I loved The Pendle Witch Child shown on BBC 4 yesterday evening. Simon Armitage's prose, the animated illustrations and the bleak but beautiful Lancashire landscape combined to create a fantastical, eerie atmosphere.
More about the story here: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/magazine-14490790
BBC iplayer here: http://www.bbc.co.uk/iplayer/episode/b013fj47/The_Pendle_Witch_Child/
I have always been interested in witches, because I have always been intrigued and fascinated with people who are deemed outcasts and outside of the mainstream and the realm of respectability.
If you read about witches and witches trials, you will discover more about the psyche of an era, than you would ever find in any historical book. It has to do with religion, politics, sex, psychology, ignorance, disfunctional families, greed, fear of the unknown and strangers, fear of independent/beautiful women, envy and jealousy.
One book I've found very instructive is "Witchfinders: A seventeenth Century English tragedy" by Malcom Gaskill. It tells - in sometimes gory details - the story of the brutal witch-hunt that took place in East Anglia in the 17th C, led by Matthew Hopkins, aka the Witchfinder General.
I have always said that if I had lived in the 17th C, I probably would have been denounced and burned as a witch. People's attitudes haven't changed that much when faced with independent, opinionated, strong-minded women who don't care too much about the conventions layed out by society. I have observed that kind of attitude mostly in women. Strange, that, eh?
During my short career as a teacher in inner London, I have been called a witch numerous times - most certainly because of my somewhat "strong features" - I am not an English Rose type of woman! - and dyed black hair, and my love of dark clothing. I've heard the words "she's a witch" hissed in school corridors, I've had students ask me if I was one, if I knew Satan and such fun things. You see, in the 21st Century, in some communities, witches are still very much of actuality. These extremely religious people still believe in Satan and Evil and magic, literally. They reject science, evolution and common sense. For them, witches are very real and represent a real threat. Believe me, it feels strange when people call you a witch without any irony whatsoever.
I've had the good grace of taking it as a compliment though. It makes me sound more interesting than I really am!
I am looking forward to reading Syd Moore's first novel, "The Drowning Pool", out this September. It is inspired by the real life story of the sea witch of Leigh-on-Sea, Sarah Moore. Ms Moore (Syd) did a presentation on the book at this year's Shorelines literary festival in Southend, and it was utterly fascinating. I hope I'll have the opportunity to hear more about her research in the forthcoming months, as the author seems to know a great deal about the witch-hunts that have taken place in Essex, and has managed to find links between 17th C and contemporary England.
Syd Moore in The Echo newspaper.
Her Facebook page: Syd Moore Facebook
Most of all, of course, witches have inspired terrific tales and stories and legends... For a writer like me, they are a bottomless source of inspiration!
In my novel "I Am a Muse", there are no witches. But there is a Crimson Woman, a slight variation on the theme of the Scarlet Woman, another mythical female character.
I think therefore I write.
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