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Thousands of Women accused of witchcraft and executed 300 years ago set to receive official apology and pardon from Scottish government

Thousands of Women accused of witchcraft and executed 300 years ago set to receive official apology and pardon from Scottish government

Thousands of ladies accused of witchcraft within the Sixteenth-18th centuries which led to their executions are set to obtain official apology and pardons from the Scottish authorities.


The individuals accused of witchcraft have been largely ladies and have been leveled with allegations from cursing the king’s ships, to shape-shifting into animals and birds, or dancing with the satan, to a ‘satanic’ panic.


Now, three centuries after the Witchcraft Act was repealed, campaigners are heading in the right direction to win pardons and official apologies for the estimated 3,837 individuals tried as witches, of which two-thirds have been executed and burned.



This comes after a two-year marketing campaign by the Witches of Scotland group,  ensuing within the passing of the member’s invoice by the Scottish parliament to clear the names of these accused, in response to a report by the Sunday Times. 

The transfer follows a precedent by the Massachusetts House of Representatives within the US that proclaimed victims of the Salem witch trials harmless in 2001.

Scotland’s indefatigable pursuit of witches between 1563, when the Witchcraft Act was introduced in, and 1736, when it was lastly repealed, resulted in 5 “great Scottish witch-hunts” and a collection of nationwide trials.


The earliest witch-hunts have been sanctioned by James VI of Scotland, later James I of England and Ireland, who believed witches plotted towards his Danish bride by summoning up storms to sink his ships. Among these accused in 1590 was Geillis Duncan who admitted beneath torture to assembly the satan to thwart the king’s ships.

Another accused individual, Agnes Sampson, had confessed that 200 ladies witnessed the satan preach at North Berwick on Halloween the place the king’s destruction was plotted.

Other well-known instances embrace Lilias Adie, from Torryburn, Fife, who was accused of casting a spell to trigger a neighbour’s hangover; whereas Issobell Young, executed at Edinburgh Castle in 1629, was stated to have shape-shifted into an owl and accused of getting a coven.

As at then witchcraft was a capital crime, so the convicted have been often strangled to loss of life then burned on the stake in order to go away no physique to bury. 

Many of the accused confessed beneath torture, which included sleep deprivation, the crushing and pulling out of fingernails, and pricking of the pores and skin with needles and bodkins to see if the accused bled.

The Witches of Scotland web site notes that indicators related to witchcraft – broomsticks, cauldrons, black cats and black pointed hats – have been additionally related to “alewives”, the title for ladies who brewed weak beer to fight poor water high quality. The broomstick signal was to let individuals know beer was on sale, the cauldron to brew it, the cat to maintain mice down, and the hat to differentiate them at market.


Claire Mitchell QC, who leads the Witches of Scotland marketing campaign, stated on Sunday, January 2, 2022 that it was in search of pardons, apologies and a nationwide monument to the primarily feminine victims of the witch-hunts.

 “Per capita, during the period between the 16th and 18th century, we [Scotland] executed five times as many people as elsewhere in Europe, the vast majority of them women,” she advised the Sunday Times.

“To put that into perspective, in Salem 300 people were accused and 19 people were executed. We absolutely excelled at finding women to burn in Scotland. Those executed weren’t guilty, so they should be acquitted.”


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