England: Last Witch Hanged

Alice Molland – English Witch

The last recorded witch to be hanged on British soil, accused and convicted of practicing the craft of “Witch-Craft” was ALICE MOLLAND who met her death at the end of a rope at Exeter in 1685.

The “Devon Witches” Temperance Lloyd, Susannah Edwards and Mary Trembles of Bideford were arrested in August 1682, and brought before the Exeter assizes on the 14th August.  They were all charged with practicing sorcery and witchcraft.

Temperance Lloyd was charged with causing death through the use of “Black-Arts” upon which she admitted her guilt.  Susannah Edwards and Mary Trembles were charged with causing bouts of sickness, through the use of witchcraft, and found guilty of their crime.  All three were hanged on the 25th August 1682 at Heavitree.

The fourth member of the “Devon Witches” one Alice Molland was brought before the Exeter assizes in 1685, accused of practicing the art of witchcraft; found guilty and sentenced to death, like the other Devon Witches.

A plaque to the “Devon Witches” can be found at the ruined Rougemont Castle Gatehouse in Exeter.

Britain and the Celts

Celtic Farms

Iron Age, saw much warfare among the Celtic tribes, in this land of ours, requiring the construction of many hill forts.  These Celts were true warriors in every sense of the word, for they fought from horses or wooden chariots, and threw spears and fought with swords, and carried wooden shields.  Some even wore chain mail for added protection.

The Celts were an accomplished race of people, they were much more than farmers, for they could pick up a weapon and fight for their people.  Many of their number were blacksmiths, bronze smiths, carpenters, whilst others worked with leather and made pottery.  They also created elaborate jewellery from gold and precious stones.

They took their art further, by adding artistic designs made from metal, leather and precious stones to their swords, daggers and shields.

Celtic society was organised, based on the part you played within your designated tribe.  At the head would be the King or Chieftain, and next in line, the nobles, followed by the craftsmen, then the farmers and warriors, last in line would be the Celtic slaves.

Trade with European countries, was an important part of everyday life to them.  Copper, tin and iron, along with skins, grain and wool were exported.  In turn they imported fine pottery and quality metal goods.  Celtic currency started out as iron bars, and by 50 BC they had switched to gold coins.

Celtic houses were round in design, with a central pole, with horizontal poles radiating outwards.  Walls made of wattle and daub, with a thatched roof.  They made dyes from plants; weld for yellow, woad for blue and madder for red.

The Druids were the priests of the Celtic people, and played an important part in their lives.  These druids were scholars and advisors to the Celtic Kings, who worshipped more than one God.

During Celtic times, the old tradition of building barrows for the dead was phased out, and replaced with individual graves.  Yet, some parts of tradition still carried on; the practice of burying grave goods with the dead, what was required by him to gain access to the afterlife. (A similar practice to that carried out by the Pharaoh’s in Ancient Egypt).

The main Celtic festivals were:

Imbolc in early February, start of lambing season.

Beltane in early May, cattle let out, after being under cover all  winter.

Lughasad in August, crops right for harvesting.

Samhain in November, animals moved undercover for winter.

The Celts were no match for the warriors of Rome, and were defeated by the might of Julius Caesar in 55 BC and again in 54 BC.  The Roman’s withdrew from Britain, as the Celts agreed to pay Rome an annual payment.

In 43 AD the Romans invaded Britain under Empereor Claudius with Aulus Plautius their supreme leader.  The Romans and Celts faced each other in battle, but resistance to these Roman invaders proved futile.  By 47 AD the Romans had control of Britain from the River Humber to the River Severn.

The Celtic Iceni tribe in East Anglia rebelled against these Roman warriors.  A deal was struck and their King’s retained their position at head of their tribes, and accepted Roman Rule.

Only one leader refused to accept Roman Rule: Queen Boudicca.  For it was upon the death of the Iceni King, the Kingdom was left to his wife Boudicca and Emperor Nero, but Nero wanted it all.  Boudicca was appointed leader by the Celts and led an army of 100,000 warriors, and burned Colchester, St.Albans and London to the ground with no survivors.  Her army met the Romans in battle, and the Celts were defeated… with their leader dead, the Celts were forced into accepting Roman Rule.

England and the Druids

Druids worshipping at Stonehenge

The word Druid, is a derivative from the Latin word [dru’ides] and according to Roman writers, to have come from Celtic Gaulish; these figures.

