Several Different Account of Animals In Witchcraft

ANIMALS IN WITCHCRAFT

ANIMALS IN WITCHCRAFT-ANIMALS ON TRIAL

Witches and Cats

Locust on Trial

The Animals of Salem

The Animals of Finnish Witchtrials

The Trials of Familiars

Familiars of the Chelmesford witches
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WITCHES AND CATS

“The rise of Christianity in Europe heralded a fundamental shift in attitudes to
cats.  During the Middle Ages, the cat’s links with the ancient, pagan cult of
the mother goddess inspired a wave of persecution that lasted several hundred
years.  Branded as agents of the Devil, and the chosen companions of witches and
necromancers, cats, especially black ones, were enthusiastically tortured and
executed during Christian festivals all over Europe.  It was also believed that
witches disguised themselves as cats as a means of traveling around incognito,
so anyone encountering a stray cat at night felt obliged to try and kill or maim
the animal.  By teaching people to associate cats with the Devil and bad luck,
it appears that the Church provided the underprivileged and superstitious masses
with a sort of universal scapegoat, something to blame for all of the many
hardships and misfortunes of life.  Fortunately for cats, such attitudes began
to disappear gradually during the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries with the
dawn of the so-called Age of Enlightenment.  However, not until the middle of
the nineteenth century did cats eventually begin to regain the popularity they
once enjoyed in Ancient Egypt.”

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LOCUST ON TRIAL

The discussion so far has put me in mind of a terrific book I once read on
European animal trials, which were conducted up until I think the 17th century.
One example especially pertinent to the topic at hand:  if a plague of
caterpillars or locusts or whatever infested an area, the local legal community
would put the swarm on trial.  A locust would be captured and taken to the
courthouse.  It would become the “defendant” , and would in effect stand-in for
the whole swarm.  The trial would be conducted with all pomp and circumstance,
with a lawyer appointed to represent the swarm and etc. There were a number of
standard defensive strategies, and sometimes the swarm was even judged innocent
if their lawyer was especially able.  If judged guilty, however, the locusts
were ordered to get out of town.  If the infestation abated, the trial was given
credit.  If the infestation continued, this does not appear to have been seen as
an argument against conducting animal trials in the future.  I trust the
resemblance to the raindance ceremony is fairly clear here.

The author of the book (I cannot recall the title or author; I remember that it
was published in the early 1900s and the cover shows a reproduction of an old
print, portraying the public execution of a pig by hanging) argues that such
trials are an attempt by the human community to intervene in the natural order,
to exert its will over the world.  I think this is a pretty insightful comment.

“Exerting human will over the world” could serve as a definition of the goal
of science.  Bacon sometimes describes science as the human “conquest” of
nature, and certainly many modern critiques of science (feminist, for example)
have taken this to be the self-defined goal of scientific inquiry.  I’m not
arguing for the ultimate truth of this particular position, but on the other
hand if you look at things along these lines than certain aspects of religious
and scientific thought seem to be closely related, at least in their purpose.
Bacon’s studies of heat are supposed to yield a (universal) process for making
heat, the shaman leading a raindance is trying to make it rain, the animal trial
is an attempt to bring the plague to an end etc.

Note that the various rituals used for bringing about these interventions don’t
have to work very well in each case for the ritual to be accepted within the
community.   The community may simply accept that human powers are limited in
what they can accomplish.  I believe that within alchemical studies this was a
common view; even if all the processes were carried out correctly, you might
still not create gold from lead or whatever, and in fact usually would not.
Note also that the ritual might have multiple functions within the community.
The rain-dance both be used for bringing rain and bringing about group
solidarity.  These are not mutually exclusive.  Again, I have read something
similar with respect to alchemical procedures; that the alchemist “purifying”
metals with his various tools is also going through a process of spiritual
purification.  And certainly the animal trial, even if it does not drive out the
infestation, makes the community feel better.  The community is “doing
something” about its situation, even if its acts are ineffective.

I also like the animal trial example because it muddies the waters here in
interesting ways.  The conversation to date has concerned itself with
comparing/contrasting religious/scientific thought.  Yet here we see legal
institutions using their procedures in a way that suggests a religious ritual.
Conversations on the distinctions/similarities between legal and religious
thought, and legal and scientific thought, would also be good to have.

