The Beginnings Of English Witchcraft

It has been said by a thoughtful writer that the subject of witchcraft

has hardly received that place which it deserves in the history of

opinions. There has been, of course, a reason for this neglect--the fact

that the belief in witchcraft is no longer existent among intelligent

people and that its history, in consequence, seems to possess rather an

antiquarian than a living interest. No one can tell the story of the

itch trials of sixteenth and seventeenth century England without

digging up a buried past, and the process of exhumation is not always

pleasant. Yet the study of English witchcraft is more than an unsightly

exposure of a forgotten superstition. There were few aspects of

sixteenth and seventeenth century life that were not affected by the

ugly belief. It is quite impossible to grasp the social conditions, it

is impossible to understand the opinions, fears, and hopes of the men

and women who lived in Elizabethan and Stuart England, without some

knowledge of the part played in that age by witchcraft. It was a matter

that concerned all classes from the royal household to the ignorant

denizens of country villages. Privy councillors anxious about their

sovereign and thrifty peasants worrying over their crops, clergymen

alert to detect the Devil in their own parishes, medical quacks eager to

profit by the fear of evil women, justices of the peace zealous to beat

down the works of Satan--all classes, indeed--believed more or less

sincerely in the dangerous powers of human creatures who had

surrendered themselves to the Evil One.

Witchcraft, in a general and vague sense, was something very old in

English history. In a more specific and limited sense it is a

comparatively modern phenomenon. This leads us to a definition of the

term. It is a definition that can be given adequately only in an

historical way. A group of closely related and somewhat ill defined

conceptions went far back. Some of them, indeed, were to be found in the

Old Testament, many of them in the Latin and Greek writers. The word

witchcraft itself belonged to Anglo-Saxon days. As early as the seventh

century Theodore of Tarsus imposed penances upon magicians and

enchanters, and the laws, from Alfred on, abound with mentions of

witchcraft.[1] From these passages the meaning of the word witch as used

by the early English may be fairly deduced. The word was the current

English term for one who used spells and charms, who was assisted by

evil spirits to accomplish certain ends. It will be seen that this is by

no means the whole meaning of the term in later times. Nothing is yet

said about the transformation of witches into other shapes, and there is

no mention of a compact, implicit or otherwise, with the Devil; there is

no allusion to the nocturnal meetings of the Devil's worshippers and to

the orgies that took place upon those occasions; there is no elaborate

and systematic theological explanation of human relations with demons.

But these notions were to reach England soon enough. Already there were

germinating in southern Europe ideas out of which the completer notions

were to spring. As early as the close of the ninth century certain

Byzantine traditions were being introduced into the West. There were

legends of men who had made written compacts with the Devil, men whom he

promised to assist in this world in return for their souls in the

next.[2] But, while such stories were current throughout the Middle

Ages, the notion behind them does not seem to have been connected with

the other features of what was to make up the idea of witchcraft until

about the middle of the fourteenth century. It was about that time that

the belief in the "Sabbat" or nocturnal assembly of the witches made its

appearance.[3] The belief grew up that witches rode through the air to

these meetings, that they renounced Christ and engaged in foul forms of

homage to Satan. Lea tells us that towards the close of the century the

University of Paris formulated the theory that a pact with Satan was

inherent in all magic, and judges began to connect this pact with the

old belief in night riders through the air. The countless confessions

that resulted from the carefully framed questions of the judges served

to develop and systematize the theory of the subject. The witch was much

more than a sorcerer. Sorcerers had been those who, through the aid of

evil spirits, by the use of certain words or of representations of

persons or things produced changes above the ordinary course of nature.

"The witch," says Lea, "has abandoned Christianity, has renounced her

baptism, has worshipped Satan as her God, has surrendered herself to

him, body and soul, and exists only to be his instrument in working the

evil to her fellow creatures which he cannot accomplish without a human

agent."[4] This was the final and definite notion of a witch. It was the

conception that controlled European opinion on the subject from the

latter part of the fourteenth to the close of the seventeenth century.

It was, as has been seen, an elaborate theological notion that had grown

out of the comparatively simple and vague ideas to be found in the

scriptural and classical writers.

It may well be doubted whether this definite and intricate theological

notion of witchcraft reached England so early as the fourteenth century.

Certainly not until a good deal later--if negative evidence is at all

trustworthy--was a clear distinction made between sorcery and

witchcraft. The witches searched for by Henry IV, the professor of

divinity, the friar, the clerk, and the witch of Eye, who were hurried

before the Council of Henry VI, that unfortunate Duchess of Gloucester

who had to walk the streets of London, the Duchess of Bedford, the

conspirators against Edward IV who were supposed to use magic, the

unlucky mistress of Edward IV--none of these who through the course of

two centuries were charged with magical misdeeds were, so far as we

know, accused of those dreadful relations with the Devil, the nauseating

details of which fill out the later narratives of witch history.

The truth seems to be that the idea of witchcraft was not very clearly

defined and differentiated in the minds of ordinary Englishmen until

after the beginning of legislation upon the subject. It is not

impossible that there were English theologians who could have set forth

the complete philosophy of the belief, but to the average mind sorcery,

conjuration, enchantment, and witchcraft were but evil ways of mastering

nature. All that was changed when laws were passed. With legislation

came greatly increased numbers of accusations; with accusations and

executions came treatises and theory. Continental writers were

consulted, and the whole system and science of the subject were soon

elaborated for all who read.

With the earlier period, which has been sketched merely by way of

definition, this monograph cannot attempt to deal. It limits itself to a

narrative of the witch trials, and incidentally of opinion as to

witchcraft, after there was definite legislation by Parliament. The

statute of the fifth year of Elizabeth's reign marks a point in the

history of the judicial persecution at which an account may very

naturally begin. The year 1558 has been selected as the date because

from the very opening of the reign which was to be signalized by the

passing of that statute and was to be characterized by a serious effort

to enforce it, the persecution was preparing.

Up to that time the crime of sorcery had been dealt with in a few early

instances by the common-law courts, occasionally (where politics were

involved) by the privy council, but more usually, it is probable, by the

church. This, indeed, may easily be illustrated from the works of law.

