Wrought by Witchcraft

The reputed spellbinding of Sir Harry Lynch-Blosse of Balla, County Mayo, Ireland by his mistress, Sibella Cottle  has been described by Matthew Archdeacon and more recently by Paul B McNulty in his debut novel, Spellbound by Sibella.  Sibella 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.

“Spellbound by Sibella” featuring Miss Constable by George Romney circa 1787, courtesy of the Gulbenkian Museum, Lisbon.