Article covering the quite astonishing events of 1612, when ten (probably innocent) people were found guilty of witchcraft, and met a rather tragic end.
Who were the Pendle Witches?
Why were the Pendle Witches accused?
Let’s take a closer look…
Back in 1612, people had a pretty rough time of it – most of them lived in extreme poverty and under constant threat.
Alison Device was a member of a family that made it’s income through begging. One day, she noticed a wealthy looking man by the name of John Law, and tried her luck by asking him for some money.
He was not up for hand outs – so he told Device to be on her way.
As he walked away from the angry female beggar, he collapsed to the ground. This was apparently enough for a charge of witchcraft to be laid on Alison Device.
This seemed to be the starting point of the Pendle Witches case – it was followed by other charges, such as bewitching neighbors, horses and food and included truly serious charges like murder.
A short time after this incident, the ‘Witches of Pendle Forest’ were rounded up and taken to court (Elizabeth Southerns, Elizabeth Device, James Device, Alison Device, Anne Whittle, Anne Redferne, Alice Nutter, Jane Bulcock, John Bulcock, Katherine Hewitt, Isabel Robey and Margaret Pearson).
Elizabeth Southerns and Anne Whittle were singled out as the ringleaders of this sacred coven, and given the nicknames of ‘Old Demdike’ and ‘Chattox’.
The courtroom described Old Demdike as an old lady that had been a witch for over 50 years, and had carried out her demonic deeds in the nearby Forest of Pendle.
They also claimed that she had brought up her own children and instructed her grandchildren to become efficient in the dark arts.
Witch Chattox (Anne Whittle) was accused of being the main partner in crime of Old Demdike (Elizabeth Southerns). She was described as being a half-blind and decrepit creature that also roamed the nearby forest.
Shortly before the group were arrested, Elizabeth Southerns had a meeting in her house with all of the accused. It is now thought that this was the main reasoning behind the accusations put on the group.
Unfortunately, James Device stole a sheep from a local farmer and it was consumed at this meeting – this only served to fan the flames of the situation.
The Twisted Verdicts
It all gets pretty mad and ridiculous from this point – ten of the accused were eventually found guilty of being witches (Old Demdike died of sickness in the dungeon of Lancaster Castle while awaiting her trial and Margaret Pearson was sentenced to be pilloried).
The ten ‘guilty’ Pendle Witches were transported to the Lancaster Gallows Hill on the 20th of August, 1612, and executed. They were hanged by the neck until dead (this was a gruesome form of hanging – the effect was more like strangulation).
This whole incident came about through local jealousy and general dislike – human nature.
It turns out that Elizabeth Southerns was labeled as the main head of this group, due to her ugly looks – she had one eye lower than the other (so she must have been a witch!!!!).
If you have any thoughts or opinions on the tragic trail of the Pendle Witches, please leave them in the comment section below.