|Causes....... Malkin Tower|
Overview of the TrialThe Lancashire trial of 1612 contains four main groups of witches, the Pendle Forest witches, the witches that were present at Malkin Tower, two witches that were not at Malkin Tower but were included and hanged with the rest, and the Salmesbury witches. The Pendle Forest witches are the most popular and have the greatest amount of attention given to them by Potts.
The main witches of Pendle Forest are split into two feuding families headed by powerful women, Elizabeth Southerns, alias Old Demdike, and Anne Whittle, alias Old Chattox, who were both nearing the age of eighty at the time of the trial. All of the witches had familiars except for Anne Redfearne, who seems to have shared her mother's familiar. Chattox's familiar first came to her in the shape of a man and Demdike's as a boy, but the rest of the witches communicated with their familiars in the form of a black or brown dog.
All of them were hanged on August 20, 1612, except for Demdike who died in prison some time before May 19th. It is significant that the first depositions of the witches had little to say about Demdike, but after her death, the blame dramatically shifted to her shoulders, but then, it is always easier to blame someone when they are already dead.
This particular trial speaks to the present about the complicated and intricate beliefs associated with witchcraft, the devil, animal familiars, and village superstitions. One views evidence of an elite impact in Potts' trial record, but the women themselves describe a form of witchcraft that reflects their own ideas and fears. Their inclusion of dogs in their demonic activity is unique and comments not only on witchcraft beliefs but beliefs associated with animals in general. The personalities and powers given to the dogs as familiars show a descriptive imagination held by all involved parties.
The Lancashire witches illustrate village dynamics in a way that historians are rarely able to view with multiple classes of society being involved as witches and as victims. The inclusion of James Device as one of the main witches shows that this trial was not primarily misogynistic. James demonstrates the notion that witchcraft was a family occupation, not necessarily a female one. There are subtle differences between his relationship with his familiar and those experienced by the women, opening the way for questioning the truly feminine conception of the demonic pact.
Copyright © 2007 Shannon L. Meyer, University of Nebraska, Lincoln