Witchcraft was not made a capital offence in Britain until 1563 although it was deemed heresy and was denounced as such by Pope Innocent VIII in 1484. From 1484 until around 1750 some 200,000 witches were tortured, burnt or hanged in Western Europe.
A witch's ladder is made from knotted hair, hemp, wool or cotton & feathers or other charms. The number of knots and nature of charms varies with the intended effect or spell. They can also be used to "bind the thirteen moons of the year," purportedly to allow the witch to better work weather & nature magic & to open the doorway to the Faery realm. Many keep a personal ladder where the knots or beads are used to keep track of repetition in a spell or prayer, like Rosary beads.