In England, Chanctonbury Ring is one of the time-honoured meeting places of the Sussex witches. A well-known landmark and local beauty spot, it is a green, rounded height, crowned by a fine clump of trees.
Newcomers often believe these trees to be the ‘ring’ of Chanctonbury. However, they were planted in the eighteenth century ; the real ‘ring’ is
a prehistoric bank and ditch, of which traces can still be found.
Many legends cluster round Chanctonbury. The local people call the spot ‘Mother Goring’ ; and at one time there was a custom of coming
up to the Ring to see the sun rise on the morning of May Day. The Ring is said to be haunted by the apparition of a man on horseback. Ghostly hoofbeats are heard, and then the rider comes galloping past-and vanishes.
The main local legend, however, is the one that connects Chanctonbury with witchcraft. Go to the Ring at midnight, says the story, and run
round it seven times. Then the Devil will appear, and offer you something to eat or drink. “A bowl of soup,” says one version; which sounds
rather prosaic, unless the contents of the witches’ cauldron are intended. But if you accept what the Devil offers, you are his for ever.
It will be seen how this legend, and the custom of seeing the sun rise from the Ring on May morning, both tie up with the Ring’s being used
for the witches’ Sabbats. To see the sun rise on May morning means that you have been out all night on May Eve, the old Walpurgis Night and one of the four Great Sabbats.
In modern days, archaeologists have examined Chanctonbury Ring, and found it to be the site of a Romano-British temple. So the old
sacred place of the pagan gods became the meeting-place of the witches.