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1. Contrary to popular belief, most of the women tried as witches during the year-long Salem Witch trials were not burned at the stake. They were usually beheaded or hung, and on occasion, they would be burned on the stake, but only after their deaths to ensure they didn't rise from the grave.
So how then did they decide who should have their head cut off and who shouldn't? Well, like most great thinkers from their time, witch hunters came up with a series of tests.
So in the mood of the spook, here are the seven ways people tested for witches.
2. The Swimming Test
The swimming test was a method used during witch trials where women thought to be witches would be stripped down, tied at the waist with a rope, and thrown into a body of water, usually weighted down with rocks.
The idea here was that witches, who had not been baptized wouldn't sink. The belief at the time was a witch would bounce out of the water, and an innocent person would sink. The rope was there to ensure the innocent could be pulled to safety, however that wasn't always how things played out. In 1720, a Hungarian woman named Dorko Boda was tried using the swimming test and passed, however, she was beaten and burnt at the stake later.
3. The Prayer Test
As the name goes, the prayer test proposed that witches were incapable of reading the holy scriptures, on account of their closeness with the devil. Suspected witches were asked to recite lines from the Bible, typically the Lord's Prayer, and if they messed up, or omitted a word, that was proof positive that they were in bed with the devil.
However, even reciting the scriptures correctly wasn't enough, as George Burroughs perfectly recited his prayer, before being hung, on account that his ability to read the prayer perfectly was believed to be a 'trick from the devil'.
4. The Touch Test
The Touch test worked on the belief that those under the spells of a witch would have physical and mental reactions when coming into contact with the witch who possessed them. If a witch on trial was brought in to touch her alleged victim and nothing happened when they touched, she would be presumed innocent, however, this tactic was often associated with young hysterical girls, faking their possessions for attention.
5. Witch Cakes
Of all the trails used to test witches, the old witch cake is maybe the craziest. The witch cake was a method used where the urine of a suspected witch was collected and baked into a cake, using rye and wheat, and then fed (yes, fed) to an animal companion of the supposed witch (usually a dog or cat), in the hopes that the animal would become infected with the witches spell, in turn sharing all her evil secrets.
Now that, is f**king insane.
6. The Witch's Mark
Similar to the witches 'teat, which was believed to be a third nipple witches used to feed their helper animals, witch hunters had a pretty open-ended definition of what a witch's mark was. Witches' marks could be moles, scars, birthmarks, and basically, anything that a witch hunter wanted them to be.
So while, some hunters went searching for women with third nipples, or people with odd birthmarks, the paranoid villagers took it upon themselves to remove any skin markings that could falsely lead to their accusation as a witch. Though sadly even after people burnt off their birthmarks, their new scars were also assumed to be witches' marks.
7. Pricking and Scratching Tests
If a witch hunter was unable to find a witches' mark, then they would resort to using the Pricking and Scratching test, which was based on the belief that witches' marks were unsusceptible to bleeding or feeling pain. So to test this, witch hunters would prick and prod their victims until they either bleed a lot or didn't bleed at all.
And while this method was used in places like England, it quickly became a bit of a con-job as 'pickers' would use dull needles to draw their desired findings.
This was a method where accused witches were told to recall the devil from their possessed victims. Also called "charging" this test took place in courtrooms, where other people present would speak control words, while the accused witch called out the devil from their victims. If a possessed person stopped convulsing during the incantation it was seen as proof of their possession. And the accused witch would be found guilty.
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