I should probably state here that I am not suggesting that actual Witchcraft or Witches had anything at all to do with interracial sex with negroes. I'm merely stating that it is possible that in a number of cases women were convicted and executed for being "Witches" when in fact they weren't Witches at all, but were White women who disregarded social convention and had affairs with Black men - something that was not itself an actual crime, but in order to punish these women for breaking the cultural taboo against interracial sex, they were accused of being Witches and having relations with the Devil - which at that time was a crime punishable by death.
Temptation on the Mount, painted circa 1311, shows the devil as a black man
The Witch hunt hysteria that swept through much of Europe beginning in the Middle Ages seemed to have reached a fevered pitch during the Renaissance, particularly during the period of religious upheaval brought about by the Protestant Reformation in the 1600's. This was also a time when negroes, who had been imported into Europe as servants since the Middle Ages, began to be seen more and more frequently as Spanish, Portuguese, English and Dutch traders became involved with the African slave trade, supplying negro slaves to the plantations in the New World colonies, but also importing them as domestic servants in the households of European gentry.
A Knight With Two Pages, painted by Paris Bordone (1500-1571)
Since the vast majority of such Africans practiced their own pre-Christian tribal religions that were native to their culture, which often involved the practice of magical rites and rituals; such beliefs would have accompanied their introduction into European society and they may have revealed these to members of the White peasant-class, with whom the negro servants would have had the closest association, as many European peasants were employed in servile positions themselves.
Two Peasant Boys and a Negro Boy by Bartolome Esteban Murillo, painted in 1660
The 1664 confession of Isobel Gowdie, a Scottish woman, provides what must be the most detailed description of her dealings with "the devil", who she describes as "a great, black, rough man":
As I was going between the towns of Drumdewin and the Headis, the Devil met with me, and there I covenanted with him, and promised to meet him, in the night time, in the Church of Aulderne ; which I did. He stood in the Readers desk, and an black book in his hand; where I stood before him, and renounced Jesus Christ and my baptism; and all between the sole of my foot and the crown of my head, I gave freely up and over to the Devil. Margaret Brodie, in Aulderne, held me up to the Devil, until he re-baptized me, and marked me in the shoulder, and with his mouth sucked out my blood at that place, and spat it in his hand, and sprinkling it upon my head and face, he said, ' I baptize ye, Janet, to my self, in my own name!' Within a while thereafter we all removed. And within few days he came to me, in the New Wards of Inshoch, and there had carnal copulation with me. He was a very great black rough man. He will lie all heavy upon us, when he has carnal dealing with us, like an malt-sack. His members are exceedingly great and long; no mans members are so long and big as they are. He would be amongst us like a wild horse amongst mares. He would lie with us in presence of all the multitude; neither had we nor he any kind of shame; but especially he hes no shame with him at all. He wold lye and have carnal dealing with all, at every time, as he pleased. He would have carnal dealing with us in the shape of a deer or any other shape that he would be in. We would never refuse him. He wold come to my house-top in the shape of a crow, or like a deer, or in any other shape, now and then. I would know his voice, at the first hearing of it, and would go forth to him and have carnal copulation with him. The youngest and lustiest women will have very great pleasure in their carnal copulation with him, yea much more than with their own husbands; and they will haw a exceeding great desire of it with him, as much as he can have to them, and more; and never think shame of it. He is abler for us that way than any man can be (Alas! that I should compare him to any man!) only he was heavy like a malt-sack; a huge nature, very cold, as ice.
In the 1591 trial of Barbara Napier, one of a number of women arrested and accused of being Witches in North Berwick, Scotland, the "devil" was described in a similar manner:
In her 1662 confession, a Scottish Witch named Marie Lamont stated:"The Devil started up in the pulpit, like a large, black man, with a black beard sticking out like a goat's beard; and a high-ribbed nose falling down sharp like the beak of a hawk"
The trial record of Annabel Stuart, one of several members of a family in Paisley, Scotland, accused in 1677 of being Witches, contains a strikingly similar description:"The Devil came to Katherine Scott's house in the midst of the night, he was in the likeness of a large black man, and sang to them and they danced. He gave them wine to drink and wheat bread to eat and they were all very merry."
