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About Scottish Witches

Scottish Witches is owned and operated by the author and researcher Greg Stewart. Greg was born and raised in historic Fife and was thus surrounded by history and folklore from a young age. His grandfather, who carried out specialist work at historic buildings, added to this interest by telling him stories about the properties he had been working on. Initially, his focus was on ghost lore and the many tales of the paranormal from the local area. This is something Greg is still passionate about, and he is one of the principal investigators in the Paranormal Research Team, Scottish Paranormal. ​He was never satisfied with just hearing stories about hauntings; he wanted to know why a place may be purportedly haunted, by whom, and when the reports of unexplained activity started. Through exploring this, Greg began to gather a large collection of books, both new and old, covering the history of specific towns and areas, including the witch trial era. He was shocked to realise that something he had only heard about as though it happened far away actually occurred on the streets he walked every day. ​His interest was further piqued when, during the final years of his studies, he was granted access to the library of St. Andrews University, where he found several books detailing the witch trials. Greg's focus turned to building a career and family life for some time, but around 2008, he was able to return to pursuing his interest in the dark and forgotten periods of history. In 2013, he decided to test the waters by independently publishing a book that provided a collection of ghost stories, along with his own thoughts on each. Before long, he was offered a contract by the History Press to write the book 'Haunted Kirkcaldy'. This fulfilled a lifelong ambition to become a traditionally published author. ​Greg then moved on to write local history books for Amberley Publishing. Within these, he was able to cover the witch trials for each area he was writing about. He then proceeded to write the book 'Witch Memorials of Scotland', published by Beul Aithris Publishing in 2019, and he is currently working on an additional book that explores the witch trials in more depth. In addition to his writing work, Greg has appeared on the television show "Help! My House is Haunted" and was involved with the recent show "Spooked Scotland" (known as "Haunted Scotland" in the USA) for which he provided information on the witch trials. He has been interviewed on several radio stations and for magazines. He is a former trustee for the charity Remembering the Accused Witches of Scotland. During his time on the steering group, he was active in the campaign for an apology from the Scottish Government and the Church of Scotland for the persecution of all those who suffered historically under false charges of witchcraft. He was delighted when the Scottish Government issued an apology in April 2022 and, following further representations made to the Church of Scotland, they also issued a formal apology for the role the church had played. Due to other demands on his time, he unfortunately had to step down from the charity in early 2023, but his interest and research continues.

About the Website

The information on the website is presented across several sections, which can be navigated using the buttons at the top of the page. ​Here in the 'About' section, you will find additional details as to how this website came about, what you can expect to find in each section and some of the misconceptions that have grown over the years relating to the trials.  ​The History section will include details about the witch trial period, including the beliefs of the time, the implications of the Witchcraft Act, and the methods used to find and convict alleged witches. Over time details of some of the more well documented trials and stories will be added to this section so please check back. The Resources section will provide details of useful research materials, including documents, books, and websites that will allow you to begin your own enquiries. ​You can find the locations of monuments and plaques across the country that commemorate some of those accused and learn their stories in the Memorials section. The bulk of the information can be found in the Blog. This is where individual stories of those accused will be posted, along with other information related to the trials. Presenting it in a blog format makes it easier for these articles to be shared. ​Information on the books written by Greg can be found in the Book section, along with links to purchase them via online retailers. The Media Enquiries section provides further contact information if you believe we can assist you with any project. ​If you are looking for specific information, you can use the search box to access any available information. Please note that the website is a constant work in progress, and the research is ongoing. Fresh information will be posted regularly, so remember to check back frequently.

Common Misconceptions

Over the years many misconceptions have grown around the historic witch trials which are then unwittingly passed on as fact. Here we will explore and correct some of the most common incorrect beliefs. All Of The Accused Were Women: While it is correct that in Scotland the majority of those accused were women, they were not all. Based on the information contained within the Scottish Witch Trial Database, approximately 84% were women, 14% were men, and for 1%, it is impossible to determine from the information available. The Trials Were To Quash The Pagans: This is a very common belief, yet unfortunately, it is incorrect. It is impossible to state that none of the accused were Pagans. It should be remembered that Scotland had been a Christian country for around a century before the witchcraft act was introduced, and it was decades after Scotland converted from Catholicism to the Protestant faith before the legislation really took hold. A few of the trial records indicate that the accused did follow the old ways to a certain extent, in that they offered herbal remedies or were midwives. There is nothing to suggest they were not Christian. We Dooked The Witches: It is such a common image to see the poor old woman, soaking wet, perched on a seat hovering over a pond on some type of see-saw device. There is very little information in the records other than on a few of the earlier trials, however, to indicate that this method, or any method using water, was used to any great extent in Scotland. This is despite there being bodies of water across the country called 'Witches' …' suggesting they were pools used during the trials. The origins of the use of these names are not clear, but we can only go by the documentation related to the trials. It should also be remembered that the process of 'swimming the witch' was not an execution method as some suggest; it was a trial by water to prove innocence or guilt. Those found guilty were burned. In The Swimming Test, The Innocent Drowned: Again, this is something commonly stated which is incorrect. In places where the swimming test was used, the records indicate that ropes were tied to the accused so if they became submerged, they could be pulled out of the water before drowning. They Were All Old: The movie industry created this image that all witches were haggard old women. The information from the Scottish Witchcraft Database, however, suggests that the vast majority were aged between 30 and 60. The Convicted Were Burned Alive: In the records, if reference is made to a person convicted of witchcraft being 'burnt quick', that normally means they were burned alive. In the vast majority of cases, those convicted were garrotted or, on occasion, hanged, and their bodies then burned to prevent any resurrection. It Was a Good Way For a Husband To Get Rid Of His Wife: It is quite horrific that anyone would think this, but it does come up, mostly in jest. Witch trials were an expensive process. All those involved, including the jailers, judge, and executioner, had to be paid. In addition, the ropes, wood, and tar used for the execution had to be paid for. While the town covered the costs in some cases, where the family had assets they could be made to pay. The family could also be charged for the time their loved one was held in the prison. All in all, it could be extremely expensive, costing several months' wages, or even years for this poorly paid. Assets could also be claimed. So it is apparent that to accuse your own wife or any relative could be a disastrous thing to do.

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