Metamorphosis The ability of witches, sorcerers  and other magically empowered persons to transform themselves and other humans at will into animals, birds and insects. In witchcraft trials, people testified that the accused witches had appeared before them or tormented them in some nonhuman shape. For example, in 1663 Jane Milburne[…]


Ladder Widely held superstitions that it is bad luck to walk beneath a ladder are related in part to fears about witches, especially during the witch hunt times in colonial America. Not all witches were burned—for example, in England and in the American colonies, witches were hung. When they dropped,[…]


Hopkins, Matthew (?–1647?) England’s most notorious professional witch-hunter, who brought about the condemnations and executions of at least 230 alleged witches, more than all other witch-hunters combined during the 160-year peak of the country’s witch hysteria. Hopkins was born in Wenham, Suffolk, the son of a minister. Little is known[…]

Mathew Hopkins

Hibbins, Ann (d. 1656) Prominent Boston woman convicted of witchcraft and executed. Her chief crime as a witch seemed to have been a bad temper, which was disliked by her neighbors. Ann Hibbins was married to William Hibbins, a well-to-do merchant in Boston. She also was the sister of Richard[…]

Hibbins, Ann (d. 1656)

Hawkins, Jane (17th century) Massachusetts midwife and healer expelled on suspicions of witchcraft in the delivery of a deformed, stillborn fetus. The witchcraft accusations were mixed with a religious controversy affecting Jane Hawkins as well. Hawkins, married to Richard Hawkins, was well known for her midwifery skills and medical remedies.[…]

Hawkins, Jane (17th century)

Guazzo, Francesco-Maria (17th century) Italian friar who became well known as a demonologist and opponent of witches. Francesco-Maria Guazzo is best known as the author of Compendium Maleficarum (Handbook of Witches), a leading inquisitor’s guide. Little is known about Guazzo’s life. He joined the Brethren of St. Ambrose ad Nemus[…]

Guazzo, Francesco-Maria (17th century)

German trader accused of sorcery by Pueblo Indians in northern New Mexico. Bernardo Gruber was imprisoned. He escaped but died a strange death. In 1668, Gruber arrived in New Mexico with a pack train of mules bearing fine goods. It was said that he was fearless and traveled through the[…]

Gruber, Bernardo (17th century)

Hartford, Connecticut, woman accused of witchcraft, who confessed and was executed. Rebecca Greensmith and her third husband, Nathaniel, lived next door to Ann Cole. The couple were reasonably affluent, but Rebecca was considered a “lewd and ignorant” woman. In 1662, when Cole was brought up on charges of witchcraft, Greensmith[…]

Greensmith, Rebecca (17th century)

Graves, William (17th century) Connecticut man accused of witchcraft over a dispute with his daughter and son-in-law. Though no legal action was taken against William Graves, his case indicates how easily personal squabbles could be turned into serious witchcraft charges. Graves’ daughter, Abigail, married a man named Samuel Dibble. Graves[…]

Graves, William (17th century)

Scottish witch whose stories of wild sexual escapades with the Devil titillated and shocked her stern neighbors and reinforced the prevailing beliefs in witches as evil creatures bent on destroying their fellow man. Isobel Gowdie, an attractive woman with red hair, a color associated with witches, voluntarily confessed to witchcraft[…]

Gowdie, Isobel (?–ca. 1662)

One of the first people to be accused of witchcraft in the Salem Witches hysteria of 1692–93. Sarah Good was executed by hanging and on the gallows delivered a famous curse that seemed to bear true. Good was married to her second husband, William Good. They had at least one[…]

Good, Sarah (d. 1692)

Youngest victim of the Salem Witches hysteria of 1692–93. Dorcas Good was the daughter of Sarah Good, one of the first persons to be accused of witchcraft in Salem, Massachusetts, in 1692. Only four years old, Dorcas was also accused of being a witch. In childlike fashion, she readily confessed[…]

Good, Dorcas (17th century)

Ornaments with magical properties, and in contemporary Witchcraft, sometimes worn in various rituals and as badges of rank. Garters may have been used in rituals in Paleolithic times: an ancient cave painting in northeastern Spain portrays nine women, wearing pointed headdresses, dancing in a circle around a naked man, who[…]


