Witchcraft Admission Ceremonies


Witches in the Air, by Goya[This is taken from Margaret Alice Murray’s Witch Cult in Europe.]


1. General

In the ceremonies for admission, as in all the other ceremonies of the cult, the essentials are the same in every community and country, though the details differ. The two points which are the essence of the ceremony are invariable: the first, that the candidates must join of their own free will and without compulsion; the second, that they devote themselves, body and soul, to the Master and his service.

The ceremonies of admission differed also according to whether the candidate were a child or an adult. The most complete record of the admission of children comes from the Basses-Pyrénées in 1609:

‘Les Sorcieres luy offre[n]t des petits enfans le genoüil en terre, lui disant auec vne soubmission, Grand seigneur, lequel i’adore, ie vous ameine ce nouueau seruiteur, lequel estre perpetuellement vostre esclaue: Et le Diable en signe de remerciement & gratification leur respond, Approchez vous de moy: à quoy obeissant, elles en se trainant à genouil, le luy presentent, & luy receuant l’enfant entre ses bras, le rend a la Sorciere, la remercie, & puis luy recommande d’en auoir soing, leur disant par ce moyen sa troupe s’augmentera. Que si les enfans ayans attainct l’aage de neuf ans, par malheur se voüent au Diable sans estre forcez ny violentez d’aucun Sorcier, ils se prosternent par terre deuant Satan: lequel iettant du feu par les yeux, leur dit, Que demandez vous, voulez vous estre à moy? ils respondent qu’ouy, il leur dict, Venez vous de vostre bonne volonté? ils respondent qu’ouy, Faictes donc ce que ie veux, & ce que ie fay. Et alors la grande maistresse & Royne du Sabbat qui leur sert de pedagogue, dict à ce nouueau qui se presente, qu’il die à haute voix, Ie renie Dieu premierenment, puis Iesus Christ son Fils, le S. Esprit, la vierge, les Saincts, la Saincte Croix, le Chresme, le Baptesme, & la Foy que ie tiens, mes Parrain & Marraine, & me remets de tout poinct en ton pouuoir & entre tes mains, ne recognis autre Dieu: si bien que tu es mon Dieu & ie suis ton esclaue. Aprés on luy baille vn crapaud habillé auec son capot ou manteau, puis il commande qu’on I’adore; si bien qu’obeyssans & estants mis ‘a genouil, ils baisent le Diable auprés de l’œil gauche, A la poitrine, la fesse, à la cuisse, & aux parties honteuses, puis leuant la queue ils luy baisent le derriere.'[1]

The novice was then marked by a scratch from a sharp instrument, but was not admitted to the ‘high mysteries’ till about the age of twenty.[2] As no further ceremonies are mentioned, it may be concluded that the initiation into these mysteries was performed by degrees and without any special rites.

At Lille, about the middle of the seventeenth century, Madame Bourignon founded a home for girls of the lowest classes, ‘pauvres et mal-originées, la plus part si ignorantes au fait de leur salut qu’elles vivoient comme des bètes’.[1] After a few years, in 1661, she discovered that thirty-two of these girls were worshippers of the Devil, and in the habit of going to the Witches’ Sabbaths. They ‘had all contracted this Mischief before they came into the House’.[4] One of these girls named Bellot, aged fifteen, said ‘that her Mother had taken her with her when she was very Young, and had even carried her in her Arms to the Witches Sabbaths’.[5] Another girl of twelve had been in the habit of going to the Sabbath since she also was ‘very Young’. As the girls seem to have been genuinely fond of Madame Bourignon, she obtained a considerable amount of information from them. They told her that all worshippers of the Devil ‘are constrained to offer him their Children. When a child thus offered to the Devil by its Parents, comes to the use of Reason, the Devil then demands its Soul, and makes it deny God and renounce Baptism, and all relating to the Faith, promising Homage and Fealty to the Devil in manner of a Marriage, and instead of a Ring, the Devil gives them a Mark with an iron awl [aleine de fer] in some part of the Body.'[6]

It is also clear that Marguerite Montvoisin[7] in Paris had

[1. De Lancre, Tableau, p. 398.

2. Id. ib., p. 145.

3. Bourignon, Vie, p. 201.

4. Id., Parole, p. 85; Hale, p. 26.

5. Id., Vie, p. 211; Hale, p. 29.

6. Id. ib., p. 223; Hale, p. 37.

7. Ravaisson (the years 1679-81).]

been instructed in witchcraft from an early age; but as the trial in which she figures was for the attempted poisoning of the king and not for witchcraft, no ceremonies of initiation or admission are recorded.

In Great Britain the ceremonies for the reception of children are not given in any detail, though it was generally acknowledged that the witches dedicated their children to the Devil as soon as born; and from the evidence it appears that in many cases the witches had belonged to that religion all their lives. It was sometimes sufficient evidence against a woman that her mother had been a witch,[1] as it presupposed that she had been brought up as a worshipper of the Devil.

The Anderson children in Renfrewshire were all admitted to the society at an early age.[2] Elizabeth Anderson was only seven when she was first asked to swear fealty to the ‘black grim Man’. James Lindsay was under fourteen, and his little brother Thomas was still ‘below pupillarity’ at the time of the trial, where he declared that he had been bribed, by the promise of a red coat, to serve ‘the Gentleman, whom he knew thereafter to be the Devil’.[3] At Forfar in 1661 Jonet Howat was so young that when Isabel Syrie ‘presented hir to the divell, the divell said, What shall I do with such a little bairn as she?’ He accepted her, however, and she was evidently the pet of the community, the Devil calling her ‘his bonny bird’.[4] At Paisley, Annabil Stuart was fourteen when, at her mother’s persuasion, she took the vows of fidelity to the Devil.[5]

Elizabeth Frances at Chelmsford (tried in 1556) was about twelve years old when her grandmother first taught her the art of witchcraft.[6] Elizabeth Demdike, the famous Lancashire witch, ‘brought vp her owne Children, instructed her Graund-children, and tooke great care and paines to bring them to be Witches’.[7] One of her granddaughters, Jennet Device, was aged nine at the time of the trial.

[1. Reg. Scot., Bk. II, p. 36 (quoting from C. Agrippa).

2. Narrative of the Sufferings of a Young Girle, p. xxxix.

3. Ib., pp. xi, xli.

4. Kinloch, pp. 124, 123.

5. Glanvil, ii, p. 291.

6. Philobiblon Society, viii, p. 24.

7. Potts, B 2.]

In Sweden the children were taken regularly to the assemblies,[1] and in America[2] also a child-witch is recorded in the person of Sarah Carrier, aged eight, who had made her vows two years before at her mother’s instigation.

The ceremony for the admission of adults who were converts to the witch religion from Christianity follow certain main lines. These are (1) the free consent of the candidate, (2) the explicit denial and rejection of a previous religion, (3) the absolute and entire dedication of body and soul to the service and commands of the new Master and God.

