Witchcraft

In June 1682, 60-year-old Jane Kent was accused of “Witchcraft and using several Diabolick Arts.” Specifically, Jane was accused of killing a 5-year-old girl named Elizabeth Chamblet. Elizabeth’s father told the court that Jane killed Elizabeth because he refused to deliver 2 pigs to Jane without Jane giving him the money to pay for them. After he refused to give Jane the pigs, Elizabeth’s father said that Elizabeth’s body swelled and turned discolored, leading to her death. Elizabeth’s father also told the court that Jane bewitched his wife. In addition to the reports against Jane by Elizabeth’s father, another unnamed woman also reported that Jane “had a Teat on her back, and unusual Holes behind her eats.” Additionally, a man stated that Jane somehow forced his Coach to overthrow after he refused to “carry her and her Goods.” In addition to “many other circumstances,” Jane was found not guilty due to the facts that she lived honestly, was a great pains-taker, and went to Church.

In my opinion, the allegations reveal that, due to lack of medical resources and scientific discoveries, grief-stricken or confused people blamed witchcraft for untimely deaths or sicknesses. Elizabeth Chamblet’s father was most likely devastated by her death, confused by the swelling and discoloration of her body, and so desperate to find a reason that he blamed it on witchcraft. Oftentimes during a death or tragedy like this situation, people deal with the grief by looking for a scapegoat. Elizabeth’s father most likely was distraught and didn’t understand her death, and turned his despair into anger by accusing Jane Kent of causing it. Lewis Scaife supports this belief with the quote, “Superstition generally decreases in proportion to mental development.” Most likely, Elizabeth’s father lost his head a bit and in turn blamed Elizabeth’s on witchcraft because he had no other reasonable cause. It also, most likely, did not help that even the doctors at the time gave cures such as “to take a quart of his wives water, the pairing of her nails, some of her Hair, and such like, and boyl them.”

The assertion by Ankarloo, “Witchcraft delusions, were in short, the malady of weak minds,” not only assumes that only the “weak-minded” believed in witchcraft, but that all notions of witchcraft were “delusions.” This quotation also serves my readings of the allegations against Jane Kent. A lack of understanding of things like death or disease, combined with “weak,” emotionally disturbed, or confused minds, are the reasons why people turned to witchcraft as an answer or explanation.

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