The execution site of those condemned as witches in the infamous witch trails in Salem, Massachusetts. Gallows Hill has been believed to be haunted ever since the trials in 1692–93. Nineteen men and women were hanged from the trees at Gallows Hill. The site was long considered the meeting grounds[…]

Gallows Hill

A belief during the witch hunts, that the Devil, his demons and witches could transport themselves and others through the air. Flying (also called transvection) was done with the aid of a broom, fork or shovel, according to lore; some witches were said to ride demons who were transformed into[…]


Duncan, Helen (1898–1956) British Spiritualist whose conviction on flimsy charges of witchcraft led to the repeal of Britain’s Witchcraft Act of 1736, thus clearing the way for the public practice of Witchcraft. Helen Duncan, a Scotswoman, was renowned for her natural mediumistic abilities by the 1920s. During the 1930s and[…]

Duncan, Helen (1898–1956)

 According to witch-hunters, the Devil always permanently marked the bodies of his initiates to seal their pledge of obedience and service to him. He marked them by raking his claw across their flesh or using a hot iron, which left a mark, usually blue or red, but not a scar.[…]

Devil’s Marks

A heavily charged place of magic. The Greek goddess of witchcraft, Hecate, was also goddess of the crossroads, and animals were sacrificed to her at such locations. It was believed that Hecate appeared at crossroads on clear nights, accompanied by spirits and howling dogs. Offerings were placed there to propitiate[…]


The fourth person to be accused of witchcraft in the Salem Witches hysteria of 1692–93, who was tried and executed. Martha Corey was the wife of Giles Corey, who also was executed. The Coreys were well-to-do, pious residents of Salem Town. Martha’s age at the time of the trials is[…]

Corey, Martha (d. 1692)

Executed in the Salem Witches hysteria of 1692–93 by being pressed to death for not acknowledging the right of the court to try him on charges of witchcraft. Giles Corey was a well-to-do man of Salem Town, in his 80s when the hysteria started. He owned a farm of 100[…]

Corey, Giles (d. 1692)

  Accused repeatedly of witchcraft, who was staked like a vampire when she died. Eunice Cole of Hampton, New Hampshire, was in her 70s when she was found guilty of witchcraft in 1656. She was sentenced to a flogging and life imprisonment in jail in Boston. Her 82-year-old husband, William,[…]

Cole, Eunice (17th century)

Accused witch in Hartford,Connecticut, who was believed to be under demonic possession. The case was recorded in a letter written by Reverend John Whiting, which in turn was published by Increase Mather in An Essay for the Recording of Illustrious Providences (1684). Ann Cole was described by Mather as a[…]

Cole, Ann (17th century)

Chelmsford witches Four major witch trails in the 16th–17th centuries that resulted in numerous convictions and executions. The first trial occurred in the summer of 1566, under the rule of Queen Elizabeth, whose Parliament had passed the second of England’s three witchcraft acts in 1563. The Act of 1563 tightened[…]

Chelmsford witches

One of the most important ecclesiastical documents of the Middle Ages was the Canon Episcopi, ca. 900, which defined witchcraft as Devil-worship but declared it to be nothing more than a foolish delusion. The origin of the canon is unknown. When it was made public at the beginning of the[…]

Canon Episcopi

According to a prophecy by the famous 19th-century cunning man James Murrell, the Essex village of Canewdon, located in England’s “witch country” of East Anglia, would be populated with witches “forever.” Indeed, the village and the surrounding area have been steeped in witch lore since at least 1580, when a[…]

Canewdon Witches

Butters, Mary (late 18th–early 19th centuries) An attempt to cure a cow of bewitchment with white magic ended in disaster for Mary Butters, the “Carmoney Witch,” who narrowly escaped a trial in Carricfergus, Ireland, in March 1808. Butters was a reputed wise woman, skilled in herbal knowledge and various spells.[…]

Butters, Mary (late 18th–early 19th centuries)

Bury St. Edmonds Witches Of the various witch trials of Suffolk, England, conducted in Bury St. Edmonds during the 17th century, two episodes stand out. In 1645, 68 witches went to their deaths on the gallows, victims of the witch-hunting zeal of Matthew Hopkins and John Stearne. Seventeen years later,[…]

