This article came from the Chronicle published November 1986. Page 116.





In 1657 it was claimed that an old woman had offered a magic apple to a young boy in Yeovil who, despite having been warned, took a bite of it, whereupon ‘he rose in the air and flew about 300 yards’ according to evidence given at the old woman’s trial. She was found guilty of witchcraft and hanged at Chard in 1658.

As recent as June 1892 the coroner at an inquest on a young woman at Lufton, referred to the extraordinary belief in witchcraft which still existed. After the medical man who had attended the girl for some time had stated that there was no hope of saving her life, the parents considered she had been overlooked, or suffering from a spell or bad wish, and they consulted a ‘quack’ with the object of getting the spell removed.

The person they consulted, after referring to an almanac, informed them no one could overlook her as she was a first-born child, but he went to their house and stayed from Thursday evening to Saturday morning. On the Friday he made some herb tea in a black bottle, which was given to the girl.

The father also consulted another ‘wise man’, regarding the bad wish supposed to have been cast upon his daughter.

In the course of his summing up, the coroner remarked that one of the reasons why that enquiry had been held up was because the parents thought that the deceased had been overlooked and had consulted the ‘quack’ with a view to removing the spell. In the nineteenth century, he said, with all the educational advantages then available, the belief in witchcraft seemed more extensive than he could credit. He went on to remark that there was no doubt whatever such superstitions were very largely believed in by the country people in this county, but it was comparatively seldom they got brought before the public as they had been in this case.

That such superstitious beliefs were still held well into the present century, is borne out by the writer’s recollection of a Devonshire woman, then living in Taunton, before the 1939-45 war, in referring to a somewhat quarrelsome and trouble-making neighbour, said ‘Her’ve got the evil eye, her have! ‘