in the house of shepidee
Beyond the pipe crew shelter a man rides slowly steering his tall black charger across a market square in the pale dawn light. His name is Matthew. Matthew Hopkins was a man of doubtful credentials who instigated the infamous witch trials of the 15th century and became the dreaded scourge of the good women of Suffolk. He was born in Manningtree in nearby Essex.
( According to legend Manstree was re named by Ivar Ragnarsson nicknamed the Boneless who lead a great Viking invasion into East Anglia. While surveying the region for an inland attack Ivar had been surprised by the power of a flooding tide on a pitch dark, moon less night. As as he and his comrades drifted on the flood into the Manningtree estuary where the River Stour meets the sea, Ivar saved the day by using a sighting of a tree he glimpsed through the gloom and driving rain high above Manningtree. They managed to escape the storm and find their way back to sea). There after the warriors from the sea called the area Manstree.
Like many tyrants before him and since Matthew Hopkins was a man of no great talent. He was ordinary and ambitious and a vicious misogynist. He tortured and executed women he identified as witches accusing them of consorting with the Devil and his familiars. Hopkins had an assistant Jack Stearne who enjoyed cruelty for it’s own sake. More surprising Hopkins used a woman called Mary ‘Goody’ Phillips whose specialty was finding witch marks on the bodies of those accused.
Where ever he travelled the good folk closed doors and windows to him in the hope that he wouldn’t notice them. All averted his cold gaze that gave the impression he was searching into their very souls with his mean stare. Women were tortured and executed for doing nothing at all. Much magik medicine and good remedies were lost to the community during this time. Women who had always practised a homespun medicine were afraid to put a poultice on a wound or dress a child’s scraged knee in case their nursing was misinterpreted as witchcraft. Even the mid wives were terrified that if any thing should go wrong with the delivery of an infant they might be accused of some diabolical crime against God.
Hopkins carried out his vendetta against the women folk with out any mandate from any one. Neither church nor state supported him and yet he carried out his crimes with out let or hindrance. The king disapproved but took a long time to express any dissatisfaction over the matter of Hopkins and his vile practises
One fine summer afternoon Hopkins decided to take a small glass of ale in a village tavern. He had killed two sisters there only a day before and was resting from his labours. He disliked public houses but the day was long and he was very thirsty. The sun beat down on every one but to Matthew it seemed as if the sun dried his throat but did not warm his heart or lift his spirits. He was morose and deeply troubled. Perhaps he was tiring of his campaign against women. Perhaps he was beginning to be influenced by the burgeoning crowd of dissenters who had begun to criticise him openly. One day his actions would come to be regarded by most decent people as being among the worst recorded crimes against women of England.
Hopkins entered the cool, dark room of The Green Man at noon precisely which was to prove to be the worst mistake of his miserable life. After the heat of the day the cool shade of the small room would have been a welcome respite for any other traveller but Matthew was more chilled to his core than comfortably cool. He felt weary and sad but explained it away as the result of over reaching himself in the service of the Lord.
Elizabeth Clarke was kept without food or sleep for three consecutive nights, and on the forth night of her torture, she weakened and confessed to being a witch, at the same time accusing five other women of witchcraft. Her confession alleged that she kept and nourished five familiars, Holt - a white kitten, Jarmara - a fat spaniel, Sack and Sugar - a black rabbit, Newes - a polecat and Vinegar Tom - a long legged greyhound with a head like an ox, broad eyes and a long tail. According to Hopkins no less than eight people swore they had seen these familiars. In the course of her interrogation the other witches she implicated as accomplices included: Anne West and her daughter Rebecca, Anne Leech, Helen Clarke and Elizabeth Gooding.
The Cognos mainframe reports > The angel Shepidee who guards the Great Guf of Souls watched from a far place. She felt the hurt of the Suffox women and knew the abomination that was Hopkins and his cohorts. She called out to Messala the fallen angel breaking a silence that had consigned the angel Messala to endless isolation in the barren wastes of dead staars. She asked Messala to go the the far side of the milky way. She was sworn to make a correction on earth and offered release from her exile for doing so. Messala had become quite used to her isolated , nomadic wanderings but relished the idea of visiting the blue planet and agreed to carry out the task with out hesitation.
Hopkins took a large swig of beer from the tankard and wiped his lips with his sleeve. He took another and coughed as the cool ale poured over his burning throat. When he looked up from his beer a young woman had entered the tavern and was watching him. He looked her up and down and felt no reluctance at lingering over his looking. Usually his gaze would have been deemed improper and most definitely by him self. Still he gazed and all the time she looked back expressionless. He hadn’t met a woman that wasn’t afraid of him for a long time and this had given him a kind of security and confidence that allowed him to explore every inch of her with his eyes and mind. Comely she was, he thought. Attractive. Dark eyed and probably wilful, he thought. He wondered why she would come to the tavern alone.
When Matthew Hopkins ( Witch Finder General ) left The Green Man he felt weighed down and extremely fatigued. His back and shoulders ached as though he carried the weight of the world. It numbed his legs as he staggered through the village trying not to seem out of sorts to the locals. He feared his enemies might take advantage of him should they become aware of his weakness. Occasionally a small child would point at the stooped man as he struggled to put one step in front of another. “Look momma, a lady on his shoulders”.Only a very few children ever saw the strange sight of the angel Messala sitting astride the neck of Matthew Hopkins and never a grown up. She would remain there until the day he died redeeming herself in the eyes of her Lord and Master and achieving her own release from exile. Then she could spread her wings and travel home, free at last.