Witchcraft and the idea of witches had never been widespread in England until James, and any suspicion of witchery had been dealt with by the local Ecclesiastical Courts. James, however, changed the law to make witchcraft a criminal offence. Under the new criminal law any person (usually a woman) found guilty of an act of minor witchcraft would spend a year in prison, if found guilty of a second act of witchcraft they would be executed.
It was in the April of 1612 that a dying man in the Pendle area of Lancashire accused a local blind woman, known as Demdike/Demdyke, of bewitching him. Magistrates were called and "inquiries" were made. By the Autumn of 1612 20 people (16 females of various ages and 4 men) had been arrested. 12 were from the Pendle area of and 8 from Samlesbury.
The Pendle 12 were:
Elizabeth Southerns (known as Demdike/Demdyke); her daughter Elizabeth Device and grand-children James and Alison Device; Anne Whittle (known as Chattox) and her daughter Alice Redferne; Jane Bulcock and her son John; Katherine Hewitt (aka Mouldheels); Alice Nutter, Isabel Robey and Margaret Pearson.
The first arrested and "questioned" was Alison Device. She eventually confessed, though under what circumstances any of the confessions were made under is unknown. Then followed family members and others in the area.
The Samlesbury 8 were:
Jennet Bierley and her daughter Ellen, Jane Southworth, John Ramsden, Elizabeth Astley, Alice Gray, Isabel Sidegraves and Laurence Haye.
Of those convicted 10 were executed, others were sentenced to prison and a small few were acquitted. All the executions took place on the 20th of August 1612.
80 years later (in 1692) would come the notorious events in Salem, Massachusetts, USA.
The shame of it was that the accused were (probably) all innocent. In those days old women like Elizabeth Southerns and Annie Whittle were the local healers of the sick and injured (setting broken bones, using bread poultices on wounds, etc), layers out of the dead, midwives, and the closest thing to a vet that a small village would have.
Yet, in an age of male domination, and post-female ruler(s) backlash, these women (who were uneducated and of "lowly class") became easy targets.
Should something happen or go wrong who or what else could be to blame? If a man's cow dies surely it must have been the result of witchery and not old age, illness or neglect. When the crops rot off in the fields because it rains continuously it must be witchcraft rather than just bad weather. When a child, who was caught out in the rain for hours, catches pneumonia and dies, it couldn't be anything other than the curses of a witch. And so on.
This book has some interesting and wonderfully researched information in it and it is easy to read. If you have an interest in the witch trials of Pendle and Samlesbury then it is recommended for you.
CONDITION: Dust jacket show signs of minor edge-wear, un-clipped. Grey boards clean with bright gilt spine lettering. Pages bright and clean. Signed on title page by author and illustrator. No other inscriptions or notations. See photographs for details.