Britton and Fleta include an inquiry about sorcerers as one of the

articles of the sheriff's tourn. A note upon Britton, however, declares

that it is for the ecclesiastical court to try such offenders and to

deliver them to be put to death in the king's court, but that the king

himself may proceed against them if he pleases.[5] While there is some

overlapping of procedure implied by this, the confusion seems to have

been yet greater in actual practice. A brief narrative of some cases

prior to 1558 will illustrate the strangely unsettled state of

procedure. Pollock and Maitland relate several trials to be found in the

early pleas. In 1209 one woman accused another of sorcery in the king's

court and the defendant cleared herself by the ordeal. In 1279 a man

accused of killing a witch who assaulted him in his house was fined, but

only because he had fled away. Walter Langton, Bishop of Lichfield and

treasurer of Edward I, was accused of sorcery and homage to Satan and

cleared himself with the compurgators. In 1325 more than twenty men were

indicted and tried by the king's bench for murder by tormenting a waxen

image. All of them were acquitted. In 1371 there was brought before the

king's bench an inhabitant of Southwark who was charged with sorcery,

but he was finally discharged on swearing that he would never be a


It will be observed that these early cases were all of them tried in the

secular courts; but there is no reason to doubt that the ecclesiastical

courts were quite as active, and their zeal must have been quickened by

the statute of 1401, which in cases of heresy made the lay power their

executioner. It was at nearly the same time, however, that the charge of

sorcery began to be frequently used as a political weapon. In such

cases, of course, the accused was usually a person of influence and the

matter was tried in the council. It will be seen, then, that the crime

was one that might fall either under ecclesiastical or conciliar

jurisdiction and the particular circumstances usually determined finally

the jurisdiction. When Henry IV was informed that the diocese of Lincoln

was full of sorcerers, magicians, enchanters, necromancers, diviners,

and soothsayers, he sent a letter to the bishop requiring him to search

for sorcerers and to commit them to prison after conviction, or even

before, if it should seem expedient.[7] This was entrusting the matter

to the church, but the order was given by authority of the king, not

improbably after the matter had been discussed in the council. In the

reign of Henry VI conciliar and ecclesiastical authorities both took

part at different times and in different ways. Thomas Northfield, a

member of the Order of Preachers in Worcester and a professor of

divinity, was brought before the council, together with all suspected

matter belonging to him, and especially his books treating of sorcery.

Pike does not tell us the outcome.[8] In the same year there were

summoned before the council three humbler sorcerers, Margery Jourdemain,

John Virley, a cleric, and John Ashwell, a friar of the Order of the

Holy Cross. It would be hard to say whether the three were in any way

connected with political intrigue. It is possible that they were

suspected of sorcery against the sovereign. They were all, however,

dismissed on giving security.[9] It was only a few years after this

instance of conciliar jurisdiction that a much more important case was

turned over to the clergy. The story of Eleanor Cobham, Duchess of

Gloucester, is a familiar one. It was determined by the enemies of Duke

Humphrey of Gloucester to attack him through his wife, who was believed

to be influential with the young king. The first move was made by

arresting a Roger Bolingbroke who had been connected with the duke and

the duchess, and who was said to be an astronomer or necromancer. It was

declared that he had cast the duchess's horoscope with a view to

ascertaining her chances to the throne. Bolingbroke made confession, and

Eleanor was then brought before "certayne bisshoppis of the kyngis." In

the mean time several lords, members of the privy council, were

authorized to "enquire of al maner tresons, sorcery, and alle othir

thyngis that myghte in eny wise ... concerne harmfulli the kyngis

persone."[10] Bolingbroke and a clergyman, Thomas Southwell, were

indicted of treason with the duchess as accessory. With them was accused

that Margery Jourdemain who had been released ten years before. Eleanor

was then reexamined before the Bishops of London, Lincoln, and Norwich,

she was condemned as guilty, and required to walk barefoot through the

streets of London, which she "dede righte mekely." The rest of her life

she spent in a northern prison. Bolingbroke was executed as a traitor,

and Margery Jourdemain was burnt at Smithfield.[11]

The case of the Duchess of Bedford--another instance of the connection

between sorcery and political intrigue--fell naturally into the hands of

the council. It was believed by those who could understand in no other

way the king's infatuation that he had been bewitched by the mother of

the queen. The story was whispered from ear to ear until the duchess got

wind of it and complained to the council against her maligners. The

council declared her cleared of suspicion and ordered that the decision

should be "enacted of record."[12]

The charge of sorcery brought by the protector Richard of Gloucester

against Jane Shore, who had been the mistress of Edward IV, never came

to trial and in consequence illustrates neither ecclesiastical nor

conciliar jurisdiction. It is worthy of note however that the accusation

was preferred by the protector--who was soon to be Richard III--in the

council chamber.[13]

It will be seen that these cases prove very little as to procedure in

the matter of sorcery and witchcraft. They are cases that arose in a

disturbed period and that concerned chiefly people of note. That they

were tried before the bishops or before the privy council does not mean

that all such charges were brought into those courts. There must have

been less important cases that were never brought before the council or

the great ecclesiastical courts. It seems probable--to reason backward

from later practice--that less important trials were conducted almost

exclusively by the minor church courts.[14]

This would at first lead us to suspect that, when the state finally

began to legislate against witchcraft by statute, it was endeavoring to

wrest jurisdiction of the crime out of the hands of the church and to

put it into secular hands. Such a supposition, however, there is nothing

to justify. It seems probable, on the contrary, that the statute enacted

in the reign of Henry VIII was passed rather to support the church in

its struggle against sorcery and witchcraft than to limit its

jurisdiction in the matter. It was to assist in checking these

practitioners that the state stepped in. At another point in this

chapter we shall have occasion to note the great interest in sorcery and

all kindred subjects that was springing up over England, and we shall at

times observe some of the manifestations of this interest as well as

some of the causes for it. Here it is necessary only to urge the

importance of this interest as accounting for the passage of a


Chapter VIII of 33 Henry VIII states its purpose clearly: "Where,"

reads the preamble, "dyvers and sundrie persones unlawfully have devised

and practised Invocacions and conjuracions of Sprites, pretendyng by

suche meanes to understande and get Knowlege for their owne lucre in

what place treasure of golde and Silver shulde or mought be founde or

had ... and also have used and occupied wichecraftes, inchauntmentes and

sorceries to the distruccion of their neighbours persones and goodes." A

description was given of the methods practised, and it was enacted that

the use of any invocation or conjuration of spirits, witchcrafts,

enchantments, or sorceries should be considered felony.[16] It will be

observed that the law made no graduation of offences. Everything was

listed as felony. No later piece of legislation on the subject was so

sweeping in its severity.

