Sunday, March 6, 2011

Monday Madwoman - March 7, 2011

The Women Writers Project online at Brown is allowing free access for the month of March (in honor of National Women's History Month).

To celebrate our first Monday Madwoman post, and in lieu of the Nehemiah Wallington diaries (the digitization is temporarily down), I present to you these most Jacobean madwomen:

The Wonderful Discoverie of the Witchcrafts of Margaret and Phillip Flower from March 11, 1618 (published 1619).

Legal theater, in performance and publication.


The Examination of Phillip Flower, the 25. of February, 1618. before Francis Earle of Rutland, Francis Lord Willoughby of Ersby, Sr.George Manners, and Sr. William Pelham.

Shee confesseth and saith, that shee hath a Spirit sucking on her in the forme of a white Rat, which keepeth her left breast, and hath so done for three or foure yeares, and concerning the agreement betwixt her Spirit and her selfe, she confesseth and saith, that when it came first unto her, shee gave her Soule to it, and it promised to doe her good, and cause Thomas Simpson to love her, if shee would suffer it to sucke her, which shee agreed unto; and so the last time it suckt was on Tuesday at night, the 23. of February.

The Examination of Ellen Greene of Stathorne in the County of Leicester, taken the 17. of March 1618. by Sir Henry Hastings Kt: and Samuel Fleming D. of Divinitie, two of his Majesties Justices of the Peace of his said County.

Shee saith, that one Joan Willimot of Goadby came about sixe yeares since to her in the Wowlds, and perswaded this Examinate to forsake God, and betake her to the divel, and she would give her two spirits, to which shee gave her consent, and thereupon the said Joan Willimot called two spirits, one in the likenesse of a Kitlin, and the other of a Moldiwarp [i.e., a mole]: the first the said Willimot called pusse, the other hisse, hisse, and they presently came to her, & she departing left them with this Examinate, and they leapt on her shoulder, and the kitlin suckt under her right eare on her neck, & the Moldiwarp on the left side in the like place.

The Examination of Anne Baker of Bottesford in the County of Leicester Spinster, taken March, 1. 1618. by the Right Honourable, Francis Earle of Rutland, Sir George Manners Knight, two of his Majesties Justices of the peace for the County of Lincolne, and Samuel FlemingDoctor of Divinitie, one of his Majesties Justices of the peace for the County of Leicester aforesaid.

... Further shee said, March 3. 1618. before Sr. George Manners Knight, and Samuel Fleming Doctor of Divinity, that shee hath a Spirit which hath the shape of a white Dogge, which shee calleth her good Spirit.

The Examination of Margaret Flower, at the same time, &c.

Shee confesseth, that she hath two familiar Spirits sucking on her, the one white, the other black spotted; the white sucked under her left brest, and the blacke spotted within the inward parts of her secrets. When shee first entertained them she promised them her soule, and they covenanted to doe all things which she commanded them, &c.

Shee further saith, that about the 30. of January, last past, being Saturday, foure Divells appeared unto her in Lincolne Jayle, at eleaven or twelve a clocke at midnight: The one stood at her beds feete, with a blacke head like an Ape, and spake unto her; but what, shee cannot well remember, at which shee was very angry because hee would speake no plainer, or let her understand his meaning: the other three were Rutterkin, Little Robin, and Spirit; but shee never mistrusted them, nor suspected her selfe, till then.

...the learned and religious Judges cryed out with our Saviour, Ex ore tuo. Therefore though it were so, that neither Witch nor Divell could doe these things, yet Let not a Witch live, saith God, and Let them dye (saith the Law of England) that have conversation with spirits, and presume to blaspheme the name of God with spels and incantation.

Fragments has an account of Elizabeth Sawyer and The Witch of Edmonton.

Res Obscura has a lovely post on familiars with illustrations from self-appointed Witch-Finder General Matthew Hopkins's Discovery of Witches (1647).

Walter Scott on Monsieur Hopkins: "His principal mode of discovery was, to strip the accused persons naked, and thrust pins into various parts of their body, to discover the witch's mark, which was supposed to be inflicted by the devil, as a sign of his sovereignty, and at which she was also said to suckle her imps." (Letters on Demonology and Witchcraft, 1830, p. 255)

The suckling: part vampirism (an anachronistic reference, granted), part maternity, part sexual suggestion (the phallicism of the teat). Part demonic or animalistic, part human.

Diane Purkiss: "The witch ... signifies both men's and women's ideas of the bad lactating mother. The witch gives blood instead of milk ... Her body is all poison ... Witches are often accused of diverting milk supplies to their own ends." (The Witch in History, Routledge, 1996, p. 134)

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