View Full Version : The Witches of Pendle: Victims of the Prince of Peace

Alizon Device
Thursday, October 20th, 2005, 05:54 PM
The Witches of Pendle (my neck of the woods!).

By Ken Radford

A cart trundled along the Trough of Bowland, winding its way through the wooded hills. Bound inside were 3 generations of witches. This was their last journey. They were travelling to a dungeon in Lancaster Castle - to imprisonment and the gallows.
Two days later, on a summer morning in 1612, they were herded through the crowded streets, oblivious of the jeering crowds and the voice of a parson who walked before them.

The story of the Witches of Pendle Forest begins about 2 years earlier when Mother Demdike, a blind old woman, was resting on the arm of her granddaughter, Alizon. She was leading her away from the house of a miller who clenched his fist and called after them.
"Away from here, worthless witches. I've not even a mouldy crust of bread for servants of the Devil!"
The woman stumbled on the path, and the young girl trembled at his fury. The miller pursued them to the gate, waving his arms angrily.
"A length of rope is what I'd gladly give, to knot around your necks!"

Mother Demdike's eyes could not reflect the hate smouldering within her.
"I'd wish you in your grave", she called back, but your heart is dead already. Watch to your daughter. Watch out for the one you hold dear. Old Tibbs will be coming to seek her out!"

Before the season changed, the miller's daughter became pale and sickly. She was never to live to see the bluebells bloom again in spring.
And one curious feature the neighbours remembered - whenever she was alone a stray black cat had come to keep her company. It had followed her around the garden and along the banks of the mill stream, brushing its face and neck against her ankles, its tail high and bushy.

Mother Demdike made no secret of the vengeance she sought. She chuckled to herself whenever she and Alizon passed the miller's door, squeezing her granddaughter's hand and asking,
"Do you see her, my love? Is she alone in the garden? Tibbs will find her for sure."

It was an incident that happened the following summer which led to the arrest and trial of the Pendle Witches. On this occasion Alizon asked a pedlar for some pins and ribbon to make her hair look pretty. But he did not understand the dreams of a young girl. Even sparkling jewels, he taunted, could never change a devil to an angel.
Her grandmother had taught her well the art of witchery. Alizon put a curse on the pedlar that Satan would take him. And before he had passed out of sight it seemed that the Evil One struck. He reeled and fell to the ground, scattering his charms and trinkets all about him.
According to one account "his head was drawn awrie, his eyes and face deformed, his speech not well to bee understood, and his legs starcke lame..."
Unfortunately for the girl, he survived long enough to point out the mischief-maker to the local magistrate.

Boastfully, and with vivid detail, Alizon described how she had put a curse on the pedlar, for she was too young and naive to realize the consequence of her confession. Before her deposition was over she had implicated her neighbours and family. It was her grandmother, she told them, who had taught them all the wiles of witchcraft.
Among the old woman's disciples was Alizon's mother, described as a wild, squint-eyed woman. Damned, too, were her half-wit brother, James, and another grandchild, nine-year-old Jennet.

Prominent among the neighbours indicted for witchery was Old Mother Chattox, a withered widow, toothless and bent with age. It so happened that for a long time a feud had existed between the Chattox and Demdike families.
And now, as they accused one another of past mischief, a chronicle of their misdeeds was brought to light.
It was learned how they desecrated graves, met in covens to commune with imps and devils, and once contrived to destroy Lancaster Castle by means of witchcraft.
It was revealed that Old Mother Demdike's familiar spirit, a black cat called Tibbs [n.b. it was actually Tib! r.r.], had tormented the miller's daughter, and Old Mother Chattox had bewitched a family near Colne, bringing sickness and death to the wife and children.

In condemning each other, they were drawing the hangman's noose tighter around their own throats. Few of their wicked deeds were left uncovered.

And so it was that the Witches of Pendle Forest were carted away along the Trough of Bowland. They were not afraid, because they did not then realize how cruelly they were to suffer under the new laws of James I.
Only one was to cheat the hangman. Succumbing to age and infirmity, Mother Demdike died in Lancaster Castle Gaol.

Altogether, 10 simple-minded peasant folk, including three generations of one family, paid the ultimate penalty that August day.
There were many that believed that their only crime was to be poor and ignorant - easy prey for the relentless persecutors of the 17th century.

Alizon Device
Sunday, March 23rd, 2008, 08:00 PM
Sorry if I've posted this in the wrong section. Feel free to move it. :)

A website which features the authentic 'confessions' of some of the famous Lancashire Pendle Witches, who were hanged en masse in 1612 in Lancaster Castle.


If anyone is interested in the story, I would recommend they get hold of a copy of 'The Lancashire Witches' by the 19th century author Harrison Ainsworth.
One of the best books I've ever read.


Saturday, February 16th, 2019, 05:57 AM
In 2011, The Pendle Witch Child, a documentary about the Pendle Witches, was released by the BBC. There is also a book by Jonathan Lumby, The Lancashire Witch Craze: Jennet Preston and the Lancashire Witches, which is said to be quite comprehensive.

I grew up hearing stories about the Pendle Witches, and the Ribble Valley is a beautiful place to visit.