I just finished Mary Sharratt’s Daughters of Witching Hill that focuses on a family of “witches” from the 1600’s. The stories of Bess Southerns and her brood derive from real accounts of witch trials from Lancanshire, England. Although Sharratt spins her own personalities into the family and characters, they were in fact real people from this time period.
Bess Southerns was the matriach of the family, realizing quickly that she held special powers from help of her “familiar” Tibb who served as a spirit or fairy spirit and guided her through her problems and spells. Bess, careful not to connect her powers with witchery, portrays herself as a “cunning woman” or a blesser. Therefore the people in her village are not afraid of her and in fact ask her to heal sick animals, children, bless their crops, etc. Her daughter Anne also begins to connect with her “familiar” Dandy and then shuns the cunning ways when her husband dies from, what she believes is a curse from Bess’s former best friend Chattox (a less cunning version of Bess).
The story ends following Bess’s granddaughter Alizon Device as she navigates through coming into her own powers, realizing that she has her own “familiar” although she tries to dismiss her powers and her fate. The book was a little difficult to get into in the beginning just due to the language and the time period, but as I pushed through and got to know the characters better, I felt that it was thoroughly entertaining. It’s even more mysterious (and slightly horrifying) that they are pretty much true stories of the Pendle Witch Trials. Good read!