Fairy Origins


From the Latin term for “fate” (fata), faeries (or fairies) are a “host of supernatural beings and spirits who occupy a limbo between earth and heaven” (Guiley 1989 117). Faeries could be either good or evil creatures, and at various points in history have been confused with witches.

Fay or fey is the archaic term for faerie meaning bewitched or enchanted. The state of enchantment is fayerie, which became fairy and faerie.

In an attempt to save their own lives, many accused European witches claimed to have been taught their arts by faeries. These witches believed that faerie-taught craft may not be seen as malevolent as that taught by the Devil. However, the clergy conveniently allied faeries with the Devil.

Several theories exist for the origins of faeries:

  1. Faeries are tiny humans. There is some evidence small-statured races occupied part of Europe in the Bronze Age and Neolithic periods before the population by the Celts. Known at the Thuatha de Danaan in Ireland, they lived in shelters burrowed under mounds and hills. As more aggressive races migrated into their territories, these secretive little people retreated into the forests. However, some possibly maintained a guerilla warfare against the newcomers, giving rise to the legends of Rob Roy and Robin Hood.
  2. Faeries are nature spirits. Faeries were believed to be some of the spirits which populate all places and objects on Earth.
  3. Faeries are fallen angels. In the lore of Scandinavia, Scotland, and Ireland, when God cast Lucifer and his angels from heaven, God raised His hand and stopped them in mid-fall. These angels were condemned to remain where they were, becoming the faeries of seas and rivers, the earth, and the air.
  4. Faeries are the souls of dead pagans. Since the pagans are unbaptized, they are neither considered good enough to go to heaven nor bad enough to go to hell. They are therefore caught in a netherworld, becoming faeries (Guiley 1989 117).
  5. Faeries are the children of Adam and Lilith. In the folklore of Norway, faeries, or tusse, are the children of Adam and Lilith (Odegaard).
  6. Faeries are the hidden children of Adam and Eve. In Norse folklore, Eve went on to have a multitude of children after Cain, Abel, and Seth. She had so many children, even in her years in which women stop bearing, that she was ashamed. When God asked to meet all her children, she brought out a flock of them, but left quite a few behind because she was embarassed. God understood, but felt hurt, and he said the children she was hiding from him would always be hidden from her. The missing children were then transformed into faeries, or haug-folk (Skar).

Dogs in Witchcraft


Being “Mans” best friend, in this case man being the key word here I would think, the dog is one animal that is not often seen in assosocation with witches and witchcraft, as the dog unlike the cat has much more masculine associations, as well the dog’s wiles can be much more easily conditioned than a cat. While domesticated cats often still seem to share much in common with thier wild cousins and ancesestors, and have a strong independent streak, the dog can be more easily brought to heel to man’s rules and human behavior. And dogs typicaly share far less in comon with thier canine cousisins canus lupis.

But there are still some cases of dog devilry if you will.

Dogs as Familiars

A dog may be man’s best friend, but sometimes, that dog might be something even more: a familiar, or maybe even Satan himself. A fifteenth-century German manuscript (Eine spatmittellalterliche deutsche Anleitung zur Teufelsbeschworung mit Runenschriftverwendung> claimed the “Devil will come in the form of a black dog and will answer all questions” (Kieckhefer 162). The belief that the Devil takes the form of a dog was also prevalent in Lorraine, France. One typical story comes from Jean Gerard, who believed he had seen Claudatte Jean in the company of an unknown woman and a huge black dog before dawn. The accused owned no dog, and the group fled as Gerard approached (Briggs 109, 110).

In April 1590 or 1591 in Munich, Marco Antonio Bragadino, a would-be alchemist and accomplished swindler, was put to the torture and beheaded. His two black dogs were shot because they were considered ‘fiendish servants in the form of beasts'” (Kunze 385, 386).

Alice Kyteler was believed to have a dog familiar by the name of Robert or Robin Artisson, described as being a lesser demon (Russell 1972 191).

