If folk think thou are a witch –
and thou make a free and voluntary confession to that effect –
then thou are indeed a witch.
From my voluntarie Confession and Examination (April 2, 1612)
“Richard Baldwyn sayd get out of my ground Whores and Witches, I will burne the one of you, and hang the other.
To whom [I] answered: I care not for thee, hang thy selfe.
Presently whereupon . . . going ouer the next hedge, the said Spirit or Diuell called Tibb appeared . . .and [I] sayd, Revenge thee of him.
And so the said Spirit vanished . . . and [I] neuer saw him since.”
Source: Potts, Thomas. The Wonderfull Discoverie of Witches in the Countie of Lancaster, 1613.
“His Majesty King James has made it a sacred duty to identify and eradicate all witchcraft, sorcery and enchantment as quickly as possible. While there has always been a need to guard against the satanic powers of the witch, it is my sad duty to inform you that there are still those who walk among us who have been seduced by the Evil One. These are not simple cunning folk we speak of – they are, in fact, demon worshipers!
We are talking about the wild women who use magic and spells instead of prayer, who consort with the powers of evil, pretending to heal and do good. Well rest assured that Thy God doth drive them out before thee, that they might be recognized and defeated. God commands that all practitioners of the black arts be put to death, for the Bible states Thou shalt not suffer a witch to live.
Though we have won several recent battles against Satan, all the learned men agree that the witches of England are still multiplying. The reason for this is the prior leniency of judges and the irrational arguments of sceptics. We know that the Prince of Darkness is hell bent on recovering his lost empire and that every night these creatures – these hags – anoint themselves with devil’s grease made from the boiled fat of murdered infants. Then they slip under cracks, up chimneys, through keyholes and, mounted on broomsticks or spindles, travel to wicked sabbats throughout the land.
Signs of bewitchment include sickness, child loss, and finding reptiles, flies, and cockroaches in your houses. Look for marks on the body where the witch gives suckle to diabolical familiar spirits. Prick these warts and teats, they cause no pain and neither will a drop of blood be shed, for witches are made of wood and that is why they float on water. They are unable to recite the Lord’s Prayer. Remember, my fellow Christians, to disbelieve in the existence of witches is the greatest heresy. This dangerous scepticism must be stilted, and those who defend the evildoers are equally guilty. So when we go from hence let us be vigilant and prepared. May the Lord God guide us in our duties. Amen.”
(Blackest of Magic)
I only saw Tibb a few sundry times over the next five or six years. He always came at the Daylight Gate and asked what I bid.
“Naught,” said I, for I wanted nothing from him yet.
Then one Sabbeth morn he appeared in the likeness of a brown dog, jumped straight in my lap, and suckled from a spot beneath my left arm. It hurt like the devil and I cried out, “Jesus! Save us all!”
Then I fell into a madness, or so they tell me.
All I recall is wandering in purgatory for nigh-on eight weeks, while the spirits of darkness whispered their secrets and my true self came to the fore.
I awoke no longer as Elizabeth Southerns. I’d become the wise Old Demdike.
I first met Tibb nigh-on twenty years ago, near Gouldshey stone-pit. He came to me in the shape of a lad, dressed up all fancy in a black and brown coat. I thought he was some young master who’d got himself lost ’til he beckoned me over and demanded, “Give me thy soul!”
“Why would I do that?” I asked him, staring at the face of a fallen angel.
“If ye do, thou can have all thy wants,” says he.
I thought on his words and requested he utter his name.
“Tibb,” he told me – and I knew then it was a spirit or devil stood afore me.
I pondered the offer. Such a promise was mighty tempting indeed – and so I verily agreed.
“If you’re feelin’ lost and fussin’ o’er the best path to take,
follow the first animal ye spot
(be it a hare, bird, cat, insect or mouse).
When it fades from view follow the next creature that crosses your path.
Then the next. And the next. And so on, ’til they lead
to where your destiny lies.
Look with faithful eyes and you’ll soon see
what answer doth await thee!”
Most folk don’t know much about my best mate Kate Hewitt. Everyone round here calls her Mouldheel’s Wife as she’s wed to John Hewitt of Colne. He’s a weaver in Waterside – a slippery knave, and not much to look at either. I know he bulks out his cloth with tallow. You can tell from the shine, even afore the mould starts growing. And each time there’s an official complaint they’ve to pack up shop and move on.
