The Scottish Witch Trials — An Introduction

In 1727, Janet Horne was paraded in a barrel through Dornoch after being tarred and feathered towards the stake. An old woman suffering from what would nowadays be diagnosed as dementia, she had no idea what was about to happen but she would go down in history as the last person to be executed for witchcraft in Scotland. With her death, over a century of witch hunts came to an end.

There are three things that stick out to me when I think about the witch trials that took place in my home country. One, we actually burned people at the stake for witchcraft. This is something people mistakenly believe of Salem where the victims were actually hanged for the most part, however we have the dubious honour of actually burning people as a method of execution. Two, unlike places like Salem we don’t know the names of all the people or the actual numbers for how many people were tried and executed of witchcraft. This ties into the third fact that haunts me, the number of people tried in Scotland ranges between 4,000 to 6,000 victims. More than 1,500 were executed.

It is no surprise there was outcries from the public in recent years as we learned more about this horrific period of history and First Minister Nicola Sturgeon has apologised to the people accused of witchcraft. However, this history seems to be forgotten or overlooked by many. This is why I’ve decided to share the stories I know and some of the facts around the most horrific period in Scottish history.

From the individuals tried and executed, the last woman tried of witchcraft, legends and lore around witchcraft and the people whoo are sharing the stories today. Hopefully you’ll join me on this heartbreaking but worthy journey to remember all those affected by the witch hunt mania in Scotland.

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