Berkeley Witch

PaganGreen Pagan Witches

In English folklore, the Berkeley
Witch was a wealthy woman who lived during the time
of the Norman Conquest in the town of Berkeley in England’s
heartland. She was wealthy and well liked, and
lived luxuriously. Her secret, kept until she was close to
death, was that her wealth was given her by the Devil, in
a pact for her soul (see Devil’s pact). Apparently, she
earned the name witch because she sold her soul to the
Devil, which reflects the once-common belief that all
witches made diabolic pacts.
According to lore, one evening as the Berkeley Witch
ate at her dining table, her pet raven gave a single, harsh
note and dropped dead. The woman recognized this as a
sign that her end was near and that she would have to live
up to her end of the bargain with the Devil. The beginning
of the end was an onslaught of bad news, the first
being the death of her oldest son and his entire family.
She was so overwhelmed that she took to bed and grew
weaker by the day. She confessed her pact to her two
other children, who were a monk and a nun. It was determined
that the only way to keep her out of the Devil’s
Berkeley Witch 21
clutches was to wrap her body in a stag’s skin, place it in
a stone coffin bound with three magic iron chains—for
iron drives away the Devil and his hordes—and place the
coffin upright in church. Psalms and masses were to be
sung and said over the coffin for 40 days and 40 nights.
Meanwhile, if the coffin were not violated by the Devil by
the third day, her body could be buried in the church’s
graveyard.
On the first night after her death, a horde of demons
appeared and broke one iron chain. They reappeared on
the second night and broke a second chain. But the third
chain remained impervious to the demons’ efforts, despite
the fact that the very church shook on its foundation,
and doors splintered on their hinges.
Then a hideous figure appeared—the Devil himself—
and bade the Berkeley Witch follow him. From inside the
coffin she replied she could not, for she was bound. “I
will unbind you, to your great loss,” the Devil answered.
He tore away the chain, smashed the coffin and seized
the living corpse of the witch. He strode outside, where
there waited a huge, demonic black horse covered with
spikes. He threw the witch on the horse, and her corpse
was pierced through with spikes. Her screams reportedly
could be heard for miles, but for naught: the Devil leaped
up on the horse and rode away into the night.