The Spellbinding of Men

The reputed spellbinding of Sir Harry Lynch-Blosse of Balla, County Mayo by his mistress, Sibella Cottle  has been described by Matthew Archdeacon.  Miss Cottle used the spancel, a powerful love-charm to spellbind Harry circa 1780. Judy Holian, a reputed witch prepared the spancel using skin from the exhumed corpse of a young girl according to T H Nally.

Caesar Otway confirmed the use of the spancel to spellbind men through research in Belmullet, County Mayo. He found that three local girls made matches above their station when using a spancel cut from the corpse of a Trappist monk. Protestant girls ‘of a better sort’ also used a practice that may have originated in 16th century England.

Lady Wilde tells the story of ‘The Fatal Love-Charm’ in which a servant girl of modest looks spellbound her widowed master using a spancel. Exactly one year and a day after her marriage, the spancel was accidentally burnt in her wardrobe. The spell was broken. The master now hated her. Despised and isolated, she died half-mad before the year was out, a conclusion drawn by T H Nally for the fate of Sibella Cottle in his 1916 drama The Spancel of Death.