Bio.com rates the following as the Five Most Famous “Witches” in History:
1. 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.
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.
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 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.
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.
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.
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.
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 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 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.
Yield: 5 Servings, approximately 10 Sandwiches
- 1 egg
- 1 cup soft bread crumbs
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 1 pound ground turkey
- 5 teaspoons prepared pesto
- 3 miniature fresh mozzarella cheese balls, halved
- 3 pimiento-stuffed olives, halved widthwise
- 5 slices process American cheese
- 10 hamburger buns, split
- In a large bowl, combine the egg, bread crumbs and salt. Crumble turkey over mixture; mix well. Shape into ten 2-1/2-in. patties. Grill, broil or pan-fry for 5-7 minutes on each side or until a meat thermometer reads 165° and juices run clear.
- Drop 1 teaspoon pesto onto five burgers; top each with a mozzarella ball half and an olive half.
- Cut eyes, nose and mouth from each cheese slice to create a jack-o’-lantern. Place cheese on five burgers; cook until cheese is slightly melted, about 30 seconds. Serve burgers on buns.
Trick or treating comes from the Middle-Age practice of the poor dressing up in costumes and going around door to door during Hallowmas begging for food or money in exchange for prayers. The food given was often a Soul Cake, which was a small round cake which represented a soul being freed from Purgatory when the cake was eaten.
The tradition of adding pranks into the Halloween mix started to turn ugly in the 1930’s and a movement began to substitute practical jokes for kids going door to door collecting candy.
Trick or Treat!
- Orange and black are Halloween colors because orange is associated with Fall. The color black is associated with darkness and death.
- Halloween candy sales average about 2 billion dollars annually in the United States.
- Chocolate candy bars top the list as the most popular candy for trick-or-treaters with Snickers as Number 1.
- Candy corn was first made in the 1880s, and it was only more March through November.
- Over 93% of children will go trick-or-treating. Approximately 84% of trick-or-treaters say candy and gum are their favorites with chocolate candy preferred by 50% and non-chocolate by 24%.
- Kids’ least favorite items to get in their trick-or-treat bags are fruit and salty snacks like chips and pretzels.
- Tootsie Rolls were the first wrapped penny candy in America.
- Candy corn was invented in the 1880s by George Renninger of the Wunderies Candy Company.
National Candy Corn Day is on October 30th.
- There are 25 colors of M&Ms, the most popular candy sold in the U.S.
- It takes an average of 252 licks to get to the center of a Tootsie Pop.
- San Francisco is the number one U.S. city for trick-or-treating
- In 1955, UNICEF (United Nations Children Fund) for Halloween program began. The original idea started in 1950 in Philadelphia, when a Sunday School class had the idea of collecting money for needy children when trick-or-treating. They sent the money they made, about $17, to UNICEF which was inspired by the idea and started a trick-or-treat program in 1955.
- A study from the National Retail Federation shows Americans spent over $300 million on pet costumes last year!
Halloween is also know by other names:
All Hallows Eve
The Feast of the Dead
The Day of the Dead
- The tradition of bobbing for apples originated from the Roman harvest festival that honors Pomona, the goddess of fruit trees.
- Jack o’ Lanterns originated in Ireland where people placed candles in hollowed-out turnips to keep away spirits and ghosts on the Samhain holiday.
- Pumpkins also come in white, blue and green.
- There are no words in the dictionary that rhyme with orange, the color of pumpkin.
- The ancient Celts thought that spirits and ghosts roamed the countryside on Halloween night. They began wearing masks and costumes to avoid being recognized as human.
- Halloween was brought to North America by immigrants from Europe who would celebrate the harvest around a bonfire, share ghost stories, sing, dance and tell fortunes.
- Halloween is the 2nd most commercially successful holiday, with Christmas being the first.
- Halloween also is recognized as the 3rd biggest party day after New Year’s and Super Bowl Sunday.
- The fear of Halloween is known as Samhainopobia.
Monster Trivia & Folklore
- Signs of a werewolf are a unibrow, hair palms, tattoos, and a long middle finger.
- Vampires are mythical beings who defy death by sucking the blood of humans.
- In 1962, The Count Dracula Society was founded by Dr. Donald A. Reed.
- Dracula means “Devil’s son.” Bram Stoker’s creation “Dracula” was based on the life of Prince Vlad Tepes (1431-1476). He was also called Vlad the Impaler since he had a bad habit of impaling his victims on stakes. The name “Dracula” is Romanian for Devil’s Son. Vlad Draculas father was a knight of the Order of the Draco (or dragon), so Dracula also translates as “the son of Draco.”
- To this day, there are vampire clubs and societies with people claiming to be real vampires.
- There really are so-called vampire bats, but they’re not from Transylvania. They live in Central and South America and feed on the blood of cattle, horses and birds.
- According to legend, you can kill a vampire by cremate it, pound a stake through its heart or bury it at a crossroads. Sunlight is also said to kill them. Different countries have different ideas of how to destroy vampires. Garlic and crosses only keep vampires away.
- Allegedly, “Revenge falls upon whoever opens the coffin of a mummy.”
- The country most associated with mummies is Egypt.
- Zombies often wear chains for they are slaves; slaves of their evil masters who have brought them to life using magic.
