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 [En attente de traduction] Wytte, Joan (1775–1813)

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Date d'inscription : 14/04/2010

MessageSujet: [En attente de traduction] Wytte, Joan (1775–1813)   Dim 18 Avr - 11:26

Wytte, Joan (1775–1813) Cornish woman known as
“The Fighting Fairy Woman of Bodmin,” renowned as a
Joan Wytte was born in 1775 in Bodmin to a family
of weavers and tawners (makers of white leather). Small
in stature, she reputedly could communicate with fai ries
and spirits.
Wytte was clairvoyant, and people sought her services
as a seer, diviner and healer. She was known to visit a
local holy well called Scarlett’s, where she did scrying
and tied clouties on the branches of the trees. (A cloutie,
pronounced kloo-tee, is a type of charm that is a strip
of cloth taken from the clothing of a sick person. As it
decays on the tree limb, the limbs of the sick person heal
in a form of sympathetic magic. Clouties, consisting of
strips of cloth and ribbons, are still tied to the trees at
holy wells in modern times.)
Sometime in her twenties, Wytte developed a serious
tooth decay that eventually caused a painful abscess, for
which there were few dental remedies at the time. The
pain of this condition changed her behavior, and she became
more ill-tempered. She shouted at people and picked
fights, and turned to drinking. She suffered bouts of delirium
and muttered in her sleep, causing others to think
that she was possessed by the Devi l.
One day Wytte became involved in a fight with several
people and demonstrated almost supernatural strength
by picking them up and hurling them around and beating
upon them so seriously that they were injured. She was
arrested and taken to Bodmin jail.
398    Wookey Hole
Wytte languished in jail for years, suffering the fate of
other prisoners who had no wealth by which to procure
their release. Eventually, the bad diet, damp and dreadful
conditions—especially working the treadmill, the fate of
all prisoners—caused her to become ill with pneumonia,
and she died. Her body was dissected by the jail’s surgeon,
and the skeleton was placed in a prison storeroom.
A new prison governor arrived, William Hicks, who
decided to use Wytte’s skeleton for amusement in a seance
for friends. The skeleton was placed in a coffin and a bone
put in it for her spirit to use in answering questions. Two
persons were given bones, which would be rapped. One
was for receiving yes answers and one was for receiving
no answers. Offstage Hicks secreted a person who also
had a bone, and would play the part of Wytte. According
to lore, the seance took an unexpected turn of events. The
coffin lid allegedly flew open, and, with a great whooshing
sound, the bones were yanked from all three people
and sent flying about the seance room, beating upon the
heads and shoulders of those present. The violence then
stopped as abruptly as it had started.
Wytte’s bones remained in the jail storeroom. In 1927,
after the jail was closed, her skeleton was acquired by a
doctor in north Cornwall. It eventually passed into the
hands of an antique dealer, and was acquired by Ceci l
Willia mson, founder of the Museum of Witchcraf t.
Williamson put the bones on display in a coffin in the
When the museum, in Boscastle, Cornwall, was sold
in 1996, the new owners, Graham King and Liz Crow,
experienced poltergeist phenomena associated with the
skeleton. They consulted a witch from St. Buryan, Cassandra
Latham, who told them the spirit of Wytte did
not want to be on public view and would not rest until
she had been given a proper burial. The bones were
removed for that purpose. The empty coffin remained
on display, along with an account of the tragic story of
Further reading:
Jones, Kelvin I. Seven Cornish Witches. Penzance: Oakmagic
Publications, 1998.
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