Saturday, 5 November 2011



In 1842 the wife of a labourer who lived on New Pound Common at Wisborough Green in West Sussex had been ill for a considerable time and could not understand why her illness was so protracted.  She had talked matters over with her neighbours and they had concluded that she was bewitched. They suspected that the witch was another local woman, described as 'a very decent, inoffensive creature' but of course, appearances can deceive. The sick woman along with her neighbours tried a number of stratagems to destroy the witch's power but all of these failed. Finally they hit upon a scheme which they hoped might work.

The Sussex Agricultural Express reports: 'They procured pigeons and tied them in pairs back to back by their wings and lighted a large fire, and stopped up [sealed] the room as close as possible; some of the poor pigeons they opened at the breast in order that the fire might burn their hearts while alive. How many were burned, the writer cannot say, but he heard a neighbour state that he himself had burned four, and he thought they should have destroyed the witch if the house had been closer [more tightly sealed]. It is supposed by the neighbours that a dozen to sixteen pigeons were destroyed in this cruel manner.’

During the whole hideous operation, as tradition demanded when counter-spells were employed, not a word was spoken. Sadly, the report contains no mention of the outcome so we do not know if the woman was effectively treated or if the police were called to deal with the matter of the pigeons. And what about the woman who was accused of casting a bad spell? There’s no record of this either.

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