 24 March 1634. See Thomas D. Whitaker, The History of the Parish of Whalley (London: George Routledge and Sons, 4th edition, 1876), i.301. Interestingly, one of the justices of the peace in this case was John Starkie, one of the children purportedly possessed by the Devil in the household of Nicholas Starkie in Cleworth in 1596. See Chapter Five, ‘The Lancashire Seven’ below. 12. Holmes, ‘Women: Witnesses and Witches’, p. 52. 13. Potts, The Wonderfull Discoverie of Witches, sig. D.2.r. 14. Potts, The Wonderfull Discoverie of Witches, sig. D.2.r. 15. Potts, The Wonderfull Discoverie of Witches, sig. D.1.v. 16. Potts, The Wonderfull Discoverie of Witches, sig. D.2.r. 17. Samuel Harsnett, A Declaration of Egregious Popish Impostures (London, 1603), p. 136. 18. Potts, The Wonderfull Discoverie of Witches, sigs. D.3.r–D.4.r. 19. Potts, The Wonderfull Discoverie of Witches, sigs. D.3.r–v. 20. Potts, The Wonderfull Discoverie of Witches, sig. B.4.r. 21. Potts, The Wonderfull Discoverie of Witches, sig. B.4.v.
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T he Lancashire Witches 22. Potts, The Wonderfull Discoverie of Witches, sig. B.4.v. 23. Potts, The Wonderfull Discoverie of Witches, sig. E.4.v. 24. See George L. Kittredge, Witchcraft in Old and New England (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1929), p. 142. 25. Potts, The Wonderfull Discoverie of Witches, sig. E.3.v–E.4.r. 26. Potts, The Wonderfull Discoverie of Witches, sig. E.4.v. 27. Potts, The Wonderfull Discoverie of Witches, sig. E.2.v. 28. Potts, The Wonderfull Discoverie of Witches, sig. E.3.r. 29. See John Swain, ‘Witchcraft, economy and society in the forest of Pendle,’ p. 74. 30. Potts, The Wonderfull Discoverie of Witches, sig. E.2.r. 31. Potts, The Wonderfull Discoverie of Witches, sig. D.4.r. 32. See Amy Louise Erickson, Women and Property in Early Modern England (London: Routledge, 1993). 33. Potts, The Wonderfull Discoverie of Witches, sig. D.4.r. 34. Potts, The Wonderfull Discoverie of Witches, sig. D.4.r. 35. Potts, The Wonderfull Discoverie of Witches, sig. E.2.v. 36. Potts, The Wonderfull Discoverie of Witches, sigs. E.2.r–v. 37. Potts, The Wonderfull Discoverie of Witches, sig. D.3.v. 38. Potts, The Wonderfull Discoverie of Witches, sig. D.3.v. 39. Potts, The Wonderfull Discoverie of Witches, sig. O.1.r. 40. Potts, The Wonderfull Discoverie of Witches, sig. O.1.v. 41. Potts, The Wonderfull Discoverie of Witches, sig. O.2.r. 42. Potts, The Wonderfull Discoverie of Witches, sig. O. 2.r. 43. Potts, The Wonderfull Discoverie of Witches, sig. O.2.r. 44. Potts, The Wonderfull Discoverie of Witches, sig. D.3.v. Old Laund and New Laund [Old and New Forest] were two of the divisions of Pendle Forest. Both were close to Greenhead. 45. See Whitaker, The History of the Parish of Whalley, ii.121 for the Assheton (Ashton) family genealogy. 46. Potts, The Wonderfull Discoverie of Witches, sig. N.4.r. 47. Potts, The Wonderfull Discoverie of Witches, sig. O.2.v. 48. Potts, The Wonderfull Discoverie of Witches, sig. O.2.r. 49. Potts, The Wonderfull Discoverie of Witches, sig. N.4.r.
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Notes 50. Potts, The Wonderfull Discoverie of Witches, sig. N.4.r. 51. Potts, The Wonderfull Discoverie of Witches, sig. O.1.v. 52. Cockburn, A History of English Assizes, 1558–1714, p. 122. 53. Potts, The Wonderfull Discoverie of Witches, sig. O.2.r. 54. Potts, The Wonderfull Discoverie of Witches, sig.R.3.r. 55. Potts, The Wonderfull Discoverie of Witches, sig. S.2.r. 56. Potts, The Wonderfull Discoverie of Witches, sig. R.3.r.
Chapter Three A ‘Sabbat of Witches’ at Malkin Tower? 1. See Eamon Duffy, The Stripping of the Altars: Traditional Religion in England, 1400–1580 (New Haven and London: Yale University Press, 1992), pp. 29–31. 2. See Stuart Clark, Thinking with Demons: The Idea of Witchcraft in Early Modern Europe (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2005). 3. Potts, The Wonderfull Discoverie of Witches, sig. C.3.r. 4. Potts, The Wonderfull Discoverie of Witches, sig. C.3.r. 5. Potts, The Wonderfull Discoverie of Witches, sig. F.3.r. See also G.2.v. 6. Potts, The Wonderfull Discoverie of Witches, sig. K.2.r. 7. See Reginald Scot, The Discoverie of Witchcraft (London, 1584). See also Philip C. Almond, England’s First Demonologist: Reginald Scot and The Discoverie of Witchcraft (London: I.B.Tauris, 2011). 8. See Philip C. Almond, ‘King James I and the Burning of Reginald Scot’s The Discoverie of Witchcraft: The Invention of a Tradition,’ Notes and Queries 56 (2009), pp. 209–13. 9. For his account of the demonologists’ public pact he drew directly on the 1486 Malleus Maleficarum of Henry Institoris and Jacob Sprenger, on the Dominican Bartolomeo della Spina’s 1523 Quaestio de Strigibus (An Investigation of Witches), Jean Bodin’s 1580 Daemonomanie, and the French Calvinist Lambert Daneau’s 1574 Les Sorciers (The Sorcerers). 10. Scot, The Discoverie of Witchcraft, p. 42.
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T he Lancashire Witches 11. Harrison, King James the First: Daemonologie (1597), p. 36. 12. Harrison, King James the First: Daemonologie (1597), p. 37. 13. See Wallace Notestein, A History of Witchcraft in England from 1558 to 1718 (Washington: The American Historical Association, 1911), p. 124. 14. Potts, The Wonderfull Discoverie of Witches, sig. F.2.v. 15. See Clayton, The Lancashire Witch Conspiracy, p. 190. 16. Potts, The Wonderfull Discoverie of Witches, sig. G.1.r. 17. See Daniel P. Walker, Unclean Spirits: Possession and Exorcism in France and England in the late Sixteenth and early Seventeenth Centuries (Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 1981); Philip C. Almond, Demonic Possession and Exorcism in Early Modern England (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2004); Frank W. Brownlow, Shakespeare, Harsnett, and the Devils of Denham (Newark: University of Delaware Press, 1993). 18. See Almond, Demonic Possession and Exorcism in Early Modern England, pp. 287–330. 19. For this account of Anne Gunter, I am particularly indebted to James Sharpe, The Bewitching of Anne Gunter: A Horrible and True Story of Football, Witchcraft, Murder, and the King of England (London: Profile Books, 1999). 20. Thomas Fuller, The Church History of Britain from the Birth of Jesus Christ to the year MDCXLVIII (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1845), pp. 451–2. For King James and other frauds, see Kittredge, Witchcraft in Old and New England, pp. 319–28. 21. Potts, The Wonderfull Discoverie of Witches, sigs. F.2.v–F.3.r. 22. Potts, The Wonderfull Discoverie of Witches, sig. G.3.v. 23. Potts, The Wonderfull Discoverie of Witches, sig. I.2.v. 24. Potts, The Wonderfull Discoverie of Witches, sig. I.3.v. 25. These were the wife of Hugh Hargreives of under Pendle, her uncle Christopher Howgate of Pendle, and his wife Elizabeth, the wife of Dick Miles of Roughlee, and Christopher Jackes and his wife from Thornholme. Potts, The Wonderfull Discoverie of Witches, sig. I.4.r names only five, but six are listed at G.3.v.
