Black animals

After healing, people also sought out Biddy for fortune-telling or the answers to mysteries, such as who committed a crime and where something was lost.

She often made up potions for people from her own well water. These were given with complex instructions which had to be followed precisely in order for a cure to happen. Medicines could not be used for any other purpose, or disaster would strike. Some of her cures resemble the miraculous healings of Jesus and saints of various religions, such as instantly curing cripples.

Biddy accepted mostly food and whiskey for her services, although some reports tell of her asking for a "shilling for the bottle." Otherwise, she had no set fees of any sort. Sometimes she would ask for whatever a person had a surplus of, such as butter or bacon.

Sometimes she required penance of people in order to be healed, or a demonstration of their sincere desire for healing. Occasionally, she sent people away without help. In these cases, their problems were beyond her powers, or they had angered the fairies too much for reprieve, she said.

Biddy did not keep a CAT, but did have a dog (named either Spot or Fedel) that acted as a FAMILIAR. She would tie messages in a sock around the dog's neck and send him out to people, reputedly controlling him via her bottle.

The Catholic clergy felt threatened by a peasant woman who was credited with having greater powers than they. Although village priests scorned her and told people not to pay her any heed, most people—either out of awe or fear—respected her and valued her over more traditional doctors. She was counted on by her neighbors as a "good Christian" who always shared whatever she had and who did not misuse her powers. Nonetheless, the church labeled her a wicked witch whose powers came from the DEVIL. Although they denounced her from their pulpits, they were not above dressing up as ordinary people and consulting her themselves when in need. She apparently didn't hold grudges against them, even curing one priest of cancer.

In 1865, she was charged with witchcraft and appeared in court in Ennis. Apparently she was not convicted, for there is no record of her being jailed.

Biddy was married four times. The last was in 1869, when she was more than 70 years of age. A young man named either O'Brien or Meaney from Limerick came to her to be cured. She asked him if he would marry her if he did. He agreed, she did and they wed.

In April of 1874, Biddy became seriously ill and asked a friend to see to it that she received the rites of the church and was properly buried. She apparently was living alone—it is not known what happened to her fourth hus-band—and was too poor to pay for her own burial. The friend, Pat Loughnane, agreed. She died during the night of April 21/22. Lore has it that a mysterious ball of fire went out the front door of the house at her passing. She was buried in Feakle churchyard in an unmarked grave.

As for her bottle, Biddy reportedly gave it to the priest who administered last rites, telling him he would now possess the same powers. He threw it into Kilbarron Lake. People went diving in an effort to recover it, but found scores of bottles and could not determine which one had been hers. See witch bottle.

Further READING:

Lenihan, Edmund. In Search of Biddy Early. Dublin: Mercier

Press, 1987.

Bishop, Bridget (d. 1692) The first victim of the SALEM Witches hysteria in Massachusetts in 1692-93. Bridget Bishop was the first to be accused and examined, and the first to be tried and executed.

Bishop was an easy target when the hysteria began. She was not well regarded by her neighbors, for she owned a tavern and exhibited "loose" behavior. She dressed provocatively, and some of her younger tavern patrons were known to stay well past closing, drinking and playing games.

According to the testimony lodged against Bishop, she had bewitched a baby and a girl to death, paid a man in disappearing money, caused various mishaps with carts and horses and paid nocturnal visits to a man as a glowing apparition that hopped around his room in a cloak. She also had bewitched people into serious illnesses, caused people to argue violently and bewitched animals.

John Lowder, 24, a laborer, testified that Bishop tormented him numerous times after they argued over her chickens damaging the gardens of Lowder's employer. Lowder said he woke up one night to find Bishop sitting on his chest. She tried to choke him.

Lowder also said that he had other dark bedroom visitors: a black pig and a flying demon that had the body of a monkey, the feet of a rooster and the face of an old man. The demon told him he was sent by the Devil and promised him money if he would pledge himself. Lowder chased the creature out of his room. It disappeared, but he saw Bishop in the distance. When he returned to his room, the demon came back. Lowder invoked God and it flew out, causing apples to fall from trees. It kicked gravel into Lowder's stomach, and he was unable to eat for three days.

Cotton Mather said that when Bishop was brought to trial, he had no doubt of her guilt. With a look, she brought in an invisible demon who damaged part of the courthouse.

Bishop was executed by hanging on June 10, 1692.

black animals A favored shape-shifted form of the DEVIL and demons, especially demons who serve as the FAMILIARs of witches.

Dogs and cats were the most common black animals mentioned as demons and familiars in the trials of the witch hysteria. Black birds, especially crows and ravens, were also thought to be forms taken often by demons.

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