Sometimes when you write a book, you don’t always know where, or what, it will lead to. Whilst researching for the fourth and final book in the Moon Stealer series (due out at the end of the year!), I was recommended by Audrey Carden, a Facebook friend, to look into the Pendle Hill Witches. I found myself being pulled into a fascinating period of English history.
Pendle Hill is a small area in Lancashire, in the north of England. In the 1600’s two rival witch families called the Demdike’s and the Chattox’s lived around the hill. On the whole, both families used their powers to earn a living by healing and creating L’Elisir d’amore, or magical love potions!
When King James I of England and Scotland took the throne, he made witchcraft punishable by death following the curse from a Scottish witch who had been successfully convicted of using witchcraft, to send a storm against a ship that carried him and his wife Ann from Denmark to Scotland.
The 1600’s were tough times. Lancashire was known as a wild and lawless region. Earning an honest living had become harder than ever, resulting in the competing Demdike and Chattox families turning on each other. Each family made wilder and wilder claims of their powers, trying to out-do each other. Accusations of bewitching local children, murdering and making lame by witchcraft were thrown between the families. They were summoned before Roger Nowell, the Justice of the Peace for Pendle and were later tried and hanged for witchcraft.
Looking back to those times, it’s incredible to think that witchcraft was taken so seriously. But it was! King James even wrote a book on the subject called Daemonologie. Up until the year 1750 when witchcraft ceased to be punishable by death, an estimated 35,000 – 50,000 people had been executed after being successfully tried for witchcraft. 75-80% of them were women. Some scholars estimate the number of deaths to be much higher.