Today I'm sharing some of the grisly tools of the Witchfinder!
Anyone who has visited
In terms of the witch trials, the National Museum of Scotland in
Thumbscrews and manacles used for interrogating those accused of witchcraft. Often those who were accused were deprived of food and water for long periods of time. They'd be held in stocks, manacles or chains, and then subjected to torture to gain the confession of witchcraft.
One of the most common used tools to gain confession was the thumbscrews. Here with these two examples we can see what nasty little devices they were.
Branks with a chain, also called "witches bridles." The jagged edge cuts into the skin on the neck to enforce a confession.
The witches bridle is something that was used in both
Thumbscrews with padlock and key, and iron branks with a gag - used by the Kirk particularly to silence women accused of gossip. This awful looking device has a metal strut that sits over the tongue.
Close up of thumbscrews. Nice, huh.
Seeing these instruments and the stocks and chains was important for me to get into the mindset of those who feared discovery, those were constantly watchful or on the run, as my Taskill witches are.
Here's a snippet from THE LIBERTINE:
"Ah, and here she is." Gavin looked at her from hooded eyes. He pressed his lips together as if he were containing a smile.You can read the first chapter of THE LIBERTINE (the moment Chloris meets Lennox) here.
"You know what this is about, I wager," Tamhas snapped at her.
Chloris held her head high. "No, I do not. Would you care to enlighten me?"
Tamhas looked enraged by that and he strode over to her, stepping between her and Gavin. When he glowered at her there was a warning in his eyes. "I know that Lennox Fingal has come here, and you would do well to reveal his whereabouts and quickly, lest you get dragged down to hell with him."
Chloris glared back at him. He could rant at her all he wanted, but she was not about to reveal
"Speak out, Chloris," Tamhas urged when she did not respond. "Your husband has already summoned the Witchfinder General."
A rushing sound filled her ears and her mouth went dry, her heart hammering in her chest. The Witchfinder? Visions of what they might do if they found
Lennoxor Jessie filled her thoughts. It could not happen. She would not let them harm her lover or his sister. The very thought that they might get their hands on either one of them made her want to warn him and send him on his way. It was her fault that they had come here. She had to stand between them and their persecutors, there was no question about that. Chloris vowed she would, because she loved him and it pained her deeply to think that he'd come here for her and put himself in such danger.
From behind Tamhas Gavin emerged, approaching her. "Tamhas has explained what happened to you in
Saint Andrews. Now I understand why those dreadful changes I discovered in my wife have occurred. You've been consorting with witches, you have been subject to their evil ways." He looked her over with disgust. "I will hand you over to the Witchfinder General without a qualm, for I would rather forfeit my wife in order to have your soul redeemed."
Chloris fought the mad urge to laugh. How well this had played into his hands, she realized. He did not want her to leave him, for that would show him up, but he could play the martyr in front of the whole Burgh if it suited him. People would talk about his brave sacrifice and his position would be maintained. "You can do what you want with me. I will never reveal his whereabouts."
"So it is true, you are in league with a witch." Gavin scrutinized her, calmly. "Well, the Witchfinder will get the information from you. They have some canny tools for the task." He flashed her a brief smile. "Once he puts his thumbscrews on you, you will plead for mercy. When you get none, you will tell him everything he needs to know and then you will sign the confession with your bloodied and broken hand."
How he relished the prospect.
"I will die before I reveal anything," she replied.
Gavin inclined his head. "Your choice."
"Don't be a fool," Tamhas interjected, and raised his hands in a gesture of disbelief. "You cannot sacrifice yourself for one of the devil's slaves."
In a future post I'll talk a bit about law and order during the period. Next week I'll talk a bit about the landscape of the Taskill books, the cities and the adventures of travelling in the early 1700s.
Until then, why not go on a virtual tour of the National Museums of Scotland.