Why did Europe’s witchcraze period subside?

27th May 2011

1. If any one ensnare another, putting a ban upon him, but he can not prove it, then he that ensnared him shall be put to death.

2. If any one bring an accusation against a man, and the accused go to the river and leap into the river, if he sink in the river his accuser shall take possession of his house. But if the river prove that the accused is not guilty, and he escape unhurt, then he who had brought the accusation shall be put to death, while he who leaped into the river shall take possession of the house that had belonged to his accuser.

Code of Hammurabi, p.29

In considering the decline of Europe’s witch craze period, it is important to note and understand numerous additional aspects, such as its causes, prior laws and enactments, changes in Christian idealism and doctrine, as well as social changes. Distinctions between the end of the large witch-panic and the end of all persecution, including occasional and isolated trials is also necessary. Between the late 1500s and early 1700s criminal persecutions and executions for witchcraft declined before eventually ending. Although there were numerous reasons for this, several broad areas are identifiable as affecting all of Europe. The decline occurring in all European countries where which-hunts had transpired was signified by an increasing reluctance to persecute witches, the acquittal of many already tried, a reversal of convictions, and the eventual repeal of the laws authorizing persecution.

Various laws and enactments have provisioned for the persecution of witchcraft throughout history, the earliest being in the Code of Hamurabi. Other sources include, The pre-Christian Twelve Tables of pagan Roman law, which has provisions against incantations and spells intended to damage cereal crops (Austin, 1961), The Council of Paderborn in 785 (Thurston,1912) and The Council of Frankfurt in 794 . The Bible condemns sorcery, Deuteronomy 18:10-12 and, most importantly, Exodus 22:18 states, “thou shalt not suffer a witch to live”. Parables like 1 Samuel 28 , suggest that sorcery could at least lead to exile . There were also secular laws against witchcraft, such as that decreed by King Athelstan (924-939). It should be noted that witchcraft was not considered heresy during the High Medieval period, since the Council of Paderborn of 785 proclaimed the belief in the possibility of witchcraft itself was heretical.

Christian influence on popular beliefs in witches and maleficium, and developments in the doctrine of Satan helped reverse the dismissal of witches and witchcraft as superstition, and developed an acceptance of their existence and powers. These beliefs were incorporated into the theology of Satan as the source of all maleficium, and the identification of witchcraft as heresy (Levack, 2006, p. 114, 125). This culminated on December 5, 1484, when Pope Innocent VIII issued the Summis desiderantes affectibus , a papal bull recognizing the existence of witches, approval for inquisitorial action against witches, and permission to do whatever necessary eliminate them. In the bull, among other crimes witches were accused of abortion and of contraception . As a result, the Malleus Maleficarum by Kramer and Sprenger was published in 1487. This was neither, the first nor most comprehensive of such works. It was however the most popular (Konnert, 2008, p.52). Published at the end of the medieval period, it assisted in ushering in an era of witch-hunts, which would last for the following two centuries.

Throughout Early Modern Europe, there was widespread hysteria of malevolent satanic witches operating as an organized threat to Christendom. Although the idea of witchcraft began with the persecution of heretics in the 1300s, the classical period of witch hunts in Europe falls into the Early Modern period, about 1480 to 1750, spanning the period of the Reformation and the Thirty Years’ War. The witch craze period from the late 1500s to the early 1700s differed in that it was legally sanctioned and involved official trials. It has been estimated that, there were approximately 200,000 accusations during the three and a half centuries after about 1400 (Dewhirst, 2011). Research on the decline of the witch hunts, according to Somen, has resulted in few general theories applicable to all of Europe, since most modern scholarship focuses on regional or national interpretations which do not always apply from one locale to another (Somen, 1989 in Levack, 1999, p.5). Likewise, developments accounting for the initial decline of persecutions in many jurisdictions do not explain why it came to a complete end or why it was decriminalized. It can however, be argued that there were eight broad factors that led to the decline (Levack, 1999).

