Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Shape-shifting, Black Dogs, Barrows, and Necromancy [NSFW]

I'm still having trouble actually finishing a longer post on the Restless Dead. So, while I continue working toward something coherent, I've decided to post some of my favorite confessions featured in Christina Hole's A Mirror of Witchcraft. I've decided to include images from Jules Michelet's La Sorciere... Largely because I rather like his dainty witch ladies.

VIII. “A Pretty Boy in Green Clothes.”
Pittcairn: Jonet Watson's Confession,
1661 CE.

Jonet Watson confessed that in April last bypast, or thereby, she being at the burial of Lady Dalhousie, there was a six-dollar given to Jean Bughane, to be parted among a certain number of poor folks, whereof she was one. And the said Jean Bughane did run away with the said money, so that she got no part of it. And she come home to her own house, being very grieved and angry at it, wished to have amends of Jean Bughane. Upon which the Devil appeared to her, in the likeness of a pretty boy in green clothes; and asked 'What ailed her? And what amends she would have, he should give her.' And at that time the Devil gave her his marks; and went away from her in the likeness of a black dog: – And constantly, for three days thereafter, there was a great bee come to her; and upon one morning, when she was changing her shirt, it did sit down upon her shoulder (she being naked) where she had one of the marks.

As also, about the time of the last Bale-fire night, she was at a meeting in Newtown-dean with the Devil, who had green clothes upon him, and a black hat upon his head; where she denied Christ and took herself to be a servant of the devil. Wherefore she acknowledged that she was from her heart sorrowful for the doing of it. And likewise, he gave her a new name, and called her 'Well-dancing Jenot' – and promised her money at the next meeting...
- Chapter II: “Coven and Sabbat” P. 48 – 49.
[Comments: I rather like this one for there being a “devil” as a “pretty boy” in “Green Clothes” – a very Robin Goodfellow state of affairs – and for the form of the Black Dog and Bee being taken by the spirit. In Greece, the dead were often associated with bees and swarms of bees. The Black Dog, meanwhile, is associated with Hekate, as well as a type of Ghostly Omen in and of itself in the British Isles. Finally, who doesn't appreciate a well-dancing witch? That devil has excellent taste.]

VI. “The Silver Bullet”

It was some years before the cattle plague in the garthman... came to me one morning 'in a great doment', as we say in Marshland: 'Master Robert, hast thee a crookled sixpence?' … and he took me to the pump, which stood just outside the cowshed, in which about half-a-dozen milch cows were stalled and showed me a straw or two, apparently twisted around the handle by the action of the wind. 'Thear,' said he, 'I've fund 'er oot; yon's a witch straw, an' along of t' pump hannel shea's milking aal oor cows; but I'll put a stopper on 'er ef thou'll len' mea yon crookled sixpence. I see 'er run thruff y' yard las' noight as a black bitch, an' shea canna' stan' silver.' So I produced the coin, and he had his shot at the black bitch, and now comes the pathos of the tale. That very night a dear old woman, wife of our own gardener, in getting upon a stool to reach some crockery from a high shelf, fell and broke her leg. But the garthman and many another held to their last breath that they had 'fund t' witch'.
- Chapter III: “Shape-shifting and Familiar Spirits.” P. 62 – 63.