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Notes 26. These were Jennet the wife of Hugh Hargreives, the wife of Christopher Bulcock and her son John, the mother of Myles Nutter, Elizabeth, the wife of Christopher Hargraves, Christopher Howgate and Elizabeth his wife, Alice Gray of Colne, a Mouldheeles, also from Colne, and Jennet Preston. 27. This is if we count Christopher Hargraves who is mentioned in Potts’s list on sig. R.1.r. as the same person as Christopher Jackes on sig. I.4.r. (as do Peel and Southern, The Trials of the Lancashire Witches, p. 42). 28. The various mentions of those present at the meeting may be found at Potts, The Wonderfull Discoverie of Witches, sigs. G.3.r, G.3.v, I.3.r, I.4.r, O.4.v, P.4.r-Q.1.r, Q.4.r., R.1.v–R.2.r, Y.4.r–v, Z.1.r. 29. Potts, The Wonderfull Discoverie of Witches, sig. R.2.r. 30. Potts, The Wonderfull Discoverie of Witches, sig. G.3.r. Two colleagues of Chattox from Burnley were Loomeshaw’s wife and a Jane Boothman. At the time of Chattox’s interrogation in Fence on 2 April, they are said to be dead. Granting that the assertion of their death is incorrect, it is possible that they are the two women from Burnley at Malkin Tower. See Potts, The Wonderfull Discoverie of Witches, sig. D.3.v. 31. An Alice Gray is said to have been found not guilty. But this is not the Alice Gray from Colne who was present at Malkin Tower. See Potts, The Wonderfull Discoverie of Witches, sig. X.1.r. This is most likely to have been a different Alice Gray, one of the Samlesbury witches. She is listed on sig. X.1.r. among a group of Samlesbury witches who were found to be not guilty and listed as a witch of Samlesbury on sig. C.4.r. See here, Lumby, The Lancashire Witch-Craze: Jennet Preston and the Lancashire Witches, 1612, p. 52, and Peel and Southern, The Trials of the Lancashire Witches, p. 50. Both Lumby and Peel and Southern assume the identity of these two Alice Grays. 32. See Lara Apps and Andrew Gow, Male Witches in Early Modern Europe (Manchester and New York, Manchester University Press, 2003), p. 45, table 1.
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T he Lancashire Witches 33. Sharpe, Instruments of Darkness, p. 184. 34. See Michael D. Bailey, ‘From Sorcery to Witchcraft: Clerical Conceptions of Magic in the Later Middle Ages,’ Speculum 76 (2001), pp. 960–90. 35. Alexander Roberts, A Treatise of Witchcraft (London, 1616), p. 43. 36. Henry Holland, The Historie of Adam, or the Foure-fold State of Man (London, 1606), p. 7. See also Philip C. Almond, Adam and Eve in Seventeenth-Century Thought (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1999), pp. 187–90. 37. Robin Robbins (ed.) Sir Thomas Browne’s Pseudodoxia Epidemica (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1981), i.bk.1, ch.1. 38. John Stearne, A Confirmation and Discovery of Witchcraft (London, 1648), p. 11. 39. See Apps and Gow, Male Witches in Early Modern Europe, ch. 5. 40. Christina Larner, Witchcraft and Religion: The Politics of Popular Belief (Oxford: Blackwell, 1984), p. 87. 41. On the complexity of the issues surrounding witchcraft and gender, see Willem de Blécourt, ‘The Making of the Female Witch: Reflections on Witchcraft and Gender in the Early Modern Period,’ Gender and History 12 (2000), pp. 287–309. 42. Potts, The Wonderfull Discoverie of Witches, sig. G.3.v. 43. Potts, The Wonderfull Discoverie of Witches, sig. G.4.r. 44. Potts, The Wonderfull Discoverie of Witches, sig. R.3.v. 45. Potts, The Wonderfull Discoverie of Witches, sig. B.2.v. 46. Potts, The Wonderfull Discoverie of Witches, sig. D.3.v. 47. Potts, The Wonderfull Discoverie of Witches, sig. H.3.v. 48. Potts, The Wonderfull Discoverie of Witches, sig. F.4.r. 49. W.W., A True and Just Record of all the Witches, taken at S. Oses in the Countie of Essex (London, 1582), fold out table. 50. Anon., The Witches of Northamptonshire (London, 1612), sig. C.3.v. 51. Anon., Newes from Scotland, Declaring the Damnable Life and Death of Doctor Fian (London, 1591), p. 14. 52. Anon., Newes from Scotland, Declaring the Damnable Life and Death of Doctor Fian, p. 16.
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Notes 53. See Kittredge, Witchcraft in Old and New England, p. 94. 54. But cf. here, Lumby, The Lancashire Witch-Craze: Jennet Preston and the Lancashire Witches, 1612, p. 48, who believes that Nowell would have read Newes from Scotland. 55. Randy A. Scott (trans.), Jean Bodin: On the Demon-Mania of Witches (Toronto: Centre for Reformation and Renaissance Studies, 1995), p. 113. 56. P.G. Maxwell-Stuart, Martín Del Rio: Investigations into Magic (Manchester: Manchester University Press, 2000), p. 75. 57. E.A. Ashwin (trans.), Francesco Maria Guazzo: Compendium Maleficarum (New York: Dover, 1988), p. 14. Guazzo’s account of demonic baptism was probably derived directly from Del Rio. 58. See, for example, Montague Summers, The History of Witchcraft and Demonology (Secaucus, New Jersey: Castle Books, 1992), pp. 84–5. 59. Lumby, The Lancashire Witch-Craze: Jennet Preston and the Lancashire Witches, 1612, p. 48. 60. See Lumby, The Lancashire Witch-Craze: Jennet Preston and the Lancashire Witches, 1612, pp. 106–8. On Brereley, see D.N.B. and David Como, Blown by the Spirit: Puritanism and the Emergence of an Antinomian Underground in Pre-Civil-War England (Stanford: Stanford University Press, 2004), ch. 8. 61. See E. Belfort Bax, Rise and Fall of the Anabaptists (London: Swan, Sonnenschein & Co., 1903), p. 357. 62. Quoted by Geoffrey F. Nuttall, The Holy Spirit in Puritan Faith and Experience (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1992), p. 178. 63. David R. Como, ‘Brereley, Roger,’ Oxford D.N.B. For a list of the charges against Brereley in 1616, see Theodor Sippell, Zur Vorgeschichte des Quäkertums (Giessen: Alfred Topelman, 1920), pp. 50–2. These can only with some care be taken as an accurate reflection of Grindletonian beliefs. There is, unfortunately, no mention of any ‘Spirit-baptism’. 64. On the Familists in England, see Christopher Marsh, The Family of Love in English Society, 1550–1630 (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1994).
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T he Lancashire Witches 65. Potts, The Wonderfull Discoverie of Witches, sigs. G.3.r and I.4.r. 66. Potts, The Wonderfull Discoverie of Witches, sig. I.3.r; also see sig. Y.3.v–Y.4.r. 67. Potts, The Wonderfull Discoverie of Witches, sigs. G.4.r–v. See also sigs. I.2.v, Q.4.r and Y.3.v. 68. Potts, The Wonderfull Discoverie of Witches, sigs. I.4.r–v. 69. See Christopher Haigh, Reformation and Resistance in Tudor Lancashire (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1975), p. 52. I owe the reference to Lumby, The Lancashire Witch-Craze: Jennet Preston and the Lancashire Witches, 1612, p. 48. Lumby references it to the reign of Henry VIII rather than Henry VII. 70. Potts, The Wonderfull Discoverie of Witches, sig. I.3.v. 71. Potts, The Wonderfull Discoverie of Witches, sig. I.3.r. See also sig. G.4.v and sig. Y.4.r. 72. Potts, The Wonderfull Discoverie of Witches, sig. I.3.r. see also sig. Y.4.r. 73. Scott (trans.), Jean Bodin: On the Demon-Mania of Witches, pp. 116–7. 74. Ashwin (trans.), Francesco Maria Guazzo: Compendium Maleficarum, p. 34. See also Maxwell-Stuart, Martín Del Rio: Investigations into Magic, p. 92. 75. Richard Bernard, A Guide to Grand-Jury Men: Divided into Two Books (London, 1629), p. 217. 76. Henry Charles Lea, Materials Toward a History of Witchcraft, (New York: Thomas Yoseloff, 1957), i. 178–80. The phrases in square brackets are additions to the canon Episcopi in the Decretum. 77. See Bartolomeo della Spina, Quaestio de Strigibus (Venice, 1523), chs. 21–26. See also Lea, Materials Toward a History of Witchcraft, i. 390–1. 78. See Johannes Nider, Formicarius (Cologne, 1480), 71b-72b. Werner Tschacher, Der Formicarius des Johannes Nider von 1437/38 (Aachen: Shaker Verlag, 2000), pp. 344–5. 79. See Granger Ryan and Helmut Ripperger (trans.), The Golden Legend of Jacobus de Voragine (New York: Arno Press, 1969), p. 397.