1. Judicial skepticism and procedural caution;
Barstow wrote that, prior to the witch craze Medieval Europe had originally practiced restitutive justice, a form of community customary law that functioned through arbitration with a goal of reconciliation, though legal alterations during the 1700s allowed freer accusations to be made via removal the lex talionis mandate (Bartsow, 1994, p.32-33). During the 1800s, establishment of new rules for conducting witchcraft trials and the implementation of higher standards of evidence required for conviction was, according to Levack, the main cause in decline. The result of these new standards was an increased number of acquittals, in turn leading to the reluctance of courts to initiate prosecutions. (Levack, 2006, p.254) The burden of proof was placed on the prosecution; evidence of the possibility of natural causes was all that was necessary for acquittal. A final source of judicial caution in matters of evidence concerned the acceptance witness testimonies. In trials for ordinary crimes, children, criminals, heretics and the defendant’s relatives, servants and alleged accomplices were disqualified from testimony Against witches, these testimonies were permitted, on the grounds that witchcraft was a crimen exceptum . In 1614 the Earl of Dunfermline, successfully argued that witchcraft was not a crimen exceptum and therefore unjustifiable to admit the prosecutions witnesses (Levack, 2006, p.264).

2. The regulation of local justice
As governments continued to centralize their power, changing mental outlooks of the elites and higher authorities as well as several legal or judicial changes assisted in ending the witch-hunts by taking steps to restrain over zealous local judges or inferior courts. These efforts were usually in response to larger uncontrollable witch-hunts, such as in France during the Champagne-Ardennes crisis (Levack, 2006, p.254). This policy, involving the punishment of local officials for violating procedural norms, was formally adopted in 1604 and published as an edict in 1624. Similar regulations of local justice by higher authorities coincided in Spain with other European areas following.

3. The restriction and prohibition of torture;
During the 1700s the administration of torture in all criminal cases, particularly witchcraft, gained increasing resistance, resulting in its use becoming increasingly restrained and regulated. This resulted in fewer chain-reaction panics and its eventual prohibition and abolition in all European jurisdictions. The most influential critique came from Friedrich Spee von Langenfeld, whose criticism was not so much that the procedure was inhumane, but that, evidence obtained by means of its administration was unreliable, since innocent persons made false admissions in order to stop the pain (Levack, 1999, p.19). Essentially this is a further example of attitudinal changes towards legal evidence and proof. The second criticism of torture was directed toward the practice of torturing those named by confessing witches as accomplices. Such denunciations could not normally be admitted as evidence, however witchcraft was defined as a crimen exceptum.

4. New standards of evidence;
Late in the 1600s legal commentaries began distinguishing between poisoning and malevolent magic, crimes that were previously combined under the same name, were separated and placed in different chapters of the legal code. Magic was labeled as a supernatural phenomenon and poisoning, a natural one. In court, authorities and citizens used these revised definitions in arguments to contrast between magic and the natural. It was also clarified in other contexts. Additionally, Judges and legal writers became increasingly reluctant to accept evidence presented justifying the conviction and execution of witches; even confessions were no longer sufficient proof of guilt. By the late 1600s judges accepted confessions only if they were in no way extorted, if they contained nothing that was impossible or improbable, and if the person confessing was neither melancholic nor suicidal. (Levack, 2006, p.263) This led to the recognition that the crime of witchcraft was extremely difficult, if not impossible to prove, and possibly contributing to the belief that witchcraft itself was an impossible act. This conclusion afforded the realization that witchcraft, as a crime could no longer be effectively prosecuted an important step in ending the witch-hunts.

5. Legal representation
Witchcraft and witch beliefs were closely connected to questions of power and hierarchy in local and national contexts. Authorities took a paradoxical lead both in initiating trials and suppressing them, which resulted in diminishing of the importance of the neighborhood. Inquisitional documents often consist of descriptive narratives of magical practices, and reasons why people decided to denounce others involved in such activities. Conditions and context under which denunciations were recorded is important to consider. Since these documents intended to replicate the words of people who were unable to write, the identity of the scrivener, acting as an intermediary between the modern readers and the people whose narrative was recorded, is therefore significant. Legal representation to some degree assisted in reducing the amount of personal bias and differences between the oral and spoken recorded.

