Agnes Waterhouse used to be a pseudo I used online several years ago, this was also my former pen name. Not once has anyone pointed out that this is the name of the first witch killed for allegedly being in league with the Devil.
In 1566 England, Agnes Waterhouse (1503-1566) also known as Moher Waterhouse, was the first witch executed for her dealings in the magical arts and also for keeping company with Satan. Mother Waterhouse was accused with two other witches, one being her 18 year old daughter, Joan Waterhouse, the other being Elizabeth Francis. All three women were from the same village, Hatfield Peverell. Mother Waterhouse confessed to being a witch and her familiar was her cat who at times turned into a toad. The familiar’s name was Satan, in the records of her case it is spelled Sathan. The familiar was said to have originally belonged to Elizabeth Francis. Agnes was brought to trial in Chelmsford, Essex, England and she was charged for using witchcraft to cause illness to a Willian Fynne, who died a year prior to her trial, November 1, 1565. She was also charged for bringing death to her husband through means of sorcery. Strangely, her daughter, Joan Waterhouse, had been accused of the same black magick crimes but in the end, was not found guilty. Joan Waterhouse’s testimony however, did help to convict her mother along with Elizabeth Francis. Agnes Waterhouse died by hanging.
Information from the trail records:
These incomplete records of the three women’s testimonies were written by a John Philips. Due to its peculiar significance, this case was deemed to be of great importance and therefore the queen’s attorney Sir Gilbert Gerard along with the queen’s justice of the bench, John Southcote, were present. The examiner was non other than the reverend Thomas Cole and a Sir John Fortescue, the seventh Chancellor of the Exchequer (1509-1603).
Elizabeth Francis was the first to be examined. She confessed to be the possessor of the familiar named Sathan whom she claimed, had received from her grandmother, Mother Eve of Hatfield Peverell. Elizabeth claimed that at the age of twelve is when her grandmother taught her witchcraft. Satan was said to be a small white spotted cat, who had been in Elizabeth Francis’s care for about 16 years before she gave him over to Agnes Waterhouse. According to Elizabeth’s statement. her familiar would do anything for her in exchange for a drop of her blood. It would speak to her in a hollowed voice and instructed her in the way of plants and other natural magicks. She admitted to stealing sheep and also to killing of a wealthy man named Andrew Byles, who refused to marry her after getting her pregnant. Her cat familiar “Sathan” helped her to rid of the unwanted pregnancy by instructing her on which herbs to drink so to terminate it. Elizabeth also admitted that in later years she did marry but became unhappy with the marriage so instructed the cat to kill her 6 month old child and make her husband lame and so it was done. Elizabeth Francis’s confessions made her the first to be accused but she called out Agnes Waterhouse on worst crimes making her own sentence lighter. This did not save Elizabeth Francis though, and in the end, 13 years after the hanging of Agnes Waterhouse, Elizabeth met her fate and also was hanged. What is extremely surprising is that several years later in 1579, a pamphlet was found, stating that Elizabeth and Agnes Waterhouse were sisters.
An exchange for cake, was the reason Elizabeth Francis gave when asked why she had given her cat familiar to Agnes Waterhouse. She reported that it was she who taught Agnes how to use witchcraft and work with the cat. It was the same witchcraft instructed to her by her grandmother Mother Eve. She told Agnes that she must call the cat Sathan and give an offering of a drop of her own blood with some milk to him, in exchange for doing her bidding or whenever he demanded it.
Agnes Waterhouse testified that she tested the cat by having it kill one of her own pigs, when she seen what the cat could do she instructed it to kill the cattle and geese of her neighbors whom she did not like. She claimed to have kept it in a pot lined with wool until one day she wanted to repurpose the wool so removed the cat from the pot and it turned itself into a toad. Agnes denied responsibility for any killing by witchcraft and placed all the blame upon her familiar.
Joan Waterhouse, daughter of Agnes Waterhouse, in her confession, stated that once while her mother was away, that she convinced the cat to take revenge upon a neighbor’s child for refusing her some bread and cheese. In its hollowed voice the cat agreed but only if she would surrender her soul to it, and she did. It is recorded that the cat turned into a dog with horns and haunted the girl. Because Joan admitted that she only used the service of the cat that one time with no deaths involved, this helped to not only condemn the other two women but also to free her.
The twelve year old, neighbor child in question, Agnes Brown was brought in for questioning, to prove or disprove Joan’s story. Her confession was the chef evidence held against Agnes Waterhouse. In her testimony, Agnes Brown described the demon that haunted her as being a black dog with horns and a face like an ape. She said it had a short tail with a chain around it’s neck that had a silver whistle hanging from it. She claimed that the demon dog would return time and again making demands from her but she would refuse. The last time it came to her it had a knife and threatened to kill her by thrusting the knife into her heart. What sealed Agnes Waterhouse’s fate was when the girl stated that she asked the dog who it’s dame was (it’s mistress) and he happily turned it’s head towards the house of Agnes Waterhouse.
Agnes Waterhouse was executed by hanging on July 29th, 1566. It is recorded that on the day of her execution that she begged God’s forgiveness which stirred up the question of her church habits. Agnes claimed to have prayed often by only in Latin because the cat forbid her to pray in English.
*This tidbit of history, brought about the first confessions of witchcraft by those being accused which then followed the first executions. in the name of witchcraft and the Devil This was the very first time anything of Satan and demons had been mentioned by those accused of cohorting with them.
What makes this case highly interesting is the fact that the women involved gave their testimonies willingly. not shy in admitting to their witchcraft. They seemed to be rather proud of it being a tradition handed down by their grandmother or grandmother figure. Agnes Waterhouse only denied responsibility for murder and placed all blame upon her trusted familiar. The cat, believed to be a demon, had been recorded within the records of this trail, to have sadly been put to death.
There is much secrecy found within this historical story. Much to read between the lines. For some quick examples: Cats, toads and black dogs all have a long history in English folklore and each of these animals link to witchcraft and Satan. The cat named Sathan, is said to be a demon, he has a hollow (hoarse) voice and is associated with shapeshifting at will into a toad. The demon Ba’el holds these properties and according to some demonic hierarchies., he is said to reign first under Lucifer/Satan. It could very well be that this cat familiar is the demon Ba’el or one of the lower level demons from the legions he rules over. Ba’el is often associated with being the demon familiar or patron demon of witches, according to some traditional witchcraft denominations. Another bit of interesting information to ponder over, is the fact that the knowledge of working witchcraft and making use of a familiar, is handed down by the grandmother, Mother Eve. You have to question, if Mother Eve really was a blood relative to the sisters, who handed down this information to one of her grandchildren who then passed it on to the other sister. But then why did Agnes Waterhouse not know of this grandmother witch and her demonic familiar before her sister Elizabeth taught her the ways of the craft? It could very well be that Mother Eve was a high priestess of some sort who Elizabeth was an apprentice of. Or was Elizabeth part of what now-a-days would be termed as being a witch coven? Either way there is much to ponder here, a lot found within these confessions go deeper than something which would have been blurted out under torture. In fact there was not much torture if any during this case. There is much which we can associate herein with witchcraft, the demons and Satan from a historical perspective.
Copyright Kindra Ravenmoon