The law remained on the statute-book only six years. In the early part

of the reign of Edward VI, when the protector Somerset was in power, a

policy of great leniency in respect to felonies was proposed. In

December of 1547 a bill was introduced into Parliament to repeal certain

statutes for treason and felony. "This bill being a matter of great

concern to every subject, a committee was appointed, consisting of the

Archbishop of Canterbury, the lord chancellor, the lord chamberlain, the

Marquis of Dorset, the Earls of Shrewsbury and Southampton, the Bishops

of Ely, Lincoln, and Worcester, the Lords Cobham, Clinton, and

Wentworth, with certain of the king's learned council; all which

noblemen were appointed to meet a committee of the Commons ... in order

to treat and commune on the purport of the said bill."[17] The Commons,

it seems, had already prepared a bill of their own, but this they were

willing to drop and the Lords' measure with some amendments was finally

passed. It was under this wide repeal of felonies that chapter VIII of

33 Henry VIII was finally annulled. Whether the question of witchcraft

came up for special consideration or not, we are not informed. We do

know that the Bishops of London, Durham, Ely, Hereford, and Chichester,

took exception to some amendments that were inserted in the act of

repeal,[18] and it is not impossible that they were opposed to repealing

the act against witchcraft. Certainly there is no reason to suppose that

the church was resisting the encroachment of the state in the subject.

As a matter of fact it is probable that, in the general question of

repeal of felonies, the question of witchcraft received scant

attention. There is indeed an interesting story that seems to point in

that direction and that deserves repeating also as an illustration of

the protector's attitude towards the question. Edward Underhill gives

the narrative in his autobiography: "When we hade dyned, the maior sentt

to [two] off his offycers with me to seke Alene; whome we mett withalle

in Poles, and toke hym with us unto his chamber, wheare we founde

fygures sett to calke the nativetie off the kynge, and a jugementt

gevyne off his deathe, wheroff this folyshe wreche thoughte hymselfe so

sure thatt he and his conselars the papistes bruted it all over. The

kynge laye att Hamtone courte the same tyme, and me lord protector at

the Syone; unto whome I caryed this Alen, with his bokes off

conejuracyons, cearkles, and many thynges beloungynge to thatt dyvlyshe

art, wiche he affyrmed before me lorde was a lawfulle cyens [science],

for the statute agaynst souche was repealed. 'Thow folyshe knave! (sayde

me lorde) yff thou and all thatt be off thy cyens telle me what I shalle

do to-morow, I wylle geve the alle thatt I have'; commaundynge me to

cary hym unto the Tower." Alen was examined about his science and it was

discovered that he was "a very unlearned asse, and a sorcerer, for the

wiche he was worthye hangynge, sayde Mr. Recorde." He was however kept

in the Tower "about the space off a yere, and then by frendshipe

delyvered. So scapithe alwayes the weked."[19]

But the wicked were not long to escape. The beginning of Elizabeth's

reign saw a serious and successful effort to put on the statute-book

definite and severe penalties for conjuration, sorcery, witchcraft, and

related crimes. The question was taken up in the very first year of the

new reign and a bill was draughted.[20] It was not, however, until 1563

that the statute was finally passed. It was then enacted that those who

"shall use, practise, or exercise any Witchecrafte, Enchantment, Charme

or Sorcerie, whereby any person shall happen to bee killed or destroyed,

... their Concellors and Aidours, ... shall suffer paynes of Deathe as a

Felon or Felons." It was further declared that those by whose practices

any person was wasted, consumed, or lamed, should suffer for the first

offence one year's imprisonment and should be put in the pillory four

times. For the second offence death was the penalty. It was further

provided that those who by witchcraft presumed to discover treasure or

to find stolen property or to "provoke any person to unlawfull love"

should suffer a year's imprisonment and four appearances in the pillory.

With this law the history of the prosecution of witchcraft in England as

a secular crime may well begin. The question naturally arises, What was

the occasion of this law? How did it happen that just at this particular

time so drastic a measure was passed and put into operation? Fortunately

part of the evidence exists upon which to frame an answer. The English

churchmen who had been driven out of England during the Marian

persecution had many of them sojourned in Zurich and Geneva, where the

extirpation of witches was in full progress, and had talked over the

matter with eminent Continental theologians. With the accession of

Elizabeth these men returned to England in force and became prominent in

church and state, many of them receiving bishoprics. It is not possible

to show that they all were influential in putting through the statute of

the fifth year of Elizabeth. It is clear that one of them spoke out

plainly on the subject. It can hardly be doubted that he represented the

opinions of many other ecclesiastics who had come under the same

influences during their exile.[21] John Jewel was an Anglican of

Calvinistic sympathies who on his return to England at Elizabeth's

accession had been appointed Bishop of Salisbury. Within a short time he

came to occupy a prominent position in the court. He preached before the

Queen and accompanied her on a visit to Oxford. It was in the course of

one of his first sermons--somewhere between November of 1559 and March

of 1560[22]--that he laid before her his convictions on witchcraft. It

is, he tells her, "the horrible using of your poor subjects," that

forces him to speak. "This kind of people (I mean witches and sorcerers)

within these few last years are marvellously increased within this your

grace's realm. These eyes have seen most evident and manifest marks of

their wickedness. Your grace's subjects pine away even unto death, their

colour fadeth, their flesh rotteth, their speech is benumbed, their

senses are bereft. Wherefore, your poor subjects' most humble petition

unto your highness is, that the laws touching such malefactors may be

put in due execution."

The church historian, Strype, conjectures that this sermon was the cause

of the law passed in the fifth year of Elizabeth's reign, by which

witchcraft was again made a felony, as it had been in the reign of Henry

VIII.[23] Whatever weight we may attach to Strype's suggestion, we have

every right to believe that Jewel introduced foreign opinion on

witchcraft. Very probably there were many returned exiles as well as

others who brought back word of the crusade on the Continent; but

Jewel's words put the matter formally before the queen and her


We can trace the effect of the ecclesiastic's appeal still further. The

impression produced by it was responsible probably not only for the

passage of the law but also for the issue of commissions to the justices

of the peace to apprehend all the witches they were able to find in

their jurisdictions.[25]

It can hardly be doubted that the impression produced by the bishop's

sermon serves in part to explain the beginning of the state's attack

upon witches. Yet one naturally inquires after some other factor in the

problem. Is it not likely that there were in England itself certain

peculiar conditions, certain special circumstances, that served to

forward the attack? To answer that query, we must recall the situation

in England when Elizabeth took the throne. Elizabeth was a Protestant,

and her accession meant the relinquishment of the Catholic hold upon

England. But it was not long before the claims of Mary, Queen of Scots,

began to give the English ministers bad dreams. Catholic and Spanish

plots against the life of Elizabeth kept the government detectives on

the lookout. Perhaps because it was deemed the hardest to circumvent,

the use of conjuration against the life of the queen was most feared.

