Sunday, 20 June 2010

WEST COUNTRY WITCHCRAFT - by Roy and Ursula Radford

"West Country Witchcraft" by Roy and Ursula Radford (1998 Peninsula Press ISBN1872640397)

Although there are many of these 'local witches and legends' type books scattered around gift shops across the country, this one stands out from the rest, being written by people who really know their subject and have done some fairly good research into the evidence they provide.

Rather than skimpy sketches of dubious lore attributed to various spots, the Radfords open up with an explanation of what witchcraft actually is, and its links with the Celtic cultures. They then go on to give some accounts of 'witchcraft' across the 'west country' (which seems to stretch as far as Gloucester!) dating back to the 14th Century. Most of these accounts use court records to illuminate the story, whilst others are quite specific in dates and names, and it might be possible to check the later ones through existing records to verify the names involved. What one gets from these tales and records, however, is a very real sense of just how witchcraft, or the belief in witchcraft, had quite an impact on the everyday lives of our ancestors. And should any doubts remain, a visit to the Witchcraft Museum at Boscastle will show how the old beliefs could be practiced in very tangible ways indeed.

It is a useful reminder reading a book like this, to see the world of our ancestors through their eyes rather than our own, and to think about what thoughts and beliefs affected them in their lives and time to time, especially if such thoughts are not ones that would occur to us today.

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