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Notes 80. Christopher S. Mackay (ed. and trans.), Malleus Maleficarum (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2006), pt. 2, qn. 1, ch. 3, 105C. 81. Mackay (ed. and trans.), Malleus Maleficarum, pt. 2, qn. 1, ch. 2, 100D. 82. Mackay (ed. and trans.), Malleus Maleficarum, pt. 2, qn. 1.ch. 3, 104A. 83. Mackay (ed. and trans.), Malleus Maleficarum, pt. 1, qn. 1, 10C–D (my italics). 84. Mackay (ed. and trans.), Malleus Maleficarum, pt. 2, qn. 1, ch. 3, 105C. 85. Lumby, The Lancashire Witch-Craze: Jennet Preston and the Lancashire Witches, 1612, p. 54. 86. Lumby, The Lancashire Witch-Craze: Jennet Preston and the Lancashire Witches, 1612, p. 54. 87. Harrison, King James the First: Daemonologie (1597), p. 38. 88. Harrison, King James the First: Daemonologie (1597), p. 38. 89. Harrison, King James the First: Daemonologie (1597), p. 39. 90. Harrison, King James the First: Daemonologie (1597), p. 39. 91. Harrison, King James the First: Daemonologie (1597), p. 61. 92. Scot, The Discoverie of Witchcraft (London, 1584), p. 89. Scot was of course, at the same time, by his use of the term ‘transubstantiation’ criticising the Catholic doctrine of the Mass in which bread and wine were transubstantiated into body and blood. 93. Lea, Materials Toward a History of Witchcraft, i. 180. 94. Mackay (ed. and trans.), Malleus Maleficarum, pt. 1, qn. 10, 59C– 63C. One exception was Bodin in his Daemonomanie. 95. Lumby, The Lancashire Witch-Craze: Jennet Preston and the Lancashire Witches, 1612, p. 188, n. 80. The same misread of the Daemonologie is done by Edgar Peel and Pat Southern. See Edgar Peel and Pat Southern, The Trials of the Lancashire Witches: A Study of Seventeenth-Century Witchcraft (Newton Abbot: David & Charles, 1972), p. 81. 96. Potts, The Wonderfull Discoverie of Witches, sig. G.4.v. See also sig. I.3.r and sig. Y.4.r.
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T he Lancashire Witches 97. Potts, The Wonderfull Discoverie of Witches, sig. I.3.r. See also sig. Y.4.r. 98. Anon., A Rehearsall both Straung and True, of Hainous and Horrible Actes Committed by Elizabeth Stile, alias Rockingham, Mother Dutten, Mother Devell, Mother Margaret, Fower notorious Witches, Apprehended at Windsor in the Countie of Barks. And at Abbington Arraigned, Condemned, and Executed, on the 26. daye of Februarie laste Anno 1579 (London, 1579), sig. B.1.r. 99. See Ewen, C. L’Estrange, Witchcraft and Demonianism (London: Heath Cranton, 1933), pp. 153, 358–9, 397. 100. Robin Briggs, Witches and Neighbours: The Social and Cultural Context of European Witchcraft (Oxford: Blackwell, 2002), p. 74.
Chapter Four The Killing of Master Lister 1. Potts, The Wonderfull Discoverie of Witches, sigs. I.2.v–I.3.r. see also Potts, The Wonderfull Discoverie of Witches, sigs. Y.3.v–Y.4.r. 2. Potts, The Wonderfull Discoverie of Witches, sig. Q.4.r. See also Potts, The Wonderfull Discoverie of Witches, sig. Y.4.v. 3. Potts, The Wonderfull Discoverie of Witches, sigs. Q.4.r–v. 4. Potts, The Wonderfull Discoverie of Witches, sig. G.3.r. See also Potts, The Wonderfull Discoverie of Witches, sig. I.4.r. 5. Potts, The Wonderfull Discoverie of Witches, sig. Z.1.r. 6. Potts, The Wonderfull Discoverie of Witches, sig. Y.4.r. 7. Whitaker, The History of the Parish of Whalley, ii. 304, ‘Pedigree of Holden, of Holden’. 8. Potts, The Wonderfull Discoverie of Witches, sig. Y.4.v. 9. This is the castle the remains of which are now known as Clifford’s Tower. 10. The pagination remains continuous through both texts. 11. Potts, The Wonderfull Discoverie of Witches, sig. X.4.v. See also sig. Z.3.r. 12. See Lumby, The Lancashire Witch-Craze: Jennet Preston and the Lancashire Witches, 1612, pp. 14, 184, n. 15. 13. Edward Arber, A Transcript of the Registers of the Company of Stationers of London; 1554–1640 A.D. (London, 1876), iii. 228.
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Notes 14. See Potts, The Wonderfull Discoverie of Witches, sig. A.1.v. 15. See Lumby, The Lancashire Witch-Craze: Jennet Preston and the Lancashire Witches, 1612, p. 1. 16. See Marion Gibson, Early Modern Witches: Witchcraft Cases in Contemporary Writing (London & New York: Routledge, 2000), p. 174; and pp. 256–7, nn. 211, 215. See also Pumphrey ‘Potts, Plots and Politics: James I’s Daemonologie and The Wonderfull Discoverie of Witchcraft’, p. 26. Pumphrey, probably following Gibson, notes that that there are stylistic differences between The Arraignement and Triall of Jennet Preston and The Wonderfull Discoverie of Witches before concluding that Potts is the most likely author. 17. See Gibson, Early Modern Witches: Witchcraft Cases in Contemporary Writing, p. 260, n. 224. 18. Potts, The Wonderfull Discoverie of Witches, sig. Y.2.r. 19. Potts, The Wonderfull Discoverie of Witches, sig. Z.3.v. 20. Potts, The Wonderfull Discoverie of Witches, sig. Z.2.r. 21. Potts, The Wonderfull Discoverie of Witches, sig. Z.2.r. 22. Potts, The Wonderfull Discoverie of Witches, sig. Y.4.r. 23. Potts, The Wonderfull Discoverie of Witches, sig. X.4.v. 24. Potts, The Wonderfull Discoverie of Witches, sig. Y.2.r. 25. See Bracewell Marriage Register for 1607. Lumby, The Lancashire Witch-Craze: Jennet Preston and the Lancashire Witches, 1612, p. 70. I am much indebted to the archival work of Jonathan Lumby on the parish registers relevant to the Jennet Preston case. 26. Potts, The Wonderfull Discoverie of Witches, sig. X.4.v. 27. Potts, The Wonderfull Discoverie of Witches, sig. X.4.v. 28. See Almond, The Witches of Warboys. 29. Potts, The Wonderfull Discoverie of Witches, sig. Y.1.v. 30. On providentialism in popular murder pamphlets, see Peter Lake, ‘Deeds against Nature: Cheap Print, Protestantism and Murder in Early Seventeenth-Century England,’ in Kevin Sharpe and Peter Lake, Culture and Politics in Early Stuart England (Stanford, California: California University Press, 1993), pp. 257–83.
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T he Lancashire Witches 31. See Lumby, The Lancashire Witch-Craze: Jennet Preston and the Lancashire Witches, 1612, p. 7. 32. Potts, The Wonderfull Discoverie of Witches, sig. Y.1.r. 33. Potts, The Wonderfull Discoverie of Witches, sig. Y.1.r. 34. Potts, The Wonderfull Discoverie of Witches, sig. Y.1.r. 35. See Lumby, The Lancashire Witch-Craze: Jennet Preston and the Lancashire Witches, 1612, p. 18. 36. The entry for the death of Thomas Lister on 8 February 1607 notes ‘Mort: apud Braswell’. See ‘St. Mary the Virgin Gisburn: Searchable Database,’ http://www.gisburn.org.uk/burials/display.pl. 37. Lumby, The Lancashire Witch-Craze: Jennet Preston and the Lancashire Witches, 1612, p. 80. 38. Potts, The Wonderfull Discoverie of Witches, sig. Y.2.v. 39. Keith Thomas, Religion and the Decline of Magic (Harmondsworth: Penguin, 1973), p. 659. 40. Scot, The Discoverie of Witchcraft, sig. A.6.v. 41. I owe the phrase to Marion Gibson. See Marion Gibson, Reading Witchcraft: Stories of Early English Witches (London & New York: Routledge, 1999), pp. 104–9. 42. Potts, The Wonderfull Discoverie of Witches, sig. Y.1.r. 43. The Throckmortons are similarly presented as innocent in the Warboys case. See Almond, The Witches of Warboys. 44. Potts, The Wonderfull Discoverie of Witches, sig. O.3.r. See also Harrison, King James the First Daemonologie (1597), pp. 8, 35. 45. See Potts, The Wonderfull Discoverie of Witches, sig. Y.2.v. 46. Anon., A Full and True Relation of the Examination and Confession of W. Barwick and E.Mangall, Of Two Horrid Murders (London, 1690), p. 1. Quoted by Malcolm Gaskill, ‘Reporting Murder: Fiction in the Archives in Early Modern England,’ Social History 23 (1998), p. 14, n. 63. I am particularly indebted to Gaskill for this discussion of supernatural signs of murder. 47. For a large number of references to spectral evidence within English witchcraft literature, see Kittredge, Witchcraft in Old and New England, pp. 363–4, pp. 592–3, nn. 138–59.
