Wednesday, July 15, 2015

Weekly Geek! 'The Discovery of Witches'

Weekly Geek - Installment 1: 'The Discovery of Witches'

Welcome to our first installment of "Weekly Geek!"  For this installment, we decided to start at the beginning - the very beginning.   Today's adventure in this trilogy touches on one of our geekly themes - the importance of names - and in turn, it provides us with our first Easter egg!

The title of the first volume of our beloved trilogy "A Discovery of Witches" is an egg in and of itself, and it's packed with meaning!  The book that we all know and love—about a reluctant witch who is forced to come to grips with her powers and accept her destiny—actually borrows its title from a 17th century tome called The Discovery of Witches*.   The Discovery of Witches is a witch hunter's how-to guide by Matthew Hopkins.  What?!  A book about about the hunted named after a guide targeted to their pursuers?!  Wow!  Why hello irony, your name is Deborah Harkness! :)
Matthew Hopkins: Witch Finder Generall - click to enlarge

Matthew Hopkins was the son of a Puritan minister who was believed to be younger than 30 when he died in 1647.  It is thought that he may have had some training as a lawyer (based on the manner in which he presented evidence at trial), but there's been nothing to support it in the records.

Hopkins launched his career as a witch hunter in 1644 in Eastern England.  Get this—villagers would actually hire this guy (and his team) to find 'witches', coerce confessions from them, and then afterwards obtain material evidence to prove that these people were 'consorting with the devil'.  It worked!  They managed to convince the townspeople and obtain their convictions.  It is said that Hopkins successfully convicted over 230 people who were subsequently executed in three years.  He was certainly efficient, that's for sure!  We wonder if he put those stats on his resume?  We digress.  Carrying on...

Hopkins' interrogation methods were kind of torturous (well, very torturous) and were outlined in detail in his book, complete with the justifications behind them.  They included the practice of pricking any skin deformities found on the accused that was thought to be an 'extra pap for suckling imps'.  Such parts on the skin, if they failed to bleed or cause pain, were undeniable proof (according to the 'Witch Finder Generall' aka Hopkins) that the accused was indeed a witch.  Another tactic of his required forcing the accused to walk around all night.  This was to keep the witch from resting.  Why couldn't the witch rest, you ask?  Hopkins had an answer for that! He explained to his readers/potential witch-hunters that witches—in the state of rest—would have the ability summon their familiars and possibly frighten their interrogators (well, that certainly clears that up!)  One of his tests had hunters flinging suspected witches (fully bound) into water.  Why?  Because according to Hopkins, witches float.  That's why.  Of course!  So simple.  Ah...the good old days! ;)

All kidding aside, this does offer a weirdly fascinating look into the culture, rituals and mindset of the time, as well as a glimpse into the attitudes and beliefs Harkness' creatures were combating not long after Matthew and Diana's time walk in Shadow of Night.

That's it for installment 1 of Weekly Geek.  We hope you were entertained!  If you were informed, as well as entertained, that's the happy cherry on top.  :D

If you feel the need to do a deeper exploration of Master Hopkins' work, look no further!  We are full-service Daemons!  You can download The Discovery of Witches by clicking the following link: The Discovery of Witches*
*Available for free at Project Gutenberg

Until Next time, friends...
feed your daemons!

P.S. If you have something you'd like us to explore on Weekly Geek, contact us!  You may find your curiosities addressed on one of our future geekly posts!