Case notes: S01E06 – The Pendle Witch Trials


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Between 1400-1750, at least 40,000 Europeans were executed for cursing, casting spells, and other forms of witchcraft. This episode looks in particular at the Pendle Witch Trials, and asks just how reliable the evidence and records used to convict the so-called witches really were. Below you will find data, audio credits, further reading, and a transcript of the podcast.

Audio credits

Kai Engel – Snowfall (Intro)
Kai Engel – Low Horizon
Kai Engel – Hopes and Dreams
Lee Rosevere – Featherlight
Lee Rosevere – Distant Shores
Lee Rosevere – Watching Whales on the Moon
Lee Rosevere – Healing
Lee Rosevere – Taking the Time
Lee Rosevere – Self-Care
Lee Rosevere – Gone

Credits, sources, and more

Culpeper, J. & Semino, E. (2000). “Constructing witches and spells: speech acts and activity types in Early Modern England”, Journal of Historical Pragmatics, 1(1), 97-116.

Davies, O. (1999). Witchcraft, Magic and Culture. Manchester: Manchester University Press.

Gibson, M. (2002). “Thomas Potts’ ‘dusty memory’: reconstructing justice in The Wonderful Discoverie of Witches”. In: R. Poole (ed.), The Lancashire Witches: Histories and Stories (pp. 42-57).

King James IV and I. (1597). Daemonologie. Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press.

Lumby, J. (1995). The Lancashire Witch Craze: Jennet Preston and the Lancashire Witches, 1612. Preston: Carnegie Publishing Co.

Notestein, W. (1968). A History of Witchcraft in England from 1558 to 1718. New York: TY Crowell Co.

Petyko, M. (2017) “Discursive (re)construction of “witchcraft” as a community and “witch” as an identity in the eighteenth-century Hungarian witchcraft trial records“, Journal of Historical Pragmatics, 18(2), 214-234.


Pumfrey, S. (2002). “Potts, plots and politics: James I’s Daemonologie and The Wonderful Discoverie of Witches”. In: R. Poole (ed.), The Lancashire Witches: Histories and Stories (pp. 22-41).

Rosen, B. (1969). Witchcraft in England, 1558-1618. Amherst: University of Massachusetts Press.

Sharpe, J. (2002). “Introduction: The Lancashire witches in historical context”. In: R. Poole (ed.), The Lancashire Witches: Histories and Stories (pp. 1-18).

Stuttard, A. (2003). The Wonderful Discoverie of Witches in the Countie of Lancaster: A reproduction of Thomas Potts’ original 1612 book of the Lancashire witch trials. Lancaster: Carnegie Publishing Ltd.

Thomas, K. (1971). Religion and the Decline of Magic: Studies in Popular Beliefs in Sixteenth and Seventeenth Century England. London: Weidenfeld and Nicholson.


This is a content warning. This episode contains references to disease, famine, violence, torture, and executions. Teachers, guardians, parents, and caregivers should listen to every part of this episode first, and then make their own judgement call about whether this content is suitable for younger or more sensitive audiences.

Case S01E06 – The Pendle Witch Trials.

It is the mid-1400s. We’re in continental Europe. The dominant religion across many of the countries here is Roman Catholic, under the auspices of the Pope, Paul II. At this time, and in this part of the world, the Church has extensive power, and this reaches into every area of a person’s life, but despite its apparent security and ubiquity, the Church perceives a threat.

In 1468, Pope Paul II issues a public decree. In this decree, he declares witchcraft and sorcery to be a crimen exceptum – a crime so extreme that normal judicial processes simply cannot begin to apply. It is now a bleak time to be accused of witchcraft.

The new decree removes the few limitations that existed regarding the use of cruelty and physical torture against accused witches. Soon handbooks are circulating in ecclesiastical and civil courts across Europe. These guides instruct that even mere suspicions of witchcraft are tantamount to proof. Why? Because God never allows the persecution of innocents. This logic sets up an almost unfalsifiable trap. After all, if God never allows the persecution of innocents, then anyone who is successfully persecuted cannot be innocent, otherwise God would have intervened.

This was also an age where our lives were fundamentally dependant on the natural world, and that world could be a vortex of inexplicable terror. One hundred and fifty years earlier, as the population of Europe boomed, the demand for crops and food became such that only perfect weather conditions could yield harvests plentiful enough to feed everyone. In 1315, however, the weather turned wet, and though summer arrived, it was cold. This led to massive crop failures and the seed grain began to rot in the fields before it could even take root. At first people turned to their food stores and the natural berries and providence of the surrounding countryside, but this was barely enough to sustain them into the next year. As the seasons turned, the starving population did not have the strength to work the lands to produce a better harvest. And the cold, wet weather continued. With no food reserves left, the famine bit deep. People began to die in their millions, many starving despite their best efforts, some choosing to starve so that their meagre portion could go to loved ones in a desperate effort to save them. This famine continued for seven long years, until finally, in 1322, the continent began to crawl back towards the light of plenty.

The peace and relative prosperity would not be long-lived. Twenty-five years later, the scourge of the Black Death burned across Eurasia, killing anywhere between 75 and 200 million. People became ill with acute fevers, erupted in weeping boils, and broke out in clusters of black spots. Some would struggle to breathe. Others would find the tips of their extremities blackening and shrivelling as the flesh died back off the bone. And still others would begin vomiting blood. The disease was so savage that it could kill within as little as forty-eight hours. For others, the agony would prolong itself over eight long days. The death toll was so vast that it would take two hundred years for the population to recover to pre-plague levels.

In this era, our medical and scientific ignorance was profound. Notions that we now take for granted – the very existence of germs, how disease spreads, the impact of hygiene and sanitation on mortality rates – all were discoveries yet to be made. But famines and plagues, which could scorch across the continents for decades, destroying populations wholesale, were not the only torments.

The ground might suddenly shake, split, open up into gigantic water-filled holes that swallowed fields, cows, trees, and homesteads. Endless rain would sometimes pour down, swelling rivers into floods that triggering mudslides which would bury entire villages in the dead of night. Hurricanes could tear up crops and rip down homes. One year, the harvests might all fail. The next, the cows might grow thin and die. The next, a blazing drought might sear the earth to cracked dry dust. And then, in the very midst of this barren furnace, on, say, the 29th of July 1478, ten years after the Pope’s public decree, at one minute past one precisely, in blazing heat of a bright summer afternoon, the sun over Europe might suddenly black out, smothered as if by the hand of god or the devil himself. For five agonising minutes, the sweltering high noon would be plunged into a chilly, silent, alien darkness – an eclipse to you or me, and still even a little creepy, but it must have seemed like the end of times to the ordinary person some five hundred years ago.