For a while they lived here, in Barley. It was years ago, when all our bairns were just scraps. That’s when Kate came and asked me to cure her rabbits. She raises them like chickens until they’re firm and plump and then wrings their necks for market. But that year summat made the whole bunch sick, and it was a couple of weeks afore I worked out a cure. Then she was that glad I’d saved the kits she invited our lot to supper – treated us more decent than anyone outside of the clan ever had – and we became friends.
When me and Ali were arrested, Lizzie invited Kate (and her neighbor Alice Gray) to the Good Friday gathering at Malkin Tower, to see if they’d any suggestions for getting us free. They came on Alice’s ponies, which is likely why she was asked along in the first place. I don’t know much about Goodwife Gray, except for the rumor a while back that she fell out with some lot at Folds Farm and was accused of putting their young lass in hanck. Now I’m told both women have been arrested, I’ll warrant on account of some old scores that needed settling.
I hope they put Kate in the Well Tower so we can find out what’s been going on out there. It won’t seem quite so grim if my mate’s in here with us too.
Mad Martha Roby’s as bony and brown as any Romany I ever laid eyes on, though she’s riddled with the Pox. She and her lass Belle live rough in a cave, some place at the back of Fell Woods. Belle’s the young slattern Our Jim took a fancy to.
I know Martha can’t show her face in town – been banned ever since she caught the French Disease off some soldier a good few years back – so they scrape by from begging. Then Belle got hired by the swineherd at Roughlee Hall and filches the best scraps of meat from the pigs. But since she’s been sent to the castle alongside Jim, I wonder how Martha’s coping.
Ali’s got no time for either of them. She says Martha’s moonstruck – away with the fairies – as mad as the locals claim. And Belle’s a simple soul. Ali hates how free that wench is with her favors. She’ll lift her smock for aught that’s shiny or worth eating. But they don’t get Ali that cheap!
(Picture: Matthijs Maris)
I hear tell they’ve also arrested the Bulcocks – Jane her lad Big John, o’fMoss End Farm. They’re not down here with our lot either, so they must’ve bartered the mistress’ fancy broach for finer lodgings. That diamond pin will like be the death of them both. It certainly caught ourJenny’s green eye, and earned her a rare old thrashing.
Still, that light-fingered lassie did find out summat I never knew. Turns out, Mistress Bulcock’s great granddad was a knight, made Lord of the Realm for his service to the old King Henry. That’s how they got the diamond – for saving His Majesty’s life in the Battle of the Spurs at Guinegate. After Jane’s grandma died whelping their only daughter, he re-wed. But when he passed away afore his new wife, everything went to her side of the family, except the farm. And the pin Jane got as a keep-sake.
Now our Jenny loves aught shiny. She couldn’t keep her grubby paws off that broach, and a whole heap of bother it caused. They took pity on the lass being just a bairn – but if me or Lizzie or Jim had filched summat that costly we’d have swung from the nearest crossbeam for sure.
Yet here they are in the castle accused as witches! I’ve never heard aught so daft in all my born days. Jane Bulcock was one of my patrons, aye, but a wise woman herself? It’s utter nonsense. Then again, happen the jailers are merely baiting us. Let’s wait up and see.
Pssst! Wear silver today for good luck.
I’ll warrant you’re curious what Mistress Nutter’s doing here at the castle. I haven’t the foggiest notion. All I can say is they didn’t put her down in the Well Tower with us lot. She’s paid handsome for a room above ground, waiting for the Justice to come to his senses. I expect she’ll hire some fancy lawman from London, and that the governor won’t be keeping her long.
I knew Mistress Nutter as a bairn, back when she was Alice Whitaker, though that must be nigh-on sixty years ago now. We all stood outside the church as she wedded Master Richard, and our Lizzie and me helped birth her last lad Myles, who came out backwards.
