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Traditions of Lancashire (Volume 2) online

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we have described. It bears a considerable resemblance to the
ancient Jewish music, and likewise to the airs generally given to the
little snatches of old ballads in Shakspeare's plays, which are supposed
to have been handed down successively from the perfonners in his
time ; being then probably " household " music more ancient than the
ballads themselves. This opinion seems warranted by the poet himself
in that beautiful allusion, with which he introduces one of the songs of
the Clown, in Twelftli Night :

" Mark it, Cesario ; it is old and plain :

The spinsters and the knitters in the sun.

And the free maids that weave their thread witli bones.

Do use to chant it ; it is silly sooth,

And dallies with the innocence of love

Like tlie old age."








They bade me sing, they bade me smile, They bade my heart be gay; They

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call'd my spi-rit forth, to while The laughing hours a - way.


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I've sung, I've smiled: where'er my path Mirth's dazzling meteors shine; All ,

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hearts have own'd its magic power. And all are glad but mine.




K 2

" More swift than lightning can I flye

About this aerj' welkin soone ;

And, in a minute's space, descrye

Each thing that's done below the moone."

Ben Jonson.

" When I consider whether there are such persons as witcJies, my
mind is divided : I believe, in general, that there is such a thing as
witchcraft, but can give no credit to any particular instance of it."


I^cnaon, Pitblijhed by Zfnpnian X- CT^BZ!!



The term witchcraft, says the historian of Whalley, is
now " transferred to a gentler species of fascination,
which my fair countrywomen still continue to exert in
full force, without any apprehension of the county magis-
trates, or even of the King in council."

Far different was the application in days of old. The
common parish witch is thus described by a contemporary
writer, as an old woman " with a wrinkled face, a furred
brow, a hairy lip, a gobber tooth, a squint eye, a squeak-
ing voice, or a scolding tongue ; having a rugged coat on
her back, a skull-cap on her head, a spindle in her hand,
and a dog or cat by her side." Such was the witch of
real life when this superstition was so prevalent in our
own neighbourhood, and even throughout England.
From the beginning of the reign of James the First to
the concluding part of the reign of James the Second, it
may be considered as having attained the zenith of its

popularity " Witchcraft and kingcraft both came in

with the Stuarts and went out with them." It was as if

his infernal majesty had taken a lesson from his sacred

K 3


majesty, and issued a Book of Sports for his loyal subjects.
" The Revolution put to rights the faith of the country as
well as its constitution." — " The laws were more liberally
interpreted and rationally administered. The trade of
witch-finding ceased to be reputable or profitable ;" and
that silly compilation, the " Demonology" of James,
which, with the severe laws enacted against witchcraft by
Henry the Eighth and Elizabeth, had conjured up more
witches and familiars than they could quell, was consigned
to the book-worm and the dust. It is said in the Ara-
bian tales, that Solomon sent out of his kingdom all the
demons that he coidd lay his hands on, packed them up
in a brazen vessel, and cast them into the sea. But
James, " our English Solomon," " imported by his book
all that were flying about Europe, to plague the covmtry,
which was sufficiently plagued already in such a sove-
reign." This sapient ruler, who, it is said, " taught divi-
nity like a king, and made laws like a priest," in the first
year of his reign made it felony to suckle imps, &c. This
statute, which was repealed March 24. 1736, describes
offences declared felonious, thus : —

" One that shall use, practise, or exercise any invoca-
tion or conjuration of any evil or wicked spirit, or consult,
covenant with, entertain or employ, feed or reward, any
evil or wicked spirit, to or for any intent or purpose ; or
take up any dead man, woman or child, out of his, her or
their grave, or any other place where the dead body
resteth ; or the skin, bone, or other part of any dead per-
son to be employed or used in any manner of witchcraft,
sorcery, charm, or enchantment ; or shall practise or exer-
cise any witchcraft, &c. whereby any person shall be killed,
destroyed, wasted, consumed, pined, or lamed in his or her


body, or any part thereof: such oflPenders, duly and law-
fully convicted and attainted, shall suffer death."

As might be expected, witchcraft so increased in con-
sequence of these denunciations, that, " in the course of
fifty years following the passing of this act, besides a
great number of single indictments and executions, fif-
teen were brought to trial at Lancaster in 1612, and
twelve condemned ; in 1622, six were tried at York ; leS^,
seventeen condemned at Lancaster; 16M, sixteen were
executed at Yarmouth ; 1645, fifteen condemned at
Chelmsford, and hanged ; in the same and following
year, about forty at Bury in Suffolk ; twenty more in the
county, and many in Huntingdon ; and (according to the
estimate of Ady) some thousands were burnt in Scot-

Popular hatred rendered the existence of a reputed
witch so miserable, that persons bearing that stigma often
courted death in despair, confessing to crimes which they
had never committed, for the purpose of ridding them-
selves of persecution.

" One of the latest convictions was that of Amy Duny
and Rose Cullender, before Sir Matthew Hale at Bury, in
1664. They were executed, and died maintaining their
innocence." Their execution was a foul blot upon his
name, as it is scarcely to be doubted but that they were
the victims of imposture. It was clearly ascertained by
experiments in the judge's presence, that the children
who pretended to be bewitched, when their eyes were
covered, played off their fits and contortions at the
touch of some other person, mistaking it for that of the
accused, yet " he charged the jury without summing up
the evidence, dwelling only upon the certainty of the fact
K 4


that there were witches, for which he appealed to the
Scriptures, and, as he said, to ' the wisdom of all nations ;'
and the jury having convicted, he, next morning, left them
for execution."

