Wednesday, April 03, 2013

At Pendle Hill

After talking about The Late Lancashire Witches for years, I finally got up to Pendle Forest to try to get a sense of the area. It had been my odd hope to be there when some of the famed 'mist over Pendle' was rolling by, as I fancied seeing a 'Brocken Spectre' on the Mountain:
as some people have been lucky enough to do:

Pendle Hill, like the Brocken (or Blocksberg) has a microclimate that causes strange sightings, and then (it seems to me) follow rumours of the supernatural. Witches (‘trulli’) are associated with mountains at Kyƶpelinvuori, Finland; at the Brocken or Blocksberg; and at Pendle. George Fox had the vision up on this mountain that led him to found the Quaker movement. It's evidently a place that generates visions.

Instead, I got the coldest of Easter weekends, which at least meant that I didn't miss the views:

It is a mountain of considerable presence. I had seen photographs, of course, but they don't give you the sound - the cry of the curlew adds immensely to the atmosphere of slight weirdness. To get to a fuller extent the effect, this sound file could be played while looking at photographs: that other-worldly rising keen:

Of course, all this 'Bare Mountain' stuff is romantic and added in after the event: 'Old Demdike' and 'Old Chattox' and the rest met Satan on familiar lowland paths and in fields way below the mountain. Their concerns, and broodings, concerned resentments in daily life.

I was struck by how often the familiar names from the 1612 and 1633-4 witch cases appear in the area. Churchyards are well stocked with members of the Hargreaves dynasty, the Nutter clan, Southworths, Ashtons and Starkies abound (thinking of other local cases and instances of possession). If your family lived there, your family stayed there, the consistent appearance of local names indicates an isolated population.

It's a beautiful landscape, with just a touch of Mordor about it. 

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