Devil's Mark


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Devil's Mark

(religion, spiritualism, and occult)

The persecutors of witches in the Middle Ages claimed that the devil marked his subjects with a special mark. These marks were always on parts of the body where they would be hidden and not normally be noticed. Under the armpit was one such place, as was on the genitals or under a woman's breast. These were places where the inquisitors would diligently search, stripping the accused and shaving all bodily hair, usually in front of a crowd of people.

The mark was supposed to be insensitive since it was caused by the devil's touch, so bodkins, or Witch prickers, were employed to stick the accused. Birthmarks, scars, warts, moles, blemishes, even hemorrhoids—all were taken to be marks put there by the devil. If the unfortunate also happened to have a supernumerary nipple, it was taken as a sure sign that a devil's familiar, or imp, was being suckled there. Since a large percentage of the population has one or more natural blemishes of this sort, it was not difficult for the persecutors to find confirmation that an accused was a subject of the devil.

The Italian monk Francesco Mara Guazzo, in Compendium Maleficarum (1608),

reported: At Brindisi in November 1590, when Claudia Bogarta was about to be tortured, she was closely shaved, as the custom is, and so a scar was exposed on the top of her bare brow. The Inquisitor then suspecting the truth, namely, that it was a mark made by the Devil's claw, which had before been hidden by her hair, ordered a pin to be thrust deep into it; and when this was done she neither felt any pain, nor did so much as a drop of blood come from the wound. Yet she persisted in denying the truth, saying that her insensitiveness was caused by an old blow from a stone.

Later on, under torture, she broke down and confessed to "abominable crimes."