6. Changes in witch beliefs
Judges, jurists and magistrates responsible for witchcraft prosecutions and executions believed in their the reality, defined as practitioners of harmful magic, but often doubted the face-to-face pacts made with the Devil and his collective worship. In the late 1700s a number of changes occurred providing doubt and disbelief in the power of witches. The first of these changes, most clearly in the works of Descartes, was a tendency to reject dogma and inherited authority, questioning everything, even the basic principles upon which world-views are based. Secondly, a change in the mental outlook of educated Europeans provided a growing conviction that the physical world functioned like a machine, in an orderly fashion and in accordance with the immutable laws. This view of nature, apparent in Thomas Hobbes’ works, subscribed to a mechanistic view of nature and denied the existence of all noncorporeal entities, including demons, potentially undermining the belief in the Devils ability to intervene worldly affairs. Closely related to this was the growing conviction that natural explanations for supernatural phenomena existed.

Equally, Europeans began to discover that many diseases and aberrant behaviors, attributed to malificium, had natural causes or were explainable without reference to the supernatural. The growth of Cartesian doubt, the spread of the mechanical philosophy and the notion that there were natural causes of supernatural phenomena, occurred primarily within the upper levels of society, while the beliefs of the lower classes changed very little rather they were reclassified by the elite as ‘superstition’ and treated contemptuously (Levack, 2006, p.268). What had previously been a real and present danger was now more frequently dismissed as superstition and nonsense. This notion of superstition, attributed to the lower classes corresponds with the image held by the elites of peasants and ‘common people’ during the 1600s and 1700s as stupid, childish and credulous whose beliefs and customs were often referred to as trifles, lies, fancies, nonsense and fairy-tales. Importantly the role of superstition as a ‘counter concept’ to enlightenment provided a certain degree of secularization. This cultural and social distancing of witchcraft and superstition can be viewed as part of the elites enlightened identity stressing the difference between natural and supernatural phenomena and redefining previously supernatural as either natural or imaginary. In other words, witchcraft and superstition became separated from reality and assigned to the realm of delusion and fantasy.

7. Religious changes
According to Konnert, the abating of violent religious passions after the 1600s contributed to decreasing the sense of crisis and instability that contributed to mass panics (Konnert, 2008, p.56; Levack, 1999, p.78). Drastic attitudinal changes of religious and civil authorities towards the diabolic and conspiratorial conceptions of witchcraft, is partly attributed to the advancement of rationalism and developments in science and philosophy. Following the protestant revolution many protestant writers and preachers denied the Devils ability to produce the magic previously attributed to witchcraft, fostering skepticism toward maleficia and other aspects of witchcraft (Levack, 2006, p.128). Although not resulting in any real reduction in persecutions or executions, possessions and exorcisms, began attracting greater public skepticism. Many people became convinced they were fraudulent, and that the exorcisms were fictitious. This resulted in the accusations and prosecutions of witchcraft resulting from them being discredited (Levack, 2006, p.130). The growing distrust of individuals claiming direct contact with the spirit world made people suspicious of demoniacs, resulting in the questioning of the reality of the witchcraft and its source.

Perhaps the most important effect was a decline in the commitment of God-fearing Christians to purify the world by burning witches. This reflected the new ideals of tolerance that began characterizing some Protestant and Catholic communities. Similarly was the abandonment in using secular powers in many states by Protestant and Catholic public authorities to create an ideal Christian community. Clerical pressure resulted these states passing legislative laws against blasphemy, drunkenness, adultery and sodomy, as well as witchcraft, laws that allowed the courts to begin their moral crusade. During the late 1700s various states abandoned this type of prosecution, a process characteristic of the secularization of both law and politics. Concurrently, the theory that the state was a sacred realm with the king exercising power by divine right lost much of its persuasive force. The end of witchcraft prosecutions can generally be linked with this change of thought regarding the nature and purpose of the state.

