I grew up in England, living on a farm in a remote part of the south coast. It was not far from a village in which there was a pond that had been there for hundreds of years. To this day the place is known as somewhere with a strange atmosphere.

A low wall surrounds the pond and a series of ancient stone houses, punctuated with the occasional redbrick more modern one from the last century or two. A plaque is set into the stonework of the pond. It simply says, “Mary Wiggins died here in 1619”. It’s been there as long as anyone can remember, and likely goes back three or four hundred years.

In recent years the tourist trade has come to some local towns and villages, but strangely not to this secluded spot. The local church is sparsely attended, and the place has a feeling of tiredness, sleeping its way into the twenty first century.

It was not always this way. The place was a hive of activity in the year of 1619. A local trial had been held and a woman named Mary Wiggins had been found guilty of witchcraft. She suffered death by drowning shortly afterwards. It is said that her last words were a curse on the village and its inhabitants.

All of this is not so very unusual, when you think that at the time in various parts of Europe witch trials account for quite literally thousands of executions. What is unusual is the local awareness that on certain nights of the year small groups gather late and night about the village. On Beltane, or the solstice or other key astrological weigh points it’s not unusual to notice the presence of worshipers of a very different kind nearby the church or by the pond.

The dark nature of the celebrations, the unusual visitors and their dark rituals are known there abouts and largely avoided. Nothing is to be gained from confronting something that has been such a covert but undeniable part of that village life for so many years. The coming and going of strangers in such a place does not go unnoticed. It would fall under the heading of ‘no one’s business but their own’. Yet, still those meetings continue.

Belief in dark magic is nothing new in these places. And it remains to this day. So much so that if one were to talk to a tarot reader, or consult a palmist, you might well find yourself in the company of someone whose lineage as a reader went back many generations, and had never so much as left the village for more than a few weeks at a time.

It was in this nursery that I grew up. And I learned.