Unhappy love and the eternal guardian of the Wookey Hole caves (15 photos + 1 video)

16 May 2024

In 1484, Pope Innocent VIII condemned witchcraft and declared all witchcraft practices to be heresy. Over the next three hundred years, more than 200,000 women and men were tortured, hanged or burned alive throughout Western Europe. One place that has been known for centuries for its long association with witches and witchcraft is Britain.

And one of the most notorious was a local witch who lived in the shadows of the Wookey Hole caves near Somerset.

Some believe that she never left there. Does the Wookie Hole Witch still guard the caves today?

The Witch of Wookey Hole

There are several versions of the legend of the Witch of Wookey Hole. But the key details are always the same. Long ago, a witch settled in the caves of Wookey Hole near Somerset after her heart was broken by her lover. In anger and sadness, she placed a curse on the nearby Wookiee village and surrounding area so that all love stories and romances would be doomed to fail.

One day a young man from nearby Glastonbury became engaged to a girl from Wookie. Due to the curse of the Wookie Hole witch, their relationship fell apart and he was devastated. His heart broke. And in order to never experience pain from love, he decided to become a monk.

After years of living under the curse of the Wookiee Hole witch, the people of Wookiee are tired. They turned to the Abbot of Glastonbury asking for help. The abbot appointed a monk (sometimes called Father Bernard) to resolve the situation.

According to legend, this monk was the same young man whose love was destroyed by the Wookie Hole witch many years ago. Dedicated to his work and eager for retribution, the monk entered the caves, but could not see the witch in the darkness.

Suddenly she jumped out of her hiding place and showered the monk with spells and curses. But they had no effect: every spell and curse sent by the witch was blocked by the purity of the soul of the good monk.

They say that he blessed the waters of the River Aix or brought his own holy water, which he sprinkled on the witch. When the holy water touched her skin, the villain instantly turned to stone, shriveled up and died, turning into a boulder. According to legend, her petrified body is still located somewhere in the darkness of the caves.

Wookey Hole Caves today

The Wookey Hole Caves are a chain of limestone caves and a sort of front door where tourists can go on excursions. The River Aix, which has been declared a Site of Special Scientific Interest, flows through the caves.

Besides the legends and interesting natural features, what makes the network attractive is that people have lived in the Wookey Hole Caves for over 45,000 years. Paleolithic, Neolithic and Iron Age tools were found inside, as well as fossilized remains of animals.

Fossils include European badgers, an extinct Pleistocene lion (Eurasian cave lion or glacial lion), and the remains of a Pleistocene cave hyena (Ice Age spotted hyena).

Water from the River Aix is used in the paper production process at the country's oldest paper mill. A variety of cheeses are aged in the caves, including cheddar, Gruyère and Parmesan. This is due to the fact that they maintain a constant temperature of 52℉ (11℃) and a high level of humidity. Dorset-based Ford Farms uses the cave and its aptly named 'Cheese Tunnel' to age their delicious cheddar cheese.

The Real Witch of Wookey Hole

What about the witch? As it turns out, there is some physical evidence to support the legend. In 1912, Herbert E. Balch, an English archaeologist, speleologist and geologist, discovered skeletal remains in the cave system.

Scientists analyzed the bones and concluded that the remains had lain for more than 1,000 years. Along with the bones of the Wookey Hole witch were the bones of a goat, a dagger and a polished stone ball.

The skeleton and other items found with him led many to believe that the Witch of Wookey Hole actually existed. Today the bones can be seen on display at the Wells and Mendip Museum in Wells, Somerset.

The skeletal remains are certainly interesting, but ultimately call into question the legend of the witch. Scientists analyzed the remains found in 1912, and most of them belonged to men between 25 and 35 years old.

One part of the legend that was forgotten after the bones were discovered is how a monk (Father Bernard) turned the Wookie Hole witch to stone.

In fact, the Witch of Wookey Hole can still be found today when visiting the caves. This is a large stalagmite resembling a female silhouette

Is the spirit of a witch wandering in the caves of Wookey Hole? Of course not. But in 2013, a casting was organized for the role of the witch from Wookey Hole. Thousands of potential witches came to the caves to take part in the auditions.

The role of the Witch of Wookey Hole is part of the tourist attraction of the cave show, which is organized in the settlement, with lighting, various exhibitions, classic arcade machines, a kiosk, a cafe and a cinema. Children really like it here.

Still, any legend, even the most implausible, has a benefit - you can make good money from it.

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