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Scotland, Social and Domestic

Simultaneously with the invention of printing and the publication of the Scriptures in the vernacular tongues, a new persecution arose throughout Europe. This originated chiefly through the misinterpretation of a passage in the Book of Exodus, in which death is assigned as the punishment of witchcraft. Proceeding on this text, "Thou shalt not sutler a witch to live," many earnest persons instituted a crusade against those whom, credulity had accused of the crime, deeming themselves zealous in the cause of God, proportionately to the determination with which they sought to detect and destroy the supposed emissaries of the devil. To these zealots it did not occur that a class of persons might have existed in the early times of Israelitish history which were represented by no successors, or that the Hebrew word rendered witch in the English versions of the Bible might bear a different interpretation. Whatever construction might have been put on the texts of the Mosaic Law, an examination of New Testament Scripture would have shown that the Saviour of mankind did not destroy the victims of demoniacal possession, but, on the contrary, expelled the demons, and bestowed peace and comfort on those whom they had afflicted. So likewise dealt the Apostles with those who practised sorcery and enchantment.

The cruel butcheries perpetrated under the accusation of witchcraft form one of the most revolting chapters in modern history. The duty of immolating those charged with the supposed crime was undertaken by Catholics and Protestants with equal zeal. Bulls against witchcraft were issued by Pope Innocent VIII. in 1484, Julius II. in 1504, and Adrian VI. in 1523. Provincial councils asserted the existence of sorcery, and anathematised those who resorted to it. Learned churchmen composed works, maintaining that death was the proper punishment of witchcraft, and those laymen who, in their writings, held similar opinions, dedicated them to the ecclesiastical dignitaries.

The Eeformers increased rather than abated the rigour formerly exercised by the Church for the suppression of witchcraft. Luther would have no compassion on those who practised the arts of sorcery. "I would," he said, "burn them all." An outburst of persecution against witches and wizards attended the Preformation in England. Lord Bacon, who fearlessly assailed the philosophy of the schools, remained a firm believer in witchcraft. The pious Sir Matthew Hale pronounced sentence of death against persons accused of sorcery. In charging a jury in 1664, he said, he "did not in the least doubt there are witches, first, because the Scriptures affirmed it, and, secondly, because the wisdom of all nations, particularly of our own, provided laws against witchcraft, which implied their belief of such a crime."

The first public statute in Scotland against witchcraft was passed in June, 1563, by the ninth Parliament of Queen Mary. In this Act it is ordained, "that na maner of person nor persons of quhat-sum-ever estaite, degree, or condition they be of, take upon hand in onie times hereafter, to use onie maner of witchcraft, sorcerie, or necromancie, under the paine of death, alsweil to be execute against the user, abuser, as the seiker of the response or consultation." On his assuming the government, James VI. indicated his concern for religion by instituting special commissions for the trial and condemnation of witches. On one occasion he prosecuted the members of an assize for permitting a witch, arraigned before them, to escape. He sought to instruct his subjects in the nature of the crime, by publishing his "Dialogue of Daemonologie," a work which he regarded as the most valuable of all his publications. On his ascending the English throne, he caused an Act to be passed by the English Parliament, appointing death as the punishment of sorcery.

The Scottish Reformers were indefatigable in seeking the extirpation of witchcraft. Knox denounced from the pulpit persons accused of the offence, and gave personal attendance at witch-burnings. Presbyteries and Kirk-sessions procured commissions from the Privy Council, for the trial of those charged with the crime. Ministers exhorted their parishioners to lodge information against the suspected, and procured materials from the church funds, wherewith to burn the condemned. Sir George Mackenzie, Lord Advocate, who died in 1692, has, in his work on Criminal Law, described witchcraft as the greatest of crimes. He adds that "the lawyers of Scotland cannot doubt there are witches, since the law ordains them to be punished."

Witches were believed to have sold themselves, soul and body, to the Devil. They consented, under a diabolic covenant, to become his servants for ever. In presence of the great enemy, and kneeling before him, with one hand on their heads and the other under their feet, they were supposed to have dedicated all between to the Destroyer. No witch was supposed to be capable of reformation. Self-dedicated to Satan, she was his slave here and hereafter. No Romish priest ever ventured to shrive a witch ; with one who used incantations, no reformed pastor durst attempt to pray. Catholic priests and Protestant clergymen stood on the same platform as respected the punishment of sorcery. Rich and poor united against the votaries of enchantment, as against a common enemy. The supposed witch was persecuted without pity, condemned without mercy, tortured without compunction, and burned amidst shouts of execration.

On receiving her vow of perpetual fealty, the Devil handed the witch a piece of money, and put his mark upon her. The precise nature of this mark was a subject of discussion among those who prosecuted demono-logical inquiries. Sir George Mackenzie, the Lord Advocate, has described the mark as a discoloured spot, caused by a nip or pinch, and resembling a former's buist, or mark on his flock of sheep. Mr. John Bell, minister of Gladsmuir, writing in 1705, remarks:—

"The witches' mark is sometimes like a blew spot, or a little tet, or red spots like flea-biting; sometimes also the flesh is sunk in and hollow, a.nd this is put in secret places, as among the hair of the head or eyebrows, within the lips, under the armpits, &c." In his "Secret Commonwealth," Mr. John Kirk, minister of Aberfoyle, describes the mark "as a small mole, horny and brown-coloured, through which mark when a large brass pin was thrust till it was bowed (bent), the witches, both men and women, neither felt a painjior did it bleed."

For the discovery of the witch-mark, which was the first process towards conviction, the authorities had recourse to "the pricker," or "witch-finder." Men who prosecuted this vocation were to be found in every district and their occupation, cruel and revolting as it was, did not exclude them from respectable rank, and even civic honours were awarded them. Among the members of this fraternity were John Kincaid and^ George Cathie, two noted "prickers." The latter resided near Glasgow ; he was considered by the Church courts of the west an expert at his profession, and he continued to retain their confidence, even after he had condemned as witches twelve parishionersof Crawford-Douglas, who were proved on their trial to have been charged'by a lunatic." John Kincaid resided in his villa "at Tranent, East Lothian; his hands were constantly]full of work. He was constituted "common pricker "^to the Court of Justiciary, and his circuit of employment among ecclesiastical and commission courts extended fronTthe^county of Aberdeen to the English border. His fees of service increased as the reputation of his skill made progress. From the Kirk-session of Stow, Mid-Lothian, he received six pounds Scots for "the brodding of Margaret" Denham in 1649;" but the Town Council of Forfar paid him much more liberally for similar services in 1661, besides voting him a burgess ticket"! So proficient was Kincaid in his nefarious art, that he never failed to discover the Dovil's mark; hence all he pricked were sure to perish at the stake. He ventured at length to prosecute his vocation on his own account, by seizing those he personally suspected, and subjecting them to his tortures; but this display of zeal was checked, the Justiciary Court subjecting him to imprisonment. After experiencing nine weeks' detention in the Edinburgh Tol-booth, he was liberated by the Privy Council, under the promise that he would prick no more without judicial warrant.

In discharging his revolting office, Kincaid proceeded after the most barbarous fashion. Having stripped his victims, and bound them with cords, he thrust his needles everywhere into their bodies. Screams, entreaties, protestations of innocence he heard unmoved. When his victim fell into a swoon, he relented only till sensation was reproduced on the application of restoratives. When, exhausted by an agony too great for utterance, his victim remained silent, Kincaid proclaimed that he had found the mark! Every witch-pricker exercised his craft with similar brutality. One of the brotherhood, who was hanged, declared on the gibbet that he had illegally caused the death of one hundred and twenty females, whom he had been appointed to test for witchcraft.

The swimming test was somewhat less common. There were witch-pools in different localities. Into these suspected persons were thrown, having previously been wrapped up in a sheet, with the thumbs and great toes fastened together. If the body floated, the water used in baptism was held to reject the accused, who was consequently declared to be guilty. Those who sank were pronounced innocent, but were allowed to perish in the water. A portion of the bay at St. Andrews still bears the name of the Witch Pool. There is also a spot bearing this designation at Kirriemuir, in the county of Forfar.

When the witch-pricker reported that he had detected the Devil's mark in the body of the accused, it was held essential that the victim should be watched. For this proceeding the ostensible reason was that further converse with Satan might be averted; but a stronger motive was to induce confession, since the entire prevention of sleep induced a delirium, of which the incoherent utterances were accepted as an acknowledgment of guilt.