The Druids set themselves up, as spiritual healers, teachers and rulers, playing a major part in Pagan Celtic society.  They worshipped nature in the truest sense of the word.  Their ritual and sacrificial practices would bring man and nature closer together in harmony with each other.  From Herbalism, holistic medicine, to births, deaths and marital unions.

The Druids are responsible for many occult beliefs and religious symbolisms used in the practice of Christianity, Judaism and Wicca (Witchcraft).  They even had the power to excommunicate people from religious festivals, making them social outcasts.

They use the number three, tripods or trinities, classed as chief symbols in their practices.  Tree play is an important part of their beliefs, as witnessed by the energies given off and the practice of folk magic, along with varied forms of meditation.

Druidism is believed to be at least 2500 years old, and according to the writings of Julius Caesar, in 50BC he believed they may have originated in Britain… but we know different.  They had a connection with France and Britain.  Yet the Druids built monuments of which many have been scattered across the globe, a reminder of their existence.

The Paviland Caves in Wales, once a meeting place of the Druids, which revealed a great find.  A skeleton wrapped in a red cloth, with large ivory rods had been interred, making us believe this had to have been a ritual site, and the burial was of some importance.

Druids beliefs based on the caves, believe the caves have a symbolic meaning being the womb, with the potential for rebirth.

Early history of the Druids tells us nothing about the stone circles, only that they gather in sacred groves, caves or remote valleys etc.

Julius Caesar and Diodorus Siculus, describe the Druids as scholars and religious leaders whose function was to officiate at sacrifices, according to their writings.

Druids believe their souls are immortal and live on in another body for a fixed number of years.  History states that Druidism shows a darker side to them.  It is known that Druids would officiate at the sacrifice of criminals or innocent people.  Some would be burnt alive.  (It makes one think of the Witch Finder Trials).

3500-3000BC: During this time long barrows and chambered tombs appeared at Hambledon Hill, the site of an Iron Age fort.  It was here the art of primitive burial’s were performed, where bodies were left in the open, to decompose or be eaten by animals or birds.

1500BC: By this time, stone circles like Stonehenge and Avebury Henge had been abandoned.  Burial mounds had become a think of the past.

500-450BC: Druids, being the intellectual side of the Celts, founded Druidism in the British Isles.

70BC: The Druids arrive in Britain, and take control of this land’s rulers with no significant opposition.

61-54BC: Claudius issues a proclamation prohibiting the existence of these Druids, and Suetonius Paulinus had the job of clearing Druids from Britain.

The Christian Church absorbed the Celtic religion into their ranks and by the 7th century Druidism was all but destroyed or hidden underground.

445-445:  Myrddin (Merlin) believed to have been born about this time, and would become known as one of the greatest Druids of all time.

465: As the legend goes, Merlin assists Uther in changing his appearance to that of Gorlois, so Queen Igraine would make love with Uther, believing him to be Gorlois her husband.  Igraine gave birth to Arthur some nine months later.

480: Merlin creates the sword-in-the-stone contest knowing Arthur would win and become King Arthur of England, and went on to form the Round Table.

In the 17th century, Druidism went through a period of revival, as scholars wanted,answers to the stone circles and mounds which covered this land of ours.

One of these scholars was William Stukeley, often referred to as the father of Archaeology, and with fellow scholars, sought out Druidism within Christianity.

They learnt; not all ancestors of this land were ignorant, some were wise philosophers.  This interest led to the Freemason’s interest, which linked them to the Druids.  The Ancient and Archaelogical Order of Druids, joined them together and later saw Winston Churchill as one of their members.

From the 18th century it has been suggested Freemasonry was a Descendant of Druidism, and practiced latter-day Druidry.

In the 20th century George Watson MacGregor-Reid, put forward the idea that Druidism could unite followers of many faiths.

In the 1940’s and 50’s the Ancient Druid Order attracted Gerald Gardner and Ross Nichols to its ranks.  Gardner promoted Wicca (Witchcraft) and Nichols enthused on the discovery of tree-language.

Druidry has increased in recent times and we have entered a period of Druid Renaissance, which has attracted followers from the world of; artistry, writers, poets and spiritual seekers.

Drruids have no sacred texts as Christians have a Bible.  They have ideas and beliefs which they follow.  Druidry is seen as a spiritual path, a religion to some, a way of life to others.

Monotheistic Druids believe in one Deity; Goddess, God or Being named as Spirit or Great Spirit.  Polytheistic Druids believe many Gods and Goddesses exist, whilst Animists and Pantheists do not believe in Deity as one or more Gods, but present in all things.

