Widdershins By Helen Steadman
Impress Books ~ 01/07/17
It’s beautiful, with the two silhouetted figures against the shrubbery and herbs. With the vanilla colouring and bold browns and deep purple. It looks very elegant and important.
I must also mention the fabulous way it was delivered from Impress to myself and fellow bloggers. Wrapped in brown paper and tied up with white string, with a simple snippet of rosemary. The smell, as you opened the package, was delightful and unexpected. I wish all book post was both visually stunning and fragrant.
My favourite Quote/Sentence:
I didn’t have a favourite quote this time around but I did have words I had never heard before in my puff. Here are a few:
There was many much more but these made me have to think. Also ‘Singing Hinnies’ made me have to get the old Google out and have a search.
I thoroughly enjoyed the book, it was a journey of adventure even before I gently tore away the brown paper packaging. The book had a lovely calm feel about it. As I said before its elegant cover draws you in. I would definitely recommend it and my friends would be surprised as historical fiction is really not my favourite. But the way Widdershins is written you don’t feel like your getting fact after fact rammed down your neck. You are merely an ear to a fantastic story.
I enjoyed both of the main characters. Hearing their journey’s and the outcome. I hated Johns father and my heart broke for him with the beatings and little Jinny. But Helen Steadman put me right in the scene as if I was a ghost. That’s how I felt throughout the book, that I was there listening and watching. Smelling the herbs and potions.
The book is very well paced, I was never bored only excited for what was to come.
I highly recommend this to book to everyone who loves a story with heart and history.
Back Of The Book
Did all women have something of the witch about them?’ Jane Chandler is an apprentice healer. From childhood, she and her mother have used herbs to cure the sick. But Jane will soon learn that her sheltered life in a small village is not safe from the troubles of the wider world. From his father’s beatings to his uncle’s raging sermons, John Sharpe is beset by bad fortune. Fighting through personal tragedy, he finds his purpose: to become a witch-finder and save innocents from the scourge of witchcraft. Inspired by true events, ‘Widdershins’ tells the story of the women who were persecuted and the men who condemned them.
Pre-Order your copy today ~ Amazon UK
Who was the real Scottish witch-finder behind the Newcastle witch trials?
There is no definitive evidence as to who the Newcastle witch pricker was. In my novel, Widdershins, my witch finder is the fictitious John Sharpe.
However, one possibility is that the Newcastle witch-finder might have been John Kincaid, the notorious witch pricker from Tranent in the south east of Scotland. Certainly, he was testing people in North Berwick shortly before the Newcastle witch trials. So, as he was a hundred miles away pricking people to determine whether or not they were guilty of witchcraft, it’s not inconceivable that Kincaid was the witch-pricker invited to cleanse Newcastle of its alleged infestation of witches.
- Webster’s Collection of Rare and Curious Tracts on Witchcraft includes a declaration from John Kincaid, Pricker, when he was in Dirlton in June 1649. This declaration was witnessed by six local officiaries. Kincaid’s declaration discusses how he tested a man and his spouse for witchcraft.
It seems that the couple in question, Patrik Watsone and Menie Halyburtoun, presented themselves voluntarily to Kincaid at Dirlton Castle near North Berwick in Scotland. After testing them with a pricking device, Kincaid claimed ‘I found the divillis marke upon the bak syde of the said Patrik Watsone…’ and ‘…upon the left syde of the said Menie Halyburtoune hir neck a littill above her left shoulder…’ He found them both guilty after pricking the devil’s marks he claimed to find about their persons, and after finding that these marks were insensible and did not bleed.
Following Kincaid’s revelation, the deposition of Menie Halyburtoune (again witnessed by six local officiaries) on 1 July 1649, subsequently detailed her copulating with the devil, following this spectacle being reported by her husband.
John Kincaid of Tranent was still at large as late as 1661, when he was reported in Dalkeith in Scotland. Here, he tested a woman called Janet Peaston, claiming he’d found two devil’s marks upon her body. When Kincaid pricked these marks, the woman felt no pain, and no blood was let. In fact, so little pain did she feel when pricked, she was unable to correctly identify the points on her body where she had been pricked. This is surprising, given that ‘they being preins of thrie inches or thairabout’. Yet, Kincaid still subscribed to his test under oath and this test was witnessed by seven people, among them, the local minister and elders, including a Major.
We may never know the identity of Scottish witch-finder employed by Newcastle, but John Kincaid was a notorious witch-pricker who worked in the borders between Scotland and north-east England, and so he is certainly one possibility worth considering.
Newes from Scotland (1591) ‘Declaring the damnable life of Doctor Fian a notable sorcerer, who was burned at Edenbrough in Ianuarie last.’ London: William Wright (in Special Collection Ferguson Al-a.36 at Glasgow University).
- Sands (1881) Sketches of Tranent in the Olden Time, Pitcairns’ Justiciary Records, vol 111., p. 602 in Chapter 3 ‘Witchcraft, 1591’.
- Webster (1820) Collection of Rare and Curious Tracts on Witchcraft and the Second Sight; with an Original Essay on Witchcraft, Edinburgh: Thomas Webster.
Thank you to Impress Books for the opportunity to be on the tour and to the wonderfully talented Helen Steadman for her beautiful book.
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