The watchers of persons committed to trial on the charge of witchcraft earned the recompense of cruelty by undertaking to keep the accused constantly awake. They conducted their vigils for twelve, and even twenty-four hours at a time, and inattention to duty was regarded as a highly punishable offence. The following decree on the subject of a witch-vigil was issued by the Kirk-session of Dunfermline:—

"March 16th, 1643. The Sessioun ordainis the watchers to begin at sex houris at evin and to byd and to continue all that ny* and the day following till 6 at evin again e, qlk is the space of 24 houris. And whosoever failles herein for ilk 24 houris the failler shall pey 24s."

When confession was deemed essential, extraordinary means were resorted to. The victim was fastened to the wall of her dungeon by iron hoops, which passed round her person and enclosed her limbs. About thirty stone weight of hoops and chains would be heaped upon the limbs of an old woman already enfeebled by the needles of the witch-pricker. Several instruments of torture were applied in succession, until "a confession" was elicited. A party of magistrates or ministers entered the cell after the application of each new torture, in order duly to record the depositions of the distracted sufferer.

The principal instruments of torture were the following:—The pilnieivinks resembled the thumb-screw, used by the Privy Council in State trials. The fingers of each hand were thrust together by means of an iron screw, till the blood was forced from the finger-points. The turcas (torquois) were a species of pincers for wrenching off the finger-nails. Needles were thereafter thrust into the lacerated wounds. The caspieclaws were used in crushing and bruising the feet and toes. There was a timber frame for bruising the legs from the foot to the knee-joint. When the limbs of the victim were secured in it by powerful screws, the operator struck the frame with a heavy hammer, so as to bruise both flesh and bones. This frightful appliance was known as the boot. In certain districts the fingers of suspected sorcerers were made fast in the holes of harrows, wedges being driven in so as to lacerate the flesh and break the joints. The fire-tongs were applied as an instrument of torture. The points, having been made hot, were extended between the shoulders, and applied to each arm till the flesh was burned to the bones. When confession did not follow, the tongs, heated a second time, were made to grasp the body under the arm-pits. The witch-bridle was the last instrument of torture; its application was reserved till all other modes of inflicting pain had been exhausted. The bridle was made to enclose the victim's head; a bit was thrust into the mouth with four iron points, or prongs, two being directed to the tongue and palate, and two pointing outwards, and made to pierce each cheek. The bridle was secured by a padlock to the back of the neck, and by a ring and staple was attached to the wall. In localities where a witch bridle was not kept, the heads of persons charged with witchcraft were wrenched with ropes and cords, while needles were thrust into the tongue and palate.

When the instruments of torture applied to the person of the accused failed to elicit a. confession of guilt, other atrocities were resorted to. Their parents and children were brought into their cells, and subjected to torture in their presence. Many accused persons died from the effects of their tortures. Their bodies were dragged by horses from their cells to the place of execution, and there burnt. The Kirk-session of Dunfermline ordered the remains of those who "died mise-rablie in ward " to be "taken to the witch-knowe, and castin into ane hole, without ane kist and yerdit."

The mode of executing witches was alike cruel and revolting. The victims were led to the stake amidst the hootings of an ignorant and exasperated rabble. The clergy, who were present, spoke no words of consolation to those who were about to die; they were content to witness the burning pile at which they believed the Devil received into his eternal prison those who had sold themselves to his service. The executioner was rough in his handling of those who, as he was assured by his spiritual teachers, were destined to the pit. The cries and ejaculations of the victims were drowned amidst the execrations of the bystanders. Raised aloft over a heap of wood and coals, the victims were bound with ropes to stakes, and then surrounded with faggots. The contents of one or more tar barrels were strewn upon the holocaust. The executioner now tightened ropes about the victims' necks; he applied fire, and in an hour there was only a heap of ashes.

In most parishes the resident landowners, and in burghs the town councils, co-operated with Kirk-sessions in defraying the costs of witch-burnings. The Kirk-session of Kirkcaldy, about 1650, paid the third part of £50 Scots, as the expense incurred in burning two witches. The sum of £4 10s. 8d. was expended in coals, and the executioner received the fee of £8 14s. The following record of the expenses of the burning of two witches is contained in the treasurer's book of the town of Dumfries :—

"27th May, 1657.—For 38 loads of peitts to bum the two women, £3 12s. [Scots]. Mair, given to William Edgar for ane tar barrell, 12s.; for ane herring barrell, 14s. Given to John Shotrick, for carrying the twa barrells to the pledge [house], 6s. Mair, given to the four officers that day that the witches was brunt, at the provost and bayillis command, 24s. Given to Thomas Anderson, for the two stoupes and two steaves, 30s."

At Aberdeen, witch-burning was, during the seventeenth century, lamentably common. According to the records of the Dean of Guild Court, great expense was incurred for "loads of peattis, tar-barrelis," and other combustibles.

Witches were accused of a great variety of offences. They stopped mills. In the form of boulders, they interrupted the progress of the plough-share. They raised storms, and upset fishing-boats. They entered their neighbour's houses by the key-holes, and concealed or destroyed their goods. They rode through the air on broomsticks, shod with dead men's bones. They transported the unwary to desert places, or soused them in rivers. They stole children from their graves, and extracted from their bodies an ointment for the practice of enchantment. They promoted the sweating-sickness. Constructing by Satanic arts a waxen image representing their victim, they exposed it to a slow fire, and thrust pins into it. By such means their victim was supposed to become attenuated, and at length to perish from exhaustion. They cast glamour, or an evil eye, on the inferior animals, depriving them of strength or life. When a dog or cat became emaciated, or refused to eat, the creature was supposed to suffer from the influence of witchcraft. Cattle which did not prosper on their pastures, and milch cows which did not yield an abundance of milk, were supposed to be under the power of sorcery. Through the influence of enchantment the witch was supposed to present to the eye that which was unreal, and to change surrounding objects into aspects which they never wore. The aged or experienced witch—

"had much of glamour might;
Could make a lady seem a knight;
The cobwebs on a dungeon wall,
Seem tapestry in lordly hall;
A nutshell seem a gilded barge;
A shieling seem a palace large;
And youth seem age, and age seem youth;
All was delusion, nought was truth."

To those who acknowledged their arts, and styled them "good neighbours," the weird sisterhood were believed to perform offices of kindness. They cured diseases by incantation. The following charm was of supposed efficacy in cases of fever:—

"I forbid the quaking fevers, the sea fevers, the land fevers,
And all the fevers that ever God ordeinis,
Out of the head, out of the heart, out of the back,
Out of the sides, out of the knees, out of the thies,
Frae the points of the fingers to the nebs of the taes,
Out sail the fevers go, some to the hill, some to the hope,
Some to the stone, some to the stock.

In St. Peter's name, St. Paul's name, and all the saints of heaven, In the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghaist."

Witches were supposed to hold orgies with the Devil each Saturday, which was styled the witches' Sabbath. The places of rendezvous were dismal solitudes, or the ruins of ancient churches. To these "covens," or gatherings, the foul sisterhood were borne through the air on broomsticks. Each weird sister could mount into the atmosphere when she had anointed herself with the ointment of enchantment. Satan waited the arrival of the weird sisters; or if he was absent when they met, he could be invoked by beating the ground with "ane fir stick," and calling out, "Rise up, foul thief!" He assumed a variety of forms, both pleasing and terrible. To some he seemed as "a pretty boy, clothed in green;" others saw him as "a tall man, draped in white"; others beheld him as "a meikle black, rough man, mounted on ane black horse." When he appeared in human shape, he wore boots, which were split open at the toes to accommodate his hoofs! But he frequently appeared in the likeness of the inferior animals; he preferred the forms of the dog, the goat, and the raven. As a brute he was always black, He commenced the weekly orgies by preaching "ane mock sermone." His pulpit was surrounded with black candles, and he wore "ane black gown." His discourse was replete with encouragements to evil and injunctions to devilry. As every witch had renounced her baptism, Satan rebaptized them "with ane waff of his hand, like a dewing." The devil-baptized did homage by kissing the grim countenance of her adopted lord.

A court was held : Satan exchanged the pulpit for the judgment-seat. Every witch was questioned as to her acts of service. The indolent were scourged with their own broomsticks. The industrious were rewarded with money, or with portions of dead men's bones, ready forthe purposes of enchantment. A concert and dance followed. The Devil led the music; he played on the cittern or bagpipe. The witches danced, screeching Satanic praises. In his description of the witches' gathering at Alloway Kirk, the poet Burns has portrayed this portion of the Satanic ceremonial: —

"Glimmering through the groaning trees,
Kirk Alloway seemed in a bleeze,
Thro' ilka bore the beams were glancing,
And loud resounded mirth and dancing.

