pendle witches

British Folk Magic & Familiar Spirits

Posted on Feb 25, 2012 in cunning folk, daughters of the witching hill, pendle witches, witchcraft | 1 comment

British Folk Magic & Familiar Spirits

In popular imagination, the figure of a witch is accompanied by her familiar, a black cat. Is there any historical authenticity behind this cliché? Our ancestors in the 16th and 17th centuries believed that magic was real. Not only the poor and ignorant believed in witchcraft and the spirit world—rich and educated people believed in spellcraft just as strongly. Cunning folk were men and women who used charms and herbal cures to heal, foretell the future, and find the location of stolen property. What they did was illegal—sorcery was a hanging offence—but few were arrested. The need for the...

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The Pendle Witches and Their Magic, Part Two

Posted on Nov 15, 2011 in lancashire, pendle witches, witchcraft | 5 comments

The Pendle Witches and Their Magic, Part Two

Blacko Tower, a Victorian folly (ca 1890) near Malkin Tower Farm, Lancashire The crimes of which Mother Demdike and her fellow witches were accused dated back years before the 1612 trial. The trial itself might have never happened had it not been for King James I’s obsession with the occult. Until his reign, witch persecutions had been relatively rare in England compared with Scotland and Continental Europe. But James’s book Daemonologie presented the idea of a vast conspiracy of satanic witches threatening to undermine the nation. Shakespeare wrote his play Macbeth, which presents the first...

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The Pendle Witches and Their Magic, Part 1

Posted on Oct 23, 2011 in cunning folk, fairy faith, lancashire, pendle witches, reformation, social history, witchcraft | Comments Off

The Pendle Witches and Their Magic, Part 1

In 1612, in one of the most meticulously documented witch trials in English history, seven women and two men from Pendle Forest in Lancashire, Northern England were executed. In court clerk Thomas Potts’s account of the proceedings, The Wonderfull Discoverie of Witches in the Countie of Lancaster, published in 1613, he pays particular attention to the one alleged witch who escaped justice by dying in prison before she could come to trial. She was Elizabeth Southerns, more commonly known by her nickname, Old Demdike. According to Potts, she was the ringleader, the one who initiated all the...

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All Hallows Eve in Old Lancashire

Posted on Oct 16, 2011 in all hallows, holidays, lancashire, pendle witches, reformation | 6 comments

All Hallows Eve in Old Lancashire

Come Halloween, the popular imagination turns to witches. Especially in Pendle Witch Country, the rugged Pennine landscape surrounding Pendle Hill, once home to twelve individuals arrested for witchcraft in 1612. The most notorious was Elizabeth Southerns, alias Old Demdike, cunning woman of long-standing repute and the heroine of my novel Daughters of the Witching Hill. How did these historical cunning folk celebrate All Hallows Eve? All Hallows has its roots in the ancient feast of Samhain, which marked the end of the pastoral year and was considered particularly numinous, a time when the...

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New Year, New Book

Posted on Jan 22, 2011 in daughters of the witching hill, pendle witches | Comments Off

New Year, New Book

DAUGHTERS OF THE WITCHING HILL, my novel exploring the true story of the Pendle Witches of 1612, is now out in paperback. The wild, brooding landscape of Pendle Hill in Lancashire, Northern England, my home for the past nine years, gave birth to my novel, DAUGHTERS OF THE WITCHING HILL, which tells the true story of the Pendle Witches. In 1612, seven women and two men from Pendle Forest were hanged for witchcraft, but the most notorious of the accused, Bess Southerns, aka Mother Demdike, cheated the hangman by dying in prison. This is how Thomas Potts, describes her in THE WONDERFULL...

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All Hallows Tide in Pendle

Posted on Oct 31, 2010 in all hallows, cunning folk, pendle witches, witchcraft | 6 comments

All Hallows Tide in Pendle

When Halloween comes around, the popular imagination turns to ghosts and hauntings. And to witches. Especially in my neck of the woods. I live in Pendle Witch Country, the rugged Pennine landscape surrounding Pendle Hill, once home to twelve individuals arrested for witchcraft in 1612. Unfortunately Halloween seems to drag out all kinds of ghoulish speculation about historical witches and cunning folk in a way that is not only historically inaccurate but disrespectful to the dead. The Pendle Witches were not ghouls, but real people who were held for months in a lightless dungeon in Lancaster...

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