Brujo. Hexe. Sorcerer. Maleficus. Witch. In any language, it is evocative, powerful, and often misunderstood, and those who wear the mantle proudly or by false accusation, as healers or corruptors, hold special places in the history of the world. At times, they have, for good or bad, changed the course of that history. Take a look at the list below for ten of the most famous historical witches and read their stories!
The most famous of all the Cornish Witches, Tamsin Blight was born at the end of the 18th Century. By 1830, she was openly practicing her arts as a conjuring woman and healer. Before long, her reputation spread throughout the countryside. She was regularly sought out to treat sickly animals and by young women who were concerned about their futures. More importantly, Blight was renowned for getting positive results.
It was around the same time that she married James Thomas, a man with his own reputation for the conjuring arts. However, it was rumored that their relationship finally ended when Thomas expressed his sexual interest in another man. The man reported him to the magistrates and Thomas fled the county to avoid arrest and public humiliation.
Blight publicly distanced herself from Thomas and focused on her conjuring work for the rest of her days. Her fame was such that folk tales evolved around her practice. Perhaps the most famous was “The Ghost of Stythians” in which Tamsin aka Tammy conjures the spirit of a dead woman so that one of her living relatives could ask where the money was located that she supposedly left him. You can read the story in its entirety here.
In Scotland, there lived a midwife and healer by the name of Agnes Sampson. And though she treated many of the locals for their day to day ailments, she was never what you might consider famous. That is until 1590 when King James VI had married Anne of Denmark and her ship was besieged by storms as she made the trek to the British Isles. Several women were accused and prosecuted in Copenhagen as having conjured the storms, and everything would have died down then, had James VI’s own ships not been attacked by those same storms.
He was determined that he would seek out the Scottish witches who helped their colleagues in Denmark in an attempt to kill both he and his new queen. James spend a great deal of time tracking down and accusing women of these crimes, most of whom confessed after hours and days of torture. It was during one of these “interrogations” that Geillis Duncan named Agnes Sampson.
Sampson was put to the test during her interrogations. She denied over and over her complicity in the dark arts, and still the torture continued. They shaved off every hair on her body and searched for marks on her body that would show her pact with the Devil. Having found one, Sampson finally “confessed”. She was taken to the scaffold where she was strangled to death and then burned.
It is said that to this day the ghost of “Old Bald Agnes” still haunts the halls of Holyrood Palace.