The Ashes of Witches

The Ashes of Witches

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The Ashes of Witches:

It is believed the ashes of witches were emptied into the river to protect the town as their spirits could not cross over the running water.

Shadows of the Past Illustrated Stories

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The river is still, a mirror reflecting the sky.
Not a ripple, not a quiver, not a wave.
The air has a taint of burning, but you would need to be told,
That it was the flesh of the women, cried witches.

A grudge, a disagreement, a fear of the unknown. 
A pointed finger and a whisper behind hands. 
Herbs and remedies and healing.
No sentence or judge, only the verdict of guilty.

An audience, who jeer as the pyre is built higher. 
The accused on the stand, they light the fire.
The ashes, the bones, and teeth. 
All swept together.

Gather the cinders, leave nothing behind. 
Don’t stop. Don’t breathe. Don’t think. 
They’ll come back alive as soon as you blink.
But everyone knows, they can not cross the water.

So pour the remains into the river.
With grey swirls on the surface and clouds of smoke in the air.
Disrupting the calm, but calm they will be.
As the women are sent out to the sea.


Map location of silhouette


During the time of the witch trials, it was believed that a witch could be proved by binding them and throwing them in the nearest body of water to see if they would sink or float. As instruments of the devil the water (a symbol of baptism) would reject them, and they would float to the top.

This logic meant an innocent person would sink and could drown whilst a witch would rise to the surface only to be tried and often executed for witchcraft.

By scattering the ashes of burnt witches in the water, the towns people could be sure their ‘evil’ spirits would not return to haunt and harm them.


Written by: Kirsty McConnell
Illustrations by: Lori Isabella McColl
Audio by: Elisha Bennison
Audio recording and mixing by: Scott Andrew

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