It seems that a couple of spinster sisters who lived in the hamlet of Saveock, Truro, Cornwall in the south-west of England were practising witches. They lived near a site described as a Neolithic platform where there are 40 grisly witch pits. The history of these pits goes back 350 years. The sisters died in the mid-1980s.
On this site, an archaeologist has uncovered shallow, rectangular holes among the reeds of Saveock. These holes are evidence of pagan rituals. The witches familiar, the black cat, is well known. These pits contained bits of animal – is this animal sacrifice?. One pit was lined with the skin of a swan turned inside out. The pit has been dated to the 1640s (through carbon dating), the time of the Civil War, which is what one might expect if you are doing an archaeological dig with respect to pagan rituals and witches. Another pit was made of cat fur and was from the mid-18th century. Here is the connection to the cat as a companion of witches.
Another pit had in it the skeleton of a dog. The skeleton was laid on top of the dog’s pelt. This was dated at no earlier than the 1950s. In another the archaeologist found that it was lined with black and brown fur together with the four leg bones of a young goat. They could date this pit accurately because there was a loop of orange, hay-bailer twine wrapped around some of the vertebrae. This sort of twine wasn’t invented until the 1960s and not used until the 1970s in Cornwall. Witchcraft was alive and well in the UK in modern times.
The archaeologist, Jacqui Wood, believes that there has been “an unbroken method of ritual from the Civil War to the present day” at this site. What is rather extraordinary is that witchcraft of this sort has been practised to the present day. It makes me wonder whether there is someone, somewhere practising it right now in Great Britain. The almost certainly is. Black witches are not that uncommon in the UK.
Until 1735, witchcraft laws made it a crime to deal with evil and wicked spirits. The punishment was execution. The laws were repealed in 1951. Therefore, witches practising these pagan rituals in Great Britain, recently, must have known they were committing a crime.
It is believed that, depending on their alignment, the pits were used to bless or curse. Dr Wood believes, for example, that the pit with the swan body parts is linked to the patron saint of newborn babies, St Brigid of Kildare. Perhaps this pit was a blessing rather than a curse.
However, it is still not completely clear what the pits were for. However, as mentioned above, locals have their own explanation which is that there were two spinster sisters known in the village to have been practising witches. Perhaps there were generations of witches in their family and they were members of a secret coven of Cornish witches practising their occult art in this quiet corner of Britain for hundreds of years.
Associated: Black cats and superstition in Africa