Among the various trial records are confessions made by alleged Witches that when their coven met, everyone had to bow down and kiss the "Devil" on his buttocks (irrespective of their gender).As first of Annabel Stuart of the age of fourteen years or thereby, who declared that she was brought in the presence of the justices for the crime of Witchcraft; and declared that on harvest last, the Devil in the shape of a black man came to her mother's house, and required the declarant to give herself up to him; and that the Devil promised her that she should not want anything that was good.
Declares that she being enticed by her mother, Janet Mathie, and Bessie Weir who was officer to their several meetings, she put her hand to the crown of her head, and the other to the sole of her foot, and did give herself to the Devil.
Declares that her mother promised her a new coat for her doing of it. Declares that her spirit's name is Enippa, and that the Devil took her by the hand and nipped her arm, which continued to be sore for half an hour.
Declares that the black man, Janet Mathie, the declarant's mother (whose spirit's name was Landlady), Bessie Weir, whose spirit's name is Sopha, Margaret Craig, whose spirit's name is Rigerum, and Margaret Jackson, whose spirit's name is Locas, were all present....Declares that the black man's name is Ejoall.
In her last confession, the Scottish Witch, Isobel Gowdie, offers a vivid description of the sort of activity that often occurred when her coven met, some of which verges on BDSM type behavior:
When we are at meat, or in any other place whatever, the Maiden of each Coven sits above the rest, next to the Devil; and she serves the Devil, for all the old people that he cares not for, and are weak and unfit for him. He will be with her and us all like a wild horse after mares; and sometimes a man, but very willful in carnal copulation at all times; and they even so as willful and desirous of him. Sometimes, among ourselves, we would be calling him "Black John" or the like, and he would know it, and hear us well enough; and he even then would come to us, and say, "I know well enough what ye were saying of me!" And then he would beat and buffet us very sore. We would be beaten if we were absent any time, or neglected anything that would be appointed to be done. Alexander Elder, in Earlseat, would be very often beaten. He is but soft, and could never defend himself in the least, but would grieve and cry, when he would be scourging him. But Margret Wilson, in Aulderne, would defend herself finely, and cast up her hands to keep the strokes off from her; and Bessie Wilson would speak crustily with her tongue, and would be belling again to him stoutly. He would be beating and scourging us all up and down with [wool] cards and other sharp scourges, like naked gouges; and we would be still crying, "Pity! pity! Mercy! mercy, our Lord!" But he would have neither pity nor mercy. When he would be angry at us, he would grin at us like a dog, as if he would swallow us up. Sometimes he would be like a steer, a bull, a deer, a roe, or a dog, etc., and have dealing with us ; and he would hold up his tail until we would kiss his ass. And at each time, when we would meet with him, we behoove to rise and make our curtsey; and we would say, "Ye are welcome our Lord!" and "How do ye, my Lord!" etc.
A period illustration of the "Devil" giving a Witch her familiar spirit, from "A Complete History of Magick, Sorcery, and Witchcraft" by E.Curil J. Pemberton and W. Taylor, 1715-16
If White women were in fact having clandestine trysts with Black men in villages across medieval and Renaissance Europe, certainly the accusation of their being Witches would have afforded a convenient criminal charge with which they could ostensibly be prosecuted and punished for the socially reprehensible (though not illegal) act of fornication with a man of a different race. The crime of Witchcraft being punishable by death, would likely have suited the purposes of outraged family members, neighbors and community leaders in those days as a means of ridding society of women who dared to have sexual relations with Blacks during that era.
Othello and Desdemona, by Leo Lerch, depicting characters from Shakespeare's 1603 play The Tragedy of Othello, the Moor of Venice, in which Othello is accused of seducing Desdemona by means of Witchcraft.
The Bideford witch trial resulted in hangings for witchcraft in England. Temperance Lloyd, Mary Trembles and Susannah Edwards were tried in 1682 in the town of Bideford in Devon. Much of the evidence against them was hearsay, although there was a confession by Lloyd, which she did not fully recant even with her execution imminent. They often get labeled as the 'last' witches to be hanged in England but there are several not so well documented cases after this.
