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Witch-hunting books and instructional pamphlets noted that the marks were insensitive to pain and couldn’t bleed, so examiners used specially designed needles to repeatedly stab and prick at the accused person’s flesh until they discovered a spot that produced the desired results.
In both cases, it was easy for even the most minor physical imperfections to be labeled as the work of the devil himself.This twisted test of public speaking ability was commonly used as hard evidence in witch trials.In 1712, it was applied in the case Jane Wenham, an accused witch who supposedly struggled to speak the words “forgive us our trespasses” and “lead us not into temptation” during her interrogation.The performance was dismissed as a devil’s trick, and the hanging proceeded as planned.The touch test worked on the idea that victims of sorcery would have a special reaction to physical contact with their evildoer.Witch-hunters often had their suspects stripped and publically examined for signs of an unsightly blemish that witches were said to receive upon making their pact with Satan.
This “Devil’s Mark” could supposedly change shape and color, and was believed to be numb and insensitive to pain.
To ensure the reaction was genuine, judges had the children blindfolded and touched by other members of the court.
The girls unclenched their fists anyway, which suggested they were faking, but even this was not enough to prove the women’s innocence.
In cases of mysterious illness or possession, witch-hunters would take a sample of the victim’s urine, mix it with rye-meal and ashes and bake it into a cake.
This stomach-turning concoction was then fed to a dog—the “familiars,” or animal helpers, of witches—in the hope that the beast would fall under its spell and reveal the name of the guilty sorcerer.
Along with pricking, the unfortunate suspect might also be subjected to “scratching” by their supposed victims.