Sunday, 17 April 2011

Drop in for a Spell

This is me, my mum and my friend Emily 'blending in' with the Pendle Witches on a walk in March 2003, making us 10 years old :D

They were outside this shop, which was adorable and one of those interesting 'Curiosity Shop' types that you find in small villages such as Pendle/Barley.

A whistle stop explanation of the Pendle Witch legend is that in 1612, 13 people (both men and women) were accused of Witchcraft and Murder in and around the Forest of Pendle, and were tried at Lancaster gaol. Of those 13, 10 were executed there after being found guilty of both charges, 1 died awaiting trial but was posthumously found guilty, another who lived just over the Lancashire border was actually tried and executed in York instead, and the final witch, Margaret Pearson, was found guilty of Witchcraft but not Murder, and so was only sentenced to a years imprisonment. The story is claimed to be the most famous witchtrial in all English legal history!

AHHH I've just researched this a bit and it's actually really interesting, so I'm going to carry on explaining but I won't be offended if you don't read any further!!

The two witches at the centre of the trial were Elizabeth Southerns, who called herself 'Demdike' and Anne Whittle, who called herself 'Chattox'. They were once friends but had a bitter feud and became arch enemies, apparently forming two separate 'covens' in the area, based on their respective families. It's not entirely clear who belonged to which coven, but Demdike was the powerful matriach of the Device family, with her daughter Elizabeth and grandchildren James and Alizon Device all being executed alongside her. The second daughter, Jennet Preston, was the witch executed in York. They lived at 'Malkin Tower' and in his confession, James described several sabbats that occurred there...this is brilliant, all the names sound so fairytale, you just couldn't make this stuff up!

So much is known about the Pendle Witches because Thomas Potts, a court cleric, was so meticulous in his records, and so the statements of Demdike, Chattox, Alizon and James have survived intact. It's noted that they were not under duress or torture and so it has puzzled many why they were so willing and detailed in their accounts of their own guilt, however Demdike and Chattox appear to have incriminated each other ferociously and when Demdike died before being sentenced Chattox blamed her entirely for enticing her and her family into witchcraft.

It did not work.

There's a ton of gory info about what they did and all about 17th century witchcraft including the original confessions of several of the accused at:

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