"Saducismus Triumphatus" is a compendium of folk-tales and testimony from a number of witch-trials, many held in the West Country of England. It was published in 1681, after the death of its compiler/author, Joseph Glanvil, a prolific writer, philosopher and clergyman.
The tapestry depicts elements from the trial testimony of Elizabeth Styles, of Bayford, Stoke Trister, Somerset, in 1664.
The story, as Glanvil recounts it from the magistrate's trial notes, is vivid and detailed. Styles was accused of poisoning a child with an apple, and signing over her soul to the devil in exchange for twelve years of riches and magical powers. She testified that she met with a group of other women in the woods, where they brought 'pictures in wax', or poppets, representing their enemies, to be baptised by the devil and stuck with thorns.
Styles was kept in Taunton jail, where she was "watched" to prevent her from sleeping. Those who watched her testified that a great fly, presumably the devil, flew out of her head during the night. She died in the jail, before she could be executed.
I saw Mr. Glanvil's account as that of an interested gentleman making a philosophical argument about the potential powers of witchcraft. I imagined that he could have created a "cabinet of curiosities" from the elements of the many stories in 'Saducismus Triumphatus', including that of Elizabeth Styles.
Cotton, linen, synthetic yarns
167 x 144 cm