I. “The Healing Powder.”

It happened in my time, and I was both eye and ear witness of the trial of the person accused. And the first hint of it from the pen of Durant Hotham, in his learned Epistle to the Mysterium Magnum of Jacob Behemen upon Genesis in these words: 'There was (he saith) as I have heard the story credibly reported in this Country a man apprehended for suspicion for witchcraft; he was of that sort we call white Witches*, which are such as do cures beyond the ordinary reasons and deductions of our usual practitioners, and are supposed (and most part of them truly) to do the same by the ministration of spirits (from when under their noble favours most Sciences grew), and therefore are by good reason provided against by our Civil Laws, as being ways full of danger and deceit, and scarce ever otherwise obtained than by a devilish compact of the exchange of one's Soul to that assistant spirit for the honour of its Mountebackery. What this man did was with a white powder which, he said, he received from the Fairies, and that going to a Hill, he knocked three times, and the Hill opened, and he had access to, and converse with a visible people: and offered, that if any Gentleman present would either go himself in person or send his servant, he would conduct them thither, and show them the place and persons from whom he had his skill.' To this I shall only add thus much, that the man accused for invoking and calling upon evil spirits, and was a very simple and illiterate person to any man's judgment, and had been formerly very poor, but had gotten some pretty little means to maintain himself, his Wife, and diverse small children, by his cures done with this white powder, of which there were sufficient proofs; and the Judge asking him how he came by the powder, he told a story to this effect:

That one night before the day was gone, as he was going home from his labour, being very sad and full of heavy thoughts, not knowing how to get meat and drink for his Wife and Children, he met a fair Woman in fine clothes, who asked him why he was so sad, and he told her it was by reason of his poverty, to which she said, that if he would follow her counsel she would help him to that which would serve him to get a good living; to which he said he would consent with all his heart, so that it were not by unlawful ways; she told him that it should not be by any such ways, but doing of good and curing of sick people; and so warning him strictly to meet her there the next night at the same time, she departed from him, and he went home. And the next night at the same time appointed he duly waited, and she (according to promise) came and told him that it was well he came so duly, otherwise he had missed of that benefit that she intended to do unto him, and so bade him follow her and not be afraid. Thereupon she led him to a little Hill and she knocked three times, and the hill opened, and they went in, and came to a fair hall, wherein was a Queen sitting in a great state, and many people about her, and the Gentlewoman that brought him presented him to the Queen, and she said he was welcome, and bid the Gentlewoman give him some of the white powder, and teach him how to use it; which she did, and gave him a little wood box full of the white powder, and bad him give 2 or 3 grains f it to any that were sick, and it would heal them, and so she brought him forth of the Hill, and so they parted. And being asked by the Judge whether the place within the Hill, which he called a Hall, were light or dark, he said indifferent, as it is with us in the twilight; and being asked how he got more powder, he said when he wanted he went to that Hill, and knocked three times, and said every time I am coming, I am coming, whereupon it opened, and he going in was conducted to by the aforesaid Woman to the Queen, and so had more powder given him. This was the plaint and simple story (however it may be judged of) that he told before the Judge, the whole Court and Jury, and there being no proof, but what cures he had done to very man, the Jury did acquit him; and I remember the Judge said, when all the evidence was heard, that if he were to assign his punishment, he should be whipped thence to the Fairy-hall, and did seem to judge it to be a delusion or Imposture.
- Chapter IV: “The Fairies and the Dead” P. 77 – 79.

[Comments: This story is typical of some of the trail records we have regarding the Good Neighbors aiding a witch. Emma Wilby, in her excellent paper
The Witch's Familiar and the Fairy in Early Modern England and Scotland,” notes: “Both familiar and fairy could be encountered either as the result of an invocation, or spontaneously […]. The initial encounter with both types of spirit was often described as spontaneous and conformed, in fundamentals, to standard encounter narratives found in fairy anecdotes and folktales of all periods. The individual was usually alone, either in the countryside or at home, and in some sort of trouble, the the spirit suddenly appeared and offered help.” This is precisely what we see here. It also brings to mind a number of fairy tales in which similar events take place, such as when Cinderella is greatly upset and her Fairy Godmother appears and offers her aid. Incidentally, this also gives us some insight into what might be taking place; being extremely emotional or upset is a type of altered state of consciousness, although not one we typically pay attention to. Additionally, the above confession also conforms to the typical promises made by fairies to other Cunning Folk. They do not promise riches or vast wealth, but as Wilby puts it: “a life”.
“Although the familiar is most notoriously associated with offering the witch powers to do harm and revenge herself on her enemies and so on, trial confessions attest that generally the first and most frequent offer made by the familiar was the promise of help to ease the witch's material suffering, a service also offered by the fairies. Although both familiar and fairy could promise great wealth, they more frequently promised something rather less grand. In te majority of cases, particularly in Scotland, the devil offered what was often termed “freedom from want” which in many cases amounted to helping the witch earn a basic living.”
This sounds rather inglorious until one considers that the alternative is starvation and a life constantly in a state of struggling to get by. This is one of the reason the individuals such as Mr. VI and myself refer to certain actions, when it comes to witchcraft, as being “a matter of survival.” Incidentally, this account is rather full and rare. Typically, Judges dismissed Fairy confessions and insisted on hearing about Devils and Demons, as noted by both Wilby and Carlo Ginzburg.

