October 30, 2010

Salem Witches: Cotton Mather on How to Identify a Witch

In 1692 and 1693, witches were considered to be a very real and scary danger in the Puritan colony of Massachusetts. It was thought that witches were the cause of many sicknesses, ills and misfortunes in a time when many illnesses were misunderstood.

Fear of witches, witchcraft and being possessed by demons was very real and eventually created mass hysteria in Massachusetts towns like Salem.   

Witches in the 1600s were scarier than "pointy hat witches" are depicted today; witches typically looked normal--so it was hard to know who was a witch which led to people mistrusting their friends and neighbors. Anyone slightly abnormal, including foreigners was a candidate for witchcraft. During the Salem Witch Trials, devout Christians of high social standings were being accused of being possessed by demons which was unprecedented.

Prior to the trials it was believed that the demons could not possess those who were devoted to Christianity. This lead to a belief that the devil was getting more powerful and that no one was safe.There was a general belief that witches flew, naked on broomsticks to "witches' assemblies" or "Devil Sabbats" which were held deep in the forest and many people at the time thought they saw their neighbors flying away to them. 

Cotton Mather was a reverend and trusted writer on witchcraft and it is thought that his sermons and writings on witches helped ignite the witch hysteria during the late 1600s. Although after the trials he claimed that people could not be convicted of "spectral evidence" alone, many people were convicted one solely the claims of others.   

Cotton Mather Approved These Ways of Identifying Witches:

  • "If the Party suspected be found to have the Devil's mark ; for it is commonly thought, when the Devil makes his Covenant with them, he alwaies leaves his mark behind them, whereby he knows them for his own:a mark whereof no evident Reason in Nature can be given." 
    • Birthmarks, moles, and other skin abnormalities were considered proof of a witch. A confession and a mole were sufficient evidence to condemn a person to death. People believed that these unexplainable marks were made when the devil touched his followers in order to be able to recognize them. These marks were sometimes referred to as "witches’ teats" and it was thought that witches fed evil creatures with them. (How many people have a skin abnormality?)   
  • "If it can be proved, that the party hath entertained a Familiar Spirit, and had Conference with it, in the likeness of some visible Creatures ; here is Evidence of witchcraft."
    • Some black cats, toads, humanoid figures, spirits, certain dogs were thought to be "familiar friends" of witches. These familiars were thought to help witches carry out their curses and spell casting. Some people even thought that witches could even turn into a cat 9 times during their lifetime, creating the folklore that "cats have 9 lives." Witches were expected to feed their familiars, this could be done through their "devil's mark," or not. (How many people feed stray cats?)  
  • “By the Witches Words As when they have been heard calling on speaking to or Talking of their Familiars or when they have been heard Telling of Hurt they have done to man or beast Or when they have been heard Threatning of such Hurt Or if they have been heard Relating their Transportations.”
    • (How many people talk to their animals?)
  • “By the Witches Deeds. As when they have been seen with their Spirits, or seen secretly Feeding any of their Imps. Or, when there can be found their Pictures, Poppets, and other Hellish Compositions.”
    • (How many people own a scary doll?)
  • “By one or more Fellow- Witches, Confessing their own Witchcraft, and bearing Witness against others; if they can make good the Truth of their Witness, and give sufficient proof of it.”
    • Sufficient proof could be as simple as having a respected church member claim that they had seen the witch in question do something witch-like. (How many people have angered another human being enough that they would pretend that you are evil?)
  • “By the Witches own Confession, of Giving their Souls to ' the Devil. It is no Rare thing, for Witches to Confess.”
    • It was thought that the devil walked the forests with a book where he would collect the names of people who would sign their souls over to him. Many people did confess to being witches. It is thought that many people admitted to being witches in a hope to end their ordeal.
Cotton Mather, Wonders of the Invisible World (London: John Russell Smith, 1862), 30-32.

So how many of you would have been Puritan Witch Candidates? It seems silly now but when you read the writings during the time about witches, you can truly sense the fear that there was. I honestly admit that it scares me to read the Wonders of the Invisible World at night. :D  There are passages that allude that those who killed all of those "witches" did their duty and if they had been witches themselves they would expect their neighbors to kill them for the sake of their colony. Hysteria is fascinating as is how powerful fear can be.