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Notes 48. Gaskill, ‘Reporting Murder: Fiction in the Archives in Early Modern England,’ p. 25. 49. Potts, The Wonderfull Discoverie of Witches, sig. Z.2.r. 50. Dalton, The Countrey Justice, p. 383. His words were derived from Judge Altham’s charge to the jury. See Potts, The Wonderfull Discoverie of Witches, sig. Z.2.r. 51. Dalton, The Countrey Justice, p. 384. 52. Richard Bernard, A Guide to Grand-Jury Men, Divided into Two Bookes (London, 1627), pp. 199–200. 53. Potts, The Wonderfull Discoverie of Witches, sig. R.4.v. 54. Potts, The Wonderfull Discoverie of Witches, sig. Y.2.v. Jonathan Lumby does not attempt a reading of this passage in terms of his thesis of a sexual relationship between Jennet Preston and Thomas Lister senior, remarking only ‘The other words which Lister cried contain a very physical image’. His citation of them stops before ‘helpe me, helpe me’. See Lumby, The Lancashire Witch-Craze: Jennet Preston and the Lancashire Witches, 1612, p. 76. 55. Potts, The Wonderfull Discoverie of Witches, sig. S.1.v. 56. Potts, The Wonderfull Discoverie of Witches, sig. C.2.r. 57. Ewen, Witchcraft and Demonianism, p. 188. 58. Quoted by Owen Davies, ‘The Nightmare Experience, Sleep Paralysis, and Witchcraft Accusations,’ Folklore 114 (2003), p. 188. I am indebted to Davies for this account of the nightmare. 59. Scot, The Discoverie of Witchcraft, p. 86. See also Ludwig Lavater, Of Ghostes and Spirites, Walking by Nyght (London, 1596), pp. 6, 12–13. 60. Harrison, King James the First: Daemonologie (1597), p. 69. 61. Potts, The Wonderfull Discoverie of Witches, sig. Z.2.r. 62. Potts, The Wonderfull Discoverie of Witches, sig. Z.2.r. 63. Potts, The Wonderfull Discoverie of Witches, sig. Y.3.r. 64. Potts, The Wonderfull Discoverie of Witches, sig. Y.3.r. 65. Harrison, King James the First: Daemonologie (1597), pp. 80–1. 66. Gaskill, ‘Reporting Murder: Fiction in the Archives in Early Modern England,’ p. 9.
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T he Lancashire Witches 67. Scot, The Discoverie of Witchcraft, p. 303. 68. John Webster, The Displaying of Supposed Witchcraft (London, 1677), p. 308. 69. Potts, The Wonderfull Discoverie of Witches, sig. Z.3.r. 70. Potts, The Wonderfull Discoverie of Witches, sig. Z.3.r. Or perhaps he had elaborated the judge’s words. 71. Potts, The Wonderfull Discoverie of Witches, sigs. Z.3.r-v. The reference is to Proverbs 17.15. 72. Harrison, King James the First: Daemonologie (1597), p. 78.
Chapter Five A Discovery of Papists 1. Potts, The Wonderfull Discoverie of Witches, sig. N.3.r. 2. Potts, The Wonderfull Discoverie of Witches, sig. N.3.r. 3. Potts, The Wonderfull Discoverie of Witches, sig. K.3.v. 4. Alice Gray is listed on The Wonderfull Discoverie of Witches, sig. C.4.r. as one of the witches of Samlesbury. There is also an Alice Gray from Colne who was present at Malkin Tower. The Alice Gray who is listed as found not guilty on The Wonderfull Discoverie of Witches, sig. X.1.r. is within the Samlesbury group and, therefore, most likely the Samlesbury and not the Colne Alice Gray. They are very unlikely to be the same person. We can assume that the Colne Alice Gray could not be located and was never charged. See Chapter Three, n. 31 above. 5. Newton and Bath (eds.), Witchcraft and the Act of 1604, p. 238. 6. See William Farrer, and J. Brownbill (eds.), A History of the County of Lancaster (London: Constable, 1906–14), vi. 427–33 on the village of Haslingden. 7. See Lisa McClain, Lest We Be Damned: Practical Innovation and Lived Experience Among Catholics in Protestant England, 1559–1642 (New York & London: Routledge, 2004), ch. 7. 8. See Whitaker, The History of the Parish of Whalley, ii. 347. 9. See Farrer and Brownbill (eds.), A History of the County of Lancaster, vi. 347. See also, J.P. Smith, Lancashire Registers IV (London: Catholic Record Society), pp. 308–9.
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Notes 10. Potts, The Wonderfull Discoverie of Witches, sig. M.1.r. The heading of this examination refers to Jane Bierley. We can assume that this is a misprint for Jane Southworth. The text of the deposition refers to the ‘said wife of John Southworth, now Prisoner in the Gaole’. 11. Potts, The Wonderfull Discoverie of Witches, sig. L.4.v. 12. After giving some of her evidence, Potts tells us that ‘being further sworne and examined, she deposeth and said . . .’. The re-swearing of Grace suggests a second examination. 13. Potts, The Wonderfull Discoverie of Witches, sig. L.1.r. 14. Potts, The Wonderfull Discoverie of Witches, sig. L.1.r. 15. Potts, The Wonderfull Discoverie of Witches, sig. L.1.r. 16. See James Croston, A History of the Ancient Hall of Samlesbury in Lancashire (London: Whittingham and Wilkins at the Chiswick Press, 1871), p. 118. 17. Potts, The Wonderfull Discoverie of Witches, sig. L.1.r. 18. Potts, The Wonderfull Discoverie of Witches, sig. L.4.r. although we cannot be certain that Grace’s recollection of the date of Saturday 4 April for this ‘event’ is correct, it seems more likely than Thomas Walshman’s statement that it was 15 April, if only because this was the day on which William Alker gave his evidence about Jane Southworth. 15 rather than 4 April is more than likely a slip of the pen by Thomas Potts in his copying of documents. 15 April was also a Wednesday. Were Walshman’s date correct, this would have made a very long period of ‘unconsciousness’ from Wednesday to Monday night. The evidence given by Grace also mentions 4 April correctly as a Saturday. 19. Potts, The Wonderfull Discoverie of Witches, sig. L.1.v. This is Friday 10 April. Thus we know that the first examination must have taken place after this date. 20. Potts, The Wonderfull Discoverie of Witches, sig. L.1.v. 21. See Almond, Demonic Possession and Exorcism in Early Modern England, pp. 22–3. 22. Anon., A Breife Narration of the Possession, Dispossession, and Repossession of William Sommers (London, 1598), sig. D.1.r.
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T he Lancashire Witches 23. George More, A True Discourse concerning the Certaine Possession and Dispossession of 7 Persons in one Familie in Lancashire (Middelburg, 1600), pp. 231–2. 24. See John Swan, A True and Breife Report, of Mary Glovers Vexation (London, 1603), pp. 16–17. 25. See Ewen, Witchcraft and Demonianism, p. 191. 26. As it was by Reginald Scot, and by John Deacon and John Walker. See Scot, The Discoverie of Witchcraft, pp. 47, 494, 516; and John Deacon and John Walker, Dialogical Discourses of Spirits and Divels (London, 1601), p. 84. 27. Anon., A True and Fearefull Vexation of one Alexander Nyndge (London, 1615), sig. A.3.r. 28. See John Darrell, An Apologie, or Defence of the Possession of William Sommers (Amsterdam [?], 1599 [?]), sig. D.4.v. 29. See Michael MacDonald, Mystical Bedlam: Madness, Anxiety, and Healing in Seventeenth-Century England (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1981), p. 199. 30. Walker, Unclean Spirits: Possession and Exorcism in France and England in the late Sixteenth and early Seventeenth Centuries, p. 4. 31. More, George, A True Discourse concerning the Certaine Possession and Dispossession of 7 Persons in one Famiie in Lancashire (London, 1600), p. 15. Citation from Almond, Demonic Possession and Exorcism in Early Modern England, p. 204. 32. More, A True Discourse concerning the Certaine Possession and Dispossession of 7 Persons in one Familie in Lancashire, p. 13. Citation from Almond, Demonic Possession and Exorcism in Early Modern England, p. 203. 33. More, A True Discourse concerning the Certaine Possession and Dispossession of 7 Persons in one Familie in Lancashire, p. 16. Citation from Almond, Demonic Possession and Exorcism in Early Modern England, p. 205. 34. More, A True Discourse concerning the Certaine Possession and Dispossession of 7 Persons in one Familie in Lancashire, p. 21. Citation
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Notes from Almond, Demonic Possession and Exorcism in Early Modern England, p. 207. 35. Croston, A History of the Ancient Hall of Samlesbury in Lancashire, p. 84. 36. See Henry Foley S.J. (ed.), Records of the English Province of the Society of Jesus (London: Burns and Oates, 1880), vi. 143. 37. Potts, The Wonderfull Discoverie of Witches, sig. L.2.r. 38. Potts, The Wonderfull Discoverie of Witches, sig. L.4.r. 39. Potts, The Wonderfull Discoverie of Witches, sig. L.2.r. The evidence of Grace was often confused, both with respect to timelines and events. Elsewhere, Grace says that she did not know how they got the body ‘out of the grave at the first taking of it up’. See Potts, The Wonderfull Discoverie of Witches, sig. L.2.v. 40. Potts, The Wonderfull Discoverie of Witches, sig. L.2.r. 41. Nazarena Orlandi (ed.), trans. by Helen Josephine Robins, Saint Bernardino of Siena, Sermons (Siena: Tipografia Sociale, 1920), pp. 166–7. Quoted by Richard Kieckhefer, ‘Avenging the Blood of Children: Anxiety over Child Victims and the Origins of the European Witch Trials,’ in Alberto Ferreira (ed.), The Devil, Heresy and Witchcraft in the Middle Ages: Essays in Honour of Jeffrey B. Russell (Leiden: Brill, 1998), p. 95. 42. Quoted by Walter Stephens, Demon Lovers: Witchcraft, Sex, and the Crisis of Belief (Chicago and London: The University of Chicago Press, 2002), p. 278. On Pico’s Strix, see Peter Burke, ‘Witchcraft and Magic in Renaissance Italy: Gianfrancesco Pico and his Strix,’ in Sydney Anglo (ed.), The Damned Art: Essays in the Literature of Witchcraft (London: Routledge & Kegan Paul, 1977), pp. 32–52. 43. Stephens, Demon Lovers: Witchcraft, Sex, and the Crisis of Belief, p. 278. 44. See Kieckhefer, ‘Avenging the Blood of Children: Anxiety over Child Victims and the Origins of the European Witch Trials,’ pp. 101–2. See also Roper, Witch Craze, pp. 67–81. 45. Although the title refers to heretics rather than witches, it is clear from the text that witches are intended.
