Author of Adult & Young Adult Romance

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Research & Witchcraft


While researching for Hallelujah & the Rowan Stone, I came across a bit of interesting history concerning witchcraft in the 17th century. Before you ask: No, witchcraft does not play a part in this book and yes, H&tRS is set in the mid-1800's. But a while back I imagined that if Adris were to get caught by the local authorities for... I don't know... appearing out of thin air (time traveling), then the po-po (known as bobbies in 19th century England) might very well arrest & charge him with practicing witchcraft.

So, I figured I'd do a little research on the history of witchcraft in England, and ended up on a great true story from 1612 called The Pendle Witch Trials. I'd like to share with you the best account I found, authored by Cassandra James for associated content on Yahoo!

As a child growing up in England, one of the best and scariest things my family would do was to go to Pendle Hill for Halloween. Pendle Hill, in the English county of Lancashire, is famous for being associated with the most famous witch trial in British history - the Witches of Pendle. On Halloween, my parents would take me to a local stables, on the slopes of Pendle Hill, and here the local kids would bob for apples, eat treacle toffee and watch fireworks. Here also, we would be told scary witch stories about the Witches of Pendle by a woman wearing a black cloak and a big witch's hat, and with a huge wart on her face.
The story of the Witches of Pendle takes place in 1612. Nineteen men and women were imprisoned in the Lancashire in small cells below Lancaster Castle. They were tried at the Lancashire assizes, a traveling court, ten of them were found guilty and sentenced to death. The ten found guilty are famous in Lancashire history. Any child growing up in Lancashire knows the names of the ten, and fears them at night when the lights go out.
The ten were Ann Redfearn, Elizabeth Device, Alice Nutter, Alison Device, James Device, Katherine Hewitt, Jane Bulcock, John Bulcock, Isobel Robey and Anne Whittle (also known as Old Chattox). Elizabeth Southernes (famously known as Old Mother Demdike), would have also probably been found guilty, but she died in prison before this could happen. I remember as a child, if I was naughty, being threatened that Old Mother Demdike would come and take me away if I wasn't good.
Four hundred years after the fact, children all over northern England are threatened with the Pendle Witches if they misbehave. The sad truth is though, the Pendle Witches were nothing more than old and poor men and  women who were pulled before the magistrate because of a quarrel between two families.
Old Mother Demdike (Elizabeth Southernes) lived with her daughter, Elizabeth Device, and grandchildren Alison and James Device. Anne Whittle (Old Chattox), another elderly woman, lived with her daughters Ann Redfearn and Bessie Whittle. Bessie Whittle one day broke into Old Mother Demdike's house and stole some clothes and some food. So Old Mother Demdike reported her to the magistrate. Bessie Whittle then turned around and accused Old Mother Demdike and her family of witchraft. Alison Device, Old Mother Demdike's daughter, returned the favor saying Anne Whittle's whole family also practiced witchcraft and both families were arrested.
After a long imprisonment and then a trial, ten of the members of the two families were hanged as witches - being found guilty of the murders of 17 people. They weren't dropped though, which would have broken their necks and given them a quick death. Instead they were hung so they strangled slowly in front of a huge crowd who watched their deaths. Nine year old Jennet Device was the only one who was really giving evidence against them though, saying she had seen them flying around on broomsticks and turning people into frogs.
As kids in Lancashire, we were also told stories about the witch's 'familiars'. Alizon Device had a black dog familiar, and Old Mother Demdike a devil's spirit called Tibb, who came and drank her blood. I remember being very careful around black dogs for a long time afterwards.
To this day, the Pendle Witches are famous all over England. Their names are used to attract tourists to the area, and are a big draw during Halloween, when every neighborhood child is warned about Old Mother Demdike and Alice Nutter.

Great story, right? In the current scene between Hallie & Henry (Chapter 9), Henry relays that the idea of time machines has been milling about America for some time. In fact, he says, most Americans actually welcome the notion. This prompts Hallie to contemplate their own people, the Britons, and how they might respond to an invention so advanced and complex. Recalling what she knows on the Pendle Witch Trials, Hallie decides the government (or, in their case, the local authorities) would likely arrest and try that individual for witchcraft.