8. Social and economic changes
Changes in European social life during the period 1550-1650 such as, Over-population increased prices, a decline in real wages among the poor, famine and death, outbreaks of the plague, pestilence, high levels of infant mortality, migration of the poor towards towns, and widespread domestic and international warfare, all contributed to the witch-hunts. Thomas wrote that, “It is […] possible to connect the decline of the old magical beliefs with the growth of urban living, the rise of science, and the spread of an ideology of self-help” (Thomas 1973, p.797 in Dewhirst, 2011). Though, it remains impossible to determine how greatly social and economic improvements, and changes in culture occurring after 1660 helped to reduce the number of accusations in the lower classes since it is difficult to identify the social and economic tensions underlying the specific quarrels leading to accusations (Levack, 2006, p.275).

Witch-hunting’s decline led eventually to a complete end in prosecutions and the decriminalization of witchcraft. This process took one of two forms. The first, formal or dejure decriminalization, involved the repeal laws providing grounds for prosecutions. This occurred in very few jurisdictions prior to the 1700s and repeals in those were often incomplete, leaving some activities previously defined as witchcraft still prohibited. The second form, de facto decriminalization, occurred when judicial authorities refrained from prosecution and execution, concluding that the crimes were incapable of being proven legally or denied the reality of the crime (Levack, 2006, p.276).

Although trials abated across most of Europe, they continued on the fringes and American colonies until the early 1800s. Jane Wenham was among the last subjects convicted, and later pardoned, in a typical witch trial in England in 1712 (Bragge, 1712). The last execution in England was in 1684, when Alice Molland was hanged in Exeter. In Scotland, Janet Horne was the last witch executed in 1722 (Carrell, 2007). The Witchcraft Act of 1736 saw the end of witchcraft as a legal offence in Britain, and accusations under the new act were generally of people falsely claiming an ability to procure spirits. The final Act of 1736 led to persecution for fraud rather than witchcraft since it was no longer believed that individuals had supernatural powers or contact with Satan. The 1735 Act continued to be used until the 1940s to prosecute individuals such as spiritualists and Gypsies. The act was finally repealed in 1951.

Despite the official ending of witchcraft trials, and its decriminalization there were still numerous of cases of unofficial killings of those accused in Europe. Although not technically witch trials, a strong belief in witches was suspected. Historically, “’witches’ were blamed for evil that had befallen villagers: a fire, the unexplained death of a cow , or a male suddenly smitten with impotency” (Meriman, 2010, p.122) proving this has been more the rule than the exception. In 1782, Europe’s “last witch”, Anna Göldi, was accused of trying to poison her former master’s eight-year old daughter and executed of sorcery (Armitage, 2007). Likewise Barbara Zdunk was executed in 1811 in Prussia for arson. Others such cases include, Anna Klemens in Denmark (1800), Krystyna Ceynowa in Poland (1836), and Dummy, The Sible Hedingham Witchcraft Case in England (1863) (Lockwood). In France, during the 1830s one woman reportedly burnt in a village square in Nord. The persecution of those believed to perform malevolent sorcery toward neighbors continued into the twentieth century with cases such as, the six year U.S., McMartin Preschool Trial, ending in 1990, famous for accusations of human sacrifice, sodomy, blood drinking and other witch-like activities (Linder, 2003) and more recently, in 1997, two Russian farmers killed a woman and injuring five other family believing that they had used folk magic against them (Specter, 1997).

Although there were numerous reasons why the witch-hunts of the 1600s and 1700s both commenced and ended a few broad areas have be identified that affected all of Europe and to a lesser degree their colonies, Thought the witch-hunts have ended the persecution of witches, legal or not, has continued into modern practice. Ideas generated by the fear and contrary to popular belief remain as powerful today as they were in the 1700s in causing panic and at times violence throughout the general population.


