To Catch A Thief

Kilvert writes of how a neighbour left some linen drying overnight, and several items were stolen.

She and her husband consulted the ordeal of the key and Bible (turning the key in the Bible). The key said ‘Bella Whitney’. Then Jones the jockey went to the brickyard and got some clay which he made into a ball. Inside the ball he put a live toad. The clay ball was either boiled or put into the fire ad during the process of boiling or baking the toad was expected to scratch the name of the thief upon a piece of paper put into the clay ball along with him. Some other horrible charm was used to discover the thief, the figure of a person being pricked out on a piece of clay.

I am fascinated by this as none of it makes any sense. How can a toad write, especially while being suffocated, boiled or baked? I sometimes wonder whether the spell/ritual were largely irrelevant to the process of investigation. Did the spell/methods make the thief reveal their guilt in some way which led to them being named?

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