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THE ANIMALS OF SALEM

Salem Story:  Reading the Witch Trials of 1692  by Bernard Rosenthal Cambridge
University Press 1993

p.18  John Hughes, while testifying about seeing beast transform into Sarah
Good, Sarah Osborne, and Tituba, also mentions that on March 2 “a great white
dog followed him and then disappeared, and then that night in bed he saw a great
light and a cat at the foot of his bed.”  (from Narratives of the WC Cases 1648-
1706 ed. G. LO. Burr)

p.21  Tituba’s testimony included many animals…black dog/hog/man/yellow bird
told her to serve him; yellow bird was accompanying Sarah Good (who had already
given accusers legitimacy); also said she saw a cat with Good on other occasions

p.22  T. saw 2 cats, black and red.  “What did the cats do?  Tituba did not
know.  Had the cats hurt or threatened her?  They had scratched her. What had
they wanted of her?  They had wanted her to hurt the children. They had forced
her to pinch the children.  Did the cats suck Tituba? No, she would not let
them.”

p.82  Bridget Bishop (owner of shuffle-board and cider teenage hangout) was
testified against by Wonn, slave of John Ingerson.  He “told a story of
frightened horses, the vanishing shape of B.B. (at the time B. Oliver), the
appearance of an unknown cat, and mysterious pinchings and pain.”

p.124  Martha Carrier:  7 yr. old daughter Sarah was induced to confess that “a
cat, identifying itself as M. C., had carried Sarah along to afflict people when
her mother was in prison.”

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THE ANIMALS OF FINNISH WITCHTRIALS

I have studied over 1200 finish witch trials 1520-1700 (with PD Marko Nenonen)
and there is a certain role of animals.  “Para”  was a small “cat-like” animal,
used  to  steal  milk  and a butter called cow  lucky especially in swedish
speaking west coast in Finland.  The “Para” was not found out by judges, but it
had a long folk tradition.  There are many examples  where  a  neighboug  was
accusing  another by stealing “butter lucky” with “para”.

“Para” is just the same “trollcat”  as it  was in  Sweden and Norway. You can
find  “Para”  in court  protocolls in  western part (Swedish speaking part) in
Finland (1520-1600),  but not  in finnish speaking parts on  the  country.   So
“Para” can’t  be shamanistic (Lappland) phenomenom, but it surely is known all
parts of Scandinavia.

As time goes, You could  find “Para”  in finnish  speaking areas too, but in in
1500-1700.   So  we have  learned it  from swedish speaking people.

But, as we are dealing with animals, you can find  other animals than “trollcat”
too.  We have cases with “trolldog” which I mean the Devil with a shape of a
dog.  Some of our accused had meet the devil with a shape of a dog (and a coat).

We have at least one case with a “metapmorphose”, where people have been accused of being  “werewolves”. In Estonia the tradition of those being wolves in night time was strong.   There  were many cases like that.

I think, the idea of “trollcats” is not shamanistic, it is surely
Scandinavian!

There is quite a lot of articles abou “Para” (Trollcat)  but only few of them
would be available in english.

But, there is one point we have to keep in mind.  People were ACCUSED of having  “Para” and  they were  CONVICTED to  using witchcraft, but they were never CONVICTED TO HAVING  PARA!   The matter  of trial was not, is there really animal shaped “butter stealing” para, but it was a question of practicing
witchcraft or superstition!

In Scandinavia  we  have  very old  “lore”, written  by one historian about
1200-1300, were a man was killed by “Mara”  (bad dream animal?) because he had not kept his promise to his Finnish wife.

Another instance of using “para”, other than trying have luck in stealing
butter,  was a “Finnish way” to use a bear as a helper for  killing someone’s
cattle.  People believed that some (almost always a man) people had  ability to
force bears to kill enemy’s horse or cattle.  But I  have no  idea, if the
bear wanted some price of it’s doings (nourishment or protection).

Even in the  oldest witch  trials (before  people had  any idea about satanistic
pact with devil) witches were believed to use some animals as a helper of their
maleficium.  So, this belief must be older than the christian theory of pact.

The bear  cases  seems  to  be  common way  to do  harm among finnish speaking
people.  In some rare cases the helper was a wolf. In some cases (1670s) the
helper was a dog, but it seems that the dog was not really an animal, but it was
a Devil with a shape of a dog.

Some ladies used cows (or even  a pig)  to ride  to “Bl=E5kulla” (the Sabbath),
but  those  animals   were  usually   “borrowed”  for  some neighbour and they
were not acting like a helper –  they were forced to do so.

Lapplanders who  had  long shaman  traditions used  to use “animal spirit
helpers” to do things, but they were not accused of forcing real animals to do
any harm, as far as I know.

