You’ve heard of the Salem witchcraft trials of 1692 where 19 women were executed….

But did you know that in a land 3000 miles away from Salem, THOUSANDS of innocent men and women were persecuted because they too, were accused of witchcraft?

Not only did they suffer tragic fates, but many of them were tortured by authorities to extract confessions from them through heinous methods. 

Margaret Thomsone appealed to the Privy Council in 1644 complaining against the tutor of Calder and the minister of the parish for ‘waking her the space of 20 days naked, and having nothing on her but a sackcloath and that they had kept her in the stocks separate from all company and worldly comfort’

Larner, Enemies of God

Our Research Questions

  1. What do the Scottish Witchcraft trials tell us about gender from 1563 to 1736?
  2. Is there a difference in how men and women are treated, in regards to accusation attributes, torture, and verdict in the witchcraft trials?
  3. How do these three variables vary by region?


Due to gender sentiments in Scotland at this time, we expect a discrepancy in how women are treated in witchcraft cases, looking specifically at why they were charged as witches, if and how they were tortured, and what the verdict ultimately was. Also, the power structures in place in different geographical regions may have affected how cases proceeded. 

Remnants of Witchcraft Today

Writing on the Plaque : “This fountain designed by John Duncan is near the site on which many witches were burned at the stake. The wicked head and serene head signify that some used their exceptional knowledge for evil purposes while others were misunderstood and wished their kind nothing but good. The serpent has the dual significance of evil and of wisdom. The foxglove spray further emphasises the dual purpose of many common objects”

‘The Witches’ Well’ : A fountain which marks the area where hundreds of accused witches were burned and hung in Edinburgh.
Photograph taken from Atlas Obscura

‘Paisley’s Witches Memorial’ : The charred remains of 7 people accused of witchcraft lie beneath the road to prevent their spirits from troubling the living in Paisley
Photograph taken from Atlas Obscura

‘Maggie Wall’s Memorial’ : A mysterious monument where a woman who records say never existed was burnt alive for being a witch.  
Photograph: Geoffrey Davies/Alamy
Taken from Atlas Obscura


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