There’s ten ways folks use to determine if thou be a witch ’round here. The first is CAUSING FITS.
If a villager behaves moonstruck and odd whenever close by,
then the finger will point at thee!
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.
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.
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.
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.