Dogs in Potions and Spellcraft

Occasionally, dogs and dog parts were incorporated in magic. The heart of a dog could be used to keep dogs from barking (Kieckhefer 75). Dog skulls were used to treat sick animals in Lorraine, France (Briggs 124). A fifteenth-century magic manual known as the Munich handbook included a recipe for a love spell. This spell involved taking the blood of a dove and using it to draw a naked woman on the skin of a female dog (Kieckhefer 7).

In addition, the blood of dogs was sometimes believed to be offered as a sacrifice to the Devil (Russell 1972 260).

Dogs were also used as one-time harvesters of the deadly mandrake root. The mandrake root would be extracted from the grount “by tying a rope around it and affixing the other end to a hungry dog, then throwing meat to the dog. The animal would pull the mandrake from the ground and would thus suffer its vengeance” (Kieckhefer 14).

In a similar fashion, although less fatal for the poor dog, was the medieval pagan belief that Christians conducted orgies.

The pagans had claimed that at the Christian orgy the lights would be extinguished in an extraordinary fashion: dogs were tied to the lamps and then tempted away with bits of meat so that, rushing to get the food, the animals would upset the lamps, upon which the orgy would proceed. Later witch literature reproduced this scenario with either a cat or a gog, which was assumed to be a manifestation of an evil spirit (Russell 1972 90, 91)..

*Image info: A witch riding a black dog from the 1926 bookLa Vie Execrable de Guillemette Babinby M.Carron.

Cats in Spells

Occasionally, cats were thought to have been used as sacrificial victims in the casting of spells. In 1590-1591, John Fian and his coven were accused of trying to drown Queen Anne and her husband King James on their ocean voyage to Denmark. Apparently, the witches christened a cat, tied it to a chopped-up human body, and threw the bundle into the ocean while reciting incantations. A huge storm arose and the royal ship was forced to return to Scotland (Guiley 1989 53). In another explanation for the same storm, according to the 1591 Newes From Scotland,

John Fian, alias Cunninghame, master of the school at Saltpans, Lothian, ever nearest to the devil, at his left elbow … chases a cat in Tranent. In which chase he was carried high above the ground, with great swiftness, and as lightly as the cat herself, over a higher dyke. Asked to what effect he chased the creature, he answered that in a conversation held at Brumhoillis, Satan commanded all that were present to take cats: like as he, for obedience to Satan, chased the said cat, to raise winds for destruction of ships and boats (Wedeck 158).

In other folklore, if a cat jumps over a dead body, the corpse will become a vampire. To stop this, the cat has to be killed. In addition, during the 17th century, a cat boiled in oil was believed to be excellent for dressing wounds. Illnesses could be tranferred to felines, which were then driven from homes. Diseases could also be created with cats. In order to cause the plague, a powder made from the body of a cat stuffed with fruit, herbs, and grain is hurled down from mountaintops (Russell 1972 240).

As a fertility charm, “a cat buried in a field will ensure a bountiful crop” (Guiley 1989 53). Conversely, to destroy crops, some accused witches were said to have filled the skin of a cat with assorted vegetable matter, put it in a spring for a period of three days, and then to dry and grind the mixture. “On a windy day they go up a mountain and scatter the powder across the land as a sacrifice to the Devil, who in return for their offering will destroy the crops” (Kieckhefer 195-196).

Cats as Familiars


By the mid- to late 1500s, cats had emerged as classic familiars. Since familiars often acted as a cipher for a witch’s own anger and desires, the explicit sexual nature of a cat tied in well with the sexual desires of a witch. In 1566, during one of the very first English witch trials, Elizabeth Francis of Hatfield Peverel admitted her grandmother had counselled her to renounce God and His word, and to give of her blood to Satan (as she termed it) which to delivered [to] her in the likeness of a white spotted cat, and taught her to feed tghe said cat with bread and milk, and she did so. Also she taught her to call it by the name of Satan, and to keep it in a basket.

