The Wonderfull Discoverie of Witches in the Countie of Lancashire
A somewhat Hallowe’en themed oddment. It’s a bit of a long read but it’s pretty interesting:
The 1612 Pendle Witch trials are perhaps the most famous in English history, involving twelve individuals accused of murdering ten people by witchcraft. Two families were primarily concerned, each with octogenarian matriarchs: Demdike, her daughter, and grandchildren, then Chattox and her daughter.
The Justice of the Peace for Pendle Hill in Lancashire, a county “fabled for its theft, violence and sexual laxity,” was tasked by James I to seek out religious nonconformists, and it was with this attitude that he heard allegations made by a John Law, who claimed to be the victim of witchcraft.
Walking along a quiet path Law encountered Alizon, the infamous Demdike’s granddaughter, who asked him for some metal pins. Such pins were often used for magical purposes – healing, treating warts, divination, and for love magic, which may be why Law refused. A moment later he slumped to the ground. Initially he made no accusations against Alizon, but she appears to have been convinced of her own powers, later confessing to Law, who convalesced at a nearby inn.
At court Alizon confessed she had sold her soul to the Devil and she told him to lame Law after he had called her a thief. Her mother said Demdike had a mark on her body, which many would have regarded as having been left by the Devil after he had sucked her blood.
Alizon was also questioned about Chattox, another suspicious figure, and, seeing an opportunity for revenge, as there was much bad blood between their families, she accused Chattox of murdering five men by witchcraft, including her father. She claimed her father had been so frightened of Chattox that he gave her oatmeal each year so she wouldn’t hurt his family. On his deathbed he claimed that his sickness had been caused by Chattox because he missed a payment.
Demdike, Chattox and her daughter Anne, were summoned to court. Both elderly and blind Demdike and Chattox provided damaging confessions. Demdike claimed that she had given her soul to the Devil 20 years ago, and Chattox that she had given her soul to “a Thing like a Christian man”, who promised “she would not lack anything and would get any revenge she desired”. A witness claimed her brother had fallen sick and died after having had a disagreement with Anne, and that he had frequently blamed her for his illness. All three were committed to gaol to be tried for maleficium.
Then Demdike’s daughter organised at meeting at their home, Malkin Tower. Those sympathetic to the family attended, but when officials heard they investigated to determine the purpose of it. As a result, eight more people were accused of witchcraft, including Demdike’s daughter.
All but two were tried in Lancaster in August 1612, along with the Samlesbury witches and others, in a series of trials that have become known as the Lancashire witch trials. One was tried in York, and another died in prison. Of the eleven who went to trial ten were found guilty and executed by hanging; one was found not guilty.
[Written with (a lot of) help from Wikipedia]