Thursday, September 04, 2008

Be careful who you burn

The Malleus Maleficarum notes that those who bring the witches to the stake may put themselves in fatal danger:

And lastly, in the same diocese, in the territory of the Black Forest, a witch was being lifted by a gaoler on to the pile of wood prepared for her burning, and she said: ”I will pay you”; and blew into his face. And he was at once afflicted with a horrible leprosy all over his body, and did not survive many days.

In my novel The Witch's Trinity, the officials at the witchcraft trials take pains to protect themselves, both by the use of salt (which the Malleus says can protect them) and by covering the eyes of the accused so she cannot give them the evil eye. Here's a Malleus quote about salt:

They [inquisitors] must not allow themselves to be touched physically by the witch, especially any contact of their bare arms or hands, but they must always carry about them some salt consecrated on Palm Sunday and some Blessed Herbs.

I think if I was minutes away from burning, I would also pretend to hex my executioners... after all, what do you have to lose at that point? And much to gain... the reverse placebo effect, where whatever ills they endured would be accounted back to the angry spell. (Although how often does leprosy just hit you?)

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