When this mother Eve had given her the cat Satan, then this Elizabeth desired first of the said cat (calling it Satan) that she might be rich, and have goods, and he promised her she should, asking her what she would have, and she said ‘Sheep’ (for this cat spoke to her, as she confessed, in a strange hollow voice, but such as she understood by use) and this cat forthwith brought sheep into her pasture to the number of 18, black and white, which continued with her a time, but in the end did all wear away, she knew not how.

Item: when she had gotten these sheep, she desired to have one Andrew Byles to her husband, which was a man of some wealth, and the cat did promise thae she should, but he said she must first consent that this Andrew should abuse her, and so she did.

And after, when this Andrew had thus abused her, he would not marry her, wherefore she willed Satan to waste his goods, which he forthwith did, and yet not being contented with this, she willed him to touch his body, which he forthwith did, whereof he died.

Item: that every time he did anything for her, she said that he required a drop of blood, which she gave him by pricking herself, sometime in one place and then in another, and where she pricked hereself there remained a red spot which was still to be seen.

Cats were cherished by the witches who owned them, and anyone who harmed these familiars potentially endangered themselves. In the Lake District in England,there lived a witch whose cat was killed by the innkeeper’s dog. The old woman stood by, sad but dry-eyed (witches could not weep) while the innkeeper’s servant dug a grave for the animal. The old woman asked the servant, whose name was Willan, to read some verses over the cat from a book she had, a request that sent the man into howls of laughter. He threw the small, furry body into the hole he had dug, reciting in a loud voice a silly, mocking rhyme: ‘Ashes to ashes and dust to dust. Here’s a hole and go thou must.’

‘Very well,’ said the old woman bitterly. ‘You will be punished, as you will see.’

And Willan was indeed punished. A day later, as he was plowing the innkeeper’s field, the plowshare caught in a rock on the ground; the handles flew up into the air and pierced the young man’s eyes. He was blinded for life.

*Image info: The Love Potion, Evelyn de Morgan

The Devil as a Cat


Much folklore surrounds cats. Presumably because a cat is thought to have nine lives, witches were able to assume the shape of a cat nine times. Broth made from black cats will theoretically cure consumption. However, black cats were thought to be the Devil himself, and on Easter and Shrove Tuesday during the middle ages, black cats were routinely hunted down and burned. Cats accused of being witchs’ familars were generally burned alive (Guiley 1989 53).

The testimony in many trials portrayed witches or heretics like the Waldensians and Cathari as gathering together to kiss the posterior of a black cat. The Cathari, or Cathar, were given their punning names for this reason. According to William of Paris’12th-century De Legibus, “So according to the idolatrous practice of this age Satan is believed to appear in the form of a black cat … and to demand kisses from his adherents: One abominable kiss, under the cat’s tail…” (Wedeck 101).

In the 1307-1314 trials of the Templars, members of this military religious order were charged, along with many other offenses, of venerating a cat (Kieckhefer 188).

In 1665, a Suffolk witch by the name of Abre Grinset was put on trial. The charges went back quite a few years. In 1652, Samuel Petto wrote in his A Faithful Narrative, “The Devil did appear in the form of a Pretty hansom 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 Searches since saw in the place She mentioned”

Shapeshifting Witches


A common theme in witch trial witness testimony was that of a strange cat which would enter a household at night to attack babies or smother sleepers. This theme was reinforced by confessions of witches. Some claimed to be able to shapeshift into the form of cats in order to reach their victims.

According to The Fawne, by John Marston (c. 1575-1634), “A hag whose lies shoot poison–that has become an ould witch, and is now turning into a gib-cat” (Wedeck 160). (A gib-cat is a neutered male cat.)

In one trial,

Demenge Thiriat had told a story about how he awakened, felt there was someone else in the bedroom and touched a woman’s clothes. He heard voices he thought were those of Marion Arnoulx and Barbeline Mareschal, but when his wife lit a candle the room was empty and the door locked. Both suspects later confessed that they had entered the room in the form of cats, after Persin [their master] had stripped them naked and rubbed them with grease. They squeezed painfully through the shutters to enter the room, then were transformed back into their normal shape in order to put a poisoned grain in Demenge’s mouth; when he awoke, Persin hastily converted them back into feline form so that they could make good their escape. This elaborate scenario failed to explain how they came to be fully clothed in the room, but no-one thought to ask about this inconvenient detail (Briggs 109).