It was a method too that appealed to conspirators, who never questioned

its efficacy, and who anticipated little risk of discovery.

To understand why the English government should have been so alarmed at

the efforts of the conjurers, we shall have to go back to the

half-century that preceded the reign of the great queen and review

briefly the rise of those curious traders in mystery. The earlier half

of the fifteenth century, when the witch fires were already lighted in

South Germany, saw the coming of conjurers in England. Their numbers

soon evidenced a growing interest in the supernatural upon the part of

the English and foreshadowed the growing faith in witchcraft. From the

scattered local records the facts have been pieced together to show that

here and there professors of magic powers were beginning to get a

hearing. As they first appear upon the scene, the conjurers may be

grouped in two classes, the position seekers and the treasure seekers.

To the first belong those who used incantations and charms to win the

favor of the powerful, and so to gain advancement for themselves or for

their clients.[26] It was a time when there was every encouragement to

try these means. Men like Wolsey and Thomas Cromwell had risen from

humble rank to the highest places in the state. Their careers seemed

inexplicable, if not uncanny. It was easy to believe that unfair and

unlawful practices had been used. What had been done before could be

done again. So the dealers in magic may have reasoned. At all events,

whatever their mental operations, they experimented with charms which

were to gain the favor of the great, and some of their operations came

to the ears of the court.

The treasure seekers[27] were more numerous. Every now and then in the

course of English history treasures have been unearthed, many of them

buried in Roman times. Stories of lucky finds had of course gained wide

circulation. Here was the opportunity of the bankrupt adventurer and the

stranded promoter. The treasures could be found by the science of magic.

The notion was closely akin to the still current idea that wells can be

located by the use of hazel wands. But none of the conjurers--and this

seems a curious fact to one familiar with the English stories of the

supernatural--ever lit upon the desired treasure. Their efforts hardly

aroused public interest, least of all alarm. Experimenters, who fifty

years later would have been hurried before the privy council, were

allowed to conjure and dig as they pleased. Henry VIII even sold the

right in one locality, and sold it at a price which showed how lightly

he regarded it.[28]

Other forms of magic were of course practiced. By the time that

Elizabeth succeeded to the throne, it is safe to say that the practice

of forbidden arts had become wide-spread in England. Reginald Scot a

little later declared that every parish was full of men and women who

claimed to work miracles.[29] Most of them were women, and their

performances read like those of the gipsy fortune-tellers today.

"Cunning women" they called themselves. They were many of them

semi-medical or pseudo-medical practitioners[30] who used herbs and

extracts, and, when those failed, charms and enchantments, to heal the

sick. If they were fairly fortunate, they became known as "good

witches." Particularly in connection with midwifery were their

incantations deemed effective.[31] From such functions it was no far

call to forecast the outcome of love affairs, or to prepare potions

which would ensure love.[32] They became general helpers to the

distressed. They could tell where lost property was to be found, an

undertaking closely related to that of the treasure seekers.[33]

It was usually in the less serious diseases[34] that these cunning folk

were consulted. They were called upon often indeed--if one fragmentary

evidence may be trusted--to diagnose the diseases and to account for the

deaths of domestic animals.[35] It may very easily be that it was from

the necessity of explaining the deaths of animals that the practitioners

of magic began to talk about witchcraft and to throw out a hint that

some witch was at the back of the matter. It would be in line with

their own pretensions. Were they not good witches? Was it not their

province to overcome the machinations of the black witches, that is,

witches who wrought evil rather than good? The disease of an animal was

hard to prescribe for. A sick horse would hardly respond to the waving

of hands and a jumble of strange words. The animal was, in all

probability, bewitched.

At any rate, whether in this particular manner or not, it became shortly

the duty of the cunning women to recognize the signs of witchcraft, to

prescribe for it, and if possible to detect the witch. In many cases the

practitioner wisely enough refused to name any one, but described the

appearance of the guilty party and set forth a series of operations by

which to expose her machinations. If certain herbs were plucked and

treated in certain ways, if such and such words were said, the guilty

party would appear at the door. At other times the wise woman gave a

perfectly recognizable description of the guilty one and offered

remedies that would nullify her maleficent influences. No doubt the

party indicated as the witch was very often another of the "good

witches," perhaps a rival. Throughout the records of the superstition

are scattered examples of wise women upon whom suspicion suddenly

lighted, and who were arraigned and sent to the gallows. Beyond question

the suspicion began often with the ill words of a neighbor,[36] perhaps

of a competitor, words that started an attack upon the woman's

reputation that she was unable to repel.

It is not to be supposed that the art of cunning was confined to the

female sex. Throughout the reign of Elizabeth, the realm was alive with

men who were pretenders to knowledge of mysteries. So closely was the

occupation allied to that of the physician that no such strict line as

now exists between reputable physicians and quack doctors separated the

"good witches" from the regular practicers of medicine. It was so

customary in Elizabethan times for thoroughly reputable and even eminent

medical men to explain baffling cases as the results of witchcraft[37]

that to draw the line of demarcation between them and the pretenders who

suggested by means of a charm or a glass a maleficent agent would be

impossible. Granted the phenomena of conjuration and witchcraft as

facts--and no one had yet disputed them--it was altogether easy to

believe that good witches who antagonized the works of black witches

were more dependable than the family physician, who could but suggest

the cause of sickness. The regular practitioner must often have created

business for his brother of the cunning arts.

One would like to know what these practicers thought of their own arts.

Certainly some of them accomplished cures. Mental troubles that baffled

the ordinary physician would offer the "good witch" a rare field for

successful endeavor. Such would be able not only to persuade a community

of their good offices, but to deceive themselves. Not all of them,

however, by any means, were self-deceived. Conscious fraud played a part

in a large percentage of cases. One witch was very naive in her

confession of fraud. When suspected of sorcery and cited to court, she

was said to have frankly recited her charm:

"My lofe in my lappe,

My penny in my purse,

You are never the better,

I am never the worse."

