After a public campaign by a group calling themselves the Witches of Scotland, the Scottish Parliament has now passed a law pardoning these people. About time, according to initiator Claire Mitchell, only because five times as many witches were executed in Scotland as in the rest of Europe.
Thousands of women were found guilty of witchcraft at that time. From cursing a king’s ships to turning someone into an owl or a dog and causing a hangover, the demonic panic that reigned at the time made the fear of witches so great that they were taken to court en masse. This resulted in five major Scottish witch hunts and a whole series of “lawsuits”. Two-thirds of those convicted under witchcraft were cremated at the stake and executed.
The first witch hunts came after James VI of Scotland – later James I of England and Ireland – believed that witches had targeted his Danish bride by stirring up storms to sink ships that would take her to Scotland. One of the next convicts was Giles Duncan, a name that surely rings a bell with viewers of the Netflix series Outlander. She was tortured until she confessed to “meeting the devil” and cursed the ships. Another example is Agnes Sampson, who said that two hundred women attended The Devil’s Speech in North Berwick on Halloween. Tell them how he will kill the king.
Three centuries later, all convicts received an official pardon. “These people were not guilty because of the facts mentioned, so they deserve this pardon,” said Mitchell, president of the Witch Campaign.
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