FOREMOST among the superstitious beliefs of the century was that of witchcraft. It became, indeed, more actively mischievous and more real in the minds of the people on account of the universal habit, considered as a Christian duty, of referring everything to the Bible, as much to the Old as to the New Testament. Theologians of all sects believed in witchcraft and in the active interference of the Devil. Erasmus and Luther, for instance, were believers in witchcraft, while King James wrote on witches. The persecution of miserable old women, accused of being witches because they were old and poor, was carried on throughout the seventeenth century; it is a frightful record of cruelty and superstition, especially in the eastern counties, which were mainly Puritan, and therefore even more inclined than the rest of England to accept the literal application of the Old Testament to their own time. "Thou shalt not suffer a witch to live," said the Book of Exodus. "There shall not be found among you," said the Book of Deuteronomy, "one that useth divinations, or an observer of times, or an enchanter, or a witch, or a charmer, or a consulter with familiar spirits, or a wizard, or a necromancer." Could anything be plainer? Again, "Regard not them that have familiar spirits, neither seek after wizards to be defiled with them. I am the Lord your God."
The belief in witchcraft was universal, but the persecution was not; in London, though there is no reason to doubt the belief, there are few cases on record of the actual persecution of witches. One case is that of Sarah Mordyke, who was apprehended at Paul's Wharf, charged with bewitching one Richard Hetheway, near the Falcon Stairs in Southwark. She was taken before certain learned Justices in Bow Lane. The victim swore that he had lost his appetite, voided pins, etc., but recovered when he had scratched and brought blood from Sarah Mordyke, the witch.
Another case is that of Sarah Griffith. She lived in Rosemary Lane. She had long been considered a bad woman, but nothing could be proved against her, though it was suspicious that her neighbours' children were affected with strange distempers, and were affrighted with apparitions of cats. One day, however, she was