Pyewacket: lots of cats named “Pye”, why? If you’re of a certain age (born in the 60s at the very least) you might associate this name with the 1958 Jimmy Stewart/Kim Novak film Bell, Book and Candle, in which the modern sexy witch Novak had a Siamese familiar named Pye OR the children’s book by Rosemary Weir titled Pyewacket published a decade later. The origin of this name goes way back to the seventeenth century, when the notorious and self-proclaimed “Witchfinder-General” Matthew Hopkins tried several women for witchcraft (among many others) who claimed to have a number of “imps” or familiars in their service, including Holt, Ilemauzar, Pyewackett, Pecke in the Crowne, Grizzedl Greedigutt, Jarmara, Sacke & Sugar, Newes, and Vinegar Tom. All of Hopkins’ “discoveries” are proudly proclaimed in the 1647 pamphlet THE Discovery of Witches: IN Answer to severall QUERIES, LATELY Delivered to the Judges of Assize for the County of NORFOLK. And now published By MATTHEVV HOPKINS, Witch-finder. FOR The Benefit of the whole KINGDOME.

Pyewacket Life

Pyewacket finally

Pyewackett Hopkins 2

The pamphlet reports that in March 1644 there were some seven or eight of that horrible sect of Witches living in …. a Towne in Essex called Maningtree, with divers other adjacent Witches of other towns, who every six weeks in the night (being alwayes on the Friday night) had their meeting close by his house, and had their severall solemne sacrifices there offered to the Devill, one of which this discoverer heard speaking to her Imps one night, and bid them goe to another Witch, who was thereupon apprehended, and searched by women who had for many yeares knowne the Devills marks, and found to have three teats about her, which honest women have not: so upon command from the Justice, they were to keep her from sleep two or three nights, expecting in that time to see her familiars, which the fourth night she called in by their severall names, and told them what shapes, a quarter of an houre before they came in, there being ten of us in the roome. Holt appeared “like a white kitling”, then Jarmara, “who came in like a fat Spaniel without any legs at all, she said she kept him fat, for she clapt her hand on her belly, and said he suckt good blood from her body”. Next was Vinegar Tom, “who was like a long-legg’d Greyhound, with an head like an Oxe, with a long taile and broad eyes, who when this discoverer spoke to, and bade him goe to the place provided for him and his Angels, immediately transformed himselfe into the shape of a child of foure yeeres old without a head, and gave halfe a dozen turnes about the house, and vanished at the doore”. Sacke & Sugar appears like a black rabbit and Newes, a polecat, and the rest of the imps, including Pyewacket, are not identified, so among them we only have one cat, Holt (kitling is an old form of kitten). I have searched in vain for Pyewacket references in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries and found none: the author of the 1950 play on which Bell, Book and Candle was based, the English playwright John van Druten, must have plucked Pyewacket out of semi-obscurity and associated the name with a cat, because by that time, everyone knew that familiars were feline.

7 responses to “Pyewacket

  • Mchan

    I loooved this movie and I remember that at the time I couldn’t find any explanation of the name Pyewacket.thankd for the references.

  • Cecilia Mary Gunther

    My mother used to call kittens kittlings.. What did they do to the cats/familiars of the poor women that they condemned as witches? Were they taken to the prisons with them? or somehow apprehended and killed as well? .. I have always wondered.. c

    • daseger

      Good question, Cecilia! It’s seldom mentioned, but I’m sure they were not allowed into the prison: they were evil aids, of course.

      • Cecilia Mary Gunther

        Do you think the men killed them? They must have seen them as a threat.

      • Virginia

        I’m pretty sure the cats would have been killed I if they could be caught. Cats, especially black cats, were persecuted and tormented and killed with the reason they were bad luck, and there are people who would continue to justify their cruelty long after their main principles were disproven. Even today.

        I Saw a video of a cat checking out a bag, stumbling and falling, and racing out with the bag around its neck. A bag can strangle in that situation, and all of the men in that YouTube razzed me for calling them out on cruelty. We don’t let human babies play with bags because of dangers of suffocation. If we love our animals, we would pet – proof our homes, too.

        It might have happened accidentally. But the whole scene was uploaded. Why would someone not stop the video to help the cat? If nothing else, don’t show you’re an ass by uploading proof that you are cruel.

  • F&S Review – What You Don’t See Can Hurt You in PYEWACKET – Fang & Saucer

    […] Matthew Hopkins, but nothing I could see about Pyewacket (if you’d like to find out a bit more, check here). On the other hand, NOT having this information made me very uneasy; NOT knowing what might be […]

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