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 witch-finder An expert at examining and identifying

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Date d'inscription : 14/04/2010

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witch-finder An expert at examining and identifying
witches. Witch-finders were especially important during the
height of the witch hunts in the 16th and 17th centuries.
In Britain, every town and county had its witch-finder,
who was kept busy investigating all mishaps and accidents,
which usually were believed to be caused by witchcraft
and sorcery. Even acts of nature, such as hailstorms
that destroyed crops, were blamed on the maleficia of
Witch-finders identified suspects and prepared them
for judicial examination and trial. They carefully examined
bodies for witch’s marks. Many witch-finders
pricked suspects with needles and sharp instruments. If
the suspect did not cry, or moles and warts did not bleed,
the suspect was a witch. If they could not recite the Lord’s
Prayer without stumbling, they were witches. Ownership
of cats, dogs, toads and other creatures were taken to be
fa milia rs. Some said they could identify witches simply by
looking at them. Witch-finders might give suspects special
diets to counteract whatever magical charms they might
have ingested to hide their identities or to become invisible
and escape.
Witch-finders were well paid for their services, and
many traveled about the countryside for hire. They were
paid per person fees for every suspect found guilty. Most
were not above torturing suspects into confessions in
order to enhance their fees and reputations. One of the
most highly paid witch-finders was Matthew Hopkins
of England. Many clergymen were witch-finders for hire.
In Scotland in the 17th century, ministers competed with
one another to secure the condemnation of the most
witches. If professional witch-finders were not available,
communities hired witches and wizards themselves.
Further reading:
Grant, James. The Mysteries of All Nations: Rise and Progress
of Superstition, Laws Against and Trials of Witches, Ancient
and Modern Delusions, Together With Strange Customs,
Fables and Tales. Edinburgh: Leith, Reid & Son, n.d.
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