* * * * *

And wow ! Tarn saw an unco' sight!
Warlocks and witches in a dance;
Nae cotillon brent new frae France,
But hornpipes, jigs, strathspeys, and reels,
Put life and mettle in their heels.
A winnock-bunker in the east,
There sat auld Nick in shape o' beast.
A towzie tyke, black, grim, and large,
To gie them music was his charge.
He screwed the pipes, and gart them skirl,
Till roof and rafters a' did dirl;
Coffins stood round like open presses,
That shawed the dead in their last dresses,
And by some devilish cantrip slight,
Each in its cauld hand held a light,
By which heroic Tarn was able
To note upon the holy table,
A murderer's banes in gibbet aims;
Twa span-lang, wee, unchristened bairns;
A thief, new-cutted frae a rape,
Wi' his last gasp his gab did gape;
Five tomahawks in bluid red-rusted;
Five scimitars wi' murder crusted;
A garter which a babe had strangled;
A knife a father's throat had mangled,
Whom his ain son o' life bereft,
The grey hair yet stack to the heft;
"Wi' mair o' horrible an' awfu',
"Which even to name wad be unlawfu'."

The reception by the sisterhood, from their Satanic master, of the powder of incantation, prepared from mouldering corpses, concluded the weekly orgies. When all was over, each witch mounted her broomstick, and returned to her place, to obey the Devil and curse mankind.

Annual gatherings were held at Candlemas, Beltein, and Hallow-eve. On these occasions the witches of all countries were supposed to assemble. When Scottish witches were summoned to meet the Norwegian sisterhood, they crossed the sea in barges of egg-shells. Aerial journeys were performed on goblin horses, reined by enchanted bridles. A witch in Nithsdale possessed a bridle, which enabled her to transform her man-servant into a goblin horse. When she purposed to attend a witch assembly, she shook the bridle over the unsuspecting peasant, who instantly received her on his back, and darted, with the speed of lightning, over woods and wilds.

The witches of Galloway and Nithsdale held conference on Locharbridge-hill. Their gathering song proceeded thus:—

"When the grey howlet lias three times hooed;
When the grimy cat has three times mewed;
When the tod has yowled three times in the wud,
At the red moon cowering ahin' the clud;
When the stars hae cruppen deep i' the drift,
Lest cantrips had pyked them out o' the lift;
Up horses a', but mair adowe!
Eyde, ryde for Lochar-brigg-knowe!"

The legend of Macbeth and the weird sisters forms one of the earliest allusions to the practice of soothsaying in Scotland. According to HoUinshed, Macbeth and Banquho were journeying towards Forres, when, in a solitary muir, three women accosted them. The foremost exclaimed, 'All hail, Macbeth, Thane of Glammis;' Macbeth, Thane of Cawdor,' shouted the second;' 'Macbeth, King of Scotland! cried the third. 'And is there no weird for me,' inquired Banquho. 'For you,' exclaimed the wise women, 'are reserved higher honours; Macbeth shall die unhappily, without a successor in his house, but Banquho's descendants shall govern Scotland by a perpetual descent.'"

A woman, who pretended to the art of divination, predicted the future of King Robert the Bruce. Michael Scott, a Scottish philosopher of the thirteenth century, was of repute as a magician and soothsayer. Members of certain noble families were styled warlocks and witches, in compliment to their learning and sagacity. Shrewd persons among the peasantry made their living by soothsaying. At length the Church became alarmed at the prevalence of a pretension to supernatural powers. In 1479, according to Buchanan, 'Ree Cromeks' "Remains of Nithsdale and Galloway Song." twelve women were burned, on the charge of having conspired with the Earl of Mar to destroy James III. by incantation. That unfortunate monarch was himself addicted to the magical arts. Lady Glammis, unrighteously condemned and inhumanly executed, during the reign of James V., has been popularly regarded as one who practised sorcery. This is an error; she was not accused of any magical art.

Though the Romish Church had denounced sorcery as worthy of death, we have failed to discover any systematic course of persecution enacted against witchcraft prior to the Reformation. Subsequent to this event, the civil authorities of the kingdom seem to have concluded that witchcraft was not felony, for, at an assize held at Edinburgh, on the 26th June, 1563, Agnes Mullikin, alias Betty Boswell, from Dunfermline, was, on being convicted as a witch, sentenced only to exile. Before the close of the same month, a new enactment relating to sorcery was ratified by the Estates. The legislature now provided, at the instance of the reformed clergy, that persons convicted of witchcraft should be punished with death. The clergy were moved by considerations relating to themselves personally, for the adherents of Romanism had charged them with propagating their doctrines by sorcery, and through the agency of the Devil. John Knox, the Catholics averred, held converse with "the foul fiend," in the Cathedral churchyard at St. Andrews. Gideon Penman, minister at Crichton, they styled the Devil's chaplain or clerical assistant at the witches' orgies; Edward Thomson, minister at Anstruther, was denounced as a wizard. In order to eradicate the calumnies which might prejudice the unlettered against the Protestant faith, the Presbyterian clergy resolved to evince their determined hostility to sorcery. By burning witches they resolved to prove that their enemies accused them falsely, in associating their doctrines and practices with the unhallowed arts.

Knox led the crusade against witchcraft. He denounced witches in his public discourses. Some of the clergy became witch-prickers. They brought suspected persons before their Kirk-sessions, reported cases to the Privy Council, negotiated the trial of the accused, and provided coal and faggots for burning them.

For many years subsequent to the Reformation, the High Court of Justiciary was chiefly occupied in making trial of persons arraigned for sorcery. To Mr. Pitcairn's "Criminal Trials" we are indebted for many of the following details:—

On the 8th November, 1576, Elizabeth Dunlop, wife of a labourer, in the barony of Dairy, Ayrshire, was arraigned before the High Court, on a charge of witchcraft. She had no personal intercourse with the Evil One, but had received her skill through "ane Thorn Keid, quha deid at Pinkie." Thorn had, she acknowledged, instructed her in the preparation of medicines for the cure of different complaints, and had enabled her to discover stolen goods and those who had plundered them. He had informed her that some sick persons would recover. He had introduced her to "aught women and four men," who invited her to accompany them to Fairyland, and "had promeist hir bayth geir, horsis, and ky, and vthir graith, gif scho wald denyne her Christindome and the faith scho tuke at the funt-stane." Elizabeth refused the offer of the fairies, and said she would "sooner be revin at horis-taillis" than renounce her baptism. She admitted her attachment to "the auld ffayth." She was "fylit," that is, found guilty, condemned, and "brynt." The case of Alisoun Peirsoun was actively promoted by the Presbyterian clergy. The accused had, for sixteen years, practised the art of healing at Boarhills, near St. Andrews ; and latterly she had extended her practice to that archiepiscopal city. Archbishop Adamson had consulted her and followed her prescriptions. She did not use charms or incantations, but "herbis" and "sawis" and a simple regimen. Her knowledge of medicine she had obtained from William Sympsonne, a relative, son of the King's smith at Stirling, and physician in Edinburgh. But Alisoun, probably with a view to surprise the court, or deter the severity of her persecutors, owned that she "had many glide friendis" at the fairy court. It was enough. She was tried at Edinburgh on the 28th May, 1588, and the words " convicta et coinbusta," inscribed on the margin of the Justiciary record, sufficiently indicate her fate. Some months before her trial, the Presbytery of St. Andrews had resolved to deprive her patron, Archbishop Adam-son, of his ministerial office, and about the period when his humble protege was condemned to the stake, the General Assembly pronounced upon himself the sentence of excommunication.

In July, 1590, the High Court of Justiciary was occupied with the case of Katherine Ross, Lady Foulis, who was charged with preparing poison and using sorcery for the destruction of her step-son and her brother's wife. Lady Foulis was acquitted by a friendly jury, but of her guilt, in the attempt to administer poison to her relatives, there seems no reasonable doubt. She seems likewise to have caused figures of her intended victims to be prepared both in clay and butter, in the belief that, by pelting these with "elf arrow heides," she could encompass the death of the living originals.

Janet Grant and Janet Clark were, on the 17th August, 1590, condemned by the High Court to "be wirreit at staiks, and their bodies to be burnt in assis," for the "distructioune of saxteene heid of nolt," "the rasing of the Deuill," and the "slauchter of Johnne Pautounis wyffe be witchcraft." The evidence on which the jury convicted them has not been preserved. On the day following, the court considered the case of Bessie Roy. Her indictment proceeded :—

"Thou are indytit and esteemit for ane notoriouse and commowne wiche in the cuntrie, and can do all thingis, has done all mischiefis that deuilrie or wichcraft can devyse, in abstracting of menis lyffis, wemennes milk, bestis milk, and bewitching of bestis als weill as menne." Bessie was particularly charged with having practised an act of sorcery "tuel yeiris syne or thairby." She "maid ane compas in the eird, and ane hoill in the middis thairof"; from this hole she drew forth by her "conjurationnes" three worms, and on seeing the reptiles, predicted "that the guidman (her master) sould leve," that a child with which her mistress was pregnant "sould leve!' and that "the guidwife sould dee quhilk com to pas." The jury were not satisfied of Bessie's guilt, and assoilzied her.

