The Modern Antiquarian. Stone Circles, Ancient Sites, Neolithic Monuments, Ancient Monuments, Prehistoric Sites, Megalithic MysteriesThe Modern Antiquarian

The Five Knolls

Barrow / Cairn Cemetery


This article by the eminent Grinsell collects examples of witch and fairy lore being bound up with barrows:
Another possible instance comes from the trial of Elizabeth Pratt of Dunstable, Bedfordshire, in 1667:

"Elizabeth Pratt, when asked about two children of Thomas Heyward who were said to have been bewitched to death, accused instead three other Dunstable women. She said that 'the devill appeared to her about a fortnight since in the form of a catt, and Commanded [her] to goe to those three persons aforesaid to seeke the destroying of the two Children...' She said she was with them when they mett to bewitch the eldest childe of the said Heyward, and that they had two meetings about it whereof one was at the Three Knolls upon the Dunstable Downes, and the other a little lower upon the said Downes.'

The 'Three Knolls' are of course the well-known group of Bronze Age barrows now known as the Five Knolls, three of which are bell-shaped and enclosed by the same ditch. Elizabeth Pratt was committed to Bedford Gaol where her name occurs next to that of John Bunyan in the prison register.
I know, I know, the whole 'witchcraft' thing is highly suspect as we don't know if or how Ms Pratt was 'encouraged' to confess. But if someone else came up with the knolls as a location perhaps they thought them the type of place that would be right for a bit of witchcraft. Or, it really IS right for a bit of witchcraft.

From the eminent L V Grinsell's 'Witchcraft at some prehistoric sites', in K Briggs's 'The Witch Figure' (1973).
Rhiannon Posted by Rhiannon
16th May 2009ce
Edited 18th May 2009ce

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