Warlocks and all them sort of elves have no shadow. Jack, p. 94.
Witches are the warst kind of devils, they mak use of cats to
ride upon, or kail-kebbers [cabbagestumps], and besoms, and
sail over seas in cockle-shells, and witch lads and lasses, and
Graham, p. 236.
I have myself conversed with an old woman who accounted for the
lameness of an ancient crone, whom she had in her childhood seen,
by an injury she had received when returning from one of her witch
journeys. The form she had assumed was that of a black cat; and
when she was about to enter her house, through a broken pane,
a man passing with a hedge-bill in his hand, struck the animal
on the leg, and the witch was lame ever afterwards.
Ross, p. 327.
At Loanside lived a witch noted for calling up the spirits of
the dead, and prophesying the movements of the living, transforming
herself at will into inconceivable shapes, such as a March-hare.
As an illustration of the Gleds power, a cow was grazing
on the Clune road, and, slipping her hand over its back as she
passed, it was observed from that hour its udder withered and
ceased yielding any more milk. If she happened to spy a kirning
it would yield or not yield butter as she wished.
Adam Dale, a well-to-do farmer of Bal, actually consulted and
obeyed her as to remedies for ills that cattle and folk are heir
to, and like Endor of old, could hold the cat and
play kitlin. On his last
visit, a cinder sparked out of her fire in the form of a coffin,
and he never again returned, but died shortly after.
Allan, pp. 29, 30
Auld Bessie Bittern was regarded as one who was no very
canny, and whom it was unsafe to disagree or to meddle with,
and whose curses or prayers were equally to be dreaded. Even her
big black cat did not escape suspicion. One day Bessie appeared
at the side of Johnnie K.s loom, and said to him, Johnnie,
will yell gang the morn and howk my wee pickle tattieseh?"
Deed an hell do naething o the kind,
shouted Kirsty, his wife from the kitchen, he has mair
need to dad awa at his loom, an get his cut oot.
Bessie replied, Hell may be no get his cut oot ony
the sooner for no howkin my wee pickle tatties.
Yell better let me gang, said Johnnie to his
wife, in a submissive tone.
Yell no gang your tae length, said Kirsty.
Ye auld neer-be-gaun jade, an yell no let him
howk a wee pickle tatties for a puir auld body like me I
Yell no be ony the richer fort, I weell a wat! Noo
mind ye, Im tellin ye I shouted Bessie, as
she toddled out of the shop, followed by her black cat.
Johnnie had scarcely resumed his work, when out flew his shuttle,
and fell on the floor. He got off his loom and lifted it up, and
then tried again, but with a like result. Out it sprang once more,
giving him the trouble and delay of going for it, and lifting
it with a sad, sorrowful heart, and a deep sigh. He considered
himself bewitched, and it appeared as if a judgment
had come upon him sooner than he expected. He then, as his only
resource, took the shuttle to the kitchen, and sitting down before
the fire in order to break, if possible, the spell that hung over
him, he began by solemnly drawing the shuttle three times through
the smoke, dolefully saying as he did so,
I kent hoo it wad be, I kent hoo it wad be I
He then turned to his wife and said, 0 Kirsty! ye micht
hae mair sense than contrar that auld witch Bessie Bittem.
Stewart, pp. 143.
Interior of Fife
An aged woman, bearing the character of a witch, lived alone in
a miserable hovel, situated on an extensive, moor in the centre
portion of Fife. Besides bearing the notoriety of being an uncanny
wife, she was celebrated in the district for a wonderful
breed of doos (pigeon which she reared. On a
certain day a boy made his appearance at the old womans
hut, and desired to purchase one of these pigeons. Being supplied
according to his wishes, he turned his steps homewards, but had
scarcely gone a mile when he discovered that the pigeon had disappeared.
Scarcely knowing what he did, he returned to the old hags
hovel, where on entering he beheld his own bird sitting amongst
its kin. An altercation immediately ensued betwixt him and the
old woman, but he eventually regained possession of the bird,
which this time he carried home in safety. Next morning, however,
it was nowhere to be seen, and, after a search, was again discovered
in the witchs hut. The boys parents, by this time
becoming suspicious that there had been some supernatural agency
employed in this miraculous disappearance, applied to another
old woman for aid, who advised them to send their boy to the witchs
habitation, who, unseen, should cut off a small portion of her
petticoat, which, on the boys return, should be thrown into
the fire. This was done. No sooner had the rag caught fire than
a great noise was heard, and .the old witch appeared at the doorway.
Exclaiming that they were burning her heart, she rushed forward,
seized the flaming fragment from the hearth, disappeared, and
was never again seen in that district.
D. D. A., p. 83.
There is a lighthouse upon the isle, on a tower fourty feet high.
