When witch hunting was all the rage and villages across England were terrified by the old dear down the street who had a black cat follow her, one of the many symptoms of being ‘bewitched’ was fits. It is believed now that what caused the fits was Ergot, a fungi that grows in wheat… the main crop that grew in the villages where they were stricken with
witches. Ergot would have entered the system through the bread the villagers were making with the wheat, it would have caused wild hallucinations and fits.
Anne Hunnam (or Marchant) was one of those people who were, unfortunately, a victim of their time. You see, Anne was accused of casting a spell on the four year old daughter of John Allen, and even two witnesses gave testimonies of the fits and ‘bewitching’. Marjery Ffish gave the most ‘compelling’ evidence as she described what she saw happen to the young child “her hands and arms were drawne together contracted, the mouth some tyme drawn together, other tymes drawne to a wonderful wideness”. In the age of science we can now assume that what the child was suffering with was epileptic seizures.
The mother, worried about the life of her daughter, summoned the help of Elizabeth Hodgson, who convinced the mother that this was the work of a witch. Elizabeth cured the daughter of the curse, but only for a short time, unfortunately the young girl died.
Anne Hunnam was blamed for the murder, and was searched in the horrific way witches were searched in 1652, they lost all their dignity. Stripped naked to find a ‘witch’s mark‘ (it is believed that to become a witch one must have made a pact with the devil, the mark was what the devil had caused to seal the deal) anything was construed as a witches mark, from moles to birth marks and a mark was found on Anne Hunnam.
There are no records to believe that Anne was actually sentenced for any crime, so it is believe, thankfully, that she was acquitted. Though it is obvious that the poor woman would have never been able to live a normal day after having the burden of a witch trial on her head.