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Southern Magic - History Tidbits

Punishments From Long Ago

By Carla Swafford

For adultery, during the time of the Saxons, a woman was burned; then a gibbet was built above her ashes and the man was hung.

Also another type of punishment for adultery, a man was exiled and the woman would have her nose and ears cut off.

From the later 1300's to mid-1800's, for scolding, cursing or just saying your mind, a woman (or a man on the rare occasions) was made to wear a "brank" or "scold's bridle". The brank was a metal framework slipped over the head, with a plate, often with spikes, placed in the mouth over the tongue. The town's official would attach a chain to the framework, then lead her up and down the streets.

From the middle ages to early 1800's, the pillory was a common sight in the market places. Liars, cut- purses, libelers, "dice coggers," and many other offenders were made to stand with their head and hands through a wood frame. Sometimes the offender had his ears nailed to the frame, and other times, in different combinations, his nose slitted, ears or ear cut off, and his face branded with letters. The brand usually was the initials for the crime, such as, the two letters "F" and "A" for false accusations.

By the way, the pillory was often used for punishing unpopular authors. Their books or pamphlets were burned in front of them.

The pillory was abolished in 1837 by Act of Parliament.

The stocks, a wood frame that a person's feet, hands, or/and head were placed through in a sitting position, were the most common and one of the oldest forms of punishment.

From the 1600's to 1700's, drunkards were punished by being placed in stocks, having a large red "D" painted on a board hanging around their necks or by wearing a "drunkard's cloak." The drunkard's cloak was a large tub or barrel with openings for the head, hands and legs. The drunkard would march through the streets with this "new-fashioned cloak."


Taken from Magic Moments - April 2001 Volume 4/Issue 4