Thursday, January 1, 2009

Caspi-caws and the Piquet




Caspicaw, or chasielawis were iron like frames to hold a leg. These were worn as hose and described a form of torture where the victim had their legs socked, wetting the parchment which bound the frame. They were then placed next to a roaring hot fire or braiser. As the fabric shrunk the ensuing pain was agonising. Foot roasting described a particularly nasty torture when the victims legs were immobilized in stocks and the soles of the feet were smeared with fat and boiled over red-hot coals.



In the days of the British Empire, the British Army regiments were stationed in the outposts often living in tented camps. Judicial punishments were barbaric judged by today's standards but extremely effective in the field. One form of torment meted out to unruly privates was called piquet or picket. A long post was driven into the ground and the soldier left to stand on a stool beside it. His right hand was attached to a hook at the top of the post. A short length of timber was driven into the ground near the stool, with its upper end rounded to a blunt point. The soldier had to rest one heel on the stake when the stool was removed. Suspended from one wrist his body mass pressed against the spike through his bare heel. His position was changed every fifteen minutes. Although considered a military punishment but there was one case reported in Trinidad (1801) where a young women had to undergo a modified form of picket where her big toe was balanced on a sharp spike in the ground as she was suspended from the wrists.



A similar type of torture was used on witches in the 17th and 18th century. The mark of a witch was keenly sought after as proof and could be found anywhere on their body. Prickers were skilled witch hunters who inspected the accused bodies carefully from head to the soles of their feet. When they came across any blemish they would prick them with special brass pins. If no pain was illicited this confirmed the person was a witch. Once this happened a confession was required. Witches in Edinburgh were hung by their thumbs and lighted candles were placed beneath the soles of their feet to gain a confession.

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