B1 Level Learner, Conversational English, Listening, Pre-Intermediate Level English, Speaking, Teaching Resource, Writing

Podcast Lesson: Witch Hunts in Past & Present Times

We love our podcasts here at Learning It, Loving It as they’re one of the best ways to train your ears to the sound and shape of the english language as well as other accents which bring lots of problems to students in general.

Today we’re making another lesson based the BBC Why Factor Podcast Series with listening questions, new vocabulary and a short writing exercise that you can post to us in the comments box below


Before we get started, what do you think about the following statement:

“A woman accused of being a witch just shows the other woman’s insecurities”

For more ideas go to 05:40 of podcast below

BBC Podcast: The Why Factor – Witches

Why have so many women in so many different cultures and eras been denounced as witches? BBC Africa’s Sammy Awami visits a village in his home country of Tanzania where, just four months ago, five women were murdered after being accused of witchcraft. Sammy meets a witch doctor who believes he has met a witch and talks to a local politician who is trying to stop the killings. We also hear from Professor Dianne Purkiss, an expert on the European witch hunts of the Early Modern period. And he travels to Glastonbury in the South West of England to meets a modern-day witch, Liz Williams, owner of the Cat and Cauldron witchcraft shop.

Before you listen, here is some vocabulary you might have found a bit tricky


  • Rounding up: to gather / to collect
  • They grabbed her: they took her away with force
  • things that are bound to go wrong: things that usually go wrong
  • A sieve or riddle: is used to separate soil or for separating soil from vegetables
  • Shears: another name for large scissors

Want to Listen to the Audio and See the Questions Simultaneously? Click Here to Learn How

Podcast Questions

  1. Why was Sakuma, one of 5 victims, murdered? (03:20, 05:30)
  2. Why did English witchcraft historians use African anthropology? (03:55)
  3. When did the most witch trials in Europe occur? (04:10)
  4. Why were 90% of those accused of witchcraft women? (04:25)
  5. Why were people worried about witches? (05:25)
  6. Why do people go to witch doctors? (07:40)
  7. What was the Cunning Man? (08:10)
  8. Describe how one of the Cunning Man’s charms might work (08:20)

Podcast Answers

  1. Reasons given and referred to were malice, insecurity and envy.
  2. They did this to gain a better understanding of the European withcraft trials as the issues were so similar
  3. From the years 1450 – 1750
  4. In early modern history witchcraft takes place within the sphere of domestic activities. Items or events usually cursed were women’s housewifery, childrearing and food preparation.
  5. They felt witches were going to take away their ability to provide food for their families or look after their children.
  6. People go to witch doctors when something has gone wrong with their lives.
  7. He or she was the witch doctor of the witch hunt period in Europe.
  8. The Cunning man or woman would place some shears in a riddle or sieve and spin them. When the shears pointed in the direction of a certain person’s house that person would then be accused of causing whatever ill or ailment the Cunning man had been asked to find.

Grammar: Reported Speech

“She said she’d been sent to fetch the sand”

That is an example sentence from the podcast of Reported Speech – when someone says what somebody else said. If you don’t know much about this tense or need to revise it, here is a great video from Seonaid at Perfect-English-Grammar.com


With ‘tell’ we MUST PUT the object (e.g. ‘me’, ‘you’, ‘her’)
“Leo told me (that) he was going to be eating pizza later”
“Leo told that he would be eating pizza later.”

With ‘say’ we CAN’T use the object (e.g. ‘me’, ‘them’, ‘us’)
“Leo said (that) he would be eating pizza later.
“Leo said me that he would be eating pizza later.”

Some grammar exercises with answers on Reported Speech taken from Perfect-English-Grammar.com

Change this direct speech into reported speech:
1. “He works in a bank”
She said ___________________________________________________________

2. “We went out last night”
She told me ________________________________________________________

3. “I’m coming!”
She said ___________________________________________________________

4. “I was waiting for the bus when he arrived”
She told me ________________________________________________________

5. “ I’d never been there before”
She said ___________________________________________________________

6. “I didn’t go to the party”
She told me ________________________________________________________

7. “Lucy’ll come later”
She said ___________________________________________________________

8. “He hasn’t eaten breakfast”
She told me ________________________________________________________

9. “I can help you tomorrow”
She said ___________________________________________________________

10. “You should go to bed early”
She told me ________________________________________________________

11. “I don’t like chocolate”
She told me ________________________________________________________

12. “I won’t see you tomorrow”
She said ___________________________________________________________

13. “She’s living in Paris for a few months”
She said ___________________________________________________________

14. “I visited my parents at the weekend”
She told me ________________________________________________________

15. “She hasn’t eaten sushi before”
She said ___________________________________________________________

16. “I hadn’t travelled by underground before I came to London”
She said ___________________________________________________________

17. “They would help if they could”
She said ___________________________________________________________

18. “I’ll do the washing-up later”
She told me ________________________________________________________

19. “He could read when he was three”
She said ___________________________________________________________

20. “I was sleeping when Julie called”
She said ___________________________________________________________

Reported statements: Answers

1. She said (that) he worked in a bank.
2. She told me (that) they went (had gone) out last night (the night before).
3. She said (that) she was coming.
4. She told me (that) she had been waiting for the bus when he arrived.
5. She said (that) she had never been there before.
6. She told me (that) she didn’t go (hadn’t gone) to the party.
7. She said (that) Lucy would come later.
8. She told me (that) he hadn’t eaten breakfast.
9. She said (that) she could help me tomorrow.
10. She told me (that) I should go to bed early.
11. She told me (that) she didn’t like chocolate.
12. She said (that) she wouldn’t see me tomorrow.
13. She said (that) she was living in Paris for a few months.
14. She told me (that) she visited (had visited) her parents at the weekend.
15. She said (that) she hadn’t eaten sushi before.
16. She said (that) she hadn’t travelled by underground before she came to London.
17. She said (that) they would help if they could.
18. She told me (that) she would do the washing-up later.
19. She said (that) he could read when he was three.
20. She said (that) she had been sleeping when Julie called.

Check out Seonaid’s Full Reported Speech Lesson here!

If you enjoyed this lesson, here’s a direct link to our other podcast one:

Blue Jeans Podcast Lesson

Don’t forget to leave us a quick comment or share your writing answers in the comments box below.

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Featured Image; Villagers in N. Tanzania where people have been accused of being witches by Sammy Awami, BBC.

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