What is the first thing that you think of when I say “witch”? I’m guessing you’re picturing an ugly, old woman with a big nose and a wart on her face, armed with a broom and wearing a black dress? If that’s how you do imagine witches, you are not in the minority. But that image is misguided. Read this article to see how the story of witchcraft actually unfolded.
It is an ancient tradition and storytellers many eras ago used to tell stories about witchcraft-like practices. However, it was not until the 16th century that persecution of witches started. The year was 1563 when witchcraft was made illegal – an act was passed that allowed to accuse anyone of being a witch or associating with a witch. Thirty years later, the first major persecution took place. The first major trials over witches took place in 1590, by the initiative of King James VI. Having recently returned from Denmark with his bride, he had almost gotten killed by a powerful storm. King James saw this as a result of a curse put on him by witches. As a result, he had almost 100 people arrested – these people were tortured heavily and burnt on stake.
The second string of trials happened in the 1660s, with widespread witch hunts and persecution taking place. These were prolonged by accusations made by so-called witches in order to save themselves. Especially strange were the Aberdeen Trials where seven women were accused of using mystical powers to murder people, and using body parts from their victims for making potions.
The Witchcraft Act was abandoned only in the year 1736. Almost four thousand people are estimated to have been tortured and killed in Scotland alone due to these laws.
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