In our pressing need to make sense, to find reason, order, logic or even just someone to blame in an otherwise chaotic universe, we began to make connections between one event and another that did not actually exist. You might recognise this as the basis of the concept of superstition, which in turn is productive of a whole host of bizarre behaviours. Some believe that mention of the devil will summon him, and that throwing salt over one’s shoulder will prevent his arrival. Superstitions are as numerous as stars in the sky, and as revealing of the human psyche as many other cultural artefacts.

Some argued, with great success, that these horrors were, of course, the wrath of god. We had sinned, and this was our punishment. But this does not paint us in such a good light. Our pious devotions and frantic efforts to appease this enraged deity seemed to meet with yet more disasters and diseases. Could there be other explanations that might absolve us of some responsibility? After all, there was not only god in the equation. There was also the devil, and one could never be sure whether this latest disaster was god’s wrath, or the trickery and machinations of the infernal serpent himself. And if it was the devil, then how could he best act upon our world? Through us, of course. In Satan’s constant battle to conquer and subjugate humankind, he would prey upon the weak, the petty, the ungodly. To them he would make the enticing offer of a pact. The Prince of Darkness would confer upon them unnatural powers to control the world about them using sorcery, or in other words, he would turn them into witches, and all they must give him in return, was their eternal soul.

At this time, being accused of witchcraft was already a precarious position to find oneself in, but after Pope Paul II’s public decree, things got very much worse. A person who insisted on their innocence would almost certainly face torture or execution, often by being burnt alive. Remember, the belief was that God would prevent the innocent from being harmed.

Across Europe, disasters and diseases in turn fuelled a toxic paranoia of suspicion and superstition. As a result, approximately 40,000 people were executed as witches from the beginning of the 1400s through to the middle of the 1700s. This is a horrifying number, to be sure, but mathematically, it is mercifully small. If we pretend that Europe was comprised of fifty countries at that time – it will have been a different figure but it’s difficult to reconcile the many conflicting records of the time – and if we divide the 40,000 victims over 350 years, and divide that result again over those fifty countries, this was an average of three executions per year, per country. Three too many, yes, but this was not the sort of genocide that it has sometimes been portrayed as in more dramatic retellings. That said, the trials and executions were also not carried out in a metronomic, paced, carefully choreographed manner either. In practice there would be no executions for decades, a factor almost certainly affected by the prevailing conditions of the natural world at any given moment. Fair harvests and few disasters would likely have spelled relative tranquillity and harmony. Then, in the wake of unexplained deaths and sudden aberrations to the ordinary patterns of life, the spectre of witchcraft would have risen again in the minds of the poor and uneducated. With it would come the paranoia, fingerpointing, inquisitions, trials, counter-accusations, tortures, and then the executions, sometimes in their dozens. Once the witches were dead, perhaps hoping that God or Satan, or indeed both, were satisfied with the consequences, the shadow of witchcraft would fade gradually away again.

Until the next time.


Welcome to en clair, an archive of forensic linguistics, literary detection, and language mysteries. You can find case notes about this episode, including credits, acknowledgements, and links to further reading at the blog. The web address is given at the end of this episode.

C16th and C17th England

Witchcraft trials were not carried out in the same way across the many countries and sovereignties that made up this part of the world at this time. For instance, by contrast with the rest of Europe, the tiny, isolated lands of Great Britain, and particularly of England, was not as uniformly Catholic. There was never any kind of Inquisition in the country, and with the softening aspect of distance and seas between England and the Vatican, the influence of Rome and its Catholic church was not felt quite so strongly here as elsewhere. Instead, we can argue that it was the beginning of Queen Elizabeth I’s reign that marked a significant moment in the judicial persecution of witches in England.

On paper, the first secular law relating to witchcraft appeared sixteen years before Elizabeth took the throne. It was enacted in 1542 under the auspices of Henry VIII, but it did not last long. Only six years later, in 1547, King Edward the VI repealed it. When Elizabeth became queen in 1558, however, the idea of battling dark, supernatural forces with earthly, judicial measures came back to the fore. A bill was drafted and eventually passed in 1563. This bill outlined severe penalties for “Witchecrafte, Enchantment, Charm or Sorcerie”. It included the following proscribed behaviours:

a) Conjuring or invoking evil spirits, for any purpose.

b) Witchcraft, enchantment, charm, or sorcery, including:

i. Causing death by witchcraft.

ii. Using witchcraft to cause damage to people, cattle, or goods.

iii. Looking for treasure, finding stolen property, or trying to provoke any person to unlawful love.

The punishment for bewitching someone to death? Execution. And for a first offence of any of the other crimes, it was prison and the pillory. Any subsequent offences led straight to prison or death.

The pillory, for those lucky enough to have never heard of it, is, in essence, like the stocks, and dates back to at least the 1100s, if not earlier. It is a frame, set up somewhere in the open such as on the village green, and it holds some unfortunate criminal or petty wrongdoer by the neck and wrists, leaving them to the mercy of the public. At best, they might escape with humiliation, but some were treated brutally. Passing members of the public would throw rotting food, animal viscera, rocks, and any other objects that came to hand. Broken jaws, blindness, traumatic head injuries, broken bones, paralysis, and death were not uncommon. Some considered the pillory to be a grotesque public execution simply by another name. From it we derive the modern figurative use of the word, to pillory someone, meaning to abuse or ridicule them.

Throughout Elizabeth’s reign, England was home to a series of notorious witch trials. One of the first notable affairs occurred in Essex in 1566, eight years after she took power, and another, similar trial took place in Chelmsford in 1579. Further witch-hunting outbreaks occurred in St Oses in 1582 and again in Chelmsford in 1589. The geographically literate of you might have noticed that these are all areas close to London, but the growing superstitions about witches were spreading. As Elizabeth’s reign extended into multiple decades, there were witch-hunts and trials moving ever northward, including in Norfolk, Leicester, Nottingham, York, and Northumberland, although not all of these ended in executions.

Finally, forty years after the enactment of the witchcraft bill, Queen Elizabeth’s reign was ended by her death, but the persecution of witches did not die with her. In fact, King James took the throne of England and Ireland on that very same day in March of 1603, and it was not long afterwards that the tyranny began to intensify.