- Two areas of the world particularly associated with the zombie myth are Africa and Haiti, a country on the island of Hispaniola.
- Many people still believe that gargoyles were created by medieval architects and stone carvers to ward off evil spirits.
- The word “witch” comes from the Old English wicce, meaning “wise woman.” In fact, wiccan were highly respected people at one time. According to popular belief, witches held one of their two main meetings, or sabbats, on Halloween night.
- In the Middle Ages, many people believed that witches avoided detection by turning themselves into cats.
- Black cats were once believed to be witch’s familiars who protected their powers.
- If you see a spider on Halloween, it is the spirit of a loved on watching over you.
- Worldwide, bats are vital natural enemies of night-flying insects.
- The common little brown bat of North America has the longest life span for a mammal it’s size, with a life span averaging 32 years.
- In about 1 in 4 autopsies, a major disease is discovered that was previously undetected.
- In Medieval times, a spider was rolled in butter and used as a cure for diseases such as leprosy and the plague.
- The famous magician, Harry Houdini, died on Halloween, 1926 in Detroit, MI.
The next full moon on Halloween night will be October 31, 2020.
The owl is a popular Halloween image. In Medieval Europe, owls were thought to be witches, and to hear an owl’s call meant someone was about to die.
Halloween is Oct. 31 – the last day of the Celtic calendar. It actually was a pagan holiday honoring the dead.
Trick-or-treating evolved from the ancient Celtic tradition of putting out treats and food to placate spirits who roamed the streets at Samhain, a sacred festival that marked the end of the Celtic calendar year.
Halloween is correctly spelt as Hallowe’en.
Halloween is one of the oldest celebrations in the world, dating back over 2000 years to the time of the Celts who lived in Britain.
According to Irish legend, Jack O’Lanterns are named after a stingy man named Jack who, because he tricked the devil several times, was forbidden entrance into both heaven and hell. He was condemned to wander the Earth, waving his lantern to lead people away from their paths.
Halloween was originally a Celtic holiday celebrated on October 31.
Halloween was brought to North America by immigrants from Europe who would celebrate the harvest around a bonfire, share ghost stories, sing, dance and tell fortunes.
Obsolete Rituals focused on the Future and Love
But what about the Halloween traditions and beliefs that today’s trick-or-treaters have forgotten all about? Many of these obsolete rituals focused on the future instead of the past and the living instead of the dead. In particular, many had to do with helping young women identify their future husbands and reassuring them that they would someday—with luck, by next Halloween—be married.
- In 18th-century Ireland, a matchmaking cook might bury a ring in her mashed potatoes on Halloween night, hoping to bring true love to the diner who found it.
- In Scotland, fortune-tellers recommended that an eligible young woman name a hazelnut for each of her suitors and then toss the nuts into the fireplace. The nut that burned to ashes rather than popping or exploding, the story went, represented the girl’s future husband. (In some versions of this legend, confusingly, the opposite was true: The nut that burned away symbolized a love that would not last.)
- Another tale had it that if a young woman ate a sugary concoction made out of walnuts, hazelnuts and nutmeg before bed on Halloween night she would dream about her future husband.
- Young women tossed apple-peels over their shoulders, hoping that the peels would fall on the floor in the shape of their future husbands’ initials; tried to learn about their futures by peering at egg yolks floating in a bowl of water; and stood in front of mirrors in darkened rooms, holding candles and looking over their shoulders for their husbands’ faces.
- Other rituals were more competitive. At some Halloween parties, the first guest to find a burr on a chestnut-hunt would be the first to marry; at others, the first successful apple-bobber would be the first down the aisle.
- Bobbying for apples is a fertility rite, or a marriage divination and dates back to the Celtics. Unmarried people would try to bite into an apple floating in water or hanging from a string. The first person to bite into the apple would be the next one to marry.
- Pumpkins are a member of the gourd family, which includes cucumbers, honeydew melons, cantaloupe, watermelons and zucchini. These plants are native to Central America and Mexico, but now grow on six continents.
- The largest pumpkin pie ever baked was in 2005 and weighed 2,020 pounds.
- Pumpkins have been grown in North America for five thousand years. They are indigenous to the western hemisphere.
- In 1584, after French explorer Jacques Cartier explored the St. Lawrence region of North America, he reported finding “gros melons.” The name was translated into English as “pompions,” which has since evolved into the modern “pumpkin.”
- Pumpkins are low in calories, fat, and sodium and high in fiber. They are good sources of Vitamin A, Vitamin B, potassium, protein, and iron.
- The heaviest pumpkin weighed 1,810 lb 8 oz and was presented by Chris Stevens at the Stillwater Harvest Fest in Stillwater, Minnesota, in October 2010.
- Pumpkin seeds should be planted between the last week of May and the middle of June. They take between 90 and 120 days to grow and are picked in October when they are bright orange in color. Their seeds can be saved to grow new pumpkins the next year.
- The largest pumpkin ever measured was grown by Norm Craven, who broke the world record in 1993 with a 836 lb. pumpkin.
- Stephen Clarke holds the record for the world’s fastest pumpkin carving time: 24.03 seconds, smashing his previous record of 54.72 seconds. The rules of the competition state that the pumpkin must weigh less than 24 pounds and be carved in a traditional way, which requires at least eyes, nose, ears, and a mouth.