Armitage, T., 2007, Switzerland urged to pardon Anna Göldi, Europe’s last witch , The Independent, Thursday, 2 August 2007, [Online] Accessed: 16 May 2011, http://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/europe/switzerland-urged-to-pardon-anna-goumlldi-europes-last-witch-459948.html

Austin, C.P. (Ed.), 1961, The Twelve Tables, Ancient Roman statutes : translation, with introduction, commentary, glossary, and index, University of Texas Press, New Haven, CT [Online] Accessed: 12 May 2011, http://avalon.law.yale.edu/ancient/twelve_tables.asp

Bragge, F., 1712, A full and impartial account of the discovery of sorcery and witchcraft practis’d by Jane Wenham of Walkerne in Hertfordshire, 3rd Edn, Printed for E. Cwll, at the Dial and Bible against St. dunstans Church, Fleetstreet, London.

Bartsow, A.L., Chapter 2 ‘The Structure of a Witch Hunt’, Witchcraze: A New History of the European Witch Hunts, London, Pandora, 1994, pp. 31-55.

Carrell, S., 2007, Campaign to pardon the last witch, jailed as a threat to Britain at war, The Guardian, 13 January 2007, [Online] Accessed: 16 May 2011, http://www.guardian.co.uk/uk/2007/jan/13/secondworldwar.world

Davies, O. and de Blécourt, W. (Eds.), 2004, Beyond the Witch Trials: Witchcraft and magicin Enlightenment Europe, Manchester University Press, Manchester, U.K.

Davies, O., Transcript of the Witchcraft Act of 1736, Cunning Folk, [Online] Accessed: 20 May2011, http://www.karisgarden.com/cunningfolk/witact.htm

Dewhirst, K., 2011 Europe: History of an Idea, HIS2005. [Lecture notes], The age of reconaissance; witchcraft persecution Module. University of Southern Queensland, 22nd-26th March.
King, L.W., 2007 [1915], The Code of Hammurabi, Nuvision Publications, Sioux Falls, SD

Konnert, M., 2008, Early Modern Europe: The Age of Religious War, 1559-1715, Higher Education of Toronto University Press, North York, Ontario, Ch. 2, Social Relations and the Structure of Society, Witchcraft and witch hunts.

Kramer, H. and Sprenger, J., 2005 [1484], The Malleus Maleficarum, Translation by Summers, M.

Levack, B., Gijswijt-Hofstra, M., and Porter, R., 1999, Witchcraft and magic in Europe: the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, The Athlone Press, Pt,1, 8 pp. 1-86

Levack, B., 2006, The Witch-Hunt in Early Modern Europe. 2nd edn, London & New York: Longman, Ch. 8 pp. 253-288, Chapter 4 pp. 109-133

Linder, D., 2003, The McMartin Preschool Abuse Trial: A Commentary [Online] Accessed: 16 May 2011,

Lockwood, M., The Sible Hedingham Witchcraft Case , Esses Police Museum History Notebook, Issue 10, [Online] Accessed: 16 May 2011, http://www.essex.police.uk/museum/history_10.htm

Merriman, J., 2010, A History of Modern Europe: From the Renaissance to the Present, 3rd Edn., W.W. Norton and Company, New York, N.Y.

Specter, M., 1997, In Modern Russia, a Fatal Medieval Witch Hunt, New York times, April 05, [Online] Accessed: 16 May 2011, http://www.nytimes.com/1997/04/05/world/in-modern-russia-a-fatal-medieval-witch-hunt.html

Stephens, W., 2003, Demon Lovers: Witchcraft, Sex and the Crisis of Belief, Ch. 11, Chicago & London, University of Chicago Press, 2003.

Thurston, H. (1912). Witchcraft, The Catholic Encyclopedia. New Advent, Robert Appleton Company, New York, [Online] Accessed: May 13 2011, http://www.newadvent.org/cathen/15674a.htm

Zika, C., 2005, ‘The Witch of Endor: Transformations of a Biblical Necromancer in Early Modern Europe’, in F. W. Kent and Charles Zika (eds.), Rituals, Images, and Words: Varieties of Cultural Expression in Late Medieval and Early Modern Europe, Turnout, Brepolis.

