Jersey: The 'witch capital' of Europe?

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Jersey: The 'Witch Capital of Europe'?

- fact or fiction


J19VauldinWitchMS.jpg

Excerpt from a manuscript detailing the case against Symon Vauldin


This article by Richard Heath was first published in the Jersey Evening Post in 2013


There was a time when the last thing you would ever want to do is confess to having sex with the devil.

Whereas nowadays such a claim would draw little more than a frown and nervous shuffle in the opposite direction from anyone in earshot, 500 years ago it would almost certainly have resulted in the confessor being hanged or burned at the stake; or sometimes both.

The Channel Islands, it seems, held the dubious title of being the witch-hunting capital of Europe, with 67 cases in Jersey and 111 in Guernsey - far more per head of population than anywhere in Europe.

According to records held by Jersey Archive manyh were executed after either confessing to or being convicted of various acts of witchcraft, sorcery or 'dabbling in forbidden arts'.

Some, however, were let off with a warning.

Who were these witches?

According to research, many were simply loners, oddballs, or victims of a neighbourhood dispute. Local author and historian Chris Lake said:

"In Guernsey there was a particular family that wallowed in the idea that they were witches, and there were also a few families in Jersey.
"There was one woman - Marie Tourgis - who was well known across all the parishes. People were so fearful of her that parents would tell their children to behave or they would call for her. She ended up being killed.
"But most of the people who were accused of being witches were just old women or people who were just a bit odd, or French. There was some hostility at the time and, if you were French you stood a good chance of being accused of witchcraft.
"Also, if you had a feud with someone, for example over land, then accusing them of being a witch was a particularly good way of getting them killed.
"There was one woman, for example, who was accused of being a witch after allowing sheep to wander on to other people's land."

There were many islanders, however, who were seemingly quite proud of their sorcery skills and apparent friendship with the devil.

In October 1591 Symon Vauldin, from St Brelade, was strangled after confessing to regularly talking to the devil, who took the form of either a cat or a raven.

The jury 'uniformly testified by their oaths and on their soul that they believe the said Symon Vauldin to be a sorcerer of evil and detestable life'.

And 34 years later Edouard Locquet was strangled after confessing to having 'served the devil by imposing several illnesses on various persons'.

Warnings

Although many were convicted, some were let off with a warning. In 1606 three women were released without charge and ordered not to 'flutter about the island'. Another, Elizabeth Grandin, was ordered not to 'malign or speak ill of her neighbors ... nor beg nor steal crops on pain of banishment from the island as a useless and evil person'.

Although punishment for those convicted was severe, it was not quite as gruesome as elsewhere. Whereas the witches of the UK, Guernsey and much of Europe were burnt at the stake, Jersey witches were first strangled to death or hanged before their bodies were burned.

They were usually held inn Mont Orgueil castle until it was time for them to be dealt with. If they were convicted a stake would be erected, usually in the Royal Square, and they would be strangled.

Their bodies would then be burned and the reason for this was so that their ashes could be scattered to the four points of the compass. They believed that if this did not happen, the witch could reappear.

The Jersey witch list

This list is longer than that shown in an earlier Jerripedia article, and some of the details differ. It should be noted that much of the detail in historical references to witchcraft and trials in Jersey is disputed by more recent research

