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on Mar 11, 2012 in Wicca


Original Essay on Witchcraft.

IF we wish to form a just estimate of the human
character in its progress through the various stages
of civilization, from ignorance and barbarism, to
science and refinement, we must search into the
natural causes that actuate the human mind. The
life of man is prolonged to a remoter period, but
subjected to more casualties, and greater vicissitudes
of fortune, than most other animals. From,
these causes arises his anxious solicitude about futurity,
and an eager desire to know his destiny ;
and thus man becomes the most superstitious of all
other creatures. In every nation there have been
multitudes of oracles, augurs, soothsayers, diviners,
fortune-tellers, witches, sorcerers, &c. whose business
has been to communicate intelligence respecting
futurity, to the rest of mankind. If we attend
to history, we shall find this theory sufficiently confirmed
by experience. The most superstitious part
of the species are soldiers and sailors, who are more
exposed to accidents than any other class. History
is full of the superstitious observances of the Roman
armies ; their regard to omens ; the entrails of
victims ; the flight of birds, &c. and there are thousands
of brave sailors of the present day, who would
not sail in the finest ship of the British navy, without
a horse-shoe were nailed on the main-mast.
This passion of diving into futurity, naturally produced
a number of ‘ dealers in destiny’s dark council^
who soon found it turn out a very lucrative
profession. From knowing the secrets, it was naturally
inferred, that they were the favourites of
those powers who are supposed to have the future
happiness of mankind at their disposal. This we
apprehend is the real source of that power which
the priesthood hath ever exercised over the human
mind. Pleasure and pain are the two great principles
of human action which has given rise to, the
good and evil principle common to all nations.
Those who held communication and commerce
with the evil principle, are witches, wizzards, sorcerers,
&c. Although we have various laws and
injunctions against witchcraft in scripture, yet we
are still as much in the dark as ever, as no definition
is given of it, nor is the particular actions which
constitute witchcraft enumerated, so as we can say
wherein it consists. The story of the witch of
Endor, is a case that throws more light on the subject
than any other. But she appears to have acted
more in the character of one of our second sighted
seers, than one of our modern witches. According
to our notions and ideas of witchcraft (as laid
down by that sapient monarch James VI.), it is a
poor ignorant old woman, who, through misery or
malice, gives herself to the devil, soul and body,
and renounces her baptism ; for which considerations
Satan engages to assist her with his power to
work a number of petty mischiefs on such as she
has a spite at ; and sometimes he advances a little of
the ‘
needful,’ which, unfortunately for the poor old
Jutg, turns out to be ‘
naething but sklite stands,
and this most unaccountable contract is generally
sealed by * carnal copulation /’ And yet, after believing
this, we call ourselves rational creatures,
and other animals we term brutes ! ! Many people
have wondered, how so exalted a personage as the
devil formerly was in days of yore, should latterly
have taken up with such low company as our modern
witches. He who tempted the very fathers of
the church in so many various ways ; who kept the
whole priesthood of the Catholic church constantly
on the alert with holy \vater, exorcisms, &c. only
to keep him in check ; who often attacked Luther
and our other reformers, in very ungentlemany disguises
; and had even the audacity to insult our covenanted
saints, by bellowing like a bull, grunting
like a pig, or groaning like a dying man. These
were pranks something worthier of a devil than the
tricks played off by the witches. Our King James
gives the reason, because 4 the consuniation of the
world, and our deliverance drawing neere, makes
Satan so rage the more in his instruments, knowing
his kingdom to be so neere an end.’ James was a
little out in his reckoning here, ‘ the consumption
of the world* not having taken place as yet, and the
deviPs kingdom turning out to be rather better established
than his own. So far was it from being
near an end, that it was on the increase, caused
chiefly by the absurd and stupid laws that were enacted
against it bv himself and successors. The
devi’V kingdom is not to be destroyed by acts
of parliament and burning of witches ; these expedients
have been tried in vain all over Europe and
America, without effect ; but now, when every person
can bewitch with impunity, not a witch is to be
found ; and the devil, though left at large, has retreated
to the Highlands and islands, where he is
seldom seen, even by those who Siave the second
sight. The irue engines for battering the strong
hoids oJ Satan, and driving him and his imps into
utter darkness, are science and philosophy ; these
are the weapons that have compelled him to retrogade
movenu-nls, after lavishing rivers of holy water
in vain. Thus the terrific claws of the devil,
when seen by the distempered eyes of ignorant bigotry,
appear to us truly horrible, but when viewed
through philosophical spectacles, look as harmless
as the lamb-skin gloves of a fine lady.
These stories, however, convey a strong likeness
of the times in which they were acted. In our day,
it is almost impossible to believe, that human beings
could give credit to such gross absurdities as
we have laid before the public in this little work,
were the evidence not indubitable. Far less, that
judges, lawyers, and divines, should unite in murdering
such numbers of poor ignorant helpless creaON
tures, for such mad chimeras, when it is hard to
say, whether the poor victim, or the insane judges,
were under the greater delusion. These wonderful
tales of the doings of the devil with the witches,
are taken from their own confessions, and from their
delating of one another, as it is called. To us it
does not appear improbable, but that too many of
the poor deluded wretches actually imagined themselves
to be witches. Nor will this appear so very
surprizing, if we consider the circumstances of the
case. At that period, any person who doubted of
witchcraft, was looked upon as an athiest, and
worse than mad ; the whole country, from one end
to the other, was continually ringing with tales of
witches, devils, and fairies, with such other trash.
Is it not then most likely, that people should dream
about them ? and is there any thing unnatural in
supposing, that they should mistake these dreams
for realities ? as is evidently proved in several cases,
and then confess, not the actions they really did,
but the effects of their own disordered imagination.
Moreover, when confined for this imaginary crime,
they were tortured in all manner of ways, deprived
of sleep, flung into water, and brodit, as they called
it, being striped naked and searched for the devil’s
mark, in the most indecent manner. These confessions,
after they were made, were nothing more
than the wild ravings of a distempered imagination ;
and such a tissue of inconsistencies, as no person of
the present day would listen to. An old woman in
the Isle of Teree (as related by Mr Frazer, page
165), took in her head that she was in heaven no
less, and had eat and drank there ; and so firmly
had the poor creature imbibed the notion, that it
was with some difficulty she could be undeceived.
A curious account of a pretended meeting with the
devil, is given by a gentleman of Normandy, in the
Memoirs of Literature for November 1711.
” The pretended meeting, about which those who
believe they have been at it, relate so many extravagant
things, is only in their imagination. I own,
that some country people, especially shepherds, do
now and then rub their skin with some narcotick
grease or ointments, which cast them into a sound
sleep, and fill their imagination with a thousand
visions. When they are thus asleep, they fancy
they see every thing that was told them concerning
the devil’s meeting, by their fathers, who were also
shepherds, or wizards, if you will have me to call
them so. Whereupon I will inform you of what
I have been told by a country friend of mine, who
pretended to have a mind to go to the devil’s meeting
with his own shepherd, who had the reputation
of being a great sorcerer. Having frequently urged
that shepherd to carry him thither, at last he
obtained his desire. He went to him in the night
at the appointed time. The shepherd immediately
gave him something to grease himself withal. He
took the grease as if he had a mind to rub his skin
with it ; but he desired that the shepherd’s son,
who was to go to the devil’s meeting with his father,
should anoint himself first. Which being
done, that gentleman told the shepherd, that he
should be glad to know what would become of the
young man. Not long after, the young man fell
fast asleep, and when he awaked, though he had
not stirred from that place, he gave an account of
every thing he thought he had seen at the deviPs
meeting ; and even named several persons whom he
pretended to have seen there. My friend perceived
then, that what is commonly said of the deviPs
meeting was a mere fancy. I have told you this
story, that you may impart it to your brethren,
who being prepossest with popular errors about
witchcraft, do frequently hang and burn poor
wretches, whose crime does only consist in the
weakness of their imagination.”
A thousand more instances might be produced
to show, that the devil hath no meetings any where,
but in the perturbed brain of ignorant credulity.
The history of superstition is however of great use;
we there see its dangerous influence upon the
peace and happiness of society its degrading effects
upon the character and manners of nations,
in morality, literature, jurisprudence, and science.
Theology seems to have been particularly infected
with this pestiferous contagion. The clergy were
generally in the front rank of witch-hunters, and
through their influence, the most of them were put
to death. In places where the minister was inflamed
with a holy zeal against the devil and his
emissaries, such as Pittenweem and Torryburn,
the parish became a perfect hot-bed for the rearing
of witches ; and so plentiful a crop did it produce,
that it appeared nothing else could thrive. But in
places where the minister had some portion of hu12
manity, and a little common sense, the devil very
rarely set foot on his territories, and witchcraft was
not to be found. Since the repeal of the statutes
against witchcraft, several prosecutions have been
instituted against witches, who were convicted and
punished ; but it was bewitching silly ignorant people
out of their money, goods, and common sense,
by pretending a knowledge of futurity a power of
relieving maladies in man or beast or procuring
the affection of some favourite swain to a love-sick
maiden. The dupes of these impostors do not altogether
escape, as they are made the laughing stock
of their neighbours ; and by these means even this
trade is now nearly annihilated. Happily for our
times, the refulgent brightness of philosophy and
science, hath dispelled these dark clouds of benighted
superstition, and left us in possession only of
our natural powers and faculties, which are quite
g front ^cotlantr :
al> . A
Burned at Edenbrmigh in Januarte last, 1591.
Published according to the Scottish

M. HE manifold untruths which are spred abroad
concerning the detestable actions and apprehension
of those witches whereof this historic following truely
entreateth, hath caused me to publish the same
in print, and the rather for that sundrie written
coppies are lately dispersed thereof, containing that
the said witches were first discovered by meanes of
a poore pedlar travelling to the towne of Trenent ;
and that by a wonderfull manner hee was in a moment
conveyed at midnight from Scotland to Burdeux
in France (being places of no small distance),
into a merchant’s sellar there ; and after being sent
from Burdeux into Scotland by certaine Scottish
merchants to the King’s Majestic, that he discovered
those witches, and was the cause of their apprehension
; with a number of matters miraculous and
incredible : all which in truth are most false. Nevertheless,
to satisfie a number of honest mindes, who
are desirous to be informed of the’veritie aud truth
of their confessions, which for certaintie is more
stranger than the common reporte runneth, and yet
with more truth. I have undertaken to publish
this short Treatise which declareth the true discourse
of all that happened, and as well what was
pretended by those wicked and detestable witches
against the King’s Majestic ; as also by what means
they wrought the same.
All which examinations (gentle reader) I have
here truly published as they were taken and uttered
in the presence of the King’s Majestie, praying
ihee to accept of it for veritie, the same being so
true as cannot be jeproyed.
G D> by his omnipotent power, hath at all times,
and daily dooth take such care, and is so vigilant
for the weale and preservation of his owne, that
thereby he disappointeth the wicked practices and
evil intents of all such as by any means whatsoever
seeke indirectly to conspire any thing contrary to
his holy will : Yea, and by the same power he hath
lately overthrowne and hindered the intentions and
wicked dealings of a great number of ungodly creatures,
no better than devils ; who suffering themselves
to be allured and enticed by the Devil whom
they served, and unto whom they were privately
sworne, entered into the detestable art of witchcraft,
which they studied and practised so long time, that
in the ende they had seduced by their sorcerie a
number of others to be as bad as themselves, dwell-
ing in the bounds of Lowthen, which is a principall
shire or part of Scotland, where the Kinges
Majestic useth to make his cheifest residence or
abode ; and to the ende that their detestable wickfdnesse
which they prively had pretended against
the Kinges Majestie, the commonweale of that
eountrie, with the nobilitie and subjects of the
same, should come to light. God of his unspeakable
goodness did reveale and laie it open in verie
strange sorte, thereby to make known to the world
that their actions were contrarie to the lawe of God
and the naturall affection which we ought generally
to beare one to another. The manner of the re-
Dealing whereof was as followeth.
