Tag: witchcraft

Witchcraft – Bonus Episode




This week’s episode is a bonus episode on the history of witchcraft in English law. We give murder a rest in this episode and focus exclusively on the rise and fall of witchcraft in England in the 17th century instead. The episode starts by looking at King James I’s weird personal relationship with witch-hunting. We then see how his son, Charles I, was a bit skeptical about the whole thing, and how he fostered skepticism towards witch-hunting until his career was cut short (so to speak) and civil war broke out.

We then turn to the story of the so-called Witchfinder general, Matthew Hopkins, and his colleague, John Stearne, who were responsible for the executions of over one-hundred alleged witches during the English Civil War.

Matthew Hopkins, the so-called Witchfinder general

L0000812 Matthew Hopkins, Witch-finder..Credit: Wellcome Library, London. Wellcome Images.images@wellcome.ac.uk.http://wellcomeimages.org.

Finally, we’ll see that after the war, judges began to reject the idea that witchcraft could be proved in court, and how witchcraft prosecutions died out before witchcraft beliefs did.

Don’t worry if you are missing the history of homicide – we’ll be back with an episode on infanticide next time. 





Today’s episode is on one of the best topics ever – the history of witchcraft!

We start this episode by looking at the first famous witchcraft trial (and pamphlet) in England, the case of Mother Waterhouse. Mother Waterhouse’s case gives us some clues as to why witches and witchcraft-accusers tended to be women. One reason is that witchcraft cases tended to revolve around neighborly disputes, household problems and children. Because of this, we’ll see the witch portrayed as the “anti-housewife” and the “anti-mother.”

Then, we’ll look at how witchcraft was prosecuted in the courts. How can you prove that someone is a witch? Many types of evidence are brought before the courts, including children having fits, some extremely doubtful testimony, and the witch’s mark. Over time, the evidence becomes too doutbful to trust and witchcraft becomes impossible to prove by the late-seventeenth century.

Finally, we’ll bring it all back to the history of murder. How does witchcraft match up against other “feminine” crimes we’ve seen so far? 

And yes, it’s true that witchcraft isn’t classically considered a type of homicide. But how could I resist?

The Mother Waterhouse Pamphlet, depicting Satan as a dog with an ape face, horns, and a whistle around his neck.



The pamphlet’s full name is The examination and confession of certaine wytches at chensforde in the countie of essex : Before the quenes maiesties judges, the xxvi daye of july, anno 1566, at the assise holden there as then, and one of them put to death for the same offence, as their examination declareth more at large, printed 1566. London, By Willyam Powell for Wyllyam Pickeringe.

Secondary sources to be posted this evening!