Ice Age Sites of Britain's Serpents - Part Four

Bewitched isn't what it used to be. Wed 03 May 2023

Human facial organs may bewitch. Source: The Famous Nose Wiggle | Bewitched

According to the maps in Ice Age Sites of Britain's Serpents - Part Three, witches and serpents divided the country between themselves.

Why did many witches concentrate in the east of the country and Liverpool/Manchester/Chester, while serpents are found just about everywhere else?

The rest of this long piece shows witches and serpents are very similar. Almost identical.

We compare characteristics of witches with characteristics of serpents. We also compare witch activities with serpent activities.

We find they are often the same entities. That is why they seem to coexist but in different areas.

The two different stories of 'witch' and 'serpent' reflect 18th/19th century efforts to break up memories of what each of them really were.

Among other achievements, they hide vast-scale landscaping:

An immense amount of earth was moved. Source: Shadow Rome - III: The Earth Movers

One landscaper is most often credited with landscaping 170 vast English gardens (actually farms) into 'natural' countryside:

Brownian motion. Source: Shadow Rome - III: The Earth Movers

The others - and their earth-moving machinery - were converted into mythology.

Serpents are:

  • Machines and technologies rewritten as stories about strange animals: serpents, dragons, wyrms, wyverns and cockatrices.

  • The destruction of these machines at project completion was turned into the folklore of serpent and dragon conflict. Like St George and the dragon. And the many, many serpent conflict stories around the British Isles.

  • Its operators - and particularly staff that handled humans - were rewritten as witches.

  • The suppression and hunting down of these operators during and after the Civil War was turned into the folklore of witch trials. Witch trials coincide with the hunting and execution of priests, clerks and vicars. Witches and vicars are two labels applied to members of an an earlier technocrat class.

This re-labelling and re-describing is part of a playbook. It requires making up or re-writing a tale, then publishing it as a poem, ballad or play 'heard in a pub' or 'local legend set down in writing for the first time'.

An example comes from an important moment in the 'history' of the USA. Every American schoolkid learns how Paul Revere warned his compatriots: "The British are coming!":

Taken for a ride. Source: Falling Skies

From Henry Wadsworth Longfellow:

The Tales of a Wayside Inn, modeled roughly on Geoffrey Chaucer’s The Canterbury Tales and published in 1863, reveals his narrative gift. The first poem, “Paul Revere’s Ride,” became a national favourite.

this folk ballad recalls a hero of the American Revolution and his famous “midnight ride” to warn the Americans about the impending British raid on Concord, Massachusetts. Though its account of Revere’s ride is historically inaccurate, the poem created an American legend.

An important, widely-believed historical 'fact' started out as a Romantic writer's poem.

If one American example is convincing enough, you can move on to the machinery examples in Ice Age Sites of Britain's Serpents - Part Five.

If you want to see how the technique was used in Britain, the rest of this piece examines characteristics of British witch narratives and their similarities with British serpent folklore.

It looks at hints at what witch and serpents really were. And at what their folklore is covering up.

From The Trial and Confession of Elizabeth Sawyer, 1621:

The actual trial records of English witchcraft are very sparse.

From The Witch of Edmonton:

Written and first acted in 1621, the play was not published until 1658.

The title page of the first edition attributes the play to "divers well-esteemed Poets; William Rowley, Thomas Dekker, John Ford, &c." (etc possibly = John Webster)

The play was inspired by the real-life story of Elizabeth Sawyer, who had been executed for witchcraft on 19 April 1621, and draws heavily on a pamphlet... The Wonderfull Discoverie of Elizabeth Sawyer, a Witch late of Edmonton, (1621), Reverend Henry Goodcole.

...the trial which owes its fame not only to the widespread circulation of this pamphlet but to a contemporary play written by William Rowley and Thomas Dekker, first performed in December 1621 and published in 1658. The play draws directly on this published account of the trial. The author of the pamphlet also reports that ballads sung after the trial, to which he objected, attributed additional activities to Elizabeth Sawyer.

One pamphlet.

One pamphlet transformed into two witches and multiple show-business spin-offs.

Note it's not Elizabeth drowning in the pond. Source: The Witch of Edmonton

The pamphlet had to illustrated the truth. Back then, they knew ducking wasn't a women-only thing.