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T he Lancashire Witches 46. Quoted by Kieckhefer, ‘Avenging the Blood of Children: Anxiety over Child Victims and the Origins of the European Witch Trials’, p. 103. 47. The question of authorship is disputed as to whether it is by Kramer with the participation of Sprenger or by the former alone. For an argument in favour of the former, see Mackay (ed. & trans.), Malleus Maleficarum, i. 103–21. I will assume that Kramer was the primary author and attribute the work to him. 48. See Mackay (ed. and trans.), Malleus Maleficarum, i. 170–1 49. Mackay (ed. and trans.), Malleus Maleficarum, pt. 2, qn. 1, ch. 2, 97C–D. 50. Dennis M. Kratz, ‘Fictus Lupus: The Werewolf in Christian Thought,’ Classical Folia 30 (1976), pp. 57–79. 51. See Scott (trans.), Jean Bodin: On the Demon-Mania of Witches, book 2, ch. 6. 52. Scott (trans.), Jean Bodin: On the Demon-Mania of Witches, book 4, ch. 5. 53. Scott (trans.), Jean Bodin: On the Demon-Mania of Witches, book 2, ch. 4. 54. Potts, The Wonderfull Discoverie of Witches, sig. L.2.v. 55. Potts, The Wonderfull Discoverie of Witches, sig. L.2.v. 56. Potts, The Wonderfull Discoverie of Witches, sig. L.3.v. 57. See Scott (trans.), Jean Bodin: On the Demon-Mania of Witches, book 2, ch. 4. 58. Potts, The Wonderfull Discoverie of Witches, sig. L.3.r. 59. Potts, The Wonderfull Discoverie of Witches, sig. L.3.r. 60. Potts, The Wonderfull Discoverie of Witches, sig. L.3.r. 61. Potts, The Wonderfull Discoverie of Witches, sig. L.3.r. 62. Potts, The Wonderfull Discoverie of Witches, sig. M.1.r. 63. Potts, The Wonderfull Discoverie of Witches, sig. L.3.v. 64. Potts, The Wonderfull Discoverie of Witches, sig. M.3.v. 65. Potts, The Wonderfull Discoverie of Witches, sig. M.4.r. 66. ‘Leigh, William,’ Oxford D.N.B.
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Notes 67. Potts, The Wonderfull Discoverie of Witches, sig. M.4.v. As we have seen, at least according to the account given by Potts, Jane had not been implicated in this by Grace. 68. Potts, The Wonderfull Discoverie of Witches, sig. M.4.v. 69. Potts, The Wonderfull Discoverie of Witches, sig. N.1.r. 70. Potts, The Wonderfull Discoverie of Witches, sig. N.1.r. 71. See Almond, Demonic Possession and Exorcism in Early Modern England. 72. See Kittredge, Witchcraft in Old and New England, p. 323. 73. Potts, The Wonderfull Discoverie of Witches, sig. M.2.v. 74. Potts, The Wonderfull Discoverie of Witches, sig. M.3.r. 75. Potts, The Wonderfull Discoverie of Witches, sig. M.3.r–v. 76. Potts, The Wonderfull Discoverie of Witches, sig. N.1.v. 77. Potts, The Wonderfull Discoverie of Witches, sig. N.2.r. 78. Potts, The Wonderfull Discoverie of Witches, sig. N.2.r. 79. Potts, The Wonderfull Discoverie of Witches, sig. N.2.v.
Chapter Six An Incantation of Witches 1. Potts, The Wonderfull Discoverie of Witches, sig. F.2.v. 2. We know from elsewhere in the text that Jennet gave evidence on 27 April to Roger Nowell and Nicholas Bannester. At this point in the text, sig. F.4.v., both the date of that examination and the names of the magistrates are excluded, giving the impression that Jennet’s evidence as recorded by Potts was given viva voce to the court. But we know from a little time later in the text that the evidence given had been originally that to Roger Nowell. See Potts, The Wonderfull Discoverie of Witches, G.1.r. 3. Potts, The Wonderfull Discoverie of Witches, sigs. F.4.v–G.1.r. 4. Potts, The Wonderfull Discoverie of Witches, sig. F.2.v. 5. Potts, The Wonderfull Discoverie of Witches, sig. K.1.r. ‘The crucifix is the sign of eternal life. Amen’. 6. Potts, The Wonderfull Discoverie of Witches, sig. K.1.v. 7. At the end of this prayer, James Device’s name appears in italics as if he is the ‘author’ or at least the originator of it.
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T he Lancashire Witches 8. Potts, The Wonderfull Discoverie of Witches, sig. G.2.r. 9. Potts, The Wonderfull Discoverie of Witches, sig. G.1.v. 10. See Clayton, The Lancashire Witch Conspiracy, p. 220. 11. See James Sharpe, Defamation and Sexual Slander in Early Modern England: The Church Courts at York (York: The University of York, 1980). 12. Potts, The Wonderfull Discoverie of Witches, sig. G.2.r. 13. Potts, The Wonderfull Discoverie of Witches, sig. G.1.v. 14. Potts, The Wonderfull Discoverie of Witches, sig. O.3.r. See also Harrison, King James the First: Daemonologie (1597), pp. 8, 35. 15. See especially, Marion Gibson, Reading Witchcraft: Stories of Early English Witches (London & New York: Routledge, 1999), pp. 94–5. 16. Alice was married to Richard Nutter around 1561. He died in 1584. Granted that she was married at the age of around twenty, she would have been about seventy at the time of her trial. Her son Miles would have been about 47 in 1612. See Gladys Whittaker, Roughlee Hall, Lancashire: Fact and Fiction (Nelson: Marsden Antiquarians, 1980). 17. Potts, The Wonderfull Discoverie of Witches, sig. O.3.v. 18. See Harrison Ainsworth, The Lancashire Witches: A Romance of Pendle Forest (London: George Routledge and Sons, 1882). The same assumption was probably made by James Crossley. See James Crossley, Potts’s Discovery of Witches in the County of Lancaster (Manchester: The Chetham Society, 1845), notes, p. 35. 19. See Whittaker, Roughlee Hall, Lancashire: Fact and Fiction, p. 23. 20. Potts, The Wonderfull Discoverie of Witches, sig. O.3.v. 21. Potts, The Wonderfull Discoverie of Witches, sig. O.3.v. 22. Potts, The Wonderfull Discoverie of Witches, sig. P.2.r. 23. The judge repeats the trick on another occasion. This person becomes ‘Joane a Downe’ in the evidence of Jennet Device against Katherine Hewyt, alias Mould-heeles. See Potts, The Wonderfull Discoverie of Witches, sig. Q.1.r. 24. Potts, The Wonderfull Discoverie of Witches, sig. O.4.r.
