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A Collection of modern relations of matter of fact concerning witches

Brief summary:
Theoretical discussion of witches, includes other reports, a discovery of thirty-two witches in the cloister of Madam Anthoinette Bourignon at Lisle, told be herself, born deformed in the face, she was told by a man to start a school for poor children instead of a nunnery, had a vision of little black children with wings floating above her children at work, a girl shut up in the prison for punishment was released by a man suspected to be the Devil, many of the children were exercised and examined, they reported to having known the Devil carnally in the appearance of the opposite sex, one especially devious girl was expected in retrospect to be a witch, they all confessed to having given their souls to the devil, didn’t want to dismiss all of them to have them commit evil across the world, she began examining them after exorcisms failed, they continued to get through locked doors and feces was found in their beds, they were sick in the morning from feasting with the Devil at night; includes also: sixteen witches in Yarmouth convicted and executed for signing the Devil’s book and having Familiars in 1644, a single witch convicted and executed at Oxford, a single witch of Lancashire tried at Wrcester in 1649, another from Teuksburry tried at Gloucester, the story of Faith Corbet afflicted by an Alice Huson and Dol. Bilby of Burton in York 1660-4, they confessed.

Fuller summary:
The pamphlet written by Sir Matthew Hale begins with a reflection by the author on “the great mercy of god, in preserving us from the power and malice of evil angels”. He asserts that “evil spirits” have “likewise a great measure of power and a greater measure of malice” and goes onto explain why. He says that evil spirits are more powerful and humans or animals because they are unencumbered by bodies therefore they have more energy to put towards influencing man. Their malice, he says, is even more extensive than their power because they can move about invisibly in order to “insinuate” himself with the victim.

He later goes into an examination of several trials he attended. The first of which is a man (Dr. John Portage) who confessed to seeing visions; first of a man, second of a giant, and third, of a dragon spitting fire in his bedroom.

The second story her relates is that of Madam Antoinette Bourignon and the 32 young girls found to be witches in her cloister. Mme. Bourignon, with the advice of a “Stranger” decided to open a cloister for poor girls to “educate them for their childhood in religion and virtue”. She claimed at her trial to have always suspected that the children “without the Grace of God” and claimed to have seen “little black children with wings fly about their heads”. She then goes on to tell several stories of odd happenings within the cloister including girls claiming that “the devil” made them commit thievery and other mischievous acts.

She spent 8 months hearing confessions from the girls and trying to convince them to repent to no avail so she called in three pastors to examine the girls and demanded that they be taken from her house so as not to corrupt the other girls. The pastors told her that the girls were witches but that she should not turn them out of her house until she discovered where the misfortune had come from, insisting that there must have been a witch in the house indoctrinating the girls.

The pastors determined that there was no witch in the house but that each girl, individually, had brought this “wickedness” with her. Mme. Bourignon attempted to convert the girls back to god and away from the devil with prayer and exorcism but they told her that the devil “laughed at these performances”. After several more incidents including falling ill herself, Mme. Bourignon came to believe that the girls were trying to kill her. One day the devil in the form of an old women appeared to Mme. Bourignon offering her, her service in the house, which Mme. Bourignon refuses. She then disappears and the girls/witches tell Mme. Bourignon that she was an apparition of the devil. In the end, one of the girls tells Mme. Bourignon of a plot to kill her, and how she stopped the plot because of her love for “Madam B”. She told Madam B that she wished someone would “kill [her] out of charity” because the devil was always with her and she was in misery. Due to her repentance she was put in jail instead of being put to death but it was “never known what became of her since.”

The next trial Hale recounts is that of one of 16 “Yarmouth witches” convicted and executed based upon their own confessions. This particular witch went to a man, Mr. Moulton and his maid in search of work and both refused her. That night in bed she saw a tall black man rising through her window asking her what she would like done. He told her to write her name in blood and left her with some money that night. When he returned he told her he could not get revenge for her against the man because he went to church so she asked him to get revenge against the maid. He returned and told her that the maid was also out of his reach but that there was a sick child in the house whom they could take revenge on. So, he brought her a wax figure of the child, which they buried, in the churchyard. She later confessed to what she had done and the child rose up from the bed seemingly healthy.

The next several accounts follow the same general thread where a person or persons insult or otherwise wrong a woman thought to be a witch and then fall into some sort of illness or other misfortune.

The Witches of Northampton-shire

Brief summary
Theoretical discussion of witches, Mistris Belcher fell sick and cried out against Ioane Uaughn, whose daughter was Anges Browne, Belcher’s brother went to their house in anger but was unable to approach their house, when he returned home he also fell into fits, the women pled not guilty to bewitching the siblings but were executed; an Arthur Bill was accused of bewitching a mother and daughter to death along with cattle, born of witch parents also condemned in court, his mother slit her throat, he pleaded innocent but was condemned to death; a Hellen Iekenson bewitched a child to death and was executed; a Mary Barber bewitched a man to death an was also executed,

Fuller summary
This pamphlet recounts the events that led to the eventual executions of five witches in Northampton-shire on the 22 of July, 1612. The pamphlet begins with a theoretical discussion on witches and witchcraft. This discussion includes the condemnation of all those involved this “Devilish sin” and makes witchcraft seem like a practice void of any good and only associated with malice. The author, an anonymous writer, provides the definition of a witch as, “…one that worketh by the Devil, or by the same Devilish or Curious Art, either hurting or healing,revealing things secret, or foretelling things to come, which the devil hath devised to entangle,and snare men’s souls withall, unto damnation.” The author then proclaims that witches are not to be trusted.
The author first recounts the story of Agnes Browne and her daughter, Ioane Vaughan. One day, Ioane experienced an encounter with Mistris Belcher. In a fit of rage, seemingly caused by her angry nature, Mistris Belcher “strooke” Ioane, causing her to leave her company, promising revenge on Belcher. Ioane goes home to her mother, Agnes, and informs her of the events which had transpired. Moved by the devil, Agnes advised her daughter on how to proceed; with anger and destruction. Four nights later, while Mistris Belcher slept, she experienced a “gripping and gnawing in her body,” causing her to cry out in pain, immediately blaming Ioane Vaughan. Somehow, her face became disfigured by some disease. Belcher’s brother heard of his sister’s ordeal and paid her a visit. In defense of Belcher, her brother went to the house of Agnes Browne with the intention of drawing blood. After an intense series of events, Agnes and Ioane are both apprehended and indicted for their crimes. At the trial, they plead not guilty to the bewitchment of Mistris Belcher. They were subsequently found guilty and executed on July 22, 1612.
The second account is of Arthur Bill, a poor man and a son of two witches from the town of Raunds. Already with the suspicion of Arthur being a witch, people gave him a reputation of being associated with evil activities. On one particular occasion, the body of Martha Aspine was found dead, brutally bewitched and murdered. Because Arthur, and his two witch parents, was rumored to be seen floating on water, he was accused of bewitching the woman. In the trial, his father defected and became the principal witness against Arthur. His mother, in fear of being hanged, slit her own throat. He adamantly pleaded his innocence, yet he was still found guilty. The court even gave the three spirits which Arthur called upon names; Grissill, Ball, and Iacke. He asserted his innocence up until the moment he was executed.
The last two accounts of witches are much shorter than the other two. One is of Hellen Ienkenson, who was previously suspected of bewitching cattle. This time, she was accused of bewitching a child to death. She was ultimately found guilty and executed. The second short account is of Mary Barber. Mary came from extremely poor backgrounds, both lacking in education and characterized by violence and barbarism. Accused of bewitching a man to death, she was sentenced to the same fate.