Devil’s Marks

According to witch-hunters, the Devil
always permanently marked the bodies of his initiates to
seal their pledge of obedience and service to him. He
marked them by raking his claw across their flesh or using
a hot iron, which left a mark, usually blue or red, but not a
scar. Sometimes he left a mark by licking them. The Devil
supposedly branded witches at the end of initiation rites,
which were performed at nocturnal sabbats.
The marks were always made in “secret places,” such as
under eyelids, in armpits and in body cavities. The mark
was considered the ultimate proof of being a witch—all
witches and sorcerers (see sorcery) were believed to have
at least one. All persons accused of witchcraft and brought
to trial were thoroughly searched for such a mark. Scars,
birthmarks, natural blemishes and insensitive patches of
skin that did not bleed qualified as Devil’s marks. Experts
firmly believed that the mark of Satan was clearly distinguishable
from ordinary blemishes, but in actuality, that
was seldom the case. Protests from the victims that the
marks were natural were ignored.
Accounts of being marked by the Devil were obtained
in the “confessions” of accused witches, who usually were
tortured to confess (see torture). Inquisitors stripped
off the accused witch’s clothes and shaved off all body
hair so that no square inch of skin was missed. Pins were
driven deeply into scars, calluses and thickened areas of
skin (see pricking). Since this customarily was done in
front of a jeering crowd, it is no surprise that some alleged
witches felt nothing from the pricks.
Inquisitors believed that the Devil also left invisible
marks upon his followers. If an accused witch had no
likely natural blemishes that could be called a Devil’s
mark, pins were driven into her body over and over again
until an insensitive area was found.
British anthropologist Margaret A. Murray said that
Devil’s marks were actually tattoos, marks of identification,
which she offered as support of her contention that
witchcraft as an organized pagan religion had flourished
in the Middle Ages. Murray’s controversial ideas have
been debunked.
Devil’s marks were sometimes called witch’s marks