Storm Raising

Storm Raising

(religion, spiritualism, and occult)

When King James I of England sailed to Denmark to marry his fifteen-year-old queen, Anne, his ship was badly tossed about in what seemed to be an unnatural storm. One of the accused North Berwick witches, Agnes Sampson, admitted to James that her coven had caused the storm. She said that they had taken a cat, christened it, and then fastened a human limb—taken from a grave—to each of its paws and tossed it into the sea. This had caused the great storm that had almost sunk the king's ship.

That witches could raise storms was a long-held folkloric belief. By the thirteenth century it was totally accepted as true. As early as 700 CE Archbishop Theodore, in his Liber Poenitentialis, ordered five years penance, with at least one year on nothing but bread and water, for raising storms.

In his Demonolatreiae (1595), Nicholas Remy, the French demonologist, claimed that witches had told him how they would beat pond water with a stick in order to bring rain. They said that the water would rise to form clouds that could then be directed to make rain and hail. Other methods of bringing rain included urinating into a hole in the ground and stirring the mixture with a stick, casting a flint stone over the left shoulder toward the west, shaking a wet broom, boiling hog bristles, and burying sage until it was rotten.

At the trial of Mary Hicks at Huntingdon in 1716, evidence purportedly showed that the accused removed her stockings and made a lather with soap, thus producing a storm in which ships were lost at sea. In 1645 Matthew Hopkins, the self-styled "Witch Finder General," tortured and forced a confession from the seventy-year-old pastor of Bradeston, the Reverend John Lowes, accused of causing a tempest to sink a ship off Norwich, drowning fourteen sailors.

Many, if not most, of these tales and confessions of storm-raising were tortureinduced and/or obvious flights of fancy on the part of the narrator.

The Witch Book: The Encyclopedia of Witchcraft, Wicca, and Neo-paganism © 2002 Visible Ink Press®. All rights reserved.