Wookey Hole A series of limestone caves near Wells, England, which were carved away over time by the river Axe. In pagan times, the winter death rites of the Goddess may have been celebrated here. Such rites, performed at Samhain (observed October 31), included the sacrifice of oxen in observance of the dying of the earth (see Sabbat). The Goddess was represented by a high priestess. The cave also may have been used to initiate women into a pagan priesthood (see Initiation). In 1912 excavations at the site uncovered the bones of a romano-British woman. Nearby were the bones of a goat and a kid, as well as a comb, dagger and a round stalagmite that resembled a crude crystal ball. According to legend, a bloodthirsty “Witch of Wookey” lived in the cave. In one version, the witch had once been spurned in love and in revenge cast spells on the villagers of Wookey and demanded human sACrIFICe. The terrified villagers appealed to the Abbot of Glastonbury, who dispatched a monk to confront the witch in the depths of the cave. Her evil spells were of no avail against the monk. The witch tried to escape, but the monk succeeded in sprinkling her with holy water, turning her into stone. In another version, the witch directed her mAleFICIA against lovers throughout Somerset. She cast a spell that ruined one couple’s wedding plans. The would-be groom took holy vows and became a monk. He exacted revenge by sprinkling the witch with holy water and turning her to stone. A 20-foot high stalagmite inside the cave is said to be the preserved remains of this witch.
- Bord, Janet, and Colin Bord. Ancient Mysteries of Britain. Manchester, N.H.: Salem House Publishers, 1986.
- Folklore, Myths and Legends of Britain. London: reader’s Digest Assoc. Ltd., 1977.