Sunday, 31 October 2010

Researching Scottish Witches

Hallowe'en is coming and the goose is getting fat,
Would you please put a penny in the auld man's hat?
If ye haven't got a penny, a ha'penny will do,
If ye haven't got a ha'penny, then God bless you
And yer auld man too!

That's how we used to Hallowe'en rhyme in my old neck of the woods in Ulster before someone decided to import 'Trick or Treat' from the US!

It's Hallowe'en and once again we are all going to die horribly from the ghosties and ghoulies etc. I'm currently reading "Scottish Witches" by Lily Seafield (Waverley Books 2009), containing lots of juicy witchcraft cases from the country as recorded in kirk session material and other sources.

Here's Mary Queen of Scots' original law to persecute witches from 1563:

The Quenis Majestie and thre Estatis in this present parliament being informit that the havy, abominabill superstitioun usit be divers of the liegis of this Realme be using of Witchcraftis, Sorsarie, and Necromancie, and credence gevin thairto in tymes bygane aganis the Law of God: and for avoyding and away putting of all sic vane superstition in tymes tocum

It is statute and ordainit be the Quenis Majestie and thre Estatis foirsaidis that na maner of persoun nor persounis of quhatsumever estate, degre, or conditioun thay be of tak upone hand in ony tumes heirafter to use ony maner of Witchcraftis, Sorsarie, or Necromaniue: nor gif thame selfis furth to have ony sic craft or knaeledge thairof, thairthrow abusand the pepill; nor that na persoun seik ony help, rsponse, or consultation at ony sic usaris (or abusaris) foirsaidis of Witchcraft, Sorcareis, or Necromancie, under the pane of dead: asweill to be execute aganis the user-abusar, as the seikar of the response or consultatioun

Mary kicked off the persecutions, but it was really under her son James VII that Scotland went all medieval against those practising witchcraft. A useful database for Scottish witchcraft research is the Survey of Scottish Witchcraft which has details of nearly 4000 people tried from 1563-1736 for witchcraft, with evidence for many gathered by local kirk sessions.

A good Hallowe'en read - but maybe keep all the lights as you do so...!

Professional genealogical problem solving and research
Researching Scottish Family History (New book)

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