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Trials for Charming & Sorcery

by Bernadette Weyde
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At Kirk Michael, 31 July 1712, one Alice Knakill, alias Moor, of Kirk Lonan, confessed to a charge of having taken up some earth from under a neighbour’s door, and burnt it to ashes, which she gave to her cattle, “with an intention, as she owns, to make them give more milk.”

Also another woman declares that the said Alice Knakill cut a piece out of her petticoat and burnt it to powder which she drank with a design, as she confessed, to recover her health, and procure sleep. Both charms she owns to have been taught her by an Irishwoman.

She was sentenced to three Sundays’ penance in the neighbouring churches.

In the following year, Alice Cowley, of Ballaugh, a regular dealer in charms, and known as such far and wide in the Island, was brought before the Consistory Court. It was then deposed that this old crone, “addressed herself to a youth, and told him, if he would give her a nine-penny piece, she would give him something that would make a young woman fall in love with him, which proves to be a powder in a paper, which he believes to be the powder of some of the bright stones that are at Foxdale.”

Her dealings with married women, under the pretense of removing barreness; with farmers for procuring a crop of corn, or making the herd fruitful; with young women for procuring lovers; and with parents for the recovery of a sick child were also deposed to; the mischief in each case being implied to be the witch’s doing, and thought to be remedied by drawing blood from her.

All these charges were proved, and Alice was sentenced, by the Bishop and Vicar-General to 30 days’ imprisonment, and before releasement to give sufficient security to stand two hours in a white sheet, a white wand in her right hand, and these words, ‘for charming and sorcery,’ in capital letters on her breast, in the four market towns of this Island, at the public cross, in the height of the market; and afterwards to do penance in Ballaugh Church.”


(source: Folklore of the Isle of Man by AW Moore, 1891; photo http://bit.ly/145MXMg)

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