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i be not a witch
by rc dewinter
- Artist Notes
- © 2010 RC deWinter ~ All Rights Reserved ~ ~
In 1563, Elizabeth I of England instituted a new, harsher statute allowing for the prosecution of those accused of witchcraft, although England had had laws forbidding it since 1542. ~ ~
While English law did not provide for the torture and burning of persons found guilty, (burning being the punishment for treason) approximately one thousand people - notably women - were were condemned and hanged between 1542 and 1736 (when the last witchcraft laws were removed from the books) for practicing the black arts. ~ ~
'Possessed' children were often the accusers of those unfortunates tried as witches; sometimes neighbors involved in land or other disputes leveled charges against their adversaries; sometimes old, destitute women were accused of witchcraft simply because they mumbled to themselves or kept a cat or some other pet, the animal being declared a 'familiar' of Satan. In other cases, people born with an unusual mole or birthmark in the shape of a star or some other recognizable, potentially magickal symbol were thought to be 'marked' by the devil and arrested as well. ~ ~
Here, young Agnes Hansart sits, fearful and despondent, in a dark cell, pondering her fate. She has one hand tightly closed about the other, because a rival for the affections of a village youth has claimed that the crescent-shaped scar on one of the fingers of her right hand is the mark of Satan. In reality, Agnes had cut herself with a sickle during the family harvest some years before. We can only hope that the magistrates will believe her testimony and that of her father.
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