She was acquitted and doubtless continued to add penny to penny.[38]

We need not, indeed, be surprised that the state should have been remiss

in punishing a crime so vague in character and so closely related to an

honorable profession. Except where conjuration had affected high

interests of state, it had been practically overlooked by the

government. Now and then throughout the fourteenth and fifteenth

centuries there had been isolated plots against the sovereign, in which

conjury had played a conspicuous part. With these few exceptions the

crime had been one left to ecclesiastical jurisdiction. But now the

state was ready to reclaim its jurisdiction over these crimes and to

assume a very positive attitude of hostility towards them. This came

about in a way that has already been briefly indicated. The government

of the queen found itself threatened constantly by plots for making away

with the queen, plots which their instigators hoped would overturn the

Protestant regime and bring England back into the fold. Elizabeth had

hardly mounted her throne when her councillors began to suspect the use

of sorcery and conjuration against her life. As a result they

instituted the most painstaking inquiries into all reported cases of the

sort, especially in and about London and the neighboring counties. Every

Catholic was suspected. Two cases that were taken up within the first

year came to nothing, but a third trial proved more serious. In November

of 1558 Sir Anthony Fortescue,[39] member of a well known Catholic

family, was arrested, together with several accomplices, upon the charge

of casting the horoscope of the queen's life. Fortescue was soon

released, but in 1561 he was again put in custody, this time with two

brothers-in-law, Edmund and Arthur Pole, nephews of the famous cardinal

of that name. The plot that came to light had many ramifications. It was

proposed to marry Mary, Queen of Scots, to Edmund Pole, and from

Flanders to proclaim her Queen of England. In the meantime Elizabeth was

to die a natural death--at least so the conspirators claimed--prophesied

for her by two conjurers, John Prestall and Edmund Cosyn, with the

assistance of a "wicked spryte." It was discovered that the plot

involved the French and Spanish ambassadors. Relations between Paris and

London became strained. The conspirators were tried and sentenced to

death. Fortescue himself, perhaps because he was a second cousin of the

queen and brother of the Chancellor of the Exchequer, seems to have

escaped the gallows.[40]

The Fortescue affair was, however, but one of many conspiracies on foot

during the time. Throughout the sixties and the seventies the queen's

councillors were on the lookout. Justices of the peace and other

prominent men in the counties were kept informed by the privy council of

reported conjurers, and they were instructed to send in what evidence

they could gather against them. It is remarkable that three-fourths of

the cases that came under investigation were from a territory within

thirty miles of London. Two-thirds of them were from Essex. Not all the

conjurers were charged with plotting against the queen, but that charge

was most common. It is safe to suppose that, in the cases where that

accusation was not preferred, it was nevertheless the alarm of the privy

council for the life of the queen that had prompted the investigation

and arrest.

Between 1578 and 1582, critical years in the affairs of the Scottish

queen, the anxiety of the London authorities was intense[41]--their

precautions were redoubled. Representatives of the government were sent

out to search for conjurers and were paid well for their services.[42]

The Earl of Shrewsbury, a member of the council who had charge of the

now captive Queen Mary, kept in his employ special detectors of

conjuring.[43] Nothing about Elizabeth's government was better

organized than Cecil's detective service, and the state papers show that

the ferreting out of the conjurers was by no means the least of its

work. It was a service carried on, of course, as quietly as could be,

and yet the cases now and again came to light and made clear to the

public that the government was very fearful of conjurers' attacks upon

the queen. No doubt the activity of the council put all conjurers under

public suspicion and in some degree roused public resentment against


This brings us back to the point: What had the conjurers to do with

witchcraft? By this time the answer is fairly obvious. The practisers of

the magic arts, the charmers and enchanters, were responsible for

developing the notions of witchcraft. The good witch brought in her

company the black witch. This in itself might never have meant more than

an increased activity in the church courts. But when Protestant England

grew suddenly nervous for the life of the queen, when the conjurers

became a source of danger to the sovereign, and the council commenced

its campaign against them, the conditions had been created in which

witchcraft became at once the most dangerous and detested of crimes.

While the government was busy putting down the conjurers, the aroused

popular sentiment was compelling the justices of the peace and then the

assize judges to hang the witches.

This cannot be better illustrated than by the Abingdon affair of

1578-1579. Word had been carried to the privy council that Sir Henry

Newell, justice of the peace, had committed some women near Abingdon on

the charge of making waxen images.[44] The government was at once

alarmed and sent a message to Sir Henry and to the Dean of Windsor

instructing them to find out the facts and to discover if the plots were

directed against the queen. The precaution was unnecessary. There was no

ground for believing that the designs of the women accused had included

the queen. Indeed the evidence of guilt of any kind was very flimsy. But

the excitement of the public had been stirred to the highest pitch. The

privy council had shown its fear of the women and all four of them went

to the gallows.[45]

The same situation that brought about the attack upon witchcraft and

conjuration was no doubt responsible for the transfer of jurisdiction

over the crime. We have already seen that the practice of conjuration

had probably been left largely to the episcopal hierarchy for

punishment.[46] The archdeacons were expected in their visitations to

inquire into the practice of enchantment and magic within the parishes

and to make report.[47] In the reign of Elizabeth it became no light

duty. The church set itself to suppress both the consulter and the

consulted.[48] By the largest number of recorded cases deal of course

with the first class. It was very easy when sick or in trouble to go to

a professed conjurer for help.[49] It was like seeking a physician's

service, as we have seen. The church frowned upon it, but the danger

involved in disobeying the church was not deemed great. The cunning man

or woman was of course the one who ran the great risk. When worst came

to worst and the ecclesiastical power took cognizance of his profession,

the best he could do was to plead that he was a "good witch" and

rendered valuable services to the community.[50] But a good end was in

the eyes of the church no excuse for an evil means. The good witches

were dealers with evil spirits and hence to be repressed.

Yet the church was very light in its punishments. In the matter of

penalties, indeed, consulter and consulted fared nearly alike, and both

got off easily. Public confession and penance in one or more

specifically designated churches, usually in the nearest parish church,

constituted the customary penalty.[51] In a few instances it was

coupled with the requirement that the criminal should stand in the

pillory, taper in hand, at several places at stated times.[52] The

ecclesiastical records are so full of church penances that a student is

led to wonder how effectual they were in shaming the penitent into

better conduct. It may well be guessed that most of the criminals were

not sensitive souls that would suffer profoundly from the disgrace


The control of matters of this kind was in the hands of the church by

sufferance only. So long as the state was not greatly interested, the

church was permitted to retain its jurisdiction.[53] Doubtless the kings

of England would have claimed the state's right of jurisdiction if it

had become a matter of dispute. The church itself recognized the secular

power in more important cases.[54] In such cases the archdeacon usually

acted with the justice of peace in conducting the examination,[55] as in

rendering sentence. Even then, however, the penalty was as a rule

ecclesiastical. But, with the second half of the sixteenth century,

there arose new conditions which resulted in the transfer of this

control to the state. Henry VIII had broken with Rome and established a

Church of England around the king as a centre. The power of the church

belonged to the king, and, if to the king, to his ministers and his

judges. Hence certain crimes that had been under the control of the

church fell under the jurisdiction of the king's courts.[56] In a more

special way the same change came about through the attack of the privy

council upon the conjurers. What had hitherto been a comparatively

insignificant offence now became a crime against the state and was so

dealt with.