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Notes 25. Potts, The Wonderfull Discoverie of Witches, sig. P.2.v. 26. Potts, The Wonderfull Discoverie of Witches, sigs. H.1.v, H.2.v. 27. Potts, The Wonderfull Discoverie of Witches, sigs. K.2.r–v. 28. Rufus M. Jones, The Journal of George Fox, ch. 15, http://www. strecorsoc.org/gfox/title.html (accessed 19 April 2012). 29. Potts, The Wonderfull Discoverie of Witches, sig. H.1.v. 30. Potts, The Wonderfull Discoverie of Witches, sig. H.2.r. 31. Potts, The Wonderfull Discoverie of Witches, sig. H.4.r. 32. Potts, The Wonderfull Discoverie of Witches, sig. H.4.v. 33. Potts, The Wonderfull Discoverie of Witches, sig. I.1.v. On the other hand, in perhaps another sign of his haste, for the evidence concerning her brother’s activities at the meeting at Malkin Tower, although Potts begins, ‘she saith,’ he leaves the names of Nowell and Bannester in. See Potts, The Wonderfull Discoverie of Witches, sig. I.3.v. 34. Potts, The Wonderfull Discoverie of Witches, sig. I.1.r. 35. Potts, The Wonderfull Discoverie of Witches, sig. I.1.r. 36. Potts, The Wonderfull Discoverie of Witches, sig. H.3.r. 37. See Potts, The Wonderfull Discoverie of Witches, sig. H.3.v. 38. See Potts, The Wonderfull Discoverie of Witches, sigs. H.4.v, I.1.v. 39. Potts, The Wonderfull Discoverie of Witches, sig. K.1.r. 40. Potts, The Wonderfull Discoverie of Witches, sig. K.1.r. 41. Potts, The Wonderfull Discoverie of Witches, sig. K.1.r. 42. Harrison, King James the First Daemonologie (1597), p. 51. 43. Potts, The Wonderfull Discoverie of Witches, sig. H.4.v. 44. See Potts, The Wonderfull Discoverie of Witches, sig. H.3.v. 45. Crossley, Potts’s Discovery of Witches in the County of Lancaster, notes, p. 28. See also, Whitaker, The History of the Parish of Whalley, ii. 256. Whitaker has 1659, though 1559 is clearly intended. 46. See Lumby, The Lancashire Witch-Craze, pp. 145–6. 47. See Gibson, Early Modern Witches, p. 209, n. 100. 48. Potts, The Wonderfull Discoverie of Witches, sig. H.3.v. 49. Potts, The Wonderfull Discoverie of Witches, sig. H.4.r. 50. Mackay (ed. & trans.), Malleus Maleficarum , part 3, question 15, 214A.
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T he Lancashire Witches 51. Montague Summers (ed.), An Examen of Witches (Discours des Sourciers) by Henri Boguet Warrington, Cheshire: Portrayer Publishers, 2002), p. 85. 52. Quoted by Clark, Thinking with Demons, pp. 665–6. 53. See Perkins, A Discourse of the Damned Art of Witchcraft, pp. 174–5. 54. See Brian P. Levack, The Witch-Hunt in Early Modern Europe (Harlow: Longman, 1995), pp. 76–84 especially. 55. Scott (trans.), On the Demon-Mania of Witches, iv. 1. 56. See W.W., A True and Just Recorde. 57. Grace Thurlowe was a servant of a relative of Brian Darcy and the head of the local family, Thomas, Lord Darcy of Chiche (i.e. St. Osyths). The Preface of A True and Just Recorde was addressed to him. 58. W.W., A True and Just Recorde, sig. 2A.2.r. 59. W.W., A True and Just Recorde, sig. 2A.3.r. 60. W.W., A True and Just Recorde, sig. 2A.7.r. 61. Potts, The Wonderfull Discoverie of Witches, sig. P.3.r. See also Harrison, King James the First: Daemonologie (1597), p. 79. 62. See Potts, The Wonderfull Discoverie of Witches, sigs. G.4.v, I.3.v, P.4.v, and Q.4.v. 63. Potts, The Wonderfull Discoverie of Witches, sig. P.3.v. 64. See John T. Swain, ‘Capital Formation by Clothiers in North-East Lancashire, c. 1550–1640,’ Northern History 33 (1997), p. 56. 65. See Clayton, The Lancashire Witch Conspiracy, p. 171. 66. Potts, The Wonderfull Discoverie of Witches, sig. Q.1.r. 67. Potts, The Wonderfull Discoverie of Witches, sig. P.4.r. To have ‘in hanck’ was to have power over. 68. Potts, The Wonderfull Discoverie of Witches, sig. Q.3.r. 69. Potts, The Wonderfull Discoverie of Witches, sig. R.1.r. 70. See Potts, The Wonderfull Discoverie of Witches, sig. Q.4.r. 71. Potts, The Wonderfull Discoverie of Witches, sig. Q.3.r. 72. Potts, The Wonderfull Discoverie of Witches, sig. S.3.r. 73. Potts, The Wonderfull Discoverie of Witches, sig. A.4.r.
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Notes 74. Potts, The Wonderfull Discoverie of Witches, sig. Q.3.r. 75. This ‘Dodgson’ from Padiham is different from the one whose child Jennet Preston was accused of murdering. That Dodgson was most likely Edward Dodgson from around Gisburn. 76. Potts, The Wonderfull Discoverie of Witches, sig. S.4.v. The mistake was noted in the list of errata at the front of The Wonderfull Discoverie of Witches. See sig. A.4.r.: ‘for the Triall of her life, read for the trial of her offence’. 77. See Newton and Bath (eds.), Witchcraft and the Act of 1604, p. 239. 78. Potts, The Wonderfull Discoverie of Witches, sig. S.3.v. 79. Potts, The Wonderfull Discoverie of Witches, sigs. S.3.v–S.4.r. 80. Potts, The Wonderfull Discoverie of Witches, sigs. T.1.r–v. 81. Potts, The Wonderfull Discoverie of Witches, sig. T.1.r. 82. Lumby does not discuss the issue, though assumes that Margaret is meant. Peel and Southern, by the astute use of the passive tense, dodge around the issue of who Marjorie was, though are no doubt aware of the problem. See Lumby, The Lancashire WitchCraze: Jennet Preston and the Lancashire Witches, 1612, p. 134; and Peel and Southern, The Trials of the Lancashire Witches: A Study of Seventeenth-Century Witchcraft, p. 72. 83. Anon., The Examination and Confession of Certaine Wytches at Chensforde in the Countie of Essex (n.p., 1566), sig. B.2.v. 84. See W.W., A True and Just Recorde, sig. C.4.r. 85. Anon., the Apprehension and Confession of Three Notorious Witches (n.p., 1589), sigs. A.4.v–B.1.r. 86. See Crossley, Potts’s Discovery of Witches in the County of Lancaster, notes, p. 16. 87. See E. Bland, Annals of Southport and District – A Chronological History of North Meols, Alfred the Great to Edward VII (Southport: J.J. Riley, 1903), p. 35. 88. Potts, The Wonderfull Discoverie of Witches, sig. T.2.r. 89. Potts, The Wonderfull Discoverie of Witches, sigs. T.2.r–v. 90. Potts, The Wonderfull Discoverie of Witches, sig. S.2.r.
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T he Lancashire Witches 91. Potts, The Wonderfull Discoverie of Witches, sig. V.1.r. 92. Potts, The Wonderfull Discoverie of Witches, sig. T.3.r. 93. Potts, The Wonderfull Discoverie of Witches, sig. T.3.r. 94. Potts, The Wonderfull Discoverie of Witches, sig. T.3.v. 95. Potts, The Wonderfull Discoverie of Witches, sigs. T.4.r–v. 96. Potts, The Wonderfull Discoverie of Witches, sig. T.4.v. 97. Potts, The Wonderfull Discoverie of Witches, sig. T.3.v. 98. Potts, The Wonderfull Discoverie of Witches, sig. T.4.r. 99. Potts, The Wonderfull Discoverie of Witches, sig. V.1.r. 100. Potts, The Wonderfull Discoverie of Witches, sig. V.1.r.
Epilogue 1. Potts, The Wonderfull Discoverie of Witches, sig. X.1.r. 2. Potts, The Wonderfull Discoverie of Witches, sigs. V.3.r–V.4.r. It is more than likely that Bromley wrote this after the event.