England's 'Iron Age' hill forts, barrows, castles and moated houses were surrounded by broad water-filled ditches. These water 'fences' kept non-swimming 'ket' in.

As the wicca-hunts rolled on, fear of water identified you as innocent, as ket. Conversely, preparing to hold your breath identified you as vicar, wicca or other instrument of authority:

Two minutes: very doable with practice. Source: The Leftovers

In Yorkshire, we see another example of poetry being used to create memorable stories about witches.

From The Fewston Witches 1621-1623: A Yorkshire Coven:

In 1621 a coven of six witches in Fewston (Yorkshire) decided to persecute a local family, the Fairfaxes.

We know all this because the father of Ann, Elizabeth and Hellen was Edward Fairfax one of the most famous Elizabethan poets.

As with other witches, the Edmunton and Yorkshire witches were 're-woven' to explain away memories of real events. In some cases, a single person was used to account for child-stealing around the country.

A-List witch Eleanor Cobham was tried at Leeds Castle, Kent. She was also tried at Chester, Cheshire. She was tried in London. And seemingly, parts of her case were heard at Bury St Edmunds, Suffolk.

Eleanor became so well known she survived into modern show business:

Eleanor Cobham played by Sally Hawkins. Source: The Hollow Crown

From Whole trial and examination of Mrs. Mary Hicks and her daughter Elizabeth:

Labelled by historians and academics as a piece of journalistic invention, it tells the story of Mary Hicks

The writing style of the anonymous pamphleteer resembles that of two earlier tracts printed in 1705, both with fabricated narratives. These were signed by Ralph Davis, purportedly covering the trial of two witches, Elinor Shaw and Mary Phillips, at Northamptonshire.

From The Late Lancashire Witches:

The Late Lancashire Witches is a Caroline-era stage play and written by Thomas Heywood and Richard Brome, published in 1634. The play is a topical melodrama on the subject of the witchcraft controversy that arose in Lancashire in 1633.

Thomas Shadwell borrowed from the Heywood/Brome work for his own The Lancashire Witches (1681).

as late as 1782, Charles Dibdin had a success with his pantomime The Lancashire Witches, or The Distresses of Harlequin.

The witchcraft cover up was so successful, its audiences lost touch with its reality.

From Telling Witchcraft Stories - New Perspectives on Witchcraft and Witches in the Early Modern Period, A Rowlands, 1998, p296:

Their ‘myth of the Burning Times’ insists that witch-hunting was widespread, invariably brutal, and directed exclusively at women in a frenzy of misogyny; at its most extreme, it perpetuates the fiction that nine million women were executed as witches.

Though the public imagination is slowly coming back to earth.

From Witches in Britain:

From 1484 until around 1750 some 200,000 witches were tortured, burnt or hanged in Western Europe.

From Witch Trials in England:

The Witch trials in England were conducted from the 15th century until the 18th century. They are estimated to have resulted in the death of perhaps 500 people, 90 percent of whom were women.

From 'It is but an Olde Wytche Gonne': Prosecution and execution for witchcraft in Exeter, 1558-1610, Mark Stoyle, p148:

this investigation has added two new names to the list of those who can be shown to have been hanged as witches – quite a significant addition, when we consider that the total number of people executed for this crime in England and Wales is now generally believed to have been around 500. 1

With the outrage turned down, details of witch folklore are surprisingly similar to serpent and dragon folklore.

From Chester witch trials:

The folkloric image of the crone was established through the images in the pamphlets and repeated in similar pamphlets over the next century. By the 1590s, the last decade of Elizabeth I’s reign, the idea of the witch in England had crystallised as an old, very poor woman, lame or blind in one eye

Speaking of which:

Irish gods had a single vision for Sligo, Donegal and Ulster. Source: Irish Myths in Conversation #7: Patrick McCafferty on comets in Irish mythology

I think the last word is Irish for "warp-spasm".

It involved sky-god Balor's eyes moving independently, one into the back of head and the other down his cheek, as he slaughtered thousands of Irish.

Around 1897, Lady Isabella Augusta Gregory edited Balor's warp-spasm out of 'native' Irish folklore. She said warp-spasms were too confusing for Irish schoolkids.

