To continue with the Halloween/Witches theme for October, I will be sharing Witch Hunt: A Century of Murder. This program is presented by Suzannah Lipscomb narrates program. There are scenes of violence and torture in this documentary. This documentary should be shown to older students.
Scotland is where the witch-hunting began. Queen Anne was coming to Scotland. She had just married King James and was sailing from Denmark to make her home in Scotland. However, the journey proved treacherous. One ship sunk and the ship Queen Anne was sailing on nearly capsized. She returned to Denmark. King James decided to go to Denmark to bring her back. Not only did he bring a bride back but he brought back something else.
At the time the Danes were influenced to hunt out witches. The church seemed to back this hunting wish idea. Witches were the devil’s handmaidens and bent on doing destruction. While in Denmark, King James came face to face with that reality. While he was in the Danish Court, two witches were arrested and put on trial. They confessed to causing the sea storm to kill the Scottish King and the new Scottish Queen. This shocked him however he carried on, bringing his new wife back to Scotland. He would have continued to carry on if it was not for David Seaton.
David Seaton was the deputy bailiff in a Scottish town. He caught his servant girl slipping out of his house late at night. Gilles Duncan was the young servant girl. She had suddenly acquired healing powers and had been sneaking out at night. He thought she had made a pact with the devil and was determined to prove it. She promised she was not a witch. However, Seaton tormented her into confessing. Her fingers were crushed. She refused to confess to being a witch even as her fingers were crushed. Seaton pressed further, tying ropes around her head to wrench it. She still did not confess to something she did not do.
She was not broken and Seaton hardened his torture. It was only when he discovered a mark on her neck did Gilles confessed. What about this mark that made her finally confess to witchcraft? Was it shame? No matter what, her confession was the first in Scottish history. She was brought to prison and kept there. She gave up eight names of wishes. One hundred supposed witches were arrested and tortured. Additionally, she confessed that her coven was in league with the Danish witches who wanted to kill King James. This was the case that made King James realize that there were witches in his kingdom and thus kicking off witch-hunting in Scotland. He became involved in the case.
Agnes Sampson was one of the “witches” arrested. She was a midwife. She was tortured. She confessed to witchcraft. She was brought to King James to be interrogated. She repeated the confession to King James. King James seemed skeptical at first. King James was a widely read king and was inspired by rationality and rational examination. He denounced her as a liar. However, she whispered something to King James that made him change his mind. It was enough to convince him to believe that she was a witch. Why did Agnes say this statement to the king? Did she want to scare him? Or was did she want to end her suffering?
King James ordered that her torture be ended as a result of this confession. Agnes Sampson was executed as a witch. Several other witches were executed as well. These were people scared out of their wits, who wanted to end their torture. They were garroted and burned to death. These executions were only the beginning…
Continue to watch Witch Hunt: A Century of Murder to learn more about witch-hunting. Learn how witch-hunting had the King’s stamp of approval. Learn how witch-hunting ended up in England as well.
You can access the YouTube Video here.
It is now October and Halloween happens at the end of the month. So why not hit up YouTube for historical documentaries for your classroom? Since it is Halloween, witches seem to go with the holiday. I am going to share with the learning world documentaries on the various Witch trials that happened in history. The first trial I am going to introduce you to is the Pendle Witch Trial. This is a trial where a child testified against her family and condemned them to death.
It is 1612 and a woman is accused of killing two men by witchcraft. Her nine-year-old daughter is brought into the courtroom and what the child says condemns her mother to death. Her name was Jennet Device.
The Pendle Witch Trial occurred during the reign of King James I. He had a reputation for hunting witches. He was king in a new country and brought with him new customs and suspensions. He believed that witches tried to kill him. He took part in witch trials. He wrote a book called Demonology, one of the earliest heads of states to do it. The Pendle area was this tucked-away place.
Jennet’s family survived by begging and doing odd jobs. Her grandmother was known as a “cunning woman,” a woman who could heal people. They had a great deal of power in the community. Cunning women do good things, while witches make you sick and kill you. Cunning women had to walk a fine line in the community, because if you angered the wrong person you could be accused of being a witch. Or a cunning woman could muscle in on your territory and could get rid of a rival.
England was now a fully Protestant nation. They were suspicious of those who practiced the old ways. Catholicism looked similar to witchcraft. Tensions were high in the Royal Court and the country. Then you have a king who wrote a book on how to hunt witches. It was only a matter of time before the explosion went off.
Alice Device, Jennet’s sister ran into a peddler for some pins. However, the peddler refused to give her the pins. So, Alice cursed him. The old man collapsed, terrifying the girl. She immediately confessed to putting a curse on him. It terrified her to no end and she had no doubt she killed him. This guilt would lead her to confess and that would lead to the downfall of the family. The peddler’s son reported what happened to the local magistrate. Alice was brought in for questioning and she confessed.
This leads to Alice accusing her neighbor Chattox of making clay figures. This touched off a witch hunt in the Pendle area. Alice’s grandmother and her neighbors were arrested, accused of witchcraft. They were put into the tower at Lancaster Castle. The rest of the family got together, was this a meeting of witches, or was it a family meeting, or was it a party. The local sheriff got wind of the meeting and burst into the meeting. The Device family was arrested; however, they pointed the finger at additional people. These additional people were arrested, some of them came from landowning, respectable families.
Jennet felt isolated from her family. She was the youngest of the family and she was illegitimate. Perhaps this was the reason why she wanted to testify against her family. Perhaps she enjoyed the attention she got from being center stage. Whatever reason, it is clear that her testimony would change legal history.
To continue to learn more about the Pendle witches watch the rest of this documentary.
The narrator of this documentary is fantastic! He tells the story of the Pendle Witches very well. I could listen to him read me a story at bedtime. This would be an excellent documentary to show in class.
You can access the YouTube video here.
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