Within the towne of Trenent, in the kingdome
of Scotland, there dwelleth one David Seaton, who
being deputie bailiffe in the said towne, had a maid
called Geillies Duncane, who used secretlie to absent
and lie forth of her maisters house every other
night. This Geillies Duncane tooke in hand to
lielpe all such as were troubled or grieved with
anie kinde of sickness or infirmitie, and in short
5pace did performe many matters most miraculous ;
which things, forasmuche as she began to do them
upon a sodaine, having never done the like before,
made her maister and others to be in great admiration,
and wondered thereat : by meanes whereof
the saide David Seaton had his maide in great sus.
pition that shee did not those things by naturall
and lawfull waies, but rather supposed it to be done
by some extraordinarie and unlawfull meanes,
Whereupon her raaister began to grow verie inquisitive,
and examined her which way and by what
meanes shee was able to performe matters of so
great importance ; whereat shee gave him no aunswere
: nevertheless, her maister to the intent that
hee might the better trie and finde out the truth
of the same, did with the help of others torment
her with the torture of the pilliwinkes upon her fingers,
which is a griveous torture, and binding or
\vrinching her head with a cord or roape, which is
a most cruel torment also, yet would shee not confess
anie thing ; whereupon they suspecting that
shee had beene marked by the devill (as commonly
witches are,) made diligent search about her, and
found the enemies mark to be in her fore crag, or
fore part of her throate ; which being found, shee
confessed that all her doings was done by the wicked
allurements and entisements of the devil, and
that shee did them by witchcraft.
After this her confession, shee was committed to
prison, where shee continued a season, where immediately
shee accused these persons following to
bee notorious witches, and caused them forthwith
to be apprehended, one after another, viz. Agnes
Sampson, the eldest witche of them all, dwelling in
Haddington ; Agnes Tompson of Edenbrough ;
Doctor Fian, alias John Cuningham, master of the
schoole at Saltpans in Lowthian, of whose life and
strange acts you shall heare more largely in the
end of this discourse.
These were by the saide Geillies Duncane accused,
as also George Motts’ wife, dwelling in Low20
thian ; Robert Grierson, skipper ; and Jannet
Blandilands ; with the potters wife of Seaton ; the
smith at the Brigge Hallies, with innumerable
others in those parts, and dwelling in those bounds
aforesaid, of whom some are alreadie executed, the
rest remaine in prison to receive the doome of judgement
at the Kinges Majesties will and pleasure.
The saide Geillies Duncane also caused Ewphame
Mecalrean to bee apprehended, who conspired
and performed the death of her godfather, and who
used her art upon a gentleman, being one of the
Lordes and Justices of the Session, for bearing
good-will to her daughter. Shee also caused to be
apprehended one Barbara Naper, for bewitching to
death Archbalde lait Earle of Angus, who languished
to death by witchcraft, and yet the same
was not suspected ; but that he died of so strange a
disease as the phisition kriewe not how to cure or
remedie the same. But of all other the said witches,
these two last before recited, were reputed for as
civil honest women as anie that dwelled within the
cittie of Edenbrough, before they were apprehended.
Many other besides were taken dwelling in
Lieth, who are detayned in prison until his Majesties
further will and pleasure be knowne ; of
whose wicked dooings you shall particularly heare,
which was as followeth.
This aforesaide Agnes Sampson, which was the
elder witche, was taken and brought to Haliriud
House before the Kinges Majestic, and sundrie
other of the nobilitie of Scotland, where shee was
straytly examined ; but all the persuasions which
the Kinges Majestic used to her, with the rest of
his counccll, might not provoke or induce her to
confess any thing, but stoode stiffley in the deniall
of all that was layde to her charge ; whereupon
they caused her to be conveyed away unto prison>
there to receive such torture as hath been lately
provided for witches in that countrie ; and for as
rnuche as by due examination of witchcraft and
witches in Scotland, it hath lately beene founde
that the devill dooth generally marke them with a
privie marke, by reason the witches have confessed
themselves, that the devill doth licke them with his
long in some privie part of their bodie, before he
dooth receive them to bee his servants, which marke
commonlie is given them under the haire in some
part of their bodie, whereby it may not easily “be
found out or scene, although they bee searched ;
and generally so long as the marke is not seene to
those which search them, so long the parties which
have the marke will never confess anie thing.
Therefore by special commandment this Agnes
Sampson had all her haire shaven off, n each part
of her bodie, and her head thrawane with a rope
according to the custome of that countrie, being a
payne most grieveous, which they continued almost
an hower, during which time shee would not confess
anie thing untill the divel’s marke was founde upon
her privities, then shee immediately confessed what,
soever was demaunded of her, and justifiying those
persons aforesaide to be notorious witches.
Item, the said Agnes Sampson was after brought
againe before the Kinges Majestic and his councell,
and being examined of the meeting and detestable
dealings of those witches, shee confessed, that upon
the night of Allhallow Even last, shee was accompanied
as well with the persons aforesaide, as also
with a great many other witches, to the number of
two hundreth, and that all they together went to
sea, each one in a riddle or cive, and went into the
same very substantially, with flaggons of wine,
making merrie and drinking by the way in the same
riddles or cives, to the Kirke of North Barrick in
Lowthian, and that after they had landed, tooke
hands on the lande and daunced this reill or short
daunce, singing all with one voice,
Commer goe ye before, commer goe ye,
Gifye will not goe before, commer let me.
At which time shee confessed, that this Geillies
Duncane did goe before them playing this reill
or daunce, uppon a small trumpe, called a Jewes
trumpe, untill they entred into the Kirke of North
These confessions made the Kinge in a wonder,
full admiration, and sent for the saide Geillie Duncane,
who upon the like trumpe did play the saide
daunce before the Kinges Majestic, who in respect
of the strangeness of these matters, tooke great delight
to be present at their examinations.
Item, the said Agnes Sampson confessed, that the
devill, being then at North Barricke Kirke attending
their coming, in the habit or likeness of a man,
and seeing that they tarried over long, hee at their
coming enjoined them all to a pennance, which was,
that they shoul^ kiss his buttockes, in sign of duty
Co him ; which being put over the pulpit bare, every
one did as he had enjoined them : and having made
his ungodly exhortations, wherein he did greatly
inveigh against the Kinge of Scotland, he received
their oathes for their good and true service towards
him, and departed ; which done, they returned to
sea, and so home again.
At which time the witches demaunded of the
devill why he did beare such hatred to the Kinge ?
Who answered, by reason the Kinge is the greatest
enemie hee hath in the world. * All which their
confessions and depositions are still extant upon record.
Item, the saide Agnes Sampson confessed before
the Kinges Majestic sundrie things, which were so
miraculous and strange, as that his Majestic saide
they were all extreme liars ; whereat shee answered,
shee would not wish his Majestic to suppose
her words to be false, but rather to believe them,
in that shee would discover such matters unto him
as his Majestic should not anie way doubt of.
And thereupon taking his Majestic a little aside,
shee declared unto him the verie wordes which passed
between the Kinges Majestie and his Queene at
Upslo in Norway the first night of marriage, with
the answere ech to other ; whereat the Kinges Ma-
* James, who boasted that he was born in the purest church
on earth,’ and whose courtiers called him ‘ the Childe of God,*
was no doubt highly gratified at this declaration of the devil’s
hatred, because he was his greatest enemie on earth.’ Thi3
was such a piece of flattery as suited the meridian of the monarch’s
intellects ED.
jestie wondered greatly, and swore by the living
God, that he believed all the devills in hell could
not have discovered the same, acknowledging her
words to be most true, and therefore gave the more
credit to the rest that is before declared.
Touching this Agnes Sampson, shee is the onlic
woman who by the devill’s perswasion should have
intended and put in execution the Kinges Majesties
death in this manner.
Shee confessed that shee tooke a blacke toade,
and did hang the same up by the heeles three dales,
and collected and gathered the venome it dropped
and fell from it in ane oister shell, and kept the
same venome close covered, untill shee should obiaine
anie part or peece of foule linnen cloth that
had appertained to the Kinges Majestic, as shirt,
handkercher, napkin, or anie otherthing, which shea
practised to obtaine by meanes of one John Kers,
who being attendant in his Majesties chamber, desired
him for old acquaintance between them, to
help her to one or a peece of such a cloth as is
aforesaide, which thing the saide John Kers denyed
to helpe her to, saying he coulde not helpe her unto
And the saide Agnes Sampson by her depositions
jince her apprehension, saith, that if shee had ob
tayned anie one peece of linnen cloth which the
Kinge had worne and fowlede, shee had bewitched
him to death, and put him to such extraordinarie
paines, as if he had been lying upon sharp thornes
and endes of needles.
Moreover shee confessed, that at the time when his
Majestic was in Denmarke, slice being accompanied
by the parties before speciallie named, tooke a cat
and christened it, and afterwarde bounde to each
part of that cat, the cheefest part of a dead man,
and several joynts of his bodie ; and that in the
night following, the saide cat was convayed into
the middest of the sea by all the witches, sayling
in their riddles or cives, as is aforesaid, and so left
the saide cat right before the towne of Lieth in
Scotland. This doone, there did arise such a tempest
in the sea, as a greater hath not beene scene ;
which tempest was the cause of the perishing of a
boat or vessel coming over from the towne of Brunt
Islande to the towne of Lieth, wherein was sundrie
jewelles and rich giftes, which should have been
presented to the now Queene of Scotland at her
Majesties coming to Lieth.
Againe it is confessed, that the said christened
cat was the cause that the Kinges Majesties shippe
at his coming forth of Denmarke had a contrarie
winde to the rest of his shippes then being in his
companie, which thing was most strange and true
as the Kinges Majestic acknowlegeth, for when the
rest of the shippes had a faire and good winde, then
was the winde contrarie and altogether against his
Majestic; and further, the sayde witche declared,
that his Majestic had never come safely from the
sea, if his faith had not prevayled above their intentions.
* It no doubt required the penetration of a witch to discover
the strength of James’s faith, which prevailed against their incantations,
and saved him from perishing at sea. Those who
Moreover, the saide witches being demaunded
how the divell would use them when he was in their
companie, they confessed, that when the divel did
recyeve theme for his serventes, and that they had
vowed themselves unto him, then he woulde carnally
use them, albeit to their little pleasure, in respect
to his colde nature,
* and would doe the like
at sundrie other times.
As touching the aforesaide Doctor Fian, alias
John Cunningham, the examination of his actes
since his apprehension, declareth the great subteltie
of the divell, and therefore maketh thinges to
appeare the more miraculous ; for being apprehended
by the accusation of the saide Geillies
Duncane aforesaide, who confessed he was their
register, and that there was not one man suffered
to come to the divel’s readinges but onlie hee, the
saide Doctor was taken and imprisoned, and used
with the accustomed paine provided for those offences,
inflicted upon the rest as is aforesaide.
First) by thrawing of his head with a rope,
whereat he would confess nothing.
conducted the examination of the witches, no doubt knew well
enough how to extract this little piece of delicate flattery from
the hags, so gratifying to the palate of their master. ED.
* In the records of the kirk-session of Torryburn, in Fifeshire,
so late as 1 103, is the confession of one Lillias Eddie, a
supposed witch, who immediately after she had been initiated
in the infernal mysteries, was taken behind a stook, it (being
harvest time), and carressed by the devil. She likewise complains
that his embraces were cold and unsatisfactory. The
gross indelicacy of such stories are only to be equalled by their
absurdity. “What a picture does it present to readers of the
present day, of the manners of that age, when such topics could
be gravely discussed by the King in councill ! !
Secondly, hee was persuaded by faire meanes to
confesse his follies, but that would prevail as little.
Lastly, hee was put to the most severe and cruell
paine in the worlde, called the bootes, who, after he
had received three strokes, being inquired if hee
would confess his damnable actes and wicked life,
his toong would not serve him to speake, in respect
whereof the rest of the witches willed to searche his
toong, under which was found two pinnes thurst up
into the heade ; whereupon the witches did say,
now is the charm stinted, and shewed, that those
charmed pinnes were the cause he could not confesse
any thing : then was he immediately released of the
bootes, brought before the King, his confession was
taken, and his own hand willingly set thereunto,
which contained as followeth :
First, that at the generall meetinges of those
witches, he was always present, that he was clarke
to all those that were in subjection to the divel’s
service, bearing the name of witches, that always
hee did take their oathes for their true service to
the divel, and that he wrote for them such matters
as the divel still pleased to command him.
Item, hee confessed that by his witchcraft hee did
bewitch a gentleman dwelling neare to the Saltpans,
where the said Doctor kept schoole, only for being
enamoured of a gentlewoman whome he loved himself
; by meanes of which his sorcery, witchcraft,
and divelish practices, hee caused the said gentleman
that once in xxiiii howers he fell into a lunacy*
and madness, and so continued one whole hower
together ; and for the veritie of the sarae^ he caused
the gentleman to be brought before the Kinges Majestie,
which was upon the xxiiii day of December
last, and being in his Majesties chamber, suddenly
hee gave a great scritch, and fell into madness,
sometime bending himself, and sometime capering
so directly up, that his heade did touch the seeling
of the chamber, to the great admiration of his Majestie
and others then present ; so that all the gentlemen
in the chamber were not able to hold him,
untill they called in more helpe, who together bound
him hand and foot ; and suffering the said gentleman
to lie still until his furie were past, hee within
an hower came againe to himselfe, when being
demaunded by the Kinges Majestie what he saw or
did all that while, answered, that he had been in a
sounde sleepe.