Balor lived on as a one-eyed, killer monster. The kind of one-eyed killer monster now found in folklore and school curricula from Ireland to Greece.

And in British stories of witches, King Harold, and one British serpent-monster. The flying serpent Hugh Bayard allegedly dispatched above Castle Carlton in the Lincolnshire Wolds.

British folklore often claims its serpents or dragons were beaten when they were stabbed or sabotaged through their single weak spot. The British Dragon Gazeteer has some of them. It's often the creature's butt or eye.

From Paranormal Database: Dragons:

Moston, Cheshire: Thomas Venables shot and killed a dragon here by shooting an arrow into the eye

Newcastle Emlyn, Dyfed, Wales: a soldier who managed to shoot the creature in its one weak spot - up the bottom

Blind, one-eyed, or 20/20, people accused of witchcraft could expect to have their butt checked for the "Devil's Mark". Witchtrial narratives report the Devil's Mark was occasionally found near the witch's anus. Readers were expected to infer for themselves that these marks were either stumps of hastily docked monkey tails or some other distinctive component in the anal district of the accused's anatomy.

Folklore ascribes similar talents to both witches and serpents.

From Black Annis - Wikipedia:

Legend has it that she used her iron claws to dig her cave out of the side of a sandstone cliff, making herself a home there which is known as Black Annis' Bower Close.

And by way of confirmation, from Black Annis - Leicester Legend or Widespread Myths:

By the late 19th century her cave was filling-up with earth. A housing estate, built just after the first world war, now covers the area. A 19th century eye-witness said the cave was 4-5 feet wide and 7-8 feet long and 'having a ledge of rock, for a seat, running along each side'.

Black Annis is reminiscent of Black Agnes Douglas, late of South Ayreshire, Scotland. Like Black Annis, Black Agnes allegedly ate, tanned and preserved humans in a South Ayreshire cave. Black Agnes is allegedly a myth, but the evidence left by the unnamed cannibal residents of Clovesea Caves is not a myth. It shows some east coast Scots definitely did go in for cannibal-in-a-cave-lifestyle.

Perhaps there's truth to narratives of unusual-looking people slaughtering and processing humans in caves.

Compare the cave-glamping of witches with the lifestyles of serpents.

From British Dragon Gazeteer:

Slingsby, Yorkshire: The worm’s lair, according to a 17th century document, was a great round hole three yards wide and half a mile from town. The worm was thought to be over a mile long. (Ie the 'worm' was tunnelling equipment)

Linton Worm, Roxburghshire, Scotland: It lived in a cave on Linton Hill

Aller, Somerset: It lived in a hillside cave just outside of Aller

Saffron Walden, Essex: it breaketh stones, blasteth all plants with his breath, it burneth everything it goeth over

These stones were also breaketh:

Malham Cove limestone pavement. Source: Malham Cove Walk

They say a waterfall breaketh the stones.

Besides offering wonderful views, Malham Cove offers wonders of geology. Like right-angled cracks and diagonal cracks:

Orthodox geology is cracked. Source: Harry Potter at Malham Cove

As an experiment, here is the same image flipped right to left:

Now compare it with the creation of another geological wonder:

A serpent at work. Source: quarry stone cutter and stone cutting machine

But who might have owned stone-cutting machinery (presumably steam-powered) that could do this? Who could build the roads and camps required for construction teams and machinery?

Take a look at the map:

Footprints of the quarrymen. Source: Limestone Case Study

From Dragons in the Landscape:

Henham, Essex: the creature lived in a cave and would venture out at night to eat cattle and sheep

Several witch accounts have them living in wells and ponds or dumping the remains of their victims in wells or ponds.

From The most cruell and bloody murther committed by an Inkeepers Wife, called Annis Dell, and her Sonne George Dell:

the men... threw the Boy (as he was in his clothes) into the pond, giving him for his requie farewel, no other funerall rites & Christian buriall, but these words; sinke there in stead of a mother-graue, ye dead child thus in the pond

From The Guilsborough Witches:

Guilsborough used to have its own version of Black Annis / Black Agnes (a bogeyman figure in English folklore) who lived in Pell's Pool.

