Quick Notes: Atlantis Bookshop, Pendle Witches, and Laura Wildman-Hanlon

Jason Pitzl-Waters —  December 9, 2011 — 9 Comments

Just a few quick news notes to start off your Friday.

The Day the Lights Stayed on at Atlantis: London’s oldest occult bookseller, The Atlantis Bookshop, was apparently the only business unaffected when an explosion caused a blackout on their street. Could it be magic?

The Atlantis Bookshop

The Atlantis Bookshop

Geraldine Beskin, whose family has run the shop for the past 50 years, said: “The lights flickered, and in the streets I could see everyone else’s go out. But we were left intact. It must have been magic!” Staff at the street’s boutiques and cafés turned to Atlantis, a Mecca for mysticists worldwide, for candles to keep their shop-fronts lit.

Atlantis Bookshop is (in)famous for being a place that occultist Aleister Crowley would visit regularly, though the paper points out he died in 1947, precluding any role for Britain’s “wickedest man” in the blackout.

Pendle Witches House Discovered? England’s “Pendle witches,” victims of the most famous witch trials in that country’s history, have long fascinated tourists and historians alike; now some are claiming that an excavated 17th century cottage may have been the legendary Malkin Tower, where the witches were rumored to congregate.

Photograph: Lorne Campbell/United Utilities/PA Wire

Photograph: Lorne Campbell/United Utilities/PA Wire

“Some historians have speculated as to whether the cottage could have been the fabled meeting point of the Pendle witches. “This could well be the famous Malkin Tower — which has been a source of speculation and rumour for centuries,” Pendle witches expert Simon Entwistle told Reuters. He said the find, right in the heart of witch country was incredibly rare, and was made just a few months before the 400th anniversary of the infamous Pendle trials.”

Why the speculation on this particular cottage? Because a mummified cat was found in its walls. Author and Pendle Witch expert Mary Sharratt, author of the novel “Daughters of the Witching Hill,” noted to me that a “mummified cat was a common country charm to ward off evil so it doesn’t necessarily follow that cunning folk lived in the cottage, but it’s still an interesting discovery.” As for the Pendle Witches, they remain strange celebrities in England, with a statue of Pendle witch Alice Nutter to be unveiled in 2012.

Meet the (University of Massachusetts) Wiccan: University of Massachusetts paper The Daily Collegian does a paint-by-numbers “meet the Wiccans” piece on Laura Wildman-Hanlon, office manager for the school’s psychology department and author of “What’s Your Wicca IQ?” While a positive article, I’m not kidding when I say this is textbook “meet the Wiccans” material.

Laura Wildman-Hanlon

Laura Wildman-Hanlon

“Laura Wildman-Hanlon, a practicing Wiccan, is not your Hollywood witch. She doesn’t wear a pointed hat or have green skin, and she certainly doesn’t turn men into frogs. This she says, is not at all what real Wicca and witchcraft are about.”

Still, good on The Daily Collegian for spotlighting a local Witch who is stable, successful, and happy. Here’s hoping a few minds are opened in the process.

That’s all I have for now, have a great day!

Jason Pitzl-Waters


  • “Malkin” is an older English colloquialism for cat or elderly woman. And yeah, it was a common practice when a cat died to put it inside a wall, style, ceiling or floor, along with old shoes. It deflects negativity onto the object inside the wall, rather than to the family. I’ve heard tell that sometimes kitty was still alive, but there’s not any proof of that… most of the cat skeletons seem like they were just laying there.

    • Ursyl

      I’m thinking it would be awfully difficult to finish the wall masonry with the cat trying to climb back out.

      Not to mention the hellish noise the poor kitty would be making the whole time.

  • Not only is it a nice piece by the Collegian, but they picked a great spokesman for Wicca. Laura is indeed happy and stable–and wise, generous, and a terrific local Pagan community organizer, as well as HPs of her own coven. But more than that, her past experiences include helping to found Cherry Hill Seminary and serving as Second Officer to the Covenant of the Goddess at the national level.

    All this, and she makes a mean apple pancake. Thanks for the hat tip to a great lady (and a good, good friend–I confess to being totally biased where Laura is concerned).

  • While I am sure it is wonderful PR for Atlantis to claim to be the “oldest occult bookshop in London” that is not true. The oldest is John Watkins Books ( http://www.watkinsbooks.com/)by nearly two and a half decades, founded in 1896. Otherwise, cool story, though! 🙂

  • The Pendle Witch trials seem very fascinating.

  • Barbara Cormack

    I attended UMass-Amherst in the mid-seventies and discovered Wicca right before my senior year there. I was so determined to meet some witches that I put an ad in the Collegian to accomplish this. Amazingly, through this means I actually did meet a Gardnerian witch. How times change!

  • Alice Nutter, remember, is also a major character in Neil Gaiman and Terry Pratchett’s “Good Omens.” 🙂

    • Anonymous

      She was probably only included for her last name, though. After all, how often do you come across someone whose name is, legitimately, “A. Nutter?”

  • Kilmrnock

    I have to give thanks to MS Wildman-Hanlon . We need more like her, who have the bravery and ability to be out of the broom closet. She gives a good appearance for Pagans in general and Wiccans as well. i also give credit to the college newspaper for printing such a good, balanced factual article. Most of the time the media isn’t fair or kind to us , tis quite refreshing when is .Kilm