These notes give some of
the historical and documentary background of the works in "The Witchcraft Series".
The Devon Witches: Judgement (2006). The main text paraphrases the trial document of Temperance Lloyd, "leader" of the Bideford Witches,
executed in Exeter, in 1682. The three "Bideford witches", who were hanged, are listed in my own handwriting, along with Alice Molland of Exeter; who may instead have died in prison. The red
framing text is composed of words for "witch" in Latin, Anglo-Saxon & Middle English.
The Devon Witches: "Beat the water, Trembles'
daughter..." (2006). The quote down the right-hand side of the tapestry is from the
same trial document, of Mary Trembles, "Bideford witch", executed in Exeter, 1682.
The Devon Witches: "Half-hidden Signs" (2007). The title is from a quotation: "...their acts of magic are silent and unseeable, detectable only
by half-hidden signs." (Purkiss, Diane; "The Witch in History" (1996); p. 277. Routledge). Rune-drawings and information about Celtic pagan festivals and ritual are from Shirley Molesworth, with
Witch-Hunt: Maleficium (in memoriam) (2007). Text from title page of "Malleus Maleficarum", written by Heinrich Kramer, published in 1487. Thought to be
the first published work warning of the evil deeds of witches in Europe. Illustrations from "Compendium Maleficarum", published by Francesco Maria Guazzo in 1608. Condemned witches on the
continent, and in Scotland, were burnt at the stake; here, photographic images have been taken from a local bonfire site for the background. Work in collection of the Art Endowment of the City of
Daemonologie (2008). The images are from the witch-hunting pamphlet "Newes from Scotland", printed in London in 1591. The text, photographed at The Museum of Witchcraft,
Boscastle, Cornwall, is from the second edition of "Daemonologie", written and published by King
James VI of Scotland and First of England, in 1603.
Certaine Wytches, Chelmsford, Essex, 1566 (2009). Images from trial pamphlet, "The examination and confession of Certaine Wytches at Chensforde in the Countie of Essex....1566", which is the earliest known published account of an English
witch-trial. The women depicted are Joan Waterhouse (left), her mother Agnes Waterhouse (right), and at the centre, her grandmother Eve. In my opinion, at least one of these printing wood-blocks
has been redeployed from an earlier publication, on this occasion to represent a "witch". The dress and stance of Agnes, on the right, exactly mimic a traditional presentation of a saint, with
her hand raised in a conventional gesture of blessing, or teaching.
Ursula Kempe, St. Osyth, Essex, 1582 (2010). The text is reproduced from the original witch-trial pamphlet cited above, quoting a healing ritual
that Ursula Kempe performed on a neighbour's child. She took the sick child’s hand, saying “ah, good child, how art thou loden (laden)”; then left the house. She repeated the process twice, and
the child was apparently restored to health. She was also accused of using magic to treat rheumatism with a spell involving hog’s dung & chervil, pricked with a knife three times; along
with sage & St. John’s wort. The images of the witch's "familiars" are taken from various witch-hunting pamphlets. The skeleton was dug up in St. Osyth in 1921, and thought to be Ursula
Kempe. The image was printed as a postcard.
The Great European Witch-hunt: The word "witch" in 10
languages (2011).Words for "witch" in English, German, French, Polish, Danish/Norwegian, Swedish, Finnish, Spanish, Italian and Hungarian, shown here, represent the
ten regions of Europe where witches were most heavily prosecuted between 1450-1750. The figure of 60,000 executions, bottom right, is extremely conservative. Three major beliefs about witches
were held in that era: that they could transform into animal shape, that they could fly; (the chemical formula shown is for atropine, an active ingredient in flying ointment); and that they
performed magic: "Abracadabra" is the earliest-known magic charm, originally Arabic; and the "magic square" depicted was found scratched on a wall at Pompeii. Ursula Kempe's charm against
rheumatism is also shown.