Young boys and girls were told not to go walking by the pool at night otherwise a witch would drag them down into the water.

Killer 'gwiber worms' in Wales and killer 'knucker worms' in southern England are infamous for living - and killing - in ponds. But according to folklore, pond-based killer serpents were found all over.

From Dragons in the Landscape:

Cawthorne, Yorkshire: A winged serpent dwelt in Serpent's Well

Longwitton, Northumberland: This wyrm is said to have found the water from the wells so refreshing he set up home here.

Aller, Somerset: local dragon which lived in Athelney Fens

And the founding story of Wells, Somerset, is all about disposal of a dragon living by its wells.

Serpents were also great landscape architects of hill-forts and tumuli.

From Dragons in the Landscape:

Bignor Hill, Sussex: A large snake-like creature wrapped itself around Bignor hill and squeezed so tightly that it left imprints of its coils.

Stapley Farm, Churchstanton, Somerset: the lashing of the dying dragon's tail is said to have carved out a hollow in a field known as Wormstall

Putsham Hill, Kilve, Somerset: The dragon known as Blue Ben built the nearby causeway so he could reach the sea

Near St Margaret's Church, Wormhill, Derbyshire: The marks on the hill near the church were said to be the location where a dragon once laid.

In pathetic contrast, English witches restricted their landscaping efforts to digging caves and the occasional tunnel. They left the hard physical labour of digging England's many Devil's Dykes, Grim's Ditches and Grim's Mounds to their arrow-tailed consort.

Their Scottish cousin Cailleach Bheur - also called Beira or Gyre-Carline - was much more... manly.

From Cailleach:

With her magic hammer she would smash rocks and create the mountains, valleys and lochs of Highland Scotland.

You may already know Cailleach as Kalique:

Daughter. Witch. Vampire. Technologist. Source: Jupiter Ascending

Cailleach is not a million miles away from the Hindu goddess Kali.

And it appears she wasn't a million miles from Hunstanton in Norfolk:

Left: The Wash. Center: beach. Right: Hunstanton. Source: Google Maps

Leaving right angles and the occasional diagonal with her bucket and spade:

Beach at southern end of Hunstanton cliffs. Source: Google Maps

Believe it or not, Hunstanton's enigmatic 'beach bubbles' are said to be a natural:

Location: Google Maps

Despite evidence Cailleach turned her serpent on them:

The white stone reduced the tidal erosion, protecting the cut mark. Google Maps

The difference in erosion between the cut and the stones above it indicate Hunstanton cliffs were quarried relatively recently. Perhaps a century or ago.

The iron ore is hard to miss:

Orange iron-ore in Hunstanton's cliffs.

Cailleach's iron extraction project might explain legends from the southern end of the Wash of fire-and-flood fights among the gods.

Especially if Cailleach quarried out the southern Wolds - that large chunk of iron-ore missing from England's east coast:

Lincolnshire's missing southern Wolds.

The vast dumps of ground-up tailings - now anaemically low in iron - would have to be dumped somewhere.

But where?

Some of the sand is visible off the north-west shore of Norfolk. Some was dumped to the south:

Norfolk's Brecklands are quarry tailings.


  • Red block: Quarried out iron-bearing rocks
  • Orange circle: Lakenheath area source of Brecklands sands
  • Yellow Area: Spread of windblown sand
  • Green blocks: 19th century mass tree plantings to stabilise sand (there were many more)

Tree plantations are concentrated immediately downwind of the alleged Lakenheath sand source. Presumably to stabilise the sand before the wind blew it further.

The strange 18th century appearance - and spread - of Brecklands sand from Lakenheath is covered in Desert Islands of Eastern England. Similar events took place in south Yorkshire and north-west Lincolnshire.

Like England's witches, Cailleach is a modern rewriting of old memories.

From In Search of Strange and Sacred Sites:

the legend of the Cailleach may well have begun life in literature before tumbling into the world of folklore.

From Cailleach - Wikipedia:

she is also known as Beira, Queen of Winter (a name given by 20th-century folklorist Donald Alexander Mackenzie)

Like serpent cave diggers, witches who landscape need a good diet. A high protein diet. Which may explain the long barrows at the Spilsby end of Lincolnshire's missing iron-ore block.