Daemonologie (1597)

King James had ascended the Scottish throne thirty-six years earlier at the tender age of one, when his mother, Mary Queen of Scots, was forced to abdicate. As some of you will know, Mary fled to England, hoping to place herself under the protection of her first cousin once removed, Queen Elizabeth. This ultimately turned out to be a bad plan for Mary, but since this is a case I’m saving for a future episode, for now, we’ll get back to Scotland and James VI. When Elizabeth died in 1603, through his lineage, James VI of Scotland then also became the King James I of England and Ireland. So, for future reference, King James VI and I is just one person, and his odd title is just a weird artefact of one monarch being the crowned head of multiple kingdoms.

Anyway, whether because of Elizabeth’s laws on the matter, or because of his own personal views, King James was very interested in the theology of witchcraft. He had a particular passion for continental European theories of satanic pacts and he viewed witchcraft as heresy. This is unsurprising. Throughout the kingdoms – or now, kingdom of Scotland, England, and Ireland, older religions, like Celtic Paganism survived in little pockets. Celtic Paganism venerated the natural world and considered all living things to possess spirits with which one could commune. It was a polytheistic religion, meaning that followers believed in many gods and goddesses. Groves, rocks, streams, mountains – any and all could be the home of a deity, and so turned into a sacred shrine of worship. There was also an otherworld with fairies and other supernatural beings. But not everything about this religion was quite so placid. Celtic Druids appear to have been pretty hot on human sacrifice, and local kings could find themselves ritually executed if a harvest did not go as planned. Likewise, there is plenty of evidence in several archaeological digs of head hunting by Celtic warriors.

Anyway, that rather mixed bag of tranquillity and terror aside, these little pockets posed a potential threat to the ruling elite. Despite Elizabeth’s long and relatively stable rule, the hiccups with King James and Mary Queen of Scots and the factions between the Protestants and Catholics meant that there were many latent social fault lines and tensions. And, rightly or wrongly, religion is an especially effective tool for the control at the level of the population. One can threaten all kinds of terrible damnation in the afterlife to gain some obedience and of course, no one ever comes back to contradict you. But alternative religions can erode that control, playing on those fault lines, driving wedges into cracks and triggering sudden, violent uprisings. One way to deal with possible threats of anarchy and civil disobedience is to extinguish any competing religions, and a way to achieve this, is to cast them as blasphemous, dirty, evil. Their worshippers were heathens – a word that, to this day, has pagan as a synonym, along with infidel, profane, and barbarian. Even the word unchristian doesn’t just mean someone who is not a Christian. It means someone who is unkind, immoral, corrupt, sinful. Interesting to note that the aftereffects of the grudge-match against paganism still exist, vividly, in our language today. It was a simple step to go from associating disfavoured religions with barbarity to reframing them as wicked, malevolent practices in league with witchcraft.

Back to King James again. On the strength of his feeling and based on his research, he wrote a treatise entitled, Daemonologie, In Forme of a Dialogue, Divided into three Books: By the High and Mighty Prince, James &c, or, for short, just, Daemonologie. This was a philosophical dissertation and covered everything from necromancy and black magic to divination and demonology to werewolves and vampires. Although theological in cant, it was really a political and, arguably, a legal work justifying the persecution of so-called witches via canonical law. In case some of the history in this episode has also suggested this to you, there are also suspicions that Shakespeare used Daemonologie to inform his play, Macbeth. From it he seems to have taken inspiration for the rituals and incantations carried out by the three Weird Sisters, and even the Scottish themes which spring from James’ heritage and time as the King of Scotland.

Daemonologie was printed in Edinburgh in 1597, six years before King James took the English and Irish throne, and perhaps unsurprisingly, James was the only monarch to publish a treatise on this topic (Pumfrey, 2002: 23). Daemonologie was a clear reflection of the continental theology of witchcraft. Witches, sorcery, and necromancy were all described, and they were framed as heretical – as a rejection of God and as a sin against the Holy Ghost. King James also stressed the notion of contracts made with the devil, and the idea that the devil typically appeared to his servants in the form of an animal such as a dog, or cat, or ape. This animal would then leave a mark on that servant’s body to bind them to him.

Why would people enter into such a pact with the devil? Well, King James envisioned two motives that faintly echo the classic seven deadly sins – revenge and greed. And why were women, especially, so quick to make these Satanic pacts? Because of course, they were the “frailer” sex, and thus, in James’ own words, more likely to be “intrapped in these grosse snares of the Devill” (p. 44).

Daemonologie also documented an ongoing human belief, as old as water, that words can do things. Magical things. Dangerous magical things. Think of words like cursing, swearing, and blaspheming. In another episode, I will look into the frankly mind-boggling world of swearing and what we call dirty language. It is a bizarre vortex of our social neuroses about poverty, lack of education, poor hygiene, immorality, disease, magic, sex, class, age, masculinity, femininity, and far more besides. But right now, back to cursing.

Verbs such as to wish (harm/evil) and to curse were particularly common in witchcraft narratives of the period. To curse could just mean expressing the desire for something bad to happen to someone else, or – in the case of witchcraft – it could mean causing something bad to happen. Importantly, this meant that any curse or negative comment or even just muttering or mumbling in the presence of others had the potential to be post-factually re-interpreted as a witch’s curse if some sort of misfortune later befell the recipient. Accusations of witchcraft were therefore based less on the actual words than on the context, any subsequent disasters, and of course, on the hearers’ interpretation of cause and effect, or, if you like, curse and defect (MacFarlane, 1970). In other words, you might scream “Die!” at someone, but if they did not then die, it would be difficult to prove that this was a curse. By contrast, you might, say, suddenly remember something important and mutter it to yourself under your breath, unaware that nearby, someone has just dropped dead. To the casual witness, your badly-timed mumbling could now be interpreted as a curse.

This was not a time to exchange angry words with a neighbour who then suddenly fell gravely ill. Nor should one be seen close to wild animals – or familiars – just before the crops all withered. Nor was it in one’s best interest to be seen mumbling at a herd of cows who then produced little milk. It was much too easy for paranoid onlookers to draw those fatal connections between actions and supposed consequences, to see evil forces at work, to point a finger, and cry “Witch!”

King James lists what he considers to be the primary components of witch conjurations in Daemonologie:

There are foure principall partes; the persons of the conjurers; the action of the conjuration; the wordes and rites used to that effect; and the Spirites that are conjured.