The unfortunate architect to the tower was drowned on his return
from the isle, in a storm supposed to have been raised by some
still more unhappy old women, who were in consequence burnt as
A reputed witch named Jean Ford lived in Newburgh. The belief
in her occult powers was so strong, that sailors before setting
out on a voyage were accustomed to giving her a present to ensure
a safe return. Jean in her latter years, was warned to remove
from her house by her landlord, who had no dread of her hidden
powers; not so, however, his wife. After receiving the notice
of removal, Jean went to the landlords residence (and taking
care to stand where she could be seen by the inmates), she began
to make mystical signs on the ground with her staff, muttering
all the while some words to herself. The servants who had a wholesome
dread of her powers, attracted the attention of their mistress
towards her. The spell was successful; the warning was removed,
and Jean was allowed to remain in her house all her life. Laing,
In the first half of the nineteenth century it was alleged that
a woman in the village of Strathkinness on the last night of the
year skipped in the open air swinging a cow-tether made of hair
over her head while she repeated:
milk, and mares milk,
An a the beasts that bears milk.
Come to me!
cows tail being diseased, she examined that of a neighbour,
which afterwards rotted away while hers recovered. A wounded hare
took refuge in her garden, and she was afterwards seen with her
head bandaged. Somewhat earlier another witch used to enter Clermont
Farm during churning, which checked the process. A ploughman put
a sixpence in the churn, and when the witch stooped to light her
pipe, he pressed the churn-staff hard on it. She could not raise
her head till he moved it. [Abstract of note by Dr. D. Hay-Fleming
in Folk-Lore, vol. ix. p. 285.)
Michael Scott or Balwearie
Sir Michael Scott of Balwearie was dubbed a knight by King Alexander
III. (of Kinghorn memory) for good service done as ambassador
at the Court of France. Sir Michael demanded in name of his master,
certain concessions which the French King refused. Balwearie desired
him to think the matter over, until the black horse which he rode
should stamp three times. Stamp number one set all the bells in
France a-ringing. Stamp number two of the coal-black steed threw
down some towers of the palace. The French King did not wait to
see what would be the effect of stamp number three.
Sir Michael had no end of pacts with the devil. One demon
he bought with the loss of his shadow. A Fife Laird met Sir Michael
out hunting shortly after this little transaction, and said Balwearies
personal appearance would be much improved were he to bring his
shadow along with him. No sooner had the Laird got out his joke,
than he felt his sight grow duller. He went homewards alarmed.
But he had not gone far before he became stone-blind, and was
killed by falling over a precipice.
In a sweet little dell, a short way south-west from the ruined
Tower of Balwearie, stands a singular mass of sandstone, a conspicuous
object in the landscape known as the Bell Crag. Tradition says
that once Sir Michael rode his black steed (his Paris friend)
to the top, having occasion to summon his vassals together, and
that the infernal animal indented the rock with a deep and distinct
Farnie, pp. 62-63.
Michael occasionally intermitted his severer studies to enjoy
the pleasures of the chase. When hares were scarce, or did not
sit close, he had recourse to an old woman, who inhabited a cottage
on his property, and who in consideration for the protection extended
towards her, condescended to become the prey in such emergencies,
and give the dogs a turn or two for the amusement of their master.
In these diversions, the old lady always eluded their pursuit.
It happened, however, one day that a stranger hound belonging
to one of the party was in the hunting field; but as he was held
in leash, Sir Michael did not hesitate to start the chase as usual.
Just as the hare was beginning to gain upon her pursuers some
one cut the leash which held the strange dog. Off started the
hound fresh from the springs, and soon overtook poor the poor
woman. By this time, however, she was close to a hut on the moor,
which she was observed to enter, by leaping through a bole, or
small open window, in the gable. But she did not effect her escape
till she had been slightly wounded by the stranger dog; and it
was remarked by the neighbours that she had a limp ever after,
which incapacitated her for enacting the part of prey for the
amusement of the wizard and his guests.
Sir Michael was hunting one day, when, feeling hungry, and spying
a house not far off, he sent his servant to ask a cake of bread.
