OLD DEMDIKE – A WITCH’S TESTIMONY
May 23, 2018
Mad Martha Roby’s as bony and brown as any Romany I ever laid eyes on, though she’s riddled with the Pox. She and her lass Belle live rough in a cave, some place at the back of Fell Woods. Belle’s the young slattern Our Jim took a fancy to.
I know Martha can’t show her face in town – been banned ever since she caught the French Disease off some soldier a good few years back – so they scrape by from begging. Then Belle got hired by the swineherd at Roughlee Hall and filches the best scraps of meat from the pigs. But since she’s been sent to the castle alongside Jim, I wonder how Martha’s coping.
Ali’s got no time for either of them. She says Martha’s moonstruck – away with the fairies – as mad as the locals claim. And Belle’s a simple soul. Ali hates how free that wench is with her favors. She’ll lift her smock for aught that’s shiny or worth eating. But they don’t get Ali that cheap!
(Picture: Matthijs Maris)
May 16, 2018
I hear tell they’ve also arrested the Bulcocks – Jane her lad Big John, of Moss End Farm. They’re not down here with our lot either, so they must’ve bartered the mistress’ fancy broach for finer lodgings. That diamond pin will like be the death of them both. It certainly caught our Jenny’s green eye, and earned her a rare old thrashing.
Still, that light-fingered lassie did find out summat I never knew. Turns out, Mistress Bulcock’s great granddad was a knight, made Lord of the Realm for his service to the old King Henry. That’s how they got the diamond – for saving His Majesty’s life in the Battle of the Spurs at Guinegate. After Jane’s grandma died whelping their only daughter, he re-wed. But when he passed away afore his new wife, everything went to her side of the family, except the farm. And the pin Jane got as a keep-sake.
Now our Jenny loves aught shiny. She couldn’t keep her grubby paws off that broach, and a whole heap of bother it caused. They took pity on the lass being just a bairn – but if me or Lizzie or Jim had filched summat that costly we’d have swung from the nearest crossbeam for sure.
Yet here they are in the castle accused as witches! I’ve never heard aught so daft in all my born days. Jane Bulcock was one of my patrons, aye, but a wise woman herself? It’s utter nonsense. Then again, happen the jailers are merely baiting us. Let’s wait up and see.
Pssst! Wear silver today for good luck.
May 09, 2018
Words of Wisdom: Four
There is no death –
only a change of being.
May 02, 2018
Mistress Alice Nutter
I’ll warrant you’re curious what Mistress Nutter’s doing here at the castle. I haven’t the foggiest notion. All I can say is they didn’t put her down in the Well Tower with us lot. She’s paid handsome for a room above ground, waiting for the Justice to come to his senses. I expect she’ll hire some fancy lawman from London so the Governor won’t be keeping her long.
I knew Mistress Nutter as a bairn, back when she was Alice Whitaker, though that must be nigh-on sixty years ago now. We all stood outside the church as she wedded Master Richard, and our Lizzie and me helped birth her last lad Myles, who came out backwards.
You can tell she’s well-placed just by looking at her alongside my lass. Alice is a good ten years older than Lizzie, but you’d swear she was the youngster of the pair. Of course, she’s grown a bit stouter over the years, yet was ever grand and tidy. Her chestnut hair’s now faded to ash and her lips are thinner, which makes her seem fussy and cold. Yet for all that, there’s many-a grateful pauper in Pendle who’ll not hear a word said against her. We’ve all known her charity at one time or another, and I can’t for the life of me fathom who’d point a finger at that kindly soul. But someone must have a grudge to bear otherwise she’s still be at Crowtrees Farm . . . which just goes to show that we’ve all got enemies.
So you’d best wear white today. For protection.
April 25, 2018
Words of Wisdom: Three
Sandor Bihari: “Old Woman”
Old age is the caul of wisdom!
April 18, 2018
Our biggest rivals are the Chattox lot over at West Close in Higham. And their lass Anne’s a comely wench if ever there was one, though too much of a handful for poor Tom Redferne to manage. She’s quite a bit older than our Ali, and Jim used to follow her round like a dog chasing heat. Of course, being bonny as summer she’d not give the dim lad the slightest sniff, finally shooing him off with a bucket of pig shit until he finally got the message.
Anne was widowed at thirty, with naught to show for ten years of wedlock except one scrawny lass called Marie. Yet she kept her curves and rosy cheeks, and her coppery hair never grew tatty like our Lizzie’s. So whenever the cheeky whelp sets off doing business, her sister Bessie steps in. Bessie’s not much use for aught else really – not very wise at all.
Aye, Anne’s the one to watch now that Old Chattox stoops blind over her stick and can’t stop her toothless gob from jabbering. She’s dangerous, that crafty trollop is, and not the type to cross if you value your health. They say she put that young Nutter lad in hancke and I’ll warrant there might be some truth in that.
Right now though, Anne and her mum are locked up in the Well Tower with us. There’s a whisper she may be plotting her escape as folks believe she can shape-shift into a raven. But I don’t believe a word of that nonsense, for I taught those two foolish bitches everything they know!
