Witches' mark  

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Kunstformen der Natur (1904) by Ernst Haeckel
Kunstformen der Natur (1904) by Ernst Haeckel

According to witch-hunters during the height of the witch trials (c. 1645), the witches’ mark (also called a Devil's mark or a witches' teat) indicated that an individual was a witch. The witches' mark, witches' teat, and the devil's mark are all terms applied to essentially the same mark. The beliefs about the mark differ depending on the trial location and the accusation made against the witch. Evidence of the witches’ mark is found earliest in the 1500s, and reached its peak in 1645, then essentially disappeared by 1700. The Devil's mark was believed to be the permanent marking of the Devil on his initiates to seal their obedience and service to him. He created the mark by raking his claw across their flesh, or by making a blue or red brand using a hot iron. Sometimes, the mark was believed to have been left by the Devil licking the individual. The Devil was thought to mark the individual at the end of nocturnal initiation rites.

The witches' teat is associated with the perversion of maternal power by witches in early modern England. The witches' teat is associated with the feeding of witches' imps or familiars; the witches' familiars supposedly aided the witch in her magic in exchange for nourishment (blood) from sacrificial animals or from the witch's teat. It is also where the devil supposedly suckles when he comes at night to bed his faithful servants, sometimes impregnating them with his seed. Once the devilish half-breed has been conceived, the cambion may only feed upon this teat and no other. Folklore suggests that on the 7th day of the 7th week of consecutive feeding upon the teat, the cambion would grow to adulthood immediately and begin wreaking havoc with a range of demonic powers inherited from its supernatural father. However, should the ritual be disrupted during the 49-day period, the process has to restart all over again.

It was believed that the marks were applied to “secret places" – under the eyelids, in armpits and body cavities.Template:Fact Being found to have this mark was considered undeniable proof of being a witch. All witches and sorcerers were believed to have a witch’s mark waiting to be found. When a person was accused of witchcraft, they were brought to trial and carefully scrutinized. Their entire body was suspect as a canvas for a mark, an indicator of a pact with Satan. Witches’ marks were commonly believed to include moles, scars, birthmarks, skin tags, supernumerary nipples, natural blemishes and insensitive patches of skin. Experts, or Inquisitors, firmly believed that a witch’s mark could be easily identified from a natural mark; in light of this belief, protests from the victims that the marks were natural were often ignored.

Authorities in the witch trials routinely stripped an accused witch of clothing and shaved all body hair so that no potential mark could be hidden. Pins were driven into scars, calluses, and thickened areas of skin – the practice of “pricking a witch”. Customarily, this routine was performed in front of a large crowd. The search for the witches' mark had disappeared by 1700.

The violence used against accused witches in order to discover the witches' mark included torture; "To try to force a confession, priest applied hot fat repeatedly to Catherine Boyraionne's eyes and her armpits, the pit of her stomach, her thighs, her elbows, and 'dans sa nature'-in her vagina. She died in prison, no doubt from injuries" (Barstow, Anne Llewellyn. Witchcraze: A New History of the European Witch Hunts. USA: Pandora: A Division of HarperCollins Publishers, 1994.). It is also important to address that although both men and women were accused of witchcraft during the witch-hunts, the search for the witches’ mark is specific to women.

During the witch-trials in early modern Europe individuals were employed to help aid in the discovery and conviction of witches, these individuals were given the title "witch finders". Perhaps the most famous witch finder was a man named Matthew Hopkins, who claimed to be the "Witch Finder General".Matthew Hopkins (ca. 1620 - 1647) was an English witch finder whose writings reached their height of popularity during the English Civil War (circa 1645). Hopkins's writings and ideas on discovering witches contributed to the use of the witches' mark as evidence of a witches' guilt. Evidence shows that two Scottish women disguised themselves as men so they too could become witch-finders; known as "Mr. Dickson" and "Mr. Peterson".

See also

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