The change, of course, was not sudden. It was not accomplished in a

year, nor in a decade. It was going on throughout the first half of

Elizabeth's reign. By the beginning of the eighties the church control

was disappearing. After 1585 the state had practically exclusive


We have now finished the attempt to trace the beginning of the definite

movement against witchcraft in England. What witchcraft was, what it

became, how it was to be distinguished from sorcery--these are questions

that we have tried to answer very briefly. We have dealt in a cursory

way with a series of cases extending from Anglo-Saxon days down to the

fifteenth century in order to show how unfixed was the matter of

jurisdiction. We have sought also to explain how Continental opinion was

introduced into England through Jewel and other Marian exiles, to show

what independent forces were operating in England, and to exhibit the

growing influence of the charmers and their relation to the development

of witchcraft; and lastly we have aimed to prove that the special danger

to the queen had no little part in creating the crusade against witches.

These are conclusions of some moment and a caution must be inserted. We

have been treating of a period where facts are few and information

fragmentary. Under such circumstances conclusions can only be tentative.

Perhaps the most that can be said of them is that they are suggestions.

[1] Benjamin Thorpe, Ancient Laws and Institutes of England (London,

1840), I, 41; Liebermann, Die Gesetze der Angelsachsen (Halle, 1906),

and passages cited in his Woerterbuch under wiccan, wiccacraeft;

Thomas Wright, ed., A Contemporary Narrative of the Proceedings against

Dame Alice Kyteler (Camden Soc., London, 1843), introd., i-iii.

[2] George L. Burr, "The Literature of Witchcraft," printed in Papers

of the Am. Hist. Assoc., IV (New York, 1890), 244.

[3] Henry C. Lea, History of the Inquisition in Spain (New York,

1906-1907), IV, 207; cf. his History of the Inquisition of the Middle

Ages (New York, 1888), III, chs. VI, VII. The most elaborate study of

the rise of the delusion is that by J. Hansen, Zauberwahn, Inquisition

und Hexenprozess im Mittelalter (Cologne, 1900).

[4] Lea, Inquisition in Spain, IV, 206.

[5] Pollock and Maitland, History of English Law (2d ed., Cambridge,

1898), II, 554.

[6] Ibid. See also Wright, ed., Proceedings against Dame Alice

Kyteler, introd., ix.

[7] Ibid., x. Lincoln, not Norwich, as Wright's text (followed by

Pollock and Maitland) has it. See the royal letter itself printed in his

footnote, and cf. Rymer's Foedera (under date of 2 Jan. 1406) and

the Calendar of the Patent Rolls (Henry IV, vol. III, p. 112). The

bishop was Philip Repington, late the King's chaplain and confessor.

[8] L. O. Pike, History of Crime in England (London, 1873), I,


[9] Ibid. Sir Harris Nicolas, Proceedings and Ordinances of the Privy

Council (London, 1834-1837). IV, 114.

[10] English Chronicle of the Reigns of Richard II, etc., edited by J.

S. Davies (Camden Soc., London, 1856), 57-60.

[11] Ramsay, Lancaster and York (Oxford, 1892), II, 31-35; Wright,

ed., Proceedings against Dame Alice Kyteler, introd., xv-xvi, quoting

the Chronicle of London; K. H. Vickers, Humphrey, Duke of Gloucester

(London, 1907), 269-279.

[12] Wright, ed., op. cit., introd., xvi-xvii.

[13] James Gairdner, Life and Reign of Richard III (2d ed., London,

1879), 81-89. Jane Shore was finally tried before the court of the

Bishop of London.

[14] Sir J. F. Stephen, History of the Criminal Law of England

(London, 1883), II, 410, gives five instances from Archdeacon Hale's

Ecclesiastical Precedents; see extracts from Lincoln Episcopal

Visitations in Archaeologia (Soc. of Antiquaries, London), XLVIII,

254-255, 262; see also articles of visitation, etc., for 1547 and 1559

in David Wilkins, Concilia Magnae Britanniae (London, 1737), IV, 25,

186, 190.

[15] An earlier statute had mentioned sorcery and witchcraft in

connection with medical practitioners. The "Act concerning Phesicions

and Surgeons" of 3 Henry VIII, ch. XI, was aimed against quacks.

"Forasmoche as the science and connyng of Physyke and Surgerie to the

perfecte knowlege wherof bee requisite bothe grete lernyng and ripe

experience ys daily ... exercised by a grete multitude of ignoraunt

persones ... soofarfurth that common Artificers as Smythes Wevers and

Women boldely and custumably take upon theim grete curis and thyngys of

great difficultie In the which they partely use socery and which crafte

[sic] partely applie such medicyne unto the disease as be verey

noyous," it was required that every candidate to practice medicine

should be examined by the bishop of the diocese (in London by either the

bishop or the Dean of St. Paul's).

[16] Stephen, History of Criminal Law, II, 431, says of this act:

"Hutchinson suggests that this act, which was passed two years after the

act of the Six Articles, was intended as a 'hank upon the reformers,'

that the part of it to which importance was attached was the pulling

down of crosses, which, it seems, was supposed to be practised in

connection with magic. Hutchinson adds that the act was never put into

execution either against witches or reformers. The act was certainly

passed during that period of Henry's reign when he was inclining in the

Roman Catholic direction." The part of the act to which Hutchinson

refers reads as follows: "And for execucion of their saide falce devyses

and practises have made or caused to be made dyvers Images and pictures

of men, women, childrene, Angelles or develles, beastes or fowles, ...

and gyving faithe and credit to suche fantasticall practises have dygged

up and pulled downe an infinite nombre of Crosses within this Realme."

[17] Parliamentary History (London, 1751-1762), III, 229.

[18] Ibid.

[19] Autobiography of Edward Underhill (in Narratives of the Days of

the Reformation, Camden Soc., London, 1859), 172-175.

[20] The measure in fact reached the engrossing stage in the Commons.