But we proceed with a few explanatory notices respect-
ing that portion of the history of this superstition, which
will be found interwoven with the traditionary matter in
our text.

A number of persons, inhabitants of Pendle Forest, were
apprehended in the year 1633, upon the evidence of Ed-
mund Robinson, a boy about eleven years old, who de-
posed before two of his majesty's justices at Padiham, that
on All Saints' day he was getting " buUoes," when he saw
two greyhounds — a black one and a brown one — come
running over the field towards him. When they came
nigh they fawned on him, and he supposed they belonged
to some of the neighbours. He expected presently that
some one would follow ; but seeing no one, he took them
by a string which they had tied to their collars, and
thought he would hunt with them. Presently a hare sprung
up near to him, and he cried " loo, loo," but the dogs
would not run. Wliereupon he grew angry, and tied them
to a bush for the purpose of chastising them, but instead
of the black greyhound he now beheld a woman, the wife
of one Dickonson, a neighbour ; the other was transformed
into a little boy. At this sight he was much afraid, and
would have fled ; but the woman stayed him, and offered
him a piece of silver like a shilling if he would hold his
peace. But he refused the bribe ; whereupon she pulled
out a bridle and threw it over the little boy's head, who
was her familiar, and immediately he became a white
horse. The witch then took the deponent before her, and


away they galloped to a place called Malkin Tower, by the
Hoarstones at Pendle. He there beheld many persons
appear in like fashion ; and a great feast was prepared,
which he saw, and was invited to partake, but he refused.
Spying an opportunity, he stole away, and ran towards
home. But some of the company pursued him, until he
came to a narrow place called " the Boggard-hole,"
where he met two horsemen ; seeing which, his tormentors
left off following him. He further said, that on a certain
day he saw a neighbour's wife, of the name of Loynd, sit-
ting upon a cross piece of wood within the chimney of his
father's dwelling-house. He called to her, saying, " Come
down, thou Loynd wife," and immediately she went up
out of sight. Likewise upon the evening of All Saints
before-named, his father sent him to seal up the kine,
when, coming through a certain field, he met a boy who
began to quarrel with him, and they fought until his face
and ears were bloody. Looking down, he saw the boy
had cloven feet, and away he ran. It was now nearly
dark ; but he descried, at a distance, a light like a lantern.
Thinking this was carried by some of his friends, he made
all haste towards it, and sav/ a woman standing on a
bridge, whom he knew to be Loynd's wife ; turning from
her he again met with the boy, who gave him a heavy
blow on the back, after which he escaped. On being
asked the names of the women he saw at the feast, he
mentioned seventeen persons, all of whom were committed
to Lancaster for trial. They were found guilty, and sen-
tenced to be executed. The judge, however, respited
them, and reported the case to the king in council.
The celebrated John Webster, author of " The Disco-


very of pretended Witchcraft," afterwards took this young
witch-finder in hand. He says, —

" This said boy was brought into the church at Kild-
wick (in Craven), a large parish church, where I, being
curate there, was preaching in the afternoon, and was set
upon a stall to look about him, which moved some little
disturbance in the congregation for a while. After
prayers, I enquiring what the matter was, the people told
me it was the boy that discovered witches ; upon which I
went to the house where he was to stay all night, where I
found him, and two very unlikely persons that did conduct
him, and manage the business.

" I desired to have some discourse with the boy in pri-
vate ; but that they utterly refused. Then, in the pre-
sence of a great many people, I took the boy near me,
and said, ' Good boy, tell me truly and in earnest, didst
thou see and hear such strange things of the meeting of
witches as is reported by many that thou didst relate ? ' —
But the two men, not giving the boy leave to answer, did
pluck him from me, and said he had been examined by
two aSfe justices of the peace, amd tJiey did never ask him
such a question. To whom I replied, the persons accused
had the more wrong. As the laws of England, and the
opinions of mankind then stood, a mad dog in the midst of
a congregation, would not have been more dangerous than
this wicked and mischievous boy, who, looking around
him, could, according to his own caprice, put any one or
more of the people in peril of tortures or of death."

Four of the accused only were sent to London, and
examined by the king in person. In the end they were
set at liberty, but not from the sagacity of the examiners,
— the boy, Robinson, having confessed that he was sub-


orned to give false evidence against them. One of these
poor creatures, strange to say, had confessed the crime
with which she was charged. In the Bodl. Lib. Dods.
MSS. V. 61. p. 47. is the confession itself, wherein she
gives a circumstantial and minute account of the transac-
tions which took place between her and a familiar whom
she calls Mamilian, describing the meetings, feasts, and all
the usual routine of witchery and possession. — (See
Wliitaker's Whalley.)





The mill went merrily round, and Giles the miller sung
and whistled from morning to noon, and from noon till
evening, save when the mulcting-dish was about to be
emboweled in the best sack; a business too serious for
such levity, requiring careful and deliberate thought.

Goody Dickisson, the miller's wife, was a fat, round,
pursy dame, of some forty years travel through this wil-
derness of sorrow, and a decent, honest, sober, and well-
conditioned housewise she was ; cleanly, thrifty, and had
an excellent cheese-press, which the whole neighbourhood
could testify.

But the days of man's happiness are numbered, and
woman's too, as the following narrative will set forth.

The mill had stood, for ages it may be, at the foot of a
wild and steep cliff, forming the eastern extremity of the
dreary range of Cliviger* ; an elevated mountainous pass,
from whence the waters descend both to the eastern and

'ClypFiSrcyne, o"' '''

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Online LibraryJohn RobyTraditions of Lancashire (Volume 2) → online text (page 9 of 20)