After nearly 300 years of being accused of witchcraft, thousands of Scots women are to be posthumously pardoned.

These criminals range from making hangovers and becoming an owl, to meeting the Devil and conjuring hurricanes to sink the ships owned by King James VI. 

With the help of a petition, all those charged with being witches as per the Witchcraft Act 1563-1736 will have their names removed. 

More than half the alleged 4,000 were sentenced and executed. Over 85 percent were also women and girls.

A members’ bill in the Scottish parliament has gained the support of Nicola Sturgeon’s administration after a two-year campaign, the Sunday Times reported. 

Thousands of women accused of witchcraft in Scotland are set to be posthumously pardoned after almost 300 years. Their crimes range from causing hangovers and turning into an owl to meeting with the Devil and conjuring up storms to sink the ships of King James VI. (Above, an illustration of a woman convicted of witchcraft being burned at the stake circa 1692)

After almost 300 years, thousands of Scottish women who were accused of witchcraft will be posthumously pardoned. The crimes they committed ranged from creating hangovers and becoming an owl, to conjuring up storms in order to sink the ships belonging to King James VI. (Above is an illustration showing a witchcraft-convicted woman being burnt at the stake in 1692).

Claire Mitchell QC (Witches of Scotland) was responsible for initiating the petition. This group is campaigning to get a pardon and government apology for their actions. 

Religion was the driving force behind centuries-old fear of witches. According to the Catholic Church, witches and heretics should be burnt at the stake.  

Great Scottish Witch Hunt

James IV of Scotland passed Witchcraft Laws. This led to the Great Scottish Witch Hunt (1597).

In fact, it was the second of five Scottish national witch hunts. 

It was carried out under the guidance of Royal Commissions, just like the other.

This is because the Great Scottish Witch Hunters did not have central documentation.

Local authorities instead were allowed to keep track of the trials’ outcomes and accusations. 

The 1597 witch hunt saw the death of around 200 “witches”.

There were also other Great Scottish Witch Hunts in 1590-91-1628-1631 (1649-59), 1628-1631 and 1631-1631.

James IV of Scotland passed Witchcraft Laws. This led to the Great Scottish Witch Hunt (1597).

In fact, it was the second of five Scottish national witch hunts. 

The Royal Commissions also supervised the execution of the project.

The case Lilias Adie inspired Ms Mitchell.

Adie, a Torryburn, Fife woman, confessed under duress to her crimes of having sex in the Devil’s presence and cast malicious spells.

She was sentenced to die by fire but ended up in jail, perhaps as a suicide. 

The village foreshore was covered with a large, stone-encrusted body.

Torryburn villagers and members from the “Fife Witches Remembered” Facebook came together to pay respects and lay wreaths at her grave, September 1, 2019.

This event commemorated also the many thousands of Scottish women and men who were convicted and executed for practicing witchcraft during the 16-18th century.

Cali White, West Sussex-based psychotherapist, spoke out to MailOnline this month. She cited Geillis Dunstan, a Scottish maidservant.

“Before the NHS and GP surgery, individuals were in control of their health and could have consulted a “Cunning Woman”, who would use herbs, intention or magic to make healing potions.

These were the “witches” who targeted women, like Geillis Dunstan, a Scottish maidservant, who was accused by her magistrate boss of witchcraft in 1590.

‘Known to have had a reputation as a healer, Geillis’s brutal torture sparked the North Berwick witch hunts in which 70 people were tried for witchcraft. 

“Healing and plant information became dangerous professions.” 

Natalie Don (a Scottish National Party MSP) said to the Sunday Times that she was behind the bill. She stated that it is right that people were wrongfully imprisoned and that most of the criminals, especially women, should be forgiven.

A petition instigated by Claire Mitchell QC is set to see thousands of people posthumously cleared. Ms Mitchell was partly inspired by the case of Lilias Adie (reconstruction, above). After confessing, under duress, to the crimes of casting malicious spells and having sex with the Devil, Ms Adie, from Torryburn, Fife, Adie died in 1704

Claire Mitchell, QC started a petition that will see thousands of people get posthumously cleared. The case of Lilias Addie, which was reconstructed above, inspired Ms Mitchell. Adie was born in Torryburn, Fife and confessed to having sex with Satan under duress.

The spread of witch hunting from Germany to Italy across Europe

Between 1450-1750, thousands of women across the continent were executed as “witches”.

Britannica says that witch hunts were most frequent in West Germany, France, Northern Italy, and Switzerland. This was because of the climate of religious superstition, which led to the persecutions of witchcraft practitioners.

Executions were very rare in Spain and Portugal.

Law played an equal role in witch trials as religion, and local courts had a tendency to be more strict or even violent with their treatment of suspected witches than superior regional courts.

Between 1450 to 1750, tens of thousands of women were executed as 'witches' across the continent. Pictured, the burning of a 16th century Dutch Anabaptist, Anneken Hendriks, who was charged by the Spanish Inquisition with heresy

Tens of thousands were executed across Europe as “witches” between 1450 and 1750. The Spanish Inquisition charged Anneken Hendriks with heresy, and she was burned to death.

As with their origins the decline of witch-hunts was slow. However, they continued to die in the 17th and 18th centuries partly because of increased literacy and mobility as well as communication means.

It was different depending on the time and location, but around three-quarters were female.

Some believe the executions may have been linked to poor weather. Europe was becoming colder and more wetter, which meant that there were plagues of caterpillars, pestilence, crop failures, and an increase in disease and famine.

These difficult circumstances often led to a lot of blame being placed on ‘witches’. Sometimes, one individual was blaming another for their misery.

Some others, however, suggest that during heated competition between Catholics & Protestants witch-hunting became an appeasing tactic to placate the masses through their devil fighting prowess.