Both houses, however, adjourned early in April and left it unpassed.

[21] Several of the bishops who were appointed on Elizabeth's accession

had travelled in South Germany and Switzerland during the Marian period

and had the opportunity of familiarizing themselves with the propaganda

in these parts against witches. Thomas Bentham, who was to be bishop of

Coventry and Lichfield, had retired from England to Zurich and had

afterwards been preacher to the exiles at Basel. John Parkhurst,

appointed bishop of Norwich, had settled in Zurich on Mary's accession.

John Scory, appointed bishop of Hereford, had served as chaplain to the

exiles in Geneva. Richard Cox, appointed bishop of Ely, had visited

Frankfort and Strassburg. Edmund Grindall, who was to be the new bishop

of London, had, during his exile, visited Strassburg, Speier, and

Frankfort. Miles Coverdale, who had been bishop of Exeter but who was

not reappointed, had been in Geneva in the course of his exile. There

were many other churchmen of less importance who at one time or another

during the Marian period visited Zurich. See Bullinger's Diarium

(Basel, 1904) and Pellican's Chronikon (Basel, 1877), passim, as

also Theodor Vetter, Relations between England and Zurich during the

Reformation (London, 1904). At Strassburg the persecution raged

somewhat later; but how thoroughly Bucer and his colleagues approved and

urged it is clear from a letter of advice addressed by them in 1538 to

their fellow pastor Schwebel, of Zweibruecken (printed as No. 88 in the

Centuria Epistolarum appended to Schwebel's Scripta Theologica,

Zweibruecken, 1605). That Bucer while in England (1549-1551) found also

occasion to utter these views can hardly be doubted. These details I owe

to Professor Burr.

[22] Various dates have been assigned for Jewel's sermon, but it can be

determined approximately from a passage in the discourse. In the course

of the sermon he remarked: "I would wish that once again, as time should

serve, there might be had a quiet and sober disputation, that each part

might be required to shew their grounds without self will and without

affection, not to maintain or breed contention, ... but only that the

truth may be known.... For, at the last disputation that should have

been, you know which party gave over and would not meddle." This is

clearly an allusion to the Westminster disputation of the last of March,

1559; see John Strype, Annals of the Reformation (London, 1709-1731;

Oxford, 1824), ed. of 1824, I, pt. i, 128. The sermon therefore was

preached after that disputation. It may be further inferred that it was

preached before Jewel's controversy with Cole in March, 1560. The words,

"For at the last disputation ... you know which party gave over and

would not meddle," were hardly written after Cole accepted Jewel's

challenge. It was on the second Sunday before Easter (March 17), 1560,

that Jewel delivered at court the discourse in which he challenged

dispute on four points of church doctrine. On the next day Henry Cole

addressed him a letter in which he asked him why he "yesterday in the

Court and at all other times at Paul's Cross" offered rather to "dispute

in these four points than in the chief matters that lie in question

betwixt the Church of Rome and the Protestants." In replying to Cole on

the 20th of March Jewel wrote that he stood only upon the negative and

again mentioned his offer. On the 31st of March he repeated his

challenge upon the four points, and upon this occasion went very much

into detail in supporting them. Now, in the sermon which we are trying

to date, the sermon in which allusion is made to the prevalence of

witches, the four points are briefly named. It may be reasonably

conjectured that this sermon anticipated the elaboration of the four

points as well as the challenging sermon of March 17. It is as certain

that it was delivered after Jewel's return to London from his visitation

in the west country. On November 2, 1559, he wrote to Peter Martyr: "I

have at last returned to London, with a body worn out by a most

fatiguing journey." See Zurich Letters, I (Parker Soc., Cambridge,

1842), 44. It is interesting and significant that he adds: "We found in

all places votive relics of saints, nails with which the infatuated

people dreamed that Christ had been pierced, and I know not what small

fragments of the sacred cross. The number of witches and sorceresses had

everywhere become enormous." Jewel was consecrated Bishop of Salisbury

in the following January, having been nominated in the summer of 1559

just before his western visitation. The sermon in which he alluded to

witches may have been preached at any time after he returned from the

west, November 2, and before March 17. It would be entirely natural that

in a court sermon delivered by the newly appointed bishop of Salisbury

the prevalence of witchcraft should be mentioned. It does not seem a

rash guess that the sermon was preached soon after his return, perhaps

in December, when the impression of what he had seen in the west was

still fresh in his memory. But it is not necessary to make this

supposition. Though the discourse was delivered some time after March

15, 1559, when the first bill "against Conjurations, Prophecies, etc.,"

was brought before the Commons (see Journal of the House of Commons,

I, 57), it is not unreasonable to believe that there was some connection

between the discourse and the fortunes of this bill. That connection

seems the more probable on a careful reading of the Commons Journals for

the first sessions of Elizabeth's Parliament. It is evident that the

Elizabethan legislators were working in close cooperation with the

ecclesiastical authorities. Jewel's sermon may be found in his Works

(ed. for the Parker Soc., Cambridge, 1845-1850), II, 1025-1034. (For the

correspondence with Cole see I, 26 ff.)

For assistance in dating this sermon the writer wishes to express his

special obligation to Professor Burr.

[23] Strype, Annals of the Reformation, I, pt. i, 11. He may, indeed,

mean to ascribe it, not to the sermon, but to the evils alleged by the


[24] In the contemporary account entitled A True and just Recorde of

the Information, Examination, and Confession of all the Witches taken at

St. Oses.... Written ... by W. W. (1582), next leaf after B 5, we read:

"there is a man of great cunning and knowledge come over lately unto our

Queenes Maiestie, which hath advertised her what a companie and number

of witches be within Englande." This probably refers to Jewel.

[25] See ibid., B 5 verso: "I and other of her Justices have received

commission for the apprehending of as many as are within these limites."

This was written later, but the event is referred to as following what

must have been Bishop Jewel's sermon.

[26] Thomas Wright, Narratives of Sorcery and Magic (ed. of N. Y.,

1852), 126 ff.; see also his Elizabeth and her Times (London, 1838),

I, 457, letter of Shrewsbury to Burghley.

[27] Wright, Narratives, 130 ff.

[28] Ibid., 134.

[29] See Reginald Scot, The Discoverie of Witchcraft (London, 1584;

reprinted, Brinsley Nicholson, ed., London, 1886), 4.

