Top 12 Witches in History

Bio.com rates the following as the Five Most Famous “Witches” in History:

1. Mother Shipton

Prophetess Mother Shipton

Prophetess Mother Shipton

Ursula Southeil, also known as Mother Shipton, was said to have been England’s greatest clairvoyant.  According to legend, she predicted the Spanish Armada, the Great Plague of London, the Great Fire of London and the execution of Mary, Queen of Scots.

Perhaps adding to her reputation, this “English prophetess of the 16th century” had the misfortune of being disfigured.  Locals called her “Hag Face” and claimed her father to be the Devil.  Despite some believing she was Satan’s spawn, Mother Shipton died of natural causes and is said to be buried on “unholy ground” on the outer edges of York in 1561.

2. Agnes Sampson

The Scottish midwife and healer was victim of fear and speculation around the early 1590s.  King James VI of Scotland and his queen, Anne of Denmark-Norway, launched a campaign against witches because the royals suffered a horrific sea voyage believing it was witches who cast a spell on Mother Nature, causing the horrendous storm.

She was one of 70 people accused in the North Berwick area between 1950-1592.    With Misery loving Company, .Geillis Duncan, an accused witch, named Agnes Sampson to be a witch.

According to sources, Agnes denied the charges brought against her.  However she relented after being tortured by a “witch’s bridle,” an instrument that inserted four prongs in the mouth and was attached to a wall.  She was then strangled and burned to death.

3. Merga Bien

She was a well-to-do German heiress in the 17th Century, who was childless with her first two husbands.  It was after 14 years of marriage to her third husband that she became pregnant.  Townspeople found this odd and came to the conclusion that Merga must have had sex with the Devil.   It should also be noted that shortly before becoming accused of being a witch, she had just returned to the city after arguing with one of her husband’s employers.

She was burned at the stake in the Fall of 1603.

Witch hunter Balthasar von Dernbach, the prince and abbot of the spire-topped town of Fulda, had embarked on a series of witch trials upon his return from exile in 1602. The Fulda witch trials would go on to claim 250 lives, ending only after Dernbach’s death in 1605.

4. Malin Matsdotter

The Swedish widow of Finnish descent was accused of being a witch by of her own daughters.  The girls stated that Malin had abducted them and took them to a satanic sabbath.  Malin, along with Anna Simonsdotter Hack, were the last victims executed for being witches during the great Swedish witch hunt of 1668-76, often referred to as “The Great Noise.”

She was considered the only witch in Swedish history to have been burned alive.  This was unique because those accused of being witches were decapitated or hanged to death before their bodies were burned at the stake like Anna Simonsdotter Hack.   While Anna asked for forgiveness, Malin refused and maintained her innocence, refusing to shake hands with her daughters as one called for her to repent.  One witness account claimed [Malin] gave her daughter into the hands of the devil and cursed her for eternity.”  As she was being burned alive, Malin reportedly did not scream nor did she appear to be in pain — for the locals, it was further proof she was a witch.

Shortly after the grisly incident, one of Malin’s daughters was convicted of perjury and sentenced to death.

Examination of a Witch

Examination of a Witch in Salem

5. The Salem Witches

“Of all the witch trials in history, The Salem Witch Trials of 1692 in Massachusetts is arguably the most famous. They occurred during a time of great insecurity in Puritan colonial America: the trauma of a British-French war on American soil still lingered, there was fear of Native American retribution, smallpox had spread throughout the colonies, and longtime jealousies between neighboring towns were coming to a head.

In January 1692 two young girls began suffering from fits, uncontrollable screaming, and body contortions. A local doctor diagnosed the girls’ conditions as the work of witches, although toxicologists in recent history have offered a more palatable explanation, believing the girls were poisoned by a specific type of fungus that was found in their food supply. Symptoms of ingesting the fungus explained the girls’ responses (i.e. muscle spasms, delusions, etc).

More young women began mirroring the symptoms and by February, three women were accused of bewitching the two young girls: a Caribbean slave named Tituba, a homeless beggar named Sarah Good, and an impoverished elderly women named Sarah Osborn.

Seeing that her fate was sealed, Tituba confessed to being a witch and began accusing others of dark magic. Other women followed her lead and hysteria ensued. On June 10, the first alleged witch, Bridget Bishop, was hung at the gallows in Salem and many more died thereafter. In total over 150 men and women were implicated during this period.

By the late 1690s the trials were deemed unlawful, and a decade later financial restitution was given to those families whose loved ones had been executed or damaged by the hysteria. Still, the pain and resentment of what happened in Salem lived on for centuries to come.”

