Grave Robbers

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 Jim


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 jumping 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 alongside 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 certainly wasn’t worth losing his life for.

A Charme

    A Charme to Cure the Bewitched.

This is a prayer Our Lizzie taught her bairns.

                                                            Three Witches

“Upon Good-Friday, I will fast while I may

Untill I heare them knell

Our Lords owne Bell,

Lord in his messe

With his twelve Apostles good,

What hath he in his hand

Ligh in leath wand:

What hath he in his other hand?

Heavens doore key,

Open, open Heaven doore keyes,

Steck, steck hell doore.

Let Crizum child

Goe to it Mother mild,

What is yonder that casts a light so farrandly,

Mine owne deare Sonne that’s naild to the Tree.

He is naild sore by the heart and hand,

And holy barne Panne,

Well is that man

That Fryday spell can,

His childe to learne;

A Crosse of Blew, and another of Red,

As good Lord was to the Roode.

Gabriel laid him downe to sleepe

Upon the ground of holy weepe:

Good Lord came walking by,

Slep’st thou, wak’st thou Gabriel,

No Lord I am sted with sticke abd stake,

That I can neither sleepe nor wake:

Rise up Gabriel and goe with me,

The stick nor the stake shall never deere thee.

Sweete Jesus our Lord, Amen.”


Taken from Jennet Device’s testimony against her bother, James (August, 1612)

Squinting Lizzie

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 ever 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 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 stung by bees.  But with that pock-scarred skin and wild hair, it’s small wonder she puts the fear of God into most folk.  Even I wouldn’t want to meet her in a country lane after dark, and neither would you!


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?



Put To Question: The Rack

Torture isn’t allowed under English law –

but some folk get stretched on The Rack:


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 said to be the most painful torture of all!