Tag Archives: MatthewHopkins

The full tryals, examination, and condemnation of four notorious witches

Brief summary:
Rebecca West, Margaret Landis, Susan Cock, and Rose Hallybread were brought to court for the bewitching of cattle and children, the devil came to Rebecca in the shape of a young man, promising to revenge her enemies and be her loving husband, killed a man for her, John Hart, the man bewitched to death, was reported by his father to have yelled Rebecca’s name before dying, Margaret bewitch a man’s son to death after he accused her of being a witch, she admitted to having Imps suck teats near her ‘privy parts,’ they all confessed and were executed.

Fuller summary:
Rebecca West, Margaret Landis, Susan Cock and Rose Hallybread were four “notorious and reputed witches”. These women were examined for supposed “diabolical and abominable practices” on children and cattle. The beginning of the examination acknowledges that wise men don’t always believe the extraordinary accounts of witches and some are tried without faithful evidence. However, these four trials of the four witches are just.

The four trials took place on March 5th, beginning with Rebecca West. John Edes testified against her, stating a young man came to her, promising that he would have revenge on all her enemies and have all she desired, if she denied God. Matthew Hopkins told an account of Rebecca claiming the devil would marry her, but then he killed her, but he was still her “loving husband” who would avenge her of her enemies. Rebecca asked him to kill John Hart, which was done accordingly. Thomas Hart (John’s father) testified that his son died by witchcraft and when his son was being tortured to death, he heard him cry out against Rebecca. Unable to defend herself against these accusations, Rebecca claimed her “great poverty” had been the cause for her wrongdoing and pleaded guilty. The jury found her guilty of murder and witchcraft, and denied her the mercy she desired.

The death of a child by witchcraft was blamed on Margaret Landis. Supposedly, one day in December, she was walking by a man and his child. When the child pointed at Margaret and said, “there goes pegg the Witch”, Margaret turned around and clapped her hands “in a threatening manner”, telling the child she would smart it. That night, the child became sick and died three weeks later. A witness said that when the child was sick, she would see “pegg the Witch” by her bedside making strange mouths at her. More evidence that suggested Margaret was a witch included her “Imps” doing misfortunes and sucking on “teats near the privy parts”. Margaret was also overheard planning the child’s ruin in Mr. Bargrrans Orchard, and the child’s doctors claimed she died under the torture of “some diabolical agent”. Margaret’s defense was that all who testified had a grudge against her and they were all malicious people, after which she let a terrifying howl that scared the whole bench. After citing that the Holy Scripture declares witches should not live, they found her guilty.

Susan Cook and Rose Hallybread were arraigned together for the supposed killing of two children, John and Mary Peak. Abraham Chad and Elin Sheacraft both were present during the attempted torture of the children by the witches, but were asked to recall the evidence separately to ensure it was valid. According to Abraham, the two witches made wax figures of the children, and then stuck pins and needles into them while reciting strange words. The next day, the children had marks in the same areas where the wax figures were pricked and were muttering the strange words the witches had said. Elin gave the same account as Abraham, and a midwife and other women claimed they found holes in the children’s bodies. The children claimed the “Devils Imps” had done this horrible act to them. There were many witnesses that testified against the two witches, and after careful consideration by the jury, they were found guilty and sentenced to be burned at the stake.

When the witches got to the place of execution, they cried and howled and confessed to killing an abundance of cattle, which they attributed to “pride, malice, and revenge” that made them enter a league with the devil. They were fooled by the devil and warned all women not to let him fool you, or you will also die a shameful death.

A confirmation and discovery of witchcraft

Brief summary:
Mostly a theoretical discussion asserting the existence of witchcraft, uses specific cases for the argument, discusses Elizabeth Deekes of Ratlesden in Suffolk and her confession of having imps, Ioane Wallis of Keyston who confessed to knowing the Devil as a black man, Elizabeth Clarke of Maningtree in Essex confessed to knowing the Devil sexually, discusses the confessions of many other witches but does not go into the details of the case, rather uses them for examples and evidence, mostly cases of Imps and sexual relations with the Devil.

Fuller summary:
Sterne, an English witch finder, wrote this pamphlet shortly after the death of his witch finding partner Matthew Hopkins. Sterne’s goal in this pamphlet is to prove the existence of witches, and detail the procedure for detecting them. He also reviews how to discern whether accused witches are guilty or innocent. Sterne begins by denouncing witchcraft as the foulest possible crime, as it represents the renunciation of the Christian God. He states that those witches who are perceived as good are still in league with the devil, and criminals on the same level as those witches who deal in curses.

Sterne starts the body of his pamphlet by suggesting that humans, by nature, are easily corruptible by Satan, but that the preaching of the Christian Gospel weakens the power of witchcraft. He then begins to address the arguments of those who state that witches do not exist. The first evidence Sterne presents is in the form of passages from the Old and New Testaments of the Christian Bible, all of which mention witches in some form, and provide an argument for their reality. He then provides evidence for witches still existing in his time in Christian countries, rather than having died out prior to the coming of Christianity.

After Sterne has set down his general arguments for the existence of witches, he states again that all witches are bad, once more using evidence from the Bible. He makes special note that more women than men are cursing witches, while more men are those who claim to be good, using both biblical and experiential evidence to back up his claim. The bulk of the pamphlet is made up of short examples, a paragraph or two in length each, from among those whom he had accused or seen accused. Each of these providing evidence for certain types of people being witches, certain activities of witches, and certain methods of determining which people are witches. These examples generally involve confessions from the supposed witches. The conclusion reached is that a variety of faults can lead a person to become a witch, chief among these being ignorance. Following the examples meant to provide information on the nature of witches, Sterne provides more examples that give insight on how to find witches, and what methods to use in determining the truth of an accusation. In particular, he goes into depth regarding marks that can appear on the witch’s skin, and how to differentiate them from natural marks.

Multiple themes run throughout A Confirmation and Discovery of Witchcraft. One is that all witches are allied with Satan, but that their pacts with the devil either are explicit or implicit, explicit in the case of cursing witches, but implicit in the case of most healing witches. Sterne also repeatedly mentions that, by biblical decree, all witches are deserving of death. Another major theme that Sterne brings up frequently is his own virtue and truthfulness. He attempts to make clear that he never falsely accused a witch, never falsified testimony, and never took bribes. He also mentions that he did not use banned torture methods, nor did he use them frequently when they were allowed. He also mentions that he believes his partner, Matthew Hopkins, did none of these things either. It appears that both Sterne and Hopkins had been accused of unsavory practices in their witchfinding careers, and it is likely that this pamphlet was written at least in part to try and clear their names. However, Sterne seems honest in his belief in witches, and may well have genuinely believed that he had done a great service to England and wanted to make it possible for others to follow in his footsteps.