This ritual was one of fasting to aid concentration, for some particular purpose.
It was alleged to have been used by Mabel Brigge, who was executed for witchcraft at York in 1 538.
The fast involved abstaining from meat, milk, and all food made with milk.
During the period of the fast, the witch concentrated all her mental energy and will-power upon some particular object.
This was usually to cause misfortune or death to some person; hence the rite was feared and called the Black Fast.
Mabel Brigge protested at her trial that she had only used this method to compel a thief to restore stolen goods, and hence its purpose was a
However, a witness against her claimed that she had admitted using the Black Fast to bring about a man’s death and that the man had broken his neck before the period of the fast was completed.
She was accused of attempting the lives of King Henry VIII and the Duke of Norfolk by this means, and she was found guilty and executed.
This case is interesting because it shows that witchcraft has always involved practices that are not mere mumbo-jumbo but are based upon the power of thought, and the occult potentialities of the human mind.