Monday, January 18, 2010

The Pendle Witches

In 1612, at Lancaster gaol, located in the English county of Lancashire, ten men & women were hanged for witchcraft. This is probably one of the most known and famous case of witchcraft in England. The reason that so much was known about them is because the proceedings of the trials and executions were written down by Thomas Potts, who were the clerk of the court at the time. He also wrote a book about the incident. It contains confessions of four of the 'witches' and also very detailed accounts of their crimes.
     There were 13 people total that were accused. They became known as the Pendle Witches. They were believed to have murdered 17 people, by witchcraft,  in and around the forest of Pendle.
     Ten of these 13 people lived at Lancaster gaol; Alizon Device, Elisabeth Device, James Device, Anne Whittle whose alias was Chattox, Anne Redferne, Alice Nutter, Katherine Hewitt, John Bulcock, Isobel Robey. They were hanged at Lancaster gaol.
     The other three were; Elizabeth Southerns also known as Demdike. She died in Lancaster gaol awaiting her trail. Jennet Preston, who lived just over the Lancashire border. She was tried in Yorkshire and then hanged at York in the same year of 1612. Magaret Pearson was found guilty at Lancaster but not guilty of murder. She only received a sentence of one year of imprisonment.
     It mostly was about a family feud between two families, who both known to practice witchcraft. The two families were lead by two elders who were known for their strong power in the craft. Demdike who had been friends with Chattox had an argument and they feuded bitterly. No one could understand why such confessions came out of the four who were questioned, except that they were so mad at each other and wanted to 'do each other in.' Torture wasn't used in England to extract confessions out of accused witches. It was only used on the mainland of Europe at the time. Yes, you read that right. I found that in itself amazing.
     As usual, it was said that they sold their souls to familiars, spirits and the devil then they received the power to kill or lame anyone that 'crossed' them. The popular method of killing or cursing someone was to make an ethigy of the intended victim. This figure was known as the 'picture of clay.' The figurine was then crumbled or burned over a period of time which caused the victim to fall ill and even die.
     Alizon Device, James Device, Elizabeth Device and Demdike lived at a place called Malkin Tower. Demdike was in her 80s and their elder ( mother and grandmother). She was known in the area as a very powerful witch.
     As I stated above, the majority of the confessions came from four of the accused; Alizon Device, her brother James Device, their grandmother Demdike and their enemy Chattox.
     The Demdike family consist of Elizabeth Southerns also known as Demdike, Elizabeth Device, her daugther and the mother of James and Alizon Device.
     The Chattox family was Anne Whittle, known as Chattox and her daughter, Anne Redferne.
     The Bulcock family was Jane Bulcock and her son, John Bulcock.
     The other 'witches' were Katherine Hewitt, alias Mouldheels, Alice Nutter, Magaret Pearson, Jennet Preston and Isobel Robey.
     There were 17 victims of these 'witches' and their little feud that they had going on.
     John Device, Hugh and John Moore of Higham, Anne and Robert Nutter were murdered by Chattox.
     Richard Assheton of Downham, a child of Richard Baldwin of Wheathead were victims of Demdike.
     Now together with Elizabeth Device & Alice Nutter, Demdike were accused of murdering a Henry Milton of Roughles.
     The victims of James Device were John Duckworth, Blaze Hargreaves of Higham, John Hargreaves of Goldshaw Booth and also Anne Towneley of Car.
     Elizabeth Device was accused of killing James & John Robinson of Barley.
     Anne Foulds of Coine was murdered by Katherine Hewitt.
     Jennet Preston's victim was a Thomas Lister of Gisburn.
     Anne Redferne's victim was Christopher Nutter.
     I can only imagine the publicity that this was getting during that time, just as the O.J. trail was getting the attention during our time. This had to be the story of the century.
     Even their familiars and spirits were accounted for. Alizon Device had a black dog as her familiar. Elizabeth Device's familiar was called Ball. Dandie was James Device's spirit. Chattox's familiar was called Fancie. Demdike called hers Tibb. Jennet Preston had a white foal as her familiar. I bet that was cool. LOL  Magaret Preston's was a cloven-hoofed man.

     Even though this story is fascinating, still people were accused of being a
'witch' and they were hanged or murdered themselves. I'm so glad that we don't have to worry about people's fears and ignorance anymore. We don't have to worry about being hanged or burned at the stake anymore. Let's hope those times don't repeat themselves anymore. Let's keep this country free for ALL RELIGIONS for all of our and our children's sakes.

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