But, perhaps fortunately, perhaps not, James does not go on to describe particular words or rites. This ambiguity may have led to the incredibly broad interpretation, thenceforth, as to what constituted cursing. Instead, he only makes a general remark about “long praiers, and much muttering and murmuring” (p. 18).

Nonetheless, in Daemonologie, King James makes much of the distinction between natural and unnatural practices. Witchcraft was different from medicine, for example, by virtue of that fact that witches could heal with words alone – an unnatural practice, while doctors had to apply medicines to the injured body parts – a natural practice (p. 11-12). Brace yourself for some real, live Daemonologie:

His rudimentes, I call first in general, all that which is called vulgarly the vertue of worde, herbe, & stone: which is used by unlawful charmes, without naturall causes. As likewise all kind of practiques, freites, or other like extraordinarie actiones, which cannot abide the true toutche of naturall reason […] I mean either by such kinde of Charmes as commonlie daft wives uses, for healing of forspoken goodes, for preserving them from evill eyes, by knitting roun-trees, or sundriest kinde of heroes, to the haire or tailes of the goodes: By curing the Worme, by stemming of blood, by healing of Horse-crooked, by turning of the riddle, or doing of such like innumerable things by wordes, without applying anie thing, meete to the part offended, as Mediciners doe […] unlearned men (being naturalie curious, and lacking the true knowledge of God) findes these practises to prove true…by the power of the Devill for deceaving men, and not by any inherent vertue in these vaine wordes and freites…

In practice, when you really put this under the microscope, it’s difficult to see how something like this, which we might call a spell or an incantation, is actually all that different from prayer, but Daemonologie found ways to keep one form of summoning a supernatural force distinct from the other kind. Spells were supposedly without humility whereas prayer was a humble subjugation before god. Meanwhile, the distinction between natural and unnatural was derived from scripture. If biblical texts and religious tradition forbade it, then it was unnatural.

But King James did not just write about witches as a general subject of social, moral, and religious interest. He also had something to say on the judicial aspects, including how to carry out trials and prosecution. He enumerated three key sources of what he called evidence that could be used to prove an accusation of witchcraft:

1. Witness testimony, even from children and from witches themselves, though when it came to the witch’s testimony, this was to be treated with caution. After all, a witch is evil, and lying is small beans, really, compared to, say, cursing another person to death. As you can imagine, this put the accused in an almost impossible position.

2. “The finding of their marke, and the trying the insensiblenes thereof” (p. 80)

3. Putting accused witches into water: if they floated, the water was said to have “refused to have received them in her bosom” (p. 81)

Minor side-point. The typical human body is almost perfectly neutral when it comes to water buoyancy. People have an average relative density of 0.98 compared to water, but this is affected by body fat. A person who is biologically an adult female, carries on average anywhere from 6% to 11% more body fat than a person of the same size who is biologically an adult male. Just to stress, this is a scientific statement, not a social one. It’s also obviously a population-level average, not an individual absolute, so there are plenty of exceptions. Why it should be the case that women are, well, fattier than men, I will leave to a biology podcast, but lovely squidgy bioprene, or fat, is buoyant, whereas meat, or muscle, is not. That therefore means that men, and particularly muscular ones – say farm labourers and manual workers – are going to be much less buoyant, and women, especially ones carrying more fat – say housewives and mothers – are, no shock, going to be more buoyant. In its most simplistic terms, women were more likely to float and therefore fail this third test for witchcraft, whilst men were more likely to sink and therefore be exonerated. I’m pretty sure James didn’t know this, but there you go.

Let’s move on to 1604, a year after James has taken the throne of England and Ireland, and seven years after the publication of Daemonologie. King James now passes the Witchcraft Statute. This expands Elizabeth’s definition of witchcraft so that it now includes the keeping of imps, and pacts with the Devil. The latter was, in particular, viewed as an exceptional crime, even if nobody was harmed. Before this point, during Elizabeth’s reign, it was possible to arrest someone simply based on accusations from neighbours, but to execute that person required that a death or deaths be successfully attributed to them. Witch trials thus had to somehow find evidence of maleficium, that is, of actual evildoing or damage or harm. The new Witchcraft Statute changed things. Now, execution could be carried out if someone was simply accused of making pacts with the Devil, or of keeping a familiar. This was closely allied with continental European understandings of witchcraft as diabolism, or devil worship, rather than its previous more extreme interpretation as a magical act of vandalism or violence (Pumfrey, 2002: 27-28; Notestein, 1968: 102, 104; Lumby, 1995: 25; Petyko 216).

Another little aside, here, just for fun. The word sinister in English, as you know, means evil or corrupt or pernicious. It comes from the Latin sinister, which means the left-hand. The right-hand, in Latin, is dexter, and it’s where we get words like dextrous, meaning deft with one’s hands. So why a negative word like sinister for the left-hand and a positive word like dexter for the right? Well, in Christianity, to sit at god’s right-hand – dextera domini – was to occupy the place of highest honour. This would typically be Christ, for instance, and from this theological symbolism we get the phrase, “right-hand man” meaning someone’s closest, most important person. The bible itself doesn’t record anyone as sitting on the left-hand of God, but according to texts like the Jewish Encyclopaedia, this was the arch-angel Gabriel’s place. Why does that matter? Well, Gabriel is God’s punisher who goes about smiting evildoers and generally waging all kinds of biblical warfare against the armies of the antichrist. And in our rather backward country, one used to get treated rather badly for being left-handed, since it was seen as an ill omen.

I seem to have gotten off-track again. Back to maleficium, or evildoing, and the King’s new statute that made executing witches much easier. Confusingly, King James on the one hand urged caution in accusing innocents and in simply believing any and all testimony produced against accused witches at trial. He was, perhaps, aware that this would be a very easy mechanism for warring neighbours and families to abuse. But, he also argued that one should not be too quick to believe the testimony from the accused either. In fact, he actually said to “thretten and torture them as ye please” and explained at length how witches, especially women, could and would shed crocodile tears – that is, fake tears of remorse in the hopes of being pitied and relieved of their suffering (Gibson, 2002:35-6). Of course, we have long known that under torture, people will obviously do far more than just cry, and they will confess to absolutely anything just to make the pain stop, including confessing to being a witch. A confession, however, was the gold standard of evidence. Everything fell before it, and so, with the blessing of King James, many such confessions were obtained via the most inhuman treatment imaginable.