The ceremonies being more startling and dramatic for adults than for children, they are recorded in Great Britain with the same careful detail as in France, and it is possible to trace the local variations; although in England, as is usual, the ceremonies had lost their significance to a far greater extent than in Scotland, and are described more shortly, probably because they were more curtailed.

The legal aspect of the admission ceremonies is welt expressed by Sir George Mackenzie, writing in 1699 on the Scotch laws relating to witchcraft in the seventeenth century:

‘As to the relevancy of this Crime, the first Article useth to be, paction to serve the Devil, which is certainly relevant, per se, without any addition. . . Paction with the Devil is divided by Lawyers, in expressum, & tacitum, an express and tacit Paction. Express Paction is performed either by a formal Promise given to the Devil then present, or by presenting, a Supplication to him, or by giving the promise to a Proxie or Commissioner impowered by the Devil for that effect, which is used by some who dare not see himself. The Formula set down by Delrio, is, I deny God Creator of Heaven and Earth, and I adhere to thee, and believe in thee. But by the journal Books it appears, that the ordinary Form of express Paction confest by our Witness, is a simple Promise to serve him. Tacit Paction is either when a person who hath made no express Paction, useth the Words or Signs which Sorcerers use, knowing them to be such … Renouncing of Baptism is by Delrio made an effect of Paction, yet with us it is relevant, per se . . . and the Solemnity confest by our Witches, is the putting one hand to the crown of the Head, and another to

[1. Horneck, pt. ii., pp. 317-2o.

2. Howell, vi, 669; J. Hutchinson, Hist of Massachusetts, ii, p. 44.]

the sole of the Foot, renouncing their Baptism in that posture. Delrio tells us, that the Devil useth to Baptize them of new, and to wipe off their Brow the old Baptism: And our Witches confess always the giving them new Names . . . The Devil’s Mark useth to be a great Article with us, but it is not per se found relevant, except it be confest by them, that they got that Mark with their own consent; quo casu, it is equivalent to a Paction. This Mark is given them, as is alledg’d, by a Nip in any part of the body, and it is blew.'[1]

Reginald Scot,[2] writing considerably earlier, gives a somewhat similar account of the English witches, though couched in less legal phraseology:

‘The order of their bargaine or profession is double; the one solemne and publike; the other secret and priuate. That which is called solemne or publike, is where witches come togither at certeine assemblies, at the times prefixed, and doo not onelie see the diuell in visible forme; but confer and talke familiarlie with him. In which conference the diuell exhorteth them to obserue their fidelitie vnto him, promising them long life and prosperitie. Then the witches assembled, commend a new disciple (whom they call a nouice) vnto him: and if the diuell find that yoong witch apt and forward in renunciation of christian faith, in despising anie of the seuen sacraments, in treading upon crosses, in spetting at the time of eleuation, in breaking their fast on fasting daies, and fasting on sundaies; then the diuell giueth foorth his hand, and the nouice joining hand in hand with him, promiseth to obserue and keepe all the diuell’s commandements. This done, the diuell beginneth to be more bold with hir, telling hir plainlie that all this will not serue his turne; and therefore requireth homage at hir hands: yea, he also telleth hir, that she must grant him both hir bodie and soule to be tormented in euerlasting fire: which she yeeldeth vnto. Then he chargeth hir, to procure as manie men, women, and children also, as she can, to enter into this societie . . . Sometimes their homage with their oth and bargaine is receiued for a certeine terme of yeares; sometimes for euer. Sometimes it consisteth in the deniall of the whole faith, sometimes in part. The first is, when the soule is absolutelie yeelded to the diuell and hell-fier: the other is, when they haue but bargained not to obserue certeine ceremonies and statutes of the church; as to conceale faults at shrift, to fast on sundaies, etc. And this is doone either by oth, protestation of words, or by obligation in writing, sometimes sealed with wax, sometimes signed with bloud.’

[1. Mackenzie, Title x, pp. 47, 48.

2. Reginald Scot, Bk. III, pp. 40-2.]

Forbes says that

‘an express Covenant is entred into betwixt a Witch, and the Devil appearing in some visible Shape. Whereby the former renounceth God and his Baptism, engages to serve the Devil, and do all the Mischief he can as Occasion offers, and leaves Soul and Body to his Disposal after Death. The Devil on his part articles with such Proselytes, concerning the Shape he is to appear to them in, the Services they are to expect from him, upon the Performance of certain Charms or ceremonious Rites. This League is made verbally, if the Party cannot write. And such as can write, sign a written Covenant with their Blood.'[1]

The general order of the ceremony of admission can be gathered from the evidence given at the trials, though no one trial gives the order in its entirety. The ceremony might take place privately, at a local meeting, or in full Sabbath; it was the same for either sex, except that the men were not usually introduced, the women were sometimes introduced, sometimes not. If there were any sort of introduction, it was by some one who was acquainted with the candidate; usually the person who had induced her to join. She was brought before the Devil, who asked her if she would be his faithful servant, and if she would renounce her previous religion, and dedicate herself to his service, taking him as her God. After the renunciation and vows, the Devil baptized her in his own great name, and among the Scotch witches gave her a new name by which she was known afterwards at the Sabbaths and other meetings. The ceremony concluded by (riving the witch a mark or ‘flesh-brand’ on some part of the body.

2. The Introduction.

It is not clear whether the introduction of a candidate by a member of the society was an early or a late detail. It is quite possible that it was early, the introducer standing in the same relation to the candidate as the Christian sponsors stand to a candidate for baptism. On the other hand, it is quite comprehensible that, when the witch religion became an object of persecution, no new member could be admitted unless

[1. W. Forbes, ii, 33, ed. 1730.]

vouched for by some trustworthy person. In the cases where the first meetings with the Devil are recorded, both systems are apparently in vogue. Occasionally, however, the accounts show a confusion on the part of the recorder. Thus Anne Chattox said that Mother Demdike introduced her to the Devil in Mother Demdike’s own house, and that she there yielded her soul to him; and in another place she is reported as saying that ‘a thing like a Christian man, for foure yeares togeather, did sundry, times come to this Examinate, and requested this Examinate to giue him her Soule: And in the end, this Examinate was contented to giue him her sayd Soule, shee being then in her owne house, in the Forrest of Pendle.'[1] The two statements are not inconsistent if we conclude that in her own house she consented to join the society, and in Mother Demdike’s presence she took the vows. As a rule the men seem to have joined at the direct invitation of the Devil himself, especially when they came of witch families.

