Tuesday, 30 March 2010

Daughters of the Witching Hill Reader Review Contest

Win signed copies of all my books, plus an exclusive handmade piece of jewelry designed by Elise Mattheson.

How to enter:

1. Post your Insightful Reader Review of Daughters of the Witching Hill on one of the following online review sites:

Borders.com, or

Then sign my guest book telling me about your review.

Entries must be posted by May 7, 2010.

Happy Reading!

Pendle Witch Library

Pendle Witches: Further Reading on the Pendle Witches, Historical Cunning Folk, and Wisewomen


Harrison Ainsworth, The Lancashire Witches: A Romance of Pendle Forest (EJ Morten) (First published in 1849, written in dialect, very long, gothic, and dense.)

Robert Neill, Mist Over Pendle (A lovely novel for both adults and young adults but not very kind to the witches!)

Nonfiction, Primary Source:

Thomas Potts, The Wonderfull Discoverie of Witches in the Countie of Lancaster (Published in 1613, these are the official transcripts of the 1612 trial. Though not infallible, Potts’s account remains the best primary source we have.)

Nonfiction, Secondary Sources:

John A. Clayton, The Lancashire Witch Conspiracy (Barrowford) (A locally published historical investigation.)

Jonathan Lumby, The Lancashire Witch-Craze (Carnegie) (Very in-depth and sensitively written.)

Edgar Peel & Pat Southern, The Trials of the Lancashire Witches (Nelson) (Perhaps the most lucid overview of the arrests and trials.)

Robert Poole, ed., The Lancashire Witches: Histories and Stories (Manchester University Press) (A collection of recent academic scholarship on the subject, highly recommended!)

Nonfiction: Books on Witchcraft, Folk Magic, Folk Lore, Religion, and Social History

Robin Briggs, Witches & Neighbours: The Social and Cultural Context of European Witchcraft, (Blackwell Publishing) (General overview of the European witch persecutions.)

Owen Davies, Popular Magic: Cunning-folk in English History, (Hambledon Continuum) (Although most of the cunning-folk he discusses date from a later period than the Pendle Witches, this is still a must-read.)

Eamon Duffy, The Stripping of the Altars: Traditional Religion in England 1400-1580 (Yale University Press) (Seminal work on why people in Tudor England were so reluctant to lose their “old religion.”)

John Harland & T.T. Wilkinson, Lancashire Folklore, (Kessinger Publishing) (Originally compiled in the 19th century, this book is full of authentic folk magic as practised by local cunning folk.)

Keith Thomas, Religion and the Decline of Magic, (Penguin) (The classic social history on religion and popular folk magic and how they influenced each other.)

John Webster, The Displaying of Supposed Witchcraft, (Ams Pr Inc), (Originally published in 1677, this is a skeptical work dismissing accusations of supposed satanic witchcraft and yet illuminating genuine folkloric beliefs and practises, including the lingering belief in the Fairy Faith.)

Emma Wilby, Cunning Folk and Familiar Spirits: Shamanistic Visionary Traditions in Early Modern British Witchcraft and Magic, (Sussex Academic Press) (Scholarly work attempting to elucidate what cunning folk actually believed in. The author presents a convincing argument that the belief in familiar spirits was rooted in the Fairy Faith.)

The Charms of the Pendle Witches

From Thomas Potts’s A Wonderfull Discoverie of Witches in the Countie of Lancaster, the official trial transcripts:

Mother Demdike’s family charm “to get drink”:

Crucifixus hoc signum vitam
Eternam. Amen.

(Literal translation: the crucifix is the sign of eternal life.)

This charm to cure bewitchment is attributed to Chattox:

A Charme

Three Biters hast thou bitten,
The Hart, ill Eye, ill Tonge:
Three bitter shall be thy Boote,
Father, Sonne, and Holy Ghost
a Gods name,
Fiue Pater-nosters, fiue Auies,
and a Creede,
In worship of fiue wounds
of our Lord.

(In modern language the last part would read: five Pater-Nosters, five Ave Marias, and a Creed, in the worship of the five wounds of our Lord—the cunning woman would then say these prayers while contemplating the five wounds of Christ.)

