Folklore And Spirits Of The Land Series: Taking Inspiration From Spirit And ‘Elizabeth’s Lament’

Within my own personal practice, a great emphasis is placed upon connecting not only with the land on which I walk, live and practice, but also it’s folklore, regional customs and of course, it’s own regional spirits.
These spirits can take various forms, such as the fairies (or ‘Feorin’ here in Lancashire), land spirits such as elementals and spirits of the land, water and sky, or even the spirits of those who once walked amongst us, the living folk, and who now haunt the landscape or re-visit the places that once held meaning to them.
The purpose of connecting with local spirits serves the Witch for many reasons, some of which may be that it helps us to better understand our own local landscape, to form a better understanding of natural earth magic and therefore, how to use it; to create allies in practice, teachers and even sources of inspiration.

This week, I would like to share with you a poem I have written and was inspired by one of the Pendle Witches.
Elizabeth Southerns was an eighty year old local wise woman, who resided in the Pendle hill area of Lancashire. Otherwise known as ‘Old Demdike’, Elizabeth made a meagre living in any way possible, and this included the services of being the local cunning woman. She could supposedly cure or maim at will, and was the matriarchal leader of what has come to often be referred to as the Demdike clan, which was based at Malkin tower ( meaning ‘shit’ or ‘slatternly’ residence/tower). Of this clan was also Alizon Device, Elizabeth’s granddaughter, who was the accidental initiator of what has infamously come to be known as the Pendle Witch trials.
Trials that would later go on to directly influence those in Salem, America. It was the Pendle trials that set a precedent for using child witnesses to testify against the accused. In regards to the Pendle trials, Jennet Device (another of Elizabeth’s grandchildren) was used and coerced into testifying against her own family, which ultimately led to the death of not one, but four of her immediate family members.

This Poem was influenced by one of my many trips to Pendle. I often spend entire days there, wandering the lanes, clambering through woods and over streams, sitting in the famous St Mary’s Church in Newchurch (where Alice Nutter, another accused Witch, is said to be unofficially buried). One day, as I sat in one of my favourite working spots, which is also sited within one of the suspected locations for the original Malkin Tower, I felt a change in the air.
The sounds of nature, such as birds, squirrels and movements in the undergrowth seemed to suddenly still, and the wind picked up. It swept through the tall pine trees and made them sway hypnotically, and as I observed this sudden atmospheric change, I suddenly felt as though I was being watched. Observed by half a dozen eyes. Instinctually perhaps, I said aloud “Would you like me to leave, I can if you want me too?”.
As a Witch who respects nature and the spirits of the land, I never assume my presence is wanted, appreciated, or welcomed in a place that is not exclusively my own, so on occasions such as these, where I feel as though I may be intruding or observing some act of spirit not meant for my eyes, I always show respect and ask if I am welcome. But within seconds of me speaking, the wind suddenly stopped, and the sounds of nature began to awaken again. Despite this, I still felt watched, not in a menacing way, but certainly with eyes that were intrigued by what may have been perceived to be an act of boldness at directly speaking with spirits. I sat back down on the stump I had been using as a seat, and went back to my thoughts. This time, pondering where Malkin Tower might have been and what the accused Witches may have been like in life.
It was then that I felt inspired to write a skeletal format of this poem. But the rain came, and I was forced to move and head for home. Being a Witch who experiences Fibromyalgia, gone are the days where I can play in the rain and not end up in excruciating pain.

A few months later, while working with some wonderful women who are part of the Cerridwen Temple and who together are continually working on both the Witches online and in person walk (held in Glastonbury, which seeks to remember all those accused, tortured and murdered because of Witchcraft accusations), I felt inspired to dust off the somewhat skeletal structure of this poem and complete it.
The below poem, ‘Elizabeth’s Lament’, was inspired by what is known about Elizabeth Southerns (aka Old Demdike), and where I claim no form of direct communication or instruction from Elizabeth’s spirit, I would like to think that perhaps she appreciates my creative interpretation of what may have been her take on magic, thoughts on spirit, and her personal feelings and agonising grief and anger while incarcerated at Lancaster Castle.

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