You can tell she’s well-placed just by looking at her alongside my lass. Alice is a good ten years older than Lizzie, but you’d swear she was the youngster of the pair. Of course, she’s grown a bit stouter over the years, yet was ever grand and tidy. Her chestnut hair’s now faded to ash and her lips are thinner, which makes her seem fussy and cold. Yet for all that, there’s many-a grateful pauper in Pendle who’ll not hear a word said against her. We’ve all known her charity at one time or another, and I can’t for the life of me fathom who’d point a finger at that kindly soul. But someone must have a grudge to bear otherwise she’s still be at Crowtrees Farm . . . which just goes to show that we’ve all got enemies.
So you’d best wear white today. For protection.
Our biggest rivals are the Chattox lot over at West Close in Higham. And their lass Anne’s a comely wench if ever there was one, though too much of a handful for poor Tom Redferne to manage. She’s quite a bit older than our Ali, and Jim used to follow her round like a dog chasing heat. Of course, being bonny as summer she’d not give the dim lad the slightest sniff, finally shooing him off with a bucket of pig shit ’til he finally got the message.
Anne was widowed at thirty, with naught to show for ten years of wedlock except one scrawny lass called Marie. Yet she kept her curves and rosy cheeks, and her coppery hair never grew tatty like our Lizzie’s. So whenever the cheeky whelp sets off doing business, her sister Bessie steps in. Bessie’s not much use for aught else really – not very wise at all.
Aye, Anne’s the one to watch now that Old Chattox stoops blind over her stick and can’t stop her toothless gob from jabbering. She’s dangerous, that crafty trollop is, and not the type to cross if you value your health. They say she put that young Nutter lad in hancke and I’ll warrant there might be some truth in that.
Right now though, Anne and her mum are locked up in the Well Tower with us. There’s a whisper she may be plotting her escape as folks believe she can shape-shift into a raven. But I don’t believe a word of that nonsense, for I taught those two foolish bitches everything they know!
After Our Ali lamed that peddler in Colne they came for me. I told the justice about that lot over at West Close, and afore we knew what’d happened we were rounded up and sent to Lancaster – me, Ali, Old Chattox, and Anne Redferne.
Lizzie and Chris called a meeting of the locals. They even invited Bessie Whittle, since her mum and sister were also in the Well Tower. They summoned up all those neighbors who owed us favors to find who’d been named, and to chat about what might be done for them.
This gathering took place last Good Friday at Malkin Tower. I’m told two dozen souls or more came, and Jim stole a sheep from Barley so they’d have mutton for roasting on the outside spit. Someone suggested trying to rescue us, but that was a daft notion as you’d need gunpowder or summat to blast through walls this thick! So common sense won out, and they ended up making a list of who’d bring our food here each market day, instead.
Now Constable Hargreaves is going round telling folk that this gathering was a secret sabbat – a great assembly of witches – and that everyone who attended it is in league with demons.
What do YOU think they were up to?
Let me tell you a bit about that lot over at Hay Booth. Folks round here usually call them The Holgates as they all look that much alike even I’ve to squint to tell one from the other. Christopher and Isobel have four bairns – three strapping lads and one lass. Nick’s the eldest, then there’s Eddie, Will and Gracie. They’ve all got their mum’s curly black hair and mass of freckles, which is fine for the boys but doesn’t sit well on the wench. Gracie’s not a patch on our Ali. Never will be.
I don’t have much to do with the lads. Issy does her damnedest to keep them away from Malkin Tower as she’s worried they might turn out like our Jim. Nick must be close to twenty-or-so now, and being the tallest everyone calls him the Big Holgate. He helps his dad out in the pasture most of the time and has the makings of a grand shepherd, which is just as well as he’ll likely inherit the farm one of these days. He’s a serious lad, thoughtful and steady – but different to Eddie as chalk from cheese – which is odd being that there’s only a year between them.
Eddie’s the one that lands up in bother. You’ll find him on a treebranch or in a scrap with one o’ the local lads – and mischief should be his nickname, instead of Holly. When someone says that Holgate lad he’s the first one you think of because he’s always mixed up in summat or other. He’s the best looking of the clan and has already got quite an eye for the lassies, or so I’ve been told.
