Fife event explores Scotland’s 17th century witch hunts

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When it came to finding witches, Scotland was once in a class of its own.

The 17th century saw the country caught up in the phenomenon more than any other.#

But why?

That question sits at the heart of a new day-long debate and discussion being held at the Glen Pavilion, Dunfermline, on Sunday, May 19.

It has been organised by a local voluntary group, Fife Witches Remembered, with the assistance of On@Fife’s archives.

The event is being chaired by broadcaster Lesley Riddoch and will bring together local experts and leading academics from across Scotland to explore the issue in depth and come up with some possible answers as to why Scotland found itself in the grip of witch trials.

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The belief back then was that witches could cause harm.

One cited case is that of Elizabeth Dick, from Anstruther.

She went begging to the local mill and was turned away – so she cursed the business and witnesses testified to say the grain it produced turned red.

Only when she got what she wanted did she reverse the ‘spell’ and the mill returned to normal working.

True or myth?

Julian Goodare and Louise Yeoman, co-authors of the Survey of Scottish Witchcraft, author Dr Lizanne Henderson and people with strong local knowledge of such tales will all figure in this event.

It’s estimated that between 3000 and 5000 women were publicly accused of being witches in 16th and 17th century Scotland – a much higher number than neighbouring England – 75 per cent of the accused were women.

Two thirds of them were also killed.

There are monuments and landmarks to many of those put to death in villages across Scotland.

Workshops and talks will give people a chance to hear about local witches, including Lillias Adie, the Torryburn witch, whose body was buried in the shoreline of the Forth. Experience how witchcraft has been expressed through art and poetry and nature, investigate the Survey of Scottish Witchcraft, how data is presented on Wikipedia and many other related topics.

Tickets priced £7 are available HERE or from Dunfermline Carnegie Library and Galleries Reading Room.