It is believed the Ergot Poisoning may have been the true cause behind the Salem Witch Trials. Behavioral Psychologist and Professor at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute in Troy, New York Linda Caporael believes the hallucinations, convulsions, and bizarre skin sensations may have been due to a fungus-infested crop of rye.

She concedes that mass hysteria and/or outright fakery were other contributing factors.  Caporal said, ” “At the end of June and the beginning of July, 1692, I think there was more imagination than ergot. But by that point in time three people had already been hung, and the trials had taken a path that people felt they had to stay on.”

She added, “One of the clearest examples is the young accuser who, in the late summer, said ‘wait a minute, I don’t think that there are witches after all.’ At that point, the other girls began accusing HER of being a witch, and she immediately seemed to understand what was going on and began being a vociferous accuser again.”

More Notorious Witches in History

Here’s more notorious women, accused of being witches compiled by Jenna Ivy of Weird Stuff.

Anna Koldings aka "The Devil's Mother"

Anna Koldings aka “The Devil’s Mother”

Anna Koldings

She was known by her contemporaries as “The Devil’s Mother,” was a Danish witch who was also accused of summoning storms against Queen Anne’s (pictured above) ship. She met others in the house of Karen the Weaver where they performed spells against the Queen. Witch hunts in Denmark had become popular after the country converted to Protestantism in the early 16th century and while genuine religious zeal fueled this fervor, high-ranking officials also used them for political advantage. The Danish minister of finance, who was being investigated for undersupplying the royal ships for James VI’s journey with Queen Anne across the North Sea, voiced his suspicions of Karen to shift the blame from himself. His accusations led to her arrest. During the investigation, Karen pointed out several others including Anna Koldings. Imprisoned and tortured, Anna eventually confessed and contributed the names of five others, one of which was the wife of the mayor. With twelve other women, Anna was burned at the stake in Kronborg, the elegant green-roofed castle which provided the setting for Shakespeare’s Hamlet.

Bridget Bishop

Bridget Bishop

Bridget Bishop was the first person executed for witchcraft during the Salem Massachusetts witch trails in 1692.

Bridget Bishop was the first women executed as a result of the Salem Witch Trials in 1692. Bishop was a successful and outspoken woman. She owned several taverns and was known to dress in provocative red gowns. The townspeople of Salem claimed a wide variety of accusations against her which would lead to her death. Allegedly she had bewitched five girls, poisoned a pig, and attacked men while they slept. (The last accusation was probably due to a natural condition, sleep paralysis).

Dolls were also instrumental in her denunciation. A local named Samuel Shattuck testified that she had asked him to dye lace for her which he believed she intended to use for a poppet. The poppet predated the Voodoo doll and serves a similar purpose of transferring whatever spell is inflicted on the poppet to the person it represents. Salem townsfolk John and William Bly later found poppets in Bishop’s house. Her resentful attitude throughout her trial eventually led to her prosecution, which would be followed by 71 more.

Katharina Henot

Germany’s first female postmaster, was tried for witchcraft in Cologne in 1627. In the middle of one of Cologne’s cold winters, a nun at the local convent accused Katharina of causing illness and death among the nuns and the archbishop arrested Henot based on the nun’s suspicions. During her imprisonment Henot was tortured but never confessed to anything.

Despite her brother’s attempts to prove her innocence, she was sentenced to be burned alive in May. Her exoneration was not attained until just this year. As of June 28th, 2012, the City Council of Cologne has cleared Henot’s name as well as the other victims of the Cologne witch trials because they believed the executions were the result of political conspiracies.

Karin Svensdotter

In a town located within a forested and boggy area of Sweden, Karin Svensdotter, a maid, claimed that her seven children were fathered by the King of the Faeries. This resulted in her being put on trial in 1656 for her own unbidden confession. In 17th century Sweden, consorting with fairies was a genuine crime which was usually punished the same way as sodomy or bestiality.

Prior cases involving men’s trysts with nymphs had sometimes ended in execution. However Svensdotter’s case became an early instance of compassion for the insane. Her judge had been advised by church officials that Satan had driven her mad. Instead of punishment, the judge ordered the church to pray for her. Later she affirmed that she no longer saw the fairy.

Kael Merrie

During the Roermond witch trials in the Spanish Netherlands, Kael Merrie, a Dutch woman, was accused of paralyzing a pig, preventing milk from being churned into butter, and making children sick. The Roermond witch trials, directed by Catholic Spaniards, were the largest of the Netherlands.

