Thursday, March 11, 2010

The Witches of Belvoir

According to Chalmers Book of Days, two sisters, confessed witches, were burned to death on March 11, 1618 or 19.  The sisters, named Margaret and Philippa Flower thus followed their mother Joan in dying for their deeds.  The three worked as servants for the Earl and Countess of Rutland.  The nobles apparently did not treat their servants well, leading the three to seek revenge.  They found it in the practice of witchcraft.

As the story goes, the witches worked malice on the Earl and his family through the use of familiar spirits; in the form of a cat for Joan.  One maleficent action involved stealing a glove from the Earl's son, Lord Ross, and rubbing it on Rutterkin the cat.  Lord Ross fell ill as a result.

Joan, and her daughters, and three other women underwent a trial for witchery.  Joan avoided the fate of the other five, by choking on a piece of bread.  This served to prove she was guilty anyhow. 

Late in Scott's life, he published a series of letters to John Lockhart on demonology and witchcraft.  Addressing Lockhart: "You have asked of me, my dear friend, that I should assist the "Family Library" with the history of a dark chapter in human nature, which the increasing civilization of all well-instructed countries has now almost blotted out, though the subject attracted no ordinary degree of consideration in the older times of their history."

Scott was not a believer in the occult, though many of his works include superstition or witchcraft.  Scott continues:  "Among much reading of my earlier days, it is no doubt true that I travelled a good deal in the twilight regions of superstitious disquisitions. Many hours have I lost--"I would their debt were less!"--in examining old as well as more recent narratives of this character, and even in looking into some of the criminal trials so frequent in early days, upon a subject which our fathers considered as a matter of the last importance."

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