Future acquittals were rare. Juries that permitted witches to escape were subjected to criminal proceedings on the charge of "wilful errour," and were liable to be deprived both of their substance and personal liberty. At the trial of twelve jurors for acquitting an alleged witch, in June, 1591, James VI. took his place on the bench. On humbling themselves before him, and acknowledging "ignorant errour," the monarch was pleased to remit their offence and grant a free pardon. The cause why James was so resolutely bent on the suppression of sorcery has been traced to an event which forms an interesting chapter in the history of his reign. During his absence in Denmark, when celebrating his nuptials with his future queen, he entrusted the management of public affairs to Francis, Earl of Bothwell. This nobleman was subsequently accused of compassing the overthrow of the royal authority, and of seeking, by the arts of witchcraft, to raise a tempest to destroy the squadron which bore James and his queen to the Scottish shores. The strange history is subjoined.

David Seaton, "deputie bailiffe" of Tranent, had a servant girl named " Geillis Duncane," who of a sudden began to absent herself during night, and to lay claim to the gift of healing. Seaton suspected she did not perform her cures " by naturall and lawfull waies," and as she would not reveal her method, he proceeded to effect confession by torture. He tormented her with the "pillniewinkes," also by "binding or wrenching her head with a roape." As she still refused to divulge her secret, her person was examined, when the Devil's mark was found "in the fore part of her throate." Geillis was now brought to make an ample confession. She acknowledged a compact with the Devil, and accused several persons of both sexes as sharers of her guilt. Of the men accused by her the most conspicuous was Dr. John Cunningham, schoolmaster of Prestonpans. Among the females were Mrs. Barbara Napier, wife of. Archibald Douglas, brother to the laird of Carschoggill, and Mrs. Euphan McCalzane, daughter and heiress of the late Lord Cliftonhall, a senator of the College of Justice, and wife of Patrick Moscrop, advocate. But the most expert and culpable of the entire group was, according to the girl's confession, one Agnes Simpson, midwife at Keith, near Haddington,—a woman who had hitherto been respected for her honesty, and intelligence. The whole of the accused were immediately seized and imprisoned at Edinburgh.

James had now returned from the Continent, and being informed that Geillis Duncane had spoken of a conspiracy against his life by means of satanic arts, and being, as he asserted, well skilled in demon ology, he resolved personally to examine the accused. Agnes Simpson, being the oldest of the prisoners, was brought before him at Holyrood. She protested her innocence, and maintained that she had nothing to divulge concerning arts which she had not practised, and of which she was ignorant. The king commanded that she should be examined for the Devil's mark, and that her head "be thrawn with a rope, according to the custom of the countrie." The executioner performed his work, and, after enduring excruciating agony, the prisoner expressed her willingness to make a confession. Again she was conducted into the royal presence. She declared that she belonged to a company of two hundred witches who sailed in sieves and riddles along the coast to meet the Devil in the kirk of North Berwick. The Devil had entrusted her with the task of accomplishing the king's death. "She took a blacke toade and did hang the same up by the heeles three daies, and collected and gathered the venom as it dropped and fell from it in ane oister shell, and kept the same venom close covuered untill she should obtaine anie parte or peece of foule linnen cloth that had appertained to the Kinges Majes-tie, as shirt, handkercher, napkin or any other thing, which she practised to obtaine by meanes of ane John Kees, an attendant in his Majestie's chamber." When the King was in Denmark "she tooke a cat and christened it, and afterwards bounde to each part of that cat the cheefest part of a dead man, and several jointis of his bodie." The creature, thus accoutred, was conveyed "into the middst of the sea " by the entire company of witches. The event was followed by the wreck of .a vessel, crossing between Burntisland and Leith, which contained "sundrie jewelles and rich giftes," intended for the Queen, on Her Majesty's arrival. James, who had not heard of the disaster, began to suspect the confessor, and accused her of telling lies. "Lies!" said Mrs. Simpson, "did not your Majesty's ship experience the contrary wind more than the other vessels of the fleet?" The King admitted that she was right. "That was the cat," said Mrs. Simpson. Agnes now took hold of the monarch by the sleeve and led him aside; he reported that she had told him "the verie wordis" that passed between him and the Queen the first evening of their marriage.

James frequently sent for Mrs. Simpson and the girl, Geillis Duncane. The latter entertained him by performing the dances which she alleged took place in North Berwick church, at the weekly witch gatherings. She also sang, greatly to his delight, such snatches of song as the following, which always accompanied the witch-dance:—

"Commer gae ye before, commer gae ye,
Gif ye will not gae before, commer let me."

Mrs. Simpson persuaded herself that, by practising on the royal credulity, she would save her life. The king's faith, she said, had enabled him to triumph over Satan's arts. She assured his Majesty that the Devil had informed her that he had no enemy in the world so powerful as King James. She related to the weak Prince the charms which she used in healing, and was particular in showing that her cures were effected in God's name, not in that of the Devil. She used charms like these:—

"All kindis of illis that ewir may, in Crystes name I coniure ye;
I coniure ye, baith mair an J les, with all the vertewis of the mass,
And rycht sa, be the naillis sa that naillit Jesus, and na ma,
And rycht sa, be the samin blude that reikit oure the ruithful revid,
Fvrth of the flesch and of the bane, and in the eird and in the stane,
I coniure ye in Godis name."

In serious ailments Mrs. Simpson said that she repeated, as a charm, the following monkish version of the Apostles' Creed:—

"I trow in Almychtie God that wrocht
Baith heavin and erth, and all of nocht,
In to his deare Sone, Chryste Jesu,
In that anaplie Lord. I trow
"Was gottin of the Haly Gaist,
Borne of the Virgin Marie,
Steppit to heavin that all weill thane,
And sittis att his Fader's rycht han'.
He baid ws cum. and thair to deine,
Bayth quick and dead as his thoclit convene.
I trow als in the Haly Gaist. In Haly Kirk
  my trust is maist,
That halyschip quhair hallowaris winnes
To ask forgeveness of my sinnes,
And syne to ryis in flesch and bane,
The lyffe that newir mair hes gane.
Thow sayis, Lord, lovit mocht ye be,
That form'd and maid mankynd of me;
Thow coft me on the haly croce,
And lent me body, saull, and voce,
And ordanit me to heavinnis bliss,
Quhairfor I thank ye Lord for this;
And all your hallowaris lovit be
To pray to theme to pray to me,
And keep me fra the fellon fae,
And fra the syn the saull wuld slay.
Thow, Lord, for thy lyten passioun in
To keep me frome syn and warldlie schame
And endles damnation.
Grant me the joy newir wilbe gane,
Sweet Jesus Cristus. Amen."

Witches were believed not to pray, but Mrs. Simpson declared that she prayed on every fitting opportunity. The statement did not avail her. When weary of her revelations, the King committed her for trial, and the Justiciary Court and its jury satisfied the monarch by her conviction. She was sentenced "to be tane to the Castell of Edinburgh, and there bund to ane staik and wirreit, quhill she be deid; and thereafter hir body to be br'int in asis."

Dr. John Cunningham, another of the accused, was a man of reputed scholarship; he seems, in addition to his scholastic duties, to have practised medicine. As he asserted his innocence of sorcery, he was subjected to torture. His finger nails were torn off, and needles thrust into the wounds. His fingers were shattered in the pilniewinkes, and his limbs crushed in the boot. Pins were forced into his tongue, cheeks, and palate, and his head was wrenched with cords. He yielded at length, to avoid further torture. He related the usual story about the weekly orgies, and admitted all that was desired, concerning the raising of a tempest to destroy the royal squadron in the passage from Denmark. The King and the Privy Council rejoiced that so obstinate a warlock had at length succumbed, and hastened an assize. Cunningham now regretted that, to avoid tortures, he had uttered fiction, and utterly denied the truth of all that he had spoken. The boot was again applied to his limbs, which were crushed till "the bluid and marrow spouted forth." But Cunningham would "confess" to no more. "He was put into a cart, and being first strangled, he was immediately put into a great fire, being readie provided for that purpose, and there burned on the Castle Hill of Edinburgh."

