John Stearne Lawshall

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Demos, John Putnam. Entertaining Satan: Witchcraft and the Culture of Early New England. New York: Oxford University Press, 2004. Upham, Charles. History of Witchcraft and Salem Village. Boston: Wiggin and Lunt, 1867.

Hohman, John George (d. ca. 1845) The most famous braucher in the powwowing tradition of folk MAGIC, spells, hexes and healing. John George Hohman (also spelled Homan) was a German immigrant to America and the author of the widely circulated magical text The Long Lost Friend.

Little is known about Hohman's life. In 1802, he and his wife, Anna Catherine, and son, Philip (some sources say Caspar), left Hamburg for Philadelphia, arriving on October 12. They had no money and sold themselves as indentured servants. Hohman and his wife were split apart. His wife and son went to Burlington County, New Jersey, and Hohman went to Springfield Township, Bucks County, Pennsylvania.

Hohman lived and worked in a German immigrant community. In his spare time, he made and sold decorated birth certificates and baptismal certificates, a popular custom among the immigrants. In three-and-a-half years, he earned enough money to buy freedom for himself and his family.

The family's home is not known, for Hohman could not afford to purchase land. In 1810, they evidently lived in the Easton area near the Hexenkopf. Hohman was by then writing books, ballads, hymns, poems and songs, which he published.

By 1815, the Hohmans lived in Reading. Anna Catherine died there in 1832 at age 60. Hohman is believed to have died on April 26, 1845, at age 67 after a "lingering illness."

Hohman gained a wide reputation for his healing ability. In 1818 he published a folk medicine book, The Field and House Pharmacy Guide, with remedies for humans and animals. This book contained no magic. In 1820, he published the book that made him famous, The Long Lost Friend, a faith-healing text of magical CHARMS and spells that became the bible of powwowing. More than 150 editions have been printed. The book was translated into English in 1850.

There is no evidence that Hohman ever used the term "powwowing" to describe his magical arts. But among the brauchers, POWER DOCTORS and powowers, his text was golden, an essential tool for success. Even hex doctors worked black magic with it. Mere ownership conferred power. The belief spread that no one could practice without their own personal copy of The Long Lost Friend. The influential SAYLOR FAMILY of folk doctors placed great importance on it.

Hohman and The Long Lost Friend gained celebrity status in the early 20th century when a murder was committed over possession of a copy. JOHN BLYMIRE, of York County, Pennsylvania, believed himself to be cursed and was told he had to take possession of the offending witch's copy of The Long Lost Friend in order to be cured. Blymire killed the man when he would not give up the book. The story was written in a book Hex (1970) by Arthur H. Lewis.

In 1988, a film based on the story was made in Hollywood starring Donald Sutherland. It was originally titled The Long Lost Friend, but just prior to release the title was changed to The Apprentice to Murder. A German version, The Night of the Demons, was produced. Both films performed poorly.

The Long Lost Friend continued to be used until well into the 20 th century and still enjoys an audience in present times. More than 500,000 copies have been sold.

Further READING:

Heindel, Ned D. Hexenkopf: History, Healing & Hexerei.

Easton, Pa.: Williams Township Historical Society, 2005. Lewis, Arthur H. Hex. New York: Pocket Books, 1970.

Holda (also Holde, Hulda) Fierce Germanic goddess of the sky whose nocturnal rides with the souls of the unbaptized dead led to the Christian association of her with the demonic aspects of the WILD Hunt. Holda was beautiful and stately, and bold as a Valkyrie. She also was goddess of the hearth and motherhood and ruled spinning and the cultivation of flax.

As host of the Wild Hunt, Holda was said to be accompanied by WITCHES as well as the souls of the dead. They rode uncontrollably through the night sky, shrieking and crying. The land over which they passed was said to bear double the harvest.

Holda, like other pagan deities, was linked to the DEVIL by Christians. In medieval times, she was transformed from a majestic woman to an old HAG, with a long, hooked nose, long stringy hair and sharp fangs. In folklore, she has been reduced to a bogey, a low-level bad spirit, and a tender of sheep or goats.

Hopkins, Matthew (?-1647?) England's most notorious professional witch-hunter, who brought about the condemnations and executions of at least 230 alleged witches, more than all other witch-hunters combined during the 160-year peak of the country's witch hysteria.

Hopkins was born in Wenham, Suffolk, the son of a minister. Little is known about him before 1645, when

Witches Manningtree
Matthew Hopkins, his victims and their familiars (OLD WOODCUT)

he took up his witch-hunting activities. Prior to that, he made a meager living as a mediocre lawyer, first in Ipswich and then in Manningtree.

In 1645 he announced publicly that a group of witches in Manningtree had tried to kill him. He abandoned his law practice and went into business to rid the countryside of witches. He advertised that for a fee, he and an associate, John Stearne, would travel to a village and rout them out.

