Joyce Froome – a short interview with Morgana

Hallo Joyce,

We recently met in Bude, Cornwall and later in Boscastle at the Museum of Witchcraft.  I was honoured that you presented me with your book ‘Wicked Enchantments – a History of the Pendle Witches & their Magic’.

Can you tell us a little about yourself and why you chose to write this book?

I’m assistant curator at the Museum of Witchcraft, and the book very much grew out of my work at the museum. We get a lot of requests for information, and while I was doing research in response to a query about the witch-hunts, I came across ‘The Wonderfull Discoverie of Witches in the Countie of Lancaster’, the pamphlet about the 1612 Pendle case, which was written by one of the court officials at the trials. I started to read it and I was riveted. By the end I was seething with fury – it was such a shameless piece of propaganda, justifying what was obviously a terrible miscarriage of justice. But I was also surprised and fascinated by the fact that the statements from two of the main suspects, the teenage brother and sister James and Alizon Device, and from their 9-year-old sister Jennet, contained several references to magic. It was clear that they were members of a family of cunning folk who performed healing and protection magic for their community. And the magic they practiced was very similar to the magic represented in the museum.

At first I was just going to write an information sheet for the museum, but the project took on a life of its own. The people involved in the case were so intriguing, and there was far more material about magic in other writings of the time than I expected. I was particularly excited about the idea of writing a book about the witch-hunts that could be illustrated with photographs of authentic magical objects in the museum. I felt that would bring home to readers that magic was something real and important, and that in turn would help to bring home the reality of the persecutions.

What are your main conclusions?

What became more and more obvious as I worked on the book, was that magic was an enormously important part of people’s lives. It was both a practical way to deal with everyday problems and a spiritual belief system. It empowered and liberated ordinary people. Both the Church and State authorities saw this as a threat. It challenged the hierarchical order of a very unjust society. And that was what was at the root of the witch-hunts. Of course many people were accused of witchcraft because they were scapegoats or for other reasons that had nothing to do with them practising magic – but that was really a side effect. Essentially, the witch-hunts were a campaign to eliminate magic.

And how are they relevant to Modern Witchcraft/Wicca?

Horrifying though the Pendle case is, I found the courage of the Pendle cunning folk very inspiring. One particularly important fact about the case is that the local magistrate, Roger Nowell, had already been involved in the prosecution and execution of a cunning man several years earlier. So the Pendle cunning folk knew that Roger Nowell was violently opposed to magic and would do everything possible to have them arrested and executed. Yet they continued to practice magic openly and defiantly – to help their community, and also to keep their magical tradition alive. Anyone who practices magic today is working in a very ancient and powerful tradition – a tradition that people like James and Alizon Device were prepared to risk their lives to preserve.

And who were these people?? Read an extract of Joyce’s book elsewhere in this issue and find out a little more…..

Pendle Hill – Quarry

Pendle Hill

Malkin Tower Farm

Over Morgana

"Morgana is Anglo/Dutch and lives in the Netherlands. She is a practising Gardnerian HPS. Over the years, she has facilitated a variety of Wiccan groups. She is co-editor of the international and bilingual "Wiccan Rede" magazine, which was launched in 1980 and is coordinator of Silver Circle, a Wiccan network in the Netherlands. As International Coordinator for PFI she travels extensively giving talks and workshops about Wicca and Paganism."
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