Although Druids profess the love of Nature, they also believe that there be more than one world.  For the otherworld is seen as a place we go to when we die; yet we can visit it during our lifetime of dreams and meditation.

A Christian Druid, believes one is born, and lives out his life and dies, yet most Druids believe the soul is incarnated, and comes back as a human being, or that of trees, rocks or some part of nature.

Druid Timeline

Up to 4000 BCMesolithic Period: Hunter / Gatherers.
4000 BCApproximate date of first documented Proto-Indo European culture ,which is believed Druidic, near the Black Sea circa.
4000-1800 BCNeolithic Period: Construction of Callanish, and other megalithic monuments. First farmers
3500 BCConstruction of Newgrange which is the largest megolithic monument in Europe.
1800-1600 BCThe Bronze Age.
1000 BCEvidence of a Proto-Celtic Unetice or Urnfield culture in Slovakia circa. The Iron Age.
900-500 BCHallstat Period. (Rise of the Celts)
800 BCProto-Celtic Tribes formed to create the Celtic culture circa.
500-15 BCLa Tene Period. (Heroic age of the Celts, and the time of mythology)
450 BCCelts expanded into Spain. Anglo-Saxon invasion.
400 BCThe Celts had nomadically migrated into northern Italy.
390 BCCelts invaded Rome
279 BCCelts invaded Greece
270 BCCelts had moved in to Galatia (Central Turkey).
200 BCThey had occupied the British Isles, Brittany, modern France, Netherlands, Belgium, Germany, and Switzerland.
82 BCRome defeats Celts in Italy.
55 BCJulius Ceasar of Rome invaded the Celtic Britian.
52 BCJulius Ceasar defeats Celts in Gaul.
43-409 ADRomano-British Era: Rome controls most of Britian and Wales.
61 ADRome attacks Anglesey and destroys Druid Monestaries.

Druid History

Modern Druidism is one of the Neo-pagan families of religion, which include Wicca, Asatru, Shamanism, and recreations of other various Pagan religions such as Egyptian, Greek, Norse, and Roman. Today’s Druidism is a reconstruction of the beliefs and practices of the ancient Celtic priesthood. The ancient Druids were first known to exist in around 4,000 BC and believed to date far beyond written history. The ancient Druids are most widely connected with the British Isles; however, history shows evidence that the British Isles were only the last strong hold of the Druids. Most commonly referenced are the islands of Iona and Mona, better known as Anglesey.

These Druids built sacred sites out of stone and these stone formations and monuments have been found all over the world, but were most prolific in the areas of Brittany and France, where their monuments are still scattered across the land in geometric formations.

The ancient Druids were the most learned of men in their time and are known to perform the functions of modern day priests, teachers, astronomers, chemists, musicians, poets, theologians, philosophers, and judges. They were also specialists in healing, herbalism and divination. They were revered by all to the point that kings and social hierarchy would send their children to them to be schooled. In matters of religion, law, and scholastics, their authority was absolute.

The Druids main focus was, “The Belief in Supreme Power of the Universe, and the Belief of Immortality of the Soul.” The Druids led all public rituals, which were normally held within sacred groves of trees. Due to the intellect of the Druids, the Romans feared them.

It was the common folks reverence towards the Druids that interfered with Caesars’s attempt to overcome the Britons in 55 BC, where Druidism was the prevailing philosophy in Briton at the time. Caesar found the Druids to be a threat to his authority and he ordered their demise. He nearly accomplished completely exterminating the Druids at the Isle of Mona, now Anglesey. After the invasions by Rome, the few Druids that were left converted to Christianity through persuasion or genocide.

The Christian Church adsorbed much of the Celtic religion. Pagan Gods and Goddesses became Christian saints, sacred springs and wells were preserved and associated with saints and used for baptism. Many sites of spiritual antiquity became the location of cathedrals.

By the 7th Century, Druidism was destroyed throughout most of the former Celtic lands or was hidden deeply underground for fear of persecution. Druidism was to re-emerge in the 17th century in London England, and survived into the 20th century in Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania.

The Theban Legion Martyrs

In the spring of 285AD, Emperor Maximian forces, included the Theban Legion consisting of six thousand, six hundred and sixty-six Christian soldiers from Thebias in Egypt, marched to Gaul, to put down an uprising.

After the revolt had been quelled, the Emperor issued an order, to his whole army, to offer sacrifices to the Roman Gods, for a successful victory.

The Thebian Legion refused to take part in such rituals, and withdrew to their encampment near Aguanum.

