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Spellbinding stories of sorcery and wicked witches of Wales.

Byline: THOMAS DEACON Reporter thomas.deacon@walesonline.co.uk

THE earliest case of witchcraft in Wales was recorded in the very early 16th century. A book documenting the history of Welsh witches says that between 1550 and 1720, 42 people were indicted for witchcraft across Wales.

In Welsh Witches: Narratives of Witchcraft from Sixteenth- and Seventeenth-century Wales, Richard Sugget looks at court cases from hundreds of years ago that give a glimpse of the country's supernatural history.

The Royal Commission on the Ancient and Historical Monuments of Wales senior architectural investigator details 20 cases, including Ann Jones, who was indicted for "felonious witchcraft" in Denbighshire in 1635.

The book states the details of the case have not survived, but her story is revealed through another charge of fraud by falsely claiming to cure certain ailments.

Mr Sugget writes: "From these examinations it is clear that Ann Jones was a confidence trickster claiming to have the extraordinary ability of being able to cure very sick children through her influence with the fairies.

"Her modus operandi was to identify a sick child and then convince the parents that she could persuade the fairies to cure the child.

"The fairies would need to be shown money that the sick child had breathed upon, but the money would be returned as the fairies had no use for gold or silver."

She would be given the money and then quickly move on, leaving her victims waiting before realising they had been duped.

Her remedies included "dew gathered in the month of May". She was found guilty, fined PS20 and remanded in jail for a year.

Three months later Ann Jones died in jail from "god's visitation", according to her inquest.

The earliest reference in legal record to witchcraft in Wales was between 1502 and 1503.

According to Bishop of St David's John Morgan, he took action against Thomas Wyrriot who lived in "open adultery" with Tanglwst ferch Gwilym.

The bishop disciplined Wyrriot and imprisoned Tanglwst in the episcopal castle at Lawhadden. Wyrriot rescued Tanglwst and put away his wife, who died afterwards from rumoured sorcery. Tanglwst was again imprisoned and afterwards banished.

She then hired a magical specialist in Bristol to destroy the bishop. The witch, named as Margaret Hackett, was brought to Pembrokeshire to work her magic and made two images in a place called the "Paradise Chamber".

Mr Sugget writes: "The bishop evidently survived and another, more cunning witch was hired to make a third image."

Tanglwst was then forced to flee to Bristol but was pursued by the bishop and later charged with heresy. A case from 1579 claimed a "simple maiden", Katherine ferch David Lloyd, of Meifod, was abducted and raped. It was claimed this happened after she was enticed to run away from her father's house through "love magic".

The book says: "It was graphically alleged that Katherine had been bewitched through the invocation of 'evil spirits' in a fair apple and by an enchanted and conjured powder."

Documents about the case say that Katherine had been persuaded against her better judgement to meet her abductor, John ap Gruffith.

On refusing to go away with him, she had been proffered an enchanted apple by a Margaret ferch David Wyn.

Mr Sugget writes: "No sooner had Katherine taken a few bites from the apple than she became giddy, her head began to hurt, she felt a pain in her right side and her teeth ached.

"Margaret then administered a special powder to alleviate the toothache but Katherine fell into a sweat and became agitated."

The court heard it was "probable" Katherine had colluded in her abduction, and that the claim of witchcraft was made by her father to explain her running away to protect her reputation.

The book adds: "As is often the case, an accusation of witchcraft was inseparable from troubling social relationships."

The book also describes how there were numerous techniques at the time to identify thieves and find stolen goods.

It says the use of a sieve, shears or a key and book were described in English sources from the same time.

But one case involved several suspects offered lumps of cheese which had been inscribed with charms. The unusual technique was by Jane Bulkeley of Caernarfon.

It was organised by Sir William Maurice of Clenennau, the landlord of the victim of the theft. Maurice was a justice of the peace, deputy lieutenant, and sometime sheriff of Caernarfonshire.

The book says: "His role in organising the ordeal shows how soothsayers could be respected by these gentry even though as magistrates their role was to enforce the legislation against them."

In January 1654, two musicians were returning to Carmarthenshire after spending the end of the Christmas season in Glamorgan. After nightfall one of the musicians, John Thomas, became "frightened after seeing lights and perceiving 'black things' in front of him, which he described as a man on his knees and then a dog". The fellow musician said he saw nothing.

app late tha en The pair returned home and John appeared "serious" and later "unruly", complaining that he had been frightened by the "black thing" on the "march" home and was still afraid.

wa re tim co ban cc The book states John remained ill for some time, and that he later complained he was bewitched. A Joan Roger and David John were called to court on suspicion of being witches but were later acquitted by a jury.

w | Welsh Witches: Narratives of Witchcraft from Sixteenth- and Seventeenth-century Wales, by Richard Suggett, is available through Atramentous Press.

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Publication:Western Mail (Cardiff, Wales)
Geographic Code:4EUUK
Date:Oct 31, 2018
Words:942
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