The jury acquitted Mrs. Barbara Napier, who were, on this account, subjected to trial for " wilful errour." Mrs. M'Calzane, of Cliftonhall, another of those whom Geillis Duncane had accused, was found guilty of attempting to destroy many persons by incantation, including the King and her husband. She was likewise convicted for raising the tempest which disturbed the King's ship, and of having, for diabolical ends, prepared a waxen image of his Majesty. The sentence was the most cruel which the High Court had pronounced. It was adj udged that she should not be "wirreit," or strangled, before combustion, but that she should be burned alive. The horrible sentence was carried out, and the estate of Cliftonhall, forfeited to his Majesty's use, was bestowed on Sir James Sandilands, a royal favourite.

Geillis Duncane, who had, in the hope of escaping with her own life, so infamously arraigned others, was condemned and burned. The Earl of Bothwell, whom the King desired, by the testimony of these alleged witches, to convict of high treason, effected his escape from the castle of Edinburgh, and was attainted.

On the 12th of November, 1597, Janet Stewart, in the Canongate, and three other women, were tried by the Justiciary Court for practising the art of healing. They prescribed for every sort of ailment, and their medicines were those which obtained at the period. But they had likewise recourse to charms, such as the washing of the patient's clothing in "south-rynnand water," suspending amulets round the neck, and burning straw at the corners of their patients' beds. The Court pronounced upon them the usual sentence, viz., that they should be "tane to the Castle Hill of Edinburgh, and there wirreit and briut."

James Reid, a farm-servant, was, on the 21st July, 1602, indicted before the High Court for undertaking to cure diseases. The Court found that he had acquired his art from the Devil, "quha gaif him thrie pennies at ane tyme, and a piece creische out of his bag at ane uther tyme." It was added that Satan appeared to him "in the liknes of a man, quhyles in the liknes of a hors." He was sentenced to be "wirreit and brint."

Patrick Lowrie, residing at Halrie, Ayrshire, was, in July, 1605, brought before the Justiciary Court, charged with "bewitching milk ky," "bewitching Bessie Sawers coirnis," and striking a woman blind, and then restoring her to sight. It was further specified that he had had an interview with the Devil, who appeared in the "liknes of ane woman/' and gave him "ane hair belt, in ane of the endis of the quhilk appeirit the similitude of foure fingeris and ane thombe, nocht far different from the clawis of the Devill." The Lord Advocate, having warned the jury to beware of " wilful errour," the usual verdict was returned.

In December, 1607, Bartie Paterson, in Newbattle, was, at the instance of the Presbytery of Dalkeith, arraigned before the Lords of Justiciary for healing diseases by charms and incantations. The water of the Dow Loch, Dumfriesshire, was his favourite remedy. Those who used it he taught to say, "I lift this water, in the name of the Father, Sone, and Haly Gaist, to do guid for thair helth for quhom it is liftit." In curing cattle, he uttered these words:—

"I charge thee for arrow-schot,
For dor-schot, for windo-schot,
For ey-schot, for tung-schot,
For liver-schot, for lung-schot,
For hert-schot; All the maist
In the name of the Father, the Sone,
And Haly Gaist."

Paterson was condemned.

In August, 1623, Thomas Greave, from Kinross, was indicted for curing by enchantment. Three ministers in the Presbytery of Dunfermline produced "depositions" in support of the indictment. Greave was charged with passing his patients through "an hesp of yairne," "using inchantit watter," and making crosses and figures on the under garments of those seeking his help. One of his charms was essentially barbarous. He caused 'ane grit ffyre to be put on, and an hoill to be maid in the north syde of the hous, and ane quik hen to be put furth thairat, at thre seuverell tymes, and taen in at the hous-dur widderschynnes." The fowl was next placed " under the seik woman's okster or airme; and thairfra cayried to the ffyre, quhair it was haldon down and brint quick thairin." Greave was sentenced to be "wirreit at ane stake and brunt in asches."

In January, 1630, Sir'John Colquhoun of Luss, who had abducted Lady Katherine Graham, daughter of the Earl of Montrose, and his wife's sister, was arraigned before the Justiciary Court The indictment charged him with abducting the lady by means of sorcery. He did not answer to the charge, and was put to the horn. In 1643, Katherine Craigie was burned at Orkney, for using charms in the cure of disease. One of her charms was unique:—"She placed three small stones in water, wherewith she washed the patient. The stones were removed from the water-vessel, and placed on three corners of the patient's house from morning till evening. They were now laid behind the house door during night, and next morning placed in water, with which the patient was anointed. The process was repeated every third day till the patient's recovery."

From 1640 till some years after the Restoration, ecclesiastical zeal for the suppression of witchcraft was at the utmost height. On the 29th July, 1640, the General Assembly ordained "all ministers carefully to take notice of charmers, witches, and all such abusers of the people, and to urge the Acts of Parliament to be execute against them." In July, 1643, the Kirk-session of Dunfermline sentenced Robert Shortus to sit in sackcloth upon the public place of repentance, "for consulting and seeking charms from his wyff." After he had "twa Sundays" endured the sentence, the brethren of the Session recorded in their minutes that "he shoidd have sittin before ye pulpitt, bot he was pittied." At Dunfermline, the expenses of conducting prosecutions against witches, and of "watching them in ward," fell so heavily upon the funds of the corporation, that the magistrates, on the 16th July, 1643, besought the landowners and others in the district to aid in defraying them."

In the General Register House, Edinburgh, two remarkable documents have been preserved. One is the "deposition" of John Kincaid, the notorious witch-pricker, and the other the "confession of Marie Haliburton." In his "deposition," Kincaid relates that, being at the village of Dirleton, "a husband and wife, whose names were Patrik Watson and Marie Haliburton, waited on him, desiring that they might be respectively examined by him, on account of their having long been suspect to be witches." The simple-minded couple, unconscious of the blood-thirsty nature of the witch-pricker, had hoped to obtain vindication from an evil report. Kincaid made his examination, and reported that in each he had discovered "the Devil's mark." The confession of Marie Haliburton was emitted after her husband's execution. She acknowledges that she had had an illicit amour with the Devil eighteen years before, at which time she had likewise renounced her baptism. Marie Haliburton was referred by the local Presbytery to an assize ; she was doubtless burned.

On the 5th February, 1656, John McWilliam Sclater, "cloak-bearer to the Devil," was convicted and sentenced to death, by burning. To Sclater, Satan had appeared in the likeness of a Highlandman, with a kilt.

In April, 1659, ten women were tried before a commission at Dumfries, on different charges of witchcraft. Nine were found guilty and condemned. The following sentence was recorded :—

"Drumfreis, the 5th of Apryle, 1659.—The commissioners adjudges Agnes Comenes, Janet McGowane, Jean Tomson, Margt. Clerk, Janet M'Kendrig, Agnes Clerk, Janet Corsane, Helen Moorhead, and Janet Callon, as found guiltie of the severall articles of witchcraft mentioned in the dittayes, to be tane, upon Wednesday come eight days, to the ordinar place of execution for the burghe of Drumfreis, and ther, betuing 2 and 4 hours of the afternoon, to be strangled at staikes till they be dead, and therefter then- bodyes to be burned to ashes, and all ther moveable goods to be escheite. Further, it is ordained that Helen Moorhead's moveables be intromitted with by the Shereff of Niths-daile, to seize upon and herrie the samin for the King's use." The Presbytery of Dumfries met the same day, and passed the following deliverance:—"The Presbytery have appoynted Mr. Hugh Henrison, Mr. Wm. M'Gore, Mr. George Campbell, Mr. John Brown, Mr. Jo. Welsh, Mr. George Johnston, Mr. Wm. Hay, and Mr. Gabriel Semple, to attend the nine witches, and that they tak their own convenient opportunity to confer with them; also, that they be assisting to the brethren of Dumfries and Galloway, the day of execution."

"For some time after the Restoration," writes Hugo Arnot, "the records of the Privy Council are in a manner engrossed with commissions to make trial of witches." Baron Hume t remarks that no fewer than fourteen commissions for the trial of witches were granted in one sederunt, on the 7th of November, 1661. The commissioners possessed authority not only to try and dispose of cases specially submitted to them, but to make trial of all persons accused during their sittings, and to "justify them to the death."

"The confession of Janet Watsone," emitted at her trial before a commission, in June, 1661, is contained a "MS. collection" belonging to the Society of Scottish in Antiquaries. Janet represents the Devil as having appeared to her in the forms of "ane black doug," "a great bee," and "ane pretty boy in green clothes." When she renounced her baptism, he gave her the name of Weill Dancing Janet, and promised her money.