On Saturday, July 1682, Thomas Eastchurch, a Bideford shopkeeper, complained to some of the town’s constables that Temperance Lloyd had been practicing witchcraft. The constables arrested Temperance Lloyd and locked her in the old chapel at the end of the bridge, where she remained until taken before the justices, Thomas Gist, Mayor of Bideford, and John Davie, Alderman, on the Monday morning. The charges were: "suspicion of having used some magical art, sorcery or witchcraft upon the body of Grace Thomas and to have had discourse or familiarity with the devil in the likeness or shape of a black man." Grace Thomas thought that Temperance Lloyd was responsible for her illness, because the previous September, Lloyd had wept with joy and expressed pleasure in seeing that Thomas had regained her health.
Another woman, Anne Wakely, had seen a magpie fly to Thomas's chamber window. Suspecting witchcraft, she questioned Lloyd, and found her in the company of another. They found "in her secret parts two teats hanging nigh together like unto a piece of flesh that a child had sucked. And that each of the teat was about an inch in length."
All the other evidence against Lloyd was hearsay, mostly claims to have overheard confessions by her. There were six such statements, including a claim by Anne Wakely that Lloyd was visited by the "black man" in the form of a bird. Wakely also said that Lloyd told her the black man had sucked at her extra teats.
Thomas Eastchurch’s statement was held to be important, as he was a respected town gentleman; however, again his evidence was simply that he overheard Lloyd confess while she was in Bideford lock-up the previous day. He stated that she confessed to meeting "something in the likeness of a black man" who tempted her to go and torment Grace Thomas. Eastchurch claimed that at first she refused but then agreed, following him to Thomas's home where the black man told her to pinch Thomas several times. She is then said, on leaving the house, to have seen a tabby cat go into Eastchurch's shop; she believed it to be the Devil.
At a later date, she met the black man again, who told her to kill Thomas, "whereupon Temperance did go to his house with the black man and that she went into the chamber where Grace Thomas lay, and further did confess that she did pinch and prick Grace Thomas again in several parts of her body, declaring with both of her hands how she did do it, and that thereupon Grace Thomas did cry out terribly." The black man, according to Eastchurch's statement, had told Lloyd she would be invisible during this attack. He also claimed that another, similar attack on Thomas followed.
Eastchurch then gave evidence that Grace Thomas sought medical help for her complaints.
His wife Elizabeth, Grace’s sister, stated that Thomas found nine pricks in her knee, and suspecting witchcraft, confronted Lloyd, who replied that she had pricked a piece of leather nine times.
The justices gave their permission for Lloyd to be questioned by the rector, Michael Ogilby. Although she confessed to turning into a cat, stealing a doll and placing it in Thomas's bedchamber, she denied using image magic despite specific questioning by Ogilby.
William Herbert was the final witness against Temperance Lloyd. On 2 February 1671, he had heard his father William "declare on his deathbed that Temperance Lloyd... had bewitched him unto death." After he died, William saw marks on his body, and had Lloyd charged with witchcraft; she was acquitted at the ensuing trial.
On July 3, Temperance Lloyd was herself questioned by the justices, and she admitted all the charges made against her. The following day, in prison she admitted killing William Herbert, Lydia Burman and Anne Fellow, and blinding Jane Dallyn in one eye. She admitted all of this as she believed she was still under the black man's protection.
On July 8, Temperance Lloyd was committed to Exeter Gaol to await trial for witchcraft. At the trial she maintained her guilt.
At the execution, she tried to give a reason for her actions: "the Devil met me in the street, and bid me kill her, and because I would not he beat me about the head and back."
