How I Became a Daughter of the Witching Hill by Mary Sharratt
In midwinter 2002, I moved from the Bay Area in
Our house looks out on Pendle Hill, famous throughout the world as the place where George Fox received his vision that moved him to found the Quaker religion in 1652. But Pendle is also steeped in its legends of the Lancashire Witches.
In 1612, nine people from
She was a very old woman, about the age of Foure-score yeares, and had been a Witch for fiftie yeares. Shee dwelt in the Forrest of Pendle, a vast place, fitte for her profession: What shee committed in her time, no man knowes. . . . no man escaped her, or her Furies.
Once I read this, I fell in love. Reading the trial transcripts against the grain, I was astounded how her strength of character blazed forth in the document written to vilify her. She freely admitted to being a healer and a cunning woman, and she instructed her daughter and granddaughter in the ways of magic. Her neighbors called on her to cure their children and their cattle. What fascinated me was not that Bess was arrested on witchcraft charges but that the authorities turned on her only near the end of her long, productive career. She practiced her craft for decades before anybody dared to interfere with her.
Bess’s life unfolded almost literally in my backyard. Using the Ordinance Survey Map, I located the site of
I’m often asked if it was a depressing experience, writing about Bess and her family when I knew very well how their tale ended—on the gallows of
History is a fluid thing that continually shapes the present. As a writer, I am obsessed with how the true stories of our ancestors haunt the land. Long after her demise, Bess and her fellow witches of
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