Hope you found this article as interesting as I did! While researching for something--a book, school, whatever--did you ever stumble upon a piece or several pieces of information you totally did not expect? Does one particular instance stick out in your mind? If so, share!

Peace, Love, and Junior Mints,

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12 comments

BREA said...

Oh yes, the future of androids is amazing and the things and advances other countries have made.....mind boggling. I am writing this sci/fi fiction saying to myself "I hope actual science doesn't beat my book in the race!"

Donna K. Weaver said...

Love the connection you made because technology today would seem like magic to those earlier people.

Can you imagine how horrible it would be to be accused of something like that and be killed? What was the Device kids thinking? Weren't some of those people members of her family? O_o

Alyssia said...

@BREA Isn't it, though? And I do think you'll be A-OK with your current WIP. ;)

@Donna Thanks, Donna! Indeed, imagine what our great-great-great-great grandparents would say about our iPhones. And yes! These were actual family members, accusing each other of random acts of witchcraft. And since witchcraft was a *gasp* sacrilege!! kind of thing back then, you know the authorities were quick to jump on it. So glad we're granted such a vast amount of freedom in today's day and age.

Andrew Leon said...

Hmmm... those names seem familiar. Now, I'm going to have to see who may have used them in fiction.

Elizabeth Mueller said...

Great post! Very interesting, too. I think its sad how people were accused like that and still are in other places, too. :(

Thank you for visiting my Darkspell Celebration! Hooray for witches--what my debut book has! <3


♥.•*¨Elizabeth¨*•.♥
Can Alex save Winter from the darkness that hunts her?
YA Paranormal Romance, Darkspell coming fall of 2011!
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Shannon Lawrence said...

Sounds a lot like the Salem Witch Trials. I'm always astounded that people would make such dangerous accusations for a bit of revenge. Then again, I met a woman once who bragged about calling CPS on neighbors and such when they irritated her, and claiming various forms of child abuse. Sick.

Thanks for sharing this story! I always find stuff like this very interesting. It makes me feel like maybe society hasn't really gone downhill as far as we think it has, considering people would point fingers in this way, knowing full well death was a possible, and likely, punishment for it.

Alyssia said...

@Andrew Oh my goodness! If you do, let me know what you find out!

@Elizabeth Thanks, Elizabeth! Yes, it is entirely sad. And you're right: Unfortunately things of this nature--maybe not witchcraft, but there are many forms of differential behavior--still very much exist in today's world.

@Shannon It does, doesn't it? Recently at the courthouse, we had a guy walk in who received a forged court document stating he had to appear on felony charges. Once we explained we don't handle anything felony related and did a little investigating, we discovered that the guilty culprit was none other than his ex-girlfriend. Altering documents and forging clerk signatures, no less. When we confronted her, she had the audacity to say, "It was just a joke."

Yeah, right. Glad you enjoyed the story!

Jacqueline said...

Very interesting post and cool how you made modern technology fit into their definition of magic...It is terrible how people were accused and convicted without proof, but of course, today, in some cases, the irony is it seems you need too much proof=Casey Anthony.

Andrew Leon said...

Okay, found it, and it was even where I thought it was. Go pick up a copy of Good Omens by Gaiman and Pratchett. You need to read that anyway.

Lynda R Young said...

Ha, that's really interesting. I love research. I've turned up all sorts of strange yet interesting facts I wouldn't normally come across--like the history of elevators lol.

Alyssia said...

@Jacqueline It is quite horrific, yes. And oh! Casey Anthony! Grr, grr, grr. I literally had to make myself stop reading it the other day, because the more I read, the madder I got.

@Andrew Thank you so much for finding this, Andrew!! I've put it on my Kindle wishlish on Amazon! It's got great, great reviews, too.

@Lynda Researching history is definitely a lot of fun for me, hence the whole writing historicals bit. I just can't break away!

Andrew Leon said...

Oh, no problem. I was pretty sure I was correct about it, so I was going to have to check, anyway. And the review are correct; this is a great book. I've talked about it in at least one of my blog posts. I don't re-read often (because there's so much out there I haven't read at all), but I've gone back to this one more than once.

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