Monday, 8 October 2012

Mucky Old Books

If you like filth, you'll love author Helen Grant's blog, where she's been exploring our ancestors' rather interesting attitudes towards witchcraft and related matters. Here latest post concerns the fairly famous Discovery (or Discoverie) of Witchcraft by Reginald Scot (or Scott). The guy's spelling was all over the place, but he knew a good story when he read one in some other bloke's book:
There was (saith he) a noble Gentlewoman at Lions, that being in bed with a lover of hers, suddenly in the night arose up, and lighted a candle: and when she had done, she took a box of ointment, wherewith she annointed her body; and after a few words spoken, she was carried away. Her bed-fellow seeing the order hereof, leapt out of his bed, took the candle in his hand, and sought for the Lady round about the chamber, and in every corner thereof; But though he could not find her, yet did he find her box of ointment; and being desirous to know the vertue thereof, besmeered himself therewith, even as he perceived her to have done before: And although he was not so superstitious, as to use any words to help him forward in his business, yet by the vertue of that ointment (saith Bodin) he was immediately conveyed to Lorrein, into the assembly of Witches. Which when he saw, he was abashed, and said; In the name of God, what make I here? And upon those words the whole assembly vanished away, and left him alone there stark naked; and so was he fain to return to Lions: But he had so good a conscience, for you may perceive by the first half of the history, he was a very honest man, that he accused his true lover for a Witch, and caused her to be burned: And as for his adultery, neither, M.Mal. nor Bodin do once so much as speak in the dispraise thereof.
Oh, those Frenchies, with their moral turpitude and magic ointment. When considerably younger I read a lot about witchcraft and demonology, and one thing that struck me was how lazily stories were recycled. People like Scot and Bodin were the tabloid hacks of their day, peddling gossip to titillate under the pretence of serving a greater good. The difference is that the likes of Piers Morgan or Jan Moir never actually got anyone burned at the stake.

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