Next comes Will, the one we’re all pinning our hopes to complete his apprenticeship as a cooper in Lancaster. He’s known as T’other Holgate. Will’s got a rare talent with wood and he’s dead good at mending our Great Wheel whenever one of the spokes gets stuck or broke. I think he’s the most like Isobel, though I don’t know if he’s got half her ambition or business head. I’ll warrant they’ll just have to wait and see.
And then there’s Gracie. Most folk don’t realize she’s my granddaughter as she’s not a bit like Ali or Jenny. It’s a good job she can spin and dye wool as her chances in wedlock are slim, and she’s none o’ my cunning. Shame is, she tries so hard. Ali teases her all the time, and because they’re best mates the foolish wench takes no notice o’ what’s being said. I’ve given up trying to teach her aught. I think there’s too much of Issy’s church teachings got through and the lass can’t bring herself to do what needs doing.
Perhaps because she’s going to Confirmation instruction our Gracie’s not been named in the witch hunts. But I half expect she might join us here in the castle afore we’re done. I wonder if she knows where Jenny is?
Well ta for visiting and here’s your reward: Wear brown for good health and a happy hearth!
Like I’ve said before, my lass and her three whelps live at Blacko with me. But I’ve another bairn too – a fine lad called Chris whose got his own family over at Hay Booth.
The first bad luck I had as a youngster ended up as our Lizzie. So my folks wed me off to an old mold-warp called Matt Southern, and gave us Malkin Tower as a dowry. Then they washed their hands of us, and left me to fend for myself when he died a few years later. And that’s when I became a wise woman. I did what needed doing to make ends meet.
The love of my life was a play actor called Christopher Holgate. But when I told him I’d got caught again he fled, leaving me with naught but a growing belly. I gave my lad his dad’s name – and that’s the only thing he ever got from that lousy vagabond.
Chris grew up handsome and strong. He made a good match marrying Isobel Shepherd, who got to stay at Hay Booth when her kinfolk died of the plague. And he took to sheep farming like he’d been doing it all his life, and turned out to be proper good at rearing the lambs and sheering.
Truth be told, I don’t much like my daughter-in-law. She thinks she’s grander than our lot, though I must admit she’s got a dead nice set-up with all that fancy spinning and dying. And the fleece she sends for working on our Great Wheel certainly keeps us going through the long winter months, so I shouldn’t grumble.
But Issy’s a bit too fond of church for my liking. Still, I pay that no mind as she’ll not say aught damaging to the vicar, because it’d be far too dangerous for her Gracie. Chris and her both dote on that plain little wench though I don’t for the life of me know why, even though I’m her Gran! But that’s a tale for another telling.
In the meantime mark well these words – keep a sharp eye out the otter down by the water and he’ll bring you good luck for the whole of this month.
Our Lizzie’s lass is only nine years old but everyone’s heard of Jennet Device! She’s made quite a name for herself lately, tattling to the Justice on the doings at Malkin Tower. I don’t know who’s feeding the little wench, since I’m stuck here in the castle, but one of the jailors says she’s living at Read Hall with the Nowells, and is like to give evidence against us at the assizes. She’d best not say aught about me though, the hell cat. And Lizzie will wring her neck if she opens her gob too far.
Jenny’s fooled everyone. She looks the perfect angel – all long blonde curls and big eyes. But don’t be taken in by her bonny smile! She’s a viper in disguise, and no mistake. I’ve never trusted her as far as I could spit – and she’s got the lightest fingers of anyone I’ve ever met. That minx just can’t keep her hands to herself and she’s always landing the lot of us in bother. The final straw came last year when she filched Mistress Bulcock’s diamond pin! What a to-do there was over that. Aye, she’s a proper thieving magpie, that one. I just wish she didn’t keep getting caught.
There’s summat odd about that child I can’t quite put my finger on. She was a sulky bairn who grew up fast and secretive, yet she’s got to be the center of aught going on, and if you don’t stamp her back into place she’ll pull some trick or other to get herself admired.
Has she got any cunning though? It’s too soon to tell. But if she ever decides she’s a sorceress the good folks of Pendle better sit up and take note. They’ll never sleep soundly again!
