A Spellsong For Pendle: ‘Be Warned My Child Of Witches Near by’

Pendle is a place like no other. It’s lonely beauty piercing through the landscape with with an elegance that is both stunning and foreboding. She stands tall, visible for miles around and cuts through the land like a huge sloping central stage. A stage of course where many a Pendle Witch is said to have performed their dark rituals after sundown.

Pendle, of course, is a place heavily associated with Witches since that fateful day in March 1612, when the young Alizon Device furiously shouted a curse at a Peddler, John Law, for not opening his pack and giving her pins when she begged for some. Young Alizon was used to begging, being from one of the poorest families in the district. Begging was thought to have been what supplemented the families meagre earnings, alongside whatever Alizon’s grandmother, Old Demdike, could earn from being a local cunning woman. We can only imagine the quality of life, hunger, squalor and poverty the Device and Southern’s (Demdike) family experienced on a daily basis. After all, their infamous abode was called Malkin tower, and on tracing the origins of the word ‘Malkin’, I have found it to be an old English word for ‘untidy woman’ and Slattern. Some have even gone as far to translate Malkin tower as ‘Shit tower. It is therefore easy to perhaps understand the stress and frustration that would haunt a person experiencing this lifestyle and community condemnation (After all, I doubt the Devices named their own home Slattern/Shit towers; it was probably a colourful insult from local neighbours) and why, in a moment of frustration, poor Alizon may have shouted an angry and complacent curse. For those of us who practice the Occult, we know only too well that ill wishes muttered or screamed in the heat of the moment are often the most powerful; carrying, as they do, the powerful human emotion – anger.

Anger, and even hatred, in their own way, are just as powerful as love, and, just like love, should be handled with care. This is why when I teach Witchcraft at workshops and talks, I stress the importance of daily practice, prayer, grounding, and being in control of ones emotions. If you cannot control your emotions, you cannot control a working (Spell). The inability to control ones emotions can play havoc with controlling ones energetic abilities. We all know how hard it can be to focus our thoughts after a bad day.

After refusing Alizon, and her shouting a curse, John Law walked a few yards away down the country lane, on the way to Colne, and collapsed! Seemingly from a stroke brought on by either the curse Alizon sent forth, or by the sheer stress of the altercation (probably the latter).

Either way, this conflict and its disastrous fall out would trigger one of the most tragic and influential Witch trials in not only British history, but American history too. It has been speculated that if the judges involved in the Pendle Witch trials had not taken inspiration from King James’s book on Demonology, and used a child witness in court (nine year old Jenet Device; Alizon’s own younger Sister) that perhaps the Salem Witch trials in Massachusetts, some eighty years later, would not have happened. We know, many a testimony in the Salem Witch trials were taken from hysterical children and teenagers. It is thought that the judges in Salem looked back to the earlier Pendle trials and saw it was entirely permissible to use children alongside the already unreliable use of ‘spectral evidence’ in court.

Memorial statue of Alice Nutter, Roughlee, Pendle, Lancashire. Original photography by ZBK

Since the Pendle Witch trials of 1612, Pendle, and Lancashire in general, has become a hot bed of superstition, and folkloric influence for many a folk song and story. Throughout the year, and especially in October, for Halloween, many tourists flock to the Pendle area to see such tourist destinations as the Alice Nutter statue, the Pendle heritage centre, the wonderful ‘Witches Galore’ shop in Newchurch, and of course, the infamous St Mary’s church (also in Newchurch) where Alice Nutter is thought to be unofficially buried in the Nutter family plot. A place also said to be where some of the Demdike and Chattox clans were rumoured to partake in some gruesome (and probably entirely fictional) grave robbing and necromancy practices. But above all, people come to see the looming and formidable Pendle Hill and speculate where Malkin tower may have once stood. The true location long since forgotten to the mists of time.

St Mary’s church in Newchurch, Pendle, Lancashire. Original photography by ZBK

As a Folk Witch who lives in the Lancashire/Greater Manchester area, the folklore, history and my personal connection to the land forms and influences a great deal of my practice. It is from this connection to the local land and it’s rich folklore that I came to write this Spellsong. You cannot help but feel inspired when you look upon the moors, walk in the woodlands and observe the leaves fall at this time of year. Lancashire in autumn is almost the epitome of how an October should look! Full of the dying beauty of summer and heavy atmosphere of mists, wind and rain.

But what is a Spellsong?

One of the most intriguing aspects of Spellsongs is if you ask, for example, three different people, for a definition of what this wonderful poetic form of magick is, you will almost undoubtedly get three varying answers! Therefore, I shall offer you my variation of what I believe a Spellsong to be, and if you have a different take, wonderful! Please leave me a comment and we can compare notes!

To me, a Spellsong is an almost poetic verse or short story that can sometimes resemble the format of a folk song. However, usually there is no set musical notes or accompaniment with the lyrics. Instead, the person using the Spellsong is encouraged to create or channel a tune that they believe fits the words. The tune can even change each time they sing. However, this method is not exclusive as I do have a couple of Spellsongs that have a tune that has ‘stuck’ and just feels right, so I sing the same melody each time.