Item, the saide Doctor did also confesse, that hee
had used meanes sundrie times to obtaine his purpose
and wicked intent of the same gentlewoman,
and seeing himselfe disappointed of his intention,
hee determined by all wayes hee might to obtaine
the same, trusting by conjuring, witchraft, and sorcerie,
to obtaine it in this manner.
It happened this gentlewoman being unmarried,
had a brother who went to schoole with the saide
Doctor, and calling the saide scholler to him, demaunded
if hee did lie with his sister, who answered
he did, by meanes whereof he thought to obtain
his purpose, and therefore secretly promised to
teach him without stripes, so he woulde obtaine for
him three hairs of his sister’s privitees, at such time
as hee should spie best occasion for it ; which the
youth promised faithfully to performe, and vowed
speedily to put it in practice, taking a piece of conjured
paper of his maister to lap them in when hee
had gotten them ; and thereupon the boy practised
nightly to obtaine his maister’s purpose, especially
when his sister was asleep.
But God, who knoweth the secret of all harts,
and revealeth all wicked and ungodly practices,
would not suffer the intents of this divelish Doctor
to come to that purpose which hee supposed it
woulde, and therefore to declaire that hee was
heavily offended with his wicked intent, did so work
by the gentlewoman’s own meanes, that in the endc
the same was discovered and brought to light ;
for shee being one night asleep, and her brother in
bed with her, sodainly cried out to her mother, declaring
that her brother woulde not suffer her to
sleepe ; whereupon, her mother having a quicke capaeitie,
did vehemently suspect Doctor Han’s intention,
by reason shee was a witch of herself, and
therefore presently arose, and was very inquisitive
of the boy to understand his intent, and the better
to know the same, did beat him with sundrie stripes,
whereby hee discovered the truth unto her.
The mother, therefore, being well practised in
witchcraft, did thinke it most convenient to meete
with the Doctor in his owne arte, and thereupon
took the paper from the boy wherein hee would
have put the same haires, and went to a yong
heyf’er which never had borne calf, nor gone unto
the bull, and with a paire of sheeres clipped off
three haires from the udder of the cow, and wrapt
them in the same paper, which shee again delivered
to the boy, then willing him to give the same to
his saide maister, which hee immediately did.
The schoole maister, so, soone as he did recieve
them, thinking them indeede to be the maids haires,
went straight and wrought his arte upon them :
But the Doctor had no sooner done his intent to
them, but presently the hayfer cow, whose haires
they were indeede, came unto the door of the
church wherein the schoole maister was, into the
which the hayfer went, and made towards the
schoole maister, leaping and dancing upon him,
and following him forth of the church, and to what
place soever he went, to the great admiration of all
the townsmen of Saltpans, and many others who
did behold the same.
The report whereof made all men imagine that
hee did worke it by the divel, without whome it
coulde never have been so sufficiently effected ; and
thereupon the name of the saide Doctor Fian (who
was but a young man), began to grow common
among the people of Scotland, that he was secretly
nominated for a notable conjurer.
All which, although in the beginning he denied,
and woulde not confesse, yet having felt the paine
of the bootes,
(and the charme stinted as aforesaide)
hee confessed all the aforesaide to be most
* We have no doubt that the bootes were a most efficacious
engine to procure a confession, and the Doctor would most
likely have confessed that he had the inoon in bis pocket by the
same means. ED.
true, without producing any witnesses to justifie
the same ; and thereupon before the Kings Majestie
hee subscribed the sayd confessione with his
owne hande, which for truth remaineth upon record
in Scotland.
After that the depositions and examinations of
the sayd Doctor Fian, alias Cuningham, was taken,
as alreddie is declared, with his own hand willingly
set thereunto, hee was by the maister of the prison
commited to ward, and appointed to a chamber by
himselfe, where foresaking his wicked wayes, acknowledging
his most ungodly life, shewing that
hee had too much followed the allurements and enticements
of Sathan, and fondly practised his conclusions
by conjuring, witchcraft, inchantment,
sorcerie, and such like, he renounced the divel and
all his wicked workes, vowed to lead the lyfe of a
Christian, and seemed newly converted towards
The morrow after, upon conference had with
him, hee granted that the divel had appeared unto
him in the night before, appareled all in blacke,
with a white wande in his hande ; and that the divel
demanded of him if hee woulde continue his
faithfull service, according to his first oath and promise
made to that effect. Whome (as hee then
saide), hee utterly renounced to his face, and said
unto him in this manner, avoide, Satan, avoide, for
I have listened too much unto thee, and by the same
thou hast undone me, in respect whereof I utterly
forsake thee : To whome the divel answered, that
once ere thou die thou shalt bee mine ; and with
that (as hee sayd), the divel brake the white wande,
and immediately vanished forth of his sight.
Thus all the daie this Doctor Fian continued
verie solitarie, and seemed to have a care of his
owne soule, and would call upon God, shewing
himselfe penitent for his wicked lyfe ; nevertheless,
the same night hee found such meanes that he stole
the key of the prison doore and chamber in which
he was, which in the night he opened and fled
awaie to the Saltpans, where he was alwayes resident,
and first apprehended. Of whose sodaine
departure when the Kings Majestic had intelligence,
hee presently caused dilligent inquirie to
be made for his apprehension ; and for the better
effecting thereof, hee sent public proclamations into
all parts of his land to the same effect. By meanes
of whose hot and harde pursuite he was again
taken and brought to prison ; and then being called
before the Kings Highness, he was reexamined
as well touching his departure, as also touching all
that had before happened.
But this Doctor, notwithstanding that his owne
confession appeareth remaining in recorde under
his owne hande writting, and the same thereunto
fixed in the presence of the Kings Majestic and
sundrie of his councill, yet did he utterly denie the
Thereupon the Kings Majestic percieving his
stubborne willfullness, concieved and imagined that
in the time of his absence hee had entered into
newe conference and league with the dwell his
maister ; and that hee had beene again newely
marked, for the which he was narrowly searched,
but it coulde not in anie waie be founde ; yet for
more tryal of him to make him confesse, he was
commanded to have a most strange torment, which
was done in this manner following.
His nails upon all his fingers were riven and
pulled off* with an instrument called in Scottich a
Turkas, which in England we call a payre of pincers,
and under everie nayle there was thrust in
thro needels over even up to the heads. At all
which torments notwithstanding the Doctor never
shronke anie whit, neither would he then confesse
it the sooner for all the tortures inflicted upon him.
Then was hee with all convenient speede, by
commandment, convaied againe to the torment of
the bootes, wherein hee continued a long time,
and did abide so many blows in them, that his
legges were crusht and beaten together as small as
might bee, and the bones and flesh so bruised, that
the blood and marrow spouted forth in great abundance,
whereby they were made unserviceable
for ever. And notwithstanding all these grievous
paines and cruel torments hee woulde not confesse
anie thing, so deeply had the divel entered into his
hart, that hee utterly denied that which he before
avouched, and would saie nothing thereunto but
this, that what hee had done and sayde before,
was only done and sayde for fear of paynes which
he had endured.
Upon great consideration, therefore, taken by
the Kings Majestie and his councell, as well for
the due execution of justice upon such detestable
malefactors, as also for examples sake, to remayne
a terrour to all others hereafter that shall attempt
to deale in the lyke wicked and ungodlye actions,
as witchcraft, sorcerie, cunjuration, and such lyke,
the saide Doctor Fian was soon after arraigned,
condemned, and adjudged by the law to die, and
then to be burned according to the lawe of that
lande provided in that behalfe. Whereupon he
was put into a carte, and being first stranguled, hee
was immediately put into a great fire, being readie
provided for that purpose, and there burned in the
Castile Hill of Edenbrough, on a Saterdaie in the
ende of Januarie last past, 1591.
The rest of the witches which are not yet executed,
remayne in prison till farther triall and
knowledge of his Majesties pleasure.
This strange discourse before recited, may perhaps
give some occasion of doubt to such as shall
happen to reade the same, and thereby conjecture
that the Kings Majestic would hazzarde himselfe
in the presence of such notorious witches, least
thereby might have ensued great danger to his
person and the general state of the land, which
thing in truth might wel have beene feared. But
to answer generally to such let this suffice ; that
first it is well known that the King is the child and
servant of God, and they but the servants to the
devil ; he is the Lord’s anointed, and they but
vesseles of God’s wrath ; hee is a true Christian,
and trusteth in God ; they worse than infidels, for
they only trust in the divel, who daily serve them,
lill hee have brought them to utter destruction.
But hereby it seemeth that his Highness carried
a magnanimous and undaunted mind, not feared
with their inchantments, but resolute in this, that
so long as God is with him hee feareth not who is
against him ; and trulie, the whole scope of this
Treatise dooth so plainlie laie open the wonderfull
Providence of the Almightie, that if hee had not
been defended by his omnipotence and power, his
Highness had never returned alive in his voiage
from Denmarke, so there is no doubt but God
woulde as well defend him on the land as on the
sea, where they pretended their damnable practice.
Extracted from SIR JAMES MELVIL’S Memoirs,
page 388, octavo edition.
ABOUT this time many witches were taken in
Lothian, who deposed concerning some design of
the Earl of Bothwell’s against his Majesty’s person.
Which coming to the said Earl’s ears, he entered
in ward within the Castle of Edinburgh, desiring
to be tried, alledging that the devil, who was a
liar from the beginning, ought not to be credited,
nor yet the witches, his sworn servants. Especially
a renowned midwife called Amy Simson affirmed,
that she, in company with nine other witches,
being convened in the night beside Prestonpans,
the devil their master being present, standing in
the midst of them, a body of wax, shapen and
made by the said Amy Simson, wrapped within a
linnen clojh, was first delivered to the devil ; who,
after he had pronounced his verdict, delivered the
said picture to Amy Simson, and she to her next
neighbour, and so every one round about, saying,
This is King James VI. ordered to be consumed at
tlie instance ofa nobleman, Francis Earl Bothwell.
Afterward again at their meeting by night in the
kirk of North Berwick, where the devil, clad in a
black gown, with a black hat upon his head, preached
unto a great number of them out of the pulpit,
having light candles round about him.
The effect of his language was to know what
hurt they had done ; how many they had gained to
their opinion since the last meeting ; what success
the melting of the picture had, and such other vain
things. And because an old silly poor ploughman,
called Gray Meilt, chanced to say, that nothing ailed
the King yet, God be thanked, the devil gave
him a great blow. Thus divers among them entred
in reasoning, marvelling that all their devilry
could do no harm to the King, as it had done to
divers others. The devil answered, il est un hornme
de Dieu, certainly he is a man of God, and does
no wrong wittingly, but he is inclined to all Godliness,
justice, and vertue, therefore God hath preserved
him in the midst of many dangers.
* Now,
after that the devil had ended his admonitions, he
came down out of the pulpit, and caused all the
company come kiss his arse ; which they said was
cold like ice, his body hard like iron, as they
* It was certainly very kind in the devil thus to vouch for
James’s being
‘ a man of God, and one who did no wrong wittingly,
but was inclined to all Godliness, Justice, and Virtue.’
This is a most excellent character. But posterity are inclined
to be of Earl Bothwell’s opinion, that the devil is a liar, and
ought not to be credited. ED.
thought who handled him, his face was terrible,
his nose like the beak of an eagle, great burning
eyes, his hands and his legs were hoary, with claws
upon his hands and feet like the griffin ; he spoke
with a low voice.
The tricks and tragedies he played then among
so many men and women in this country, will hardly
get credit by posterity ; the history whereof,
with their whole depositions, was written by Mr
James Carmichael, minister of Haddington.
* Among
other things, some of them did shew, that
there was a westland man, called Richard Graham,
who had a familiar spirit, the which Richard they
said could both do and tell many things, chiefly
against the Earl of Bothwell. Whereupon the said
Richard Graham was apprehended and brought to
Edinburgh ; and, being examined before his Majesty,
I being present, he granted that he had a familiar
spirit which shewed him sundrie things, but
he denied that he was a witch, or had any frequentation
with them. But when it was answered
again, how that Amy Simson had declared, that
he caused the Earl of Bothwell address him to her,
he granted that to be true, and that the Earl of
Bothwell had knowledge of him by Effe Machalloun
and Barbary Napier, Edinburgh women.