Incidentally, when dealing with certain spirits the pattern of three knocks or three utterances has been a repeated motif in my dealings. I relate this to the triplicity of Hekate, but... I strongly suspect it has another meaning I've yet to figure out.]

VI. “Three Persons Upon Three Broom-Staves.”

Another Evidence was the Confession of Julian Cox herself, upon her Examination before a Justice of the Peace, which was to this purpose: That she had been often tempted by the Devil to be a Witch, but never consented. That one Evening she walk'd out about a Mile from her own House, and there came riding towards her three Persons upon three Broom-staves, born up about a Yard and a half from the ground: two of them she formerly knew, which was a Witch and a Wizard that were hang'd for Witchcraft several years before. The third Person she knew not; he came in the shape of a black Man, and tempted her to give him her Soul, or to that effect, to express it by pricking her Finger, and giving her Name in her Blood in token of it... but she said she did not consent to it.
- Chapter IV: “Fairies and the Dead” P. 85 – 86.
[Comments: You don't see many tales with the ghosts of witches showing up directly in trial records, so I dig this one. Plain and simple. I also like the Blood Pact aspect appearing. Because that is Traditional.]

VII. “Necromancy in Lacashire.”

[Edward Kelly**] … upon a certain night in the Park of Walton in le dale, in the County of Lancaster, with one Paul Waring (his fellow companion in such deeds of darkness) invocated some of the Infernal Regiment, to know certain passages in the life, as also what might be known of the Devil's foresight of the manner and time of the death of a noble young gentleman, as then in wardship. The black ceremonies of the night being ended, Kelly demanded of one of the gentleman's servants what corse was last buried in Law churchyard, a church thereunto adjoining, who told him of a poor that was buried there but the same day. He and Waring intreated this foresaid servant to go with them to the grave of the man so lately interred, which he did; ad withal did help them to dig up the carcase of the poor caitiff, whom by their incantations they made him (or rather some evil spirit through his organs) to speak, who delivered strange predictions concerning the said gentleman. I was told thus much by the said serving-man, a secondary actor in that dismal abhorred business; and the divers gentlemen and others now living in Lancashire to whom he hath related this story.
- Chapter IV: “The Fairies and the Dead” P. 86.
[Comments: you may recall the second ritual in Scot's Discoverie of Witchcraft – to raise up the ghost of a hanged man – that I brought up in the last blog entry? While the details of the ritual are not in this account, the act of forcing the corpse – or the spirit of the dead to use it – to speak follows along the same lines as that ritual did. Incidentally, there is a PGM ritual wherein one consecrates a skull to act as a “speaking oracle” by transforming the ghost to whom the skull belongs into a more “powerful” Daimon through the powers of Helios or the Sun... Although, this could often be a fraudulent practice, as Lucian's mockery of Glycon would suggest and Daniel Ogden discusses in one of his two books.]

* A term generally applied to Cunning Folk. See Owen Davies
Popular Magic, or Emma Wilby's Cunning Folk and Familiar Spirits for more information.
** Yes, that is totally Eddie Talbot, the companion and seer that worked with John Dee.


Br Christopher said...

those pictures and stories are fantastic

Gordon said...

"A pretty boy in green clothing" is... weirdly hot.

*Speaks into dictaphone* Idea for an evocation...