Hello, Light Brigade!
You can’t discuss the history of witchcraft without bringing up witch hunters, and you can talk about witch hunters and leave out the Witchfinder General himself, Matthew Hopkins. The volume you’re reading right now contains his classic treatise, The Discovery of Witches. Nominally an explanation of how Hopkins identified who was a witch, it reads more like an FAQ on why witchfinding is totally not a scam and Hopkins is absolutely legitimate and not a grifter. It’s easy to envision him not as any sort of holy man or even a soldier, but as a kind of bard. One that spun his own lore virtually from whole cloth, in order to inspire panic and convince people to pay him for the humble, if homicidal, service of making the problem go away.
Discovery of Witches
This version has been translated, not exactly into modern English but into language that makes sense to modern readers. It’s not even a matter of archaic words and dated grammar. In the original, Hopkins was prone to spelling the same word multiple ways and abbreviating things inconsistently. While cleaning things up I was careful to not alter the meaning of the text, but in places it does read like satire. I assure you, Hopkins was deathly serious.
The second part of the book is a biography of Hopkins, written by noted historian Wallace Notestein. It gives you some background on the man, the times he lived in, and the circumstances under which he operated his completely real and not at all fraudulent witchfinding business.
In the final section, James Grant looks at the legacy of the witchfinders, including Hopkins. The fear and superstition that they spread had an impact on society for decades to come. One has to wonder about the long-lasting effects of modern-day misinformation and the scare tactics used by 21st century grifters. What claims will stick and become part of the culture, in spite of how ridiculous and easy to disprove they are? In this way, the themes that exist within the witchfinder narratives can be used as fodder for stories and in any genre, not just historical dramas or fantasy adventures.
I know many of you still have questions, so please feel free to reach out to me via the website. It’s listed on the credits page of every book we publish.
Dancing Lights Press
Discovery of Witches
A Brief History of Matthew Hopkins, Witchfinder General
Publisher: Dancing Lights Press
Rule System: Any system / system agnostic
Price: $5 Digital
Publication Date: 30 April 2021
Format: 96 pages. A5 format (bullet journal size). PDF, ePub, Kindle
Available Now at DriveThruRPG!
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Copyright 2021 Berin Kinsman. All rights reserved.