Whereupon he was sent for by the Earl Bothwell,
who required his help to cause the Kings Majesty
his master to like well of him. And to that effect
* This probably is the author of the foregoing True Discourse.’
he gave the said Earl some drug or herb, willing
him at some convenient time to touch therewith his
Majesty’s face. Which being done by the said
Earl ineffectually, he dealt again with the said
Richard to get his Majesty wrecked, as Richard
alledged ; who said, he could not do such things
himself, but that a notable midwife, who was a
witch, called Amy Simson, could bring any such
purpose to pass. Thus far the said Richard Graham
affirmed divers times before the council ;
nevertheless, he was burnt with the said Simson,
and many other witches. This Richard alledged,
that it was certain what is reported of the fairies,
and that spirits may take a form, and be seen,
though not felt.
FROM the foregoing
< True Discourse,”* it will
be seen what an active part James took in the examination
of Doctor Fian and the other witches.
From this source he most probably collected those
materials which he has wrought up into a Daemonologie,
a work which no doubt contributed to obtain
for him from the English bishops, the appelation
of * the British Solomon? In this work he
appears to be more intimately acquainted with the
internal polity of the Demi’s kingdom, than he was
with his own. The kingdom of Satlwn was then
in its zenith of power ; but, like other states and
kingdoms, it has sunk into great weakness and debility.
The ‘ horrid diet,’ who could then make
the greatest personages shake in their shoes, cannot
now frighten a child ; and the ‘
roaring- lion? who
used to be going about seeking whom he might devour,
must surely be a better housekeeper than
formerly, as he is never seen abroad, even by an
old woman.
From the Daemonologie we have made copious
extracts, that our readers may have an idea of the
days of i
langsynej when there was plenty of diets.,
witches, fairies, and water kelpies, all over the
country. Those, therefore, who are anxious to
know how affairs are managed in the ( kingdom of
1 and can rely on the word of a king for
the truth of it, will be here amply gratified.
So, courteous reader, I bid thee farewell,
The First Entresse and Prentiship of them that
give themselves to Witchcraft.
THE persons that give themselves to witchcraft,
are of two sorts, rich and of better accompt, poore
and of baser degree. These two degrees answere
to the passions in them, which the divell uses as
meanes to entice them to his service ; for such of
them as are in great miserie and povertie, he allures
to follow him, by promising unto them great riches
and worldly commoditie. Such as though rich, yet
burne in a desperate desire of revenge, he allures
them by promises to get their turne satisfied to
their hearts contentment. It is to be noted now,
that that olde and craftie enemie of ours assailes
none, though touched with any of these two extremities,
except he first finde an entresse ready for
him, either by the great ignorance of the person he
deales with, joyned with an evill life, or else by
their carelessnesse and contempt of God. And
imding them in an utter despaire, he prepares the
way by feeding them craftely in their humour, and
filling them further and further with despaire,
while hee finde the time proper to discover himself
unto them. At which time, either upon their walking
solitarie in the fieldes, or else lying pausing in
their bed, but alwaies without the company of any
other, hee, either by a voyce, or in likenesse of a
man, inquires of them what troubles them, and
promiseth them a suddaine and certaine way of
remedie, upon condition, on the other part, that
they follow his advise, and doe such things as he
will require of them. Their mindes being prepared
beforehand, they easily agree unto that demand
of his, and syne sets another tryist where
they may meete againe. At which time, before
hee proceede any further with them, hee first perswades
them to addict themselves to his service,
which being easily obtained, he then discovers what
he is unto them, makes them to renounce their
God and baptisme directly, and gives them his
rnarke upon some secret place of their bodie, which
remaines soare unhealed while his next meeting
with them, and thereafter ever insensible, howsoever
it be nipped or pricked by any, as is daily
prooved, to give them a proofe thereby, that as in
that doing he could hurt and heale them, so all
their ill and well doing thereafter must depend
upon him ; and, besides that, the intolerable dolour
that they feele in that place where he hath
marked them, serves to waken them, and not to let
them rest, while their next meeting againe ; fearing
lest otherwaies they might either forget him, being
as new prentises, and not well enough founded yet
in that fiendly follie ; or else remembering of that
horrible promise they made him at their last meeting,
they might skunner at the same, and presse
to call it backe. At their third meetinge, hee
makes a shew to be carefull to performe his promises,
either by teaching them waies how to get
themselves revenged, if they be of that sort, or else
by teaching them lessons how by most vile and
unlawfull meanes they may obtaine gaine and
worldly commoditie, if they be of the other sort.
The Witches actions divided into two parts The
actions proper to their o&n persons Theforme
oftheir Conventions and adoring oftheir Master.
THEIH actions may be divided into two parts ;
the actions of their owne persons, and the actions
proceeding from them towards any other ; and this
division being well understood, will easily resolve
what is possible to them to doe. For although
all that they confesse is no lie upon their part,
yet doubtlesly, in my opinion, a part of it is not
indeede according as they take it to be, for the
divell illudes the senses of these schollers of his in
many things.
To the effect that they may performe such services
of their false master as he employs them in,
the devill, as God’s ape, counterfeits in his servants
this service and forme of adoration that God preEXTRACTS
scribed and made his servants to practise ; for as
the servants of God publikely use to conveene for
serving of him, so makes he them in great numbers
to conveene (though publikely they dare not), for
his service. As none conveenes to the adoration
and worshipping of God, except they be marked
with his seale, the sacrament of baptisme ; so none
serves Satan, and conveenes to the adoring of him,
tli at are not marked with that marke whereof I alreadie
spake. As the minister sent by God teacheth
plainely at the time of their publike conventions,
how to serve him in spirit and trewth, so
that unclean spirit, in his owne person, teacheth his
disciples at the time of their conveening, how to
worke all kind of mischiefe, and craves coumpt of
all their horrible and detestable proceedings passed
for advancement of his service : Yea, that hee may
the more vilely counterfeit and scorne God, he oft
times makes his slaves to conveene in these very
places which are destinate and ordained for the
conveening of the servants of God, (I meane by
churches.) But this farre which I have yet said,
I not onely take it to be trew in their opinions, but
even so to be indeed ; for the forme that he used
in counterfeiting God amongst the Gentiles, makes
me so to think ; as God spake by his oracles, spake
he not so by his ? As God had as well bloodie sacrifices,
as others without blood, had not he the
like ? As God had churches sanctified to his service,
with altars, priests, sacrifices, ceremonies, and
prayers, had he not the like polluted to his service ?
As God gave responses by Urim and Thummim,
gave he not his responses by the intralles of beasts,
by the singing of fowles, and by their actions in the
aire ? As God by visions, dreames, and extasies,
revealed what was to come, and what was his will
unto his servants, used hee not the like meanes to
forewarne his slaves of things to come ? Yea, even
as God loved cleanenesse, hated vice and impuritie,
and appointed punishments therefore, used he not
the like, (though falsly I grant, and but in eschewing
the lesse inconvenience, to draw them upon a
greater), yet dissimulated he not, I say, so farre as
to appoint his priests to keepe their bodies cleane
and undefined, before their asking responses of him ?
And fained he not God, to be a protectour of every
vertue, and a just revenger of the contrarie ? This
reason then mooves me, that as he is that same divell,
and as crafty now as he was then, so will he
not spare as pertly in these actions that I have
spoken of concerning the witches’” persons ; but further,
witches oft times confesse, not only his conveening
in the church with them, but his occupying
of the pulpit : Yea, their forme of adoration to
be the kissing of his hinder parts, which, though it
seeme ridiculous, yet may it likewise be trew, seeing
we reade that in Calicute he appeared in forme
of a goat-bucke, hath publikely that unhonest homage
done unto him by every one of the people.
So ambitious is he, and greedy of honour, (which
procured his fall) that he will even imitate God in
that part where it is said, that Moyses could see
but the hinder parts of God for the brightnesse of
his glory.
What are the wayes possible wJiereby the Witches
may transport themselves to placesJarre distant ?
And what are Impossible and meere Illusions
ofSatan ?
PHI. But by what way say they, or thinke yee
it possible, they can come to these unlawfull conventions
? *
EPI.- There is the thing which I esteeme their
senses to be deluded in, and though they lie not in
confessing of it, because they thinke it to be trew,
yet not to be so in substance or effect ; for they say,
that by divers meanes they may conveene, either to
the adoring of their master, or to the putting in
practise any service of his committed unto their
charge ; one way is naturall, which is naturall riding,
going, or sailing, at what houre their master
comes and advertises them ; and this way may be
easily beleeved ; another way is somewhat more
strange, and yet it is possible to bee trew, which is,
by being caried by the force of the spirit, which is
their conducter, either above the earth, or above
the sea, swiftly to the place where they are to meet ;
which I am perswaded to bee likewise possible, in
respect, that as Habakkuk was carried by the angel
in that forme to the den where Daniel lay, so I
thinke the divell will be readie to imitate God as
well in that as in other things ; which is much more
* The Daemonologie is written by way of dialogue, in which
Philomathes and Epistemon reason the matter.
possible to him to doe, being a spirit, then to a
mighty wind, being but a naturall meteore to transport
from one place to another a solide body, as is
commonly and daily scene in practise ; but in this
violent forme they cannot be caried but a short
bounds, agreeing with the space that they may retain
their breath, tor if it were longer, their breath
could not remain unextinguished, their body being
caried in such a violent and forcible manner ; as by
example, if one fall off a small height, his life is but
in perill, according to the hard or soft lighting ; but
if one fall from an high and stay rocke, his breath
will be forcibly banished from the body before he
can win to the earth, as is oft scene by experience ;
and in this transporting they say themselves, that
they are invisible to any other, except amongst
themselves, which may also be possible in my opinion
; for if the devill may forme what kinde of
impressions he pleases in the aire, why may he not
farre easilier thicken and obscure so the aire that
is next about them, by contracting it straite together,
that the beames of any other man’s eyes cannot
pierce throw the same to see them ? But the
third way of their comming to their conventions is
that wherein I thinke them deluded ; for some of
them say, that being transformed in the likenesse
of a little beast or foule, they will come and pierce
through whatsoever house or church, though all
ordinarie passages be closed, by whatsoever open
the aire may enter in at ; and some say, that their
bodies lying still, as in an extasie, their spirits will
be ravished out of their bodies, and caried to such
places ; and for verifying thereof, will give evident
tokens, as well by witnesses that have seene their
body lying senseless in the mean time, as by naming
persons with whom they met, and giving tokens
what purpose was amongst them, whom otherwise
they could not have known ; for this forme of journeying
they affirme to use most, when they are
transported from one countrey to another.
PHI. But the reasons that moove me to thinke
that these are meere illusions, are these first, for
them that are transformed in likenesse of beasts or
foules, can enter through so narrow passages, although
I may easily beleeve that the divell could
by his workmanship upon the aire, make them appeare
to be in such formes, either to themselves, or
to others ; yet how can he contract a solide body
within so little room ? I think it is directly contrary
to itselfe ; for to be made so little, and yet not diminished
; to be so straitly drawn together, and yet
feele no paine, I thinke it is so contrary to the qualitie
of a naturall bodie, and so like to the little
transubstantiate god in the Papists masse, that I
can never beleeve it. So to have a quantitie, is so
proper to a solide body, that as all philosophers
conclude, it cannot be any more without one, then
a spirit can have one ; for when Peter came out of
the prison, and the doores all locked, it was not by
any contracting of his body in so little roome, but
by the giving place of the doore, though unespied
by the gaylors ; and yet is there no comparison,
when this is done, betwixt the power of God and
of the divel. As to their forme of extasie and spi-
rituall transporting, it is certaine the soules going
out of the body, is the onely definition of naturall
death ; and who are once dead, God forbid we
should thinke that it should lie in the power of all
the divels in hell to restore them to their life again,
although he can put his owne spirit in a dead body,
for that is the office properly belonging to God ;
and, besides that, the soule once parting from the
body, cannot wander any longer in the world, but
to the owne resting place must it goe immediately,
abiding the conjunction of the body again at the
latter day. And what Christ or the prophets did
miraculously in this case, it can in no Christian
man’s opinion be made common with the divel. As
for any tokens that they give for proving of this,
it is very possible to the divel’s craft to perswade
them to these meanes ; for he being a spirit, may
he not so ravish their thoughts, and dull their
senses, that their body lying as dead, he may object
to their spirits, as it were in a dreame, and represent
such formes of persons, of places, and other
circumstances, as he pleases to illude them with ?
