As soon as I started my research into the accused Witches of Scotlan, I realised that there are many amazing resources out there to help you begin to research the women and men accused of Witchcraft during the Burning Times (1563 -1736 in Scotland).
I wanted to start my research by researching the Witch Trials in general before focussing on the accused Witches in my local area. The Witches of Scotland Podcast was my first port of call, and it is an absolutely amazing resource if you want to research the Witches and the Witch Trials. The Witches of Scotland Podcast is hosted by Claire Mitchell QC and Zoe Venditozzi, Author. They are the the leaders of the Witches of Scotland campaign to Pardon the accused Witches and create a public funded memorial to them. They have already been successful in petitioning the Scottish Government to issue a formal apology for the Witch Hunts. Nicola Sturgeon made this apology on International Women's Day, on the 8th March 2022.
The podcast features interviews with a huge range of different experts on topics connected with the Witch Hunts, such as historians, artists, musicians and other campaigners from Europe and America as well as campaigners fighting against modern day Witchcraft accusations. I love the way that Claire and Zoe bring humour and a down to earth normality to each episode, which really helps to resource me, the listener, for the difficult and distressing subject matter.
Each episode starts by commemorating 3 of the accused Witches, and any research that has been done into their stories. You can find the podcast on any podcast app, but here's a taster on Youtube - a special Witches of Scotland Live Special from International Women's Day 2021
Witches where you live...
Having done some general research, I wanted to focus on the accused Witches of Ayrshire - were I live. Luckily there's some amazing resources for this created by researchers at the University of Edinburgh.
The Witch Craft Map is a really cool interactive map, and you can click on the place you live, or are interested in, and zoom in to find the names of the accused Witches from that area. The map was developed by Emma Carroll and Ewan McAndrew amongst others and you can find out more here
The Survey of Scottish Witchcraft was developed at the beginning of the century by Julian Goodare, Lauren Martin, Joyce Miller and Louise Yeoman. If you want to find out more about the accused Witches that you discovered by looking at the Witch Craft Map, this is a good place to start!
Witches in Ayrshire
I was lucky enough to hear an interview with Heather Upfield, a local historian, on the Witches of Scotland podcast. Heather has researched and published a book about the accused Witches in Kilwinning, in North Ayrshire where she lives, called 'The 5 Women of Kilwinning'. This book reports her research into the stories of each of the 5 women:
Elizabeth (Bessie) Graham
She also includes her research into 'The accused women and men from the lands of Cunninghame', which includes Saltcoats, Monkcastle, Largs, Irvine, Dalry and (West) Kilbride.
Her book is available at the Kilwinning Heritage Centre which is in the old Abbey tower - well worth a visit!
Heather has also researched the Survey of Scottish Witchcraft database and compiled a spreadsheet with the details of each accused person in Ayrshire - which was super handy for my research! She has published this spreadsheet in the Facebook Group of the charity Remembering the Accused Witches of Scotland which is an excellent group to join if you're interested in or researching the Accused Witches of Scotland.
The Accused Witches of West Kilbride...
I started my research thinking that the women accused of Witchcraft during the Witch Hunts were all healers practising Earth based ritual and magic, that they were feisty and strong women who had been put down, however the more research that I have done into the accused Witches, the more I have found out that this was mostly not the case and that these were very ordinary women and men and that there were many reasons that they were accused of Witchcraft.
Recurring themes that put women on trial for Witchcraft, included:
Only a small minority were accused for being folk healers and midwives. Men were mostly accused for being associated with women who were accused of Witchcraft, or sometimes for political reasons.
This ordinariness and realisation that anyone could be accused of Witchcraft at any time during the Witch Hunts - that's 3 generations - has really shocked me.
It feels appropriate to start researching the women accused as Witches in my town of West Kilbride, in North Ayrshire. The women were:
And Jonet Boyd from Hawkingcraig
Welcome to my new blog! I'm Tara and I'm a textile artist working primarily in hand embroidery and embroidery design, based on the West Coast of Scotland. This blog is about my research into the Witches of Scotland and my creative response to the 17th century Witch Hunts.
Like so many artists, the Coronavirus pandemic forced me to consider the direction of my creative practice. I had been teaching weekly classes in hand embroidery but was abruptly forced to stop, which gave me time to consider what I really wanted to do creatively. I had been struggling to make a connection between my activism, spiritual practice, creativity and teaching practices, and these 2 years of not teaching have given me an unprecedented period of time for reflection and creative exploration.
The Witches of Scotland have been floating around in my mind for a few years since I saw a Facebook post about The Survey of Scottish Witchcraft, published by the University of Edinburgh, and I immediately thought that it would be amazing to commemorate the accused Witches in some way. I was lucky enough to attend an RCN lecture 'Witches Stories' in November 2021 by Professor Nicola Ring who had been researching the accused Witches of Scotland, who had also been folk healers and midwives (152 in total, out of 3837 who were accused of Witchcraft). I found this lecture so inspiring that I decided to apply for grants to fund some creative research into the Witches of Scotland, particularly the accused women of Ayrshire, where I live, and the healing herbs that were used by folk healers, charmers and midwives at that time. In March 2022, I was lucky enough to be granted a VACMA award for 4 days research!
In this blog I will be sharing with you my research into the accused Witches of Scotland and my creative responses to that research. I hope you will enjoy following my journey!