Friday, June 1, 2012


In my book, Whistle Down the Wind, the story begins when the heroine, Catlin, is accused by the local witch hunter of practicing witchcraft. In the year 1664, this was a real possibility. And even though Catlin does have magical powers, it wasn't necessary to be able to harness the wind or command fire like the Glyndwr sisters of my series to be charged with witchcraft.

The following evidence would be enough to bring a woman to court on a charge of practicing witchcraft.
  • Having a notorious reputation as a witch
  • Cursing someone who later experiences some kind of misfortune
  • Witnesses observing malice on the part of the accused witch, followed by misfortune on the part of the victim
  • Being related by blood or friendship to a proven witch
  • The victim recovering after the accused witch is scratched or her property burned
  • Failure of the accused witch to sink when immersed in water, (this is called "swimming" the witch). Death proves the accused witch is innocent
  • A confession of practicing witchcraft
  • Deathbed accusation by the victim naming the witch as the cause of illness
  • An un-natural mark on the body, (Devil's Mark), caused by demons or a familiar
  • Two witnesses who claim to have seen the accused witch make a pact with Satan or entertain her familiars
  • Being an "outsider" such as a widow, mid-wife, "cunning woman" or bearing some type of disfigurement or birth mark
In order to prove the accused guilty, mostly women -- although some men were also tried for practicing witchcraft, torture was used to elicit confessions. Although English law technically forbade the use of torture in witch trials, many means were employed to gain a confession.

The accused were beaten, starved, held in cells with no comforts, deprived of sleep and walked around until their feet blistered. Thumb screws were used to crush bones in hands along with leg screws. "Pricking" was used when a witch had a suspected "Devil's Mark" that consisted of a pointed dagger pushed into the mark because it was believed a witch couldn't feel pain on that spot.

"Strappado" was a particularly heinous torture, when the hands were bound then attached to a rope strung over a pulley that was affixed to the ceiling. The accused witch was hoisted up, then dropped suddenly. This often resulted in broken bones.

An investigation of witchcraft was generally a death sentence, so it will come as no surprise that my character, Catlin, is willing to bargain with the hero to escape from the gaol, (jail). What happens next?

I guess you'll have to read the book to find out! 


1 comment:

  1. Oh, yes, how times have changed. I write Urban Fantasy Romance, freely, and with great love. I would have been stoned way back when. Come to think of it, I would have stoned myself . . .

    Great post. Great facts. WHISTLE DOWN the WIND sounds superb. Good luck!