A charm to cure one who is bewitched, attributed to Elizabeth Southerns’s family and recorded by Thomas Potts during the 1612 witch trials at Lancaster:

A Charme

Upon Good-Friday, I will fast while I may
Untill I heare them knell
Our Lords owne Bell,
Lord in his messe
With his twelve Apostles good,
What hath he in his hand
Ligh in leath wand:
What hath he in his other hand?
Heavens doore key,
Open, open Heaven doore keyes,
Steck, steck hell doore.
Let Crizum child
Goe to it Mother mild,
What is yonder that casts a light so farrandly,
Mine owne deare Sonne that’s naild to the Tree.
He is naild sore by the heart and hand,
And holy harne Panne,
Well is that man
That Fryday spell can
His Childe to learne;
A Cross of Blew, and another of Red,
As good Lord was to the Roode.
Gabriel laid him downe to sleepe
Upon the ground of holy weepe:
Good Lord came walking by,
Sleep’st thou, wak’st thou Gabriel,
No Lord I am sted with sticke and stake,
That I can neither sleepe nor wake:
Rise up Gabriel and goe with me,
The stick nor the stake shall never deere thee.

Daughters of the Witching Hill: What the critics are saying

Daughters of the Witching Hill by Mary Sharratt
published April 7, 2010 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt

“Gorgeously imagined . . . . Sharratt crafts her complex yet credible account by seamlessly blending historical fact, modern psychology, and vivid evocations of the daily life of the poor whose only hope of empowerment lay in the black arts.”
-Publisher’s Weekly, Starred Review

“What makes this story stand out are the strong voices of the two main characters, stalwart Bess Southerns (aka Demdike) and her feisty granddaughter Alizon Device . . . . a fascinating tale. The story unfolds without melodrama and is therefore all the more powerful.”
-Library Journal, Starred Review

“The Pendle witches’ story, retold as a passionate saga of female friendship.”
-Kirkus Reviews

“Sharratt fills the book with fascinating accounts of rituals and magic practices, and her gift for the language of the era brings the narrative to life. Striking just the right balance between the demands of fact and the allure of a good story, she has produced a novel that’s both convincing and compelling. Daughters is—literally—a spellbinding book.”

"Sharratt gives the story a sense of magical wonder as she weaves 17th century folklore into the hard lives of her characters."
-Mary Ann Grossmann, Saint Paul Pioneer Press

Daughters of the Witching Hill: The Launch Party

Daughters of the Witching Hill
published April 7 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt

What a voice Mary Sharratt has. She brings a haunting, ancient story to life.
--Karleen Koen

The wild, brooding landscape of Pendle Hill in Lancashire, Northern England, my home for the past seven years, gave birth to my new novel, Daughters of the Witching Hill, which reveals the true and unforgettable story of the Pendle Witches of 1612.

Take a sneak peak of the novel

Who were the Pendle Witches of 1612?

Read what the critics are saying

Join me on my traditional and virtual book tour

Watch my docudrama of the Pendle Witches, filmed live on location around Pendle Hill

Read Mary Ann Grossmann's interview with me in the Saint Paul Pioneer Press

Learn the charms of the Pendle Witches

Enter the Daughters of the Witching Hill Reader Review Contest

Learn more about Historical Cunning Folk and Wisewomen

Thank you for being a part of this book!

Tuesday, 23 March 2010

New video, live events, audio rights, and new reviews

I've just returned from New York and the stellar Virginia Book Fesitval.

In Brooklyn, artist and author Kris Waldherr hosted my exclusive prepublication reading and signing at her Art & Words Gallery, pictured above. You can see some of her gorgeous art work on the wall behind me. You can also see how beautiful the finished book jacket for DAUGHTERS OF THE WITCHING HILL is. It shimmers like a hologram and completely conveys the essence of the magic I sought to capture in the novel.

The event was livestreamed on the internet and you can see it here.

At the Virginia Festival of the Book I had the honour of being on three panels.

First, I was a guest speaker for Bella Stander's Book Promotion 101 seminar at Writer House in Charlottesville.

Then I was lucky enough to take part in the divine Barbara Drummond Mead's Reading Group Choices Panel with authors Masha Hamilton, Sheila Curran, and Laura Brodie.

I have to read all their books now.

Ditto with the authors of the third panel, Larry Baker's True Stories of Fact or Fiction panel with Roger Ekirch, Ben Farmer, and C.M. Mayo. Ben Farmer is only 28 and this was his first public book event. His debut novel EVANGELINE looks so compelling. I had a wonderful chat with C.M. Mayo who lives in Mexico and writes great fiction about Mexico's turbulent history.