In 1427, a woman claimed to have murdered thirty children by sucking their blood. She confessed to Bernardino of Sienna of having anointed herself, and although appearing unchanged to others, of believing herself to have transformed into a cat. With satisfaction, Bernardino reported this woman had been burned as a witch (Kieckhefer 194-195).

In 1608, George Gifford wrote in A Dialogue of witches and Witchcraft,

In good sooth, I may tell it to you as to my friend, when I go but into my closet I am afraid, for I see now and then a hare, which by my conscience giveth me is a witch or some witch’s spirit, she stareth so upon me. And–There is a foule great cat sometimes in my barne which I have no liking unto” (Wedeck 160).

In the seventeenth century, Isobel Gowdie revealed the formulae by which she turned herself into a cat and back into a woman again. To change into a cat, she would say the following three times:

I shall goe intill ane catt,
With sorrow, and sych, and a blak shott;
And I sall goe in the Divellis nam,
Ay will I com hom againe.

To change back into her human form, she would say the following three times:

Catt, catt, God send thee a blak shott.
I am in a cattis liknes just now,
Bot I sal be in a womanis liknes ewin now.
Catt, catt, God send thee a blak shott

Vampire Love


In honor of the day, I thought I would make today’s article on something that I have pondered over within my mind for a while now. An idea that has been handled in a varity of different ways throughout legend, and media sources alike, and has been approahed in many different ways. Though there is no denying the vampires are perhaps the most sensual and sexual of all monsters, how do vampires love? Are they even capeable of love, and can they physcial act upon feelings of love or lust? All in all how do vampire relationships work.

Of course the very earlier of vampires were not attributed to any notions of love or lust, they were reduced to little more then proawling feeding monsters, but this idea began to transform, and the vampire, became more refined as his interest in beautiful young maidens began to develop.

Though in most accounts the feedings process is used a the replacement for other sexual relations as it is often described and dipicted as being very orgasmaic, for vampire and victim alike, but the idea of vampires enjoying more mortal forms of love making has been brought to the surface in varrious media sources and they all seem to have thier own spin upon the matter.

First I just have to mention Anne Rice whom I think is the master of vampire lietature, and her apporach to the subject, in which vampires were rendered impotent of thier mortal extremities for love making, but they were still hoplessly romantic lovers in someways. Also a rather interesting interpitation she put upon the subject was the fact that it seems once they had risen to the rank of vampire, they no longer so differences between genders, that is to say they loved man “the human race” for what it was not as men and women, and thus thier love was not limited, they could equally and pasionately love both men and women, as well this love was not shared only between mortals, but there were occurances of love among vampires, but look how hard it is for human’s to stay together sometimes with the same person for thier mortal expense in life, imagine now being with the same person for all etnernity? Needless to say relationships between vampires were often given to be rather on and off. A pair or sometimes a group of vampires would come together in love and companionship over the years, but at some point they would part ways, only to come together again and part again with the passage of years. But even at the moments when they hated each other, they never stopped loving each other.

In the book Cold Kiss, that I have mentioned here it seemed that any sort of vampirc intercourse could only be preformed between vampires, and that vampires could not be intiment with human’s in anyway besdies the feeding process, as the only way in which vampires could achvie arrousal was through pain. Vampires had to inflict great pain upon each other, biting, sctrachings, physcialy abusing each other, in order to experince any sort of climax.

The TV show Moonlight seems to entertain the idea that vampires and humans can exeprince a rather normal relationship between each other both physically and emotionaly.

One interesting display of vampire relationships was in the movie Van Hesling in which vampires could not only preform sexually with each other, but they could acutally mate in such way that produced vampirc young. This idea is not one that seems to turn up very often, the idea that a vampire could in fact father a child through the natural, mortal means of doing so, or that a vampire could acutally give brith to a child, though one other movie also toys with this diea.

