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Scottish Witchcraft and Witches

    In Scotland witches were never examined by the inquisition, the Presbyterian Church took this role of persecuting the witches throughout the country. Once a person was charged with being a witch there was virtually no chance of them being acquitted as the courts were in collusion with the church and so were biased against them.

    Usually those who charged with being a witch where from wealthy backgrounds and this may be why they were accused of being witches. Some were for political reasons.

    Among the most notable trials was that of Bessie Dunlop in 1576 for being a member of a coven and another was that of Allison Peirson who was staked in 1588 for the same thing.

    The most celebrated Scottish witch was Isobel Gowdie whose confession provided a detailed insight into th real or imagined activities and delusions of the archetypal witch.

    There were several other outbreaks in Scotland over the next 100 years or so.

    The Aberdeen witchcraft trials were as a result of public alarm. The accused were Janet Wishart, Isobel Cockie, Margaret Ogg, Helen Rogie, Isobel Strachan, Isobel Ritchie and Isobel Ogg were all accused of witchcraft. Each was suppose to have murdered by using magic or taken body parts from a corpse or bewitching mills and livestock or poisoning meat or making waxen images or misleading young men or making magical foods for expectant mothers or raising storms.

    At the end of the proceedings no fewer than 23 women and 1 man were found guilty of witchcraft. They were tied to stakes, strangled by the executioner then burned to ashes. Others committed suicide rather than face the grim reality. The bodies of those that killed themselves were dragged through the streets until they were torn to shreds. Those who were not proven were branded on the cheek and banished.

    The Auldearn witches trial records are not complete but it is assumed that the most of the thirteen witches named by gowdie joined her in the gallows. Others that were also tried were Katherine Sowter and Janet Breadheid.

    The North Berwick witches trial was one of the most notorious as it signalled the beginning of the witchcraft hysteria. The Case started when the deputy bailiff David Seaton became suspicious of the goings on of one of his servants Gilly Duncan. She admiited cooperating fully that she had been present at sabbats and gave a long list of accomplices such as Dr John Fian, Agnes Sampson, Euphemia Maclean and Barbara Napier. Agnes remained steadfast that she was not a witch but under after a long torture admitted to all charges.

    At first the king was reluctant to find them guilty of witchcraft as he believed they were not telling the truth, but later after Agnes whispered to him the exact words that he had said as his wedding vows. As a result of this he was determined to find them guilty. At the conclusion of the trial John Fian, Agnes Sampson and Euphemia MacLean were all burned alive. Barbara Napier pleaded pregnancy and so was let free.

    ThePittenweem witches trial was as a result of a man named Patrick Morton who claimed that he had witchcraft used against him because he had told one Beatrix Laing he was unable to do a job for her. She was suppose to have taken revenge against him with three other accomplices Mrs Lawson, Janet Cornfoot and Isobel Adam. Each of them was subjected to torture to extract a confession out of them. They did confess but when more enlightened authorities intervened they were allowed to pay a fine such as Beatrix Laing did and so in turn did Isobel Adam. Janet Cornfoot escaped and was beaten and tortured to death.

    Eventually Patrick Morton was exposed as a fraud which brought much shame to the authorities and officials.


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