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Friday, 28 October 2011
BOOK NOOK; Scottish Witches by Lily Seafield
In the spirit of Halloween I have been reading Scottish Witches by Lily Seafield. This fascinating book digs deep into the witch trials that went on throughout Scotland during the 16th and 17th centuries. Unlike other books on similar topics Seafield does not sensationalize or romanticize the witch hunts, nor does she turn this tragic period of history into a grim fairytale. Quite the opposite in fact, as Scottish Witches looks at all aspects of witchcraft from the superstitions and the magical nature of witches, through to how those accused of witchcraft were taken to trial, prosecuted and what ordeals or tortures were commonly used to bring about a confession. This is a somewhat harrowing read at times as unlike England where witches were hanged, in Scotland they were actually burnt at the stake or in a barrel - the witch trials is where the phrase 'to have someone over a barrel' originally came from. Seafield explores weather witching, elf bolts, agricultural charms, counter charms and poppets before going on to detail the trials of specific people such as the North Berwick Witches, Isobel Gowdie and the Paisley Witches to name a few. Seafield also looks at how witches and witchcraft are depicted in art, literature and poetry. She ends the book with a final chapter on modern Wicca which does lift it to a more positive level. Though it makes for uncomfortable reading at times, overall I did enjoy the book and I shall look out for more titles by this author. I actually bought Scottish Witches when I was in Strathspey in the Highlands but I have checked and you can get it on www.amazon.co.uk