The Covenant

The signing of a covenant does not occur in every case and was probably a late introduction. Forbes, as quoted above, gives the contract between the Devil and his follower, with the part which each engages to perform. In Somerset the witches signed whether they could write or not, those who could not write putting a cross or circle as their mark.'

The free consent of the candidate is a point always insisted on, and by the confessions of the witches themselves the consent was often not merely freely but actually willingly given. Isobel Crawford of the Irvine Coven in 1618 was accused that the devil 'come to hir awin dur in similitud of ane blak man, and prommeist, gif sche wold be his servand, sche sould have geir aneuch, and sould not want. Quhairunto sche was ever reddy to accord.'[2] Little Jonet Howat said that the Devil 'bade her renounce her God, and she answered, Marry, shall I.'[3] In the dittay against Christian Grieve, it is stated that 'Sathan desired you to be his servant whilk ye willingly granted to be . . . And sicklike the minister posing you upon the foresaid particulars especially anent the renunciation of your Baptism, ye answered that Sathan speired at you if ye would do it and ye answered "I warrand did I."'[4] Bessie Henderson and Janet Brugh, of the same Coven, acknowledged the same. To the former 'the Devil appeared and asked you gif you would be his servant whilk ye freely and instantly accepted and granted thereto'.[5] Janet Brugh was rather more emphatic: 'Sathan desired you to be his servant whilk ye willingly promised to be and likeways desired you to renounce your baptism whilk ye willingly did.'[6]

The written contract appealed very strongly to the legal minds of the judges and magistrates, and it is therefore often mentioned, but in Great Britain there is no record of the actual wording of any individual covenant; the Devil seems to have kept the parchment, paper, or book in his own custody. In France, however, such contracts occasionally fell into the

3. Kinloch, p. 125. Spelling modernized.

hands of the authorities; the earliest case being in 1453, when Guillaume Edeline, Prior of St. Germain-en-Laye, signed a compact with the Devil, which compact was afterwards found upon his person.' The witch Stevenote de Audebert, who was burnt in January 1619, showed de Lancre 'le pacte & conuention qu'elle auoit faict auec le Diable, escrite en sang de menstrues, & si horrible qu'on auoit horreur de la regarder'.[2]

The contract was said to be signed always in the blood of the witch, and here we come to a confusion between the mark made on the person and the mark made by the person. It seems clear that part of the ceremony of initiation was the cutting of the skin of the candidate to the effusion of blood. This is the early rite, and it seems probable that when the written contract came into vogue the blood was found to be a convenient writing-fluid, or was offered to the Devil in the form of a signature. This signing of a book plays a great part in the New England trials.

The contract was usually for the term of the witch's life, but sometimes it was for a term of years, the number of which varies considerably. As Scot says, 'Sometimes their homage with their oth and bargaine is receiued for a certeine terme of yeares; sometimes for ever.'[3] Popular belief assigns seven years as the length of time, at the end of which period the Devil was supposed to kill his votary. The tradition seems to be founded on fact, but there is also a certain amount of evidence that the witch was at liberty to discontinue or renew the contract at the end of the allotted term. Such a renewal seems also to have been made on the appointment of a new Chief. In France, England, and New England the term of years is mentioned; in Scotland it is mentioned by the legal authorities, but from the fact that it occurs seldom, if ever, in the trials it would seem that the contract of the Scotch witches was for life.

Magdalene de la Croix, Abbess of a religious house in Cordova in 1545, made a contract 'for the space of thirty years', she being then a girl of twelve.[4] In Paris in 1571 'il

y eut vn aduocat lequel confessa qu'il auoit passé l'obligation au Diable renonceant a Dieu, & icelle signee de son propre sang. Encores s'est it verifié par plusieurs procez, que l'obligation reciproque entre le diable, & le sorcier, contient quelquesfois le terme d'vn an, deux ans, ou autre temps." At Faversham in 1645 Joan Williford said 'that the Devil promised to be her servant about twenty yeeres, and that the time is now almost expired'.[2] In Huntingdonshire in 1646 Elizabeth Weed of Great Catworth confessed that 'the Devill then offer'd her, that hee would doe what mischiefe she should require him; and said she must covenant with him that he must have her soule at the end of one and twenty years, which she granted'.[3] In 1652 Giles Fenderlin of Leaven Heath was tried for that when he was a soldier at Bell in Flanders he made a five-years' covenant with a Jesuit; 'after the said five years was expired, in 1643 he renew'd the said Covenant with the Jesuit for 14 years longer: whereupon he drew a Covenant for him with the Devil, pricking the two fore-fingers of his right hand with an needle, and drew bloud, wherewith he writ his name with his own bloud, and then covenanted with the Devil, That if he should be safely protected during the space Of 14 years aforesaid, while such time as it expired, that then he was to take away, both body and soul as his own right and interest.'[4] At Lille in 1661 Madame Bourignon's girls indicate the renewal of the contract: 'The Devil gives them a Mark, which Marks they renew as often as those Persons have any desire to quit him. The Devil reproves them then more severely and obligeth them to new Promises, making them also new Marks for assurance or pledge, that those Persons should continue faithful to him.',[5] In Somerset in 1664 Elizabeth Style said that the Devil 'promised her Mony, and that she should live gallantly, and have the pleasure of the World for Twelve years, if she would with her Blood sign his Paper, which was to give her Soul to him'.' At Groton in New England in 1671, according to Elizabeth Knap, 'the terme of time agreed upon with him was for 7 yeers; one yeere shee

2 Examination of Joan Williford, p. 4.

was to be faithfull in his service, and then ye other six hee would serve her, and make her a witch'.[1] At Newcastle-on-Tyne in 1673 Ann Armstrong 'deposeth that Ann Drydon had a lease for fifty yeares of the divill, whereof ten ar expired, Ann Forster had a lease of her life for 47 yeares, whereof seaven are yet to come. Lucy Thompson had a lease of two and forty, whereof two are yet to come, and, her lease being near out, they would have perswaded this informer to have taken a lease of three score yeares or upwards.'[2] In New England some of the 'afflicted' said of Goodwife C. that 'she had Covenanted with the Devil for ten Years, six of them were gone, and four more to come'.[3] In modern France the belief in the contract for a term of years is recorded, but nothing is said of the renewal of the contract or of the fate of the witch who refuses such a contract. In the department of Entre-Sambre-et-Meuse the full method of entering on such a contract is known: 'Si vous voulez venir au bois avec moi, vous verrez un homme venir a vous. Cest le chef. Il vous demandera si vous voulez vous engager dans la société. Si vous acceptez, le terme d'engagement est de sept ans et vous gagnerez une plaquette par jour.'[4] Among the Walloons the neophyte takes with him a black hen, which the Devil buys, and then ratifies the contract, 'le pacte est fait pour une durée de sept ans.'[5]

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