Bury St. Edmonds Witches

Burroughs, George (d. 1692) Minister accused of witchcraft and executed in the Salem Witches hysteria in Massachusetts in 1692 to 1693. George Burroughs served as minister of Salem Village from 1680 to 1982. He was a man of good reputation, having graduated from Harvard in 1670. He had distinguished himself[…]

Burroughs, George (d. 1692)

 A term used by Wiccans and Pagans to refer to the period in Western history of intense witch hunting and executions, generally the mid-15th to mid18th centuries. Burning, one of the most extreme forms of execution, was urged by St. Augustine (354–430), who said that pagans, Jews and heretics would[…]

Burning Times

French grand judge, lawyer and demonologist, known for his cruelty and torture. Boguet presided over witch trials in Saint-Claude, Burgundy, France. Boguet exhibited a preoccupation with lurid accounts of witches’ sabbats and copulations with the Devil. His interrogations focused on these aspects, and he was successful in coercing confessions from[…]

Boguet, Henri (1550–1619)

Bodin, Jean (1529–1596) French demonologist and political theorist who encouraged the vicious persecution of witches and helped fan the fires of the Inquisition throughout Europe. Jean Bodin said that people who denied the existence of witchcraft were witches themselves and said that, with rare exceptions, no accused witch should go[…]

Bodin, Jean (1529–1596)

In the secret world of Pennsylvania Dutch witchcraft, John Blymire became the central figure in a celebrated murder trial in York, Pennsylvania, in 1929. Blymire, a witch of mediocre repute, and two other men were charged with the murder of a well-known witch, Nelson Rehmeyer, known as “The Witch of[…]

Blymire, John (b. 1895)

Bishop, Bridget (d. 1692) The first victim of the Salem Witches hysteria in Massachusetts in 1692–93. Bridget Bishop was the first to be accused and examined, and the first to be tried and executed. Bishop was an easy target when the hysteria began. She was not well regarded by her[…]

Bishop, Bridget (d. 1692)

In English folklore, the Berkeley Witch was a wealthy woman who lived during the time of the Norman Conquest in the town of Berkeley in England’s heartland. She was wealthy and well liked, and lived luxuriously. Her secret, kept until she was close to death, was that her wealth was[…]

Berkeley Witch

Participants in the lingering remnants of an ancient agrarian cult in northern Italy, which came to the attention of the Inquisition in the late 16th century because of the cult’s nocturnal battles with witches and warlocks over the fertility of the crops and livestock. The term benandanti means “good walkers.”[…]


bell, book and candle A phrase from the Roman Catholic ritual for excommunication that sometimes is used to denote a witch or witchcraft. Excommunication, or exclusion from the religious fellowship of the church, represents a condemnation to spiritual darkness, with repercussions in society. The excommunicated becomes an outcast in secular[…]

Bell , Book & Candle

Bargarran Witches (1696–1697) Scottish witchcraft hysteria started by a girl. The case bears similarities to the Warboys Witches and to the Salem Witches, in which the fits of supposedly possessed children led to the executions of accused witches. The cause of the hysteria was Christine Shaw, the 11- year-old daughter[…]

Bargarran Witches (1696–1697)

Bamberg Witches At the center of the worst witch tortures and trials in Germany was Bamberg, a small state ruled by Gottfried Johann Georg II Fuchs von Dornheim. The Hexenbischof (Witch Bishop) von Dornheim, as he was known, ruled the state from 1623 to 1633 and established an efficient witch-burning[…]

Bamberg Witches

Arras witches (1459–1460) A mass witch hunt in Arras, northern France. The accused were brutally tortured and promised their lives, then burned at the stake. The incident roused the ire of the duke of Burgundy, and eventually those executed were posthumously exonerated. The witch hunt was one of the earliest[…]

Arras witches

Aix-en-Provence Possessions The burning alive of Father Louis Gaufridi for bewitchment of the nuns at Aix in 1611 formed the legal precedent for the conviction and execution of Urbain Grandier at Loudun more than 20 years later. This case was one of the first in France to produce a conviction[…]

Aix-en-Provence Possessions