There is  one  big  difference  between  using  a “Para”  and a bear. “Para” was
supernatural  familiar,  but  bears  were  really  acting animals whom could be
seen.  Damage made by para was a loss of butter or milk lucky, but a damage made by bear was real.   Anyone could see the damage.

In some  cases  there  was  so  called  “tonttu”  (tomptegubben or rgubbe in
swedish).  They were not used as helpers, but You should give them  some
presents  for  getting rid  of harms  they could do. People believed,  that
“tonttu” was  living in  particular place and people living in same area were
disturbing the tonttu.  So You had to do something  to  keep tonttu  in good
mood.   Tonttu was spiritual, because no one had never catch one.   Tonttu  was
not  an animal, but small human kind of creature.

Then there was “Nekki” or “Nacken”.   It  was a  creature living in lakes and
killing people by taking them under the water.  Nekki was not a real animal and
it did not acted like a helper for  anyone – it did what  it wanted  to do.

First little  more  about “para”.   The  belief of  “para” helping to steal cows
must be very old, because in one finnish church there is a painting of para.
The painting is older than the belief that a Witch have a pact with the devil,
the devil then  giving a  “spiritum” to a helper for  the  witch (This  belief
was  not known  in Finland until 1660s.)

Secondly, I think too, that a  witch-hare (para)is  common in Sweden. Probably
Finnish  speaking  people  have  borrowed  in  from  Sweden, because there are
no witch-hares in our oldest mythology as  far as I know.  The witch-hare (para)
was mentioned  in trials  some times in the Swedish speaking area of Finland
(west coast), but not in Finnish speaking Karelia, suggesting it is borrowed.

Thirdly, I have  to check  my papers  to find  out is  there any “pet
connection” in  finnish witch  trials, but  without doing  so I can’t remember
any cases where pet animals had  some part  of being helpers and neither did PhD Marko Nenonen as we discussed today.

But I could find at least one case where a man was killed  by his own dog.  The
victim,  Antti Yrjonpoika  Paivikainen, was  a customer of famous witch  Antti
Lieroinen  who did  all kinds  of maleficium for salary.  After their contact
Paivikainen was found dead and the cause for that was  his own  dog.   So
Lieroinen  was thought  to cause the death by using victim’s own dog to  kill
him.   This  was not proved, but Lieroinen was executed for  other witchcraft
he had  done.  This happend in 1643.

Fourthly, 27.3.1641 witch Erkki Juhonpoika  Puujumala (“Treegod”) was convicted in Turku Supreme Court.  He was sentenced to death for many reasons –  for killing  people with  witchcraft etc.   He  has had an arguement with other
people and he had said that he  was going change those people into wolves with
his maleficium.  This was not proved to happen, but it was one prosecution among many.   By  the way, Treegod said that he was 120 years old.

Fifthly, we have some cases where a witch has used a snake to do some crime.
One witch  argued with  his wife  and then  separated.  Later that ex-wife get
pregnant from a snake, and later gave  birth to some snakes.  In one another
case the  snake had  gone inside  of a woman (and they used a lappish healer to
try to get it out).

Snakes had also a  strong part  of shamanism,  but I  don’t know what really was
the function of shamans snake-shape belongings(??instruments??).  Finnish
folkloristics  seem to believe that the snake was for the shamans protection.

We had few cases where a snake’s head  was used  by magical meanings.

Sixthly, in  1732  court  was  dealing  with  a   case,  where  Lauri
Heikinpoika Tervo accused his neighbor “of  sending a  bird with fire on its
head (nose)” to burn his house, which  burned.   Due to losses of protocols, we
don’t know how  the case  was handled,  but I’m sure the court did not  find
neighbor  guilty.   Birds have  been known to used to carry fire in saami
tradition (says  finnish folklorist Aune Nystrom).

Seventhly, we have found one case  where a  woman gave  birth to some frogs, and one case where a frog was put in  a box  and buried inside of a church.  The box was just like those boxes they  used with human bodies.

Eigth, we have a case where they used a  fish to  heal sick person. The idea was
that the “Grande mal” (falling sickness)  would be moved from people to fish.
So they did it, but  unfortunately one innocent person touched  the fish  and
got  himself sick.   And  of course the sickness was grande mal.

Ninth, I have a strong feeling, that finnish courts  did not tried to found  out
if  the  accused had  animal helper  or not.   The law mentioned nothing about
animal imps or  spirituals, so  they were not needed as  evidence.    Maleficium
was  maleficium  and  it could be proofed without any animal helpers or spirits.