3. The Renunciation and Vows

The renunciation of previous errors of faith and the vows of fidelity to the new belief are part of the ceremony of admission of any convert to a new religion. The renunciation by the witches was explicit, but the records are apt to pass it over in a few words, e.g. ‘I denied my baptism,’ ‘I forsook God and Christ,’ ‘Ils renient Dieu, la Vierge, et le reste,’ ‘Vne renonciation expresse à Iesu-Christ & à la foy’; but occasionally the words are given in full. Mackenzie, quoting from Del Rio, gives the formula thus: ‘I deny God Creator of Heaven and Earth, and I adhere to thee, and believe in thee.'[2] The actual formula is still extant in the case of the priest Louis Gaufredy, tried before the Parliament of Aix in 1611:

‘le Louys Gaufredy renonce à tous les biens tant spirituels que corporels qui me pourroyent estre conferez de la part de Dieu, de la vierge Marie & de tous les Saincts de Paradis, pareillement de mon patron S. Iean Baptiste, S. Pierre, S. Paul, & S. François, & de me donner de corps & d’ame à Lucifer

[1. Potts, B 4, D 3.

2. Mackenzie, p. 47, ed. 1699.]

icy present auec tous les biens que ie feray à iamais: excepté la valeur du Sacrement pour le regard de ceux qui le recevront: Et ainsi le signe et atteste.'[1]

Jeannette d’Abadie, aged sixteen, said that she was made to ‘renoncer & renier son Createur, la saincte Vierge, les Saincts, le Baptesme, pere, mere, parens, le ciel, la terre & tout ce qui est au monde’.[2] The irrevocability of this renunciation was impressed upon the Swedish witches in a very dramatic manner: ‘The Devil gave them a Purse, wherein there were shavings of Clocks with a Stone tied to it, which they threw into the water, and then were forced to speak these words: As these Shavings of the Clock do never return lo the Clock from which they are taken, so may my Soul never return to Heaven.'[3]

The vows to the new God were as explicit as the renunciation of the old. Danaeus says, ‘He commaundeth them to forswere God theyr creator and all his power, promising perpetually to obey and worship him, who there standeth in their presence.'[4] The English witches merely took the vow of fealty and obedience, devoting themselves body and soul to him; sometimes only the soul, however, is mentioned: but the Scotch witches of both sexes laid one hand on the crown of the head, the other on the sole of the foot, and dedicated all that was between the two hands to the service of the Master.[5] There is a slight variation of this ceremony at Dalkeith in 1661, where the Devil laid his hand upon Jonet Watson’s head, ‘and bad her “give all ower to him that was vnder his hand”, and shoe did so’.[6]

In Southern France the candidates, after renouncing their old faith, ‘prennent Satan pour leur pere et protecteur, & la Diablesse pour leur mere’.[7] At Lille the children called the ceremony the Dedication,[8] showing that the same rite obtained there.

[1. De Lancre, Tableau, p. 182.

2. Id. ib., p. 131.

3. Horneck, pt. ii, p. 322.

4. Danaeus, ch. ii, E 1.

5. Lord Fountainhall mentions a case where a pregnant woman excepted the unborn child, at which the devil was very angry. Decisions, i, p. 14.

6. Pitcairn, iii, p. 601.

7. De Lancre, Tableau, p. 123.

8. Bourinon, Vie, p. 214; Hale, p. 31.]

4. The Covenant

The signing of a covenant does not occur in every case and was probably a late introduction. Forbes, as quoted above, gives the contract between the Devil and his follower, with the part which each engages to perform. In Somerset the witches signed whether they could write or not, those who could not write putting a cross or circle as their mark.’

The free consent of the candidate is a point always insisted on, and by the confessions of the witches themselves the consent was often not merely freely but actually willingly given. Isobel Crawford of the Irvine Coven in 1618 was accused that the devil ‘come to hir awin dur in similitud of ane blak man, and prommeist, gif sche wold be his servand, sche sould have geir aneuch, and sould not want. Quhairunto sche was ever reddy to accord.'[2] Little Jonet Howat said that the Devil ‘bade her renounce her God, and she answered, Marry, shall I.'[3] In the dittay against Christian Grieve, it is stated that ‘Sathan desired you to be his servant whilk ye willingly granted to be . . . And sicklike the minister posing you upon the foresaid particulars especially anent the renunciation of your Baptism, ye answered that Sathan speired at you if ye would do it and ye answered “I warrand did I.”‘[4] Bessie Henderson and Janet Brugh, of the same Coven, acknowledged the same. To the former ‘the Devil appeared and asked you gif you would be his servant whilk ye freely and instantly accepted and granted thereto’.[5] Janet Brugh was rather more emphatic: ‘Sathan desired you to be his servant whilk ye willingly promised to be and likeways desired you to renounce your baptism whilk ye willingly did.'[6]

The written contract appealed very strongly to the legal minds of the judges and magistrates, and it is therefore often mentioned, but in Great Britain there is no record of the actual wording of any individual covenant; the Devil seems to have kept the parchment, paper, or book in his own custody. In France, however, such contracts occasionally fell into the

[1. Glanvil, ii, pp. 136,148.

2. Isobel Inch, p. 16.

3. Kinloch, p. 125. Spelling modernized.

4. Burns Begg, p. 239.

5. Id., pp. 223-4.

6. Id., p. 237.]

hands of the authorities; the earliest case being in 1453, when Guillaume Edeline, Prior of St. Germain-en-Laye, signed a compact with the Devil, which compact was afterwards found upon his person.’ The witch Stevenote de Audebert, who was burnt in January 1619, showed de Lancre ‘le pacte & conuention qu’elle auoit faict auec le Diable, escrite en sang de menstruës, & si horrible qu’on auoit horreur de la regarder’.[2]

The contract was said to be signed always in the blood of the witch, and here we come to a confusion between the mark made on the person and the mark made by the person. It seems clear that part of the ceremony of initiation was the cutting of the skin of the candidate to the effusion of blood. This is the early rite, and it seems probable that when the written contract came into vogue the blood was found to be a convenient writing-fluid, or was offered to the Devil in the form of a signature. This signing of a book plays a great part in the New England trials.

The contract was usually for the term of the witch’s life, but sometimes it was for a term of years, the number of which varies considerably. As Scot says, ‘Sometimes their homage with their oth and bargaine is receiued for a certeine terme of yeares; sometimes for ever.'[3] Popular belief assigns seven years as the length of time, at the end of which period the Devil was supposed to kill his votary. The tradition seems to be founded on fact, but there is also a certain amount of evidence that the witch was at liberty to discontinue or renew the contract at the end of the allotted term. Such a renewal seems also to have been made on the appointment of a new Chief. In France, England, and New England the term of years is mentioned; in Scotland it is mentioned by the legal authorities, but from the fact that it occurs seldom, if ever, in the trials it would seem that the contract of the Scotch witches was for life.

Magdalene de la Croix, Abbess of a religious house in Cordova in 1545, made a contract ‘for the space of thirty years’, she being then a girl of twelve.[4] In Paris in 1571 ‘il

[1. Lea, iii, p. 536.

