The Music

Hell Really Exists

Hell Really Exists

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The music at the assemblies was of all kinds, both instrumental and vocal. The English trials hardly mention music, possibly because the Sabbath had fallen into a decadent condition; but the Scotch and French trials prove that it was an integral part of the celebration. The Devil himself was the

[1. Reg. Scot, Bk. iii, p. 42. La volta is said to be the origin of the waltz.

usual performer, but other members of the society could also supply the music, and occasionally one person held the position of piper to the Devil. The music was always as an accompaniment of the dance; the instrument in general use was a pipe, varied in England by a cittern, in Scotland by I the trump' or Jew's harp, also an instrument played with the mouth.

The Somerset witches said that 'the Man in black sometimes playes on a Pipe or Cittern, and the company dance'.'

The North Berwick witches (1590), when at the special meeting called to compass the death of the king, 'danced along the Kirk-yeard, Geilis Duncan playing on a Trump.'[3] The instrument of the Aberdeen Devil (1597), though not specified, was probably a pipe; it is usually called 'his forme of instrument' in the dittays. Isobel Cockie of Aberdeen was accused of being at a Sabbath on All-hallow Eve: 'Thou wast the ringleader, next Thomas Leyis; and because the Devil played not so melodiously and well as thou crewit, thou took his instrument out of his mouth, then took him on the chaps therewith, and played thyself thereon to the whole company.'[3] At another meeting, Jonet Lucas was present: 'Thou and they was under the conduct of thy master, the Devil, dancing in ane ring, and he playing melodiously upon ane instrument, albeit invisibly to you.'[4] At Tranent (1659) eight women and a man named John Douglas confessed to 'having merry meetings with Satan, enlivened with music and dancing. Douglas was the pyper, and the two favourite airs of his majesty were "Kilt thy coat, Maggie, and come thy way with me", and "Hulie the bed will fa'."'[5] Agnes Spark at Forfar (1661) 'did see about a dozen of people dancing, and they had sweet music amongst them, and, as she thought, it was the music of a pipe'.[6] Barton's wife was at a meeting in the Pentland Hills, where the Devil 'went before us in the likeness of a rough tanny Dog, playing on a pair of Pipes. The

3. Spalding Club Misc., i, pp. 114-15. Spelling modernized.

5. Spottiswoode Miscellany, ii, p. 68.

6. Kinloch, p. 129. Spelling modernized.]

Spring he played (says she) was, 'The silly bit Chiken, gar cast it a pickle and it will grow meikle.'[1] At Crook of Devon (1662) the two old witches, Margaret Huggon and Janet Paton, confessed to being at a meeting, and 'the foresaids hail women was there likeways and did all dance and ane piper play'.[2]

In France the instruments were more varied. Marie d'Aspilcouette, aged nineteen, 'voyoit dancer auec violons, trompettes, ou tabourins, qui rendoyent vne tres grande harmonie'.[3] Isaac de Queyran, aged twenty-five, said that a minor devil (diabloton) played on a tambourine, while the witches danced.[4] But as usual de Lancre is at his best when making a general summary:

'Elles dancent au son du petit tabourin & de la fluste, & par fois auec ce long instrument qu'ils posent sur le col, puis s'allongeant iusqu'auprés de la ceinture; ils le battent auec vn petit baston: par fois auec vn violon. Mais ce ne sont les seuls instrumès du sabbat, car nous auos apprins de plusieurs, qu'on y oyt toute sorte d'instrumens, auec vne telle harmonie, qu'il n'y a concert au monde qui le puisse esgaler.'[5]

Vocal music was also heard at the meetings, sometimes as an accompaniment of the dance, sometimes as an entertainment in itself. When it was sung as a part of the dance, the words were usually addressed to the

Master, and took the form of a hymn of praise. Such a hymn addressed to the god of fertility would be full of allusions and words to shock the sensibilities of the Christian priests and ministers who sat in judgement on the witches. Danaeus gives a general account of these scenes: 'Then fal they to dauncing, wherin he leadeth the daunce, or els they hoppe and daunce merely about him, singing most filthy songes made in his prayse.'[6] Sinclair had his account from a clergyman: 'a reverend Minister told me, that one who was the Devils Piper, a wizzard confest to him, that at a Ball of dancing, the Foul Spirit taught him a Baudy song to sing and play, as it were this night, and ere two days past all the Lads and Lasses of the town were lilting it throw

the street. It were abomination to rehearse it.'[1] At Forfar Helen Guthrie told the court that Andrew Watson 'made great merriment by singing his old ballads, and Isobell Shirrie did sing her song called 'Tinkletum Tankletum'.[2] Occasionally the Devil himself was the performer, as at Innerkip, where according to Marie Lamont 'he sung to us and we all dancit'.[3] Boguet notes that the music was sometimes vocal and sometimes instrumental: 'Les haubois ne manquent pas a ces esbats: car il y en a qui sont commis a faire le devoir de menestrier; Satan y ioue mesme de la flutte le plus souuent; & a d'autrefois les Sorciers se contentent de chanter a la voix, disant toutefois leurs chansons pesle-mesle, & auec vne confusion telle, qu'ils ne s'entendent pas les vns les autres.'[4] At Aix in 1610 'the Magicians and those that can reade, sing certaine Psalmes as they doe in the Church, especially Laudate Dominum de Coelis: Confitemini domino quoniam bonus, and the Canticle Benedicte, transferring all to the praise of Lucifer and the Diuels: And the Hagges and Sorcerers doe houle and vary their hellish cries high and low counterfeiting a kinde of villanous musicke. They also daunce at the sound of Viols and other instruments, which are brought thither by those that were skild to play vpon them.[5] At another French trial in 1652 the evidence showed that 'on dansait sans musique, aux chansons'.[6]

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