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Myths And Legends Of Our Own Land, Complete

Page: 93

When the wife of Philip English was arrested he, too, asked to share her fate, and both were, through friendly intercession, removed to Boston, where they were allowed to have their liberty by day on condition that they would go to jail every night. Just before they were to be taken back to Salem for trial they went to church and heard the Rev. Joshua Moody preach from the text, "If they persecute you in one city, flee unto another." The good clergyman not only preached goodness, but practised it, and that night the door of their prison was opened. Furnished with an introduction from Governor Phipps to Governor Fletcher, of New York, they made their way to that settlement, and remained there in safe and courteous keeping until the people of Salem had regained their senses, when they returned. Mrs. English died, soon after, from the effects of cruelty and anxiety, and although Mr. Moody was generally commended for his substitution of sense and justice for law, there were bigots who persecuted him so constantly that he removed to Plymouth.

According to the belief of the time a witch or wizard compacted with Satan for the gift of supernatural power, and in return was to give up his soul to the evil one after his life was over. The deed was signed in blood of the witch and horrible ceremonies confirmed the compact. Satan then gave his ally a familiar in the form of a dog, ape, cat, or other animal, usually small and black, and sometimes an undisguised imp. To suckle these "familiars" with the blood of a witch was forbidden in English law, which ranked it as a felony; but they were thus nourished in secret, and by their aid the witch might raise storms, blight crops, abort births, lame cattle, topple over houses, and cause pains, convulsions, and illness. If she desired to hurt a person she made a clay or waxen image in his likeness, and the harms and indignities wreaked on the puppet would be suffered by the one bewitched, a knife or needle thrust in the waxen body being felt acutely by the living one, no matter how far distant he might be. By placing this image in running water, hot sunshine, or near a fire, the living flesh would waste as this melted or dissolved, and the person thus wrought upon would die. This belief is still current among negroes affected by the voodoo superstitions of the South. The witch, too, had the power of riding winds, usually with a broomstick for a conveyance, after she had smeared the broom or herself with magic ointment, and the flocking of the unhallowed to their sabbaths in snaky bogs or on lonely mountain tops has been described minutely by those who claim to have seen the sight. Sometimes they cackled and gibbered through the night before the houses of the clergy, and it was only at Christmas that their power failed them. The meetings were devoted to wild and obscene orgies, and the intercourse of fiends and witches begot a progeny of toads and snakes.


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