From my voluntarie Confession and Examination (April 2, 1612)
” . . . the speediest way to take a mans life away by Witchcraft, is to make a Picture of Clay, like unto the shape of the person whom they meane to kill,& dry it thorowly: and when they would have them to be ill in any one place more then the other; then take a Thorne or Pinne, and pricke it in that part of the Picture you would so have to be ill: and when you would have any part of the Body to consume away, then take that part of the Picture, and burne it. And when you would have the whole body to consume away, then take the remnant of the sayd Picture, and burne it: and so thereupon by that meanes, the body shall die.”
Source: Potts, Thomas. The Wonderfull Discoverie of Witches in the Countie of Lancaster, 1613.
Our Ali’s a bonnie wench and no mistaking. She makes everyone in the village call her Alizon as she thinks it sounds much grander than Ali. And that pride’s always been her downfall. She’s eighteen years, if I’ve counted up right, and since she turned twelve she’s earned more money than the rest of us put together.
You’d think a lass with those curves would have suitors falling all over themselves, but there’s summat about Ali that puts the lads off – and not just her slattern reputation! She’s got the finest light brown hair and big wide eyes, and you can see from her arms that she’s strong and capable. But she’s also got a wicked tongue and won’t take No! for an answer. Of course, that’s what got us all in this mess in the first place. She can’t keep her gob shut and she likes to brag. Silly baggage.
Her black dog’s called Nip – an apt name for the snarly creature – and she doesn’t go anywhere without him. Since we’ve been put in the castle it’s the first time they’ve ever been parted so I hope my son Chris can handle the mutt while we’re gone.
I must admit, our Ali’s got the gift alright – she’s a real chip off the old block when it comes to cunning. It’s a pity she’s not more kindly disposed to Jenny, but I’ve never known two sister who hate each other like they do. Her only mate’s Cousin Gracie – our Chris’ lass from Hay Booth. I’m dead surprised they’ve not rounded her up too, but I’m glad at least one of my granddaughters won’t be standing trial.
Though he was baptized James Device, my grandson was always Our Jim to me. You could tell the moment he came out that summat was wrong with him. He didn’t screech and bawl like other bairns – he just lay there looking up through muddy eyes, a daft grin twisting his face. Lizzie took one glance at the lad and said he was moon-struck. But his dad was like a dog with two tails at the thought of siring a son. John couldn’t stop jumpin’ a jig round the room, so thrilled that he didn’t seem to notice the drool seeping from the youngster’s gob.
Things didn’t improve much as Jim grew older. He sprouted up fast as a weed, and by the time he turned twelve he seemed almost full-grown and able to help with the harvest. Shame is though, all of that growing was done in his legs while his mind stayed dim-witted and weak. He was dead jealous when Ali came along, but as soon as she grew teats she learned how to put him in his place. Little Harry and Jim got on splendid, being interested in most of the same things, until our lot got cursed one bad winter and we ended up burying little Harry in a grave with our John.
Jim’s got a brown dog called Dandy. It’s almost as stupid as him and far more vicious. I can’t stand the sight of the mangy creature but the lad won’t let it out of his sight. That’s one of the reasons he can’t get a proper job – no one wants that snarly cur around. Even our Chris – Jim’s uncle over at Hay Booth – won’t let him tend the sheep with that mutt in tow. But try getting him to part with the damned dog is the devil’s-own-job. And I don’t want him leaving it here.
I think Jim must be a bit over twenty years by now, but there’s no chance of him getting hitched. Who’d put up with that lump of pudding? Not even Belle Robey, the slattern he’s walking out with from Fell Woods. I don’t know what’s going to happen to the poor lad. He’s accused of hexing Mistress Towneley from Carr Hall over a silly row about borrowing some of her turf. I don’t know why she made such a fuss when she’s got more-than-enough of the stuff. Then they said he bewitched John Duckworth when he wouldn’t give him an old shirt that was promised. It was a tatty worn thing young Duckworth was done with. And it wasn’t worth losing his life for.
Let me tell you a bit about our lot at Malkin Tower. First off, there’s my lass Lizzie. She’s not the bonniest of the bunch, but she’ll service aught that can pay, and has plenty who’ll visit to do the things that their wives at home won’t allow!
She must be nigh-on forty two years, and if anyone ever dares question her powers I chuckle and say, “Well, she got John Device to wed her!” Even I don’t know how she conjured up that miracle – not that the vagabond was aught to boast on, but at least he made her legal.
