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The Llewellyn Encyclopedia

Term: bodkin


Bodkin: A pointed tool originally used in sewing and later by printers. During the Inquisition, bodkins similar in design to an ice pick were used to “detect” Witches. Supposedly, when a Witch sold her soul in a pact with the Devil, the Devil would mark her with a spot, somewhere on the body, that became insensitive to pain. Inquisitors would insert the bodkin repeatedly all over the body. The pain would be so intense, that eventually the victim’s mind would just stop responding, and thus prove that the spot was real, leading to further torture (confessions were often only accepted during torture). The time taken during this inquiry could be extensive, so some industrious Inquisitors (who were, in some instances, paid not for their time, but by the number of Witches they uncovered) created a fake bodkin where the spring-loaded needle would recede into the handle, giving the impression that the bodkin was being inserted into the body when it was not. It also “showed” that the spot didn’t bleed.


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