Sussex a county rich in the legends of witches

Sussex has a wide range of the many types of witch legends that have been recorded throughout Britain.

Friday, 10th March 2017, 2:00 pm
Updated Friday, 24th March 2017, 10:47 am
Detail from the cover of the paperback
Detail from the cover of the paperback

And a new book, British Witch Legends of Sussex, is arranged to cover all the main types, with a strong bias towards our county.

The most common type of witch legends are those that tell of shape-shifters, especially witches who became hares, and the first chapter describes these. The second is all about hag-riding and witches who immobilised wagons and horses. Other chapters feature less common witch legends, such as those about them flying; sailing in eggshells; bewitching people; turning animals to stone; raising storms; stealing milk; getting shot with silver bullets, and so on.

There are also tales of wizards and the like, and of the strange magic charms and counter-spells that our ancestors resorted to, up until not so long ago.

Indeed, while some types of witch legends first arose in ancient times, others seem to have been conjured up during the 18th and 19th centuries, and the belief in witches lingered long in rural areas of Sussex, notably that of a witch who chased her victim running backwards, and of witch-hares who immobilised wagons and then got wounded or killed.

This is an unusual book, not just because it’s all about witch legends, but because it throws more light on strands of one county’s folklore by looking at similar examples from the rest of the country and, likewise, reveals more about the witch legends of other counties by delineating those of one.

British Witch Legends of Sussex is written by Shaun Cooper and published by Country Books. It is priced at £12.