Lizzie had four bairns – Jim, Ali, Harry, and Jenny. Little Harry died around the same time as his dad. Jenny came later, but when no one bothered to add up the months the villages called her a Device, the same as the others.
We all keep dogs, except wee Jenny. Lizzie’s got a nasty white mutt named Ball who likes scrapping and mounting bitches. The Justice calls them familiars. We play along, because when all this witch-mess is over it’ll pay handsome to have the village folks thinking we’ve got a pack of demons doing our bidding. That’ll make them think twice about swindling us. That’ll bring the alms in when we go begging!
Our Lizzie’s got the gift of second sight and of that there’s no doubt. She does a roaring trade reading palms and telling fortunes, though she can’t scry in the mirror as good as me. In winter she works at the Great Wheel, spinning our Chris’ fleece into wool, earning that lot at Hay Booth a pretty penny. Still, I mustn’t grumble just because they’re better situated than us – our Chris looks after his old mum better than most.
I often wished he lived here instead of Lizzie. She’s turned into a mean, grumpy cow and I’m sick of looking at her ugly face. I know she can’t help being born like she was – one eye drooping half way down her cheek and puffy lips that seem bee-stung. But with that pock-scarred skin and wild gray hair it’s small wonder she puts the fear of God into folk. Even I wouldn’t want to meet her in a country lane after dark, and neither would you!
When Constable Hargreaves arrested us I was gob smacked. “Can they do you for magic then, nowadays?” I asked.
He wiped his brow and said, “Not magic. Witchcraft!” We didn’t ken the difference back then, and by the time we found out it was too late to save our Ali. But I decided if I was going to swing I’d take the Old Chattox bitch with me so I pointed the finger at her, saying Anne Whittle bade me sell my soul to the Devil. And a mighty fine yarn I span!
Our rivals live o’er at West Close in Higham. Old Chattox has two lassies – Anne Redferne and Bessie Whittle – and a grandchild called Marie. Anne’s the widow of Tom Redferne, a handsome lad cuckolded more times than I’ve had hot porridge. Bessie though, she’s plainer than milk, and no one ever came courting for that lump of lard.
Now there once was a time me and Anne Whittle were best mates, when we’d swap potions and recipes for herbals. But when she grew jealous of my reputation her wenches broke into Malkin Tower and stole all our hard-earned treasures. After that, it was war between the two clans so I told Justice Nowell a thing or two about that lot – how we’d seen them hex Christopher and Robert Nutter with our very own eyes.
They’d filched enough of my secrets to fool a good many folk in Pendle. And some would even argue that Old Chattox is wiser then me. Ha!
But afore I go on any further let me prove my powers to you. Today, wear RED for luck and see what happens.
I tell folk we hail from a long line of cunning folk, that our roots stretch all the way back to the Druids. They baptized me Elizabeth Southerns as a bairn but everyone calls me Old Demdike – the local name for a wise woman.
Come to me with your dreams and I’ll make you a potion. Bring me your nightmares, I’ll chase them away with a charm. If ye labor in vain I’ll aid in the birthing, and chant in your milk on the midnight air. But cross me and mine at your peril, for there’s none can curse as good or foul as our lot.
We all live together at Malkin Tower in Blacko, a cottage in the shadow of the hill that’s seen better days. There’s my cock-eyed lass Squinting Lizzie, widowed a good few years back from John Device. And the three of her brood that survive: Jim, a moonstruck lad as daft as a brush; Ali, the minx who started this witch hunting lark; and bonny wee Jenny.
Jenny’s the viper in our midst. She tattled to Justice Nowell about our doings and now a dozen of us are standing trial for murder on the lies that spewed from her gob. Who’d have ever thought a nine year old cur would bring down the mighty Demdike?
Do you believe in witches?
Careful! The history of the Craft is one of persecution – and this is a tale you won’t have heard afore for there’s none left alive to tattle.
I’m the wisest woman in Pendle, as old as the hill. Listen up when the wind whips the mist off the cairn and you may catch me howling.
I’ll tell you all about the blackest o’ magic, if you walk with me yonder on the dark side of the ridge, and if you cross my palm with silver.