A good diet is certainly vital if you scratch out caves with your fingernails for a living.

True and Wonderfull. Source: Horsham Dragon

Let's compare what folklorists tell us about witches' and serpent's diets. Starting with serpents.

From Dragons in the Landscape:

Aller, Somerset: the creature snacked on the local livestock

Lyminster, Sussex: only came out of its hole to eat the local population and their livestock

Mordiford, Hereford & Worcester: this dragon grew up and began to eat the locals and their livestock

Moston, Cheshire: just as it picked up a small child to eat

Penllyn, South Glamorgan, Wales: They snacked on the local produce, especially chickens

Pistyll Rhaeadr, Powys, Wales: A flesh eating serpent that lived on top of the waterfall

Runcorn, Cheshire: slain by a local blacksmith annoyed at the amount of cattle he and his friends were losing

From British Dragon Gazetteer:

Bisterne, Hampshire: It gorged on livestock and man flesh.

Crowcombe, Somerset: It fed on local livestock and then expanded its diet to humans

Seems pretty straightforward. In comparison, what did witches keep in the fridge?

From Pendle Witches:

To feed the party, James Device stole a neighbour's sheep.

From Witch Trials:

She was also charged with using sorcery to kill livestock, cause illness

she was accused of bewitching a cow belonging to Susan Addams (and another belonging to Edward Ffoulke)

From Samlesbury witches, Lancashire:

The charges against the women included child murder and cannibalism.

The five defendants in the Northamptonshire witch trials were also accused of bewitching cattle and children.

Our problem is that we think 'bewitching' means this:

Old-time witches preferred protein to carbohydrates. Source: Samantha's Nose Twitch Supercut!

But 'to bewitch' means 'to take possession of'.

Once again from Some Exmoor dialect words that reveal folklore from 1746:

Baggaged or Bygaged = Mad, bewitch'd

As in:

He bagged cool swag at the county faire.

Or even:

Love your new handbag! Such soft leather. What's it from?

'Bewitch' meant 'to take possession in a material sense, not in a supernatural sense'. It means to take possession of something against the owner's will.

To steal.

Britain's witch trials, its serpent conflict legends and its Civil War are part of a national dispute about ownership. About rights to land and rights to products of the land.

From Witch Trials:

Incidentally "wich" as an element of Cheshire placenames has nothing to do with "Witchcraft", but is from Old English wīc (“abode, dwelling-place”), an early borrowing from Latin vīcus (“village”).

Almost correct.

From History of Lincolnshire:

Eventually, the Governorship of Britain was given to the Deputy of the Prefect of Gaul, and the title Vicar of Britain created.

'Witch' and 'to bewitch' developed from:

  • vicari: ('to act on behalf of' or 'to be an agent for'. As in vicarious and the clerical job-title 'vicar'.)
  • vicce/vicca: (Saxon/German spelling of the noun form of 'vicar'. Like one who drives is a driver, one who vicaris is a vicca)
  • wicce/wicca: (the transformation of 'vicce/vicca' after spoken English adapted 'v' into 'w'. The 'w' sound distinguishes English from Saxon/German pronunciation. The same transformation turned 'Volle' into 'wool', misdirecting us about the real origin of 'Wool town'. It was 'Vellum town'.)

Vunderbar! Source: Don't Mention the War

  • wick/wyke: (the various spellings of 'vicce/vicca' after its transformation into a 'w' word. Before primary schooling regularised spelling.)
  • witch: (the spelling adopted after the 1870 Elementary Education Act regularised skool spilling lessons.)

From On the Late Survival of a Celtic Population in East Anglia, Arthur Gray 1910-11-07:

Here and there a “vicus” passed on its name, as a “wick,” to the isolated home of an English settler.

Prior to the Civil War, the gentry employed 'vicari' to manage their stock:

From Weird Suffolk: The Brandeston Witch:

At the height of the Civil War, 80-year-old Brandeston vicar John Lowes... was accused of witchcraft

No pardon for the parson. Source: Weird Suffolk: The Brandeston Witch

From Margery Jourdemayne:

On 9 May 1432, Margery, along with Friar John Ashwell and John Virley (a cleric), was examined on charges of sorcery.