[30] A very typical instance was that in Kent in 1597, see Archaeologia

Cantiana (Kent Archaeological Soc., London), XXVI, 21. Several good

instances are given in the Hertfordshire County Session Rolls

(compiled by W. J. Hardy, London, 1905), I; see also J. Raine, ed.,

Depositions respecting the Rebellion of 1569, Witchcraft, and other

Ecclesiastical Proceedings from the Court of Durham (Surtees Soc.,

London, 1845), 99, 100.

[31] J. Raine, ed., Injunctions and other Ecclesiastical Proceedings of

Richard Barnes, Bishop of Durham (Surtees Soc., London, 1850), 18; H.

Owen and J. B. Blakeway, History of Shrewsbury (London, 1825), II,

364, art. 43.

[32] Arch. Cant., XXVI, 19.

[33] Hertfordshire Co. Sess. Rolls, I, 3.

[34] See Depositions ... from the Court of Durham, 99; Arch. Cant.,

XXVI, 21; W. H. Hale, Precedents, etc. (London, 1847), 148, 185.

[35] Hale, op. cit., 163; Middlesex County Records, ed. by J. C.

Jeaffreson (London, 1892), I, 84, 94.

[36] For an instance of how a "wise woman" feared this very thing, see

Hale, op. cit., 147.

[37] See Witches taken at St. Oses, E; also Dr. Barrow's opinion in

the pamphlet entitled The most strange and admirable discoverie of the

three Witches of Warboys, arraigned, convicted and executed at the last

assizes at Huntingdon.... (London, 1593).

[38] Folk Lore Soc. Journal, II, 157-158, where this story is quoted

from a work by "Wm. Clouues, Mayster in Chirurgery," published in 1588.

He only professed to have "reade" of it, so that it is perhaps just a

pleasant tradition. If it is nothing more than that, it is at least an

interesting evidence of opinion.

[39] Strype, Annals of the Reformation, I, pt. i, 9-10; Dictionary of

National Biography, article on Anthony Fortescue, by G. K. Fortescue.

[40] Strype, op. cit., I, pt. i, 546, 555-558; also Wright, Elizabeth

and her Times, I, 121, where a letter from Cecil to Sir Thomas Smith is


[41] The interest which the privy council showed in sorcery and

witchcraft during the earlier part of the reign is indicated in the

following references: Acts of the Privy Council, new series, VII, 6,

22, 200-201; X, 220, 382; XI, 22, 36, 292, 370-371, 427; XII, 21-22, 23,

26, 29, 34, 102, 251; Calendar of State Papers, Domestic, 1547-1580,

137, 142; id., 1581-1590, 29, 220, 246-247; id., Add. 1580-1625,

120-121; see also John Strype, Life of Sir Thomas Smith (London, 1698;

Oxford, 1820), ed. of 1820, 127-129. The case mentioned in Cal. St. P.,

Dom., 1581-1590, 29, was probably a result of the activity of the privy

council. The case in id., Add., 1580-1625, 120-121, is an instance

of where the accused was suspected of both witchcraft and "high treason

touching the supremacy." Nearly all of the above mentioned references to

the activity of the privy council refer to the first half of the reign

and a goodly proportion to the years 1578-1582.

[42] Acts P. C., n. s., XI, 292.

[43] Strype, Sir Thomas Smith, 127-129.

[44] A Rehearsall both straung and true of hainous and horrible acts

committed by Elizabeth Stile, etc. (for full title see appendix). This

pamphlet is in black letter. Its account is confirmed by the reference

in Acts P. C., n. s., XI, 22. See also Scot, Discoverie, 51, 543.

[45] An aged widow had been committed to gaol on the testimony of her

neighbors that she was "lewde, malitious, and hurtful to the people." An

ostler, after he had refused to give her relief, had suffered a pain. So

far as the account goes, this was the sum of the evidence against the

woman. Unhappily she waited not on the order of her trial but made

voluble confession and implicated five others, three of whom were

without doubt professional enchanters. She had met, she said, with

Mother Dutten, Mother Devell, and Mother Margaret, and "concluded

several hainous and vilanous practices." The deaths of five persons whom

she named were the outcome of their concerted plans. For the death of a

sixth she avowed entire responsibility. This amazing confession may have

been suggested to her piece by piece, but it was received at full value.

That she included others in her guilt was perhaps because she responded

to the evident interest aroused by such additions, or more likely

because she had grudges unsatisfied. The women were friendless, three of

the four were partially dependent upon alms, there was no one to come to

their help, and they were convicted. The man that had been arraigned, a

"charmer," seems to have gone free.

[46] Injunctions ... of ... Bishop of Durham, 18, 84, 99; Visitations

of Canterbury, in Arch. Cant., XXVI; Hale, Precedents, 1475-1640,

147, etc.

[47] Arch. Cant., XXVI, passim; Hale, op. cit., 147, 148, 163, 185;

Mrs. Lynn Linton, Witch Stories (London, 1861; new ed., 1883), 144.

[48] See Hale, op. cit., 148, 157.

[49] Hale, op. cit., 148; Depositions ... from the Court of Durham,

99; Arch. Cant., XXVI, 21.

[50] Hale, op. cit., 148, 185.

[51] Ibid., 157.

[52] Denham Tracts (Folk Lore Soc., London), II, 332; John Sykes,

Local Record ... of Remarkable Events ... in Northumberland, Durham, ...

etc. (2d ed., Newcastle, 1833-1852), I, 79.

[53] See, for example, Acts P. C., n. s., VII, 32 (1558).

[54] Cal. St. P., Dom., 1547-1580, 173. Instance where the Bishop of

London seems to have examined a case and turned it over to the privy


[55] Rachel Pinder and Agnes Bridges, who pretended to be possessed by

the Devil, were examined before the "person of St. Margarets in

Lothberry," and the Mayor of London, as well as some justices of the

peace. They later made confession before the Archbishop of Canterbury

and some justices of the peace. See the black letter pamphlet, The

discloysing of a late counterfeyted possession by the devyl in two

maydens within the Citie of London [1574].

[56] Francis Coxe came before the queen rather than the church. He

narrates his experiences in A short treatise declaringe the detestable

wickednesse of magicall sciences, ... (1561). Yet John Walsh, a man

with a similar record, came before the commissary of the Bishop of

Exeter. See The Examination of John Walsh before Master Thomas

Williams, Commissary to the Reverend father in God, William, bishop of

Excester, upon certayne Interrogatories touchyng Wytch-crafte and

Sorcerye, in the presence of divers gentlemen and others, the XX of

August, 1566.

[57] We say "practically," because instances of church jurisdiction come

to light now and again throughout the seventeenth century.