What Is a Witch Test?

Witch tests are methods that people have used throughout history to determine if a person was guilty of practicing witchcraft. Tests included trial by water, reciting the Lord’s Prayer and the "touch test.” Suspected witches were sometimes weighed against a Bible, and administrators of the test declared them guilty if were the Bible was heavier.

Trial by water involved binding the accused with ropes and throwing them into a body of water. The theory was that witches would float because they denied their baptism in order to gain favor with the devil, so the water would repel them, while people who were innocent would sink. The other method of performing a trial by water was to bind the accused and throw them into water, and declare them a witch if they sank, as God would not allow an innocent person to drown during the trial, according to those performing the test.

Accused witches were also required to recite the Lord’s Prayer, and the administrators of the tests declared them guilty for making minor mistakes such as stammering or mispronouncing a single word, as according to the administrators, people who were followers of the devil were incapable of reciting scripture properly.

Accusers performed the touch test by having supposed victims who claimed bewitchment touch the accused person. Many people who named others as witches suffered from attacks like seizures, and uncontrollable screaming. If the person's spastic attacks stopped while they were touching the accused, the accusers accepted it as proof that the victim suffered from the effects of an evil spell cast by the supposed witch.