It is now October and Halloween happens at the end of the month. So why not hit up YouTube for historical documentaries for your classroom? Since it is Halloween, witches seem to go with the holiday. I am going to share with the learning world documentaries on the various Witch trials that happened in history. The first trial I am going to introduce you to is the Pendle Witch Trial. This is a trial where a child testified against her family and condemned them to death.
It is 1612 and a woman is accused of killing two men by witchcraft. Her nine-year-old daughter is brought into the courtroom and what the child says condemns her mother to death. Her name was Jennet Device.
The Pendle Witch Trial occurred during the reign of King James I. He had a reputation for hunting witches. He was king in a new country and brought with him new customs and suspensions. He believed that witches tried to kill him. He took part in witch trials. He wrote a book called Demonology, one of the earliest heads of states to do it. The Pendle area was this tucked-away place.
Jennet’s family survived by begging and doing odd jobs. Her grandmother was known as a “cunning woman,” a woman who could heal people. They had a great deal of power in the community. Cunning women do good things, while witches make you sick and kill you. Cunning women had to walk a fine line in the community, because if you angered the wrong person you could be accused of being a witch. Or a cunning woman could muscle in on your territory and could get rid of a rival.
England was now a fully Protestant nation. They were suspicious of those who practiced the old ways. Catholicism looked similar to witchcraft. Tensions were high in the Royal Court and the country. Then you have a king who wrote a book on how to hunt witches. It was only a matter of time before the explosion went off.
Alice Device, Jennet’s sister ran into a peddler for some pins. However, the peddler refused to give her the pins. So, Alice cursed him. The old man collapsed, terrifying the girl. She immediately confessed to putting a curse on him. It terrified her to no end and she had no doubt she killed him. This guilt would lead her to confess and that would lead to the downfall of the family. The peddler’s son reported what happened to the local magistrate. Alice was brought in for questioning and she confessed.
This leads to Alice accusing her neighbor Chattox of making clay figures. This touched off a witch hunt in the Pendle area. Alice’s grandmother and her neighbors were arrested, accused of witchcraft. They were put into the tower at Lancaster Castle. The rest of the family got together, was this a meeting of witches, or was it a family meeting, or was it a party. The local sheriff got wind of the meeting and burst into the meeting. The Device family was arrested; however, they pointed the finger at additional people. These additional people were arrested, some of them came from landowning, respectable families.
Jennet felt isolated from her family. She was the youngest of the family and she was illegitimate. Perhaps this was the reason why she wanted to testify against her family. Perhaps she enjoyed the attention she got from being center stage. Whatever reason, it is clear that her testimony would change legal history.
To continue to learn more about the Pendle witches watch the rest of this documentary.
The narrator of this documentary is fantastic! He tells the story of the Pendle Witches very well. I could listen to him read me a story at bedtime. This would be an excellent documentary to show in class.
You can access the YouTube video here.
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