Yea, that he may deceive them with the greater
cfficacie, may he not, at the same instant, by fellow
angels of his, illude such other persons so in that
same fashion, with whom hee makes them to beleeve
that they mette, that all their reports and
tokens, though severally examined, may every one
agree with another ? And that whatsoever actions,
either in hurting men or beasts, or whatsoever other
thing that they falsly imagine at that time to have
done, may by himselfe or his marrowes at that
same time be done indeed ; so as if they would
give for a token of their being ravished at the death
of such a person within so short a space thereafter,
whom they beleeve to have poisoned or witched at
that instant, might he not at that same houre have
smitten that same person, by the permission of
God, to the farther deceiving of them, and to
moove others to beleeve them ? And this is surely
the likelyest way, and most according to reason,
which my judgement can finde out in this and
whatsoever other unnatural points of their confession.
Witches actions towards others Why there are more
Women ofthat Craft then Men What things are
possible to them to effectuate by the power oftheir
Master -What is the surest remedy ofthe harmes
done by them.
PHI. FORSOOTH your opinion in this seems to
cary most reason with it ; and since ye have ended
then the actions belonging properly to their owne
persons, say forward now to their actions used towards
EPI. In their actions used towards others, three
things ought to be considered ; first, the manner
of their consulting thereupon ; next, their part as
instruments ; and, last, their master’s part, who
puts the same in execution. As to their consultations
thereupon, they use them oftest in the churches,
where they conveene for adoring ; at which time
their master enquiring at them what they would be
at, every one of them propones unto him what
wicked turne they would have done, either for obtaining
of riches, or for revenging them upon any
whom they have malice at ; who granting their demaund,
as no doubt willingly he will, since it is to
doe evill, hee teacheth them the meanes whereby
they may doe the same. As for little trifling turnes
that women have adoe with, he causeth them to
joynt dead corpses, and to make powders thereof,
mixing such other things thereamongst as h^ gives
unto them.
PHI. But before ye goe further, permit me, I
pray you, to interrupt you one word, which ye have
put me in memorie of by speaking of women ;
What can be the cause that there are twentie women
given to that craft where there is one man ?
EPI. The reason is easie, for as that sexe is
frailer than man is, so is it easier to be intrapped
in these grosse snares of the divell, as was overwell
prooved to be trew, by the serpent’s deceiving
of Eve at the beginning, which makes him the homelier
with that sexe sensine.
PHI. Returne now where ye left.
EPI. To some others at these times he teaeheth
how to make pictures of waxe or clay, that by the
roasting thereof, the persons that they beare the
name of may be continually melted or dried away
by continuall sicknesse. To some he gives such
stones or pouders as will helpe to cure or cast on
diseases; and to some hee teacheth kindes of uncouth
poysons, which mediciners understand not ;
not that any of these meanes which he teacheth
them (except the poysons, which are composed of
things naturall), can of themselves helpe any thing
to these turnes that they are employed in, but onely
being God’s ape, as well in that, as in all other
things. Even as God by his sacraments, which are
earthly of themselves, workes a heavenly eifect,
though no waves by any cooperation in them ; and
as Christ by clay and spettle wrought together,
opened the eyes ofthe blinde man, suppose there was
no vertue in that which he outwardly applied, so
the divel will have his outward meanes to be shewes
as it were of his doing, which hath no part or cooperation
in his turnes with him, how farre that
ever the ignorants be abused in the contrarie. And
as to the effects of these two former parts, to wit^
the consultations and the outward meanes, they are
so wonderfull, as I dare not alledge any of them
without joyning a sufficient reason of the possibilitie
thereof; for leaving all the small trifles among
wives, and to speake of the principall points of their
craft, for the common trifles thereof, they can doe
without converting well enough by themselves,
these principall points, I say, are these they can
make men or women to love or hate other, which
may be very possible to the divel to effectuate, seeing
he being a subtile spirit, knowes well enough
how to perswade the corrupted affection of them
whom God will permit him to deal with, they can
lay the sicknesse of one upon another, which likewise
is very possible unto him ; for since by God’s
permission he laide sicknesse upon Job, why may
he not farre easilier lay it upon any other ? For as
an old practitian, hee knowes well enough what
humour domines most in any of us, and as a spirit
he can subtillie waken up the same, making it peccant,
or to abound, as hee thinkes meet, for troubling
of us, when God will so permit him. And for
the taking off of it, no doubt he will be glad to relieve
such of present paine as he may thinke by
these meanes to perswade to be catched in his everlasting
snares and fetters. They can bewitch and
take the life of men or women, by roasting of the
pictures, as I spake of before, which likewise is
verie possible to their master to performe ; for although
that instrument of waxe have no vertue in
that turne doing, yet may he not very well, even by
the same measure that his conjured slaves melts
that waxe at the fire, may he not, I say, at these
same tunes, subtily as a spirit, so weaken and scatter
the spirits of life of the patient, as may make
him on the one part, for faintnesse, to sweat out
the humour of his bodie, and on the other part, for
the not concurrence of these spirits, which causes
his digestion, so debilitate his stomacke, that this
humour radicall continually, sweating out on the
one part, and no new good sucke being put in the
place thereof, for lacke of digestion on the other,
he at last shall vanish away, even as his picture
will doe at the fire ? A nd that knavish and cunning
workeman, by troubling him onely at sometimes,
makes a proportion so neere betwixt the working
of the one and the other, that both shall end as it
were at one time. They can raise stormes and
tempests in the aire, either upon sea or land, though
not universally, but in such a particular place and
prescribed bounds, as God will permit them so to
trouble. Which likewise is very easy to be discerned
from any other naturall tempests that are
meteores, in respect of the sudden and violent raising
thereof, together with the short induring of the
same. And this is likewise very possible to their
master to doe, hee having such affinitie with the
aire, as being a spirit, and having such power of
the forming and mooving thereof; for in the Scripture,
that stile of the prince of the aire, is given
unto him. They can make folkes to become phrenticque
or maniacque, which likewise is very possible
to their master to doe, since they are but naturall
sicknesses, and so he may lay on these kindes as
well as any others. They can make spirits either
to follow and trouble persons, or haunt certaine
houses, and affray oftentimes the inhabitants, as
hath been knowne to be done by our witches at this
time. And likewise, they can make some to bee
possessed with spirits, and so to become very demoniacques
; and this last sort is very possible likewise
to the divel their master to doe, since he may
easily send his owne angels to trouble in what forme
he pleases any whom God will permit him so to
PHI. But will God permit these wicked instruments,
by the power of the devill their master, to
trouble by any of these meanes any that beleeve in
him ?
i,- No doubt, for there are three kindes of
folkes whom God will permit so to be tempted or
troubled ; the wicked for their horrible sinnes, to
punish them in the like measure ; the godly that
are sleeping in any great sinnes or infirmities, and
weaknesse in faith, t o waken them up the faster by
such an uncouth forme ; and even some of the best,
that their patience may be tried before the world,
as Job’s was. For why may not God use any
kinde of extraordinarie punishment, when it pleases
him, as well as the ordinarie rods of sicknesse or
other adversities ?
PHI. Who then may be free from these devilish
practises ?
EPI. No man ought to presume so farre as to
promise any impunitie to himselfe ; for God hath
before all beginnings, preordinated as well the particular
sorts of plagues, as of benefites, for every
man, which in the owne time he ordaines them to
be visited with ; and yet ought we not to be the
more afraide for that, of any thing that the diveli
and his wicked instruments can doe against us, for
we daily fight against the diveli in a hundreth
other wayes ; and therefore, as a valiant captaine
affraies no more being at the combate, nor stayes
from his purpose for the rummishing shot of a
canon, nor the small clacke of a pistolet, suppose
he be not certaine what may light upon him ; even
so ought we boldly to goe forward in fighting
against the diveli, without any great terrour for
these his rarest weapons, nor for the ordinary,
whereof we have daily the proofe.
PHI. Is it not lawfull then, by the helpe of
some other witch, to cure the disease that is casten
on by that craft ?
EPI. No wayes lawfull, for it is an axiome of
theologie, that we are not to doe evil, that good
maie come of it.
PHI. How then may these diseases be lawfully
cured ?
EPI. Only by earnest prayer unto God, by
amendment of their lives, and by sharpe pursuing
every one, according to his calling of these instruments
of Satan, whose punishment to the death
will be a salutarie sacrifice for the patient. And
this is not onely the lawfull way, but likewise the
most sure ; for by the devil’s meanes can never the
devitt be casten out, as Christ sayth ; and when such
a cure is used, it may well serve for a short time,
but at the last it will doubtlesly tend to the utter
perdition of the patient, both in body and soulc,
What sort of Folkes are least or most subject to receive
liarm by Witchcraft Whatpower they have
to harme the Magistrate, and upon what respects
they have any power in prison And to what end
may or will the Devitt appeare to them therein’
Upon what respects the DeviU appeares in sundry
shapes to sundry ofthem at any time.
PHI. BUT who dare take upon him to punish
them, if no man can be sure to be free from their
unnatural invasions ?
EPI, Wee ought not the more of that restraint58
from vertue, that the way whereby we clime thereunto
be straight and perillous ; but, besides that,
as there is no kinde of persons so subject to receive
harme of them, as these that are of infirme and
weake faith, so have they so small power over none,
as over such as zealously and earnestly pursue
PHI. Then they are like the pest which smites
these sickarest that flies it farthest ?
EPI. It is even so with them, for neither is it
able to them to use any false cure upon a patient,
except the patient first beleeve in their power, and
so hazard the tinsell of his owne soule, nor yet can
they have lesse power to hurt any, nor such as contemne
most their doings, so being it comes of faith,
and not of any vaine arrogancie in themselves.
PHI. But what is their power against the Magistrate
EPI. Lesse or greater, according as he deales
with them ; for if hee be slothfull towards them,
God is very able to make them instruments to
waken and punish his sloth ; but if he be the contrary,
hee, according to the just law of God, and
allowable law of all nations, will be diligent in examining
and punishing of them, God will not permit
their master to trouble or hinder so good a
PHI. But fra they be once in hands and firmance,
have they any further power in their craft ?
EPI. That is according to the forme of their
detention ; if they be but apprehended and deteined
by any private person, upon other private reEXTBACTS
their power no doubt, either in escaping, or
in doing hurt, is no lesse nor ever it was before ;
but if, on the other part, their apprehending and
detention be by the lawfull magistrate, upon the
just respects of their guiltinesse in that craft, their
power is then no greater than before that ever they
medled with their master ; for where God begins
justly to strike by his lawfull lieutenants, it is not
in the devil’s power to defraud or bereave him of
the office, or effect of his powerful and revenging
PHI. But will never their master come to visite
them fra they be once apprehended and put in
firmance ?
EPI. That is according to the estate that these
miserable wretches are in, for if they be obstinate
in still denying, he will not spare, when hee findes
time to speake with them, either if he finde them
in any comfort, to fill them more and more with the
vaine hope of some manner of reliefe, or else if he
finde them in a deepe despaire, by all meanes to
augment the same, and to perswade them by some
extraordinarie meanes to put themselves downe,
which very commonly they doe ; but if they be
penitent and confesse, God will not permit him to
trouble them any more with his presence and allurements.
PHI. It is not good using his cpunsell I see
then ; but I would earnestly know, when he appeares
to them in prison, what formes uses he then
to take ?
EM. Divers formes, even as hee uses to doe at
other times unto them ; but ordinarily in such a
forme as they agree upon among themselves ; or,
if they be but premises, according to the qualitie
of their circles or conjurations : yet to these capped
creatures he appeares as he pleases, and as he findes
meetest for their humours ; for even at their publicke
conventions, hee appeares to divers of them
in divers formes, as we have found by the difference
of their confessions in that point ; for he deluding
them with vaine impressions in the aire, makes
himselfe to seeme more terrible to the grosser sort,
that they may thereby be mooved to feare and reverence
him the more, and lesse monstrous and uncouth
like againe to the craftier sort, lest otherwise
they might sturre and skunner at his uglinesse.
PHI. How can he then be felt, as they confesse
they have done, if his body be but of aire ?
