In 1874 the Leicester Chronicle became obsessed with the story of Black Annis, a black-clad hermit reputed to "snatch [children]away to her ’bower’ where she scratched them to death with her claws, sucked their blood, and hung their skins out to dry." First reported as fact in 1797 by one John Heyrick, a lieutenant of good standing locally, Black Annis had a "fierce and wild" eye, "vast talons, foul with human flesh," and "livid blue" features. She was also said to wear the skins of her victims around her waist, drawing comparisons to the Hindu goddess Kali.
According to Heyrick, Black Annis’ Bower, a cave with an old oak tree over the entrance, lay in the Dane Hills region of Leicester, surrounded by sweet-smelling, violet flowers. And although nowadays this once densely forested area is built up with houses, Black Annis’ cave is still there—albeit in someone’s backyard.
Tales of the old witch abound: for instance, that daylight would turn her to stone; that she howled and ground her teeth so loudly that people knew she was coming; that she stole lambs as well as naughty children; and that she was slain with an axe at Christmas. It’s hard to believe she was in any way rooted in fact, but various theories exist. The classicist Robert Graves, for instance, thought she may have been Agnes Scott, an anchorite nun who lived in the area during the 1400s. Dressing in her long black habit, she’d probably have fit the bill—although it’s unlikely she preyed on children. Indeed, she was so revered by locals that she was buried at the church in Swithland and given a commemorative brass plaque. Other theories are that Black Annis represented the dark side of the Celtic mother-goddess Anu, or that she may have been a comet and not a being at all: "blue in appearance … with streams or talons of material coming off the fierce and wild cometary eye."
Fantastic Beasts of English Myth and Legend
- Pig-faced Women
- Blue Caps
- Church Grims
- Lubber Fiends
- The Eachy
- piskies (or pixies, of which spriggans are the evil counterparts)
From: Fantastic Beasts of English Myth and Legend - Toptenz.net
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