Scottish Witches

Here’s another piece from Social Life of Scotland  in the 18th century:

Many other matters came under e cognisance of the ever bush ecclesiastical authorities.Most conspicuous of these were charges of “trafficking with Satan.” Superstition was spread amongst all classes; there was not an event of their lives, from birth to death, which was free from it; omens were seen in a myriad coincidences, charms were used to ward off every form of evil. Some superstitions were relics of paganism, others were relics of Popish days, while many mysteries events of nature common to humanity everywhere . Curious beliefs of all sorts meet us in the old Church records, which embalm so many forms of olden life. One man takes his child to a smith to “be threatened with a hammer” to charm away sickness; a woman is called in to a sick-bed where she pronounces the words: “If God hath taken away the health,let Him restore it; and if the devil hath taken it, let him restore it,” on which the person recovered.  man is charged with putting above his door hot stones to remove his child’s illness, “whereby through the judgement of God the house and planishing were burnt to ashes, the hot stones taking fire in the thick.” Charmers and sorcerers in many a remote parish drove a thriving,though perilous, business.

Witchcraft, above all, was looked upon with horror and profound belief in the first quarter of he century. Every whisper of the “trafficking with Satan” was heard with awful eagerness ad evidence was brought to the Kirk-Sessions of every suspicious circumstance. In one case a witness asserts that, passing an old lone woman’s house , she looked in at the for and saw a wheel spinning without any visible power touching it; another tells that she had given this woman some chaff, “with which she was not satisfied, and a day after the witness’s cow gave no milk to her child, who decayed and vanished to a shadow, and her cow took distemper”; a third testifies that she heard a terrible noise which the woman alleged was only a clocking hen; and yet a fourth relates that she saw “a candle going through the door and nobody holding it.” It was this old woman’s good fortune to be allowed to claim theAct of banishment, and she disappeared with her life.another Session proves the charge against a witch on the evidence of two persons; one of whom stated that his wife, having a dispute with her four days before, took a dreadful stitch though her as if she was stricken with a whine or knife, and continued in great pain till she died; the other stated that having refused the suspected with alms, all the milk got a loathsome smell,and she herself fell sick, “ and was like a daft body for 8 days after.” On such testimony the accused was condemned, but the poor wretch claiming Act of banishment – that merciful alternative of Scots law – was sent off under pain of death if she returned. To be ugly and old, to be withered and morose, to live aloof from others, too be unsocial and ill-tempered and ill-tongued, were sufficient qualities to raise suspicions of trafficking with Satan; angry words were turned to malisons, and sullen looks were proofs of he evil eye. Every trouble was laid to her fault: if hens laid no eggs, if cows gave less milk, if children became sickly  she  might be consigned to jail for years, longing for death, and only escape burning by banishment. 

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