Gothic horror writer Jay Raven reveals the surprising discovery he made when he began delving into the world of hexes and spells. So without further ado, let’s give Jay the stage.
When I decided to write To Snare A Witch, a sorcery-themed story set in 17th century England, one thing I knew for sure. Whatever else the narrative contained there’d definitely have to be a terrifying scene with a poor screaming innocent being burnt at the stake, vicious dancing orange flames licking around their writhing body as smoke swirled and piles of faggots crackled and flared at their feet.
Readers would expect it and the event would inject drama, dread and danger while instantly giving the chilling tale a sense of historical accuracy. All I had to do was work out how far into the book to place it.
That was the idea, except when I began to research the execution of those accused of black magic, I learnt that the mental picture literally seared in our collective consciousness was wrong!
In England those accused of witchcraft weren’t burnt to death but hanged. Unlike Europe where practising witchcraft was a religious crime (an offence against God), in England and America it was classified as a civil offence, a crime against the community. That meant it was technically a felony, and the punishment for felonies was the gallows.
Coming across this information gave me a dilemma. Press on regardless with my blazing bonfire scenario and risk the ire of historians or ditch the firelighters and kindling and employ the noose and hangman instead.
It would mean a major rethink and give me the challenge of devising an alternative scene just as frightening and grizzly.
In the end, I reluctantly – and I can’t stress how reluctantly – decided to come down on the side of history rather than Hollywood.
But I haven’t given up on my terror-filled sizzling scenario. I intend to set a future instalment of To Snare A Witch on the continent where burnings were the norm. The only snag there may be the rumour I’ve heard that not everything about all those fiery executions were quite the way you’d imagine.
According to some sources, victims were often strangled first and it was their lifeless corpse that was immolated afterwards. Granted, it was still a horrible way to leave this world, but if it’s true it suggests that those poor souls executed went through less suffering than horror films might have portrayed.
To Snare a Witch is available to buy by clicking the link below:
About To Snare a Witch
No female dares spurn the lecherous advances of Sir Henry Cruttendon, 17th Century England’s most reviled nobleman. To do so risks a retribution that would terrify the Devil himself.
But Elizabeth Fiennes is no ordinary woman, blessed with stunning beauty, intelligence and guile. Coming from an influential family, she believes she is safe.
What she doesn’t understand is that the Earl is determined to satisfy his lust and plans to use the wave of witch trials, fear and superstition sweeping the countryside to force her into his clutches.
And as he springs his malicious trap it triggers a chain of unholy events plunging hunter and prey into a maelstrom of deceit, terror and depravity – leaving them both staring into the face of true evil…
About Jay Raven
Jay Raven is the author of Gothic chillers and historical horror reminding readers that the past is a dangerous place to venture, full of monsters and murderous men.
He blames his fascination with vampires, witches and werewolves on the Hammer Horror films he watched as a teenager, but living in a creepy old house on the edge of a 500-acre wood may have something to do with it.