A Charm at Easton Royal, Helen Rogers


In 1600, John Stag of Easton Royal was tried in the ecclesiastical courts on a charge of witchcraft, brought by Michael Clark, one of the churchwardens. He had cast a spell to prevent the consequences on a local man who believed that he had been bitten by a mad dog.

Richard Brown, aged 38, who was now curate of Semington, but was before curate of Easton, deposed that about six years past

‘one William Stag came unto this deponent’s chamber and told this deponent that his said father did desire him that he would let him have a little paper and inck to write ii or iii words which this deponent granting him and standing by him and looking over his shoulder while he wrote and perceavinge Arabo Arabus Adhibo Adhibus Harpulus pro thrice written asked the said William wherefore he wrote the same whereto he held it was to give unto … one Whiteharte of Mylton [Milton Lilborne] that was bitten with a mad dog whereupon this deponent told him that yt was contrary to the Statutes of the Realm and that it was a manner of witchcraft the said William replying that he knew not the meaning thereof but said he his father … doth use to give the like unto divers kind of cattle but he never knew any harme to come thereby. And … the said Stag … hath used the same or such like charme for dogges piges and other cattle giving the same unto them in a peece of cheese or oats whereupon this deponent gave knowledge thereof unto the then Churchwardens of Eston namely George Goodall and Michael Clark … and wished them to present the same at the Visitation … which was shortly after’.

Other deponents testified that John Stag had been successful in his treatment. One William Pike affirmed that ‘these words viz Arabo etc or suchlike was his charme’ and was especially effective on anything that was bitten with a mad dog, ‘having been bitten with a mad dog have recovered and done well and such as he hath not given the same but hath perished and died’. ‘What harme the same hath done he … knoweth not but Stag hath done good’.

The case had been brought up in the lord’s court [the Earl of Hertford] when all the jury, except Clark, refused to present Stag upon suspicion of witchcraft. A deponent, William Wise, said that Clark was activated by ‘mere malice and hatred towards the said Stag and not otherwise’. Perhaps it was because, as William Pike affirmed, that ‘ he hath herd … Clark say that … Stag did give the said charme or the like unto his … pigs and that they pined away after and died’. (WSA, D1/42/18)