My Catchphrases

Friday, 10 February 2012

Spotlight: Guest Post: The Women in the Woods by James Dawson

If you haven't already heard me fan-girling over James then you need to go and read my review HERE. James is certainly a literary talent to watch. I am thrilled to be part of the Hollow Pike Blog Tour today. Huge thanks to James and Indigo. So without further gushing from me over to James to talk about the history behind the witchcraft featured in Hollow Pike:

The Women in the Woods 

Hollow Pike is the town where witchcraft never sleeps. Of course, Hollow Pike is only fictional, but a lot of research needed to be done to create the mythos of the haunted town.

The inspiration for Hollow Pike, supposedly in Yorkshire, was the trial of the Pendle Witches from Lancashire. In and around the Pendle Hill area, twelve people were accused and tried of murder by the use of witchcraft. In reality, we’ll never know if the people who were executed really were witches. What we do know is that in the early seventeenth century, people who earned a living through healing, begging and extortion were often regarded as witches.

In 1602, new monarch James I had become convinced that witches and demonic forces were out to get him, even believing that witches had conjured storms in an attempt to assassinate him. As King, he set the precedent and local Justices of the Peace saw witch trials as an easy way to impress the monarch. Witch trials spread across the UK, seeing hundreds executed for committing harm through magic.

It is thought James I was only following a larger trend in Europe. Witch trials in France and Germany took place as early as the fourteenth century. It was these early trials that led to one of the key texts I used when writing Hollow Pike – the Malleus Maleficarum. Otherwise known as the ‘Hammer of the Witches’ written by Heinrich Kramer, the guide is a manual for local judges on how to identify, torture, try and execute a person suspected of being a witch.

It makes for fascinating reading. A fierce Catholic, Kramer had previously been laughed out of town for his views on witchcraft. The Maleficarum was his response to this treatment and gradually it took hold, a witch-hunter’s bible.

Today, it’s easy to assess Kramer as a religious fanatic and massive misogynist. It is clear Kramer has a very low opinion of women. He believed women are inferior to men and this is how the devil was able to infiltrate them through temptation and desire. It would probably be quite funny if it hadn’t led to the deaths of thousands of women. The mid fifteenth century was a time of religious turmoil, and along with the advent of the printing press, the Maleficarum spread like wildfire. People believed it.

The situation in Europe spread across the Atlantic to Colonial America, leading to the most famous witch trials of them all – the Salem Witch Trials. Following the illness of a young girl called Betty Parris became ill, apparently through involvement with witchcraft. The hysteria that followed – the trials and accusations were captured in Arthur Miller’s play The Crucible, another key text when I was researching Hollow Pike. A fictional account of the actual events, but Miller used the suspicion and paranoia as a metaphor of the communist ‘witch-hunts’ of the 1950s. His point was that the witches, if there were any, weren’t the real danger – that lay with those in power.

It’s this two-layer menace that I was interested in – there’s the danger posed by the witchfinders or those in authority, but that doesn’t necessarily undermine the darker powers potentially possessed by the witches themselves…in Hollow Pike, trust no-one.

Title: Hollow Pike
Series: Not Confirmed
Publisher: Indigo
Publication Date: 2 Feb 2012

Synopsis from Goodreads

Something wicked this way comes... She thought she'd be safe in the country, but you can't escape your own nightmares, and Lis London dreams repeatedly that someone is trying to kill her. Lis thinks she's being paranoid - after all who would want to murder her? She doesn't believe in the local legends of witchcraft. She doesn't believe that anything bad will really happen to her. You never do, do you? Not until you're alone in the woods, after dark - and a twig snaps... Hollow Pike - where witchcraft never sleeps.


  1. Really interesting post, it's so good to hear about some of the research behind the book.

  2. Love this post. I am fascinated but the witchcraft history. A really interesting post. x


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