2. De Lancre, L’Incredulité, p. 38.

3. Reg. Scot, Bk. III, p. 41.

4. Pleasant Treatise, p. 88.]

y eut vn aduocat lequel confessa qu’il auoit passé l’obligation au Diable renonceant à Dieu, & icelle signee de son propre sang. Encores s’est it verifié par plusieurs procez, que l’obligation reciproque entre le diable, & le sorcier, contient quelquesfois le terme d’vn an, deux ans, ou autre temps.” At Faversham in 1645 Joan Williford said ‘that the Devil promised to be her servant about twenty yeeres, and that the time is now almost expired’.[2] In Huntingdonshire in 1646 Elizabeth Weed of Great Catworth confessed that ‘the Devill then offer’d her, that hee would doe what mischiefe she should require him; and said she must covenant with him that he must have her soule at the end of one and twenty years, which she granted’.[3] In 1652 Giles Fenderlin of Leaven Heath was tried for that when he was a soldier at Bell in Flanders he made a five-years’ covenant with a Jesuit; ‘after the said five years was expired, in 1643 he renew’d the said Covenant with the Jesuit for 14 years longer: whereupon he drew a Covenant for him with the Devil, pricking the two fore-fingers of his right hand with an needle, and drew bloud, wherewith he writ his name with his own bloud, and then covenanted with the Devil, That if he should be safely protected during the space Of 14 years aforesaid, while such time as it expired, that then he was to take away, both body and soul as his own right and interest.'[4] At Lille in 1661 Madame Bourignon’s girls indicate the renewal of the contract: ‘The Devil gives them a Mark, which Marks they renew as often as those Persons have any desire to quit him. The Devil reproves them then more severely and obligeth them to new Promises, making them also new Marks for assurance or pledge, that those Persons should continue faithful to him.’,[5] In Somerset in 1664 Elizabeth Style said that the Devil ‘promised her Mony, and that she should live gallantly, and have the pleasure of the World for Twelve years, if she would with her Blood sign his Paper, which was to give her Soul to him’.’ At Groton in New England in 1671, according to Elizabeth Knap, ‘the terme of time agreed upon with him was for 7 yeers; one yeere shee

[1. Bodin, Fléau, p. 172.

Examination of Joan Williford, p. 4.

3. Davenport, p. 1.

4. Mrs. Joan Peterson, p. 4.

5. Bourignon, Vie, p. 223; Hale, p. 37.

6. Glanvil, pt. ii, p. 136.]

was to be faithfull in his service, and then ye other six hee would serve her, and make her a witch’.[1] At Newcastle-on-Tyne in 1673 Ann Armstrong ‘deposeth that Ann Drydon had a lease for fifty yeares of the divill, whereof ten ar expired, Ann Forster had a lease of her life for 47 yeares, whereof seaven are yet to come. Lucy Thompson had a lease of two and forty, whereof two are yet to come, and, her lease being near out, they would have perswaded this informer to have taken a lease of three score yeares or upwards.'[2] In New England some of the ‘afflicted’ said of Goodwife C. that ‘she had Covenanted with the Devil for ten Years, six of them were gone, and four more to come’.[3] In modern France the belief in the contract for a term of years is recorded, but nothing is said of the renewal of the contract or of the fate of the witch who refuses such a contract. In the department of Entre-Sambre-et-Meuse the full method of entering on such a contract is known: ‘Si vous voulez venir au bois avec moi, vous verrez un homme venir à vous. Cest le chef. Il vous demandera si vous voulez vous engager dans la société. Si vous acceptez, le terme d’engagement est de sept ans et vous gagnerez une plaquette par jour.'[4] Among the Walloons the neophyte takes with him a black hen, which the Devil buys, and then ratifies the contract, ‘le pacte est fait pour une durée de sept ans.'[5]

5. The Baptism

Records of the baptism of candidates are rare, the rite being possibly copied from the Christian ceremony and therefore of later date. It does not seem to occur in England and hardly at all in Scotland. The earliest mention is in the Basses-Pyrénées (1609), where Jeannette d’Abadie stated ‘qu’elle a veu souuent baptiser des enfans au sabbat, qu’elle nous expliqua estre des enfans des sorcieres & non autres, lesquelles ont accoutumé faire plustost baptiser leurs enfans au sabbat qu’en l’Eglise’.[6] The rite, however, was practised in Bute in 1662: Margret NcLevine confessed–

[1. Green, p. 14.

2. Surtees Soc., xl, p. 196.

3. Increase Mather, p. 205.

4. Lemoine, La Tradition, vi (1892), p. 106.

5. Monseur, p. 84,

6. De Lancre, Tableau, p. 131.]

‘that being in a litle chamber in Balichtarach the devill came to her in the lyknes of a man and deseired hir to goe with him, and that she refusing he said I will not [blank] and she gave him [blank] she never saw afterward and that she knew it was the devill and after he went that he came bak and asked hir to give him hir hand quhich she refusing to doe he took hir by the midle finger of the rycht hand quhich he had almost cutt off hir and therwith left hir. Her finger was so sorely pained for the space of a moneth ther after that ther was no pain comparable to it, as also took her by the right leg quhich was sorly pained likewayes as also be the devill. Item he came to her againe as she was shaking straw in the barne of Ardroscidell in a very ugly shape and that there he desired hir to goe with him and she refusing he said to her I will either have thy self or then thy heart. Item that he healed her sore foot and finger quhich finger is yet be nummed. Item that before he haled her that she made a covenant with him and promised to doe him any service that he wold imploy hir in. Item that he asked quhat was her name. She answered him Margret the name that God gave me, and he said to her I baptise the Jonet.'[1]

Isobell NcNicoll ‘confessed that as she was in her owne house her alone drawing acquavittie the devill came to her in the lyknes of a young man and desyred her to goe with him and confesses that she made a covenant with him quhairin he promised that she should not want meanes enough and she promised to be his servand. Item that he baptised her and gave her a new name and called her Caterine. Item that about a moneth therafter in the night as she went out of her own back dore she met with the devill and spok with him.'[2]–Jonet McNicoll ‘confesses with remorse that about hallowday as she was in Mary Moore’s house that there appeared to her two men the on a gross copperfaced man and the other a wele favored young man and that the copperfaced man quhom she knew to be ane evil spirit bade her goe with him. Item confesses that she made a covenant with him, and he promised that she wold not want meines eneugh and she promised to serve him and that he gave her a new name saying I baptise the Mary.'[3]–Jonet Morisoune

[1. Highland Papers, vol. iii, p. 6.

2. Ib., vol. iii, p. 12.

3. 1b., vol. iii, p. 13.]

