What names of famous witches can you think of? If you're anything like me recently, not many! For such an instantly recognisable figure of legend and fiction, I realised it is surprising how few truly famous real witches are still known today. We can think of The Wicked Witch of the East from the Wizard of Oz, Samantha from Bewitched and more recently Hermione Granger from Harry Potter, no problem. But outside of imaginary witches, there are also tales of real ones, those who created interest and intrigue in their time. Too many of the true stories of their lives will now be lost but let's look at some of the names of famous witches of history and what they were famous/infamous for!
Granny Boswell 1813 - 1906
A Romany gypsy, she was known as a Cornish witch but was actually born in Ireland. She was a renowned troublemaker, at least in the eyes of the authorities, often to be seen drunk in the street! But her reputation lives on in a curious tale, as told by the son of a man that fell victim to her scorn. With cars being a novelty, Granny Boswell was fascinated by the sight of one about to come towards her - as she stood in the road! The driver, the story teller's father, sounded the horn and told her to get out of the way. She shouted abuse and told him that the vehicle wouldn't make it to the end of the road. It didn't, they broke down before they reached the end of the street.
Tammy Blee 1798 - 1856
Another of Cornwall's "cunning folk", Tammy Blee (Tamsin Blight) was know for going into trances in order to communicate with the dead. She was also a local charm maker, working with herbs and divination.
Pendle Hill Witches - 1612
The Pendle Hill Witches will go down in history as being at the centre of one of the biggest and most notorious witch trials in Britain. The most prominent characters were "Old Demdike" and "Old Chattox" who were rivals who brought their whole families into the feud with them! Eleven were involved in the trials which relied heavily on prejudices, gossip and superstition and there was little hope of being found innocent. Demdike died in prison while Chattox, along with the majority of the accused, went to the gallows.
Joan Wytte 1775 - 1813
Known as "The Fighting Fairy Woman of Bodmin". While she started off as a clairvoyant and healer, she later became aggressive due to a tooth abscess which unfortunately led to the locals believing her to be possessed by the devil. She was imprisoned in Bodmin Jail where she died of bronchial pneumonia. Her bones were kept at the Witchcraft Museum until it is rumoured that poltergeist activity forced them to bring in the assistance of a witch. She stated that Joan wished to be laid to rest and she was finally buried at Boscastle in 1998.
Dolly Pentreath Died 1777
The fish-wife of Mousehole. She was a formidable character who took on the Press Gang as they arrived to search for men to "recuit" for the navy. She was also an astrologer and believed to have magical powers - but was always to be found smoking her pipe and drinking from her pint glass.