Today In Fact, 19 August

Two famous witch trials are linked to this day.

In 1612, the trial against the Samlesbury witches began in northern England. The accusation of witchcraft was levelled against three women by a young girl, all from the small Lancashire village of Samlesbury.

The accusation and the trial seems to have been part of the ongoing struggles in the area between Catholics and Protestants. The main accuser in the trial, the wonderfully named Grace Sowerbutts claimed that both her grandmother and aunt, Jennet and Ellen Bierley, were able to transform themselves into dogs and that they had “haunted and vexed her” for years. She further alleged that they had transported her to the top of a hayrick by her hair, and on another occasion had tried to persuade her to drown herself.

According to Grace, her relatives had taken her to the house of Thomas Walshman and his wife, from whom they had stolen a baby to suck its blood. Grace claimed that the child died the following night, and that after its burial at Samlesbury Church Ellen and Jennet dug up the body and took it home, where they cooked and ate some of it and used the rest to make an ointment that enabled them to change themselves into other shapes.

Grace also alleged that her grandmother and aunt, with Jane Southworth, attended sabbats held every Thursday and Sunday night at Red Bank, on the north shore of the River Ribble. At those secret meetings they met with “foure black things, going upright, and yet not like men in the face”, with whom they ate, danced, and had sex.

Upon cross examination, the young Sowerbutts claimed she was coached in her testimony by a Catholic Priest. The entire trial then became a showpiece of anti-Catholic propaganda in which Catholics were identified with works of the devil.

Exactly eight decades later, across the Atlantic in colonial Massachusetts, the most infamous example of mass hysteria and religious extremism resulted in the public hanging of five people accused of witchcraft in Salem.

The people accused and their accusers were most probably involved in a local village and family feud. This feud escalated out of control and led to the Salem witch trials.

Today people still get killed for being witches.

– Posted by Douglas Racionzer ( )