The gude wife replied she had no bread in the house, while the
blazing fire, the reeking girdle, and peculiar savour of burnt
meal, assured him that she had told a falsehood. Quitting the
inhospitable mansion, he returned to his master and stated the
result of his mission, and the observations he had made. Sir Michael,
taking a devils buckie ( Whelk ) from his pocket, gave it
to his servant, and desired him to return to the farm-house, and
place it unobserved above the lintel of the door. No sooner had
he done so than the charm began to work. The auld wife ayont
the fire was seized with an ungovernable fit of dancing,
which consisted in rapid gyrations around the chimney, chanting
at the same time, as loud as could reasonably be. expected from
the lungs attached to members executing the Highland Fling:
Sir Michael Scotts man
Came seekin bread and gat nane.
the meantime, the farmer began to wonder why his spouse had neglected
to send the shearers dinner to the field, and so dispatched
an emissary to ascertain the reason. The girl no sooner, crossed
the threshold than she was seized with
the spirit of St. Vitus, and began to caper round the cradle chimney
on a footing of perfect equality with her mistress, and with a
vehemence which made her think a barrel-ride, very gentle exercise
compared with it. The messenger not returning, the gudeman resolved
solve the mystery himself, and walked towards the homestead. Before
entering the kitchen, however, he resolved to reconnoitre through
the window, when he beheld his better half and her handmaiden
dancing like five-yearaulds. Determined to punish them for
such flagrant behaviour heentered the house, but no sooner had
the devils buckie sounded in his ears than with old-fashioned
gallantry he whisked off and joined the ladies. The high dance,
commenced by a single performer, had now become, by repeated accessions,
a most uproarious threesome reel, enlivened by the inhospitable
matron chanting, in a voice now getting feeble from exhaustion:
Michael Scotts man
Came seekin bread and gat nano.
wizard sent his servant back to the enchanted house in the course
of the afternoon to remove the charm from the door-head. This
being done, the three performers dropped from sheer exhaustion
upon the hearth [where they fell into a long slumber]
Gardiner, pp. 65-67.
Sir Michael had dispatched this indiscreet person this serving-man]
to the Eildon Hills for his magic book, which had been lent to
a potent necromancer who lived in these parts. He was compelled
to swear, before he set out on his important mission, that he
would not open the clasps of the mystic volume. His curiosity
was too powerful, however, to be restrained either by his faith
or fears; and when he had reached the Haughmill, which is near
his masters residence, he availed himself of the seclusion
of the spot to take, what he had long meditated, a sly peep into
the folio, about which Sir
Michael and his brother wizard affected so much mystery.
No sooner had he opened the volume than a swarm of fiends started
out from between the leaves, and became quite clamorous for employment,
crying out to the astonished courier whom they surrounded, Work,
work. Here seeing the Windygates hill straight before him,
and remembering the many toilsome ascents he had made in executing
his masters errands, he conceived the patriotic project
of employing the disaffected multitude around him in the task
of cleaving the hill in twain. He had scarcely had time to congratulate
himself on his ingenious device, by which he had dismissed the
infernal legion, when back they sallied, as importunate as ever,
exclaiming, Work, work, and, on looking east, he observed
their task was already finished, and in the most masterly manner.
There was no resisting as they very plainly indicated that, in
the absence of other employment, they would be under the necessity
of falling upon their master, and might make cats meat of
him, as it was foreign to their nature to be idle. To manufacture
ropes out of sand was the next job assigned to the infernal imps:
who were accordingly packed off to Kirkcaldy beach, which furnishes
a plentiful supply of the raw material. But although they were
able to achieve wonders, they could not accomplish impossibilities,
and so after an unsuccessful attempt at rope-making with such
refractory materials, the demons returned in very bad humour to
the terrified valet, and demanded more rational employment.
He now began to repent his temerity; the fiends being about to
tear him in pieces merely to relieve their ennui, when Sir Michael
himself most opportunely arrived at the scene of action. With
a spell he at once inclosed the demons within their vellum receptacle,
excluding only one fiend, who was forthwith dispatched through
the air to Padua with the faithless messenger, with instructions
to deliver him over to the Doctors of the Infernal College, to
be punished for presuming to practice diablerie without a diploma.
Gardiner, pp. 67-68.
Michael Scott, the warlock of Balwearie was troubled with an evil
spirit some say the devil himself, who came every night seeking
work to do. After performing unheard of exploits and tasks at
Sir Michaels bidding, that afflicted mortal at last got
relief by giving the demon a task which proved even too hard for
him. If this was the scene, it would be down there on these very
Kirkcaldy sands that the demon laboured, and laboured in vain
(perhaps still toils), trying to make ropes out of sea-sand.
Kilrounie, pp. 23-24.
warlock doings near Melrose, which were ascribed to
Sir Michael are very similar to those which are told of him in
Fife. He cleft Eildon hills in three. This work of
cleavage he also practised in the neighbourhood of Kirkcaldy.
That den [ravine] which runs up from the town, and which the railway
crosses near Dunnikeir foundry, was produced by Sir Michael. He
had offended a fiend, and was pursued by him. To stop the pursuit,
or get in advance of his enemy, the wizard caused the earth to
yawn at that spot, and its yawning mouth has never since been
Local tradition connects the road which leads up to Balwearie
with Sir Michael. It is generally said to have been his making,
very likely, in engineering it he had taken advantage of the opening
in the Windygate or West Mill Brae, for the sake of having the
road easier. But this simple act of engineering skill, popular
superstition converted into a work of wizard power, and the intersection
is said to have been accomplished by demons.