Let’s move forward, now, another eight years, to 1612, and turn our attention to just one specific case: the Pendle witch trials.

Lancaster and Pendle

Though it was little more than a Roman fort at the time, Lancaster dates all the way back some two thousand years to the first century AD. A small county town in the north of England, it sits at the heart of some of the most beautiful, wild, and dramatic landscape in the country. Morecambe Bay, opening into the cold grey expanse of the Irish Sea, lies a few short miles to the west, and to the east, there is the high, remote Pennines mountain range. Northwest are the deep valleys, and barren gritstone, and peat moorland of the Bowland Fells. And to the south is the Lake District, so breath-taking that it inspired the works of Wordsworth, Shelley, Tennyson, Keats, and scores of others.

Through the heart of Lancaster city itself runs the River Lune. It would be easy to assume that the river is so named because it has a moon-shaped oxbow in it, but in reality, this name may be derived from an older Celtic word meaning pure, or it might come from the Anglo-Saxon, Ēa Lōn, where Ēa is River, and Lōn has become Lune. This would be a nod to the Celtic god Ialonus, a deity worshipped in Lancashire, and also, curiously, in Provence, at the time. The name, Lancaster, too is thought to have originated from Lōn and Castre, meaning fort, or castle.

After the Norman Conquest in 1066, William I took control of Lancaster, and in the 1200s, Lancaster Castle with its gaol and courthouse, the Lancaster Assizes, was built. Queen Elizabeth enlarged and improved on the castle throughout her reign, and in 1612, after her death and James’ ascendancy, Lancaster Castle would become the site of the Pendle witch trials. The Lancaster Assizes soon garnered a grim reputation. Rumour suggested that more people were sentenced to hang here than anywhere else, leading people to refer to Lancaster as “the Hanging Town”.

On a different note, for those who have invested a proportion of their lives into reading or watching Game of Thrones, you may well know that the series is based on the War of the Roses. This is the infamous civil war fought for thirty-two long years, from 1455 to 1487, between the House of Lancaster, with its red rose, and the House of York, with its white rose. Each was a royal branch of the House of Plantagenet, and each was striving to claim the throne. If this also sounds like most of the Shakespeare you’ve ever read, this is no surprise, since the Bard was born a little over a hundred years later and took much inspiration from real events.

The death-toll of this civil war was so massive and indiscriminate that the male lines of both families were wiped out, along with countless others. In the end, victory, if it can be called that, fell to a relative of the House of Lancaster who claimed the throne for himself. This new King, Henry VII, promptly married the eldest daughter of the House of York, Elizabeth, uniting the two royal Houses, and they would go on to be the grandparents of Queen Elizabeth I.

Back to this case – what of Pendle, specifically? Well, Pendle is a borough of Lancashire, next to the beautiful Ribble Valley. Pendle seems to have been retrospectively named after the dramatic Pendle Hill that dominates the skyline and can be seen clearly from the south of Lancaster University campus, sometimes hazy with mist, other times white with snow. An amusing etymological aside about the name Pendle Hill: Pen is a Cumbric word that means hill (or head). Cumbric became extinct somewhere around the 1100s, and as the general knowledge that Pen meant hill faded away, speakers of Old English added hyll. This made Penhul or Pennul, but again, with the passage of time, the sound gradually changed until it sounded more like Pendle. For speakers of modern English who had no idea what Pendle already meant, the obvious step was to add, well, hill. So Pendle Hill translates very crudely to Hill Hill Hill. As it happens, there are lots of examples of this happening in geographical names around the UK. Feel free to tweet some at the en clair account if you like and I’ll retweet them.

Anyway, yet more amusing linguistic artefacts aside, whilst this episode focuses on the Pendle witch trials, as already noted, this was not the only place in the country that had had a witch-hunting moral panic. In fact, many aspects of the Pendle witch trials were, by the standards of the time, fairly unremarkable, but there are a few features that set these trials apart. In the end, nine witches from Pendle were hanged together. This was an unusually large number in England at the time (Sharpe, 2002). This was also the first time that an English jury had been presented with sworn evidence of witchcraft and pacts with the Devil (Pumfrey, 2002: 22). And perhaps most importantly from a historical perspective, Thomas Potts, an associate clerk on the Northern Circuit, wrote a detailed description of the Pendle witches’ arraignments, trials, and confessions in a book entitled, The Wonderfull Discoverie of Witches in the Countie of Lancaster. This book is considered unique in that it is thought to be “the only surviving contemporaneous account of a seventeenth-century trial before the invention of shorthand” (Stuttard 2003: v).
I’m going to say more about Potts’ book later. First, though, let’s take a look at just one of the cases that came to trial.

Alizon Device

Alizon Device was the teenage daughter of Elizabeth Device and granddaughter of 80-year-old Elizabeth Southerns (also known as Old Demdike). Alizon lived with her mother and grandmother at Malkin Tower, along with her siblings, James, who was a labourer, and nine-year-old Jennet Device (Lumby, 1995; Sharpe, 2002).

Alizon’s family, and particularly her grandmother, Old Demdike, were known for their connections to magic. Old Demdike had a reputation for being a wise-woman and has long acted as a kind of village healer, making potions and medicines. She was particularly fond of cats and dogs – an unusual occupation at the time when pets were the preserve of the wealthy. The poor could not afford to feed extra mouths for its own sake, and Alizon and her family were beggars – not the kind of people who could afford to waste time and energy looking after stray animals. Unfortunately, whilst being a healer will have earned Old Demdike some income, it was a dangerous occupation, since it left the entire family vulnerable to accusations of witchcraft (Lumby, 1995: 22).

And one day, the shadow of that axe fell. On the 18th of March 1612, Alizon comes upon John Law, a pedlar, near Colne, in Lancashire. John Law collapses in Alizon’s presence, and immediately he is convinced that Alizon is responsible for whatever has happened to him. Abraham Law, his son, wants justice, and eleven days later, on the 29th of March, he takes Alizon to see his father, accusing her of injuring him through witchcraft. Alizon allegedly confesses and begs for forgiveness, and John Law states that he forgives her, but it is too late. Family well-wishers have heard the story and word has travelled to local Justice of the Peace, Roger Nowell. On the 30th of March, the day after Alizon’s visit to her so-called victim, Nowell takes statements from Alizon Device, her brother James, her mother Elizabeth, and from John Law himself (Potts, 1612; Lumby, 1995; Sharpe, 2002:1).

