The exact number of people executed for witchcraft between the 14th-17th centuries will forever remain unknown. Any numbers we’ve been able to dig up range from 40,000-100,000, which means that approximately 60,000 (mostly) women were maybe hung or burnt to death but we’ll never really know for sure. Hurrah!
Since she was the inspiration behind Finding Temperance (and really The Muddy Mary Project as a whole), Temperance Lloyd has the honour of being our very first Monday Morning Muse. She along with her two friends, Mary and Susannah, were the last three women hanged for witchcraft in England. Temperance’s story is incredibly muddled and we’ve had to do some major piecing together of it to create anything tangible, but the parts that consistently show up between different accounts, online journals and recorded pamphlets from the time are chilling.
Has anyone ever heard of the Malleus Maleficarum? It’s funny that a red squiggle appears under this book’s title when from 1482-1684 its popularity was second only to the Bible. The Malleus Maleficarum was also known as The Hammer of the Witches. It was essentially a guide on how to identify, catch and kill witches (who, according to the book, were most likely always women due to the feebleness of their gender). It defined women’s sexuality as Satanic, and it is recorded that after the publication of the Malleus Maleficarum the majority of those punished for sorcery became decidedly more female.
Here are a few lines from this gem of a read:
“Women are intellectually like children, and since they are feebler in both mind and body, it is not surprising that they should come more under the spell of witchcraft. All wickedness is but little to the wickedness of a woman.”
“She is more carnal than a man, formed from a bent rib of a breast. And since through this defect she is an imperfect animal, she always deceives. For she is a liar by nature, her voice like the song of the sirens, who with their sweet melody entice passersby and kill them.”
“The devil is more eager and keen to tempt the good than the wicked; trying hard to seduce saintly virgins and girls. Young girls, working through their carnal desires and bodily lusts.”
Slut-shaming 1500s-style, AKA the stuff of nightmares. But it was opinions such as these that permeated Temperance’s world. Fear was everywhere, and complete hearsay was taken as indisputable truth.
To summarize and paraphrase Temperance’s story and life, she was either a total badass or had Alzheimer’s. It’s recorded that she was quite elderly when she was tried and convicted for the final time – she’d been accused twice before and let off – but again, depending on the account you read her age ranges from 25-80… so she was alive, and we will go with that.
A woman named Grace Thomas accused Temperance of cursing her and causing her to fall ill. She found nine pinpricks on her knee that she was sure were somehow Temperance’s doing. During questioning, Temperance suddenly remembered that she had pricked a piece of leather nine times that very day, and so concluded that Grace’s misfortune must have indeed been her doing.
To put this not eloquently at all: shit hit the fan from there.
Temperance was infamously known as “intemperate Temperance” during her trial. The fascinating part was that she didn’t deny anything. She didn’t fight against any accusations. She calmly agreed to anything anyone said she’d done. This included having a pet magpie that turned into a “small black man, about the size of her forearm.”
Mary Trembles and Susannah Edwards were tried for witchcraft at the same time as Temperance. They each have their own stories, but what’s important to know for the purpose of this post is that they were all acquaintances. Like Temperance, all throughout their trial Mary and Susannah went along with everything they were accused of (as one account states, “as if they were possessed”).
The charade continued until the day of their executions, at which point Mary and Susannah went ballistic. They suddenly and desperately denied what were now convictions and pointed fingers at Temperance instead. Of course by now it was too late. So while the other two women were literally dragged kicking and screaming to their deaths, Temperance remained calm. She walked all the way to her execution eating a tea biscuit, and after the boxes were pulled from underneath Mary and Susannah’s feet, the Magistrate asked Temperance if she had any last words. She responded by looking him straight in the eye and reciting the Lord’s Prayer backwards, and then she was hung.
It was found not long after their deaths that all three women were wrongfully condemned, as most of the “evidence” against them was pure gossip. Whoops!
So what was Temperance’s deal? Was she crazy? Was she possessed? Was she a real live witch? We know what we think, but you’ll have to come see the festival to find out! 😉
And there you have it, people: your first #MondayMorningMuse. We hope you’re inspired! Now get writing!