Something Wicked This Way Comes.
We Scots have a past of petty jealousies and rivalry none more poignant than the trials of witches
At the trial of Geilles Duncan some thirty people were named as having association with the devil, two of those were Agnes Sampson and Dr Fian.
Later around seventy others were named.
In the time of James VI. a woman named Agnes Sampson was tortured by a tightened string around her head till she confessed. She was charged with 53 accounts of witchery.
Agnes like so many women cared for the sick, whether human or animal. She had an art people often needed when distressed and ill.
Robert Kerse had been anguished by a spell from a warlock and Agnes took the spell and agony from Robert on to herself. Transferred it to Alexander Douglas curing Agnes and Robert leaving Alexander to die. I suspect this did not make her popular with the Douglas family.
At North Berwick Church a coven of witches which include Agnes schemed to prevent King James from returning to Scotland with his new bride.
Serious storms had delayed Anne of Denmark's arrival in Scotland and James travelled to the continent to bring her back. The storms continued and he and his new bride were delayed for some time. Even during the boat trip to Scotland the boat was nearly sunk convincing James the devil and his servants were involved.
The Devil appeared in the church pulpit demanding they open the graves in the Church Yard after this the witches had to bow veneration to him. This was done by kissing the Devils posterior.
James was very interested in witchcraft and considered himself to be an expert on the subject. At the trial he questioned Agnes and found it more difficult than he expected crying out, ‘Witches are extreme liars.’ In defence of this Agnes told the king the exact words he spoke to his bride Queen on their wedding night.
James was heard to say ‘all the Devils in hell could not have known that.’
This signed Agnes’s death warrant and she was duly strangled and burned at the stake.
One of the charges she had against her was throwing a cat into the sea to cause a storm.
Her teacher at Prestonpans School John Cunningham known later as Dr Fian delved in devilry magic. During his trial he admitted the calling came when he fell in love with an attractive woman. Unfortunately she had another suitor that Dr Fian was determined to get rid of. Through spells and probable some mixtures he sent the rival to madness.
By acquiring the help of her brother, one of his pupils, to get his hands on three strands of her hair. This he did, but was surprised by his mother who immediately realised what was going on. The mother wrapped the three strands of hair entwined with three strand of the hair of a cow. Instead of his beloved Woman arriving to see him he was met with a cow that returned the infatuation. Dr Fian run to escape the attentions of the loving bovine.
King James once again formed part of the prosecution on that December morning 1590 calling on the victim to state his case. In a state of complete insanity the rival rushed into the room and proceeded to jump as high as he could so as to touch the ceiling, then to make himself into a ball. This he did until he tired and could only say he had been mostly asleep.
Dr Fian repented denouncing the devil and all his workings, but the next morning he changed his mind telling his captors the devil had appeared that night to let him know when he died his sole belonged to the man in black.
Making an example of Dr Fians by placing his feet in bootes that crushed the bones was the idea of King James. Dr Fian escaped the following night before being captured soon after and tortured once more. This time his finger nails were pull out and needles jabbed in so far as to reach his hands. More torture was involved to no avail and out of frustration King James ordered his execution. Before burning at Castle Hill in a cold January morning in 1591 he was strangled.
Nobility did not escape the web of accusation. Francis Hepburn 5th Earl of Bothwell, a cousin of the King and was jailed in 1591. He managed an escape to England and returned only when all the major witnesses had been subjected to the stake.
A Witch Hunter called Mr Paterson made a good living out of subjecting women to be rubbed with oil and tacks being pushed into their body to find the devils spot. If a woman could not find the spot she had been jabbed it was an indication of guilt of the crime of being a witch.
It was later discovered Mr Paterson was a woman.
King James published a book in 1597 in witchcraft and seemed to know a lot about it, methinks he protested too much.