Canto 3

Auld Pendle is a savage place,
Sabden to Barley Fold,
Of rushing rills & rolling hills
& damp, north-facing mould.

Below its slopes the scene is set,
This story must be sung,
Of devil-swollen Wiccan fall
& how they all were hung.

By Roger Nowell, lord of Read,
Quite noble & astute,
Who hears wyrd wailings fill the jail
& goes to see its root.

He finds a filthy, foul-mouth’d lass
From Pendle’s nether edge;
For right or wrong her vengey tongue
Thro’ all her friends did dredge.

She told him Demdike was a witch
Who Richard Baldwin slew,
& as he’d see, her family
Was each a Wiccan too.

So Nowell sent his riders out
With orders to return,
At point of pike, that damn’d Demdike,
Chattox & Anne Redfearn.

Each lass was brought to him at Fence,
Above the Burnley vale,
Where news flew fast, gossip aghast,
Spreading the deadly tale.

Both Chattox & Demdike confess
Wrong-doings lewd & long,
Incriminating each with hate,
A hate that twists the tongue.

“I need to find more witnesses,”
Did Nowell nodding say,
“First, lock these hell-breeds in a cell
& feed them once a day!”

That cell was dark & stagnant dank,
Rats scuttling in the gloom,
A place to wait & ruminate
Upon one’s coming doom.

Beyond those slimy walls the air
Was cool & crisp & clear;
Upon the hoof, searching for proof
Thro’ Pendle men did steer.

A muckle tale of fresh-spoilt ale,
Of cattle dying strange,
Was ably told, both young & old
Desire the times to change;

For talk is growing darker still
Of murders vile & foul;
With eerie chill, from Pendle Hill
There rose a grisly howl.

The noble Alice Nutter felt
That frightful, demon-cry,
A wealthy lass, whose better class
Beam’d from her clever eye.

Alas, she had grown curious
Of witchcraft & its lore;
Of birds & bells & words & spells
& circles on the floor.

So, sixteen epic centuries
Since Jesus’ final hour,
A coven stands all holding hands,
In black Malkin’s tower.

By candlelight a lady stood,
Some prophet in the sands,
“Sisters”, she said, “we daemon-wed
Do what the Beast commands!

There is no pagan remedy
To aid our captive friends,”
Alice imparts, “with darker arts
We Wiccan make amends!”

She sacrificed a stolen sheep
& drank its boiling blood,
Then smear’d crimson deftly upon
Bare breasts, as witches should.

From arcane tongue a ghastly song
Did thunder to the deep,
To touch the ear of something queer,
To rouse it from its sleep.

Across the coven’s cavern floor,
Crones chalk white pentacles,
Twyx ancient runes & crescent moons
Crawl slimy tentacles.

“O Devil, Devil of the depths,”
Sang they, “be bound to me;
From mortal chains, from awful pains,
Our friends we would set free!”

“First barrel up some gunpowder,’
The Daemon heard their plight,
“Then build a bale beside the jail
& set the lot alight!”

With searing flash of sulphur dash
The Daemon disappear’d;
Howls deafening… breaking the ring
John Bulcock stroked his beard.

“I think the powder can be found,”
Said he; “then we must haste,”
Said Alice Nutter as she cut
A vein of bloody taste.

“We are one blood in sisterhood
As one we live or die,
Now all depends on saving friends
Come sisters, let us fly!”

Suckling her blood each left there fleet,
Some broomstick thro’ the air;
Some morph into a bird, a shrew,
Some to a leaping hare.

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