Today I went for a walk in the shadow of Pendle Hill, and found myself, as I often do in that area, dwelling on the sad story of the Pendle Witches.
This has absolutely nothing to do with the House of York by the way. I'm pretty inventive when it comes to making links of that sort, but this is an exception.
For those of you who don't know the story, this was possibly England's most famous witchcraft case, early in the 17th century, before the Civil War. Thirteen people were arrested, mostly women, mostly poor, and ten were hanged at Lancaster. One died in jail. One, Alice Nutter, was a gentlewoman.
I should love to know what really happened. The cynical part of me wonders whether it was nothing more than an imaginative way to cut the Poor Rate. We shall never know. It's interesting that (in England at least) witchcraft (in itself) was not a capital offence until late Tudor times. The few medieval witches that caught it were executed for treason or murder, not witchcraft per se. No, it was the 17th century that was the real heyday for this sort of persecution.
There's a decent but elderly novel by Robert Neill called Mist Over Pendle * that tells the story. However Neill has no sympathy whatever for the 'witches' - he depicts them as an evil crew.
* Published as The Elegant Witch in the US I'm told. Hideous title!