10th According  the  old folk  tradition the  bear will  not harm the cattle if
one takes a blind puppy dog and  buries it  with some rites in the land on area,
where the bear  lives.   But I  have no evidence that this has ever been done.

11th In Finland was  believed, that  milking others  cow, would steal not only
the  milk but  the further  milk lucky  too.   I think this believe is common in
whole Scandinavia.

12th A bear  could be  sent to harm neighbour’s cattle.  But at least in one
case (1746)  shows, that it could also to sent back to harm the original witch.

13th  I have no reason to believe that the animal (exept  the bear or wolf
sended  to  do  harm) were  real ones.   If  it was  so that the helpers were
real pets, why they did not execute the pets too?

I think that the judges  has sent  the animals  to death  as they did with cases
where humans  had sexual  intercourse with  animal.  They executed both!  One
reason to not to do so could be,  that the animal was not “guilty” for anything
because it  could not  differ the right and the wrong from each other.  But so
did the raped animal neither.

14th The worms.  At least in one case the witch used worms to destroy a pig.  He
used some magical technique and  the victims  pig get “full of worms”  as  they
found  out when  they slaughtered  the sick pig. Worms could be sent to a human
being too.

15th The lycanthropy.  Werewolves had no part of  finnish trials, but they had
one in Estonia.  Why?  The Finnish people  have common roots with Estonian
people and  our languages  are still  guite similar. Our oldest  pre-christian
religion  is  common,  and   there  is  no werewolves in  that  tradition,  as
far  as I  know.   So, where the estonians got  the  idea about  werewolves?   I
think  that they have adopted it  from  germans.    Estonia  has  been  under
strong german influence, but Finland hasn’t.   So, I  believe, that  they must
have copied the idea from German “Werewolffe”.

According Maia Madar (Estonia I:  Werewolves and  poisoners, in Early Modern
European  Witchcraft  ed.     Bengt   Ankarloo  and  Gustav Henningsen,
Clarendon Press, Oxford 1990).

“Belief in werewolves was widespread.  At eighteen trials, eighteen women  and
thirteen men  were accused  of causing damage while werewolves.  At Meremoisa  1623, the  defendant Ann testified that she  had been  a werewolf  for four  years, and  had killed a horse as well as some smaller animals.  She had later hidden the wolf skin under a stone in the fields.”  (page 270)

Maia Madar tells other examples, too.  And in one  case where 18-year old Hans
had  confessed  that he  had hunted  as a  werewolf for two years, “when asked
by the judges if his body  took part  in the hunt, or if only his soul was
transmuted, Hans confirmed that  he had found a dog’s teeth-marks on  his own
leg, which  he had  received while a werewolf.  Further  asked wether  he felt
himself to  be a  man or a beast while transmuted, he told  that he  felt
himself  to be beast.” (page 271)

Madar writes:  “It was acknowledged  that people  could be transmuted not only
into werewolves, but also into bears.”

So as a lawyer I  must ask  why they  were confessing  that they were hunting as
werewolves  in  Estonia.    The  answer  must be torture. Torture was  widely
used in  Estonia ecen  it was  under the Swedish jurisdiction, where torture was
forbidden.

16th The devil in a shape of a dog.  All over the  Scandinavia we had trials
where the accused said, that the devil they’ve met had a shape of a  dog.   Why
the  dog?   Danish witchhistorian  Jens Christian V. Johanssen writes (in book
mentioned above), that  the popular culture (peoples believes) borrowed ideas
for wall-paintings in the church.

“In Ejsing church, Christ is tempted in the desert by the  devil – in the shape
of a  ferocious-looking dog!   Popular  imagination was so vivid that  on  given
occasions  the devil  came to  take his form”. (Johansen:  Denmark:  The
Sociology of Accusations in Early Modern European Witchcraft..  page 363-364).

Well, so and so.  But surely the popular culture appointed ideas from elite’s
culture.

17th The shamanism.  I have not specialised about  shamanism, so I’ll now follow  the  ideas  that  finnish  shamanism expert Anna-Leena Siikala writes  in   her  book   “Suomalainen  samanismi”  (Finnis Shamanism), Hameenlinna 1992.