  • 1562 - Michelle La Blanche Vestue. Executed on the gibbet of Hures at St Ouen
  • 1562 - Anne of St Brelade. Hanged and strangled
  • May 1563 - Thomasse Becquet. Acquitted
  • 1583 - Marion Corbel. Died in Mont Orgueil castle before trial
  • November 1585 - Jeanne Le Vesconte. Executed on the gibbet of Hures at St Ouen at the request of Philippe de Carteret, Seigneur of St Ouen
  • December 1585 - Michielle Bellee. Hanged and strangled
  • December 1585 - Pasquette Le Vesconte. Executed
  • December 1585 - Jean Morant. Hanged and strangled
  • December 1585 - Katherine Orenges. Hanged and strangled
  • October 1591 - Symon Vauldin. Hanged and strangled
  • October 1591 - Beneste Jamet. Hanged and strangled
  • October 1591 - Katherine Bertram. Hanged and strangled
  • December 1591 - Michiel Alixandre. Hanged and strangled
  • December 1591 - Collas Alixandre, son of Michiel. Acquitted
  • May 1593 - Marie Poret. Committed to Mont Orgueil, fate unknown
  • July 1597 - Pernelle Fallu. Jury disagreed, released with a warning
  • October 1597 - Peronelle Chevalier, widow of Mathieu Fallu. Strangled at the post after several appearances in court for similar offences
  • December 1597 - Francoise Le Mestre. Jury disagreed, released with a warning
  • January 1599 - Marie Alixandre, widow of Michiel. Hanged and strangled
  • December 1599 - Marie Le Four. Acquitted
  • December 1599 - Marie Anley, wife of Richard. Committed to Mont Orgueil, fate unknown
  • May 1600 - Collette Amy. Hanged and strangled
  • May 1600 - Jeanne Horton. Hanged and strangled
  • May 1600 - Phillipine Picot. Hanged and strangled
  • June 1602 - Marguerite Le Rues. Executed at St Ouen
  • October 1602 - Marie Rogerez, wife of Jacques Le Breton. Executed in St Ouen
  • December 1605 - Pasquette Guillaume, wife of Jean Le Quesne. Executed after being warned several times
  • June 1606 - Elizabeth Grandin. Released with a warning
  • June 1606 - Marie Grandin. Released with a warning
  • June 1606 - Marguerite Le Quesne. Released with a warning
  • June 1606 - Katherine, wife of Jean Mauger. Executed after previous warning
  • October 1608 - Michielle Bellenger. Hanged and strangled
  • October 1608 - Andree Tourgis. Arrested for sorcery. In the course of her trial she admitted killing her grand-daughter. Executed
  • October 1608 - Jeanne Tourgis, daughter of Andree. Acquitted
  • October 1608 - Marie Tourgis, daughter of Andree. Acquitted but placed in the care of Mrs Rychard hulvet
  • October 1608 - Marguerite Nyvret. Released with a warning
  • June 1609 - Thomyne Le Dain. Hanged and strangled
  • June 1609 - Georgette Alexandre, wife of Jean Billot. Banished within six weeks
  • October 1611 - Collette Horman. Hanged and strangled
  • October 1611 - Isycles Hardyne. Hanged and strangled
  • October 1611 - Germaine Royl. Hanged and strangled
  • October 1611 - Georgette Alixandre. Banished for second time (see above)
  • December 1611 - Perrine Alixandre, wife of Estienne Bertault. Refused to accept trial. After 12 months in Mont Orgueil on bread and water, released with a warning
  • December 1612 - Susanne Corbel. Refused to submit to trial. Confined to Mont Orgueil. Fate unknown
  • February 1613 - Jeanne Tourgis (see above). Banished after admitting associating with witches
  • October 1618 - Marie Tourgis (see above). Hanged and strangled
  • January 1625 - Collas Lamy. Discharged and warned
  • October 1625 - Marie Filleul, aged about 60. Executed on the gibbet at Samares
  • October 1625 - Edouard Locquet. Hanged and strangled
  • October 1625 - Jeanne Orenge, daughter of Raff. Hanged and strangled
  • October 1625 - Raff Orenge, aged about 70. Hanged and strangled
  • October 1626 - Michelle Cosnefrey, of Normandy, aged about 80. Banished
  • October 1626 - Jeanne Umfrey of Normandy. Banished
  • October 1631 - Marie Grin. Refused to plead. Sent to Mont Orgueil. Fate unknown
  • October 1631 - Jeanne Grandin, of St Martin. Hanged and strangled
  • June 1648 - Elizabeth Grandin. Discharged with a warning
  • June 1648 - Marie Grandin, daughter of Elizabeth. Discharged with a warning
  • June 1648 - Marie Grandin, of Trinity (different person). Hanged and strangled
  • June 1648 - Marie Esnouf. Hanged and strangled
  • June 1648 - Clement Le Cerf, son of Marie Esnouf of Trinity. Banished
  • June 1648 - Thomasse Le Ruez. Fate unknown
  • May 1649 - Guillemete du Vaistain. Mother of Thomasse Le Ruez. Flogged and banished
  • May 1650 - Jean Mahon. Refused trial, banished
  • November 1656 - Jean Le Riche. Died at Mont Orgueil before trial
  • January 1660 - Marie Jean of St Ouen. Executed
  • October 1661 - Sarah Lucette of St Lawrence. Banished
  • 1736 - Marie Godfray. Accused of 'dabbling in forbidden arts'. Released after promising to reform

Notes and references

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