When news of their refusal reached the Emperor’s ears, he repeated the order to no avail.  He ordered that the legion should be decimated (every tenth man was put to death). 

With no change in their hearts, to comply with the order, to take part in rituals to the Roman God’s, he ordered a second decimation of the legion.

In a fit of rage he declared to the remaining soldiers, if you continue to disobey my command, not a single man among you would escape death.

The Thebian’s Commanding Officer; Maurice and his Lieutenants, Candid and Exuperius, put fire in the hearts of his men, not to turn from their beliefs.  He went on to remind them, fellow soldiers were martyrs and been accepted into heaven.

The Thebian’s informed the Emperor, we be soldiers and true to our God, and will not stain our hands with the blood of fellow Christians.

These soldiers obstinacy left the Emperor with no choice but to order they be rounded up and slaughtered.  Not a single man among them resisted.

On the 22nd September 286, as the martyrdom took place, large scale conversions to the Christian faith took place.

In Zurich, three beheaded Saints; Felix, Regula and Exuperantius, rose up carrying their heads in their hands, walked up a hill knelt down and prayed, then laid down.  A cathedral was later built upon the site.  These Saints are depicted on the coat of arms and the seal of Zurich.

On another occasion, Saints Victor, Orsus and their comrades were being tortured by Hirtacus, Roman Governor of Solothurn.  Shackles which bound them broke open and the fire extinguished itself.  They were beheaded and their bodies were thrown in the River Aar.  They stepped from the river with their heads, knelt down and prayed, thus the Basilica of St.Peter arose from this spot.

Saint Theodore, Bishop of Octudurm discovered the bodies of the martyrs in 350 AD, and built a Basilica in their honour at Aguanum.  Upon this site a monastery was built in 515, on land donated by King Sigismund of Burgundy.

The Druids of Brittany — Bonjour From Brittany

The druids of antiquity remain an enigmatic source of speculation. Their roles in Celtic society were as broad as they were integral to daily life; story-teller, sage, teacher, priest, judge, sorcerer and keeper of the tribe’s laws. Yet, little is known about them; they did not share their knowledge and kept no records of their own but their influence lingered longest in the remotest regions of the Celts such as in Brittany.

The Druids of Brittany — Bonjour From Brittany

A Humble Land…

Our England, such a humble land
one born of hope and glory,
with castles, a distant reminder
of pageant past to present day.

Ruined abbeys proudly stand
humble monks, once tended land,
rolling landscapes, flowing streams
eyes gaze, across our lands.

A battle scarred land
still haunted by our past,
as ghosts walk this land
a reminder of our past.

English Martyr: Thomas Becket

Thomas Becket – English Martyr

Thomas Becket, man of God
once confidante of the King,
transferred his allegiance to God
as church opposed the King.

The King called out in despair
will anyone rid me of this man,
knights hearing of Kings despair
answered the call, to remove this man.

They killed him
this man of God,
they murdered him
upon his altar, to God.

King Henry II and his knights
paid penance, for taking Becket’s life.

Saint Catherine of Alexandria

Saint Catherine was born into the aristocratic family of King Costus and Queen Sabinella, rulers of Alexandria in AD294.  The young Catherine was well versed in the arts, sciences and philosophy.  She was raised a pagan and in her teenage years, converted to Christianity by the teachings of a Syrian monk.  She received a vision which the Blessed Virgin Mary gave her to Christ, in a mystical marriage.

During the latter years of Christian prosecution by the Romans, she publicly confessed her faith, being a Christian.  Catherine attempted to convince the Roman Emperor; Maxentius the error of his ways, by persecuting Christians who refused to worship idols.  According to historical accounts, some fifty Philosophers from the Roman world were brought face to face with her, to reason with her.  Catherine won debate after debate, and converted her adversaries to Christianity by her persuasive arguments, and they were put to death by the Roman Emperor.

Catherine was imprisoned, and hundreds are said to have visited her including the wife of Maxentius; the Empress.  All who converted to Christianity were martyred.

Emperor Maxentius had Catherine tortured, but she would not yield, he proposed marriage, and she refused saying; Jesus Christ be my spouse.

An outraged Maxentius condemned her to death on the spiked breaking wheel, but this instrument of torture was destroyed by her touch, finally he ordered that she be beheaded.

Catherine was executed, and the corpse of Saint Catherine, a 4th century Christian martyr was carried to the peak of Mount Sinai by angels.  Some three centuries later, monks brought it down and buried her in the church, dedicated to the Virgin Mary.