One example of Spellsongs having a consistent melody is the album ‘Spell Songs’. If you have access to Spotify you can find it there, otherwise I believe some tracks are on YouTube. It is a collaborative album that features some incredibly talented musicians, one of which is a personal favourite of mine, Julie Fowlis. The album was inspired by ‘The Lost Words: A spell book’ by Robert Macfarlane and Jackie Morris. If you have not heard of this book and love both the spoken word and ‘Spellsongs’, I highly recommend reading this and the follow up ‘The Lost Spells’.

As someone who is naturally musical and adores singing, Spellsongs hold a great appeal to me. Sound has long been used in Magick, ritual and ceremony- perhaps since the human race began! For me, singing, chanting, humming and drumming are an ideal way to either raise energy, or, manifest my will through a working. Music and singing can also help us reach a deep state of relaxation or journeying when travelling or hedge riding. I think the first Spellsong I wrote was when I was about ten years old and it was called ‘Sleep little Pixie, sleep’ and I would sing it to my baby brother when he would not sleep and was restless.

In many ways, lullabies are one of the original and most used form of Spellsong and are used by Witches and non practitioners alike. Some forms of Magick are as old as humanity itself and are organic and non denominational in practice and therefore not exclusive to Witches. Perhaps the most powerful of all is that of the bond between mother and child.

For generations, lullabies and nursery rhymes have been used to both soothe restless children and tell stories that impart lessons of morality and even pass social and political commentary.

The below Spellsong was written by myself as a song to be sung to children as a way of imparting what is increasingly becoming lost and forgotten regional folk lore. In an age where information is it our youths’ very fingertips, that information is largely through the medium of social media or Google for assistance with homework. The age of verbal story telling is dying out, as is childhood innocence and imagination. I recently read that many young girls and boys stop believing in Santa and the tooth fairy at around the tender age of seven! Not only this, an article in the guardian newspaper cited a study that most seven year olds have access to their own phones by the age of seven! Sadly, the window for ‘childhood’ is becoming smaller and smaller, and I suspect this is one of many complex reason’s why such conditions as depression and anxiety are spiking in todays youth. We are inadvertently sacrificing their childhood’s for the ready convenience of technology. I do not say this as a mere spectator, I say this as a mother of four young children. I say this as a witness, on a daily basis, of the bombardment of social and tech intrusion via advertisements and programmes, which are ultimately a capitalist ploy to turn our children into more reliable consumers.

It is my sincere hope that this Spellsong will join all the others floating around in the world and perhaps even inspire others to share the magic of Spellsongs, folklore and mythos with the next generation through music and storytelling.

Without any further ado! here is my Spellsong to Pendle…

A Spellsong to Pendle, ‘Be warned my child of Witches nearby’.

“The winds blow far and the winds blow wild. Be careful, don’t wander said the mother to child.
The winds they howl, the winds fly high.
Be warned my child, of witches near by.

Stay out of the forest of Pendle sweet love.
Wait for a sign of safety, like sunlight, bright stars not shrouded in mist or that of a white dove who swooped down from above.

The winds blow far and the winds blow wild. Be careful, don’t wander said the mother to child
The winds they howl, the winds fly high,
Be warned my child, of witches near by

Don’t linger, don’t tarry, avoid the dark lanes. Walk in the light, and always do what’s right. When the bells ring in old Newchurch, you march yourself home.
But don’t walk alone, or shadows will know.

The winds blow far and the winds blow wild. Be careful, don’t wander said the mother to child
The winds they howl, the winds fly high,
Be warned my child, of witches near by

And when you reach home, and sit safely with me. We’ll sit by the hearth, we’ll hug and we’ll laugh. And if we hear the high screams of witches, their peels of cackles and heckles of hate, we’ll know we are safe, we’ll know we are sorted, and them witches their power on us, well is thwarted.

“The winds blow far and the winds blow wild. Be careful, don’t wander said the mother to child
The winds they howl, the winds fly high,
Be warned my child, of witches near by”

Words by Zanna Buxton-Kelly, October 2nd, 2021

If you enjoyed this blog and want to see more, please feel free to follow me here and over on Instagram and Facebook at “Diary Of A Folk Witch”

Through time, mists and the distance between us, blessings from me to you.

~ ZBK~

Premium Content!

If you enjoyed this blog and would like to read more, why not become a premium content subscriber? Where for £4 per month, you can have exclusive access to two premium content blogs, access to the private Facebook group and discounts on future virtual talks and workshops! Click below to subscribe today.

Subscribe to get access

Read more of this content when you subscribe today.

One response to “A Spellsong For Pendle: ‘Be Warned My Child Of Witches Near by’”

  1. […] Folk music? Yes, folk music can also serve as an inspiration into your practice and the connection you have to your local landscape. As well as this, it can give a valid insight into the culture of your area. Some folk songs will directly talk of local politics, ghost stories, history and even folklore. One of the things I like to do when visiting a favourite working spot in the Pendle area, is to hum the tune to the Pendle folk song. It get’s me into the mindset of working the land for folk magic and it is a song that directly references both the landscape and the Pendle witches. You may also like to write your own Spellsongs (which is a growing folk based Pagan and Witch practice inspired both by old old folk magic ways of ‘humming magic’ and of course modern books and music like ‘The lost words Spellsongs’.For an example of a modern spellsong, you might like to check out the ‘lost words blessing’ or my previous blog on the topic, titled ‘A spellsong for Pendle’. […]

Leave a Reply

%d bloggers like this: