In compasse like unto ordinary Pewter Dishes
A close encounter – of the third kind, or of the angelic kind? – from 1651, noted in the newsbook The Perfect Diurnall:
By Letters from Cheshire we had an exact accompt of a late strange appearance in the Air at a place called Madeley, of the Sun, Moone, and sighting, and other strange things as followeth, 16 Aprill 1651. Mary Sidway, Wife unto Robert Sidway in the Parish of Madely, Gent. in the County of Stafford saith, That sitting in her doore, one of her children being playing by her, about a quarter of an houre before Sun setting, taking notice of the Sunne, thought it to be of a strange bloudy colour, looking more earnestly upon it; perceived over it a perfect halfe Moon, but she thinking she might be deceived in hersight, wiped her eyes, and looked upon it againe: Upon which the said Moone suddenly vanished, and there appeared round about the Sunne many darke bodies, in compasse like unto ordinary Pewter Dishes, all which instantly turned as red as bloud, those of the North side, flying off from the Sunne, She the said Mary Sidway upon the same, called forth her Maid, and asked her whether she saw any towards the Sunsetting? Her Maid answered no; But she pressed her five or six times, to see if she could discern any thing, upon which the Maid answered again, no, I see nothing; it may be, said the Maid, God will not let mee see what you doe; Upon which words, the said Maid Confessed she forthwith saw the same, crying out unto her Dame, ah Dame they come upon us! they come upon us! and forthwith in their view came downe from the Sun into the Court before the door, multitudes of darke bodies in the signs of men, having arms and swords discernable, but from the rest of the bodies were of a thick darknesse without fome, of which they can give no good accompt; there also in their view arose out of the ground as many like bodies in opposition unot these, which to their judgments ran violently one upon another; In their running up and down the Court they pressed so near the door where she sate and the maid stood by, that being afraid of hurt by them, they withdrew themselves into the entry of the house, but she, the said Mary Sidway, remembering her little Child to be left without doors desired her maid to fetch the Child in, who at first deneid, but through her Dames importunity, at the last adventured to the oor, who seeing the Child in the Court amongst them, ran hastily and snatched up the Child, so came in to her Dame, and made fast the Doore; upon which they both being very fearfull, they went to Prayer, which being ended, they looked out of the Window, finding them still in the same posture, two horses shapes being by them seen amongst this Company, and that which most affrighted them with the Mote beore the window, which seemed to be spotted all over in the Compass of Round Trenchers with saining blood: Her Maid then desired her to look out of the other window upon the other side of the house, (which she did) and there they beheld all the back side full of long Cannons, and holsters standing rowes, with their mouthes upwards; They being still in feare went to prayer againe, after which they looked out on both sides the house, and all was gone and seemed to be cleare; Upon which, they resolved to goe forth again, and to look for a Man and a Boy thry had in the fields (which accordingly they did) But standing by the end of the house looking again towards the Sunne, they discerned a thicke fogg to arise, out of which came flying to them a creature in the bignesse of a Canon, with a broad face all hairy, two large wings (in their description, like unto the Angels wings pictured in Churches) upon sight whereof she the said Mary Sidway, said to her maid, certainely this is an Angell, and the day of judgement is come, come let us go and hasten to our folks and die together; but while she was thus speaking came another in the like shape, and after that a third, so they going toward the field where their man was at work they met him, who neither heard nor saw any thing, so they returned home all of them being in fear that night. This is a perfect and true relation taken from the mouth of the said Mary Sidway by many Gentlemen and Ministers, and she the said M. S. being known to be a very religious Woman, and come of Godly Parents. This Madeley is upon the borders of Cheshire.
Perfect Diurnall (5-12 May 1651), BL, TT, E.785, pp. 1013-1014.
I’d bet the 6 in April 16 is a typographical error inserted upside down. There was an eclipse on April 19, which up around Lichfield was partial. The visions given the testimony, were likely afterimages due to gazing at the sun interpreted in a typical Fifth Monarchist fashion, prevalent at the time. The next year’s brouhaha about the end of the world etc. coinciding with the total eclipse is another good example of Fifth Monarchy prophecy.
I hadn’t thought to connect it with actual eclipses – but you’re right, an annular eclipse did happen that day and would make sense given that these normally produce a red ring around the outside of the moon. But would it have been visible in Madeley?
I think that it would be. Ordinarily Madeley would would be at the very edge of visibility of the eclipse about 6000km (here is a site for the path and partiality map of the 26 Jan 2009 annular eclipse as an example of how far it is visible http://eclipse.gsfc.nasa.gov/SEplot/SEplot2001/SE2009Jan26A.GIF). In order for it to be visible in Madeley the path of the eclipse would have to be roughly perpendicular to the line (great circle) connecting Madeley and the path. Since it would be visible only at the very end it could have been only a very short time. A complicating factor which I think accounts for the half moon reported vs. only a very small amount of occlusion theoretically calculated and also for that matter that it would be visible at all is that at sunset (and sunrise) the actual position of the sun is farther along than the apparent visible position due to the atmosphere. A professional astronomer could probably explain this better and explain the variance at the end of the path as it relates to timing.
In any case I believe the account was truthful from the point of view of the observer and consistent with an eclipse. There is no way to for a half moon to be that near the sun or a half moon to exist at all on the 16th or the 19th.