EPI. I heare little of that amongst their confessions,
yet may he make himselfe palpable, either
by assuming any dead bodie, and using the tninisterie
thereof, or else by deluding as well their sense
of feeling as seeing, which is not impossible to him
to doe, since all our senses, as wee are so weake,
and even by ordinarie sicknesses, will be oftentimes
PHI. But I would speere one word further yet
concerning his appearing to them in prison, which is
this, may any other that chances to be present at
that time in the prison see him as well as they ?
EPI. Sometimes they will, and sometimes not,
as it pleases God.
Of the Tryall and Punishment of Witches What
sort ofAccusation ought to be admitted against
tliem What is tfie cause of the increasing so
farre tftheir number in this age.
PHI. THEN to make an end of our conference,
since I see it drawes late, what forme of punishment
thinke yee merit these witches ?
EM. They ought to be put to death according
to the law of God, the civill and imperial law, and
municipall law of all Christian nations.
PHI. But what kinde of death I pray you ?
EPI. It is commonly used by fire, but that is
an indifferent thing to be used in every countrey,
according to the law or custome thereof.
PHI. But ought no sexe, age, nor ranke, to be
exempted ?
EPI. None at all, (being so used by the lawfull
magistrate), for it is the highest point of idolatry
wherein no exception is admitted by the law of
PHI Then barnes may not be spared ?
EPI. Yea, not a haire the lesse of my conclusion,
for they are not that capable of reason as to
practise such things ; and for any being in company,
and not reveiling thereof, their less and ignorant
age will no doubt excuse them.
PHI. I see ye condemne them all that are of
the counsell of such craftes.
EPI. No doubt the consulters, trusters in, overseers,
interteiners, or stirrers up of these craftes
folkes, are equally guiltie with themselves that are
the practisers.
PHI. Whether may the prince then, or supreme
magistrate, spare or oversee any that are guilty of
that craft, upon some great respects knowen to
him ?
En.-. The prince or magistrate, for further
trials cause, may continue the punishing of them
such a certaine space as he thinkes convenient,
but in the end to spare the life, and not to strike
when God bids strike, and so severely punish in
so odious a fault and treason against God, it is
not onely unlawfull, but doubtlesse no lesse sinne
in that magistrate, nor it was in Saules sparing of
Agag ; and so comparable to the sinne of witchcraft
itselfe, as Samuel alledged at that time.
PHI. Surely then, I think since this crime
ought to be so severely punished, judges ought to
beware to condemne any but such as they are sure
are guiltie, neither should the clattering report of
a carling serve in so weightie a case.
EPI. Judgesought indeede to bewarewhom they
condemne, for it is as great a crime (as Solomon
saith), to condemne the innocent as to let the guilty
escape free, neither ought the report of any one
infamous person be admitted for a sufficient proof
which can stand of no law.
PHI. And what may a number of guilty persons
confessions worke against one that is accused?
En. The assise must serve for interpretuur of
our law in that respect, but in my opinion, since
in a matter of treason against the prince, barnes
or wives, or never so diffamed persons, may of our
law serve for sufficient witnesses and proofes, I
thinke surely that by a farre greater reason such
witnesses may be sufficient in matters of high treason
against God ; for who but witches can be
prooves, and so witnesses of the doings of witches ?
PHI. Indeed, I trow they will be loath to put
any honest man upon their counsell ; but what if
they accuse folke to have been present at their imaginar
conventions in the spirit, when their bodies
lye senseless, as ye have said ?
EPI. I thinke they are not a haire the less
guiltie ; for the divell durst never have borrowed
their shadow or similitude to that turne, if their
consent had not beene at it ; and the consent in
these turnes is death of the lawe.
PHI. Then Samuel was a witch, for the divell
resembled his shape, and played his person in giving
response to Saul.
EPI. Samuel was dead as well before that, and
so none could slaunder him with medling in that
unlawful arte ; for the cause why, as I take it, that
God will not permit Satan to use the shapes of similitudes
of any innocent persons at such unlawfull
times is, that God will not permit that any innocent
persons shall be slandered with that vile defection,
for then the divell would finde waies anew to
calumniate the best ; and this we have in proofe by
them that are carried with the pharie, who never
see the shadowes of any in that court but of them
that thereafter are tryed to have beene brethren and
sisters of that craft. And this was likewise prooved
by the confession of a young lasse troubled with
spirits, laid on her by witchcraft ; that although she
saw the shapes of divers men and women troubling
her, and naming the persons whom these shadowes
represent ; yet never one of them are founde to be
innocent, but all clearely tryed to be most guiltie,
and the most part of them confessing the same.
And, besides that, I thinke it hath beene seldome
heard tell of, that any whom persons guiltie of that
crime accused, as having knowen them to be their
marrows by eye-sight, and not by hearesay, but
such as were so accused of witchcraft, could not be
clearely tried upon them, were at the least publikely
knowen to be of a very evill life and reputation ; so
jealous is God of the fame of them that are innocent
in such causes. And, besides that, there are
two other good helps that may be used for their
triall ; the one is, the finding of their marke, and
the trying the insensibleness thereof; the other is
their fleeting on the water, for as in a secret murther,
if the dead carkasse be at any time thereafter
handled by the murtherer, it will gush out of bloud,
as if the bloud were crying to the heaven for revenge
of the murtherer, God having appointed that
secret supernaturall signe for triall of that secret
unnatural crime, so it appeares that God hath appointed
(for a supernatural signe of the monstrous
impietie of witches), that the water shall refuse to
receive them in her bosome that have shaken off
them the sacred water of baptisme, and wilfully refused
the benefitie thereof. No, not so much as
their eyes are able to shed teares (threaten and torEXTRACTS
ture them as ye please), while first they repent,
(God not permitting them to dissemble their obstinacie
in so horrible a crime) albeit the women
kind especially, be able othervvayes to shed teares
at every light occasion when they will, yea, although
it were dissemblingly like the crocodiles.
PHI. Well, wee have made this conference to
last as long as leisure would permit ; and to conclude
then, since I am to take my leave of you, I
pray God to purge this countrey of these divellish
practises, for they were never so rife in these parts
as they are now.
En. I pray God that so be too ; but the causes
are over manifest that make them to be so rife ; for
the great wickedness of the people on the one hand,
procures this horrible defection, whereby Godjustly
punisheth sinne by a greater iniquitie ; and on the
other part, the consummation of the world and our
deliverance drawing neere, makes Satan to rage the
more in his instruments, knowing his kingdome to
be so neere an end. And so farewell for this time.

>* A NOBLEMAN, i*ru>
To which is added,
An Account ofthe Horrid and Barbarous Murder,
in a Letterjrom a Gentleman in Fife to his Friend
in Edinburgh, February 5th, 1705.
THE two following Tracts give an account of the
witches of Pittenweem in 1705. The first is a concise
relation of facts, in which the minister and magistrates
are placed in no very favourable point of
view. The second is an answer to the first, and
seems chiefly intended to obviate the charges that
are preferred against the minister and baillies, but
in our opinion with no great success, as the principal
facts are admitted, and the only defence set up
is, that the women were in reality witches. We
have given this author’s story in his own words,
with such of his remarks as bear upon the narrative
of the other pamphlet, which is all that is necessary
at the present day.
FIFE, &c.
I RECKON myself very much honoured by your
Lordship’s letter, desiring me to write you an account
of that horrible murder committed in Pitten-
Aveem. I doubt not, but by this time, your Lordship
has seen the gentleman’s letter to his friend
thereanent ; I refer you to it, the author thereof
being so well informed, and so ingenous, that Til
assure you, there is nothing in it but what is generally
talked and believed to be true.
All I can contribute to your Lordship’s further
information, shall be by way of a brief narrative
of the minister and baillies unwarrantable imprisoning,
and barbarous treating of the poor women.
I need not write your Lordship a character of
Patrick Morton, being now sufficiently known for
a cheat
It was upon his accusation allennarly the minister
and bail lies imprisoned these poor women, and
set a guard of drunken fellows about them, who
bypinching and pricking some ofthem with pins and
clsions, kept them from sleep for several days and
nights together, the marks whereof were seen by
severals a month thereafter. This cruel usage made
some of them learn to be so wise as acknowledge
every question that was asked them ; whereby they
found the minister and baillies well pleased, and
themselves better treated.
Notwithstanding of all this, some of the more
foolish continued, as the minister said, hardened in
the devil’s service, such as White, Jack, Wallace,
Patrick, and others ; all which, save the first, were
ordered to the stocks, where they lay for several
Ail this while Patrick Morton^s melancholly fancy
(to give it no harsher term), being too much encouraged
by severals, and particularly by the minister’s
reading to him the case of Barrgarran’s
daughter, continued roving after a wonderful manner,
accusing for his tormentors some of the most
considerable mens’ wives in the town, but such as
the minister and baillies durst not venture to imprison.
By this your Lordship may see, it was only
the weakest that went to the walls.
My Lord Rothes, accompanied with several gentlemen
of good sense and reputation, came to Pittenweem,
where finding these poor womens’ confessions
no wise satisfying, and Patrick Morton a
cheat, informed the privy council thereof, who sent
an order to send Patrick over to them. This turn
being given, and Patrick finding that things were
not likely to go so favourably with him as he before
fancied, began to draw to his breeches, and in a
short time recovered his former health, in which he
still continues. By this time the baillies began to
be as earnest in emptying their prisons, as ever
they were forward in filling them ; so after a long
and serious deliberation, they set them at liberty :
but that their last step might be as illegal as their
first, obliged each of them to pay the town-officer
the sum of 8 lib. Scots ; to pay which, some of them
were forced to sell some linnen they had reserved
for their dead shirts and wynding sheets.
I beg your Lordship’s further patience a little to
read these few following observations : Obs. \st,
The baillies and minister sent and brought several
of these women from places without their jurisdictionone
from Anstruther, and another from the
country at six miles distance.
Obs. %d, What good could the minister propose
to Patrick Morton by reading to him the book intituled
the case of Barrgarran’s daughter ?
Obs. 3d, After so much injustice done to these
poor women, the baillies and minister obliged them
to pay the town-officer eight pound Scots, is worthy
of your Lordship and the rest of the Lords of
the privy council’s considerations ; and it would be
the height of charity to fall on a method to oblige
the minister and baillies to refound it seven-fold.
Obs. 4<th, One Thomas Brown, the only man accused
by Patrick Morton, and imprisoned by the
minister and baillies, after a great deal of hunger
and hardship, died in prison, so as this poor woman’s
murder was not the first, neither will it be
the last, unless by severe punishments prevented,
Obs. &th, The baillies in a manner justified these
two murthers, by not allowing them Christian burial,
but burying them like dogs, scarce covering
them from the ravens.
Obs. 6th, You may wonder why all along I
should say the minister and baillies ? The reason
is, because during all this narrative he exercised
more of the civil authority than any of the baillies,
and so continues to do, as you may see by the following
late instance.
The baillies of Pittenweem being conveened before
the Lords of Privy Council on the 14th or
15th of February, I am informed gave in to them
a subscribed account of the murther ; and to justify
themselves, assert they had imprisoned several of
the murtherers before they left Pittenweem. It is
very true they did so, but they were not long from
the town when the minister set them at liberty.
This, I think, is exercising the office of a civil magistrate
: perhaps the minister may say he did it
by the magistrates’ order left behind them ; then I
think the magistrates were mightily in the wrong
to give in to the Lords of the privy council an account
they knew to be false.
My Lord, this is not the tenth part of what may
be said upon this subject, I hope some other person
will be more particular.
Your Lordship’s
Most humble servant.
Letter from a Gentleman in Fife to his Friend in
I DODBT not of your being exceedingly surprized
with this short and just account I give you of a
most barbarous murder committed in Pittenweem
the 30th of January last. One Peter Morton, a
blacksmith in that town, after a long sickness, pretended
that witches were tormenting him that he
did see them and know them and, from time to
time, as he declared such and such women to be
witches, they were by order of the magistrates and
minister of Pittenweem, apprehended as such, to a
very considerable number, and put into prison.
This man, by his odd postures and fits, which
seemed to be very surprizing at first, wrought
himself into such a credit with the people of that
place, that unless the Earl of Rothes, our sheriff,
had discovered his villany, and discouraged that
practice, God knows how fatal it might have proved
to many honest families of good credit and respect.
Sir, however, at first many were deceived, yet now
all men of sense are ashamed for giving any credit
to such a person ; but how hard it is to root out
bad principles once espoused by the rabble, and
how dangerous a thing it is to be at their mercy,
will appear by the tragical account I give you of
one of these poor women, Janet Corphat.
