17 Signs That You'd Qualify as a Witch in 1692

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Getty Images

Discover whether you are guilty of maleficium and/or would have been accused of practicing witchcraft according to the laws and evidence used during the 1692 Salem Witch Trials.

1. You are female.

Are you a woman of any kind? If so, you are probably one of the devil’s many hellbrides. Since the medieval period, “an aspect of the female has been associated with the witch.” For thousands of years, people have believed women to be more susceptible to sins than men, and sinning is a clear indication of devil worship. In Salem, of the 19 people hanged for witchcraft, five were men and 14 were women. Historically, the numbers dramatically favor accused women over men.

2. You are poor/cannot support yourself financially.

The poor, homeless, and those forced to rely on the community for support were among the most vulnerable and often accused of witchcraft. Sarah Good, hanged in 1692, was extremely disliked and distrusted by neighbors because she wandered from house to house begging for food.

3. You are rich/financially independent.

If you’re a grown woman living this life without any additional support, you probably also have a jar of eye of newt in your pantry. Any indication that a woman could live without the help or supervision of a man raised alarm. She would likely have been isolated from the community—until, of course, she was arrested and put on trial. Of the women we have enough information about, between 1620 and 1725 women without brothers or sons to share their inheritance comprised 89 percent of the women executed for witchcraft in New England.

4. You have one or more female friends.

A note to all popular teens and the cast of Sex and the City: A group of women congregating without a male chaperone was deemed a “coven meeting to worship the Devil.” Ladies be communing with flirty cosmos and the devil.

5. You have had an argument with one or more of your female friends.

Infamous witchfinders like Matthew Hopkins and John Searne inspired such terror in the community that it didn’t take long for women to accuse other women of witchcraft as a way of deflecting their own indictments. According to author Elizabeth Reis, “women were more likely than men to be convinced of this complicity with the devil, and given such convictions about themselves, they could more easily imagine that other women were equally damned.”

Take the case of Rachel Clinton: “Women of worth and quality accused [her] of hunching them with her elbow” when she walked by them at church. Rachel, herself a former woman of “worth and quality,” had a mentally disturbed mother and a late-in-life marriage that caused her to slip to the bottom rung of the class system. Add to that some finger-wagging biddies screaming about an elbow jab and, double double toil and trouble, Rebecca was convicted of witchcraft.

6. You have had an argument or disagreement with someone.

The important thing to remember is that anyone could accuse anyone. And they did. If you found yourself accused of practicing witchcraft of any kind by any kind of person, you might as well have been seen flying naked over the moon on a broomstick made out of a cursed lover’s ears.

7. You are very old.

Older women, both married and unmarried, were extremely susceptible to accusations. Rebecca Nurse, for instance, was in her early seventies when she was tried, convicted, and put to death for being a witch.

8. You are very young

Dorothy Goode was only 4 years old when she confessed to being a witch (simultaneously implicating her mother, Sarah, who was hanged in 1692). Dorothy was imprisoned for nine months before her release. The experience left her permanently insane.

9. You are a healer.

There was one particular job that put people at risk of being accused: female healers. One named Margaret Jones was executed in 1648. She had warned people that if they didn’t do her prescribed treatments, they’d keep being sick. Which today we’d say is just common sense.

10. You are married with too few (or no) children

The devil cursed your unholy womb with infertility. Plus, if your neighbors and their six children are suffering in any way, they almost certainly believe the jealous crone living next to them has hexed their home.

10. Your neighbors are having trouble conceiving.

If a young couple nearby is having a difficult time conceiving, you are almost certainly stealing would-be babies from them. Because you are a witch.

12. You have exhibited “stubborn,” “strange,” or “forward behavior."

Let loose any kind of sass or backtalk and ye be a witch, probably. Again, in the trial of Rachel Clinton, her accusers solidified the case against her with the following: “Did she not show the character of an embittered, meddlesome, demanding woman—perhaps in short, the character of a witch? Did she not scold, rail, threaten and fight?”

13. You have a mole, birthmark, or third nipple.

Any of these found on the body could be interpreted as the Devil’s mark. This is also where the witch’s familiar—usually animals like a dog, cat, or snake—would attach itself to her to drink her blood. The accused were completely rid of their body hair until some kind of marking was found. Now imagine a tiny puppy guzzling from Marilyn Monroe’s beauty mark.