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Ainsworth, William Harrison, The Lancashire Witches: A Romance of Pendle Forest (London: George Routledge and Sons, 1882). Almond, Philip C., Mystical Experience and Religious Doctrine: An Investigation of the Study of Mysticism in World Religions (Berlin: Mouton, 1982). Almond, Philip C., Adam and Eve in Seventeenth-Century Thought (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1999). Almond, Philip C., Demonic Possession and Exorcism in Early Modern England (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2004). Almond, Philip C., The Witches of Warboys: An Extraordinary Story of Sorcery, Sadism and Satanic Possession (London: I.B.Tauris, 2008). Almond, Philip C., ‘King James I and the Burning of Reginald Scot’s The Discoverie of Witchcraft: The Invention of a Tradition,’ Notes and Queries 56 (2009), pp. 209–13. Almond, Philip C., England’s First Demonologist: Reginald Scot and The Discoverie of Witchcraft (London: I.B.Tauris, 2011). Anon., A Breife Narration of the Possession, Dispossession, and Repossession of William Sommers (London, 1598). Anon., A Rehearsall both Straung and True, of Hainous and Horrible Actes Committed by Elizabeth Stile, alias Rockingham, Mother Dutten, Mother Devell, Mother Margaret, Fower notorious Witches, Apprehended at Windsor in the Countie of Barks. And at Abbington Arraigned, Condemned, and Executed, on the 26. daye of Februarie laste Anno 1579 (London, 1579). Anon., A True and Fearefull Vexation of one Alexander Nyndge (London, 1615).
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T he Lancashire Witches Anon., Newes from Scotland, Declaring the Damnable Life and Death of Doctor Fian (London, 1591). Anon., The Apprehension and Confession of Three Notorious Witches (n.p., 1589). Anon., The Examination and Confession of Certaine Wytches at Chensforde in the Countie of Essex (n.p., 1566). Anon., The Most Strange and Admirable Discoverie of the Three Witches of Warboys, Arraigned, Convicted, and Executed at the Last Assises at Huntington (London, 1593). Anon., The Witches of Northamptonshire (London, 1612). Apps, Lara and Andrew Gow, Male Witches in Early Modern Europe (Manchester and New York: Manchester University Press, 2003). Arber, Edward, A Transcript of the Registers of the Company of Stationers of London; 1554–1640 A.D. (London, 1876). Ashwin, E.A. (trans.), Francesco Maria Guazzo: Compendium Maleficarum (New York: Dover, 1988). Bailey, Michael D., ‘From Sorcery to Witchcraft: Clerical Conceptions of Magic in the Later Middle Ages,’ Speculum 76 (2001), pp. 960–90. Bernard, Richard, A Guide to Grand-Jury Men, Divided into Two Bookes (London, 1627). Bax, E. Belfort. Rise and Fall of the Anabaptists (London: Swan, Sonnenschein & Co., 1903). Bernard, Richard A Guide to Grand-Jury Men, Divided into Two Bookes (London, 1629). Bland, E., Annals of Southport and District – A Chronological History of North Meols, Alfred the Great to Edward VII (Southport: J.J. Riley, 1903). Blécourt, Willem de, ‘The Making of the Female Witch: Reflections on Witchcraft and Gender in the Early Modern Period,’ Gender and History 12 (2000), pp. 287–309. Briggs, Robin, Witches and Neighbours: The Social and Cultural Context of European Witchcraft (Oxford: Blackwell, 2002). Brownlow, Frank W., Shakespeare, Harsnett, and the Devils of Denham (Newark: University of Delaware Press, 1993).
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T he Lancashire Witches Lake, Peter, ‘Deeds against Nature: Cheap Print, Protestantism and Murder in Early Seventeenth-Century England,’ in Kevin Sharpe and Peter Lake, Culture and Politics in Early Stuart England (Stanford, California: California University Press, 1993), pp. 257–83. Larner, Christina, Enemies of God: The Witch-Hunt in Scotland (London: Blackwell, 1981). Larner, Christina, Witchcraft and Religion: The Politics of Popular Belief (Oxford: Blackwell, 1984). Lavater, Ludwig, Of Ghostes and Spirites, Walking by Nyght (London, 1596). Lea, Henry Charles, Materials Toward a History of Witchcraft (New York: Thomas Yoseloff, 1957). Levack, Brian P., The Witch-Hunt in Early Modern Europe (Harlow: Longman, 1995). Levack, Brian P., The Witch-Hunt in Early Modern Europe (Harlow: Pearson Longman, third edition, 2006). Lumby, Jonathan, The Lancashire Witch-Craze: Jennet Preston and the Lancashire Witches, 1612 (Lancaster: Carnegie Publishing, 2003). Mackay, Christopher S. (ed. and trans.), Malleus Maleficarum (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2006). Marsh, Christopher, The Family of Love in English Society, 1550–1630 (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1994). Maxwell-Stuart, P.G., ‘King James’s Experience of Witches, and the 1604 English Witchcraft Act,’ in John Newton and Jo Bath (eds.), Witchcraft and the Act of 1604 (Leiden: Brill, 2008), pp. 31–46. Maxwell-Stuart, P.G., Martín Del Rio: Investigations into Magic (Manchester: Manchester University Press, 2000). McClain, Lisa, Lest We Be Damned: Practical Innovation and Lived Experience Among Catholics in Protestant England, 1559–1642 (New York & London: Routledge, 2004). MacDonald, Michael, Mystical Bedlam: Madness, Anxiety, and Healing in Seventeenth-Century England (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1981).
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Alker, William 109 Altham, James 5–8, 15, 33, 87, 97, 102, 104 Anderton, James 38, 143 Assheton, Richard 48 Assizes 33–4, 61, 83, 87, 91 Essex 62 Lancaster 1, 5–6, 13–4, 16, 62, 82–3, 117, 132, 158, 162–3 Northern 4, 7 Suffolk 100 Astley, Elizabeth 108, 162 Baldwin, Richard 20, 27–9, 38, 151 Baldwyn, a schoolmaster in Colne, 45 Bannester, Nicholas 30, 40, 56, 60, 71, 80–2, 100, 108, 132–4, 136, 141–2, 146, 153–6, 158 baptism 64–9 Bierley, Ellen 108, 110–12, 118–9, 123, 125–6, 130, 162 Bierley, Jennet 108, 110–12, 118–9, 121, 123, 125–6, 129–30, 162 bleeding of the corpse 89, 102–6 Booth, Jennet 157 Boothman, Jane 44–5, 48 Bromley, Edward 4–8, 10, 15, 33, 35, 50, 71, 87, 91, 102, 105, 107, 126–7, 131–3, 138, 141, 152, 162 Bulcock, Henry 51–2 Bulcock, Jane 61, 81, 153–5, 162 Bulcock, John 61–2, 153–5, 162 cannibalism 119, 121, 124, 129, 165 Catholicism 6–7, 13, 31, 58, 69, 78, 108, 117, 130, 133, 145, 165
Chaddock, Peter 159–61 Chattox, alias of Anne Whittle 17, 22–3, 25–6, 28–9, 35–51, 53, 61, 65, 69, 70, 82, 91, 107, 109, 129, 132, 136–7, 141, 148, 150–1, 157–8, 162 Chisnal, Edward 127, 130 compact, Satanic 8, 15, 18–9, 22–3, 30–1, 38–9, 68, 96, 147, 165 Covell, Thomas 33, 38, 71, 138, 143, 162 covenant, Satanic, see compact, Satanic Crooke, Margaret 46–7, 49–50 Crouckshey, Anne 60–1 Demdike or Dembdike, alias of Elizabeth Sowtherns 15–32, 35–43, 47–51, 53, 56–7, 60–2, 65, 69–71, 80–2, 91–108, 132–3, 136–7, 139, 142, 148, 150 Demonology 8, 54, 67, 113, 119, 124, 165 Device, Alizon 1–3, 15–17, 19–20, 22, 25–7, 29, 35–43, 51–3, 56–7, 61, 64–5, 67–71, 80, 82, 91, 98–100, 109, 133, 137, 142, 148, 151, 159, 162, 166 Device, Elizabeth 17, 20, 27, 35–6, 42, 53, 56–7, 61, 65, 70–1, 80–1, 107, 132–3, 135–7, 139, 141–2, 148, 151–3, 155, 162 Device, James 17, 30, 37, 40–1, 49, 51, 56, 60–2, 65, 71, 76, 78–81, 88, 100, 107, 133–4, 136–7, 139–43, 145–4, 151–5, 162
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Index Device, Jennet 17, 20, 35, 56–7, 59–61, 64, 67, 69–70, 80, 92, 105, 132–39, 141–2, 144–5, 147, 152, 154 Device, John 36, 37, 40, 42–43, 56 Devil, the 25, 28, 55, 63–4, 74–5, 99, 137 impersonation by 99 mark of 19–26, 66 possessed by 57–8, 112–18, 127–8 seduced by 63–4 Deyne, Jennet 154 Dodgson, Thomas 91 Duckworth, John 141, 146–7, 151 familiars 22–6, 31, 38–9, 42–3, 48–9, 58, 65–7, 69, 113, 129, 134–6, 142–7, 150, 157, 165 Familists 68–9, Fawkes, Guy, 9, 59–60, 71, 127 Foulds, Anne 153
