the recent comet shows of coming war and disputes over religion, famine, disease, murder, death by poisoning of great men, storms, lightning, fires
terrible storms of thunder and hail were felt in Millain, with hailstones weighing two pounds or more, killing many cattle, breaking church steeples, crops were set on fire, after which the town felt an earthquake, destroying much of the town
discusses the comet of 1664 and 1667, the first of which was responsible for pestilence and fire, since the latter is unusual it signifies something extraordinary, discussion of God destroying Babylon
a storm sent hail and lightning down in Wetherby, many people say ‘appearances of several shapes’ in the storm, then a whirlwind of flame descended from the sky, also reports of a monstrous birth in Ill-Brewers where a mother gave birth two a female conjoined twin two necks and heads, they were baptized and are to be brought to London for the curious to see
A farmer was bargaining with a mower about cutting down some of his oats, when the price wasn’t right they fought and the farmer swore about preferring the Devil to mow his oats, that night his oats appeared as if on fire but the next day were perfectly mowed.
The pamphlet details a phenomenal instance that occurred in Hartfordshire in August 1678 (pamphlet published August 22, 1678). A farmer wanted his field mowed, and so he went to a poor neighbor who usually worked in harvest labor and proposed a small compensation for his field to be mowed. The poor man asked for a higher price for his labor, and let it be known that the farmer “bid him much more under the usual Rate than the poor Man askt above it” (2). In other words, the farmer was proposing an unreasonably low price and the poor man was within his rights to ask for a higher compensation. The farmer however, was not happy with this and some harsh words were exchanged. The farmer decided he would discuss the matter no further, but the poor man, afraid of losing future business, then proposed to the farmer “a lower price than he had Mowed for any time this Year before,” (3). The farmer said in response, “That the Devil himself should Mow his Oats before he should have anything to do with them,” (3).
In the night, several “Passengers” beheld the farmer’s field of oats “to be all on a Flame” and this strange news reached the farmer in the morning (4). He went out to see his oats, imagining them to be completely devoured by the flames (reflecting on the statement he uttered the day before “That the Devil himself should Mow his Oats before he should have anything to do with them”). The farmer was amazed to find his crops cut down, not in the usual manner but in round circles, with every straw placed so exactly, no man could possibly have performed this task in one night. And the farmer is still afraid to remove the mowed crops from their devilish design.
The pamphlet is told as a dramatic narrative, relaying the story after the matter, and being careful to place the blame of the quarrel on the farmer for being unreasonable. Demonic/devilish intervention is pointed to as the cause of this occurrence, and the opening of the pamphlet provides a dramatic statement that devils certainly exist and they come from hell, as certainly as there is a heaven and consequently a God.
about three years ago a woman began to have uncontrollable fits, doctors could not do anything and concluded that she was bewitched, one of the rooms of the house filled with smoke and a loud banging like thunder or a canon was heard, her brother-in-law was hit on the head, a spirit ran up through the chimney, after she was freed from her possession
A violent storm of lightning and hail was felt in London and at sea, a bolt struck a ship setting it on fire, five men were seemingly struck dead but eventually regained some consciousness after.
a ship from Dover was out at sea when a tempest of thunder and lightning arose, a lightning bolt struck a man on the ship dead, another boy was similarly struck dead but was brought back to life, another ship was set on fire by lightning
floods were so extreme in Holland that waters rose higher than anyone alive had seen them before, many gates and dikes broke, livestock died, some islands were completely flooded over, in Antwerp there was a thunderstorm, setting fire to several towers
A woman came into the house of a grazier when mutton was scarce and demanded some of his, he denied her to find a few days later that thirty of his sheep had been killed, he then burned one of his sheep according to the advice of the town and the witch appeared, he cut her thinking by popular opinion that taking her blood would take away her powers, she said she’d have him arrested and demanded money and set his house on fire later, she was apprehended, first pleaded guilty, and then confessed, she began to swell and mentioned the devil came to suck on her in the form of a rat, she was hanged.
In 1674, an unknown writer in London published a pamphlet describing the accusation and conviction of an elderly woman named Ann Foster for consorting with the devil and using witchcraft against her neighbor. The full title of this pamphlet is as follows: “A Full and True Relation of the Tryal, Condemnation, and Execution of Ann Foster, (Who was Arrained for a Witch) on Saturday the 22nd of this Instant August, at the place of Execution at Northampton. With the Manner how She by her Malice and Witchcraft set all the Barns and Corn on Fire belonging to one Joseph Weeden living in Eastcoat, and bewitched a whole Flock of Sheep in a most lamentable manner, and betwitching all his Horses, with his other Cattle, to the utter Ruin and undoing of the said Joseph Weeden. And also in what likeness the Devil appeared to Her while she was in Prison, and the manner of her Deportment at her Tryal”.
The pamphlet begins as an almost academic argument about the existence of witches and witchcraft. The writer reveals that he had previously not believed in such things, until he witnessed the damage Ann Foster had done. This tale is set in a town called Eastcoat in Northampton Shire in April.
It was the time of year in which mutton is scarce and precious. However, Joseph Weeden, referred to as the Grazier, choose to slaughter a sheep for his family. Knowing this, Ann Foster appeared at his house, asking for some charity. She did not want to pay the full worth of any of the meat, and thus Weeden declined. Elderly and already possessing the reputation of talking to herself, Ann left muttering threats. A couple days later, Weeden finds thirty of his sheep dismembered in their pasture.
The Grazier was so “amazed at the strangeness of the spectacle” that he called several of his neighbors over. They agreed that he was probably bewitched, and that burning one of the sheep carcasses would summon the witch who had cursed Weeden. Ann came running almost as soon as the sheep was on the fire. It was also general knowledge that “fetching the blood” from the witch would drain her of her powers. Thus, the Grazier also cut her above the hand. An infection formed within the cut, and Ann threated to have him arrested. Wanting to avoid trouble, Weeden offered to pay for her to go to a healer. The old woman took the money, claiming it to be “the Divils mony” and that it would allow her to punish him.
The next month (May), Weeden’s house and barns caught fire and could not be contained. One barn burned down completely and some of his wheat was lost. Foster was seen watching the blaze and telling the townsfolk that they would not be able to put out the fire. The townsfolk then brought these occurrences to the local Justice of the Peace and claimed Ann Foster was a witch and consorting with the devil.
Foster originally claimed she was not guilty, but confessed after hearing witness statements. “Seeing that Sentence of Death was past upon her”, the woman then tried to ask God and Weeden for forgiveness and asked that her life be spared. When it became clear that she was going to be executed, she asked to be burned at the stake. However, the court executed her in its usual manner, by hanging.
In this case, it appears that Ann Foster, an elderly and unpopular member of the community, may have practiced, or claimed to have practiced, witchcraft as a means of social power. When she does not get her way, she threatens Joseph Weeden. She threatens him with magic and legal action on two separate occasions and invokes the Devil’s name in her arguments. However, such evidence was done publicly and backfired for her when the villagers had her arrested. Here, Ann confesses, but claims to see God’s light and attempts to talk her way out of execution. Unfortunately for her, it does not work. As my research continues, it would be interesting to see if there are other instances in which women practice, or claim to practice, witchcraft in order to exert some power through intimidation or fear in their communities.