The Witches Of Kent
Halloween is fast approaching, and already everyone is deciding what they will be doing to mark the occasion. Many will be having parties, where everyone will come dressed up in Halloween related costumes which include ghosts, the devil and witches. There are also several retail promotions on the high street to mark the holiday, and even goes so far to be incorporated into mFortune’s latest promotion that involves their Which Witch slot game. However, there are some who consider Halloween more than just fun, parties, sweets, special promotions and games. Step forward the Witches of Kent, who are still going strong today, although people’s attitudes to them have altered quite considerably over the years.
Kent had a relationship with witches many years ago, that was a lot less amicable than it is today. Theodore of Tarsus, who was the Archbishop of Canterbury 669-690, was the man to bring about legislation that made witchcraft illegal in the county, although legal action was rare until the middle-ages.
Witch hunts were seen from the late 1400s onwards, as attitudes changed, with a real hysteria developing surrounding witches and witchcraft. This saw witch-hunters set about trying to locate witches so that they could be convicted. During the period between 1500 and 1700, it’s believed that there were over 20 executions of witches in the county of Kent, with most of them involving women.
The 1640s were another hotbed for witch hunts, with the Civil War seemingly responsible for driving witch hunters on in their mission. This saw a famous trial take place in 1645, where three women were hanged for performing witchcraft. Joan Carden, Jane Hott and Joan Williford were all found guilty in Faversham, after confessions were recorded. However, the legitimacy of confessions regarding witchcraft were often thrown into doubt due to them seemingly being coerced through a variety of techniques.
There’s still evidence of this era in Kent today, with ducking stools present in Canterbury and Fordwich. The witch and witch craft era eventually died out and in 1735 The Witchcraft Act was delivered. This saw more lenient punishments presented, with witches being treated in the same way as con artists, so fines and imprisonment was deemed enough. 1951 was the year that it became legal in England to be a witch again, bringing in an age of modern witch craft, which is still enjoyed today, especially in Kent.
Modern witchcraft is known as Wicca and it was created by a man called Gerald Gardner. The modern form of witch craft take on a more community inspired aspect, where like-minded people can come together and engage in covens. Spells are more like prayers, with magical and blessed items, such as candles and talismans used. These ‘spells’ are thought to bring about peace and healing, amongst other things.
Witchcraft, or Wicca, has many important dates on the calendar, with Halloween being one of them. However, Halloween or October the 31st is known as Samhain and is one of the Greater Sabbats. One of only four dates often celebrated by Wiccans, but apart from that, witches are just as normal as everyone else.