Friday, April 27, 2012

The tale of the Lancashire witches (in 55 words)

Fear and superstition were rife in early 17th century England so it was all too easy to misinterpret a glance, and link it to later misfortune. And that’s why ten people of Pendle were hanged for witchcraft. Device, Chattox, Demdike, Whittle and Co. No black cats, no pointy hats; just accusations and misdirected religious fervour.


The Lancashire (or Pendle) Witches are among the most famous in England. Like their US counterparts in Salem, Mass., the group were victims of over zealous neighbours who were quick to accuse at the first sign of trouble. Alizon Device was called witch after she had dealings with a peddlar who refused to give her some pins. He collapsed, paralysed, and later died (probably of a stroke) and Alizon was blamed. She was said to have cursed him, with the help of her large black dog familiar. Friends and neighbours were soon rounded up and branded as a coven, who were said to meet for Sabbats at the home of Anne Whittle, known as Old Chattox.

In spite of common belief, witches were not burned at the stake in England. That treatment was reserved for heretics, and the fires wee kept alight by throwing on homosexual 'faggots' (which actually means a bundle of sticks).

This 55 word story and its accompanying history lesson were brought to you in aid of the G-Man's weekly challenge. (I'm hoping he's better by now.) This has been posted in advance because we're currently on holiday in Lancashire. Looking for witches!


Sandra Davies said...

I have a reference, in an essay I did on a Suffolk community that "in 1645 a Suffolk witch hunter was responsible for at least sixty executions and a ‘notorious’ trial of witches in Bury St. Edmunds" and did at one time correspond from someone in Pendle about my Halifax ancestors ...

snafu said...

Interesting, I had heard of them but no detail. Well done getting into a 55. I am not sure that mind set has gone away, but instead of calling for the witchfinder general, the No-win-no-fee is called for, which is much more lucrative, if less of a spectator sport than a public execution.

Akelamalu said...

What a coincidence we went on a Pendle Witch Tour on Tuesday!

MorningAJ said...

Apparently The G-Man has been very poorly and the 55 word challenge won't be happening for a long while.

Hilary Melton-Butcher said...

Hi AJ .. sorry to hear about the G-man - hadn't picked that up in all the A - Z frenzy.

I'm sure Bob wrote about the Pendle witches in the appropriate castle post ..

Anyways - hope the weather is being relatively kind to you for your break .. cheers Hilary