In early April I leave for book tour with dates in Boston, Salem, and Minnesota where I hope to meet with my lovely readers!

Here is the video docudrama we shot for DAUGHTERS OF THE WITCHING HILL, on location around Pendle Hill. My publisher has now added the book jacket and pub date to the video. In this short film, I discuss my research on the Pendle Witches as historical cunning folk.

In addition, DAUGHTERS has received a rave review from Bookpage. As I post this, their site seems to be down but the link should work when their site is back up.

And insightful reviews from Goddess Pages and Pagan Book Reviews.

My other great news is that Houghton Mifflin Harcourt sold the audio rights to both DAUGHTERS OF THE WITCHING HILL and THE VANISHING POINT, and that my publicist told me that the rave March 1 review from Library Journal was actually a Starred Review. So that means that DAUGHTERS received two Starred Reviews, one from Publisher's Weekly and one from Library Journal.

My heroines, the Pendle Witches, were real people so I sincerely hope that this book can serve their memory and do justice to their legacy. Their story deserves to be heard.

Wednesday, 10 March 2010

King James I: Royal Demonologist

Even by the standards of his age, King James VI of Scotland, who later became James I of England, stood out as a deeply superstitious man, ruled by his obsession with the occult.

Before his reign, witchcraft persecutions had been rare in Britain. But that all changed in 1590 when James personally oversaw the trials by torture for around seventy individuals implicated in the North Berwick Witch Trials, the biggest Scotland had known. The witches’ alleged crime? Raising a storm which nearly sank James’s ship when he sailed home from Norway with his new bride, Anne of Denmark. Possibly dozens of accused witches were executed by burning at the stake, although the precise number is unknown.

In 1597 James published his book, Daemonologie, his rebuttal of Reginald Scot’s skeptical work, The Discoverie of Witchcraft, which questioned the very existence of witches. Daemonologie was an alarmist book, presenting the idea of a vast conspiracy of satanic witches threatening to undermine the nation.

In 1604, only one year after James ascended to the English throne, he passed his new Witchcraft Act, which made invoking spirits a crime punishable by execution.

James’s ideas on witchcraft were later popularised by Shakespeare’s play Macbeth, which had its premier performance at James’s court in 1606. For the first time in history, English drama depicted witches gathering in secret for their own malign rituals and scheming.

The weird sisters, hand in hand,
Posters by the sea and land,
Thus do go, about, about,
Thrice to thine, and thrice to mine,
And thrice again, to make up nine.
Peace, the charm's wound up.
(Macbeth, I,iii, 32-37)

According to Instruments of Darkness by James Sharpe, this terror of supposed witch covens was the driving factor mobilising 17th century witch hunts. Previously the belief in witches’ covens had been a Continental European concept, foreign to traditional British folk magic, practised by individuals, not collectives. No evidence exists that supposed witches in Early Modern Britain organised themselves into collectives, and nothing of the black mass can be traced to England at this time.

It wouldn't take long before life began to imitate James's and Shakespeare's dark fiction.

Six years on, in 1612, the King’s paranoid fantasy of satanic conspiracy, planted in the minds of local magistrates hoping to earn his favour, culminated in one of the key manifestations of the Jacobean witch-craze: the trials of the Lancashire Witches of Pendle, which resulted in the execution of seven women and two men. According to Thomas Potts's The Wonderfull Discoverie of Witches in the Countie of Lancaster, the official trial transcripts, the accused allegedly gathered "according to solemn appointment" at Malkin Tower on Good Friday, "with great cheer, merry company and much conference," and then plotted to blow up Lancaster Castle with gunpowder. As far-fetched as this scenario seems--where would a group of impoverished commonfolk even get hold of gunpowder--it fed directly into James' fears following the Gunpowder Plot of 1605.

James’s unfortunate legacy extends even into our age. The King James Bible, completed in 1611, saw the scriptures rewritten to further the King’s agenda. Exodus 22:18, originally translated as, “Thou must not suffer a poisoner to live,” became “Thou must not suffer a witch to live.”

Speaking of the Pendle Witches, local preparations for commemorating the 400th anniversary of the 1612 Lancashire Witch Trials are underway. Read more about it here.