In 1563, Queen Elizabeth passed an act against witchcraft. It introduced a year’s imprisonment and public ridicule in the stocks for anyone using witchcraft to cause harm – for example to crops, or cattle. Anyone using witchcraft to commit murder would be executed.
By the end of Elizabeth’s reign the idea of witches working in league with a familiar spirit began to take root. The Devil was thought to be able to manifest himself in many different forms such as a dog, cat or owl.
Because of this, every creature became suspect as potentially evil. In Gifford’s Dialogue of 1593, the farmer says:
“When I go but into my closes (gardens) I am afraid, for I see now and then a hare, which my conscience giveth me is a witch, or some witch’s spirit – she stareth so upon me. And sometime I see any ugly weasel run through my yard and there is a foul great cat sometimes in my barn, which I have no liking unto.”
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