Pricking


Pricking

"This article is about the 16th and 17th century practice of pricking witches. For other uses of the word, see prick."

During the height of the witch trials of the 16th and 17th centuries, common belief held that a witch could be discovered through the process of pricking their skin with needles, pins and bodkins - daggerlike instruments for drawing ribbons through hems or punching holes in cloth.

This practice derived from the belief that all witches and sorcerers bore a witch's mark that would not feel pain or bleed when pricked. The mark alone was not enough to convict a person, but did add to the evidence. Pricking was common practice throughout Europe, but was most prevalent in England and Scotland.

Professional witch finders earned a good living from unmasking witches, travelling from town to town to perform their services. Hollow wooden handles and retractable points have been saved from these finders, which would give the appearance of an accused witch's flesh being penetrated to the hilt without mark, blood, or pain. Other specially designed needles have been found with a sharp end and a blunt end. Through sleight of hand, the sharp end could be used on a witch's mark while the blunt end would be used on "normal" flesh, drawing blood and causing pain, a process which appeared to mount further evidence against the accused.

Pricker

From the medieval days when a person took a needle and tried to find a witch's mark (an area of skin that wouldn't bleed) thus proving a person was a witch. The pricker was paid for their work and would often prick a person hundreds of times to find a witch's mark. Since successful results paid better than failures, some pricker tools contained blood that could be released on demand to insure the "guilty" did not elude justice.

ee also

* Witches' mark
* Witch-hunt

Bibliographic Sources

* Brian P. Levack, The Witch-Hunt in Early Modern Europe (2nd edn., 1995)
* Gary K. Waite, Heresy, Magic, and Witchcraft in Early Modern Europe (2003)
* Robert W. Thurston, The Witch Hunts: A History of the Witch Persecutions in Europe and North America, 2nd ed. (2007)
* Joseph Klaits, Servants of Satan: the Age of the Witch Hunts (1985)
* Geoffrey R. Quaife, Godly Zeal and Furious Rage: the Witch in Early Modern Europe (1987)


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Look at other dictionaries:

  • Pricking — Prick ing, n. 1. The act of piercing or puncturing with a sharp point. There is that speaketh like the prickings of a sword. Prov. xii. 18 [1583]. [1913 Webster] 2. (Far.) (a) The driving of a nail into a horse s foot so as to produce lameness.… …   The Collaborative International Dictionary of English

  • Pricking-up — Prick ing up, n. (Arch.) The first coating of plaster in work of three coats upon laths. Its surface is scratched once to form a better key for the next coat. In the United States called {scratch coat}. Brande & C. [1913 Webster] …   The Collaborative International Dictionary of English

  • pricking — index bitter (penetrating) Burton s Legal Thesaurus. William C. Burton. 2006 …   Law dictionary

  • pricking — [prikiŋ] n. 1. the act or process of one that pricks 2. a prickly feeling …   English World dictionary

  • Pricking — Prick Prick, v. t. [imp. & p. p. {Pricked}; p. pr. & vb. n. {Pricking}.] [AS. prician; akin to LG. pricken, D. prikken, Dan. prikke, Sw. pricka. See {Prick}, n., and cf. {Prink}, {Prig}.] 1. To pierce slightly with a sharp pointed instrument or… …   The Collaborative International Dictionary of English

  • pricking — the process of piercing the swimbladders of deep water fish, especially cod, before placing the fish in the well …   Dictionary of ichthyology

  • pricking — /prik ing/, n. 1. the act of a person or thing that pricks. 2. a prickly or smarting sensation. [bef. 1000; ME; OE pricung; see PRICK, ING1] * * * …   Universalium

  • pricking — n. act of making small holes, act of piercing prɪk n. stab, puncture; ache, pain; penis (Slang) v. stab with a sharp object; perforate, pierce …   English contemporary dictionary

  • pricking — noun the act of puncturing with a small point he gave the balloon a small prick • Syn: ↑prick • Derivationally related forms: ↑prick, ↑prick (for: ↑prick) • …   Useful english dictionary

  • pricking-up — | ̷ ̷ ̷ ̷| ̷ ̷ noun ( s) : scratch coat …   Useful english dictionary