The Witch Stone


Many hundreds of years ago, so people say, there lived in Stillington a witch. Everyone was sure she was a witch because when someone crossed her something terrible befell them. A neighbour’s cow strayed into her garden and ate her vegetables. She was so angry and cursed the cow  - within days the animal had died. An old woman, scrubbing her step as the witch passed,   accidentally splashed her skirts with water. The witch was heard to say ‘You shall have no more water to splatter folk’. The poor woman’s well dried up.

The last straw was when a mischievous boy, egged on by talk from his elders, threw some mud at her. She cursed him roundly and that day he fell ill. The villagers went to the priest, begging him for help. He told them what to do: they must test her by casting her into a pond. If she floated she was truly a sorceress as it was well known that witches were light – they really didn’t need enchanted brooms to fly but they could just float away – and water repelled them as it washed the young clean of evil at their baptism.

A mob of villagers grabbed the woman and dragged her up to the pond. They bound her hands and her feet. They tied her skirts tight about her legs so they wouldn’t billow out. Fastening a rope about her waist to her they tossed her in.

As she hit the cold water the witch prayed to her demon to save her. Sure enough it spat out a suitable curse. She was turned into a stone. Immediately she sank to the bottom of the pond.

The men holding the rope were very surprised when it snapped. Everyone else was even more shocked when the woman they thought was a witch didn’t float. Many, convinced they were now drowning an innocent woman, waded into the water to fish her out. But no matter how they searched she couldn’t be found. When a man, polling the water with a staff, discovered the huge stone and shouted out in fright the mob fled.

Deep in the mud at the bottom of the pond the stone that was once a witch waited for darkness to fall. When the strong light of the full moon glimmered on the water she rolled herself slowly and painfully to the pond side.  There she prayed to her demon once more – to be restored. But nothing happened. Again and again she begged, however in her stony form she remained. With daylight approaching she rolled away and hid beneath a hedge.

The next night when the moon rose fat and full she rolled to the pond side and sipped at the water. There she stayed until morning begging in vain for the curse to be lifted. 

And so the story goes that the curse was never yet been lifted: by day the witch stone hides from the sun and  when the moon shines on the pond she comes forth to sip the water that sustains her existence -  lying at the pond side til the first light of dawn, beseeching the powers of evil for forgiveness and release.


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