I always wonder about the Puritan naming system, I thought "Cotton" was a strange name but then his father was named "Increase,"and  a 5 year old "witch" was named "Dorcas Good,"  (she claimed that a little snake would suckle blood from her finger."

October 28, 2010

Taking a Small Break:

For Halloween of course.                                     Anyone else exhausted?

October 26, 2010

My Dedication to Fall

" I cannot endure to waste anything so precious as autumnal sunshine by staying in the house."
- Nathaniel Hawthorne

I feel like we weren't given a proper autumn this year. It has been cold and rainy and wet not crisp and cool. I love being able to leave the house in just a hoodie or woolen sweater. But instead of the smoke from woodburning stoves wafting to our noses, we've had ice cold rain patting on our faces. The leaves have finally changed but there are no October skies in the background, just bleak November ones. These photos were collected on different days this October. Please enjoy a virtual fall day!  

 I hope you all don't miss out on all the fun fall things due to this strange weather. You can find some ideas for some fun fall things below:

October 23, 2010

Tin Whistle: Cockles and Mussels Sheet Music and Blank Sheet Music for Tin Whistle

 I've been in the mood to learn "Cockles and Mussels" on the tin whistle. It's really a simple but pretty song. "Cockles and Mussels" (Molly Malone,) is a traditional and well known Irish song. It is widely accepted as the nonofficial song of Dublin. It's about a fishmonger in Dublin. You can here a MIDI of the song here. 

Not much is known about the origins of the song or if Molly Malone was a real person; however, there is a statue in Dublin commemorating "her."  The song was very popular at Harvard in the 1860s.

There are a lot of great renditions of this song out there. I recommend these:

Cockles and Mussels by ichingiching. 
Molly Malone by Fiffin Market/ Lexington Field. This is a pop rendition.
Molly Malone by Four Celtic Voices. This is a really pretty version played on the harp.

It is surprising that the lyrics to this song have changed very little throughout the years. Many traditional songs change with each generation.
I wrote out the tin whistle fingerings for beginners or anyone who doesn't like to read music. A plus sign next to a fingering means to play that note in the higher octave (use more air.)

I made some blank tin whistle (fife/Irish Flue/ ect.) sheet music for beginners or anyone who can't read music yet to use. It is also good for writing down sequences of notes you like while fooling around with the whistle.

October 20, 2010

Pennsylvania Tea Cake Recipe from 1870

Last weekend I went to a really fun reeactment where I planned to have a little tea party. When I got there; however, there were very few ladies in the regiment we attached to. The gentlemen and ladies present did enjoy the dainties and we had a lot of fun anyway.

The Pennsylvania Tea Cake is a post-war recipe but is very similar to pre-war recipes. It sounded unusual so I was very excited to see what the finished product would taste like.

My grandmother and I baked the night before the event so I would not have to do any baking once I got there I love baking over the fire, but I was making a lot of things so it wouldn't be practical. My grandmother did me the favor of baking this bread while I baked scones. As she was baking, she kept asking "Does it look all right?"

It ended up tasting and looking really good! 

Pennsylvania Tea Cake 1870


-          4  Egg Yolks
-          2  Whole Eggs
-          1 Tbs Vinegar
-          1 tsp Baking Soda
-          1 ½ cups Sugar
-          ½ pound Butter, creamed
-          Sifted Flour

Modern Instructions:

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.  Break eggs into a small bowl and beat. Dissolve Baking Powder in the vinegar; add the vinegar mixture into the beaten eggs.  Put Sugar into a medium-sized bowl; make a divot in the center of the sugar.  Pour the Egg mixture into the sugar and stir with a wooden spoon until well blended. Soften the butter and cream into the batter.  Stir in enough Sifted Flour until it forms a thick batter.  Bake in a buttered 8-inch cake pan for 35- 40 minutes. (Alternatively, you can add enough flour to make dough, roll it out on a floured surface and cut out round biscuits with a cookie cutter to stay closer to the original recipe.) 

Hope you enjoy! The cake really is good. I was afraid to serve something I had never tried baking before but it turned out really moist and yummy.

October 12, 2010

The Russell Cemetery in Ridley Creek State Park

This is the long awaited post that I've had a lot of requests for ever since this post here: Trip to Ridley Creek State Park. The Russell Cemetery is a small family plot that was used from 1820 to 1861.