Kael Merrie

Kael Merrie was a victim of the Roermond Witch Trial.

The accused often came to Roermond with hopes of acquittal, but zealous mercenaries were prone to lynch or drown the freed women anyways. In early trials such as Merrie’s, the Dutch court maintained skepticism towards peasant accusations and would not use torture to extract confessions. Merrie was only banished because she pleaded innocent, but upon leaving Roermond marauding Spanish mercenaries found her and drowned her in the Maas River.

Entjen Gillis

Entjen Gellis, a Dutch midwife, confessed to killing fetuses and newborn babies during the Roermond witch trials of 1613, the deadliest year of all for witches in the Netherlands. Local magistrates raided the rural town of Straelen where they arrested Gillis and thirteen other witches. Their magic was said to have caused diseases and miscarriages and they became part of a larger trial, sparked by the sudden deaths of hundreds of newborns, elders, and animals.

As an emergency measure, the magistrates rounded up 63 witches and sentenced them all to death within a short period of time. As in earlier confessions, they claimed the devil had made them do it, but unlike Karin Svensdotter there would be no mercy for the witches of Roermond.

Märet Jonsdotter

Märet Jonsdotter was accused of attending Witches’ Sabbaths in Blockula, a mythical Swedish meadow. Jonsdotter was the first witch tried in Sweden during “The Great Noise” that swept through the country between 1668 and 1676. A local shepherd girl, Gertrud Svendsdotter, whose father had unsuccessfully courted Märet, was the first to accuse her. Getrud was not without motivation. At the time, the local priest of Älvdalen, a Swedish town that looks like it belongs to a storybook, was investigating Gertrud because her small brother alleged that she had led a parade of goats across the water like Moses.

Gertrud named Märet as the person who had taught her witchcraft and also claimed that Märet had introduced her to the devil. During the trial, Gertud’s father declared that Märet had ridden him as a horse to Blockula. Märet’s little sister asserted during questioning that she and Märet had ridden cows to Blockula where they slaughtered them and slept with the Devil. Because she would not confess, Märet could not be executed at this point in time. But the witch craze continued to spread in Sweden and laws requiring confession for execution were soon modified. When she was again accused during the Mora Witch Trials she was declared guilty. In 1672 Jonsdotter was decapitated, as was the Swedish custom, before being burned.

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History Channel’s Labor Day Beginnings

Observed on the first Monday in September, Labor Day pays tribute to the contributions and achievements of American workers. It was created by the labor movement in the late 19th century and became a federal holiday in 1894.

FANNING THE BARBECUE hot classic barbecue babe by vintage pinup artist Gil Elvgren to celebrate hot hot summer Labor Day

Fanning the Barbecue by Gil Elvgren

Labor Day also symbolizes the end of summer for many Americans, and is celebrated with parties, parades and athletic events.

Labor Day, an annual celebration of workers and their achievements, originated during one of American labor history’s most dismal chapters. In the late 1800s, at the height of the Industrial Revolution in the United States, the average American worked 12-hour days and seven-day weeks in order to eke out a basic living. Despite restrictions in some states, children as young as 5 or 6 toiled in mills, factories and mines across the country, earning a fraction of their adult counterparts’ wages. People of all ages, particularly the very poor and recent immigrants, often faced extremely unsafe working conditions, with insufficient access to fresh air, sanitary facilities and breaks.Child Labor is not working

As manufacturing increasingly supplanted agriculture as the wellspring of American employment, labor unions, which had first appeared in the late 18th century, grew more prominent and vocal. They began organizing strikes and rallies to protest poor conditions and compel employers to renegotiate hours and pay. Many of these events turned violent during this period, including the infamous Haymarket Riot of 1886, in which several Chicago policemen and workers were killed. Others gave rise to longstanding traditions: On September 5, 1882, 10,000 workers took unpaid time off to march from City Hall to Union Square in New York City, holding the first Labor Day parade in U.S. history.

The idea of a “workingmen’s holiday,” celebrated on the first Monday in September, caught on in other industrial centers across the country, and many states passed legislation recognizing it.Congress would not legalize the holiday until 12 years later, when a watershed moment in American labor history brought workers’ rights squarely into the public’s view. On May 11, 1894, employees of the Pullman Palace Car Company in Chicago went on strike to protest wage cuts and the firing of union representatives.

In 1894, people throughout the nation relied on such publications as Leslie's Illustrated Weekly to keep up with the drama that was unfolding with the Pullman strike in Chicago.