The Hamiltons  which entertains a rather interesting persecptive on vampires acutally attributes vampires with the ablity to have seemingly normal families, with the execption of having to drink blood. But they can marry, have relationships, as well as childern, and try and fucntion into normal society as much as possible.

There was one other book I read sometime ago, though I know cannot remeber the name of, but it was part of a seiries, though I had only read the one book, and it was about a vampire dective, I think, as it was sometime ago, but I do remember one scene within the book which was quite an intresting take on the union of vampires. There was a man and a woman whom had been married as mortals, and both had become vampires, and continued thier relationship as vampires. And there was this one scene in which they united on a completely different plane. It was not a uninon of thier physcial bodies, but thier two souls acutally bound together and became as one, and so in affect they two became as one being, merged together in utimate union with each other.


In a previous post, I had already alluded to the techniquee of pressing which was a popular means of torture used during the Salem Witchtials, but I though I would go into a bit more detailed discussion about the technique and how it was emplyed.

Pressing, also known as peine forte et dure, was both a death sentence and a means of drawing out confessions. Adopted as a judicial measure during the 14th century, pressing reached its peak during the reign of Henry IV. In Britain, pressing was not abolished until 1772.

Margaret the martyr was one unfortunate victim of pressing. She was a devout Catholic in a time when being a Catholic was as dangerous as being accused of being a witch.

On 25 March 1586 Margaret, wearing a flimsy gown, was taken to die at the Tollbooth, six yards outside the prison. She and the womenfolk accompanying her begged that she should die in the white gown she had bought into prison for the purpose. The request was turned down. She laid down on the ground, covered her face with a handkerchief, her privacy only protected by the gown laid across her. Both hands were tied to posts to make her body the shape of a cross. A stone the size of a fist was put under her back.

She once again refused to change her views and the first weight was laid on her. By nine o’clock that morning, about eight hundred-weight (0.4 tonnes) was in place. The stones crushed her ribs which pierced the skin. Within 15 minutes she was dead (Farrington 37-39).

Giles Corey, an elderly farmer in Salem, Massachusetts, was also killed via pressing. His torment was the only recorded incident of pressing to death in the United States.

After eighty years in the settlement, most of them spend in hard work on his farm, he was still hale and healthy when the madness of 1692 started. He was subject to superstitions, as were most people in his day, and mentioned that he had observed his wife, his third, reading books. That was enough to bring her to the attention of the witch-hunters. His efforts to stop the insane persecution landed him in front of the judges. Giles was a crafty sort; he knew that his property might be confiscated by the state if he was condemned as a wizard. To avoid this and to ensure that his sons would inherit his land, he refused to plead. When asked whether he was guilty or not guilty, he stood mute. Under English law, he could be thrice asked to plead. After standing mute, he could not then be tried, but he could be, and was, subjected to the old punishment of peine forte et dure…. When the law was used against Giles Corey, he behaved with dignity. His last words were: “Put on more weight”

Burn the Witch


We are all famlliar with the idea of some poor accused woman being sent to the steak to be burned. It is perhaps one of the most comon icons associated with witches and witchcraft, and the most widely known execution method for the witch.

There are countless images of women bond to a stake screaming in agony as the flames begin to lick at her feet and spread up her legs. Such images also appear within movies, but they are somewhat misleading, they do make a far more dramatic appeal.

Though it is true, as displayed earlier, there were tremendously horrible things done to men and women alike within privacy, but the last thing the Inqusition or the Church wanted was for these heretics, devil worhsipers, witches, to be made into some sort of martyr, for the crowd to actually feel any sympathy for them, so the idea of being burned alive is misleading. Of course I cannost say that it never happend, but it was not in fact standard practice.

Burning was indeed one of the most widely used methods of execution of witch’s but truth be told, the women were killed before the flames acutally began to touch thier flesh through a method of strgalation with the use of a garotte.

Either the executioner would use a rope, or he would use an instrument like the one pictured here.