In April and May, 1662, a number of witches were "delated" in Morayshire. Two of them were examined by Johne Innes, notar publict, in presence of persons of local standing, who subscribe as witnesses. These depositions bear that they were emitted voluntarily, one having proceeded "without any compulsitorris," the other "without any pressures." Isobel Gowdie's confession is lengthy, and was made at considerable intervals. There is, nevertheless, a wonderful consistency in her story, and it is in most points confirmed by the testimony of her companion, who was examined elsewhere. The "revelations" are more precise than those in connection with any other case.

Isobel first encountered the Devil on the public road. At this interview she promised to meet him, " in the night time, in the kirk of Alderne." When they next met, she consented to renounce her baptism. Having dedicated herself to satanic service, a neighbour witch held her up to the Devil for baptism ; he made an incision in her shoulder, "suked out" some blood, which he spouted into his hand, and then sprinkled on her head, saying, "I baptize the to myself in my ain name." At a subsequent meeting he seduced her. The Devil generally appeared as "a very muckle roch man," but was sometimes like a deer. He was always "cold;" he wore boots, but his feet were forked and cloven. On meeting him, each curtseyed, and said, "Ye are welcome, owr Lord," or, "How doe ye, my Lord?"

The witches were divided into "covens," or companies of thirteen persons. Each witch had her spiritual attendant. These had all names. One, called " Swine," was clothed in grass-green, and attended a witch, nicknamed Pikle neirist the ivind. The spirit "Rorie" was clad in yellow, and attended the witch known as Throw the come yaird. A third spirit, the "Roaring Lion," was arrayed in sea-green; he waited upon the witch Bessie Rule. " Max' Hector," the fourth spirit, attended the witch whose soubriquet was Ower the dyh ivith it "Robert the Rule" was the fifth spirit; he was clothed in satin, and commanded the others. The sixth was "Theiff of Hell." The seventh, "Read Reiver," was apparelled in black, and waited upon Isobel herself. "Robert the Jackis," the eighth spirit, was an "aiged, glaiked, gowked spirit;" he waited on the witch Able and Stout. "Laing," the ninth spirit, attended Bessie Bauld. The tenth spirit was "Thomas a' Fearie." At these unhallowed entertainments, the Devil sat at the head of the board. One witch sat "above a' the rest," and waited on him. A wizard "said grace" in the following rhyme:—

"We eat this meat in the Devillis name,
With sorrow and sych and meikle shame;
We sail destroy hous and hald,
Baith sheip and nowt in the fald;
Little good sail com to the fore,
Of all the rest of the little store."

When the meal was ended, each of the guests looked "steadfastlie to the Devill, and said, We thank the, owr Lord, for this."

Those who absented themselves from the weekly orgies, or neglected their diabolic duties, were "beaten." When Satan was angry, he would "girne lyk a doug." "He wold," said Isobel, "be beatting and scurgeing us all up and doune with cardis (cords), aud uther sharp scurges, like naked gwhastis, and we wold be still cryeing, 'Pittie, Pittie ! Mercie, Mercie! owr Lord.' Bot he wold haw neither pittie nor mercie." When in good humour, the Devil bestowed on his favourites " the brawest lyk money that ewer wes coyned," "but," added the confessor, "within four and twantie houris it wold be horse-muke."

The "covens" were held in muirs and churchyards. They were reached on goblin horses, on which the witches flew up "lyk strawes." To her aerial steed Isobel said, "Horse and hattock in the Devillis name," whereupon her spiritual charger rose into the air, and "flie quhair schoe wold."

She had seen the "Queen of Fearie" among the Downie hills. "She was brawlie clothed in whyt linens, and in whyt and browne cloathes." The King "was a braw man, weill favoured and broad faced." Isobel found in Fairyland "elf bullis routting and shoutting up and doune," which sorely affrighted her.

Isobel explained how witches assumed the forms of the lower animals. When one of the sisterhood proposed to enter into a hare, she said:—

"I sail gae intill ane haire,
"With sorrow and sych and meikle care;
And I sail gae in the Devillis nam,
Ay quhill I com horn againe."

To obtain restoration to the human form, she said :—

"Haire, haire, God send thee caire;
I am in an hairis liknes just now;
Bot I salbe in a womanis liknes ewin now."

When the feline form was selected, the witch spoke as follows:—

"I sail gae intill a catt,
With sorrow and sych and a blak shat;
And I sail gae in the Devillis nam,
Ay quhill I com horn againe."

The witch became a crow on these words being thrice spoken :—

"I sail gae intill a craw,
With sorrow and sych and a blak thraw;
And I sail gae in the Devillis nam,
Ay quhill I com horn againe."

To raise a tempest, the witch beat on a piece of wet rag with a piece of timber, exclaiming thrice :—

"I knok this ragg Avpon this stane,
To raise the Avin in the Devillis nam;
It sail not lye vntil I please againe."

To allay the storm, the rag was dried, and these words were thrice repeated :—

"We lay the wind in the Devillis nam,
It sail not ryse quhill we lyk to raise it againe."

To prevent fishermen from "making speed," the witch said :—

"The fisheris ar gane to the sea,
And they will bring ham fische to me;
They will bring thaim horn intill the boat,
Bot they sail gett of thaim bot the smaller sort."

When casting their enchanted mixtures upon a farmer's stocking, the sisterhood would say :—-

"We putt this intill this ham
In our Lord the Devillis nam;
The first handis that handles the,
Brint and scalded sail they be!
We sail destroy hous and hald,
With the sheip and nout intill the fald,
And litle sail com to the fore
Of all the rest of the litle-store."

In shooting elf-arrows at the strayed traveller, the witch said :—

"I shoot yon man in the Devillis nam;
He sail nott win heall hame;
And this sail be also trew,
Thair sail not be ane bitt of him blew."

Isobel had seen "the elf-arrowis maid." "The Devil"' she said, "dights them, and the elf-boyes quhytes (blocks) them." Every witch received a handful for destructive purposes. Isobel enumerated a list of persons whom she and her witch-sisterhood had killed with elf-shot. On this account her conscience was troubled. "Pictures" were more used than elf-arrows in causing death. Clay " was made verie small, lyke meall, and sifted with a sieve." Then it was fashioned into a representation of the person intended for destruction, and " placed near the fire and weel rostin." This was done daily, till the person whom it represented perished from exhaustion.

Mr. Harrie Forbes, minister at Auldearn, had rendered himself obnoxious to the witches of his neighbourhood. He was visited with sickness, and in order that it might be protracted, an infernal mixture was prepared, over which the sisterhood spoke as follows :—

"He is lying in his bed; lie is lying sick and sair;
Let him lye intill his bed two monthis and thrie dayes mair;
Let him lye intill his bed ; let him lye intill it sick and sore;
Let him lye intill his bed monthis two and thrie dayes mor;
He sail lye intill his bed; he sail lye in it sick and sore;
He sail lye intill his bed two monthis and thrie dayes mor."

The pain-inflicting mixture of Isobel and her companions consisted of "ane bagg of gallis, flesh and guttis of toadis, pickles of bear, paringis of naillis, the brainis of ane hare, and bittis of cloutis." Another mixture used by this sisterhood consisted of the body of an un-christened child, "batched up with nail-parings, pickles of grain, and kail-blades."

Isobel and her companions cured the ailments of friendly persons. "Bear-straw," or sciatica, was healed by these words of charm :—

"Wee ar heir thrie maidens,
Charming for the bear-straw,
Ye man of the midle-earth,
Blew beaver, land-feaver,
Maneris of stooris,
The Lord fleigged the feind
With his holy candles.
And yeird foot-stane,
There she sittis, and heir she is gane,
Let her neuir com heir again."

Fevers of all sorts were expelled on the utterance of these words :—

"I forbid the quaking feaveris,
The sea feaveris, the land feaveris,
And all the feaveris that euir God ordained,
Out of the heid, out of the heart,
Out of the hak, out of the sydis,
Out of the kneyis, out of the thies;
Fra the pointis of the fingeris
To the nebis of the taes
Out sail the feaver gae;
Som to the hill, som to the hap,
Som to the stane, some to the stak,
In Saint Peteris nam, Saint Paullis nam,
And all the saintes of heavin,
In the name of the Father, the
Sone, and of the Halie Gaist."