After she was committed prisoner to the tolbooth,
upon a suspicion of her being a witch, she was
well guarded with a number of men, who, by pinching
her, and pricking her with pins, kept her from
sleep many days and nights, threatening her with
present death, unless she would confess herself
guilty of witchcraft ; which at last she did. This
report spreading abroad, made people curious to
converse with her upon the subject, who found
themselves exceedingly disappointed. The Viscount
of Primrose being in Fife occasionally, inclined
to satisfy his curiosity in this matter, the
Earl of Kellie, my Lord Lyon, the Laird of Scotstarvat,
and the Laird of Randerston, were with his
Lordship in Pittenweem. Three of the number
went to the tolbooth and discoursed with her, to
whom she said, that all that she had confessed,
either of herself or her neighbours, were lies, and
cried out, Godforgive the minister, and said, that
he had beat her one day with his staff when she
was telling him the truth. They asked her how
she came to say any thing that was not true ; she
cryed out, alas, alas, I behoved to say so, to please
the minister and baillies ; and, in the mean time,
she begged for Christ’s sake not to tell that she had
said so, else she would be murdered. Another
time, when the Laird of Glenagies and Mr Bruce
of Kinross, were telling her, she needed not deny
what they were asking her, for she had confessed
as much as would infallibly burn her ; she cried
out, Godforbid I and to one of the two she said,
that from which he might rationally conclude, she
insinuate she had assurance from the minister her
life should not be taken.
A little before harvest, Mr Ker of Kippilaw, a
writer to the signet, being in Pittenweem, Mr
Robert Cook, advocate, went with him to prison to
see this poor woman ; Mr Cook, among other questions,
asked her, if she had not renounced her baptism
to the devil ; she answered, she never renounced
her baptism but to the minister. These were
her words, what she meant by them I know not.
The minister having got account of this from Mr
Cook, he sent for her, and in presence of Mr Cook
and Mr Ker iu the church, he threatened her very
severely, and commanded the keeper to put her into
some prison by herself under the steeple, least (as
he said) she should pervert those who had confessed.
The keeper put her into a prison in which was
a low window, out of which it was obvious that any
body could make an escape ; and, accordingly, she
made her escape that night.
Next day when they missed her, they made a
very slight search for her, and promised ten pound
Scots to any body that would bring her back. Mr
Gordon, minister at Leuchars, hearing she was in
liis parish, eight miles distant from Pittenweem,
caused apprehend her, and sent her prisoner, under
custody of two men, on the 30th of January, to Mr
Cowper, minister of Pittenweem, without giving
any notice to the magistrates of the place. When
she came to Mr Cowper, she asked him if he had
any thing to say to her ? he answered, No. She
could get lodging in no house but with one Nicolas
Lawson, one of the women that had been called
witches. Some say a baillie put her there.
The rabble hearing she was in town, went to Mr
Cowper, and asked him what they should do with
her? he told them he was not concerned, they
might do what they pleased with her. They took
encouragement from this to fall upon the poor woman,
those of the minister’s family going along with them,
as I hear ; they fell upon the poor creature immediately,
and beat her unmercifully, tying her so
hard with a rope, that she was almost strangled ;
they dragged her through the streets, and alongst
the shore, by the heels. A baillie, hearing of a
rabble near his stair, came out upon them, which
made them immediately disappear. But the magistrates,
though met together, not taking care to put
her into close custody for her safety, the rabble
gathered again immediately, and stretched a rope
betwixt a ship and the shore, to a great height, to
which they tied her fast ; after which they swinged
her to and fro, from one side to another, in the
mean time throwing stones at her from all corners,
until they were weary ; then they loosed her, and
with a mighty swing threw her upon the hard
sands, all about being ready in the mean time to
receive her with stones and staves, with which they
beat her most cruelly. Her daughter, in the time
of her mother’s agony, though she knew of it,
durst not adventnre to appear, lest the rabble had
used her after the same manner, being in a house,
in great concern and terror, out of natural affection
for her mother, (about which the author was misinformed
in the first edition.) They laid a heavy
door upon her, with which they prest her so sore,
that she cried out, to let her up for Christ’s sake,
and she would tell the truth. But when they did
let her up, what she said could not satisfy them,
and therefore, they again laid on the door, and with
a heavy weight of stones on it, prest her to death ;
and to be sure it was so, they called a man with a
horse and a sledge, and made him drive over her
corpse backward and forward several times. When
they were sure she was killed outright, they dragged
her miserable carcase to Nicolas Lawson’s
house, where they first found her.
There was a motion made to treat Nicolas Lawson
after the same manner immediately ; but some
of them being wearied with three hours sport, as
they called it, said it would be better to delay her
for another day’s divertisement ; and so they all
went off*.
It is said that Mr Cowper, in a letter to Mr
Gordon, gave some rise to all this ; and Mr Cowper,
to vindicate himself, wrote to Mr Gordon,
whose return says, if he were not going to Edinburgh,
he would give him a double of his letter.
It’s strange he sent him not the principal. In the
postscript, he assures him, he shall conceal it to
‘Tis certain, that Mr Cowper, preaching the
Lord’s day immediately after, in Pittenweem, took
no notice of the murder, which at least makes him
guilty of sinful silence. Neither did Mr Gordon,
in his letter to Mr Cowper, make any regret for
it ; and this some construe to be a justifying of the
horrid wickedness in both.
We are perswaded the government will examine
this affair to the bottom, and lay little stress upon
what the magistrates or minister of Pittenweem
will say to smooth over the matter, seeing it’s very
well known, that either of them could have quashed
the rabble, and prevented that murder, if they
had appeared zealous against it.
I am sorry I have no better news to tell you,
God deliver us from those principles that tend to
such practices.
I am,
Your humble servant.
ABOUT the month of March last year, one Beatrix
Laing, a woman of very bad fame, who had
formerly been under process for using charms, and
refusing to be reconciled to her neighbours, was
debarred from the Lord’s table, came to one Patrick
Morton, a blacksmith, desiring him to make
some nails, which he refused to do, because otherwise
employed at that time. Upon which she went
off muttering some threatening expressions. A
little after, the said Patrick Morton, with another
person in company, carrying some fish by the said
Beatrix Laing’s door, they saw a vessel with water
placed at the door, with a burning coal in it. Upon
which he was presently strucken with an impression
that it was a charm designed against him,
and upon this a little after he sickened. In this
sickness he languished for a long time ; physicians
that saw him, could not understand his distemper,
yet tried various medicines, till at length his trouble
increased, and he began to be seized with some
unusual fits, which made them give over. He forbore
all this while any accusation of the person
whom he all along suspected for his trouble, at least
he made no mention of it to the minister, who frequently
visited him while under it. But his trouble
still increasing, he at length began to drop some
apprehensions of the cause of it. Upon which Beatrix
Laing was called, and by the magistrates, in
the said Patrick Morton’s father’s house, examined
in presence of a great multitude of people, and
owned, that she had placed that vessel with water,
and the coal in it, there ; but at that time would
give no account of the reason of it. Being dismissed
by the magistrates, she went home, and that
same night, when she was challenged by Katharine
Marshal, in her own house, before Nicolas Lawson,
about the lad’s trouble, she answered, that he might
blame his own ill tongue for what had befallen him,
and that it was an evil spirit that was troubling
him ; which was in her face maintained by the said
persons next day, in presence of the magistrates.
Then the boy began to complain of her tormenting
him, and fell into grievous fits of trouble upon her
entering the house. Upon all which she being
imprisoned, after some time did acknowledge to
magistrates and minister, in presence of many witnesses,
without threat or torture, (of which we shall
speak more afterwards) that she was displeased with
Patrick Morton for his refusing to make some nails ;
that she designed to be avenged upon him for it ;
and that she used that charm of the coal in the water
against him ; and that she renounced her baptism,
entered into a compact with the devil some
twelve years before ; condescending upon time,
place, and her inducements to engage in his service;
and that she, with Nicholas Lawson, had
made a wax picture to torment him, and put pins
in it ; which the said Nicolas likewise confessed afterwards,
and so justified the boy’s account of the
rise of his trouble.
After this the boy’s trouble daily increased, in
which there were many strange things ; first his
belly, for some time, then his breast, frequently
heaved up to a prodigious height, and instantly
went off again, by a blowing at the mouth like a
bellows ; frequently he cried out that such persons
as he named were pinching him in his arms, breast,
or some other places of his body, his hands lying
all the while above the clothes, at a distance from
one another, in the view of many of the spectators ;
and when they looked the places of which he complained,
they saw distinctly the print of nails.
Again, he was frequently cast into swooning fits,
became insensible, which was tried by exquisite
pinching the more sensible parts of his body, of
which he complained afterwards when he came out
of the fits, though he took no notice of them, nor
felt them, in the time while he was in these fits.
The strongest who essayed to lift his head from the
pillow, were not able to move it, though both his
feet and head were perfectly free of the bed, which
was exactly tried : Yea, sometimes while the trunk
of his body and his head were thus rigid and could
not be raised from the pillow, his legs were loose,
and any might move them as they pleased. Sometimes
these fits were not so great as at other times,
and then, or when he was falling in, or coming out
of them, several persons lifted him with little difficulty
; but when he was in the depth of the fit, the
strongest that essayed it could not raise him up.
Again, when any of the women whom he accused
touched him, and sometimes on their coming into
the room he fell into grievous fits of trouble, and
cried out, that such a person was tormenting him,
condescending on their names ; and this he did very
frequently, before multitudes of people of different
ranks, ready to attest the same. And commonly
such care was taken to prevent his having any notice,
either of the womens’ entry, or which of them
was there, that there was no place left for any rational
suspicion of trick or cheat in the matter. He
was carefully hoodwinked with several plies of cloth
the women were brought in with the utmost
secrecy innocent persons present in the room laid
their hands on him, but yet he never shewed the
least concern, save when the accused persons touched
him. Several times gentlemen that seemed jealous
that there was somewhat of an imposture in
the case, were allowed and invited to make the
nicest trial, and found it hold. Several pitiful cavils
have been used about this, and other instances
of the boy’s trouble, which proceed either from
ignorance of the circumstances of matter of fact,
or gross inadvertency in not observing the several
variations of the boy’s case ; which, had they been
considered, they would have been so far from giving
any countenance to the conclusion aimed at by these
objectors, that they would strongly have enforced
a conviction of something preter-natural in the case.
The author then proceeds to give an account of
Janet Corphat, the woman who was murdered. She
was a person of very bad fame, who of a long time
was reputed a witch, frequently used charms, and
was wont commonly to threaten persons who disobliged
her, and such consequences sometimes followed,
as made her the terror of many, both of the
town and country, which might be verified by particular
instances, if it were necessary. She was not
at first delated by Patrick Morton, though afterwards
he complained of her as one of his tormentors
; but she, with several others, being in company
with the devil, whereof Isabel Adam was one, in
pursuance of a quarrel which Beatrix Laing, formerly
mentioned, had with one Alexander M’Grigor,
a fisher in the town, made an attempt to murder
the said M’Grigor in bed ; which was prevented
by his awakening and wrestling against them.
This attempt was acknowledged by Isabel Adam,
of whose confession a more full account shall be
given afterwards, who had been taken up on that
man’s delation, and some other informations against
her, and not on the lad’s. As likewise, the said
Janet was accused by Nicolas Lawson, another person
present at that attempt ; and Nicolas accused
her of being at another meeting in the Loan of Pit84*
tenweem ; at both which meetings they confessed
the devil was present. All which she herself afterwards
freely confessed.
The manner of this woman’s confession was very
remarkable. After she had obstinately some while
denied, and with a subtility beyond what might be
expected from one of her education, shifted all
questions put to her, she, with Isobel Adam aforesaid,
being brought to the house where the tormented
lad lay, and he discovering her at her entry into
the room, notwithstanding the utmost precaution
was used to conceal it from him, and he falling into
grievous fits of trouble, did cry out of her as one
of his tormentors ; at which she was so stunned,
that instantly she fell a trembling. The magistrates
and minister observing her in such a confusion,
asked if she was willing to commune with them,
in reference to the matters whereof she had been
accused ; she declaring herself willing, went with
them to another place, and when desired to be ingenuous,
she again fell a trembling, and said she
would confess all, but was afraid the devil would
tear the soul out of her body if she did, and said,
if you will pray, and cause all good folk pray for
me, I will confess, and she then desired the minister
to pray ; and, after prayer, confessed she was
bodily present at both the meetings aforesaid with
the devil and the witches, and gave a circumstantial
account of the renounciation of her baptism, naming
time, place, and inducements which led her to it,
and the shape the devil appeared to her in. She
likewise told the reason of their attempt to murder
M’Grigor was, that he did not hire a house which
belonged to Beatrix Laing.