‘traysted with the divill at the Knockanrioch, being the second tyme of her meeting with him, that shee made covenant with the devill . . . quairin she promised to be his servant etc. that shee asked quhat was his name his answer was my name is Klareanough and he asked quhat was her name and she answered Jonet Morisoun, the name that God gave me, and he said belive not in Christ bot belive in me. I baptise the Margarat.'[1] The Swedish witches (1669) were also baptized; ‘they added, that he caused them to be baptized too by such Priests as he had there, and made them confirm their Baptism with dreadful Oaths and Imprecations.'[2] Curiously enough the most detailed account comes from New England (1692). Mary Osgood, wife of Captain Osgood, went ‘to five mile pond, where she was baptized by the devil, who dipped her face in the water, and made her renounce her former baptism, and told her she must be his, soul and body for ever, and that she must serve him, which she promised to do. She says, the renouncing her first baptism was after her dipping.'[3] The account of Goody Lacey’s experience is given in the form of question and answer:

Q. Goody Lacey! how many years since they were baptized? A. Three or four years ago, I suppose. Q. Who baptized them? A. The old serpent. Q. How did he do it? A. He dipped their heads in the water, saying, that they were his and that he had power over them. Q. Where was this? A. At Fall’s River. Q. How many were baptized that day? A. Some of the chief; I think they were six baptized. Q. Name them. A. I think they were of the higher powers.'[4]

A near approach to the ceremony of baptism is the bloodrite at Auldearne, described by Isobel Gowdie and Janet Breadheid. The Devil marked Isobel on the shoulder, ‘and suked owt my blood at that mark, and spowted it in his hand, and, sprinkling it on my head, said, “I baptise the, Janet, in my awin name.”‘ The Devil marked Janet Breadheid in the same way on the shoulder, ‘and suked out my

[1. Highland Papers, vol. iii, p. 22.

2. Horneck, pt. ii, p. 321.

3. Howell, vi, 660; J. Hutchinson, ii, p. 31.

4. J. Hutchinson, ii, p. 36.]

blood with his mowth, at that place; he spowted it in his hand, and sprinkled it on my head. He baptised me thairvith in his awin nam, “Christian.”‘[1]

Though baptism is rare, the giving of a new name on admission is peculiar to Scotland. The names seem to have been usually nicknames derived from various sources; personal peculiarities such as ‘Weill dancing Janet’, or ‘Able and stout’; contractions of the proper name, as ‘Naip’ for Barbara Napier; or a title such as ‘Rob the Rowar’, for Robert Grierson, who kept the rows or rolls. Most of the other names appear to have been ordinary Christian names arbitrarily bestowed. There is nothing to throw any light on the reason for the change. In 1590 at North Berwick the witch-name was considered of the highest importance.

‘Robert Griersoune being namit, thay ran all hirdie-girdie and wer angrie; for it wes promesit, that he sould be callit “Rot the Comptroller alias Rob the Rowar” for expreming of his name.–Effie McCalzane, Robert Griersoune, and the said Barbara, hapnit to be nameit thair; quhilk offendit all the cumpany: And that they sould nocht haif bene nameit with thair awin names; Robert Griersoun, to haif bene callit Rob the rowar; Effie to be callit Cane; and the said Barbara, to be callit Naip.'[2]

Later, the change of name was of so little value that at Crook of Devon several of the witches could not remember what they had been called; Bessie Henderson appears to have recollected the name after a time, for it is inserted towards the end of the confession; Robert Wilson could remember the Devil’s name but not his own; Agnes Brugh and Christian Grieve could remember neither the Devil’s nor their own.[3]

The so-called ‘christening’, i. e. naming, of animals, comes rather under the head of ‘sacrifice’ than of baptism, for the ceremony appears to have been purificatory.

[1. Pitcairn, iii, pp. 603, 617.

2. Id., i, pt. ii, pp. 239, 246.

3. Burns Begg, x, pp. 224, 227, 232, 239.]

6. The Witches’ Mark

The Witches’ Mark, or Devil’s Mark, as it is indifferently called, is one of the most important points in the indentification of a witch, as the infliction of it was often the final rite in the admission ceremonies. The fact that any person bore such a mark was taken as incontrovertible proof that the bearer was a witch.

There were two kinds of marks, which should be carefully differentiated, one of which was clearly natural, the other probably artificial. Both were said to be insensible to pain and not to bleed when pricked or pierced. Local anaesthesia is vouched for in much of the evidence, which suggests that there is a substratum of truth in the statements, but I can at present offer no solution of this problem.

The writers on witchcraft, particularly the legal authorities, recognize the value of the Mark as proof of witchcraft, and some differentiate between the two forms; the witches themselves made a distinction between the two, the natural being considered inferior to the artificial.

Reginald Scot in 1584 summarizes the evidence in a few words: ‘The Diuell giveth to euerie nouice a marke, either with his teeth or with his clawes.” The Lawes against Witches and Conivration, published ‘by authority’ in 1645, state that ‘their said Familiar hath some big or little Teat upon their body, wher he sucketh them: and besides their sucking, the Devil leaveth other markes upon their bodies, sometimes like a Blew-spot, or Red-spot like a flea-biting’. Sir George Mackenzie, the famous Scotch lawyer, describing in 1699 what did and did not legally constitute a witch, says:

‘The Devils Mark useth to be a great Article with us, but it is not per se found relevant, except it be confest by them, that they got that Mark with their own consent; quo casu, it is equivalent to a Paction. This Mark is given to them, as is alledg’d, by a Nip in any part of the Body, and it is blew. Delrio calls it Stigma, or Character, and alledges that it is sometimes like the impression of a Hare’s foot, or the Foot of a Rat or Spider.'[2]

[1. Scot, Bk. III, p. 43; see also Danaeus, ch. iii.

2. Mackenzie, title x, p. 48.]

Forbes, writing in 1730, says:

‘On the meaner Proselytes the Devil fixes in some secret Part of their Bodies a Mark, as his Seal to know his own by; which is like a Flea Bite or blew Spot, or sometimes resembles a little Teat, and the Part so stamped doth ever after remain insensible, and doth not bleed, tho’ never so much nipped or pricked by thrusting a Pin, Awl or Bodkin into it; but if the Covenanter be of better Rank, the Devil only draws Blood of the Party, or touches him or her in some Part of the Body without any visible Mark remaining.'[1]

The Mark proper appears to have been the coloured spot or design which followed the infliction of a prick or nip by the claws or teeth of the Devil on the person of the neophyte. The red mark is described as being like a flea-bite, i. e. small and circular; the blue mark seems to have been larger and more elaborate, apparently in some kind of design. From the evidence five facts are clear: (1) that the mark was coloured, (2) that it was permanent, (3) that it was caused by the pricking or tearing of the skin, (4) that the operator passed his hand or fingers over the place, (5) that the pain could be severe and might last a considerable time. Put together in this way, the facts suggest tattooing.

