THE voices of the Pendle witches will ‘speak’ across the centuries in a poetry booklet published next week.
Poet Camille Ralphs makes her debut with ‘Malkin’, a collection of 14 poems which are written from the point of view of the accused men and women.
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Camille, 23, whose family hails from the Darwen and Bury areas, became fascinated by the famous 17th century Pendle Witch Trials when she was a student at Lancaster University.
The poetry collection, published by The Emma Press, is illustrated with woodcut-style drawings from Emma Wright.
Camille, originally from Stoke, said: “The poems speak to the reader from beyond the grave and I suppose, if commenting on anything, it is the trend to scapegoat people or undesirables in society.
“That is part of the reason for the unorthodox spelling because that has long been associated with morality, class and intelligence.”
In England at that time paranoia about witchcraft was widespread. King James I was living in fear of a Catholic rebellion in the aftermath of the Guy Fawkes gunpowder plot. He was a keen witch hunter and even wrote a book called Demonology.
As part of her research Camille, who now lives in Oxford, took walks up Pendle Hill, read books and watched documentaries about the witches.
One poem is written from the point of view of nine-year-old Jennet Device, whose evidence led to the execution of 10 people, including all her own family.
Camille said there was a lot of guesswork involved in understanding the characters.
“I would never claim the poems were factual,” she added. “I think they thought they had some power or thought they could say they had power.”
Camille said the poems have already had the seal of approval from a white witch.
“I did a reading of some of the poems from the Pendle sequence in Manchester this time last year and a woman came up afterwards and told me she was a practising witch and thought they were interesting,” she said.
The pamphlet is out on November 19 and costs £5.