Jefferies, Anne – Clairvoyance and healing powers emerge
Type of Spiritual Experience
A description of the experience
Neil Rushton - Anne Jefferies’ Story
According to Moses Pitt, Anne only related her experience at a later date, after she seems to have acquired healing abilities. This was after her mistress slipped and broke her leg.
Anne convinced her to allow her to ‘lay her hands on’ the leg over the course of the next few days, thereby healing the fracture without the need to call a surgeon.
Under further interrogation, Anne told her that she had been told about the accident by the faeries, and that she would be able to heal her mistress’s leg through some type of osmotic faerie power. Once this was admitted, Anne spilled the beans about what had happened to her when she had fallen into convulsion in the arbour.
She also confessed that the faeries were now frequently visible to her, but to no-one else, and that it was through them and their otherworldly influence that she found herself with clairvoyant attributes and the ability to go long periods without eating any food, claiming that she did not need to as the faeries supplied her with a special bread that sustained her. Pitt also chronicles her apparent ability to make herself invisible, something which she explained as another gift of the faeries to be used sparingly and without malice.
Word of Anne’s healing and clairvoyant faculties soon spread throughout the county and beyond, bringing a steady stream of visitors to partake of her services, for which she never charged.
Unfortunately, this brought her to the attention of the notorious Cornish magistrate Jan Tregeagle, who issued a warrant for her arrest on the basis that she was consorting with the Devil, and she was duly imprisoned at a residence of the mayor of Bodmin. She avoided being tried as a witch.
Although there were no more than fifteen witch trials in Cornwall through the main period of the ‘witch craze’ in 17th and 18th centuries (a small number compared to some other counties such as Essex and Somerset), only a decade later in the 1650s there was a mass trial of twenty-five alleged witches at the courts of assize in Launceston, six of whom were found guilty and hanged.
Anne was lucky to escape such a fate.
She was, however, deprived of food whilst imprisoned, but her faerie allies once again came to her aid and kept her fed with their thaumaturgic bread.
Interestingly, a 1647 document containing correspondence from the mayor (now held in the Clarendon manuscripts archive) confirms Anne’s presence in the gaol and that she was deprived of food for several months without any apparent detriment to her health. This is another piece of tantalising evidence to suggest the strangeness surrounding Anne’s life.
Anne was released without trial and went to live with a widowed aunt of Moses Pitt near Padstow, later marrying a labourer named William Warren. She continued to cure people throughout her life by the laying-on of hands and became a strict Episcopalian. But whether she continued to consort with the faeries is unknown.
In 1693, in the hope of gleaning some more details about her supernatural visitors, Moses Pitt (living in London) sent a friend, Humphrey Martyn, to interview her, but in a letter from Martyn to Pitt he made it clear that she was not willing to divulge any details of her experience or of her later life:
“As for Anne Jefferies, I have been with her the greater part of one day, and did read to her all that you wrote to me; but she would not own anything of it, as concerning the faeries, neither of any of the cures that she did… I asked her the reason why she would not do it; she replied, that if she should discover it to you, that you would make books and ballads of it; and she said that she would not have her name spread about the country in books and ballads of such things, if she might have five hundred pounds for it.”
The memory of her time incarcerated at the Mayor of Bodmin’s pleasure, and the fear of repeating the experience, would almost certainly have been another reason for her to hold her tongue. Anne Jefferies died in 1698.