He refused to answer and was crushed to death. Although in the popular imagination burning was the best way to execute witches, in actual fact, more were hanged. Admitting guilt was the best way to avoid death, as it was then possible to obtain absolution via a trip to a convent or a monastery.
Context & Origins of the Salem Witch Trials
Part of the deal was to name other witches who were themselves arrested and tried. Simply substitute the word communist for witch and you get an idea of how events were conducted. During the play he was greatly impressed when he was addressed by three witches. Some say that his enthusiasm for this performance encouraged Shakespeare to write Macbeth where the three witches of course have a pivotal role.
He is also known to have personally supervised the torture of witches.
A quick search on the internet throws up lots of intriguing tales of witches. If this cloud were to envelope you, it was said that your mind would be sucked out and you would be rendered insane! Those of you interested in hunting down some witches artefacts should pay a visit to the excellent Pitt Rivers Museum in Oxford. A bottle that holds a trapped witch is also on view, could this be the same type of bottle that holds the spirit of Lady Tanfield herself, and is currently lodged under Burford Bridge?
One town’s strange journey from paranoia to pardon
The year saw the start of a series of trials for treason. Three hundred witches were accused of gathering to plot the murder of James. It is known that James had a morbid fear of violent death. Therefore these trials were of especial interest to him and he suddenly developed a very keen interest in demonology and witchcraft. Witches were accused of attempting to drown James by calling up a storm while he was at sea with his new wife. Other charges include trying to kill James by melting a wax effigy of him.
They were also accused of performing perverted rituals in a church in Berwick — though it is not clear what this had to do specifically with trying to kill the king.
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However, it did point the way to witchcraft and it is thought that over one hundred witches were actually put on trial. It is said that a large number were executed but there is accurate no figure for this. While the witches were accused of classic witchcraft, the main issue as far as James was concerned was the plan to murder him — treason. The trials also had a major political aspect as there was an attempt to incriminate Earl Bothwell in the proceedings.
One theory put forward is that the whole story was a plot made up by those nobles in Scotland who wanted to devalue the standing of Bothwell within Scotland — and expand theirs. However, this can not be proven. Why did James become interested in the Christian witch theory — that witches worked in groups and had made a pact with the devil? It almost certainly occurred in when he visited Denmark to meet his future wife.
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It was in Denmark that James met a number of intellectuals and philosophers including the astronomer Tycho Brahe. Witches were actively hunted out in Denmark where the theory of a demonic pact had been widely accepted. Witches were blamed — working in both Scotland and Denmark. When the Danish court made a reciprocal visit to Scotland in , the topic of witchcraft and sorcery may well have been a topic of conversation.
Donna and Mehitabel’s Home | Donna Gawell
When he became king of England in , James claimed never to have been responsible for pushing ahead with persecutions of witches. However, the evidence suggests differently. In he showed a particular interest in the trial of Mary Napier — arrested for consulting a witch and linked to treasonable activity. She claimed to be pregnant at the time of her arrest. Despite the law outlawing witchcraft, no one had ever been arrested in Scotland for consulting a witch.
Yet James wrote to the court ordering them to find out if she was pregnant or not and that if she was not, she should be burned. The court acquitted Napier — much to the anger of James. This was an eighty page book that expounded his views on the topic and it was meant to add to the intellectual debate that was going on within Europe about witchcraft. The book has three sections on magic, sorcery and witchcraft and one on spirits and ghosts.
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Having produced this book, James decided to end the standing commission that had been established to hunt out witches. However, the persecution did not end. By the time he left for England in , witches were still being arrested and of those arrested, half were executed.
Between and , there were about twenty witchcraft trials a year in Scotland — nearly in total.