Bizarre and Cruel Ways People Tested Witches
The mass hysteria that gripped people during the numerous witch trials that took place in our history is still difficult to understand. Equally incomprehensible is some of the weird ways they tested witches. One of the main sources for practicing witch hunters was a book titled Malleus Maleficarum, which translates to “Hammer of the Witches.” The book outlines numerous ways to identify and prosecute witches.
The ways witches were tested ranged from the bizarre to the cruel and included having their victims scratch them until they bled, baking their victim’s urine into a cake, and being asked to perfectly recite a prayer. While these witch trial tests might sound absurd to us today, for many men and women, the outcomes of these tests would determine whether they lived or died.
Dunked Into Freezing Water
A ducking stool was a medieval torture device which was primarily used to punish and humiliate women. The contraption resembled a seesaw with a chair affixed to one end. The device was placed along the edge of a river and the offender, who would be strapped into the chair, was repeatedly plunged into the cold river water. Witch hunters would use the device to coerce confessions from the accused. This method was later simplified – accusers forwent the device and just tossed suspected witches into the water to see if they would drown.
Bound And Thrown Into A Body Of Water
Probably the ultimate example of a no-win situation, some accused witches had their hands and feet bound along with rocks to weigh them down, and then they were thrown into a body of water. It was believed that if a person was a witch, the water would reject them and spit back them out. However, if they were innocent, they would drown. Knowing that their death would clear them of all charges must have been a great source of comfort.
Pressed With Heavy Stones
When we say the accused were “pressed,” we don’t only mean for answers. This method was used to manipulate accused witches into admitting their guilt. The witches in question had a board laid on top of them and their accusers placed heavy rocks on the board until they either confessed or they were literally crushed to death.
Scratched By Their Victims Until They Bled
Some of the accused were tested by being scratched by their supposed victims. It was believed that those cursed by a witch would experience relief if they scratched the person responsible for their affliction. Victims would scratch the witch in question until they drew blood, and if they’re symptoms improved, they knew they had found their witch.
Told To Pray – And It Had To Be Perfect
Accused witches were asked to recite the Lord’s prayer and to recite it perfectly. This meant perfect pronunciation, no stuttering, no twitching, no shaking – never mind the fact that your life is on the line. However, even if an accused witch recited the words perfectly, they could still be executed.
Their Bodies Were Examined For Markings
Suspected witches were also examined for unusual markings. During witch hunts, moles, scars, and birthmarks were often believed to be the mark of the devil. It was believed that anyone who made a deal with the devil would bear this mark. These marks were said to change shape and color and were impervious to pain.
Pricked With Pins And Needles
It was believed that witches bore a special mark that identified them as a practitioner of witchcraft. Witch-hunters would identify these marks and use a pin or needle to prick at them. If the suspected witch felt no pain, he or she was declared a witch. Some of the desperate hunters would get crafty and dull their tools so that the accused would not experience any pain.
They Were Weighed Against A Stack Of Bibles
This is a Goldilocks kind of test that would’ve been extremely hard to pass if you were an accused witch. A suspected witch would be weighed against a stack of Bibles. If she weighed more than the Bibles? She was a witch. If she weighed less than the Bibles? She was a witch. The scales had to be perfectly even for the accused to get out of this one.
They Were Observed To See If They Muttered To Themselves
This one is cruel and bizarre to the extent that it turns what was likely a form of mental illness into a telltale sign of a witch. If you could observe a potential witch talking to herself – muttering under her breath in some fashion – odds are, she was probably a witch doing incantations. So being ever vigilant for this manifestation of witchcraft was something any good citizen should’ve been ready and willing to do.