April 11, 2018
Words of Wisdom: Two
In forgetting the past,
we lose the powers from whence we came.
April 04, 2018
After Our Ali lamed that peddler in Colne, they came for me. I told the justice about that lot over at West Close, and afore we knew what’d happened we were rounded up and sent to Lancaster – me, Ali, Old Chattox, and Anne Redferne.
Lizzie and Chris called a meeting of the locals. They even invited Bessie Whittle, since her mum and sister were also in the Well Tower. They summoned up all those neighbors who owed us favors to find out who’d been named, and to chat about what might be done to help them.
This gathering took place last Good Friday at Malkin Tower. I’m told two dozen souls or more came, and Jim stole a sheep from Barley so they’d have mutton for roasting on the outside spit. Someone suggested trying to rescue us, but that was a daft notion as you’d need gunpowder or summat to blast through walls this thick! So common sense won out, and they ended up making a list of who’d bring our food here each market day, instead.
Now Constable Hargreaves is going round telling folk that this gathering was a secret sabbat – a great assembly of witches – and that everyone who attended it is in league with demons.
Then all Hell broke loose . . .
March 28, 2018
Let me tell you a bit about that lot over at Hay Booth. Folks round here usually call them The Holgates as they all look that much alike even I’ve to squint to tell one from the other. Christopher and Isobel have four bairns – three strapping lads and one lass. Nick’s the eldest, then there’s Eddie, Will and Gracie. They’ve all got their mum’s curly black hair and mass of freckles, which is fine for the boys but doesn’t sit well on the wench. Gracie’s not a patch on our Ali. Never will be.
I don’t have much to do with the lads. Issy does her damnedest to keep them away from Malkin Tower as she’s worried they might turn out like our Jim. Nick must be close to twenty-or-so now, and being the tallest everyone calls him the Big Holgate. He helps his dad out in the pasture most of the time and has the makings of a grand shepherd, which is just as well as he’ll likely inherit the farm one of these days. He’s a serious lad, thoughtful and steady – but different to Eddie as chalk from cheese – which is odd being that there’s only a year between them.
Eddie’s the one that lands up in bother. You’ll find him on a treebranch or in a scrap with one of the local lads – and mischief should be his nickname, instead of Holly. When someone says that Holgate lad he’s the first one you think of because he’s always mixed up in summat or other. He’s the best looking of the clan and has already got quite an eye for the lassies, or so I’ve been told.
Next comes Will, the one we’re all pinning our hopes to complete his apprenticeship as a cooper in Lancaster. He’s known as T’other Holgate. Will’s got a rare talent with wood and he’s dead good at mending our Great Wheel whenever one of the spokes gets stuck or broke. I think he’s the most like Isobel, though I don’t know if he’s got half her ambition or business head. I’ll warrant they’ll just have to wait and see.
And then there’s Gracie. Most folk don’t realize she’s my granddaughter as she’s not a bit like Ali or Jenny. It’s a good job she can spin and dye wool as her chances in wedlock are slim, and she’s got none of my cunning. Shame is, she tries so hard. Ali teases her all the time, and because they’re best mates the foolish wench takes no notice of what’s being said. I’ve given up trying to teach her aught. I think there’s too much of Issy’s church teachings got through and the lass can’t bring herself to do what needs doing.
Perhaps because she’s going to Confirmation instruction, our Gracie’s not been named in the witch hunts. But I half expect she might join us here in the castle afore we’re done. I wonder if she knows where Jenny is?
Well ta for visiting and here’s your reward: Wear brown for good health and a happy hearth!
March 21, 2018
Like I’ve said before, my lass and her three whelps live at Blacko with me. But I’ve another bairn too – a fine lad called Chris whose got his own family over at Hay Booth.
The first bad luck I had as a youngster ended up as our Lizzie. So my folks wed me off to an old mold-warp called Matt Southern, and gave us Malkin Tower as a dowry. Then they washed their hands of us, and left me to fend for myself when he died a few years later. And that’s when I became a wise woman. I did what needed doin’ to make ends meet.
The love of my life was a play actor called Christopher Holgate. But when I told him I’d got caught again he fled, leaving me with naught but a growing belly. I gave my lad his dad’s name – and that’s the only thing he ever got from that lousy vagabond.
Chris grew up handsome and strong. He made a good match marrying Isobel Shepherd, who got to stay at Hay Booth when her kinfolk died of the plague. And he took to sheep farming like he’d been doing it all his life, and turned out to be proper good at rearing the lambs and sheering.
Truth be told, I don’t much like my daughter-in-law. She thinks she’s grander than our lot, though I must admit she’s got a dead nice set-up with all that fancy spinning and dying. And the fleece she sends for working on our Great Wheel certainly keeps us going through the long winter months, so I shouldn’t grumble.
But Issy’s a bit too fond of church for my liking. Still, I pay that no mind as she’ll not say aught damaging to the vicar, because it’d be far too dangerous for her Gracie. Chris and her both dote on that plain little wench though I don’t for the life of me know why, even though I’m her Gran! But that’s a tale for another telling.
In the meantime mark well these words – keep a sharp eye out the otter down by the water and he’ll bring you good luck for the whole of this month.