The witch and the raven: The life of Helier Fautrart, by John Quick, ed. E.P. Le Feuvre

Icones Sacrae Gallicanae et Anglicanae was compiled by John Quick, a Presbyterian clergyman who was born in Plymouth in 1636. Helier Fautrart's life as Rector of St Peter Port Church is one of the biographies of fifty 'French divines' he gathered together in his first work; he followed this with twenty English ministers. He has, however, conflated the life of Helier, who ministered in Jersey, with that of his son, Daniel, who became minister of the Town Church in Guernsey in 1633. This volume includes a fascinating witchy tale.

J. Linwood Pitts, Folklore Secretary of the Société Guernesiaise at the turn of the 19th century, wrote in the 1897 Transactions of the Society:

'Last autumn I received some interesting communications from Mr. E. P. Le Feuvre, a gentleman of Jersey extraction, residing in London, and connected with some of our Guernsey families. Mr. Le Feuvre very kindly left with me copies of a number of interesting documents which he had transcribed from the Finch-Hatton Collection of Papers in the British Museum, and from other sources.

He also gave me the details of a remarkable local witch story, which he had found in a curious old M.S. in the library of Dr William, of Gordon Square, London. This MS., which is in two volumes folio, is entitled 'Icones Sacrae Gallicanae et Anglicanae' and contains seventy biographies of ministers and clergymen. Among them is a sketch of the life of the Rev. Daniel Fautrat [sic], of Guernsey, who was minister of the Castel Parish; then of Torteval; and who afterwards, in 1633 (in the reign of Charles I), succeeded Mr. de la Marche, at St. Peter-Port. This MS is by a John Quick (1636-1706). There were two Fautrats, Helier and Daniel, father and son, and the biographer somewhat confuses them. This story of the witch—who was burnt alive in the Bordage during Daniel Fautrat's ministry at the Town Church—is a very curious one, and is a decided acquisition to the witch-lore of the island. It is as follows:—


After Monsieur [Daniel] Ffautrat had spent some years at Torteval and St. Andrew's [Guernsey] he was, upon the death of Monsr. de la Marche, called to succeed him in ye Pastorall charge of St. Peters-Port, [in 1634, in the reign of Charles I] which is ye Towne of this Island, a fair Markett Towne and priviledged with ye Sessions of ye whole Island, where all causses Civil and Criminall are finally tryed and determined in ye Playderoye, by ye Bayliffe and Jurates.

During his ministry in this Towne, and about ye year 1640 [Charles I] there happened a most remarkable event. Divines do say that it is a very rare thing for witches under Gospell Light to repent; and some have given this reason of their assertion — because they have committed that unpardonable sin against ye Holy Ghost. I cannot tell, but that this following story seems to confirm it.

There was a certain woman of this Island, above four-score years of age, who had been imprisoned, indicted and found guilty upon full evidence, of that abominable sin of witchcraft, and for it was condemned to death. She gave out confidently that she should not dye. However, she is carried from prison to ye appointed place of Execution to be burnt alive.

All the way, as she was going thither, a great Black Raven was seen hovering, and heard croaking after a dolefull manner over her head, till she came to ye stake. And now, whilst they be fastening ye chain, she begs of one of the Bystanders to give her a clew of thread, which having received, she fastens one end of it to her girdle, and taking ye other end, she flings it with her hand up into ye aire. The Raven, stooping down, catcheth at it with his Beak, and mounting, carrys with him ye old witch from ye bottom of ye vale up into ye air. A young man of that Island, seeing her flying, being on ye top of ye hill, flings his Halbard so exactly betwixt her and ye raven, that it cuts ye thread asunder, and ye old witch is taken by him, but with many fearfull imprecations upon him, she vomityng out whole cartloads of curses against him.

However, she is once again carryed down to ye stake, and there accordingly executed, being burnt to ashes. But this poor officious wardour, whose name was Gosslin [Gosselin]—ye holy wise providence of God so permitting it—felt a short time after, ye bitter consequences of her rage and dying curses; for he grew sick of an incurable disease, lying under most exquisite torments, of which he could never be relieved by any means or medicines, till having languished some years, he was at last released from his sufferings by death.