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Thomas Ady

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Thomas Ady

Flourished17th century
Known forskeptical books on witchcraft
CategoriesBooks by Thomas Ady

Thomas Ady (fl. 17th century) was an English physician and humanist who was the author of three skeptical books on witchcraft and witch-hunting, using the Bible as the source.


His first and best known work, Candle in the Dark: Or, A Treatise Concerning the Nature of Witches & Witchcraft, was used by George Burroughs, a Baptist preacher, in his defense during the Salem witch trials. Ady's second book, published in 1661, was A Perfect Discovery of Witches; his third, published in 1676, was The Doctrine of Devils. Ady's second book is named in honor of Reginald Scot's Discoverie of Witchcraft, the first book of its kind in the English language, which debunked superstition and was also the first book on magic tricks and juggling.

Although not much biographical information is referenced about Thomas Ady in most works discussing him, some detailed information about his family life is available through public records apart from the books he wrote.

On 10 June 1634 Thomas Ady or Adye of Weathersfield, "A famous Dr of Physick", married Barbara the daughter of William Sparrow of Sible Hedingham. Of Ady's father-in-law, it is said in the history of Essex (1831) that "William Sparrow, of Sible Hedingham, the eldest surviving son, succeeded his father, who died in 1589: he married Joan, daughter of John Finch, of Gestingthorp, by whom he had three sons, John, William, and Joseph, and two daughters, Jame and Barbara; the last of whom was married to Thomas Ady, M.D. of Wethersfield. William, the second son, was a clothier, father of William, attorney-at-law, of Sible Hedingham, and died in 1648.".

They lived in Wethersfield, and their son was educated at Felsted and Sidney Sussex, and admitted to Grey's Inn in 1667. Records show that Barbara was baptised on 9 September 1610, and Thomas left a PCC will dated 15 October 1662 and proved 20 May 1672, in which he describes himself as "being a professed member of the true Christian Protestant Church of England desireing to live and dye in the true Christian faith". He named his wife Barbara, daughter Dorothy married to William Collard, son Thomas under 21 years, and daughters Joana and Barbara in his will. His daughter Barbara married Mark Mott, who died and was buried in Wethersfield 22 May 1694.


"I will speak of one man ... that went about in King James his time ... who called himself, the Kings Majesties most excellent Hocus Pocus, and so was called, because that at the playing of every Trick, he used to say, Hocus pocus, tontus tabantus, vade celeriter jubeo, a dark composure of words, to blinde the eyes of the beholders, to make his Trick pass the more currently without discovery" (Thomas Ady, "A Candle in the Dark", 1655).


Thomas Ady's works are directly influenced by Reginald Scot's first work of the type, Discoverie of Witchcraft, who he names his second book after, and refers to.

They are also influenced by works such as Hocus Pocus Junior on juggling and stage magic, which are themselves influenced by Scot's first work which also contained examples of stage tricks. Works of the period sometimes used specific examples of illusionist tricks to show how things were superstitious.

The frontispiece for Ady's book, "Candle in the Dark", shown to the side, may have been influenced by Protestant seals from that period that are similar. His will, referenced in the biography, mentions that he was a Protestant, and wanted to live and die as such, indicating that he considered it important.

Ady's works resemble other works on not persecuting others for cause of conscience written at that time, particularly Roger William's well known The Bloudy Tenant of Persecution for the Cause of Conscience, written in 1644. Roger William's work makes interesting reading in connection with Reginald Scot's work and Thomas Ady's work, because he was a minister in Salem years before George Burroughs was persecuted, mentioned elsewhere in this article in connection with Ady. Like Thomas Ady's works, Roger Williams makes extensive use of scripture to show why persecution is wrong for conscience's sake.


Thomas Ady's Candle in the Dark contains the first record of the nursery rhyme Mathew, Mark, Luke, and John.

His book also is one of the earliest references to the origin of the word hocus pocus as a Latin-like phrase used by a conjurer to distract his audience from his sleight of hand, which also relates to where the word hoax comes from. See the articles hocus pocus and hoax on Wikipedia for more information, as well as the etymologies for hoax and hocus pocus.


  • A Candle in the Dark: Or, A Treatise Concerning the Nature of Witches & Witchcraft (1655)
  • A Perfect Discovery of Witches (1661);
  • The Doctrine of Devils (1676)


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