1604: 1 James 1 c.12: An Act against Witchcraft

1604: 1 James 1 c.12:  An Act against Conjuration, Witchcraft and dealing with evil and wicked Spirits.

BE it enacted by the King our Soveraigne Lord; the Lords Spirituall and Temporall, and the Commons in this present Parliament assembled, and by the authority of the same, that the Statute made in the fifth yeare of the Reigne of our late Soveraigne Lady of most Famous and Happy memory, Queen Elizabeth, Entituled, An Acte againste Conjurations, Inchantments and Witchcraftes; be from the Feast of Saint Michael the Archangel next coming, for and concerning all offences to bee committed after the same Feaste, utterly repealed.

And for the better restraining of said offences, and more severe punishing the same, be it further Enacted by the Authority aforesaid; That if any person or persons, after the said Feast of St. Michael the Archangell next coming, shall use, practise, or exercise any invocation or conjuration of any evil and wicked spirit: or shall consult, covenant with, entertaine, imploy, feed, or reward any evil and wicked spirit, to or for any intent or purpose; or take up any dead man, woman, or child, out of his, her, or their grave, or any other place where the dead body resteth; or the skin, bone, or any other part of any dead person, to be imployed, or used in any manner of Witchcraft, Sorcery, Charme, or Inchantment, or shall use, practise, or exercise, any Witchcraft, Inchantment, Charme or Sorcery, whereby any person shall be Killed, Destroyed, Wasted, Consumed, Pined, or Lamed, in His or Her body, or any part therof; that then every such Offender, or Offenders, their Ayders, Abettors, and Counsellors, being of the said offences duly and lawfully Convicted and Attainted, shall suffer paines of death as a Felon or Felons, and shall lose the priviledge and benefit of Clergy and Sanctuary.

And further, to the intent that all manner of practise, use or exercise of Witchcraft, Inchantment, Charme, or Sorcery, should be from henceforth utterly avoided, abolished, and taken away: Be it Enacted by the Authority of this present Parliament, that if any person or persons, shall from and after the said Feast of Saint Michael the Archangell next coming, take upon him or them, by Witchcraft, Inchantment, Charme, or Sorcery, to tell or declare in what place any Treasure of Golde or Silver should or might be found or had in the earth, or other secret places; or where goods, or things lost, or stolen, should be found or become, or to the intent to provoke any person to unlawful love, or whereby any Cattell, or Goods of any person shall be destroyed, wasted, or impaired; or to hurt or destroy any person in his or her body, although the same be not effected and done, that then all and every such person or persons so offending, and being therof lawfully convicted, shall for the said offence suffer imprisonment by the space of one whole year, without baile or maineprise; and once in every quarter of the said year, shall in some Market-Town, upon the Market day, or at such time as any faire shall be kept there, stand openly upon the Pillory by the space of six hours, and there shall openly confesse his or her errour and offence. And if any person or persons, being once convicted of the same offences as is aforesaid, do eftsoones perpetrate and commit the like offence, that then every such offender, being of any the said offences the second time lawfully, and duly convicted, and attainted as is aforesaid, shall suffer paines of death as a Felon, or Felons, and shall lose the benefit and priviledge of Clergy, and Sanctuary, saving to the wife of such person as shall offend in any thing contrary to this Act, her title of Dower, and also to the Heire and Successor of every such person, his, or their titles of inheritance, succession, and other rights, as though no such attainder of the Ancestor or Predecessor had been made: provided alwayes, that if the offender in any the cases aforesaid, shall happen to be a Peer of this Realm, then his tryall therein, to be had by his Peers, as it is used in cases of Felony or Treason, and not otherwise.

Source & further reading: Newton and Bath, Witchcraft and the Act of 1604, Brill, 2008. Spelling lightly modernised.

See also Kesselring, K.J., ‘Unlawful Love’ and the 1604 Witchcraft Act, Legal History Miscellany, 2024.

Note: The regnal code for this act, as with all from this session of parliament, is sometimes given as 2 James 1.