Holden, Robert 82, 108–14, 118–19, 121, 123, 125 Hopkins, Matthew 12 Howgate, Christopher 60–2 Howgate, Elizabeth 61 incubus 74, 101 infanticide 75, 118, 122–3, 165 Jackes, Christopher, see Hargraves, Christopher James VI (James I) 8–9, 24, 57, 58–9, 77–8, 101–2, 106, 128, 143 Knox, John 21 Knyvet, Elizabeth 9 Knyvet, Thomas 9, 71
Germain, St. 73–4, 76, Gerrard, Thomas 159–61 Glover, James a 160 God 103, 114 Gray, Alice, of Colne 152–3, 177 Gray, Alice, of Samlesbury 108, 162 Gray, Lawrence 62 gunpowder plot 9, 59–60, 70–1 Gunter, Anne 57–9, 128
Law, Abraham 2–3, 15, 99 Law, John 1–3, 15–6, 25, 51–2, 65, 98–9, 137, 151, 159, 166 Leigh, William 127 Lister, Leonard 70, 80–2, 153 Lister, Thomas, junior, 82–3, 87–9, 91–6, 99, 102, 104 Lister, Thomas, senior 82–3, 88–90, 93, 97, 99, 101–5, 153 Loomeshaw’s wife 44–5, 48 Lyon, Margaret 160
Halseworths, of Windle 160 Hargraves, Blaze 141, 147 Hargraves, Christopher, also called Christopher Jackes, of Thornholme 61–2 Hargraves, Elizabeth 61 Hargraves, John 141, 147 Hargreives, Henry 40–1, 81–2, 108 Hargreives, Jennet 61 Hay, Grace 61, Haye, Lawrence 108, 162 Heresy 8, 14, 67, 121 Hewyt, Katherine, alias Mouldheeles of Colne 61, 151–5, 162 Heyber, Jane 89, 93 Heyber, Thomas 88, 91, 93
Magic 25–6, 45, 62, 103, 165 benevolent , beneficent 18–9, 42, 64 image 28–9, 40–1, 43, 48–9, 134, 146 malevolent 18, 43, 48, 64, 126, 155, 157 Malkin Tower meeting 56, 60–2, 68–70, 72, 80–83, 105, 108, 133, 138–41, 152–5, 165 Moore, Hugh 37, 42–3, 151 Moore, John, a gentleman of Higham 41–2, 151 Moore, John, infant son of John Moore of Higham 37, 41–3 Mould-heeles, alias of Katherine Hewyt 151 Mytton, Henry 133, 136–7, 139, 151
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T he Lancashire Witches night mares 99–101 Nowell, Roger 2–3, 12–16, 18–23, 27–31, 35–41, 43, 45–51, 53, 56–7, 60, 62, 64–5, 67–71, 76–83, 88, 92, 98–100, 108, 115, 132–4, 136, 141–2, 145–6, 148, 150, 153–5, 166 Nutter, Alice 60–1, 133, 136–9, 153, 155, 162 Nutter, Anne 37, 40–3, 151 Nutter, Christopher 29, 43, 49–50 Nutter, Elizabeth 44–5 Nutter, John, brother of Robert Nutter 47, 49 Nutter, John, of Bull Hole 19, 43 Nutter, Marie 29, 43, 49–50 Nutter, Robert 29, 37, 43–50 Old Doewise 108, 111 papists 9, 71, 127 Parre, Margaret 159–61 Pearson, Margaret 156–8 Perkins, William 13, 18 Potts, Thomas 1–10, 12, 14–7, 19–22, 29, 31–4, 36–7, 46, 49–52, 54–7, 59–62, 71, 80, 85–8, 96, 98–101, 105, 107–10, 114, 126, 129–33, 136–142, 145–7, 151–4, 156–8, 162 Preston, Jennet 6, 61, 71–2, 78, 81–99, 103–5, 108 Preston, William 89–90 Protestantism 7, 18, 21, 53, 108–9,165 Ramesden, John 62, 108, 162 Redfearne, Anne 22, 28–9, 35, 38, 43–4, 46–50, 53, 61, 70, 82, 91, 109, 162 Redfearne, Thomas 28, 44–5, 49, Robey, Isabel 158–62 Robinson, Anne 94, 97, 99, 102, 104 Robinson, James, a friend of the Nutters of Greenhead 37, 43, 45–7
Robinson, James, alias Swyer, brother of John Robinson, murdered by Elizabeth Device 133–4, 136 Robinson, John, alias Swyer 133–6, 151 Sabbath, satanic 8, 54–5, 67, 73, 123–5, 165 Samuel, Alice 24, 89 Sandes, William 38, 143 Satan see Devil, the Satanic rebaptism 64–68, Scot, Reginald 18, 30, 54–6, 77–8, 94, 101, 103, shape-shifting 22–3, 76–7, 79, 111, 113–14, 118–19, 122–3 Shuttleworth, Richard 45, 47 Sidegraves, Isabell 108, 162 Singleton, John 109 Southworth, Christopher (alias Master Thomson) 107, 117–22, 124, 126–27, 129–31, 145, 165 Southworth, Jane 108–11, 117–18, 123, 125–7, 130, 144, 162 Southworth, John 109–10, 117 Sowerbutts, Grace 108, 110–14, 118–20, 123, 125–8, 130 Sowerbutts, Thomas 110, 126 Sowtherns, Elizabeth, see Demdike spectral evidence, 97–9, 102, Swyer, Christopher 60, 154 Towneley, Anne 141, 144–7, 151 Towneley, Henry 141, 145 transubstantiation, doctrine of 78 transportation, also magical travel 72–8, 123–4 Walshman, Hugh 112 Walshman, Thomas 112, 118–19, 123, 127 Whittle, Anne, see Chattox Wilkinson, Jane 159–61 Witchcraft 7–9, 12–13, 63–5, 98, 107, 165 Acts of 13, 108, 125, 156, 159, 165
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Index statutes 13 Legislation against 14 Prosecutions of 108 women and 62–4, See also compact, Satanic; demonology Witches ‘black’ and ‘white’ 18
cults of 54 of Pendle 60, 69, 71, 105, 107 of Samlesbury 82, 107–9, 162 of Warboys 24 powers of 18, 26, 37, 143–4, 147 See also compact, Satanic; familiars; transportation; Sabbath, satanic
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5/7/2012 11:37:24 AM
Plate 1. Pendle Hill from Downham. Chattox was accused of having murdered Richard Assheton of Downham.
Plate 2. The Famous History of the Lancashire Witches,etc. 1780(?) The Lancashire witches remained a popular story into the 18th and 19th centuries.
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Plate 3. How ‘Thomas Potts’ was imagined by John Gilbert in Ainsworth’s The Lancashire Witches: A Romance of Pendle Forest.
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Plate 4. The Daemonologie of King James provided the witchcraft theory for Thomas Potts in The Wonderfull Discoverie of Witches.
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Plate 5. Along such a path as this through the Trough of Bowland, the witches of Pendle were taken to the gaol in Lancaster Castle.
Plate 6. Lancaster Castle, in which the witches were held pending their trials.
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Plate 7. The ‘Judges’ Lodgings’ at Lancaster, the home of Thomas Covell, the gaoler of Lancaster.
Plate 8. The list of witches committed to the Castle at Lancaster, from Thomas Potts, The Wonderfull Discoverie of Witches in the Countie of Lancaster, 1613.
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Plate 9. St. Mary’s in Newchurch, Lancashire. This is reputed to be the graveyard in which Chattox dug up skulls and teeth for magic.
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Plate 10. Witches, Demons and Spirits from Richard Bovet’s Pandaemonium.
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Plate 11. Mother Chattox and Mistress Nutter on ‘the Ride through the Murky Air’, illustration by John Gilbert from William Harrison Ainsworth, The Lancashire Witches: A Romance of Pendle Forest, 1882.
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Plate 12. ‘The Incantation’, illustration by John Gilbert from Ainsworth’s The Lancashire Witches: A Romance of Pendle Forest.
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Plate 13. ‘The opening page of the story ‘The Witches of Salmesbury’ from Thomas Potts, The Wonderfull Discoverie of Witches in the Countie of Lancaster.
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Plate 14. The River Ribble over which the witches of Samlesbury magically crossed to a Satanic Sabbath.
Plate 15. Samlesbury Hall, Lancashire, the ancestral home of the Southworths in which the plot against the witches of Samlesbury was hatched.
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Plate 16. A circle of demons and witches, from Nathaniel Crouch, The Kingdom of Darkness, 1688.
Plate 17. The title page of The Arraignement and Triall of Jennet Preston that was bound in with Potts’ The Wonderfull Discoverie of Witches.
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Plate 18. Clifford’s Tower, York Castle in 1644. Before her execution for witchcraft, Jennet Preston was imprisoned in York Castle.
Plate 19. A depiction of a hanging of witches, sometimes taken to be that of the Lancashire witches.
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Plate 20. The witches sentenced to death from Thomas Potts, The Wonderfull Discoverie of Witches in the Countie of Lancaster.
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Plate 21. A last stop at The Golden Lion, Lancaster, on the way to the gallows.
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