6. The Mark
The Witches' Mark, or Devil's Mark, as it is indifferently called, is one of the most important points in the indentification of a witch, as the infliction of it was often the final rite in the admission ceremonies. The fact that any person bore such a mark was taken as incontrovertible proof that the bearer was a witch.
There were two kinds of marks, which should be carefully differentiated, one of which was clearly natural, the other probably artificial. Both were said to be insensible to pain and not to bleed when pricked or pierced. Local anaesthesia is vouched for in much of the evidence, which suggests that there is a substratum of truth in the statements, but I can at present offer no solution of this problem.
The writers on witchcraft, particularly the legal authorities, recognize the value of the Mark as proof of witchcraft, and some differentiate between the two forms; the witches themselves made a distinction between the two, the natural being considered inferior to the artificial.
Reginald Scot in 1584 summarizes the evidence in a few words: 'The Diuell giveth to euerie nouice a marke, either with his teeth or with his clawes.' The Lawes against Witches and Conivration, published 'by authority' in 1645, state that 'their said Familiar hath some big or little Teat upon their body, wher he sucketh them: and besides their sucking, the Devil leaveth other markes upon their bodies, sometimes like a Blew-spot, or Red-spot like a flea-biting'. Sir George Mackenzie, the famous Scotch lawyer, describing in 1699 what did and did not legally constitute a witch, says:
'The Devils Mark useth to be a great Article with us, but it is not per se found relevant, except it be confest by them, that they got that Mark with their own consent; quo caso, it is equivalent to a Paction. This Mark is given to them, as is alledg'd, by a Nip in any part of the Body, and it is blew. Delrio calls it Stigma, or Character, and alledges that it is sometimes like the impression of a Hare's foot, or the Foot of a Rat or Spider.'
- Scot, Bk. III, p. 43; see also Danaeus, ch. iii.
- Mackenzie, title x, p. 48.