Siikala writes about moving the  demon from  someone to  another.  In finnish
folklore it is usuall to remove a disease from  patient to an animal or  some
idol, like  wooden puppet.   This  is common between Middle- and  East-Siperia
shaman  too.   She remind,  that even Jesus removed demon from a man to some
pigs.  (page 187)

There is  information  about  this kind  of “removing”  in German and Estonia
too.  In Finland  this was  usually done  by soothsaying, but this was not
common in Middle-Europe or Scandinavia.

Siikala guesses, that this habit has  very old  shamanistic roots and that the
churhes middle-age tradition  has forced  this old religion. (pages 188-189)

In these cases animals are  shamans helpers  and they  carry the evil demon
away.    Shamans  (spiritual)  animal  helpers  are also spyes, Shaman can  send
them  far  away  to  collect  information  what  is happening.  Helpres  also
carry  the  information  from  here to the “heaven”.  “Because  shamans helper
animal do  not only  to take the disease to themselves,  but carry  it to
“heaven” (or  “to the other side” as shamans say), they are=20  not usuall
(real) animals” (page 191).

Siikkala says,  that middle  age church  adopted these  old ideas and they used
the idea to their rituals (to carry out demons).

Shamans used to call their helpers for instance by singing (and using the drum).
In my opinion it is surely understandable that shaman was all the  time
demonstrating  to  the  audience,  that  he  has  very important helpers.

The shaman uses his  helpers to  fight agains  other shamans helpers, too.  So
when shaman is healing a patent,  he first  find’s out where the disease has
become, and then force it to go back.  If the disease is caused by demon, you
have to fight against demon.  If it is caused by other shaman with his helpers,
so the helpers must fight together. (as Carlo Ginzburg’s “benandati” did).

The idea about shamans fighting together is old  and it  is common in Northern-
Asia, too.  In Siperia tradition the  fighning shamans could take a shape of
animals.

But I could not find any  reason to  believe that  the helper animals were real
animals in Siikalas book either.

According to Joan’s Witch Pages  they executed  a dog  in Salem Witch trials.
This is something I had  not pointed  out earlier.   If they really executed the
dog, so I’ll have to reuse my argument:  why they did not executed other
suspected “pets” too  (if the  “pet theory” is right)?

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THE TRIALS OF FAMILIARS

One reason why they may not have executed pets is  because the  law assumed
that these creatures were supernatural beings  – by  definition.  If the animals
had  been  captured,  brought to  court, examined by authorities, etc.,  it
would  have  been difficult  to avoid the conclusion that the witch’s cat or dog
was, in fact, no different from any other cat  or dog.  In addition,  according
to folklore, these animals could not be killed by ordinary  means because they
were spirits. We have found one account, for example, of a suspected familiar (a
poodle dog called Boye, belonging to Prince Rupert) being killed by a silver
bullet fired by  a ‘soldier skilled in necromancy’  at  the battle  of Marston
Moor in  1642.  Also, perhaps it was assumed that the familiars would perish as
soon as the witch  was  executed,  since they  were assumed  to depend on
her/him for  nourishment (coincidently, of course, the animals probably didn’t
survive  for  long  once their owners were incarcerated and executed).  However,
I  agree with  you that the fate of these animals is somewhat mysterious.  My
guess would be that the  witch’s  neighbours  dealt  with  them swiftly and
discretely, but I have no evidence either way. I wasn’t aware of the Salem dog
execution but will now look into this. In the bestiality trials, the animals
were not generally executed as criminals.  Rather they seem to have been
regarded as polluted creatures which might have a corrupting influence on public morality if allowed to remain alive. Thus, there was a particular incentive to identify these (real) animals and kill them.

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On This Day……

On this day…

June 23: Corpus Christi (various Western Christian churches, 2011); Victory Day in Estonia; Jāņi in Latvia; Grand Duke’s Official Birthday in Luxembourg

Gamal Abdel Nasser

  • 1757 – Seven Years’ War: British forces under Robert Clive defeated troops under Siraj ud-Daulah at the Battle of Plassey, allowing the British East India Company to annex Bengal.
  • 1887 – The Parliament of Canada passed the Rocky Mountains Park Act, creating Banff National Park as Canada’s first national park.
  • 1919 – Estonian War of Independence: Estonian troops engaged the forces of the Pro-German Government of Latvia near Cēsis, Latvia, recapturing the area four days later.
  • 1956 – Gamal Abdel Nasser (pictured) became President of Egypt, a post he would hold until his death in 1970.
  • 1982 – Chinese American Vincent Chin died after being beaten into a coma in Highland Park, Michigan, US, by two automotive workers who had mistaken him for Japanese and who were angry about the success of Japanese auto companies.