Thursday, October 8, 2009

Pendle witches

Local magistrates in the UK, conducted ruthless witch-hunts in 1612 in the hope that they would find favour with King James who lived in fear of Catholic rebellion having survived the Gunpowder Plot of 1605. One of these hunts resulted in the arresting of Alizon Device in Pendle, Lancashire.

The crime she was accused of was setting a curse on a pedlar and paralysing him. She confessed, and incriminated two other women, named Demdike and Chattox.

Investigations at Demdike's home, Malkin Tower, revealed human bones and clay figures of people who had mysteriously died in recent years.

The magistrate continued their witch-hunt arresting, eleven women in total and then imprisoned at Lancaster Castle where on 17th August 1612 ten of them were tried and publicly hanged three days later.

Alizon Device, Elizabeth Device, James Device, Anne Whittle(alias Chattox), Anne Redferne, Alice Nutter, Katherine Hewitt, John Bulcock, Jane Bulcock & Isobel Robey were the ten hanged at Lancaster Gaol.

Elizabeth Southerns(alias Demdike), died in Lancaster Gaol awaiting trial, but was nevertheless considered to be a witch on the basis of evidence already gathered. Jennet Preston, who lived just over the Lancashire border, was tried in Yorkshire and hanged at York in 1612. Finally, Magaret Pearson was found guilty of witchcraft at Lancaster, but not murder, and received a sentence of one years imprisonment.

In their mass these people made up the famous thirteen Pendle Witches.

The Pendle Witches were accused of selling their souls to evil spirits or devils in return for the power to kill or injure who ever they pleased.

The usual method of murder, described in Demdike's confession to magistrates, was to make a clay figure of the intended victim. The image was then crumbled or burned over a period of time, causing the victim to fall ill and slowly die.

The family at the center of the witchcraft allegations and the ring leaders of the Pendle Witches: Alizon Device, James Device, Elizabeth Device and Demdike lived at Malkin Tower. Demdike, who was in her eighties, was the head of the family and was believed to be one of the most powerful witches in Britain. It is here that bones and other vital evidence was found to incriminate the Device family.

Magistrates were baffled that the witches were so eager to incriminate each other when questioned, but it then came to light that Demdike had once been a close friend of Chattox, the accusations seem to have been an act of revenge. Apparently the families had been feuding for years, perhaps since one member of the Whittle (Chattox) family broke into Malkin Tower (the home of the Demdikes) and stole goods . It is believed that this is why the two families incriminated each other. In addition to this when Demdike died in Gaol, Chattox changed her story, claiming Demdike was responsible for enticing her into witchcraft.

The Pendle Witches are said to haunt the buildings, landscapes and historic villages in the shadow of Pendle Hill such as Newchurch, home of St. Mary's Church, from where Demdike was thought to have stolen human bones.

A sinister feeling and anger is often felt by visitors and many locals refuse to discuss the goings on for fear of their own safety.

Pendle Hill is located in the north-east of Lancashire, England

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I really like that story! Well researched and written. Thanks!

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