The Power of Gossip
How many of us have been a victim of gossip and rumour. In the world of social media that can, in many cases, lead to the ruination of a person’s life. All it takes is one word, or picture and in a few clicks, it’s shared not just locally, but nationally and globally. The society we live in makes this a way of life. The reason certain magazines sell is because as members of the public we enjoy seeing celebrities being stripped bare with the use of gossip.
In the 1600’s, the Pendle witches were victims of gossip and inevitably led to many deaths. Whether they were practising witches was by the by. They were a family who lived on the outside of society and their village, which mean they were easy targets. Elizabeth Southerner ( Demdike) and Anne Whittle (Chattox) the most famous. On March 16th 1612, Demdike’s daughter Alizon met a pedlar by the name of John Law and asked to sell her some pins, which he refused. In the moment of rashness, she cursed him for being mean and in unfortunate circumstances he later went on to have a fit. This was the start of the persecution not helped by the fact Alizon begged for forgiveness. But the family was already not seen as conforming to the norm and that admission confirmed all’s suspicions. Rumour and speculation further built on that case. By the end, blood was on the town’s hands.
By the 1640’s in the midst of the English Civil War, paranoia was it it’s height. Brother and turned on brother. Families at war. Against the King. Against the Parliment. No-one knew where they really stood and if it was wrong then death would follow. For Matthew Hopkins, the power of a gossip was utilised to the fullest. One pointed finger. One unusual set of circumstances and those that were not liked or behaved strangely would find themselves in irons facing the Witchfinder General. I, for one, know that if I lived in those times I would be tried as a witch. The reasons are simple. I’m a single unmarried mother. Strike one. Next I have an unusual blue mole on my forearm. My witches mark. Strike two. Off to the noose I go.
So, even though we live in a world where gossip can be damaging, we have to be grateful that we have some protection when it comes to privacy. The ignorance and tolerance is a little better and so such deaths don’t occur within our society. It is also food for thought, the next time you speak something about someone ask yourself. Is it right? Is it true? and is it fair?