In 1894, people throughout the nation relied on such publications as Leslie’s Illustrated Weekly to keep up with the drama that was unfolding with the Pullman strike in Chicago.

On June 26, the American Railroad Union, led by Eugene V. Debs, called for a boycott of all Pullman railway cars, crippling railroad traffic nationwide. To break the strike, the federal government dispatched troops to Chicago, unleashing a wave of riots that resulted in the deaths of more than a dozen workers. In the wake of this massive unrest and in an attempt to repair ties with American workers, Congress passed an act making Labor Day a legal holiday in the District of Columbia and the territories.More than a century later, the true founder of Labor Day has yet to be identified.

Many credit Peter J. McGuire, cofounder of the American Federation of Labor, while others have suggested that Matthew Maguire, a secretary of the Central Labor Union, first proposed the holiday. Labor Day is still celebrated in cities and towns across the United States with parades, picnics, barbecues, fireworks displays and other public gatherings. For many Americans, particularly children and young adults, it represents the end of the summer and the start of the back-to-school season.

One Daughter’s Wish to Honor her Father

Sonora Smart Dodd

Sonora Smart Dodd – The woman behind Father’s Day

In 1898, a young teen named Sonora Louise Smart lost her mother after childbirth to Sonora’s fifth sibling.  The chore of raising six children was left to husband and Civil War veteran William Jackson Smart on a rural farm in eastern Washington State.  He lived long enough to see Father’s Day as the beloved holiday that we celebrate today.

In 1909, following a Sunday morning sermon about Mother’s Day, she questioned why fathers were not honored.  She mad it her mission to establish a Father’s Day, wishing to celebrate it on her father’s birthday on June 5.   On June 19, 1910, Father’s Day was observed locally in Spokane, Washington.  Her efforts were, at times, met with jokes and mocking.  It wasn’t until a noted political leader William Jennings Bryan began to support her cause.

In 1916, United States President Woodrow Wilson approved the bill to establish an official Father’s Day.  In 1924, a formal proclamation issued by President Calvin Coolidge designated the third Sunday in June as Father’s Day and then in 1966, President Lyndon Johnson signed it as a presidential proclamation.  It wasn’t until 1972, Father’s Day was created as a permeant national occasion by President Richard Nixon.

In 1978 at the age of 96, Sonora Louise Smart Dodd died seeing her dream become a reality — honoring her father, her husband and other men like them.

Honoring Memorial Day in the US

Memorial Day is observed on the last Monday of May. It was formerly known as Decoration Day and commemorates all men and women, who have died in military service for the United States. Many people visit cemeteries and memorials on Memorial Day and it is traditionally seen as the start of the summer season.

What do people do?
It is traditional to fly the flag of the United States at half mast from dawn until noon. Many people visit cemeteries and memorials, particularly to honor those who have died in military service. Many volunteers place an American flag on each grave in national cemeteries. Memorial Day is combined with Jefferson Davis’ Birthday in Mississippi.

Image

Jefferson Finis Davis was the President of the Confederate States of America during the entire Civil War, 1861 to 1865.

Memorial Day has become less of an occasion of remembrance. Many people choose to hold picnics, sports events and family gatherings on this weekend. This day is traditionally seen as the start of the summer season for cultural events. For the fashion conscious, it is seen as acceptable to wear white clothing, particularly shoes from Memorial Day until Labor Day. However, fewer and fewer people follow this rule and many wear white clothing throughout the year.

Public life
Memorial Day is a federal holiday. All non-essential Government offices are closed, as are schools, businesses and other organizations. Most public transit systems do not run on their regular schedule. Many people see Memorial Day weekend as an opportunity to go on a short vacation or visit family or friends. This can cause some congestion on highways and at airports.

Background
Memorial Day started as an event to honor Union soldiers, who had died during the American Civil War. It was inspired by the way people in the Southern states honored their dead. After World War I, it was extended to include all men and women, who died in any war or military action.

Soldier decorates tombstones at Arlington National Cemetery with American flags

A soldier honors his fellow countrymen by decorating their tombstones with the American flag at Arlington National Cemetery in Arlington, Virginia.

Memorial Day was originally known as Decoration Day. The current name for this day did not come into use until after World War II. Decoration Day and then Memorial Day used to be held on May 30, regardless of the day of the week, on which it fell. In 1968, the Uniform Holidays Bill was passed as part of a move to use federal holidays to create three-day weekends. This meant that that, from 1971, Memorial Day holiday has been officially observed on the last Monday in May. However, it took a longer period for all American states to recognize the new date.

