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The Act against Seditious Words and Rumours (23 Eliz. Cap. II), also known as the Statute of Silence, was passed by the parliament of Queen Elizabeth I in January 1581. It introduced a series of increasingly gruesome punishments for speaking or publishing anything that the Queen did not wish to hear, ranging from the loss of an ear to capital punishment. An amendment to the the Act did however specify that all offences had to be committed maliciously to be subject to the law.[1]

By the time of the Act there was an increasing fear of witchcraft and the occult in general, and that concern was reflected in making it a felony to use astrology or divination to predict the Queen’s death,[2] although there was no legislation to criminalise astrology in general.[3]



Elton, Geoffrey Rudolph. The Parliament of England, 1559–1581. Cambridge University Press, 1989.
Maxwell-Stuart, Peter. “Astrology, Magic, and Witchcraft.” The Oxford Handbook of English Prose 1500–1640, Online, Oxford University Press, 2013.
Patterson, Annabel M. Censorship and Interpretation: The Conditions of Writing and Reading in Early Modern England. University of Wisconsin Press, 1984.