Among the Aberdeen witches in 1597 Andro Man was accused that ‘Christsunday [the Devil] bit a mark in the third finger of thy right hand, whilk thou has yet to show’; and Christen Mitchell also was accused that ‘the Devil gave thee a nip on the back of thy right hand, for a mark that thou was one of his number’.[2] According to Boguet, writing in 1398, the witches of Eastern France were usually marked on the left shoulder, and the mark was in the, shape of the foot or footprint of a hare, but he also gives some exceptional cases:

‘L’epaule gauche est l’endroit, où plus ordinairement il marque les Sorciers. La marque des Sorciers est tantost come vne piste ou pied de lieure, & tantost d’autre façon. On en a veu vne, qui auoit vne figure rapportant en grandeur à vn petit denier, du centre de laquelle s’estendoient plusieurs filamens vers la circonference. La marque de la Belcuenotte, qui a esté brulée à Besançon, estoit au dessus de sa nature, vn

[1. Forbes, ii, p. 33.

Spalding Club Misc., i, pp. 120, 165. Spelling modernized.]

peu plus bas que le nombril. Celle, dont Guillauma Proby d’Anchay se trouua marquée au col du costé droit, estoit de mesme de la grandeur d’vn petit denier, tirant sur le brun. Iean de Vaux auoit la sieñe an doz, & ressembloit à vn petit chien noir.'[1]

De Lancre in 1609 says that in the Basses-Pyrénées ‘comme le Diable faict sa marque, on sent vn peu de chaleur, qui penetre plus on moins profondement la chair, que plus ou moins il pince le lieu qu’il touche’. As regards the position of the mark he says:

‘Il les egratigne tons auec le bras gauche, & les ongles de la main senestre. Et tout aussi tost prenant vne espingle d’or faux, il les marque le plus souuent dans le bla[n]c de 1’œil gauche, & leur imprime vne marque qui semble vn petit crapaud’] [elsewhere he says ‘vne patte de crapaud’]; ‘par fois dans l’epaule & costé gauche, ou dans la cuisse, leur rompant & dechirant la peau & la chair iusques à effusio[n] de sang; si bien que pendant trois mois ils ont de tres grandes douleurs.'[2]

Isobel Crawford of Irvine in 1618 had ‘the devill’s mark, quhilk was lyk ane braid dyn spott, in the inner syd of hir left thie, about ane handbraid under her lisk’.[3] The Lancashire witch, Margaret Johnson, in 1633, ‘saith, that such Witches as have sharpe bones given them by the devill to pricke them, have no papps nor duggs, but their devil receiveth blood from the place, pricked with the bone, which witches are more grand witches than any that have marks ‘.[4] The Yarmouth witch, tried in 1644, saw a tall black man standing in the moonlight at her door: ‘he told her, he must first see her Hand; and then taking out something like a Pen-knife, he gave it a little Scratch, so that Blood followed, and the Mark remained to that time.” Rebecca Jones, an Essex witch tried in 1645, confessed that ‘there came one morning one to the doore and knocked, and that this examinant going to the dore, shee saw there a very handsome young man, as shee then thought but now shee thinkes it was the devill; who asked this examinant how shee

[1. Boguet, pp. 315, 316, 317

2. De Lancre, Tableau, pp. 195, 399.

3. Isobel Inch, p. 16.

4. Whitaker, p. 216.

5. Hale, p. 46.]

did, and desired to see her left wrist, which shee shewed unto him: and he then tooke a pin from this examinant’s owne sleeve, and pricked her wrist twice, and there came out a drop of bloud, which he took off with the top of his finger, and so departed’.[1] The child-witch, Jonet Howat of Forfar, tried in 1661, said that ‘the devil kist hir and niped hir vpon one of hir shoulders, so as shoe hade great paine for some tyme therafter’; later he came to her, and ‘calling hir his bony bird did kisse hir, and straiked her shoulder (quhich was niped) with his hand, and that presently after that shoe was eased of hir former paine’. Elspet Alexander, of the same Coven, was also marked on the shoulder; four weeks later ‘the divill straiked hir shoulder with his fingers, and after that shoe hade ease in the place formerly niped by the devill’.[2] The witch girls at Lille in 1661 stated that ‘le Diable leur fait quelque marque comme avec une aleine de fer en quelque partie du corps’.[3] Marie Lamont of Innerkip in 1662 confessed voluntarily that ‘the devill nipit her upon the right syd, qlk was very painful for a tym, but yairefter he straikit it with his hand, and healed it; this she confesses to be his mark’.[4] In Bute in 1662 ‘Margaret NcWilliarn was tryed for the merk there was 3 merks fund, one up her left leg, next hard be the shine bone, another betwixt her shoulders a 3° ane uthyr up her hensh, blew . . . Kat Moore was tried, and it was found undernethe her richt shoulder a little whyt unsensible spott’.[5] The Somerset witches, in 1664, were marked on the fingers; it was stated of Elizabeth Style that the Devil ‘prickt the fourth Finger of hir right hand, between the middle and upper joynt (where the sign at the Examination remained)’; of Alice Duke, that ‘the Devil prickt the fourth finger of her right hand between the middle and upper joynt (where the mark is yet to be seen)’; and of Christian Green, that ‘the Man in black prickt the fourth finger of her Right-hand between the middle and upper joints, where the sign yet remains’.[6] At Paisley in 1678 Annabil Stuart confessed ‘that the Devil took her by the Hand and nipped her Arm, which continued to be

[1. Howell, iv, 854-5.

2. Kinloch, pp. 124-6.

3. Bourignon, Vie, p. 223.

4. Sharpe, p. 132.

5. Highland Papers, iii, p. 17.

6. Glanvil, pt. ii, pp. 136, 148, 156.]

sore for half an hour’.[1] At Borrowstowness the Devil took Margaret Pringle ‘by the right hand, whereby it was for eight days grievowslie pained; bot having it twitched of new againe, it imediatelie becam haill’.[2] Of the Renfrewshire Coven in 1696 little Thomas Lindsay received ‘a Nip on the Neck which continued sore for Ten days’; and John Reid had, a Bite or Nipp in his Loyn, which he found painfull for a Fortnight’.[3] At Pittenweem in 1704 the ‘young lass’, Isobel Adams, confessed that the Devil ‘put his mark in her flesh which was very painful’.[4]

The other form of the Devil’s Mark was the ‘little Teat’. It occurred on various parts of the body; was said to secrete milk and to give suck to the familiars, both human and animal; and was sometimes cut off by the witch before being searched. The descriptions of the ‘teat’ point to its being that natural phenomenon, the supernumerary nipple. Cases of polymastia or supernumerary breasts, and of polythelia or supernumerary nipples, are constantly recorded by modern medical observers. ‘These accessory structures are usually situated on the chest wall, the upper part of the abdominal wall, or in the axillae, but they have been met with on the shoulder, the buttock, the thigh, and other extraordinary positions. As a rule they are functionless.”‘ Polythelia occurs in both sexes; according to Bruce, ‘Of 315 individuals taken indiscriminately and in succession, 7.619 per cent. presented supernumerary nipple; 9.11 per cent. of 207 men examined in succession presented supernumerary nipple; and 4.807 per cent. of 104 women.’ He concludes that, ‘according to present observations at least, supernumerary nipples occur much more frequently in the male than in the female.'[6]; Cameron tabulates the positions of the supernumerary nipple in 105 cases: 196 were situated in thorax, 5 in axilla, 2 in back, 1 on shoulder, 1 outside of thigh.'[7] All writers on the subject agree that the phenomenon is of more common occurrence than is usually supposed, but that many cases pass

[1. Glanvil, pt. ii, p. 291.