14. Butter or milk has spoiled in your fridge.

Several testimonials against witches mention spoiled dairy products in connection with the accused. Be honest about the condition of your fridge before you continue. If any of the local cows aren't producing milk, that's probably your fault, too.

15. You have had sex out of wedlock

Throw yourself directly into a blue hellfire if this one applies to you. One of the victims at Salem was Martha Corey, who in her youth had an illegitimate and likely mixed-raced son. She’d eventually marry twice, the second time to Giles Corey, who himself was noted as “a scandalous person in his former time.” When the witch trials came about, Martha's past indiscretions didn't exactly help her defense, and she was convicted and hanged. (Her husband would be famously pressed to death.)

16. You have attempted to predict the identity of your future husband.

Ever daydreamed about your soulmate? Written his name in cursive in your notebook? Then, like Tituba, a slave woman living in Salem, your activities could be construed as witchcraft. For a long time it was thought that Tituba encouraged young girls to predict the identities of their future husbands, and she became one of the first women in Salem accused of practicing the craft.

17. You have broken virtually any rule in the Bible and thus entered into a pact with the devil

Breaking any biblical rule could lead to a witchcraft accusation. Remember: The Puritans strictly observed the Sabbath, which meant no kindling of fire, no trading, and no traveling. You couldn’t commit adultery, lead people to other Gods by prophecy or dreams, lie, be gluttonous, idle, or miss church. There would be no long hair and definitely no suffering a witch to live.

Did you do any of these things? Then congratulations, you are guilty of practicing witchcraft. You are hellbound, and will likely be hanged, burned, or left to rot in a filthy prison until you die. May the dark shadows cloak you in their wretched embrace. Hail Satan.

All images courtesy of Thinkstock unless otherwise noted.

7 Terrifying Historical Remedies for Migraine Headaches

George Marks/Getty Images
George Marks/Getty Images

Migraines are more than just splitting headaches. Migraine symptoms, which affect about one in seven people worldwide, can include throbbing pain on one side of the head, nausea, sensitivity to light and sound, and visual disturbances called auras. Today, several classes of drugs are prescribed to either prevent migraine headaches from happening or halt them once they’ve started. But in previous centuries, migraine treatments weren’t so convenient—or effective.

1. Bloodletting

Whether by scalpel or by leeches, bloodletting was the most common remedy for migraine headaches (and many other ailments) before the advent of modern medicine. Throughout most of history, Western physicians subscribed to the humoral theory, in which human health was governed by four fluids (humors) that must be kept in balance. Sickness was explained as an imbalance of humors, and bloodletting was thought to rebalance the system. The methods varied, though. In the case of migraine headaches, the Greek physician Aretaeus suggested sticking a barbed goose feather up the unfortunate patient’s nose and prodding around until blood flowed.

Even as late as the 18th century, bloodletting was still believed to help migraines. Swiss physician Samuel Auguste Tissot, who was the first to describe migraines as a discrete medical condition in the 1770s, recommended bleeding, better hygiene and diet, and drugs including infusions of orange leaves and valerian.

2. Garlic

The 11th-century physician Abu al-Qasim suggested sticking a clove of garlic into the migraine headache sufferer’s temple. He offered a handy recipe:

“Take a garlic; peel and cut at both extremities. Make an incision with a large scalpel in the temple and keep under the skin a cavity wide enough to introduce the garlic and to conceal it completely. Apply compresses and tighten, let it remain about 15 hours, then remove the device. Extract the garlic, leave the wound for two or three days, then apply cotton soaked in butter until it suppurates.”

Once the wound started oozing—which was considered a good sign—the physician would cauterize the incision with a hot iron. Cauterization was meant to prevent infection, although modern research has shown that it actually lowers the threshold for bacterial infections.

3. Cupping

Cupping—inverting hot glass vessels on the patients’ body—was thought to perform the same function as bloodletting. Prominent Dutch physician Nicolaes Tulp, depicted in Rembrandt’s 1632 painting The Anatomy Lesson of Dr. Nicolaes Tulp, treated a migraine sufferer by cupping. She soon recovered.

A substance called cantharidin, a potent blistering agent secreted by the Meloidae family of beetles, was also applied as part of the cupping and blistering process to draw out bad humors. Unfortunately, if the cantharidin was left on too long, it could be absorbed into the body and cause painful urination, gastrointestinal and renal dysfunction, and organ failure. (Perhaps unrelatedly, cantharidin was also used as an aphrodisiac.)

