Make yourself a Yorkshire tea and grab a couple of shortbread biscuits (full packet encouraged) – we’re going to talk about witchez.
Since being a little jelly tot, I’ve always been fascinated by tales of The Pendle Witches. And, since spooky season is well and truly upon us.. what better time than now to write a conjuring inspired post.
So much like my previous upload, I’ve polished up on my existing knowledge and I’m excited to share with you one of (if not the most) famous and well documented witch stories in English history.. and one which happened in my home county of Lancashire only a couple of century’s ago..
The story of The Pendle Witches, also known as The Lancashire Witches, spans over many years, during a time where religion and superstition were intermingled – and when people were afraid of both.
Currently, Pendle – a borough of Lancashire which is arguably most famous for its link to the now notorious witch trials of 1612, is a calm, hilly landscape and home to Pendle Hill – an area which still to this day continues to be associated with witchcraft. And where statues of witches – such as the one I’ve inserted at the top of this post – can be found scattered around the area as a more permanent reminder of the historic events which took place there.
During the late 16th / early 17th century Pendle, as a county, was regarded by authorities as a “wild and lawless region” and one which was infamous by reputation for theft, violence and sexual carelessness. Although, despite the order of the Cistercians (a Catholic religious order of monks and nuns) during this time, the common people remained largely faithful to their Roman Catholic beliefs and were quick to revert to Catholicism on Queen Marys rise to the throne in 1553.
Apparently, when Marys protestant half-sister Elizabeth came to the throne in 1558, Catholic priests once again had to go into hiding. But as Pendle was so remote, they continued to celebrate mass (religious service of the Roman Catholic Church) in secret.
Early in her reign, Elizabeth passed a law in the form of “An Act Against Conjurations, Enchantments and Witchcraft”. The Act provided that anyone who should “use, practice, or exercise any Witchcraft, Enchantment, Charm or Sorcery whereby any person shall happen to be killed or destroyed” was to be found guilty of felony, without benefit of clergy, and was to be put to death. However, the demand of the death penalty was only to be set upon those who had caused harm to others. Meanwhile lesser offences were punishable by means of imprisonment.
This investigation into witches in the Pendle area began when an altercation took place between one of the accused (a young woman) and a local pedlar. The girl is said to have passed the peddler on the road to Trawden Forest and asked him for some pins. It is said that 17th century metal pins were handmade and relatively expensive, and frequently needed for magical purposes, such as in healing (particularly for treating warts) and divination. It was also unknown whether her intention was to pay for the pins or whether she was begging. When the pedlar kindly refused, the girl allegedly cursed him. Shortly after, the pedlar suffered a stroke for which he blamed the witch and her supernatural powers. When the incident was brought before Justice Nowell, the girl confessed that she had told the devil to lame the pedlar as punishment for denying her request. Upon further questioning, the young witch also accused her own grandmother as well as members of a rival witch family (rival in terms of performing witchcraft in exchange for payment), of sorcery.
During this time, Pendle Hill was unquestionably home to rumours of witches, sorcery and other mysterious happenings that eventually lead to the arrest of 12 local people, 6 of which were from one of two rival families. After undergoing examination / questioning, the 12 accused confessed to sensational tales of souls sold to the devil and of spells cast causing injury and even murder. The so-called Pendle Witches were trialed in Lancaster Castle and according to documentation, 1 of the accused died in prison awaiting trial. Another was found not guilty. Out of the 11 who went to trial, 10 were found guilty and were sentenced to death by execution (hanging).
Still to this day there are claims of unexplained phenomena occurring at Pendle Hill. Because of Pendle Hills history, many peopled have used it as a location to perform dark arts and satanic rituals. Some even argue that the 10 witches executed during The Lancashire Witch Trials sometimes return to their meeting point at the top of the Hill in death, with alleged sightings of ghosts reported by many of the locals. As well as a perpetual eerie presence..
Happy Halloween xo