2. Scots Magazine, 1814, p. 200.

3. Narrative of the Sufferings, pp. xli, xliv.

4. Sinclair, p. 259.

5. Thompson and Miles, ii, p. 341.

6. Journal of Anatomy, xiii, pp. 436, 447.

7. Id., xiii, p. 153.]

unnoticed unless well marked when in men or causing discomfort by functioning when in women. This view is supported by the fact that, during the recent unparalleled opportunity for the physical examination of large numbers of men, many cases have been published in the British Medial Journal for 1917 as occurring among recruits for the army. The supernumerary nipple is usually very much smaller than the normal; like the normal, it is a modification of cutaneous tissue and is not attached to muscular tissue; its removal is a simple operation, in fact it would be quite possible for an unskilled operator to cut it off with a sharp knife. In women the supernumerary nipple is observed to increase at the time of the periods; in some cases during lactation so much milk is secreted as to make it a matter of indifference whether the child is suckled at the normal nipples or at the supernumerary one. In cases of polymastia the nipple is not always formed; the milk, when secreted, issuing from a small opening. Though the nipple is congenital, the supernumerary breast may develop, or at any rate become noticeable, later; the theory being that the ducts carrying the secretion from the supernumerary to the normal breast become blocked in some way, and that the milk is thus exuded through the pore in the supernumerary breast. The change in the case quoted by Cameron, as well as in the case of the witch Rose Cullender, seems to have been caused by a strain.

Making allowance for the unscientific language of the recorders of the witch trials, it will be seen that the descriptions of the ‘witch-pap’ or ‘little Teat’ exactly coincide with these anatomical facts. I give the evidence below, the trials being in chronological order. It will be observed that the cases are from England and New England only; if the phenomena of polymastia and polythelia occurred in France and Scotland, there are no records of the fact in the witch-trials of those countries.

Alice Gooderidge and her mother, Elizabeth Wright, of Stapenhill near Burton-on-Trent, were tried in 1597:

‘The old woman they stript, and found behind tier right sholder a thing much like the vdder of an ewe that giueth sucke with two teates, like vnto two great wartes, the one behinde vnder her armehole, the other a hand off towardes the top of her shoulder. Being demanded how long she had those teates, she aunswered she was borne so. Then did they search Alice Gooderige, and found vpon her belly, a hole of the bignesse of two pence, fresh and bloudy, as though some great wart had beene cut off the place.'[1]

The witch of Edmonton, tried in 1621

‘The Bench commanded three women to search the body of Elizabeth Sawyer. They all three said, that they a little aboue the Fundiment of Elizabeth Sawyer found a thing like a Teate the bignesse of the little finger, and the length of half a finger, which was branched at the top like a teate, and seemed as though one had suckt it, and that the bottome thereof was blew, and the top of it was redde.'[2]

The greatest number of cases recorded in one place is in Essex during the trials before Sir Matthew Hale in 1645:

Anne Leech said ‘that her imps did usually suck those teats which were found about the privie parts of her body. [Two women searched Mary Greenleife], and found that the said Mary had bigges or teates in her secret parts, not like emerods, nor in those places where women use to be troubled with them. The examinant, being asked how she came by those teats which were discovered in her secret parts, she saith she knows not unlesse she was born with them: but she never knew she had any such untill this time. [A woman searched Margaret Moone], she found three long teates or bigges in her secret parts, which seemed to have been lately sucked; and that they were not like pyles, for this informant knows well what they are, having been troubled with them herself. Upon the searching of her daughters, this informant found that two of them had biggs in their privy parts as the said Margaret their mother had. [Several women] were required to search Sarah Hating, the wife of William Hating; Elizabeth Harvy widow, and Marian Hocket widow, and upon her said search (being a midwife) found such marks or bigges, that she never saw in other women: for Sarah Hating had foure teats or bigges in those parts, almost an inch long, and as bigge as this informant’s little finger: That the said Elizabeth Harvy had three such biggs, and about the same canting: And that the said Marian Hocket had no such bigges; but was found. in the same parts not like other honest women. Sarah Barton, the sister of the said Marian Hocket (also suspected of being a witch) said the said Marian had cut

[1. Alse Gooderidge, pp. 8, 9.

2. Elizabeth Sawyer, B 3, obv. and rev.]

off her bigs, whereby she might have been suspected to have been a witch, and laid plaisters to those places.” ‘Another Evidence deposed that she once heard the said Margaret [Landish] say, that her Imps did usually suck two Teats near the privy parts.'[2]

In Huntingdonshire in 1646 John Clarke junior, a labourer, was tried for witchcraft; John Browne, a tailor, deposed that he met Clarke on the road, Clarke ‘said he was in haste; for his Father and Mother were accused for Witches, and that hee himselfe had beene searched: and this Informant answered, and so have I. Then Clarke asked this Informant, whether any thing were found about him, or not? he (this Informant) answered, that they said there were marks: Clarke said againe, had you no more wit but to have your marks found? I cut off mine three dayes before I was searched.'[3] John Palmer of St. Albans (1649) confessed that I upon his compact with the Divel, hee received a flesh brand, or mark, upon his side, which gave suck to two familiars’.[4] There were several cases in Yorkshire: In 1649 ‘they searched the body of the saide Mary Sikes, and founde upon the side of her seate a redd lumpe about the biggnes of a nutt, being wett, and that, when they wrung it with theire fingers, moisture came out of it like lee. And they founde upon her left side neare her arme a litle lumpe like a wart, and being puld out it stretcht about halfe an inch. And they further say that they never sawe the like upon anie other weomen.'[5] In 1650 Frances Ward ‘saith that she was one of the fower that searched Margaret Morton, and found upon her two black spotts between her thigh and her body; they were like a wart, but it was none. And the other was black on both sides, an inch bread, and blew in the middest.'[6] At Scarborough in 1651.

‘Margery Ffish, widdow, beinge commanded to searche the bodye of Anne Hunnam, otherwise Marchant, who was accused for witchcraft; she, this informante, and Elizabeth Jackson,

[1. Howell, iv, 838, 843, 848, 849, 850, 85 1.

