Superstition and Witchcraft

Jane Kent’s stubborn bargaining situation with Mr. Chamblet came at a bad time.

Clearly hankering for some free bacon, Jane attempted to make a deal with a Mr. Chamblet for two pigs. However, she refused to pay him the money up front, so Chamblet refused to deliver her swine. Apparently the pigs were also bewitched by Jane, according to this account. When Jane did not get her pigs for free, Mr. Chamblet noticed a while after that his daughter, Elizabeth, fell ill. Bodily swelling and discoloration of the skin was observed, and she later died. After this, Chamblet’s wife was said to have been bewitched, and to find a cure, Chamblet visited the local doctor. He was advised to take “a quart of his wives (sic) water” (Old Bailey) –  which I gather refers to urine – her fingernails, and some of her hair. He would boil all of these ingredients together (gross). When he did this, the wife allegedly heard Jane Kent’s voice screaming outside the house. The next day, Jane Kent was swollen and bloated. An outside party also observed Jane Kent and noticed a teat on her back and strange holes behind her ears. A carriage driver refused to carry her because his carriage flipped over. Jane gave evidence that she was a good woman and went to church, and the Jury ultimately found her not guilty.

Obviously Jane Kent took no part in Elizabeth’s disease and death. But the fact that she and Chamblet had a bad exchange soon before Elizabeth’s death qualified her to be a witch. Chamblet clearly had a great disliking for Jane, so it was easy for him to instantly put the blame on her for his daughter’s sickness. In a time where witchcraft accusations were easily believed, Chamblet found a sweet opportunity to screw someone over for a minor inconvenience and to enact excess punishment for something she didn’t do to reciprocate for his anguish over his daughter’s death. The outside parties that were involved – the woman and the coach – serve as examples of people who would be better off supporting the accuser than sympathizing with the accused. If they would have taken Jane’s side, then they would be greatly subjected to persecutions against them for being affiliated with or even being a witch.

The Superstition in this society and time dictated the fates of many wrongly persecuted people. Not only was it superstition, however, but stupidity and ignorance of the laws of nature and a misconstruing of religious text. In Ankarloo and Clarke’s Witchcraft and Magic in Europe, it is stated that “witchcraft delusions were, in short, the malady of weak minds. Those believing themselves bewitched or possessed were victims of their own naiveté” (Ankarloo, Clarke 200). People were reveling in the mass belief in the devilish as a way of attempting to confront and control their fears, but hundreds of innocent people’s lives were sacrificed to this foolish endeavor. What has allowed these practices to continue and grow is the acceptance of superstition by higher powers, such as judicial officials and priests and kings. Burr states in his work that “nurtured tenderly through the years [supersitions] have reached that growth which knows no killing frost” (52). This can be applied to Jane Kent’s case because those outside parties who had no choice but to comply with Chamblet’s allegations follow this trend. Superstitions have been so widely accepted for so long by so many that for one or two people to stand up against it would render them helpless at the feet of a superstitious jury.

Witchcraft and Magic in Europe: The Eighteenth and Nineteenth Centuries

A True Ghost Story, or Three Nights in a Haunted House and a Brief Sketch of Superstition

http://www.oldbaileyonline.org/browse.jsp?id=t16820601a-11&div=t16820601a-11&terms=witch|magick#highlight

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