Witches being instructed by the "Devil" in the form of a black man on how to make use of effigies to perform malefic magic, from Joseph Glanvil's Saducismus Triumphatus, published in 1681
In the trial of the North Berwick Witches, who were accused of plotting to bring about the death of King James VI of Scotland using Witchcraft, Barbara Napier, one of the accused testified:
The longstanding notion that the Devil of Christian mythology was a black man may in fact be derived from ancient classical literature which provides accounts of the mythological race of beings known as Satyrs, who had the upper bodies of men, but the legs and horns of goats, which were said to be native to Africa.Upon Lammas-eve last, at the new haven called Aitcheson's Haven, between Musselbright and Prestonpans, since his Majesty came forth of Denmark; where was assemble nine principals....which nine persons, the Devil, who was with them in likeness of a black man, thought most meet to do the turn for which they were convened; and thereafter, he set them nine nearest to himself, in a company; and they, togther with the wife of Saltoun Mile and the rest of the inferiors, to the number of thirty persons, standing scarce the length of a board from the foresaid nine persons, in another company; Agnes Sampson proposed the destruction of His Highness' person, saying to the Devil "We have a turn to do, and we would soon be at it if we could, and thereafter help us to it." The Devil answered, he should do what he could, but it would be long to, because it would be thwarted; and he promised to her and them a picture of wax....At which convention, His Highness' name was pronounced in Latin; and Agnes Sampson was appointed to make the picture and to give it to the Devil to be enchanted, which she made indeed, and gave it to him; and he promised to give it to the said Barbara and to Effie McCalaine, at the next meeting, to be roasted.....and suchlike the said Barbara was accused, that she gave her bodily presence upon All Hallows' Even lastwise 1590 years, to the frequent convention held at North Berwick, where she danced endlong the churchyard and Gillie Duncan played on a trump, John Fian led the ring; Agnes Sampson and her daughters and all the rest followed the said Barbara to the number of seven or more persons.....At which place and time, the women made first their homage, and were turned six times widdershins about; John Fian blew up the church doors, and blew in the lights, which were like black candles, held in an old man's hand, 'round about the pulpit. And the Devil....called on every one of them, desiring them all to be good servants to him, and he would be a good master to them, and they should have enough and never want. For Robert Greirson and John Fian stood on his left hand; and the said Robert found great fault with the Devil, and cried out, that all which were beside might hear, because His Highness' picture was not given them, as was promised; the said Effie McCalaine remembered and bid the said Robert Grierson to ask for the picture, meaning his Majesty's picture which should have been roasted. Robert Grierson said their words, "Where is the thing ye promised?" meaning the picture of wax, devised for roasting and undoing His Highness' person, which Agnes Sampson gave to him; and Robert cried to "have the turn done," yet His Highness' name was not named, 'til they that were women named him; crafted in plain terms His Highness' picture. But he answered, "It was not ready at that time". Robert Grierson answered, "Ye promised twice and beguiled us". And four honest-like women were very earnest and insisted to have it. And the said Barbara and Effie McCalaine got them a promise of the Devil, that His Highness' picture was the cause of that assembly.
In his work Natural History, the first century Roman writer, Pliny the Elder includes Satyrs among "the manifold, strange, and wonderful forms and shapes of men" inhabiting Ethiopia:
As for the position and situation of Ethiopia, it lies southeast and southwest. In the meridian south parts thereof, there be great woods of Ebene especially, always green. Toward the middle of this region, there is a mighty high mountain looking over the sea, that burns continually, which the Greeks call Theon-ochema, that is to say, the chariot of the gods: from the which it is counted four days journey by sea to the promontory or cape called Hesperion Ceras, which confines upon Africa, near to the Hesperian Ethiopians. Some writers hold, that this tract is beautified with pretty little hills, and those pleasantly clad and garnished with shadowy groves, wherein the Aegipanes and Satyrs do converse.
Statue of a Satyr as depicted in Greek mythology. Satyrs were frequently portrayed as sexually insatiable and indiscriminate beings, with a strong fondness of drink and music, attributes often associated in the popular imagination with men of sub-Saharan African descent.
In many versions of the Bible, Isaiah 13:21 and 34:14, the English word "satyr" is used to represent the Hebrew se'irim, "hairy ones," from "sa'ir" or "goat". There is an allusion to the practice of sacrificing to the se'irim (KJV "devils"; ASV "he-goats") in Leviticus 17:7. They may correspond to the "shaggy demon of the mountain-pass" (azabb al-‘akaba) of old Arab legend. It may otherwise refer to literal goats, and the worship of such.
In subsequent Christian legends, St. Nicholas of Myra is said to have defeated and enslaved a demon, making him a servant. In later folklore this demon is usually depicted as black and accompanies St. Nicholas in annual Christmas visits to children, serving as a warning to naughty boys and girls that bad behavior will be punished. In the Netherlands this character is known as Zwarte Piet ("Black Peter") and is usually depicted as a Blackamoor, though in Austria is is known as Krampus and is portrayed as a satyr-like black devil.
19th century depiction of Krampus punishing naughty children
Early 20th century postcard showing Krampus accompanying St. Nicholas on his Christmas rounds.