From subsequent descriptions, it would appear – at least to the modern reader – that John Law had actually suffered a stroke. In his book, Wonderfull Discoverie, Potts quotes John Law’s son, Abraham, thus:

John Law, […] then lay in Colne speechlesse, and had the left-side lamed all save his eye.

Later, when John Law attends the trial, Justice Nowell describes John Law’s appearance, which, again, is strikingly reminiscent of the after-effects of a stroke:

By this Devilish art of Witchcraft his head is drawne awrie, his Eyes and face deformed. His speech not well to be understood; his Thighes and Legges strake lame: his Armes lame especially the left side, his handes lame and turned out of their course, his Bodie able to indure no travell.

However, this is getting a little ahead of ourselves. Back to the 30th of March. When interviewed by Justice Nowell, Alizon allegedly confesses to both making a pact with the devil and to keeping a familiar. The language in these quotes isn’t immediately easy to follow so I have tried to very gently simplify:

She saith, That about two yeares alone, her Grand-mother, called Elizabeth Sothernes, alias Demdike, did (sundry times in going or walking together, as they went begging) perswade and advise [Alizon] this Examinate to let a Divell or familiar appeare to her, and that [Alizon] shee, this Examinate would let him suck at some part of her; and she might have and doe what she would. And so not long after these perswasions, [Alizon] this Examinate being walking towards the Rough-Lee, in a Close of one John Robinsons, there appeared unto her a thing like unto a Blacke Dogge: speaking unto her, this Examinate, and desiring her to give him her Soule, and he would give her power to doe anything she would: whereupon [Alizon] this Examinate being therewithall inticed.

In this interview with Justice Nowell, Alizon is also recorded as describing a rival of her grandmother, one Anne Whittle (aka Chattox), as a witch. In her testimony, Alizon claims that Chattox has been responsible for the deaths of both people and cattle. But at the same time, Alizon, perhaps unwittingly, implicates her own grandmother, Old Demdike. She proudly describes her grandmother’s magical abilities, and as part of her confession, she supposedly describes an instance in which, after quarrelling with a Richard Baldwin, Old Demdike curses his child. This same child later falls ill and dies (Lumby, 1995: 26).

Three days after her interview with Justice Nowell, on the 02nd of April 1612, based on Alizon’s testimony, Nowell interviews Old Demdike, Chattox, and three local witnesses. Around two days after that, Alizon Device is imprisoned in Lancaster Castle to await trial, along with several others implicated in testimony from both herself and other witnesses. These include her grandmother Old Demdike, her grandmother’s rival, Chattox, and Chattox’s daughter, Anne Redferne (Sharpe, 2002: 2, Lumby, 1995: 24). Briefly, it’s crucial to note here that in the 1600s, the poor, and especially beggars simply did not read or write, so all the evidence written down in these interviews will have been inaccessible to most, if not all of those giving the statements.

Four months of investigation pass by, and during this time, Old Demdike dies. Finally, the trials themselves are held on the 18th and 19th of August 1612. During these trials, despite many of the accused pleading not guilty and vehemently defending their innocence, the so-called confessions from the pre-trial investigations are read out. The trials also take evidence from Alizon Device’s nine-year-old sister, Jennet Device. Normally testimony from a child would never be considered in a trial in the 1600s, but King James’ Daemonologie advised that for witchcraft trials, normal rules of evidence could be suspended. Tragically, Jennet Device’s testimony directly implicates many members of her family, and most damningly, of carrying out several murders by witchcraft.
Of the ten accused, only Alice Grey is found not guilty. The day after the trials, on the 20th of August 1612, the other nine – Alizon Device, her mother Elizabeth Device, her brother James Device, Anne Whittle (also known as Chattox), Chattox’s daughter Anne Redferne, Alice Nutter, Katherine Hewitt, Jane Bulcock, and her son John Bulcock – are taken to Gallows Hill and hanged for witchcraft.

The future of Jennet Device also seems to have been bleak. A woman of the same name was tried for witchcraft with a group of nineteen others at Lancaster Assizes in 1634, some twenty-two years later, and it would seem that she was incarcerated in Lancaster Gaol, in the very Castle where her family were all tried and found guilty, until she died.

Confession, coercion, or construction?

From our modern perspective, accusations of witchcraft may seem absurd, and executions for it preposterously barbaric, but even if there had been some extraordinary grounds for finding Alizon Device guilty of John Law’s sudden illness, even at the time, there were inconsistencies in the testimony relating to the incident. For those who enjoy wading through 17th century prose, I’ve put the original quotes in the Case Notes with the relevant sentences highlighted. For the purposes of a podcast, however, I’ll summarise.

Upon being accused, Alizon supposedly confesses to laming John Law by witchcraft, with the help of a familiar in the shape of a black dog. She states that she did this because she wanted to buy pins from John Law, but he refused to sell her any.

By contrast, John Law’s son, Abraham supposedly states that, yes, Alizon wanted to buy pins from John Law, but she had no money to pay for them. Regardless, his father gave her the pins anyway.

In the third account by the victim himself, John Law claimed that Alizon had begged for pins, and there is no mention made of payment. Then, according to him, he refused to give her pins – a direct contradiction with his own son’s account which says he did give her pins – and upon being refused, Alizon became angry (Gibson, 2002).