Innocent VIII: BULL Summis desiderantes, Dec. 5th, 1484

Bullarium Romanum (Taurinensis editio), sub, anno 1484.

Innocent, bishop, servant of the servants of God, Ad futuram rei memoriam

Desiring with supreme ardor, as pastoral solicitude requires, that the catholic faith in our days everywhere grow and flourish as much as possible, and that all heretical depravity be put far from the territories of the faithful, we freely declare and anew decree this by which our pious desire may be fulfilled, and, all errors being rooted out by our toil as with the hoe of a wise laborer, zeal and devotion to this faith may take deeper hold on the hearts of the faithful themselves.

It has recently come to our ears, not without great pain to us, that in some parts of upper Germany, as well as in the provinces, cities, territories, regions, and dioceses of Mainz, Ko1n, Trier, Salzburg, and Bremen, many persons of both sexes, heedless of their own salvation and forsaking the catholic faith, give themselves over to devils male and female, and by their incantations, charms, and conjurings, and by other abominable superstitions and sortileges, offences, crimes, and misdeeds, ruin and cause to perish the offspring of women, the foal of animals, the products of the earth, the grapes of vines, and the fruits of trees, as well as men and women, cattle and flocks and herds and animals of every kind, vineyards also and orchards, meadows, pastures, harvests, grains and other fruits of the earth; that they afflict and torture with dire pains and anguish, both internal and external, these men, women, cattle, flocks, herds, and animals, and hinder men from begetting and women from conceiving, and prevent all consummation of marriage; that, moreover, they deny with sacrilegious lips the faith they . received in holy baptism; and that, at the instigation of the enemy of mankind, they do not fear to commit and perpetrate many other abominable offences and crimes, at the risk of their own souls, to the insult of the divine majesty and to the pernicious example and scandal of multitudes. And, although our beloved sons Henricus Institoris and Jacobus Sprenger, of the order of Friars Preachers, professors of theology, have been and still are deputed by our apostolic letters as inquisitors of heretical pravity, the former in the aforesaid parts of upper Germany, including the provinces, cities, territories, dioceses, and other places as above, and the latter throughout certain parts of the course of the Rhine; nevertheless certain of the clergy and of the laity of those parts, seeking to be wise above what is fitting, because in the said letter of deputation the aforesaid provinces, cities, dioceses, territories, and other places, and the persons and offences in question were not individually and specifically named, do not blush obstinately to assert that these are not at all included in the said parts and that therefore it is illicit for the aforesaid inquisitors to exercise their office of inquisition in the provinces, cities, dioceses, territories, and other places aforesaid, and that they ought not to be permitted to proceed to the punishment, imprisonment, and correction of the aforesaid persons for the offences and crimes above named. Wherefore in the provinces, cities, dioceses territories, and places aforesaid such offences and crimes, not without evident damage to their souls and risk of eternal salvation, go unpunished.

We therefore, desiring, as is our duty, to remove all impediments by which in any way the said inquisitors are hindered in the exercise of their office, and to prevent the taint of heretical pravity and of other like evils from spreading their infection to the ruin of others who are innocent, the zeal of religion especially impelling us, in order that the provinces, cities, dioceses, territories, and places aforesaid in the said parts of upper Germany may not be deprived of the office of inquisition which is their due, do hereby decree, by virtue of our apostolic authority, that it shall be permitted to the said inquisitors in these regions to exercise their office of inquisition and to proceed to the correction, imprisonment, and punishment of the aforesaid persons for their said offences and crimes, in all respects and altogether precisely as if the provinces, cities, territories, places, persons, and offences aforesaid were expressly named in the said letter. And, for the greater sureness, extending the said letter and deputation to the provinces, cities, dioceses, territories, places, persons, and crimes aforesaid, we grant to the said inquisitors that they or either of them joining with them our beloved son Johannes Gremper, cleric of the diocese of Coonstance, master of arts, their present notary, or any other notary public who by them or by either of them shall have been temporarily delegated in the provinces, cities, dioceses, territories, and places aforesaid, may exercise against all persons, of whatsoever condition and rank, the said office of inquisition, correcting, imprisoning, punishing and chastising, according to their deserts, those persons whom they shall find guilty as aforesaid.