Some of these rhymes were common among pretenders to sorcery in every district of the country. We quote two charms which were used by the witches of Dunfermline:—

"Out throw toothe, and out throw tung,
Out throw liver, and out throw lung,
And out throw halie harn pan;
The day is Fryday,
I shall fast quhill I may,
To heare the knell Of Christ his bell.
The Lord God on His chappell stood,
And his twelve Apostles good,
In came Drightine,
Dear Lord Almightine,
Say man or ladie,
Sweet Saint Marie,
What is yon fire, so light, so bright

"So far furth from me,
It is my ain Sone Jesus.
He is nail'd to the tre;
He is nail'd weill;
For he is nail'd throw wynegare,
Throw toothe and throw tung,
Throw halie ham pan?

The notorious Major Weir was executed at the Gal-lowlee, near Edinburgh, on the 14th April, 1676. Weir was a native of Clydesdale; he had served in the army, and, about the year 1650, became superintendent of tide-waiters at Leith. He was there noted for his piety and his remarkable gift of prayer. When an old man he confessed himself guilty of incest. His gift of prayer, he said, was communicated by his staff, over which he leant in his devotions. On his own confesssion he was burned, and his staff was consumed with him. His sister, who was particeps criminis, was also burned. The dwelling of Major Weir remained uninhabited.

In the autumn of 1696, the people of the West were disturbed and agitated by the strange reports which reached them from Bargarran, Renfrewshire. Christian Shaw, a child of eleven years, daughter of the proprietor of Bargarran, was suffering from hysteria. In a fit of petulance, she accused Catherine Campbell, the maid who attended her, of drinking and stealing. Catherine resented the imputations, and a quarrel ensued. A few days after, Christian experienced a return of her convulsions. During her paroxysms she pretended to put out of her mouth egg shells, orange peel, hair, feathers, pins, and hot cinders. She professed to talk with invisible beings, and to see and hear persons who were unseen and unheard by those around her. Under a feigned inspiration she offered a commentary on portions of Scripture. She contorted her countenance and writhed herself, under pretended satanic agency. A length she denounced the maid-servant as a witch, accused her of having caused her ailment, and exhorted her to confession and repentance.

There was a prodigious commotion. The brethren of the Presbytery prayed with their congregations on behalf of the family at Bargarran. The neighbouring ministers visited the house, and in turn kept watch within the maiden's chamber. As the manifestations continued, the Presbytery ordered a day of humiliation to be observed throughout the bounds. The different membefs preached from texts suitable to the solemnity of the occasion. Still the young damsel at Bargarran continued to disgorge egg-shells and orange-peel, hot cinders, and horse hair, to contort her countenance, and talk nonsense upon the open Bible. The sheriff of the county visited her apartment, and took certain "precognitions." The case was reported to the Privy Council, who issued a "commission" of inquiry. This commission included the names of Lord Blantyre, Sir John Maxwell of Pollok, and Sir John Shaw, of Greenock. It was constituted on the 19th January, 1697, and its report was ready on the following March. Encouraged by the attention she had excited, Miss Shaw extended the area of her denunciations. Catherine Campbell was not a sufficient sacrifice to her base humours or diseased imagination, She arraigned twenty-three others, of both sexes, one being a boy of her own age. Of course the commission believed all, and so reported to the Privy Council. The Council re-appointed the commissioners, with the addition of several Edinburgh lawyers. They were authorized to "judge and do justice." They condemned seven persons, five of whom confessed.""

In order further to enlighten their fellow-countrymen respecting the nature of witchcraft, and the necessity of seeking its suppression, the Lords of the Privy Council, in 1685, granted special protection for eleven years to the copyright of a book which set forth the detection and punishment of those charged with satanic arts. This work, which long retained popularity among the peasantry, was "Satan's Invisible World Discovered," of which the author was the Rev. George Sinclair, Professor of Philosophy at Glasgow.

Subsequent to the Revolution, the Privy Council were more careful in listening to informations respeeting alleged acts of sorcery ; fewer commissions were appointed. Even in 1678 Sir John Clark, the learned antiquary, had ventured to decline acting as a commissioner for the trial of a witch, humorously remarking that he did not feel himself "warlock enough" for the duties. But the clergy and the local magistracy still held out. In 1704, Mrs. Beatrice Laing, wife of a clothier at Pitten-weem, had offended some of her neighbours, who denounced her -as a witch. She was, with two other women, charged with sorcery. One of the women was beaten to death by the rabble. The magistrates and the parish minister of Pittenweem placed Mrs. Laing in "the tolbooth." The local witch-pricker thrust his needles into "her shoulders, back, and thighs;" her limbs were forced into the boot, or "stocks;" she was kept five days and nights without sleep ; and thrown into a loathsome cell, she was permitted only a little coarse food to sustain life. Mrs. Laing presented a memorial to the Privy Council, who afforded her protection.*

On the 3rd May, 1709, Elspeth Rule was tried before Lord Anstruther at the Dumfries Circuit, charged with being "habite and repute a witch," and for having used threatening expressions against several persons, who afterwards sustained the loss of cattle, the death of friends, or deprivation of reason. The jury found the indictment proved, and the judge sentenced the prisoner to be burned in the cheek and banished. In the county of Sutherland a fatuous old woman was, in 1722, condemned as a witch by Captain David Ross, the sheriff-substitute. The poor creature when led to the stake was unconscious of the stir made on her account, and warming her wrinkled hands at the fire, kindled to consume her, said she was thankful for so good a blaze. The sheriff was reprimanded for his rashness.

The reign of superstition was slowly approaching its termination. During the year following the execution in Sutherland, the magistrates of Selkirkshire refused to give heed to "a confession" of witchcraft, though attended with circumstances which, in other times, would have led every Scottish judge readily to sustain it. On the 11th November, 1723, the ferry-boat at the Boldside passage of the river Tweed, near Melrose, was freighted with thirty-three persons, and a riding horse. The river was much swollen, and the boat on reaching the opposite shore struck heavily against the bank. Sixteen passengers were thrown into the water and drowned. A woman, who lived in the adjoining hamlet of West-houses, made a public declaration that she was invisibly-present in the boat, accompanied by the devil. When the fatal occurrence took place, she and "her lord were sitting on the boat's prow like twa corbies." As her reward for drowning the sixteen persons, "the foul fiend," she said, "had entertained her to a rich haggis in the town steeple of Selkirk."

On the 24th June, 1735, the penal statutes against witchcraft were abolished. From the year 1479, when the first capital sentence against witchcraft was carried out, to the period we have now reached, about 30,000 persons were executed in Great Britain on the charge of sorcery. A fourth of that number perished in Scotland.

The Act of 1735 was most obnoxious to a section of the Scottish clergy, who continued to point to the words of the divine law, "Thou shalt not suffer a witch to live," as binding on all time. In 1743, the Associate Presbytery of Edinburgh issued a Pastoral Address, which they enjoined should be read annually to their flocks. In this document the repeal of the penal laws against witchcraft was described as "contrary to the express law of God," and as a great national sin.

A belief in witchcraft has lingered in certain districts. Till the close of the last century many farmers in the county of Forfar were content to bestow on the ill-favoured old women of their neighbourhood meal and potatoes to avert "ill weirds." The Ettrick Shepherd, writing in 1813, relates that he was acquainted with two Border farmers, then living, who had seriously assured him, that "they had wounded several old wives with shot as they were traversing the air in the shapes of moorfowl and partridges."

There lived at Falkirk, Stirlingshire, in 1812, an elderly woman who earned her livelihood by the sale of Skaith Saw, a salve or ointment which she pronounced potent against enchantment. In 1814, Bessie Miller, an aged spinster at Stromness, sold favourable winds to seamen for sixpences. About twenty years ago, an old woman in a northern county lost a suit at law which she had long vigorously contested; she now determined to resist payment of her adversary's costs. Legal proceedings being adopted to enforce payment, her cow was arrested, and exposed for sale. Just as the auctioneer was about to perform his office, the woman knelt down by the side of the cow, and prayed that a curse might fall upon her purchaser. None dared to offer, and the cow remained unsold.

A farmer in one of the Western Isles experienced a fatal murrain among his cattle. He called on a woman in the district who was a reputed witch. Consulting her as to the condition of his bestial, the woman informed him that there was "a iveird upon them," but she could not remove it without casting it on another herd. The farmer was willing that the murrain should be transferred to his neighbour, with whom he was at variance. A compact was entered upon, and the reputed witch proceeded to collect the horns and hoofs of the cattle which had died of the distemper. These she carried to the ground of her employer's enemy, and there buried them. This occurrence took place only a few years ago.