Alizon Device John Law Abraham Law
The Confession of Alizon Device, Prisoner at the Barre: published and declared at time of her Arraignment and Triall in open Court.
…the eighteenth day of March last: at which time this Examinate met with a Pedler on the high-way, called Colne-field, neere unto Colne: and this Examinate demanded of the said Pedler to buy some pinnes of him; but the said Pedler sturdily answered this Examinate that he would not loose his Packe; and so this examinate parting with him: presently there appeared to this Examinate the Blacke-Dogge, which appeared unto her as before: which Blacke Dogge spake unto this Examinate in English, saying: What wouldst thou have me do unto yonder man? to whom this Examinate said, What canst thou do at him? And the Dogge answered againe, I can lame him: whereupon this Examine answered, and said to the said Black Dogge: Lame him: and before the Pedler was gone fortie Roddes further, he fell downe Lame…
The Evidence of John Law, Pettie Chapman, upon his oath: Against Alizon Device, Prisoner at the Barre.
He deposeth and saith, That about the eighteenth of March last past, hee being a Pedler, went with his Packe of wares at his back thorow Colne-field: where unluckily he met with Alizon Device, now Prisoner at the Barre, who was very earnest with him for pinnes, but he would give her none: whereupon she seemed to be very angry; and when hee was past her, hee fell downe lame in great extremetie; and afterwards by meanes got into an Ale-house in Colne, neere unto the place where hee was first bewitched: and as hee lay there in great Paine, not able to stirre either hand or foote; he saw a great Black-Dogge stand by him, with very fearful firie eyes, great teeth, and a terrible countenance, looking him in the face; whereat he was very sore afraid: and immediately after came in the said Alizon Device, who staid not long there, but looked on him, and went away.
The Examination of Abraham Law, of Halifax, in the Countie of York’s, Cloth-died, taken upon oath the thirtieth day of March, 1612.
Being sworne and examined, saith, That upon Saturday last save one, being the one and twentieth of this instance March, he, this Examinate was sent for, by a letter that came from his father, that he should come to his father, John Law, who then lay in Colne speechlesse, and had the left-side lamed all save his eye: and when this Examinate came to his father, his said father had something recovered his speech, and and did complain that he was pricked with Knives, Elsons and Sickles, and that same hurt was done unto him at Colne-field, presently after that Alizon Device had offered to buy some pinnes of him, and she had no money to pay for them with all; but as this Examinates father told this Examinate, he gave her some pinnes. And this Examinate further saith, That he heard his father say that the hurt he had in his lameness was done unto him by the said Alizon Device, by Witchcraft.

So, three accounts, and three different versions of the same event. In the end, however, Alizon and the others are convicted because of their own earlier statements made in the pre-trial investigation, which are presented at the trial as confessions.

For those who have listened to the very first episode of en clair, you might have already noticed that despite this trial occurring in 1612 in Lancaster, and Derek Bentley’s occurring 340 years later in London, there are some unsettling overlaps. Both cases involve allegations of murder. Both involve illiterate suspects having statements written out on their behalves that they cannot read. Both have no other form of recording, like audio, or independent accounts from others that we might use to cross-reference the statements. Both involve those statements later being used against them in court. Both involve the accused parties protesting their innocence. And both involve the suspects ultimately being found guilty, convicted, and then, hanged.

In the Derek Bentley case, through analysing the statement he allegedly gave to the police in the hours after the failed burglary, we were able to come up with some pretty convincing evidence that this was, at best, an assisted dialogue carefully airbrushed into a statement, and at worst, a police-authored narrative. So what can we do in this case?

Firstly, we need to know more about this official record of events – Thomas Potts’ Wonderfull Discoverie of Witches in the Countie of Lancaster. This is considered to be the most detailed account of the Pendle witch trials, and there’s a link to it in the Case Notes. However, there are some very serious issues with this account, as follows…

Speaking of supernatural abilities…

As I’ve mentioned, Potts was supposedly transcribing the pre-trial investigation, and the trial itself, live, in long-hand. Unless, in the darkest ironic twist possible, Potts himself was a witch and could write it all down at a supernaturally high speed for hours at a time, then this is almost certainly a straight out impossibility. The brain’s ability to store what is currently being said and write down what has just been said is finite, and even with a lot of practise, one simply cannot write quickly enough. In short, a lot will have been missed, a lot will have been summarised to capture the gist of it, and some could be unadulterated fiction. In fact, to an extent, it hardly matters whether Potts was a fast writer or a slow one, because there were much larger forces at play than establishing the truth and seeking justice. There was a very ambitious agenda.

For whom is it written?

Potts wrote Wonderfull Discoverie on the orders of Judge Bromley and Judge Altham, who had presided over the Pendle trials. Judge Bromley in particular oversaw the writing and this will have almost certainly dictated what was included in and what was quietly left out (Gibson, 2002: 53).

There is also plenty of evidence that Potts’ representation was carefully shaped to support and confirm the King’s Daemonologie. There are several examples of this. Firstly, historians have long noted the link between the structure of several of the Pendle witches’ confessions and the description of witches’ contracts with the devil in Daemonologie (Gibson, 2002: 32-33). The confessions of Alizon Device, James Device, Old Demdike and Chattox all progress through the same three stages. Firstly, there is an account of the initial appearance of the devil, as a man, a boy, or a beast – typically a dog. This manifestation of the devil then requests their soul, and once they agree to the trade, the familiar sucks upon some part of their person, leaving a mark on them. Finally, the devil appears and assists this new-made witch with harming others.

But there’s more. In other statements, those accused of witchcraft supposedly gave details of the keeping of familiars and taking part in witches’ sabbats, just as described in Daemonologie. (A sabbat, for those listeners amongst you who haven’t been to one, is a secret gathering of witches and sorcerers that involves dancing, feasting, orgiastic rites – so by modern standards, pretty much just Glastonbury, really.)

But there’s still more. There is a paragraph in which Potts defends the verdict to hang Alice Nutter for witchcraft. Alice is the only convict in the Pendle witch trials who was not a poor woman or a beggar. But this paragraph is an almost word-for-word replication of a paragraph from Daemonologie about the temptation of rich versus poor witches (Pumfrey, 2002: 33).

In fact, the resemblances between Potts’ Wonderfull Discoverie and Daemonologie are so strong that some witchcraft historians have suggested that King James himself may have instigated, or even been present at the Pendle witch trials. In reality, there is no evidence that he was ever there, but Potts notes himself that the Pendle trials represented “the first successful intrusion of elite demonology into an English trial” (Pumfrey, 2002: 25, 28).

If King James wasn’t there, then why bother writing this book as an encomium of Daemonologie? Well, at its simplest, this would be an excellent way of currying favour with the king. It would likely appeal to his royal, and possibly rather sensitive vanity on the subject. Just as there is no evidence that King James attended the Lancaster Assizes in 1612, likewise there no evidence to suggest that he was aware, or approved of Wonderfull Discoverie, which was published just a few months after the trials in 1613. However, public records do show that Potts soon started to receive considerable royal favour. Two years later, for instance, in 1615, he was offered the keepership of Skalme Park, where the king’s own hounds were bred and trained. And in 1618 he was granted the office of collecting the forfeitures on the laws concerning sewers, for twenty-one years (Pumfrey, 2002: 22, 27). That’s either a remarkable coincidence, or James was indeed flattered by the validation of his treatise.