At first, the garotte was simply hanging by another name. However, during Medieval times, “executioners began to refine the use of rope until it became as feared and as vile as any punishment of that dark era. European executioners first used the garotte to end the suffering of men broken on the wheel, but by the turn of the 18th century the seed of an idea involving slow strangulation was planted in the minds of Europe’s law-makers.”

At first, garottes were nothing more than an upright post with a hole bored through. The victim would stand or sit on a seat in front of the post, and a rope was looped around his or her neck. The ends of the cors were fed through the hole in the post. The executioner would pull on both ends of the cord, slowly strangling the victim.

The modified design we see here drove a spike into the back of the victim’s neck, parting the vertebrae as it strangled. Sometimes a knife was used instead of the spike.

Punishment, Torture, and Ordeal


It was once commonly believed that a witch’s power could be nullified by blooding or burning her blood. Convicted witches were “scored above the breath” (slashed over the nose and mouth) and allowed to bleed. Sometimes witches blooded this way bled to death.

The Boots

Also known as bootikens or as cashielaws in Scotland, the boots were cruel implements of torture. They consisted of

wedges that fitted the legs from ankles to knees. The torturer used a large, heavy hammer to pound the wedges, driving them closer together. At each strike, the inquisitor repeated the question. The wedges lacerated flesh and crushed bone, sometimes so thoroughly that marrow gushed out and the legs were rendered useless


In Scandinavia, it was once believed “that a witch can be saved from eternal damnation if she is buried alive, seed is sown over her, and the resulting crop harvested”

Clensing the Soul

“It was often believed, in Catholic countries, that the soul of a heretic or witch was corrupted, filthy, and bedevilled by all manner of foulness. To cleanse them before punishment, sometimes the victims were forced to consume heated or scalding consumables (scalding water, fire brands, coals, even soaps). The modern day ‘washing the mouth out with soap’ is a direct descendant.<!–(Frazer ???)–>”

The Collar

The torture of the collar was implemented in the Netherlands. The collar was furnished with spikes and was held fast by cords stretching to the four corners of the room.

The Dunking Stool  

The ducking stool or diving chair was a punishment which most often befell women prisoners. Grossly unpleasant, and often fatal, the woman would be strapped into a seat which hung from the end of a free-moving arm. The seat and the woman would be dunked into the local river or pond. The dunking could last for an entire day or just a few seconds. “It was up to the operators of the stool as to how long she remained under the water.” Many elderly women were killed by the shock of the cold water.

The ducking stool was used in America for witches, and in Britain for the punishment of minor offendors, prostitutes, and scolds

Ducking the Witch

One ‘foolproof’ way to establish whether a suspect was a witch was ducking. With right thumb bound to left toe, the accused was plunged into a convenient pond. If he or she floated it proved an association with the black arts, with the body rejecting the baptismal water. If the victim drowned they were innocent. Given the curious position of the prisoner, it was more likely they would float.

The Heretic’s Fork

With the four sharp points rammed deep into the flesh under the chin and into the bone of the sternum, the fork prevented all movement of the head and allowed the victim only to murmur, in a barely audible voice, “abiuro” (“I recant”, engraved on one side of the fork). If instead he still refused, and if the Inquisition was the Spanish one, he was held to be an “impenitent heretic” and, dressed in the characteristic costume, was led to the stake, but with the consolation of the sacrament if extreme unction; if instead it was the Roman one, he was hanged or burnt, without the benefit of the pretty costume but still with that of proper Christian rites (Torture Instruments).


This form of torture was specific to women. It involved tying a stick into a woman’s hair and twisting it tighter and tighter. When the Inquisitor no longer had the strength to twist, he would hold the victim’s head or fasten it in a holding device until burly men could take over the chore.

Not only would the hair be ripped out, but the scalp would often be torn open, exposing the skull-cap.

As expected, only women with thick or long hair were chosen for this torture. Reports exist of this torture being used in Germany against Gypsies (1740s-1750s) and in Russia as late as the Bolshevik Revolution in 1917-1918.

