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Aberdeen Witches

Motivated by the circulation in 1597 of King James's Demonolgy, a witch craze raced through Aberdeen, North Eastern Scotland, which had the consequence of burning twenty-four men and women. The allegations ran the scope of witchcraft common throughout Eruope those days: dancing with the devil about in circles around the town cross, using ligature (the act of binding or tying up) to bring about married men to be unfaithful to their wives, formulating sour milk, bewitching animals, or handing over love charms of misshapen and deformed pennies bound in a cloth with a bit of red wax.

One of the accused, old Janet Wishart, was arraigned for casting a cantrip (spell) on Alexander Thomson, so that he became ill, suffering from unusual symptoms of shivering and sweating. Likewise, she put a spell on Andrew Webster so that he passed away. Others, too, died because of her "evil eye". She provoked storms by throwing out live coals; she sent nightmare cats to cause horrifying dreams; and she mutilated a corpse hanging on the gallows. She was burned with another witch at the cost of eleven pounds and ten shillings, for the "peat, tar barrels and coals," and the executioner's fees.

Some of the others accused as witches were acknowledged by a convicted witch, who made herself useful to the judges by accusing new victims and thus extending her life. She avowed that she had been to a great assembly in Atholl, and had seen over two thousand witches. "She knew tham all well enough, and what mark the devil had given severally to every on of them. There was many of them tried by swimming in the water, by binding their two thumbs and their great toes together; for being thus cas in the water, the floated always above."

References and Notes:

  1. Records of the Burgh of Aberdeen, Spalding Club (Aberdeen, 1841)
  2. Adams, William Henry Davemport. Witch, Warlock and Magician (London, 1889)
  3. Linton, Elizabeth Lynn. Witch Stories (London, 1861)