How Did I Choose Me My Witchcraft Kin? My Past and Future in Witches

My Nannie says I’m a child of sin.
How did I choose me my witchcraft kin?’

waterhouse images

(Waterhouse, ‘The Magic Circle’, 1886, thanks to Janette for this)

I found myself in the north of England at the weekend for the Gothic Manchester Festival after which I slipped off to the house where I grew up which has been the George family home for over 50 years. I tend to want to sort through my books when I visit these days and this time I uncovered an absolute gem – The Book of Witches edited by Jacynth Hope-Simpson. I was given this book for my twelfth birthday and there is a little inscription inside from my family. These are the same parents who named me after Samantha from the TV series Bewitched (see my post on the emergence of the sympathetic witch)!!! It seems they knew something about the dark path my research would eventually take – which I was unaware of – indeed it was not until many many years later when I started OGOM in 2010 that my dark dreams began to take shape.

Flicking through the pages of the Book of Witches there are extracts and passages that still seem eerily famililar such as ‘Suppose You Met a Witch’ by children’s writer Ian Serraillier and Mary Norton’s ‘The Student Witch’ (this predates Hogwarts by a long way). ‘A Cat and A Broom’ from ‘Carbonel’ by Barbara Sleigh and Louisa M. Alcott’s ‘The Witche’s Curse’ are long remembered too, together with C.S. Lewis’s ‘The Queen of Underland’, John Masefield’s ‘The Boy on a Broomstick’ and Arthur Ransome’s ‘Baba Yaga’ ( the witch of Russian folklore). There is even ‘A Witches’s Guide to Gardening’ by Dorothy Jacob on growing Witchwood, Quickbane, Wild Ash, Wichen, Witchbane ( and strangely my other great love is botany and plant lore). What I remember most however are the poems especially this one…..

The Little Creature (De La Mare)

Twinkum, twankum, twirlum and twitch
My great-grandam she was a witch.
Mouse in wainscot, saint in niche
My great-grandam she was a witch;
Long though the shroud, it grows stitch by stitch
My great-grandam she was a witch;
Wean your weakling before you breech –
My great-grandam she was a witch;
The fattest pigs but a double flitch
My great-grandam she was a witch
Night jars rattle, owls scritch
My great-grandam she was a witch.

Pretty and small,
A mere nothing at all,
Pinned up sharp in the ghost of a shawl,
She’d straddle her down to the Kirkyard wall,
And mutter and whisper and call and call

Red blood out and black blood in,
My Nannie says I’m a child of sin.
How did I choose me my witchcraft kin?
Know I as soon as dark dreams begin
Snared is my heart in a nightmare’s gin;
Never from terror I out may win;
So dawn and dusk I pine, peak, thin,
Scarcely knowing t’other from which
My great-gandam she was a witch.

I think I have just found a future research project in these twentieth-century juvenile witch texts and serendipity (or dark insight) seems to be telling me that the next OGOM conference will most definitely be on the witch!!!

Happy Hallowe’en OGOMERS!!

About Lucy Northenra

Senior Lecturer in Literature, University of Hertfordshire
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5 Responses to How Did I Choose Me My Witchcraft Kin? My Past and Future in Witches

  1. I love that poem–it’s distinctly eerie! The book sounds marvellous–you’ll have to show it me. And witches for OGOM makes me *very* enthusiastic!

  2. Pingback: I Saw Three Witches | Open Graves, Open Minds

  3. KC says:

    Walter de la Mare

  4. Yes, just checked in my book too and ‘I Saw Three Witches’ and The Little Creature’ cited here are both De La Mare …underated writer these days …he deserves more critical attention as he was very prominent before his death in 1956.

  5. Have amended to give him credit…

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