The history of witchcraft is a horrific tapestry of cruelty, hysteria and mass-murder, and not usually thanks to the so-called “witches” themselves, either.
That being said, there are a few bright spots dotted throughout the annals (heheh) of witchy lore, and one specific case can be found in 16th-Century Surrey. Near the village of Frensham on the River Wey lies a small, leafy cavern. Known to the locals as Mother Ludlam’s Cave, it’s named after the eponymous witch who used to dwell within.
Far from the usual image of a mean old hag who eats babies and shags goats or whatever, Mother Ludlam was a benevolent figure who used to lend people anything they wanted, provided they agreed to return it. All you had to do was stand on the boulder outside the cave, yell out what you wanted, and old Mother Ludlam would have it waiting on your doorstep when you got back home.
As long as you returned the item in two days, everything would be mustard. So, you can probably guess where this one’s going.
One day, some berk came along and asked Mother Ludlam if he could borrow her personal cauldron. She was reluctant, of course, as a witch without a cauldron is a bit like me in general – lost, confused and lacking all purpose (maybe I should get a cauldron).
Anyway, with her reputation on the line, Mother Ludlam eventually agreed to lend Berk said cauldron. Surprise, surprise, two days passed and he hadn’t given it back. The enraged Mother Ludlam then flew into Super-Berserker-Mega-Vengeance Mode, and set off to hunt down Berk.
When he heard he had a deranged witch on his tail, Berk grabbed the cauldron and scarpered all the way over to Frensham Church. He stashed the cauldron there, and that’s where it remained. It was used to brew church ale, and the monks got pissed happily ever after.
In a different version of the story, the character of Berk is replaced by none other than the Devil himself. He paid mother Ludlam a visit disguised as a normal man, with the aim of snagging her precious cauldron for… some reason. Unfortunately for the Devil, he turned out to be a bigger berk than Berk himself. Mother Ludlam saw through his dastardly ruse, because the Great Horned Muppet had forgotten to conceal his signature hooves.
Obviously, being a good and virtuous witch, Ludlam told Satan to take a running jump. Which he actually did! He nicked the cauldron and leapt off into the sky, bouncing away like some crazy cackling beach ball. Every time his tell-tale hooves touched the ground, a great hill sprung up in his wake, thus creating the series of sandstone hills near Mother Ludlam’s Cave (which are naturally known as the Devil’s Jumps).
Don’t worry though, there’s a happy ending. To complete his remarkable display of incompetence, the Devil managed to drop the cauldron on the final hill he created. The pursuing Mother Ludlam grabbed it back, presumably with a two-fingered salute and that “weeeeyyyy!” noise knobheads make whenever a bartender drops a glass. Ludlam herself then hid the cauldron in the church, and the monks got pissed happily ever after.
A final twist on the tale gives Mother Ludlam a well-earned rest, swapping her out for the jolly little fairy-folk. This rendering of events sees the return of Berk, who climbed the highest of the Devil’s Jumps because he wanted to, you guessed it, borrow a bloody cauldron. He whispered as much into a hollow rocky opening atop the hill, where fairies were believed to reside. They kindly obliged him, but he once again failed to return the precious, precious cauldron within the allotted time period.
When the extent of Berk’s wanton cauldron-hoggery became all too apparent, the fairies retaliated with a deliciously ironic curse: the cauldron would chase Berk around for the rest of his life, although what it was supposed to do when it caught him is anyone’s guess. Berk didn’t wait around to find out, booking it quick-sharp towards Frensham Church where he believed he’d be safe.
Unfortunately, the cauldron was already there waiting for him. Poor Berk died of fright the moment he laid eyes upon the eldritch pot. The cauldron decided to remain in the church and enjoy a peaceful retirement, and the monks got pissed happily ever after.
Well, there you go then. If you take anything away from today’s strange stories, let it be this: cauldrons are awesome, and nobody parties like old-timey monks.