The Cemetery is in the state park and talked about frequently, especially around Halloween. 
I have heard a lot of stories of people looking for it but very few find it. It is nestled in a copse of trees at the very top of a grand hill, known as Hunting Hill which is still used by archery hunters today.

There is a lot of local folklore about the cemetery. To quote my previous post on the subject:"...one occupant ... Jesse Russell, a fox hunter, died on the 12th of September in1820 when he was 42 years old. It is said that he was buried standing up so as to better hear his hunting hounds after death."

The Russell family lived along Gradyville Road which runs through the park and I believe that the house is still standing.

The cemetery is far from the regular paths and is in the hunting area, so I wouldn't recommend going during hunting season, like I did. It's kind of a neat little cemetery and you wouldn't expect a cemetery to be so far removed from everything.

I'm not going to give directions to it, not only because it's a lot of fun to find it yourself and I'd hate to ruin that journey for anyone but also because it is a cemetery and I'd hate for anyone to disrespect or ruin it. It is a very tranquil place.
 A book excerpt about the family buried in this cemetery:
 To see the list of the 6 family members buried in this cemetery click here: Delaware County PA History.

October 8, 2010

The Evolution of Shortbread: Shortbread Recipes from the 1700s- 1900s.

 Everybody loves shortbread!
Shortbread is a yummy, plain, butter cookie, but it wasn't always so. Many modern recipes only use three ingredients: flour, butter and sugar. But historically, shortbread used to include dried fruits, nuts and even caraway seeds!

Shortbread can be served with tea or coffee and are the basis for a lot of modern-day treats such as Girl Scout Cookies."Petticoat Tails" were a shortbread treat, popularly served with tea in the 1850s. Petticoat tails are made by making a round shortbread in a tin, cutting out a hole in the center, and cutting the remaining shortbread into triangles.

I have made modernized instructions for this recipe at the bottom of this post. It mentions using a "mutchkin" of barm. A mutchkin is 1/4 an English pint. Barm is the froth from the top of beer. It is used in the recipe as a leavening agent. Today shortbread is made without any leavening. I was going to wait until I made some of these recipes before I wrote this post but other people might save me the work and make some of these for me. :D

I tried to find a way to put the modern recipe on here. This isn't very clear but it's the best I could do. If you would like a cleaner copy, I will gladly e-mail it to you in PDF or as a Word Document. It's neat to see how the ingredients were slowly whittled down through the years. I am very excited to make some period shortbread, when I do, I will make sure to include photos and a critique.

October 5, 2010

Giveaway Extended until October 13th!

I'm going to extend the giveaway due to everyone here being really, really busy so don't miss out! Go here to see the original rules.

October 1, 2010

Glengarry Cap Crochet Pattern from Godey's Lady's Book

Glengarry caps (or Glengarry Bonnets,) have been thought to have been worn by the Scottish military since 1794. In the mid-1800s, the hat was adopted by men and young boys in England.  By the time of the American Civil War, it was a popular civilian hat for men, children and ladies, copied from the 1850s English fashions.

During the 1860s the fashion caps were commonly made out of velvet or stiff cloth. Checked or contrasting colored solid bands were common. They were sometimes decorated with feathers and cockades. You can learn to make very beautiful cockades at American Duchess. When made correctly, the cap should have a dip in the middle of the top.

This crochet pattern from Godey's Lady's Book (1861) was previously published in London in 1853.

If I ever learn to crochet, this looks like such a cute hat to make. It looks like it might be a good started project after I practice "granny squares." Crochet is still a complete mystery to me, knitting makes perfect sense. Has anyone ever made this hat? I'd love to see what it looks like all finished. I love green, I think this would look so cute in the winter. I love the look of crochet beanies that people wear to school, this is like a quirky twist.

I've been itching to finish knitting my sontag but I can't bring myself to pay the $4.00 shipping on one ball of yarn so I have to put it on hold. The ladies over at The Lady's Guide for Re-enactresses, suggest recycling sweaters for inexpensive yarn. I love that you get cheap yarn and recycle at the same time. Look at this pretty sontag they made out of thrifted yarn! The nice thing is you can read the tags and find 100% wool yarn. How cool. So, all of you crocheters, is this hat easy enough for a beginner?

**Please remember to enter my contest, the drawing will be held on October 5th!**

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