But enter this realm with caution – you can never return to the time of not knowing . . .
Torture isn’t allowed under English law –
but the thumbscrews or pilniewinks crush even the strongest will!
“. . . in 1596, the son and daughter of Aleson Balfour, who was accused of witchcraft, were tortured to make her confess her crime in the manner following: Her son was put in the buits where he suffered fifty-seven strokes; and her daughter about seven years old, was put in the pilniewinks . . .”
Torture isn’t allowed under English law –
but some folk get stretched on The Rack:
“We went to the torture room in a kind of procession, the attendants walking ahead with lighted candles.
The chamber was underground and dark, particularly near the entrance. It was a vast place and every device and instrument of human torture was there. They pointed out some of them to me and said I would try them all. Then he asked me again whether I would confess.
‘I cannot,’ I said.”
(Father John Gerard, 1597)
The Rack’s the most painful torture o’ all!
Torture isn’t allowed under English law –
but some folk still get pressed to death by the peine forte et dure!
“he will lie upon his back, with his head covered and his feet, and one arm will be drawn to one quarter of the house with a cord, and the other arm to another quarter, and in the same manner it will be done with his legs; and let there be laid upon his body iron and stone, as much as he can bear, or more …“
(from the Curiosities of Cowel’s Interpreter)
Demdike’s Lament: Return of the Druid
In the days of old they called us
the Wise Women
and begged our aid
when the world beat against them.
The Druids crowned us
High Priestesses –
we raised storms to keep
the invaders at bay.
Dancers span spells
and wrought powerful potions,
bringing new life into being
and healing ill.
We brewed roots, bark, plants and
and sang to claim the winds and wilds.
Then the clergy spoke and made
all the Cunning
ostracized from the Divine.
We terrified them
and were ground down
under the boot of
the cruel Inquisition.
We became Witches
and the burnings began.
But we never honored Satan –
Yet those put to question
still gave up
their friends to fire and gallows.
We now roam the land as Vagabonds
and changing luck.
Skilled eyes that can pierce through the veil
will be Clairvoyants,
mastering the spirit world.
When doctors and science
fail to tame the feral –
they will label us mad and
Yet healers always find new ways
to combat superstition.
And when faith returns
I know Wise Women
will ride the moon once again.
John William Waterhouse
Call it what ye will – but the veil between the worlds is at its thinnest.
Samhain means Summer’s End. We Wise Women celebrate on the nearest full moon afore November, after the harvest is gathered. This is halfway between Autumn Equinox and the Winter Solstice. It represents the end o’ summer and the start of the spiritual New Year. Samhain comes from the Celtic Fire Festival when all the Druids remember the dead. Bonfires may be built to cleanse and protect – and sacrifices are offered to the gods. It’s a night of divination, mummers, feastin’, guisin’, and young lads followin’ the Hobby Horse about the village.
The Church o’ Rome made this feast into All Hallows’ Eve, the start o’ All Saints’ Day to honor the Christian saints and martyrs – and All Soul’s Day that remembers the souls o’ the dead. There’ll be Soul Cakes eaten instead o’ meat, candles lit for the dear departed, vigils, feasts, and the ringin’ o’ church bells everywhere.
The youngsters have just celebrated Halloween, short for Hallowed or Holy Evening, and remembered the frailty o’ life wi’ skeletons, ghouls, cobwebs, tombstones, and demons. They hoped to chase evil and death away by honoring the darkness. Some carved turnips into Jack o’ Lanterns for those lost souls who’ve been denied both Heaven and Hell. There were pranks and guising to imitate mischievous spirits, costume feasts, processions, and mummers’ plays. I’m sure you did plenty o’ frolicking.
Aye, it’s a powerful week — but be careful to guard your own soul!
Can’t choose between two lovers? Here’s a spell to help – but it must be cast on All Hallows:
Light a fire and take three walnuts. Name one for yourself and one for each suitor.
Place the three nuts on the fire with yours in the middle of the other two.
If either nut cracks – or jumps away – that union is not meant to be.
The two nuts that blaze closest together will make the best marriage!
Here’s a little rhyme to tell your future!
If you see a flock o’ crows, what do they promise?
Ten for a bird you must not miss.