<!–(Frazer ???)

–>The Ladder Rack

This is a reconstruction of an inclined ladder. The victim was stretched out on the device until his shoulders dislocated. It was also common for the victim to be burned on the armpits and the flanks with a torch composed of seven wax tapers.


Some tortures were devised with women specifically in mind. Mastectomy was one of them. Although both men and women could have the skin torn off them with red- or white-hot pincers, mastectomy was a distinctly feminine device. One torture manual recommended particular attention be paid to female breasts as they are “extremely sensitive, on account of the refinement of the veins.”

Mastectomy first became popular in 1599 Bavaria. The most famous case is that of Anna Pappenheimer. After already being tortured with the strappado, a public demonstration was in order. Anna was stripped, her flesh torn off with red-hot pincers, and her breasts cut off. As if this was not enough,

the bloody breasts were forced into her mouth and then into the mouths of her two grown sons. . . . This fiendish punishment was thus used as a particular torment to women. But it was more than physical torture: by rubbing the severed breasts around her sons’ lips, the executioner made a hideous parody of her role as mother and nurse, imposing an extreme humiliation upon her.

Ordeal By Fire

Before an ordeal by fire began, all involved would take part in a religious rite. This rite lasted three days and the accused underwent blessings, exorcisms, prayers, fasting, and the taking of sacraments.

Then it was time to be exposed to the fire. Sometimes that meant carrying a lump of hot iron for a set distance, something in the order of three yards (three metres). For petty offences the lump of iron weighed about a pound (450 grams) but for more serious charges it could be as much as three pounds (1.5 kilos).

The other type of ordeal by fire was walking blindfolded across hot coals. After the ordeal, the burn wound was wrapped up. After three days, the injury was inspected to divine innocence or guilt. If there was an open sore, the defendant was guilty; if the wound was healed over, the defendant was innocent.

Needless to say, an “innocent” declaration could be arranged, depending on the power of the bribe and “the corruption of the officiating clerics. For a fee the irons and the coals would be sufficiently cool to tolerate”

Ordeal By Water

In this type of ordeal, the water was symbolic of the flood of the Old Testament, washing sin from the face of the earth, allowing only the righteous minority to survive. As in the ordeal by fire, a three-day religious rite was held beforehand. “Afterwards, if the ordeal was carried out by the book, the accused faced plunging their hand into boiling water, to the depth of the wrist. More serious offences demanded that the arm was submerged up to the elbow.” Once again, the burn was bandaged for three days before the fateful examination.

There also existed an ordeal by cold water. In this, the accused was tied at feet and hands and was lowered into cold water by a rope. This rope was tied around the defendant’s waist and had a knot a particular distance from the torso. If both knot and accused dipped beneath the surface of the water, the accused was proven innocent. If the knot was dry, the defendant was guilty.

Since it was common knowledge that ordeal results could be fixed, Papal authorities banned them in 1215. “The ban was slowly enforced throughout Europe in the 13th century.”

The Oven at Neisse

The oven at Neisse, in Silesia, was a forerunner of the ovens used in Nazi concentration camps. The difference was that in the concentration camps, the victims were killed before they were roasted. In mid-17th-century Silesia, more than two thousand girls and women were cooked during a nine-year period. This tally includes two babies.

The Pear  

The pear had more than one implementation, with the most popular being the oral use. The pear was also used in the rectum and in the vagina.

The pear was “expanded by force of the screw to the maximum aperture of their segments. The inside of the cavity in question is irremediably mutilated, nearly always fatally so. The pointed prongs at the end of the seqments serve better to rip into the throat” or “the intestines.”

When applied vaginally, the spikes wreaked havok on the poor woman’s cervix. The vaginal use was devised for women who had been found guilty of sexual union with the Devil or his familiars. Ken Russell’s film The Devils shows a few implements similar to the vaginal pear in use.

The Rack

This was a very simple and popular means of extricating confession. The victim was tied across a board by his ankles and wrists. Rollers at either end of the board were turned, pulling the body in opposite directions until dislocation of every joint occurred.