4. Trepanation

One of the oldest types of surgery, trepanation is the practice of cutting away part of the cranium and exposing brain tissue to treat injuries or chronic conditions like migraine headaches. The 16th-century Dutch physician Petrus Forestus, who meticulously recorded the ailments and treatments of his patients, performed trepanation on a person with incurable migraines. In the brain tissue he found something he called a “black worm.” According to a 2010 study by neurologist Peter J. Koehler, the mass may have been a chronic subdural hematoma—a collection of blood between the surface of the brain and its outermost covering—and a possible cause of the patient’s agony.

5. Dead Moles

Ali ibn Isa al-Kahhal, the leading ophthalmologist of the medieval Muslim world, described more than 130 eye diseases and treatments in his groundbreaking monograph Tadhkirat al-kaḥḥālīn (The Notebook of the Oculists). While his descriptions of ocular anatomy were sound, he also touched on remedies for headaches, and here his prescriptions seem more suspect. To treat migraines, he suggested tying a dead mole to one’s head.

6. Electric Fish

Long before scientists fully understood the principles of electricity, ancient doctors recommended it as a remedy for migraines. Scribonius Largus, the court physician for the Roman emperor Claudius, saw that the torpedo fish—also known as the electric ray, native to the Mediterranean Sea among other areas—had the power to shock anyone who touched it. Largus and other doctors prescribed the shocks as cures for headache, gout, and prolapsed anus.

In the mid-18th century, a Dutch journal reported that the electric eel, found in South America, emitted even stronger shocks than the Mediterranean fish and were used for head pain. One observer wrote that headache sufferers “put one of their hands on their head and the other on the fish, and thereby will be helped immediately, without exception.”

7. Mud Foot-Baths

Compared to expired rodents, warm foot-baths must have sounded positively decadent to those afflicted with extreme pain. Nineteenth-century physicians suggested that migraine sufferers take the waters at Marienbad (now Mariánské Lázně) and Karlsbad (now Karlovy Vary), two spa towns in what is now the Czech Republic. While the mineral waters were useful for alleviating congestive headaches, mud foot-baths were believed to draw blood toward the feet and away from the head, calming the nervous system. “The foot-bath ought not to be taken too hot, and the feet should be rubbed one over the other while washing the mud off, and afterwards with a coarse towel. A brisk walk may be used to keep up the circulation,” suggested Prussian Army physician Apollinaris Victor Jagielski, M.D. in 1873.

Who Stole My Cheese? Archivists Are Cataloging 200 Years of Criminal Records From the Isle of Ely

Internet Archive Book Images via Flickr, Wikimedia Commons
Internet Archive Book Images via Flickr, Wikimedia Commons

And you thought your parents were strict. In 16th century England, the same courts that tried murderers were also tasked with getting to the bottom of cheese thefts.

As The Guardian reports, archivists from the University of Cambridge have begun cataloging close to 270 court documents from the Isle of Ely, a historic region of England known for its magnificent, gothic-style cathedral as well as being the home of Oliver Cromwell for more than a decade (Cromwell was appointed governor of the isle in 1643).

Some of the documents, which are dated from 1557 to 1775, relate to matters that may seem macabre—or even ridiculous—in the modern world. But they offer a keen insight into the area's past. "This project enables us to hear the voices of people from all backgrounds ... long dead and forgotten, and for whom there is no other surviving record," archivist Sian Collins told The Guardian.

One such person was yeoman John Webbe, who was charged with defamation by one William Tyler after Tyler's wife, Joan, overheard Webbe tell someone that: "Tyler thy husband is a knave, a rascall & a thief for he stole my goodes thefyshely [thievishly] in the night."

Then there was poor William Sturns, whose only crime was a hunger that led him to steal three cheeses; ultimately, he was deemed not guilty. "Unfortunately we don’t know what type of cheese it was," Collins told Atlas Obscura. "But cheesemaking was fairly common in the area at the time."

Not all of Ely's court cases were about backtalk and dairy products, though. The university’s website details how in 1577, Margaret Cotte was accused of using witchcraft to kill Martha Johnson, the daughter of a local blacksmith. Margaret was eventually found not guilty, which is part of what makes this project so important.

"Martha and Margaret may not appear in any other records," Collins said. "This is all we know about them."

[h/t The Guardian]

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