In short, Wonderfull Discoverie was a book shaped by highly interested parties. The Judges would have wanted to appear to best advantage, and Potts likely saw a very lucrative opportunity if he could just produce a text that flattered the king’s apparent insight on the topic. So, this account is anything but an objective, disinterested record of a series of events and interviews.
How, though, does one take the words that others have said, and turn them into a narrative that fits your ultimate goal? More accurately, how does one do this in Jacobean England?

Trial transcript or dramatic interpretation?

Like other news pamphlets of the time, Potts wrote up the account as though it contained verbatim oral testimony from each witness consecutively, and as though this was testimony given at the trial. He even claimed that Alizon Device’s confession at trial agreed exactly with her earlier, pre-trial testimony. In reality, instead of being an accurate representation of trial testimony, it was instead a heavily mediated, highly selective reproduction of pre-trial investigations that occurred over the four months before the trials began. And those reproductions excluded critical information, such as the questions asked by the interrogators. There will have been little to no qualms about using leading questions, and of course, we already know that torture and threats were not only allowable, the King actively encouraged their use. All of this will have had a substantial impact on the shape and content of the answers but it is all excluded (Gibson, 2002: 49, 50).

But this isn’t the only issue. Many of the witches were convicted almost entirely on the basis of testimony from James Device and his nine-year-old sister, Jennet Device. This testimony related to an alleged witches’ sabbat at Malkin Tower. James, and possibly Jennet, will almost certainly have faced leading questions and threats, and there is a very good chance that they also suffered torture. But let’s consider Jennet in particular. Remember that she is nine. She’s very likely illiterate since she is a child in a family of beggars. She is also looking at the prospect of seeing her grandmother, Old Demdike, her mother Elizabeth, her sister Alizon, and her brother James all hang for witchcraft. To be worth anything at all, a child’s testimony must be gathered and interpreted with extreme care, since children will say what they think we want them to say. They are likely to perceive questions as having correct and incorrect answers, rather than recognising them as fact-finding efforts. There is a very high chance that Jennet may have thought that if she gave testimony that the court seemed to like – that didn’t get her shouted at or threatened, that confirmed what others had already said – that this would be the right thing to do and would help. Whatever the case, though, when we look at testimony she supposedly gave, there are some serious questions. For instance:

…upon Good Friday last there was about twentie persons (whereof only two were men, to this Examinates remembrance) at her said Grandmothers house, called Malkin-Tower aforesaid […] the persons aforesaid had to their dinners Beefe, Bacon, and roasted Mutton…

This is supposedly the testimony of a nine-year-old. Of course, without actual audio recordings of the trials, which is an impossibility, we can’t know for sure whether she really did speak like this. We do know more generally though, that there was a trend in pamphlets across the country to attribute solemn, formal statements to accused witches who also happened to be peasants and beggars. These “confessions” sometimes even contained Latin, a language which was almost completely inaccessible to the poor and illiterate. For example, Elizabeth Sawyer, from Edmonton, was accused of witchcraft in 1621 and visited in prison by minister Henry Goodcole. Goodcole recorded her subsequent confession, in which he described Elizabeth as “an ignorant woman” – this is the sense of ignorant meaning uneducated. However, in Goodcole’s account, Elizabeth supposedly admitted that:

He the Divell taught me this prayer, Santibicetur nomentuum.

That’s slightly messy Latin for, Hallowed be thy name.

This is a difficult story to end, because, unlike Derek Bentley, there is no posthumous pardon here. The women and men who were tortured, hanged, drowned, burned at the stake, and worse have largely drifted from memory into legend, from legend into myth, and many have passed out of all living record forever. All we can do is honour the memory of those we know about, and those we can only guess at, by telling this story and what came after.

The last witchcraft trials in England

Over time, there was a gradual decline in the number of trials and convictions of accused witches, and the last witch trials – at least, the last formally recorded witch trials – took place only a hundred years after the Pendle witch trials. These were held in Leicester in 1717 (Thomas, 1971: 459).

On the 24th of June 1736, the Witchcraft Act was passed in Great Britain, but rather than providing statutory instruments for the persecution of witches, this law actually abolished the practice of witch hunts and trials. In fact, in a complete reversal of previous statutes, it became a criminal offence to claim that you practised witchcraft, and breaking this law was punishable by fines, or up to a year in prison. According to Davies, reference in the Case Notes for those interested:

The responsibility of all men of authority was reversed. Instead of instigating the scratching or swimming of a witch, the justice of the peace now turned to censoring those who took it upon themselves to perform such actions. […] The fight was now not against the evil of witchcraft, but, instead, against the evil influence which such “ignorant” and “superstitious delusions” had on the minds of the uneducated masses. (Davies 1991: 1)

Several people were prosecuted under this act for activities such as “pretending” to be able to conduct seances, cast spells, call spirits, or read fortunes. And, the last person successfully convicted under this act was Helen Duncan in 1944. Her crime was claiming that she could act as a medium to the spirit world. Duncan’s arrest sparked widespread controversy and there have even been several (unsuccessful) attempts over the last twelve years to grant her a posthumous pardon.

This Witchcraft Act was repealed only fifteen years later, in 1951. Instead, the Fraudulent Mediums Act was proposed by Walter Monslow, who argued that spiritual practices should not be criminalised and that those who believed in such practices should have the freedom to do so, in the same way that others have freedom to practise a variety of religious faiths. There was some opposition, however, based on the argument that many of those who claimed to be able to practise witchcraft were deceiving others for financial gain. In the end, the act prohibited people from fraudulently claiming to be a psychic or medium for financial gain. However, proving the “fraud” was exceedingly difficult (Davies, 1999: 73, 75).

The Fraudulent Mediums Act was in turn repealed in 2008 and replaced by EU Consumer Protection Regulations. These stipulate that spiritual workers effectively enter into a contract with paying customers, and, as a result, it would seem that in the end, it is the EU that now protects those of us in the European Union from the perils of witchcraft.


This episode of en clair was researched and fact-checked by Rebecca Jagodziński. And it was scripted, narrated, and produced by me, Dr Claire Hardaker. However this work wouldn’t exist in its current form without the prior effort of many others. You can find acknowledgements and references for those people at the blog. Also there you can find data, links, articles, pictures, older cases, and more besides. The address for the blog is And you can follow the podcast on Twitter at _enclair. If you like, you can follow Rebecca on Twitter at RjJagodzinski, and you can follow me on Twitter at DrClaireH.