Got back to Highgate tonight after a busy weekend. I had been invited to attend the yearly Pendle Witch Camp in Lancashire. This year’s camp was especially significant, as it commemorated the 400th year anniversary of the execution of the eight Pendle women who were hanged for practicing witchcraft back in 1612. I was asked to give a Talk to discuss my own modern day Witchcraft Trial, which took place in 1974. As the keynote speaker, I did feel a burden of responsibility to highlight the fact that the persecution of these innocent ‘cunning women’ was not an anachronistic sequence of events, merely indicative of the ignorant attitudes of its time. Sadly it has parallels in the late 20th century in my case, and in the modern age on a global scale, both in developed and third world countries where the perceived threat of witchcraft still results in legal trials – or in some cases much less ‘civilised’ ‘justice’ at the hands of the mob.
It is of course a very involved subject; but many people from all different cultures – from the UK to the USA, or from European countries to the dark reaches of South America and Africa, and even Australia – indeed support the persecution of witches today, and the main purpose of my Talk was to remind people of this point. In our so-called religious and (be these concepts strange bedfellows) progressive societies, people are being murdered every day for their actual or perceived beliefs, and the persecution of modern day ‘witches’ in Europe (the correct term is Wicca), pagans, or perhaps to put it more succinctly ‘new age thinkers’, still goes on today.
And such was the purpose of me attending the Pendle Witch Camp. It was organised by Ade Lord, and he had booked several other speakers to speak at the camp over a three day period, on various aspects of magic, paganism and the occult in general. I was interviewed by Tania Ahsan; a journalist who had previously interviewed me in 2007 for The Metro newspaper.
Anyway, we left London rather early yesterday (Saturday) to arrive at our booked hotel in time for the Talk which was scheduled to begin at 5.30pm. We found our hotel without any difficulty, and met some other members of the BPOS who had also booked rooms there. Della and I travelled in one car, while they made their way up in another. We had a little difficulty finding the location of the convention as it was not very well signposted, but managed to arrive by 5.20pm and get the recording equipment rigged up in time. Luckily the whole thing was running a little behind schedule, so I had time to meet up with Tania beforehand and get the basic arrangements sorted out.
The Talk went well – despite the intrusion of heavy rain upon the marquee, which forced me to say at one stage, ‘I think we might be being invaded by “Black Magical forces”’! I was just trying to lighten the situation a little, as it was very wet and windy there in the heart of Pendle country.
I will not give further details of the Talk at the moment, but can tell you that the whole thing was filmed and will shortly be up on YouTube (in the next week I hope). Then you can see it for yourselves. Personally I have not seen the finished video yet, and please forgive any audio deteriorisation in view of the lack of anticipation of a couple of heavy downpours.
Talk successfully accomplished (despite two of our cars being ‘stuck in the mud’ – literally – we all made it back to the hotel with just dinner in mind!
Anyway, we had a good night of relaxation, and met a few Lancashire and Yorkshire guests who were staying at the hotel. We had a bit of a party in our hotel room after the bar had closed (Della and I had a really big room luckily) – sorry to the management! But we all got to bed around 3am, in time for Sunday – obviously which is still today.
So enough of the Pendle Talk, you’ll just have to wait for it on YouTube!
Sunday came, and we left this morning after a full English breakfast. We still had two more reputedly haunted sites to investigate. The first was at the old Westwood Mill at Linthwaite, and the other, an old coaching inn at Flockton, where apparent recent ghost sightings have been reported on the premises (more of that later).
Regarding the mill (which ran alongside an old canal), we arrived there about 2pm, only to find the main point of access flooded. We met a few local ramblers trying to walk along the canal path, but they all gave up; probably because the water overlapping from the canal was some four inches deep. A professional photographer, and BPOS member, had accompanied us to the mill and, while he got some good exterior photographs of the mill itself, he was a bit reluctant to wade through the water, which almost seemed to act as a ‘guardian’ to prevent access to the sinister place. I could see his point, I had great difficulty in walking through the sodden undergrowth of the main path; so much so that I had to ask Della to support me before I could go any further. But even then I managed to get my feet soaking wet. It was worth it though to at least see the side of the main building, which abutted the canal.
However, Della was more persistent, and did not want to ‘lose’ the trip by giving up all hope of accessing the old mill because of the water. So she led me back to the car and told me to wait so she could get photographs via another route . . . Half an hour after we saw her disappear into the overgrown meadow to the north of the mill we were growing slightly concerned. But she eventually emerged from the tall grasses unscathed, although a little wet and perturbed by her experiences, camera in hand. I learned very soon afterwards that she had actually managed to get inside the mill from another direction, and had found a way in by a gap in one of the security fences. Once inside it was an awesome sight, and I was very impressed to learn that she had taken quite a few photographic shots of the inside of the mill for the record.
Anyway, more on that to follow. But it has really been a very busy weekend!
Yours for the moment everyone,