“Is that witchcraft ? Some Scripture man hath tolde you so. Did the divell teach it ? Nay, the good woman at R. H. taught it my husband: she doth more good in one yeere then all these Scripture men will doe so long as they live.”
The above quote is from a character – the Good Wife R – in “A Dialogue Concerning Witches & Witchcrafts” by George Gifford (or Giffard) which was first published in 1593. The copy I found available to read for free online was published in 1842, and was a re-print of the second edition published in 1603.
This short book is good for giving an overview of the beliefs ordinary people had about folk magic vs the beliefs that the authorities and elites had about it. Gifford was a Puritan Minister and a Cambridge University graduate, so it’s not surprising he has one of his main characters convince others to give up their beliefs that folk magic is a gift from God while witchcraft comes from the Devil. This character persuades them that all magical practices are related to the Devil, including those that appear to be good, and that they should rely only on God for protection from evil as only he has power over everything, even the Devil. However, as we can see from the quote above not everyone is convinced – when asked where she thought a particular cunning woman learned her craft from, a local woman says: “It is a gift which God hath given her. I thinke the Holy Spirit of God doth teach her”.
Although this book is concerning the situation in England during the Witch Trials of the Early Modern Period, there are many similarities to the divide in thinking between the authorities/elites and the common people in Scotland at that time too, so still a useful read.
📖 Read or download the text from archive.org here.
📜 Some additional info on Gifford here.
📸 Featured Photo credit: Pexel