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 Windsor Witches (d. 1579) Four women accused and

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Windsor Witches (d. 1579) Four women accused and
hung as witches for a variety of crimes in Windsor, England.
One of their chief offenses was alleged to be
bewitchment by poppet, a type of witchcraft greatly
feared at the time by Queen Elizabeth I. In August 1578,
three female waxen dolls with bristles stuck into their
hearts were found in a dunghill in London, causing great
Windsor Witches 375
concern in royal circles over the use of witchcraft in
treason. The alleged use of waxen dolls by the Windsor
women focused more attention on the case than might
have otherwise been warranted.
The principal figure in the case was Elizabeth Stile,
alias Rockingham, a widow of 65 years. She was regarded
as “lewd, malicious and hurtful” by her neighbors and
was arrested on charges of witchcraft. She was forced to
walk the 12 miles from Windsor to Reading, where she
was imprisoned.
Stile made an extensive confession and said she had
a rat for a fa milia r (see rodents) named Philip that she
fed with her own blood from her right wrist. She said she
had allowed a Devi l’s mark to be made by the Devil on
her right side. She named other witches and said they all
met and conspired to bewitch cattle and bewitch several
people to death, some through spells cast with poppets
in the shape of waxen images.
The other witches were:
Father Rosimond and his daughter, of Farnham, both
witches and enchanters who could shape-shift. Father
Rosimond was seen in the shapes of an ape and a horse.
Mother Dutten, who seemed to have had psychic powers
and could give people messages when they visited.
She kept a toad familiar in her garden, which she fed
with blood from her right side.
Mother Devell, a poor woman whose familiar was a
black cat named Jill, which she fed with a mixture of
milk and her own blood.
Mother Margaret, an old woman who hobbled about
on crutches and kept a kitten familiar named Jenny, which
she fed with crumbs and her own blood. Mother Margaret,
said Stile, gave her money and told her not to divulge
the witches’ secrets.
The crimes Stile admitted to, committed by her and
the other witches, were the bewitchment deaths of:
• a farmer named Langford
• M aster Gallis, the former mayor of Windsor
• a butcher named Switcher
• a man named Saddock, who reneged on his promise
to give Stile his cloak
Stile said the witches killed Langford, Gallis and
Switcher by making images of red wax and sticking them
in the hearts with bristles or hawthorn thorns. She killed
Saddock by clapping him on the shoulder; he went home
and died soon after.
The witches bewitched, or did “overspeak,” several
other people who sickened but did not die:
• a butcher named Mastlin
• a fisherman named William Foster
• the wife of a baker named Willis
• George Whitting, the servant of Matthew Glover of
• a man named Foster
Furthermore, the busy witches killed cattle by bewitchment
and also cast malevolent spells against anyone
who angered them.
Stile said she was led into witchcraft by Mothers Dutten
and Devell. The three would meet at 11 o’clock at night
to pledge themselves to service to the Devi l.
At the trials of the four women, testimony was given
attesting to their witchcraft. An ostler who had given aid
to Stile fell ill after she expressed unhappiness with the
amount of his alms. He went to Father Rosimond, who
cured him and told him there were many evil witches in
Windsor. The ostler drew Stile’s blood and got more relief
from his aching body.
A boy who went to get water at a well next to Stile’s
home had an unpleasant encounter with her. He threw a
stone at her house, and she said she would get even with
him. She took away his pitcher. The boy went home and
suffered the reversal of his hand, causing him great pain.
The hand was restored by either Father Rosimond or
Mother Devell.
While in jail, Stile said that Mother Devell was bewitching
her and the other two women, causing all sensation
to be gone from her hands and feet. Her toes rotted
off, and she was carted to court in a barrow.
Stile and Mothers Dutten, Devell and Margaret were
found guilty of witchcraft but not of treason. They were
hanged on February 29, 1579. Rosimond apparently was
not charged or tried.
Further reading:
Rosen, Barbara, ed. Witchcraft in England, 1558–1618.
Amherst: University of Massachusetts Press, 1991.
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