Although this article is based on canonical information, the actual name of this subject is conjectural.
Rev. Cotton Mather
Prohibiting a possessed one from biting itself and others.
|“||Though she cannot speak a name, she will show us the witch.||”|
— Cotton Mather inciting Mercy against the crowd
Witch's Bridle is a device used by witch hunters to prevent those possessed by demonic entities from the biting themselves and others, especially in public. The headpiece is an iron cage placed around the head of the unfortunate, tied and narrow with leather bindings like a muzzle. This hideous muzzle is then accompanied by a leather corset tied to a chain leash that is used by the witch hunter to restrain the prisoner, like a dog on a leash.
Further information: Scold's bridle
The Scold’s Bridle was a medieval device used for humiliating and scolding women accused of adultery, witchcraft, etc. The woman’s tongue would be pressed down by a spiked plate that prevented her from speaking or eating while wearing the headpiece. She would be led down town streets on a chain leash (normally held by her husband) while being humiliated and beaten. Made entirely of metal, usually iron, it was conceptually not very different from the bit of the horses, except for the presence of a hook sticking in the tongue of the victim. Once locked by a padlock, the muzzle forced the condemned to swallow her own blood gushed from the wound caused to the tongue by the hook. Historically, this torture device was widespread thanks to the Inquisition, especially in Germany and Scotland. From the Old World, the bridle came to the New World via British colonies. In North America, according to the testimony of Olaudah Equiano, an iron muzzle with bridle was used on the plantations as a coercive measure for African slaves throughout the XVIII century.
Throughout the Salem series
Cornered by the need to find new accused and quench the bloodlust fomented by witch-panic, Cotton Mather decided to use the bridle on Mercy Lewis when the latter became unable to disclose the names of witches through sorcery. This, however, did not prevent her to point her finger and the reverend unleashed her on the streets of Salem where Mercy - under the influence of Mary Sibley - pointed the finger at Giles Corey after having torn with a bite the fingertip. (The Vow)
Exhausted and in the hands of terrible torments, Mercy Lewis was later hung from one of the Salem Church's beams, used as a witch-detector during interrogation. It was during the process of Bridget Bishop, who previously had shown compassion for the girl and disapproval toward the witch hunt, that Mary Sibley forced the chained girl to vomit blood and nails on the accused, condemning her to the gallows. (The Stone Child)
Following these traumatic events and the apparent recovery of Mercy Lewis, she is visited at home by her friends including Dollie Trask and Emily Hopkins, who convinced her to wear the bridle again to shake the citizens once more, and to accuse Emily's father out of revenge. At the public square, while imitating the possession and the girls held her on a leash, Mercy took a little revenge too by making Mary Sibley believe that she is going to accuse her before turning abruptly to run like a possessed towards Mr. Hopkins. (Lies)
- Although this device was never named on the show, nor in any other way, Scold's Bridle, Witch's Bridle and Brank's Bridle are common names historically used to refer to the said object.
- A similar device was known as "Mask of Infamy", also used as a form of humiliation. The mask itself caused no physical torture, but the wearer was often chained to a post where he or she was tortured by various members surrounding the scene. The mask would sometimes have a ball, or other type of inner device, to prevent the wailing or screaming of the wearer. The types of masks represented the crime. For example, if the person was considered dirty, he or she would wear the pig shaped mask. It would be locked onto the head for a time determined by the accuser.
- In one of the promos released for Season Two, Mercy Lewis beats with a hammer on the mask, obtaining a disturbing crown that she eventually wears.
- During an interview at San Diego Comic Con 2016, Seth Gabel told how difficult it was to shoot scenes of Mercy on a leash. Elise Eberle, in fact, was in danger of being hit by a frightened goat except that he had handled the leash as he held in check the fence with his foot.
- Adam Simon and Brannon Braga were both impressed by the acting abilities of Elise Eberle in working the scenes while she was bridled. At first they had thought to hire a stunt double for those scenes or even hire a contortionist. This, too, has been recently revealed at San Diego Comic Con.