2. Four Notorious Witches at Worcester, p. 4. The place is wrongly given: it should be Essex, not Worcester.

3. Davenport, p. 15.

4. Gerish, The Divel’s Delusions, p. 12.

5. Surtees Soc., xl p. 30.

6. Id., xl, p. 38.]

and Eliz. Dale, did accordingly scarche the body of the saide Anne Hunnam, otherwise Marchant, and did finde a little blue spott upon her left side, into which spott this informant did thrust a pinne att which the sd. Ann Hunnam never moved or seemed to feel it, which spott grows, out of her ffleshe or skin at her waste of a great bignesse. Elizabeth Dale informeth upon oath, that she did, together with Margery Ffish, searche Ann Hunnam, otherwise Marchant, her bodye and saith that their was found on her left buttock a blue spott growing out of her fleshe or skin like a greate warte.'[1]

The Kentish witch, Mary Read of Lenham, in 1652, I had a visible Teat, under her tongue, and did show it to many, and it was likewise seen by this Observator.'[2] In the case of the Salisbury witch, Anne Bodenham, in 1652, ‘Women searched the Witch in the Gaol, and they delivered on their oaths at the Assises, that they found on her shoulder a certain mark or Teat, about the length and bignesse of the Niple of a Womans breast, and hollow and soft as a Niple, with a hole on the top of it: And searching further, they likewise found in her secret place another Teat, soft, and like the former on her shoulder.'[3] In Yorkshire again, in 1654, Katherine Earle was accused, ‘and the said Katherine hathe beene searched, and a marke founde upon her in the likenesse of a papp’.[4] At St. Albans, about 1660, there was a man-witch, who ‘had like a Breast on his side’.[5] In the same year at Kidderminster a widow, her two daughters, and a man were brought to trial; ‘the man had five teats, the mother three, and the eldest daughter one. When they went to search the woman, none were visible; one advised to lay them on their backs, and keep open their mouths, and they would appear; and so they presently appeared in sight.'[6] Alice Huson, of Burton Agnes, Yorks, in 1664, stated that ‘I have, I confess, a Witch-pap, which is sucked by the Unclean Spirit’.[7] Abre Grinset, of Dunwich, Suffolk, in 1665, said, ‘The Devil did appear in the form of a Pretty handsom Young Man first, and since Appeareth to her in the form of a blackish Gray Cat or Kitling, that it sucketh of a Tett (which Searchers

[1. Country Folklore, ii, p. 139.

2. Prod. and Trag. Hist., p. 6.

3. Bower, p. 28.

4. Surtees Soc., xl, p. 69.

5. Gerish, Relation of Mary Hall, p. 24.

6. Howell, iv, 827 note.

7. Hale, p. 58.]

since saw in the place She mentioned).'[1] In the same year, also in Suffolk, Rose Cullender was tried for witchcraft:

‘The searchers [six women] began at her head, and so stript her naked, and in the lower part of her belly they found a thing like a teat of an inch long, they questioned her about it, and she said, that she had got a strain by carrying of water which caused that excrescence. But upon narrower search, they found in her privy parts three more excrescencies or teats, but smaller than the former: this deponent farther saith, that in the long teat at the end thereof there was a little hole, and it appeared unto them as if it had been lately sucked, and upon the straining of it there issued out white milky matter.'[2]

Temperance Lloyd, a Devon witch, was tried in 1682: ‘Upon search of her body this informant did find in her, secret parts, two teats hanging nigh together like unto a piece of flesh that a child had suckt. And each of the said teats was about an inch in length.” Bridget Bishop, one of the New England witches, was tried in 1692: ‘A jury of Women found a preternatural Teat upon her Body: But upon a second search, within 3 or 4 hours, there was no such thing to be seen.'[4] Elizabeth Horner, another Devon witch, tried in 1696, I had something like a Nipple on her Shoulder, which the Children [who gave evidence] said was sucked by a Toad’.[5] Widow Coman, an Essex witch, died a natural death in 1699: ‘Upon her death I requested Becke the midwife to search her body in the presence of some sober women, which she did and assured me she never saw the like in her life that her fundament was open like a mouse-hole and that in it were two long bigges out of which being pressed issued blood that they were neither piles nor emrods for she knew both but excrescencies like to biggs with nipples which seemed as if they had been frequently sucked.'[6], Elinor Shaw and Mary Phillips were executed in Northampton in 1704 for witchcraft: ‘The Infernal Imps did Nightly Suck each of them a large Teat, or pieces of red Flesh in their Privy Parts.'[7]


[1. Petto, p. 18.

2. Howell, vi, 696.

3. Id., viii, 1022.

4. Mather, p. 137.

5. F. Hutchinson, Historical Essay, p. 62.

6. Gilbert, p. 6.

Witches of Northamptonshire, p. 6.]

The positions of the marks are worth noting. Of the coloured mark it will be seen from the evidence given above that there were certain well-defined positions, which is in itself a strong suggestion of the artificial character of this mark. In France the usual position was the left shoulder; in the Basses-Pyrénées the left eye, the left side, and the thigh were also commonly marked; the variations given by Boguet are the abdomen, the back, and the right side of the neck. In England it seems that only the hand and wrist were marked; in Somerset the exact position was between the upper and middle joints of the fourth finger of the right hand, probably the ‘ring-finger’, but whether on the outer or inner surface is not recorded. In Scotland the position is very varied, the right hand, the right side, the shoulder, the back, the neck, and the loin; at Aberdeen the position on the right hand is still further defined as being on the back and on the third finger, i.e. the ‘ring-finger’.

Reginald Scot does not distinguish between the two kinds of marks, when he says that if the witch ‘have anie privie marke under hir arme pokes, under hir haire, under hir lip, or in her buttocke, or in her privities; it is a presumption sufficient for the judge to proceed to give sentence of death upon her’.[1] But from the positions in which supernumerary nipples are known to occur, it would seem that he is speaking of the ‘little Teat’ and not of the coloured mark. In six out of the thirty-two cases of supernumerary nipple cited above, the number of nipples is not given; though from the context it would appear that more than one was often found on each of the accused. If, therefore, we allow two apiece for those cases not definitely specified, there were sixty-three such nipples, an average roughly of two to each person; the number varying, however, from one to five (this last being a man). The position of the nipple on the body is given in forty-five out of the sixty-three cases: abdomen 2, axilla 1, buttock 1, fundament 3, groin 2, pudenda 30, shoulder 3, side 3, under tongue 1. In writing of supernumerary nipples and mammae erraticae Williams quotes cases recorded by modern observers, in which the accessory organ occurred on the abdomen, axilla, inguinal region, outer side of thigh, shoulder, and face.’

[1. R. Scot, Bk. II, ch. 5.

2. Journal of Anatomy, xxv, 225 seq.]