Hopkins knew little about witches beyond reading King JAMES I's Daemonologie, but he had no shortage of business. He exploited the Puritans' hatred of witchcraft, the public's fear of it and the political turmoil of the English Civil War (1642-48). Added to this volatile mixture was a rise of feminism among women who, during the Civil War, spoke up about their discontent with their station in life and the way England was being governed. It was not uncommon for politically active Royalist women to become branded as "sorceresses" and "whores of Babylon" by the Parliamentary faction. Some of the witch-hunt victims may have been singled out because they were suspected spies.

Hopkins' method of operation was to turn gossip and innuendo into formal accusations of witchcraft and Devil-worship. Since every village had at least one HAG rumored to be a witch, Hopkins was enormously successful. Most of the accused, however, were merely unpopular people against whom others had grudges. Hopkins dubbed himself "Witch-finder General" and claimed to be appointed by Parliament to hunt witches. He boasted that he possessed the "Devil's List," a coded list of the names of all the witches in England.

His first victim was a one-legged hag, Elizabeth Clark. Hopkins tortured her until she confessed to sleeping with the Devil and harboring several FAMILIARs. She accused five other persons of witchcraft. The inquisitions and extorted confessions mushroomed until at least 38 persons were remanded for trial in Chelmsford. Hopkins and Stea-rne testified to seeing the imps and familiars of many of the accused appear and try to help them. They were aided by 92 villagers who voluntarily stepped forward to offer "evidence" and "testimony." Of the 38 known accused, 17 were hanged; six were declared guilty but reprieved; four died in prison; and two were acquitted. The fate of the remainder is not certain (see Chelmsford witches).

With that success, Hopkins took on four more assistants and went witch-hunting throughout Essex, Suffolk, Huntingdonshire, Norfolk, Cambridge and neighboring counties. His fees were outrageously high, between four and 26 pounds and perhaps much higher; the prevailing wage was sixpence a day. To justify his fees, Hopkins argued that ferreting out witches required great skill, and he denied that he and Stearne profited from their business.

The use of torture in witch trials was forbidden in England, but it was routinely applied in most cases. Hopkins was no exception, but his torture was often excessive. He beat, starved and denied sleep to his victims. His more brutal, and favored, methods included pricking the skin for insensitive spots (see wiTCH's MARK), searching for blemishes as small as flea bites, which could be interpreted as DEVIL's marks, walking victims back and forth in their cells until their feet were blistered, and swimMING. In the latter, the victims were bound and thrown into water; if they floated, they were guilty.

When the victims were worn down by torture, Hopkins plied them with leading questions such as, "How is it you came to be acquainted with the Devil?" All he required were nods and monosyllabic answers. He and his associates filled in the colorful details of the alleged malevolent activities. Most of the charges were of bewitching people and their livestock to death; causing illness and lameness; and entertaining evil spirits such a familiars, which usually were nothing more than household pets. He was particularly fond of getting victims to admit they had signed DEVIL's PACTs.

Not all of his victims were framed. One man, a butcher, traveled about 10 miles to confess voluntarily. He was hanged. Another man claimed to entertain his familiar while in jail; no one else could see the creature.

Later in 1645 Hopkins enjoyed another successful mass witch trial in Suffolk, in which at least 124 persons were arrested and 68 were hanged. One of them was a 70-year-old clergyman, who, after being "walked" and denied sleep, confessed to having a pact with the Devil, having several familiars and to bewitching cattle.

Throughout his witch-hunting, Hopkins constantly searched for evidence that networks of organized covens of witches existed. He found nothing to substantiate this belief.

In 1646 Hopkins's witch-hunting career ended almost as abruptly as it had begun. He over-extended himself in greed and zeal. He was publicly criticized for his excessive tortures and high fees and began to meet resistance from judges and local authorities. In the eastern counties, mass witch trials declined, though witches were still brought to trial. Hopkins began to be criticized severely for forcing the swimming test upon people who did not want to take it. He and Stearne separated, with Hopkins returning to Manningtree and Stearne moving to Lawshall.

The fate of Hopkins remains a mystery. There is no trace of him after 1647. Popular legend has it that he was accused of witchcraft and "died miserably." William Andrews, a 19th-century writer on Essex folklore, stated in Bygone Essex" (1892) that Hopkins was passing through Suffolk and was himself accused of "being in league with the Devil, and was charged with having stolen a memorandum book containing a list of all the witches in England, which he obtained by means of sorcery."

Hopkins pleaded innocent but was "swum" at Mistley Pond by an angry mob. According to some accounts, he drowned, while others say he floated, was condemned and hanged. No record exists of a trial, if there was one. There is a record of his burial at the Mistley Church in 1647, though there is no tombstone (not uncommon for 17th-century graves). One chronicler of the times said that the burial must have been done "in the dark of night" outside the precincts of the Church, witnessed by no one local. Hopkins' ghost is said to haunt Mistley Pond. An apparition dressed in 17th-century attire is reportedly seen in the vicinity.

According to another story circulated, Hopkins, having fallen out of favor with the public, escaped to New England.

Stearne, however, stated in 1648, "I am certain (notwithstanding whatsoever hath been said of him) he died peacefully at Manningtree, after a long sickensse of a consumption, as many of his generation had done before him, without any trouble of conscience for what he had done, as was falsely reported of him." See Bury st. Edmonds witches.

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