Alchemists (2011). The images on the left are medieval alchemical symbols, including the personal sigil of Doctor John
Dee, alchemist to Queen Elizabeth First. The images centre and right are chemical formulae from modern biochemical research, for a long-chain hydrocarbon (biofuel), and for anthocyanin, a type of
plant pigment whose synthesis is associated with Vitamin C. The barcode is from the ID card of a university academic scientist.
Sator, Arepo, Tenet, Opera, Rotas (2012). The framing texts of the tapestry list the English Common Law statutes against witchcraft, up to
a final repeal in 1951. The earliest are rendered in sixteenth-century "blackface" type, and the bottom text is in twentieth-century Remington manual typewriter font. The main imagery depicts
protective magic charms, written on paper by local "cunning folk" and buried in sealed bottles beneath cow-barns in England and Wales as recently as the late nineteenth
See: Merrifield, R., “The Archeology of Ritual and Magic”.
The Child Witnesses: “The enformation of Thomas Rabbett, of the age of
viii yeres or thereabouts” (2013). The text is reproduced from the original
trial-pamphlet, “A true and just Recorde, of the Information, Examination and Confession of all the
witches…at St. Osyth”. Thomas Rabbett was the son of Ursula Kempe. The boy was encouraged to describe his mother’s "familiar spirits": "Tyttey is like a little grey Cat, Tyffin is like a
white lambe, Pygine is black like a Toad, and Jacke is black like a Cat."
For Luck at Sea: The Discoverie of Witchcraft, 1584: "witches could
sail in an eggshell"(2014). “The Discoverie of Witchcraft" was published in 1584 by Reginald Scot. It includes the first known reference to the folk belief, still recounted, that eggshells
should be smashed because witches could sail out to sea in them and raise storms to sink ships.
Child Witness 2: "The enformation of Febey Hunt, of the age viii
yeeres or thereabouts"(2015). The text is also from the St. Osyth witch-trial pamphlet,
above. Febey Hunt was the stepdaughter of Alice Hunt, also tried for witchcraft.
Tempestarii (Storm-raisers) atmospheric methane
ppb (2016). The left-hand text was taken from King James 1st's "Daemonologie" (1603), referenced above. The right-hand text refers to the magic spell "selling the wind", a
documented practice in Boscastle, Cornwall.
The sets of red text are up-to-date climate-change data. Top left: the increase of methane in the atmosphere between 1950-2015. Bottom right: sea-surface temperature rise
1950-2015, land-surface temperature rise 1950-2015, global average temperature rise 1960-2015, and average sea-level rise 1950-2015. The green microscope images are of phytophthora cells, a
fungus that causes potato blight, sudden oak death and other diseases associated with climate change.
The imagery to the left includes the illustration of King James 6th's ship being sunk by the spells of witches, from the “Newes from Scotland” pamphlet cited above. The imagery to the right depicts a Swiss tale that witches
could raise hailstorms to damage crops, using sheaves of hay, birds and frogs. The bound ears of wheat shown were drawn from a good-luck/fertility charm made by a local Devon witch. They were
used in "Crying the Neck", a harvest ritual currently performed yearly on a local Devon farm. The two tempestarii, or storm-raising witches, are taken from a woodcut in the “Compendium Maleficarum”, Guazzo, M., 1608.
Grace Thomas & Temperance Lloyd: "Why dost thou weep for
All the texts shown are from “A True and Impartial Relation of the Confessions
of Three Witches”, the pamphlet relating the trial of the Bideford witches, reproduced in Gent, F. “The Trial of the Bideford Witches”. A group of original witch-marks from a house in The Mint, Exeter, was adapted to suggest thresholds and lintels in the tapestry,
which depicts the testimony of Grace Thomas against Temperance Lloyd, who was later hanged for witchcraft.
Saducismus Triumphatus, 1681: “a very Fair
Red-apple” (2017). In his book, “Saducismus Triumphatus”, Joseph Glanvil describes the trial of Elizabeth Style, for witchcraft, at Taunton in 1664. Among many accusations against her was one
that she poisoned her neighbour with “a very Fair Red-apple”.