And they shall also have full and entire liberty to propound and preach to the faithful word of God, as often as it shall seem to them fitting and proper, in each and all of the parosh churches in the said provinces, and to do all things necessary and suitable under the aforesaid circumstances, and likewise freely and fully to carry them out.

Source: http://www.digitalhemp.com/articles/edict1484.html ; Kramer, H. and Sprenger, J., 2005 p. 447-449

Transcript of the Witchcraft Act of 1736

“An Act to repeal the Statute made in the First Year of the Reign of King James the First, intituled, An Act against Conjuration, Witchcraft, and dealing with evil and wicked Spirits, except so much thereof as repeals an Act of the Fifth Year of the Reign of Queen Elizabeth, Against Conjurations, Inchantments, and Witchcrafts, and to repeal an Act passed in the Parliament of Scotland in the Ninth Parliament of Queen Mary, intituled, Anentis Witchcrafts, and for punishing such Persons as pretend to exercise or use any kind of Witchcraft, Sorcery, Inchantment, or Conjuration.

Be it enacted by the King’s most Excellent Majesty, by and with the Advice and Consent of the Lords Spiritual and Temporal, and Commons, in this present Parliament assembled, and by the Authority of the same, That the Statute made in the First Year of the Reign of King James the First, intituled, An Act against Conjuration, Witchcraft, and dealing with evil and wicked Spirits, shall, from the Twenty-fourth Day of June next, be repealed and utterly void, and of none effect (except so much thereof as repeals the Statute made in the Fifth Year of the Reign of Queen Elizabeth) intituled, An Act against Conjurations, Inchantments, and Witchcrafts.

And be it further enacted by the Authority aforesaid, That from and after the said Twenty-fourth Day of June, the Act passed in the Parliament of Scotland, in the Ninth Parliament of Queen Mary, intituled, Anentis Witchcrafts, shall be, and is hereby repealed.

And be it further enacted, That from and after the said Twenty-fourth Day of June, no Prosecution, Suit, or Proceeding, shall be commenced or carried on against any Person or Persons for Witchcraft, Sorcery, Inchantment, or Conjuration, or for charging another with any such Offence, in any Court whatsoever in Great Britain.

And for the more effectual preventing and punishing of any Pretences to such Arts or Powers as are before mentioned, whereby ignorant Persons are frequently deluded and defrauded; be it further enacted by the Authority aforesaid, That if any Person shall, from and after the said Twenty-fourth Day of June, pretend to exercise or use any kind of Witchcraft, Sorcery, Inchantment, or Conjuration, or undertake to tell Fortunes, or pretend, from his or her Skill or Knowledge in any occult or crafty Science, to discover where or in what manner any Goods or Chattels, supposed to have been stolen or lost, may be found, every Person, so offending, being thereof lawfully convicted on Indictment or Information in that part of Great Britain called England, or on Indictment or Libel in that part of Great Britain called Scotland, shall, for every such Offence, suffer Imprisonment by the Space of one whole Year without Bail or Mainprize, and once in every Quarter of the said Year, in some Market Town of the proper County, upon the Market Day, there stand openly on the Pillory by the Space of One Hour, and also shall (if the Court by which such Judgement shall be given shall think fit) be obliged to give Sureties for his or her good Behaviour, in such Sum, and for such Time, as the said Court shall judge proper according to the Circumstances of the Offence, and in such case shall be further imprisoned until such Sureties be given.”

Source: http://www.karisgarden.com/cunningfolk/witact.htm





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