Again, on a Thursday, after she had been hearing
sermon, she desired to speak with the minister,
and sent one to acquaint him with this desire ; on
which he went to her, and she, before several witnesses,
renewed her former confession, and condescended
on all the persons the other confessing
witches had accused, as being present at the two
foresaid meetings ; adding withal, that there were
others present whom she knew not. This confession
she renewed before the presbytery, in presence
of a great many country gentleman, and other
spectators ; as likewise in the face of a numerous
congregation on the Lord’s day.
It is owned, that when Beatrix Laing and Nicolas
Lawson were first imprisoned, they were ill used
by some of the guard, without the knowledge of
magistrates or minister, of which the women made
complaint to the minister, whereof he presently acquainted
the magistrates, who, with the minister,
went to the prison, and threatened the guard if they
offered the least disturbance to persons in custody.
And the minister, on the Lord’s day thereafter,
took occasion in sermon to discover the wickedness
of that practice, as being against the light of nature,
Scripture, and the j ust laws of the land. After this,
we heard of no more disturbances they met with.
Now, it was not till after this precaution used to
prevent their trouble, that Janet Corphat was imprisoned
; and, from the time of her imprisonment,
till the time that she confessed, which was some ten
or twelve days, she was not in company with the
rest, nor with the guard, save one or two days, but
was alone in a separate prison, and nothing to disturb
Now, it is remarkable, that neither of these persons
who were ill used, of which Janet Corphat was
none, did ever make any acknowledgement to these
persons who used them ill, nor till some days after
they were quite freed of this trouble. And when
they did confess, it was to magistrates and minister,
whom they owned to be careful to preserve them
from such abuses ; nor did magistrates or minister
ever use any threatening to extort a confession, or
any other argument, but what the gospel requires
to be made use of to bring impenitent sinners to a
confession of their sins. *
The author of the letter tells us,
* she was put in
a low prison, out of which it was obvious that any
body could make an escape, and accordingly she
made her escape that night.’ Here are but two assertions,
and both of them false, for the prison was
the second story, and her escape was by breaking
an old iron grate in the window ; nor was it that
night after that she broke the prison, for it was on
Friday these gentlemen discoursed her, and on the
Lord’s day at night she broke the prison. $
* We should like to know what threatening^ the gospel requires
ministers to make use of to such impenitent sinners as
will not confess sins they could not commit. ED.
$ This just reprover begins very fairly by wilfully perverting
his opponent’s language,
‘ a prison with a low window,’ he
makes ‘ a low prison.’ We very much suspect the minister
himself had a hand in this pamphlet
Here follows the author of the e Just Reproofs
way of telling the story of the barbarous and cruel
murder of Janet Corphat. She came to town under
cloud ofnight with two men, and went straight to an
innwhere her daughter was serving. After some stay
there, the two men brought her to the minister’s
house, who was visiting a sick child of one James
Cook, a present bailie, where his servant came to
him with Mr Gordon’s letter ; and, as soon as he
had perused it, he bid his servant go tell them, he
would have nothing to do with her, but since they
had brought her to the town, let them take her to
the magistrates ; which answer, two men then present,
have attested under their hands. On this, the
men brought her to Bailie Cook’s house, where the
minister was, and the men meeting him coming
down stairs, pressed him to take her off their hands,
which he refused to de, but called the two next
magistrates, and advised them instantly to set her
off safe out of the town. On which the two bailies
sent for their officer immediately, and the minister
went off straight to his own house, and saw no appearance
of a rabble, nor did hear of it, till the
rabble had gone a considerable length ; and after
a little, he heard that the woman was got safe out
of their hands, and the rabble dissipate, and he
knew nothing of her death till the next morning.
When the officer came to the magistrates, they,
on deliberation among themselves, resolved to imprison
her till the next morning ; and accordingly
ordered their officer to do it. And as the officer
was executing the magistrates
orders, the rabble
gathered upon them, attacked the officer, and took
the woman from him, with which, it is said, he did
not acquaint the magistrates, that they might have
taken other measures for the woman’s safety.
This rabble did not flow from the inclinations of
the people of the place, which is evident from the
peaceable and safe residence two confessing witches
had for two months time in the place since they
were set at liberty, but from an unhappy occasional
concourse of a great many strangers, some Englishmen,
some from Orkney, and other parts, who were
forward in it, and have since taken guilt on them
by their flight.
As to the assertion with regard to those of
Mr Cowper’s family going along with the rabble,
Mr Cowper urged to have his servants examined
among the first, and they have declared before the
magistrates, that they stole out in a clandestine
way, that their master might not know of it, and he
indeed knew nothing of it, and they returned very
quickly and made no stay ; nor do any of the witnesses
examined insinuate any accusation of their
having the least accession to any injury she met
with, nor were they any other way concerned, than
by looking on a short while with some hundreds of
other spectators.
Again, it is said,
f that they first found her at
Nicolas Lawson’s house, and that she was killed
out-right when they dragged her there again,’ is as
ill grounded as the rest of our author’s assertions ;
for they found her not at Nicolas Lawson’s house,
and some of the persons examined have declared.
that after she was brought to that door, she arose
and put on head cloaths, and called to Nicolas
Lawson to let her in ; which, if she had done, she
in all appearance had met with no more disturbance ;
but after this, we hear that somefew of the rabble
stole up secretly and murdered her.
The author of the Second Letter accuses the minister
ofencouraging Patrick Morton in carrying on
the cheat, by reading to him the case of Bargarran’s
daughter. In answer to which, we shall give a
short, but candid, account of matter of fact. In the
month of May last, the minister, with a preacher,
and a great many other people, attending all night
in the room where Patrick Morton lay, and he lying
meanwhile in a swooning fit, which was then
tried by exquisite pinching, the minister and probationer
falling into some discourse about Bargarran’s
daughter, took out the book, and for their
own satisfaction, read only two sentences, and stopt.
Several weeks after, when the minister was again
attending in the night time, the lad being insensible,
the minister, for his own diversion, read the preface,
and some part of the process, against the
witches, but had no reason to think he heard any
thing, but on the contrary. And it is to be ob.
served, when the committee of the privy council
did accurately examine the boy in reference to this
story, he still declared he never heard any thing of
Bargarran’s daughter’s case read.
What he says of ‘ their obliging them to pay
eight pound Scots to the town-officer,
is in many
ways false. It is false that they were ordered by
the magistrates to pay such a sum. It is false’thal
they paid all alike. It is also untruth that any of
them gave what they had provided for their winding
sheets. Nicolas Lawson, one of the confessing
witches, her husband voluntarily gave a small piece
of unbleached linen to the officer for his fees ; and
this is all the ground for the story of their windingsheets.
The author of the Just Reproof then proceeds to
give an account of Mrs White and Isobel Adam.
The woman brought from Anstrufeher was a Mrs
White, an inhabitant of Pittenweem, who, through
fear of being apprehended, fled thither to her daughter’s
house. This woman, whose cause is now warmly
espoused by some, with no advantage to their reputation,
and who is now insisting against the magistrates
in a process for wrongous imprisonment,
has been for many years a person of very bad fame.
Some eighteen years ago, she pursued a woman before
the session, in Mr Bruce the late Episcopal
incumbents time, for calling her a witch, and succumbing
in the probation. Mr Bruce urged her to
be reconciled with the woman, she obstinately refused,
using most Unchristian and revengeful expressions,
which are to be seen in the session-register.
Since the revolution, she desired admission to
the Sacrament of the Lord^s Supper, which was
then denied her, because she still refused to be
reconciled to that woman. Her scandalous carriage
in refusing to cohabit with her husband to
this day, who is a sober honest man, is generally
known. This woman being accused by the boy as
one of his tormentors, and delated by two confessing
witches, and other presumptions of her guilt,
the magistrates one morning sent their officer to
the magistrates of Anstruther, desiring them on
these grounds to send Mrs White to them, and the
grounds of her imprisonment were sent in write to
her, in her daughter Mrs Lindsay^ house ; and she
being brought to Pittenweem, the two women which
delated her, were confronted with her, in presence
of the magistrates, a great many gentlemen and
ministers, where they did accuse her to her face,
and charged her particularly with being at a meeting
in the Loan with the devil and the witches,
and gave some binding tokens to convince her. By
all which it appears, how little ground there is to
accuse the magistrates for invading their neighbours
jurisdiction, or load the minister with any concernment
in the matter.
As to the other instance of one brought to Pittenweem
at six miles distance, this was the young
woman Isobel Adam. About the middle of May,
one Alexander M’Grigor delated her for an attempt
to murder him in his own house in the night-time,
with several others whom he knew not ; and there
being some surmises of other presumptions of witchcraft
against her, the minister hearing she was occasionally
in the town, called for her, and advised
her, before her father, if innocent, to take proper
measures for her own vindication, which she undertook
to do, and promised to return for that end on
advertisement, which her father engaged to give.
The noise about her still increasing, her father was
desired, according to promise, to call her to the
place, which he declined, growing jealous of her
guilt ; on which the minister advertised her, but in
case she refused, a letter was sent to be delivered
to the gentleman on whose ground she lived, desiring
him to send her. So soon as the advertisement
was given, she came voluntarily to her father’s
house in Pittenweem, and so there was no occasion
for force.
When she came, she confessed her converse with
the devil at Thomas Adamson’s house, on the first
day of January 1704 ; she was confronted with
M’Grigor, and he accused her of the above mentioned
attempt on him, which she then refused ; on
which she was imprisoned, and the two following
days, she did with tears, and more than ordinary
concern, make a free and large confession.
She said Beatrix Laing aforesaid, a confessing
witch, had been dealing with her to engage in her
service, which she refused ; and that some time
thereafter, this Beatrix came for her, and desired
her to go along to her house ; when she came there,
they sat down at the fire, and she saw a man in
black cloaths, with a hat on his head, sitting at
the table ; and Beatrix said to her, since you will
not engage with me, here is a gentleman that will
fee you ; whereupon he told her, he knew she was
discontented with her lot, and if she would serve
him, he promised she should want for nothing ; to
which she yielded to serve him, and he came forward
and kissed her ; and she said, lie was fearsome
like, and his eyes sparkled like candles, on which
she knew he was the devil.
Again, she told, that being employed to spin in
Thomas Adamson’s house in Pittenweem, while
she was lying awake in her bed in the night time,
the devil appearing to her, where she did expressly
renounce her baptism to the devil, by putting her
hand on her head, and the other to her feet, the
other maid lying in the bed with her being at the
time asleep, as the maid declared before the session.
About a fortnight after this, Beatrix Laing came
to visit her, and asked her, if she had met with the
gentleman ? She answered she had, and also engaged
with him, on which Beatrix said, I have then
got my work wrought, and went away. And she
confessed, she came to that meeting at M’Grigor’s
with the devil and several witches, viz. Beatrix
Laing, Nicolas Lavvson, Janet Corphat, Thomas
Brown, and several others she knew not, designing
to murder M’Grigor ; but since the man awakened
and prayed to God for himself, they could not do
it. She confessed also converse with the devil at
other times. All which is in her two confessions,
signed by the magistrates, and transmitted to Edinburgh.
Now, we desire to know what the author
of this letter can quarrel in the magistrates or minister’s
conduct in this matter.
As for what he says
* about the magistrates and
minister refounded the imprisoned womens1
seven-fold.1 We find this author very charitable
on other mens1
purses, but when the magistrates
and minister design to bestow their charity, they
will choose more deserving objects. And the Lords
of Her Majesty’s privy counsel understands them94*
selves better than to take their measures as to what
is just from the daring prescriptions of this author.
What he says about Thomas Brown is also false,
he was accused by the lad, and delated by three
confessing witches, as being accessory to the attempt
on M’Grigor It is false he was starved, for
his daughter brought him his diets punctually.
Our author’s fears of more murders are altogether
groundless, and we appeal to all men of candour,
whether this author’s impudent and unjust accusation
against magistrates and minister of murdering
Thomas Brown, deserves not severer punishment
than any tiling he can charge them with.
He again tells us, * the bailies justified the murder,
by denying Christian burial.’ The bailies
gave no order thereabout. As for Thomas Brown,
his son-in-law, with some others, buried him. Our
author by his next may prove, that Janet Corphat,
a woman that had so frequently and so solemnly
confessed the renounciation of her baptism to the
devil, deserved Christian burial.


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