The wicca, the vicar, the friar and the cleric. All losing their livelihoods.

There were many of these. But the male side has been separated out into narratives about persecution of priests hiding in priestholes.

'Witch dunking' in the local pond is another 19th century folklorist's narrative. It was inserted into accounts of witches to dilute folk memories of vicari submerging children - and discarded maidens - in pools of water.

Discarded maidens?

From Some Legends Concerning Eleanor of Aquitaine, Frank McMinn Chambers, Speculum, Volume 16, issue 4, 1941:

rumours persisted, perhaps assisted by Henry's camp, that Eleanor had poisoned Rosamund. It is also speculated that Eleanor placed Rosamund in a bathtub and had an old woman cut Rosamund's arms.

The bathtub is an odd detail to add. It is at the 'gentle hint' end of the atrocity continuum. You could wonder why they didn't accuse Eleanor and her 'old woman' of something more vile. Like a war crime. Or femicide.

To fully understand the Eleanor quote read Away in a Manger - Part Four and Away in a Manger - Part Five and know that Eleanor of Aquitaine (south-west France) was - we're told - a medieval strong-woman in conflict with her husband: Henry II of England.

Besides having his own opinions, Henry had been putting it about. About where Rosamund's thighs were.

Details are lacking - other than the bathtub scene - but we're told Henry was also making large donations to Godstow Nunnery, near Oxford. We can only guess what he was procuring from Godstow but we are told that after everybody else was done with her, Godstow Nunnery kindly disposed of Rosamund's sodden remains.

From Godstow:

a German traveller who visited England c.1599, records that her faded tombstone inscription read in part:

"Here in the tomb lies a rose of the world, not a pure rose; She who used to smell sweet, still smells — but not sweet."

The mishmash of folkloric nonsense about Eleanor of Aquitaine is not only a Romantic attempt to hide actual death rites in a world that valued raw materials and bred humans to provide them. As importantly, the folklore was written to hide the very recent struggle for humans to acquire control over their own reproduction.

The only connection between the verb 'to bewitch' and wrinkling your nose is the smell of kinder anaerobically decomposing in your well, pond, or mausoleum.

If you think that was in bad taste, you really haven't looked at the evidence:

Reproductive rights were at the bottom of it. Source: Witch Trials in England

The witchfinder's second alleged obsession takes us to new depths.

Various historic Eleanors provide evidence for this claim.

Henry did put it about Eleanor of Aquitaine's thighs long enough for Eleanor to have a daughter, also called Eleanor. Daughter Eleanor is famous for more or less nothing except her prodigious effort at asserting her own reproductive rights in a period - or probably not - spanning from 1179 to 1203.

However, in England the name Eleanor is better known for the country's second most famous witch (after the slightly more famous Mother Shipton). Like Eleanor daughter of Queen Eleanor, Eleanor Cobham was keen to bewitch - to take possession of - her reproductive rights. Like Eleanor's mother Eleanor of Aquitaine, Eleanor Cobham was strong-willed. This little madam lived with her husband Humphrey in a Greenwich brothel called the Palace of Pleasaunce. Also known as the Palace of Placentia.

I am not kidding. And neither was Eleanor.

Eleanor was eventually tried as a witch for trying to find out if and how she and Humphrey could have children Two men and another witch - Margery Jourdemayne - died for helping Eleanor figure out this problem. Odd considering the solution seems so obvious to us today. Also declared a witch, Eleanor was sentenced to the ultimate penalty - a life of being moved from prison to prison plus three-days without a hat.

There's a lot more to the story of Eleanor, Marjory, Humphrey, Roger and Thomas but the essential elements are witches and frustrated reproductive rights.

Academics say the same but with fewer words.

From Telling Witchcraft Stories - New Perspectives on Witchcraft and Witches in the Early Modern Period, A Rowlands, 1998, p199:

Diane Purkiss and Lyndal Roper... both conclude motherhood was a recurring motif of these women’s narratives. For example, Purkiss suggests that certain women witnesses in England constructed figurations of the witch as a kind of ‘anti-housewife’ and ‘anti-mother’, who interfered especially in the processes of food production, childbearing and child-care.