During a thunderstorm in the spring of 1831, an elderly female who resided at Craigmillar, near Edinburgh, and bore the reputation of being "uncanny," went to a neighbour's house to borrow a piece of coal. Having been refused, she muttered that her neighbour might have cause to regret her unkindness. The saying alarmed the housewife, who reported to her husband what had occurred. Indignant at the menace, he went with a neighbour to the dwelling of the supposed witch, and with a sharp instrument inflicted a wound in her forehead. When called to answer for the assault, he pleaded his belief that " scoring the witch above the breath would destroy her glamour."

In 1845, a girl at Louisburgh, near Wick, was suspected of witchcraft. To cure her, a neighbour placed her in a basket half filled with the shavings of wood, and in this manner suspended her over a fire. The shavings were ignited, but the girl was removed from the flames uninjured. The operator remarked to her friends that the girl was "not half so witchlike since she had been singed."

The correspondent of a newspaper in the north of Scotland, writing in 1867, thus describes an interview with a reputed wizard named Wilcox, to whom he had been despatched by a matron to inquire whether her husband would recover of an illness:—"He took the grey mare, and led me into the house, or hut, and telling one of his sons to give a feed of malt to the mare, he invited me to sit down. There were no chairs in the room, but four bags of malt were ranged round the fire. The old man handed me a large wooden cup, full of whiskey, and as there was no bread or meal in the house, he put five or six eggs in a pot and boiled them, one or two of which he ate himself, and I finished the rest. After another cup of whiskey, the old man said I must go to bed, and must sleep with him. Indeed, there was only one bed in the house,—a large wooden box, with folding doors on it. I slept pretty soundly until the old man called on me to get up quickly, as the sun was rising. He made me stand inside the door, while he went out with a wooden dish or pail, which he filled with fresh water. The pail was then placed under the lintel, or on the door-step, and I was enjoined to keep quiet. Taking up an old rusty sword, he waved it three times over the water-pail, and at each time repeated—' In the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Ghost.' He now took a half-round piece of crystal or glass, and dropped it in the water, and took what he called the water-kelpie's bridle, and shook it over the pail, repeating the same words. He then filled a wine-bottle with the water, and gave it to me with instructions to sprinkle the man's body-clothes with it. A black-haired woman, I was told, had bewitched the man, but he would get better. This did not turn out to be true, for the man died a few days afterwards. I gave Wilcox half a guinea, and five shillings for the bottle of water."

To counteract the arts of witchcraft, charms were employed. Mr. Thomas Coutts, the London banker, a native of Scotland, entertained an apprehension of sorcery; he caused two horseshoes to be attached to the marble staircase of his residence at Holly Lodge, to avert "skaith." In the Hebrides, maluko beans, a variety of white nuts, are used as amulets; when the wearer is menaced with enchantment, they are supposed to turn black. An ear of wheat, carried in the pocket, is a sure spell against witchcraft. When a stream is crossed, the power of sorcery is overcome. A stone from the shore, with one or more natural holes, is deemed potent against "the evil eye." A horseshoe, attached to the stable door, deprived witches of then-power to injure the horses. Cattle were safe when boughs of the mountain ash and honeysuckle were brought into the cowhouses. When bits of thread were attached to the horns, necks, and legs of milch cows, the witches had no power against the milk. Cowherds wore sprigs of the mountain ash in their clothes, as a defence against enchantment.

When cattle were affected by the arts of sorcery, a stalk of four-leaved clover, attached to their stalls, was believed to be remedial. If a cow was in a drooping condition, a singular rite was adopted for her recovery:— At Easter, certain drops that lie uppermost on the paschal candle were used in forming a candle of small size. This was lighted, and so held that it might drop upon the horns and between the ears of the ailing animal. The remaining portion of the candle was laid at the threshold of the cowhouse. The enchantress who inflicted disease upon cattle was discovered in the following manner:—An article of wearing apparel, belonging to the owner of the bewitched cow, was thrown across her horns; the animal, being now let loose, was supposed to proceed in the direction of the witch's dwelling. The enchantress having been discovered, the heart of a calf was placed on a spit before the fire, a pin being stuck in it at every turn till it was completely roasted. This charm subjected the enchantress to a similar operation in her own person. The roasted heart was ultimately deposited in the cowhouse.

An order of persons derived subsistence by providing the means of counteracting enchantment. The conjuror lingered in many districts of the Highlands. In the beginning of the last century, a physician at Lochawe, finding that the people of his neighbourhood preferred the charms of superstition to the appliances of medicine, undertook to supply amulets as remedies for every ailment. The scheme prospered ; by the sale of sprigs of the mountain ash, the ingenious practitioner realized a fortune.

The lengthened continuance of a belief in witchcraft was not entirely owing to an erroneous interpretation of that passage in the Mosaic law to which reference has been made. It was largely due to so many of those who were accused of sorcery being convicted on their own confessions. Persons did not reflect on the manner in which these confessions were obtained. They did not consider how they were extorted by the infliction of grievous cruelties. Non-confession did not imply a declaration of innocence or exemption from punishment. The testimony of the witch-pricker alone was held sufficient to justify the sentence of death. Those who refused to confess were racked and tormented, and had the prospect of being burned "quick," that is, alive. Those who made "confession" had a respite from physical suffering, and escaped cruelty in death; they were sentenced to be "wirreit and brint," that is, the executioner was authorized to strangle the prisoner before applying fire to her person. Every "confession" was a repetition of those which had preceded it,—accused persons relating what they had heard from childhood about meetings with the devil and races on broomsticks. Many of the accused had practised the art of healing, and used just such medicines as did the physician, but accompanied with charms. The evidence which neighbours adduced against accused persons may be traced to that desire for retribution of real or supposed wrongs, which long remained a characteristic of the uneducated portion of the Scottish people.

The motives which led to "confession" were in excess of those conducing to an assertion of innocence. Even if escape from death had been possible under a persistent denial of guilt, all that rendered life a boon was already forfeited and lost. She who was accused of witchcraft was avoided. Like the leper under the Mosaic law, she was regarded as unclean. Neighbours and former associates renounced her,—relatives even refused to extend to her an acknowledgment of kindredship. She was hunted like the beast of prey, denied shelter, and refused food. Wherever she proceeded, an evil reputation attended her. The curses of mankind rested upon her, and to the voice of sympathy she became a perpetual stranger. That these considerations operated in inducing "confessions" is certain. Sir George Mackenzie, Lord Advocate, a believer in sorcery, has, in his "Criminal Law" (1678), written as follows :—"A condemned witch told me under secrecy, that she had not confessed because she was guilty, but being a poor creature who wrought for her meat, and being defamed for a witch, she knew she should starve, for no person thereafter would give her meat or lodging, and that all men would beat her, and set dogs at her, and that therefore she desired to be out of the world. Whereupon she wept most bitterly, and upon her knees called God to witness what she said." "Another told me," adds the same writer, "that she was afraid the devil would challenge a right to her, after she was said to be his servant, and would haunt her, as the minister said when he was desiring her to confess, and therefore she desired to die."

In 1649, the lady of a landowner in Fifeshire, sister of Sir John Henderson, of Fordel, was thrown into the Tolbooth at Edinburgh, charged with using enchantment. Overpowered by the horror of her situation, she took poison and died. A fine young woman was, on the charge of witchcraft, executed at Paisley in 1697. On being censured by some friends, who were convinced of her innocence, for not being sufficiently active in her defence, she said, "They have taken away my character, and my life is not worth preserving." In his book on witchcraft, Professor Sinclair, a firm believer in sorcery, relates the following:— A woman in Lauder was accused of a compact with Satan, but long denied her guilt. When her companions in prison were removed, being appointed to execution, and she became the occupant of a solitary cell, she offered to make a revelation of her arts. Having so done, she petitioned that she might be put to death with the others on the day fixed for their execution. Unsatisfied with her guilt, and therefore disregarding her confession, her friends, including her clergyman, entreated her to reconsider her averments, and warned her of the sin of compassing her own death. She persisted, and was condemned. At the stake she spoke these words:—

"Now all you that see me this day know that I am now to die as a witch by my own confession, and I free all men, especially the ministers and magistrates, of the guilt of my blood. I take it wholly upon myself: my blood be upon my own head; and as I must make answer to the God of heaven presently, I declare I am as free of witchcraft as any child. But being delated by a malicious woman, and put in prison under the name of a witch; disowned by my husband and friends, and seeing no ground of hope of my coming out of prison, or ever coming in credit again, through the temptation of the devil I made up that confession on purpose to destroy my own life, weary of it, and choosing rather to die than live."

A History of the Witches of Renfrewshire
From authentic documents. A history of the witches of Renfrewshire, who were burned on the Gallowgreen of Paisley. Published by the editor of the Paisley repository (1877) (pdf)

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