Dolley Madison’s Cheese Straws

The following recipe is credited to First Lady Dolley Madison.

First Lady Dolley Madison

First Lady Dolley Madison

Dolley Payne Todd Madison (May 20, 1768 – July 12, 1849) was the wife of James Madison, President of the United States from 1809 to 1817.

According to Wikipedia, she was noted for her social gifts, which boosted her husband’s popularity as President. In this way, she did much to define the role of the President’s spouse, known only much later by the title First Lady – a function she had sometimes performed earlier for the widowed Thomas Jefferson.

Dolley Madison also helped to furnish the newly constructed White House. When the British set fire to it in 1814, she was credited with saving the classic portrait of George Washington.

In widowhood, she often lived in poverty, partially relieved by the sale of her late husband’s papers.”

Ingredients: 

  • 4 c. sharp Cheddar cheese, finely grated, room temperature
  • 1 c. butter, room temperature
  • 3 c. flour
  • 1/2 tsp. salt
  • 1 1/2 tsp. paprika
  • 1/2 tsp. oregano
  • 1/2 tsp. dried parsley
  • 1 tsp. garlic powder
  • 1/4 tsp. white pepper

Directions: In a bowl, cream cheese and butter together. Add remaining ingredients and mix thoroughly to form dough.

Roll out dough on a floured board to 1/4″ thickness.  Using a sharp knife, cut into strips about 1/2″ x 4″ wide.  Place strips on an un-greased baking sheet.

Bake 400°F for 8 minutes until golden brown.

Yield: 6 dozen

Calories:  70 calories per serving

Source: Famous White House Recipes, The American Collection Cookbooks, Volume 1

The History of Armed Forces Day courtesy of “History by Zim”

The blog “History by Zim: Beyond the Textbooks” offers an informational account of how this honor began.

 

On July 26, 1947, President Harry S. Truman signed the National Security Act of 1947 which consolidated the military branches under the Department of Defense’s control.  In late August 1949, …

Source: The History of Armed Forces Day

Dolley Madison Layer Cake

Dolley_Madison 1804 by Gilbert Stuart

First Lady Dolley Madison (1804) Portrait by Gilbert Stuart

In honor of the The First Lady of the United States Dolley Madison’s birthday, let’s celebrate with a layer cake!   The recipe is courtesy of Cokie Roberts’ book “Ladies of Liberty: The Women Who Shaped Our Nation.”   It can also be found on Martha Stewart’s website.

Dolley Madison was born May 20, 1768.  She is most famously known for saving the portrait of George Washington during the War of 1812.

She also created the role of First Lady.  Dolley was instrumental in hosting official functions on behalf of the President, at first widower Thomas Jefferson and later for her husband, James Madison.   She also contributed to the development and decoration of the White House.

Dolly Madison was the only First Lady given an honorary seat on the floor of Congress.

 

 

Yield: One 8-inch Layer Cake

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, plus more for pans
  • 8 large egg whites
  • 2 1/2 cups sugar
  • 1 cup milk
  • 3 cups all-purpose flour
  • 3/4 cup cornstarch
  • 2 1/2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
  • Carmel Icing*

 

Directions:

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Butter four 8-by-2-inch round cake pans, set aside.

  2. Beat egg whites in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the whisk attachment until stiff peaks form; set aside.

  3. In the clean bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, cream together butter and sugar. With the mixer running, slowly add milk; mix until well combined. Sift together flour and cornstarch; slowly add to mixer and beat until well combined. Add vanilla and mix well.

  4. Gently fold in reserved egg whites and divide evenly between prepared pans. Bake until cake springs back when lightly touched, 30 to 35 minutes. Let cool in cake pans on wire racks, about 10 minutes. Remove from pans and let cool completely on wire racks.

  5. Place 4 strips of parchment paper around perimeter of a serving plate or lazy Susan. Place the first layer on the cake plate. Pour over about 1/2 cup icing, spreading evenly to cover. Repeat process with 2 more layers. Repeat process with two more layers. Place the remaining layer on top of the third layer and cover cake completely with remaining icing.

*Carmel Icing

Ingredients:

  • 3 cups light-brown sugar
  • 1 cup light cream
  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

Directions:

Whisk together sugar, cream, and butter in a medium bowl. Set bowl over (but not touching) simmering water, cook until thickened, about 20 minutes. Remove bowl from heat; stir in vanilla. Let cool.

Cokie Roberts

Image courtesy of Cokie Roberts, provided by the Office of the Historian, U.S. House of Representatives