Expressed in the language of cattle farmers, the "recurring motif of motherhood" involved:

  • Controlling which animals to breed and which animals to skin and eat. Or sell.
  • In the specialised case of dairy farming, controlling how females cycle through pregnancy and post-partum milk production as often - and as profitably - as possible.

Do motifs of motherhood, food production and child-care recur in serpent folklore as they do in witch folklore?

From Dragons in the Landscape:

Bisterne, Hampshire: The area was held to ransom by a fire breather who demanded a pail of milk once a day.

Burley, Hampshire: This dragon terrorised the neighbourhood after demanding a sacrifice of sheep - the locals gave him milk instead.

Deerhurst, Gloucestershire: Smith left a large quantity of milk for the creature to consume

Handale, Yorkshire: Living off maidens and the odd monk

Kirkton of Kealing, Angus, Scotland: a dragon which had eaten nine sisters who had gone to fetch water

Sexhow, Yorkshire: Demanding the milk of nine cows every day

And most famously in Padstow, Cornwall, where "teasers" prompt male "Obby Osses" to catch young women in the street on May Day:

'Teaser' is a stock farmer's jargon for a sterilised male. Stock farmers use teasers to test if females are on heat before putting females in with selected, fertile males.

He only wants a sniff. Source: What is Padstow’s Obby Oss festival?

Why was milk in demand? See Gas Stations of the Past - Part Six.

Some witchery accounts do acknowledge the link between witches and serpents.

The Bishop's Hatfield, Hertfordshire narrative titled The most cruell and bloody murther committed by an Inkeepers Wife, called Annis Dell, and her Sonne George Dell features a character called Nicholas Dracon (geddit?) and a tailor who measures up the dress worn by the dead boy's sister as she watches events.

A similar combination of witch, tailor, dragon and children-as-nutrition appears at Filey Brigg, Yorkshire. And a variant of the Lady Godiva story from Highley, Shropshire, shares some elements: specifically a naked woman doing penance, plus a tailor and a dragon.

Other serpent stories position the witch as advisor to a serpent vanquisher and a witch as the serpent's stepmother.

From British Dragon Gazeteer:

Lambton Worm, Durham: Sir John visited a wise woman, Elspat of the Glen, who told him how the worm might be bested.

The witch said that he must weld spikes to his armour to prevent the worm constricting him.


The Laidly Worm, Bamburgh, Northumberland: The Laidly (Northumbrian for loathsome) worm was once a beautiful princess named Margaret, who lived in Bamburgh Castle. Her stepmother was a witch who, due to jealousy, cast a spell changing the princess into a huge worm.

From An Excellent BALLAD, Of a most Dreadful COMBATE:

Some say this Dragon was a Witch;

some say he was a Devil:

That is from an allegedly 17th century ballad about South Yorkshire's Dragon of Wantley.

It draws attention to the real problem confronting the 19th century authors who forged British folklore. That folk memories of who had dug what - and farmed who - were still strong among Britain's Civil War survivors.

Easily-remembered ballads, pamphlets (the tabloids of their day) and plays were the preferred method of memory disposal. It's why Gregory removed the hard-to-explain parts of Irish folklore and then set up Dublin's Abbey theatre.

The Celtic Gods co-author Patrick McCafferty says the clean up was an innocent mistake:

Eyewitness accounts just got mislaid, somehow. Source: Irish Myths in Conversation #7: Patrick McCafferty on comets in Irish mythology


In the book, McCafferty and Baillie impy the clean up was intentional. In many academics have pointed out that British witch folklore was deliberately faked.

However, they seem to miss the themes common to Britain's witch and serpent stories.

And that the common themes offer more hints at technology and its operators.

More in the next part.

Source: The Famous Nose Wiggle | Bewitched

© All rights reserved. The original author retains ownership and rights.

  1. See, for example, C. Larner, Witchcraft and Religion: The Politics of Popular Belief (Oxford, 1984), pp. 71–2; Gaskill, ‘Devil in the Shape of a Man’, p. 145; W. Monter, ‘Re-Contextualising British Witchcraft’, Journal of Interdisciplinary History, xxxv (2004), 105–11, at p. 106; and Briggs, Witches of Lorraine, p. 52 

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