Wednesday, 28 August 2013

Tony Robinson's Gods and Monsters

Tony Robinson explores the weird and wonderful history of belief, superstition and religious experience in Britain.
For 2000 years, Britain has been a Christian country. Or has it? In fact, our ancestors actually kept many other dark, fantastical beliefs alive.
It was a world underpinned by outlandish, dangerous and plain weird beliefs. Ideas that today seem unbelievable, but were seen as uncontroversial and hugely influential, with some having shaped our history as much as mainstream religion.

Episode 4

Before he became James I of England, James VI of Scotland nearly died in a terrible storm at sea, which he believed was caused by a spell cast by witches. Tony Robinson follows the story of a Scottish midwife called Agnes Sampson (one of the models for the witches in Shakespeare's Macbeth).
Witches like Agnes were believed to be agents of the Devil; their magical powers believed to be gifts of Satan. They could make people sick, make crops fail, or cause misfortunes.
They were said to travel on broomsticks, made to fly by the application of a paste made from the crushed bones of dead babies.
This sounds extraordinary - almost comical - to us today, but 400 years ago witches were terrifyingly real.
Tony investigates the process of arresting and interrogating a suspected witch; and discovers how red-hot tongs, thumbscrews, sleep deprivation and stress-positions were all used to extract confessions.
In Agnes Sampson's case, this process was overseen by King James VI himself. And he did a good job: Agnes confessed, and was convicted and burned to death.

You can buy Series 1 of Tony Robinson's Gods and Monsters here.

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