The Rippers

Cold or red hot, the four claws ripped the breasts of countless women condemned for heresy, adultery and ‘libidinous acts’ such as self-abortion, white magic and other crimes.

The Saw

This horrible method of execution was used on French witches “pregnant by Satan.”

History abounds in martyrs–religious, lay and antireligious–who suffered this fate, one that may be worse even than being burnt at the stake with a slow, small fire, or being dipped into boiling oil. Owing to his inverted position, which assures ample oxygenation of the brain and impedes the general loss of blood, the victim does not lose consciousness until the saw reaches the navel–and even the breast, if one is to believe accounts of the early eighteen-hundreds

The Spider

The Spider is a deciver that resembles the Rippers and was used in mastectomies. It was heated until the iron was red and used to mutilate and tear a woman’s breasts off.


Squassation was a form of torture used in conjunction with the strappado. It was the process of hanging weights from the victim as they were being tortured with the strappado. Weights ranged from fifty to five hundred pounds. The greater the weight, the more bones would be dislocated.

“Four applications of squassation were regarded as equivalent to a sentence of death.”

The Strappado

The strappado, also known as the pendulum, was one of the easiest and, therefore, one of the most common torture techniques. All one needed to set up a strappado was a sturdy rafter and a rope. The victim’s wrists were bound behind her/his back, and the rope would be tossed over the beam. Then, the victim was repeatedly dropped from a height, so that her/his arms and shoulders would dislocate.

In some areas, it was customary to apply thumbscrews to the victim while she/he was on the strappado.


Thumbscrews were applied to prisoners as a means of obtaining confessions. In Austria, anyone accused of any misdeed who was unwilling to confess freely had to be put to the peinliche Fragen, or the painful/embarassing questions. This comprised of ” the extortion of confessions by means of a graduated series of torments that were described and illustrated with precision and scientific rationalism, down to the finest details, including the thicknesses of cords, the number of knots in a fetter, the lengths of nails and screws, the degrees of permanent mutilation permissible for various degrees of accusations.”

Tormentum Insomniae

In England, torture was not allowed against witches because witches were not believed to be conspirators. Tormentum insomniae is torture by sleeplessness, and was allowable perhaps because it did not seem to be a real torture. Nonetheless, Matthew Hopkins used it for his advantage in Essex. In one instance, John Lowe, 70-year-old vicar of Brandeston, was “swum in the moat,” kept awake for three days and nights, and then forced to walk without rest until his feet were blistered. Denied benefit of clergy, Lowe recited his own burial service on the way to the gallows.

The Turcas

A device called the turcas was used to tear out fingernails. In 1590-1591 John Fian was subjected to this and other tortures in Scotland. After his nails were ripped out, needles were driven into the quicks

The Wheel

In France and Germany the wheel was a popular form of capital punishment, not least because it was pure agony for the victim. In concept it was similar to a crucifixion. The prisoner was brought to the scaffold where his cloak was ripped off, to reveal nothing but a pair of brief linen pants.The prisoner was then tied to the side of the wheel lying on the scaffold, stretched across its spokes and hub. Now the executioner advanced wielding an iron bar. His brief was to shatter the limbs one by one with the hefty weapon. Each arm and leg was broken in several places before the job was done. A skilled executioner would smash the bones of his victim without piercing the skin. The wheel was then propped upright so onlookers could appreciate the dying gasps of the victim.

At first the severity of the injuries was thought to be sufficient to bring about death. Later the exectutioner ended the torture by one or two blows to the chest. The wheel could be refined, too, to include other torturous aspects. A suspended wheel might be turned over a fire or a bed of nails. In any event it meant unbearable suffering for the victim.

The Witch’s Cradle

 One method of torturing accused witches was to tie them up in a sack, string the sack over a tree limb and set it swinging. The rocking motion of this witch’s cradle…caused profound disorientation and helped induce confessions. Most subjected to this also suffered profound hallucinations, which surely added color to their confessions