Taylor, vol. ii. pp. 62-63.
Culross, 1684. Oct. 18th, 1684.
Sir . . I shall informe you, with three remarkable Stories which
may be attested by famous Witnesses, many of which are yet living.
I had the curiosity, when I was a Scholar to pass over from Borrowstonness
to Culross, to see a notable Witch burnt. She was carried to the
place of Execution in a chair by four men, by reason her Legs,
and her Belly were broken, by one of the Devils cunning tricks
which he plaid her. This woman was watched one night in the Steeple
of Culros, by two men, John Shank a Flesher and one John Drummond,
who being weary went to another Room, where there was a Fire,
to take a Pipe. But to secure her, they put her Leggs in the Stocks,
and locked them, as well as might be. But no sooner were they
gone out of the Room, but the Devil came into the Prison, and
told her he was obliged to deliver her from the shame she was
like to suffer for his sake; and accordingly took her out of the
Stocks, and embracing her, carried her out of the Prison. At which
she being terrified made this exclamation by the way, " 0
God whither are you taking me! " At which words, he let her
fall, at the distance from the Steeple, about the breadth of the
street of Edinburgh, where she brake her Leggs and her Belly.
I saw the impression and dimple of her heels; as many thousands
did, which continued for six or seven years upon which place no
Grass would ever grow. At last there was a stone dyke built upon
Author of this letter is a Person of great honesty and sincerity.
From the First Relation of his, we have an evident instance that
the Devil can transport the Bodies of men and Women thorow the
Air; Tis true, he did not carry her far off, but not for
want of skill and power. Neither was he afraied to hear the name
of God spoken; but purposing to destroy both the Soul and the
body of the poor creature, he has pretended so much, to excuse
himself, at her hand.
The first Story puts me in mind of one Craich a Witch put in prison,
in the Steeple of Culross, to whom several years agoe, Mr. Alexander
Colvil, Justice Depute came, a gentleman of great sagacity and
knowledge as to Witches. He asked if she was a Witch. She denyed.
Dar you hold up your hand and swear that you are not a Witch.
Yes sir said she. But behold, what a remarkable Judgement of God
came upon her. While she is swearing with her arm lifted up, it
became as stiff as a tree, that she could not pull it in again,
to the amazement of all that were present. One person yet living
there, was a witness and can attest this. The Gentleman seing
the vengeance of God upon her for her wickedness falls down presently
upon his knees, and entreated the Lord in her behalf, who was
graciously pleased to hear him.
Sinclair, pp. 207-212.
The mark of a witchs foot is still pointed out on the turret-stair
leading to this apartment [on the first floor of the church-steeple],
and is reported to have been made by one of these unfortunate
The Red Rocks was the place where reputed witches were burnt.
Chapman, p. 27.
The rocks in the middle of the bay are called the Cockstail or
Cucks-stool; are said to have got their names from being used
as a ducking place for scolds.
Chapman, p. 24.
In regard to the Cross of Mugdrum, even tradition ceases to furnish
any information. It continues to preserve the memory of the spot,
in the lands belonging to the town of Newburgh, on which more
than one unfortunate victim fell a sacrifice to the superstition
of former times, intent on punishing the crime of witchcraft.
O.S.A., vol. viii. p. 77.
Near where the Martyrs Monument now stands, there was formerly
a small knoll known as Methvens Tower. This knoll, it was
believed, was haunted by the fairies; and on it, too, witches
are said to have been burned.
According to tradition, the suspected witches were thrown into
the Witch Lake, to see whether they would float or sink. A real
witch would not drown, and was therefore burned. Before being
cast into the water, the right thumb of the suspected was tied
to the great toe of the left foot, and the left thumb to the big
toe of the right foot, otherwise the proof was not canonical,
the accused not being crossed.
The tradition respecting Witch Grizzie of the fifteenth century;
who, having been found guilty of a fatal incantation, was condemned
to expiate her guilt in the
midst of the flaming faggots. But, during the interval which preceded
the execution of the sentence, she was incautiously permitted
to fall under the drowsy dominion of Morpheus; and the very instant
that her eyelids came in contact with each other, she vanished,
with a sonorous noise, in the shape of a droning beetle ; and
that insect is known by the title of the Deils Horse to
this day. Though Grizzie never after rendered herself visible
in human shape, yet those who were mainly instrumental in procuring
her condemnation were constantly infested with a droning noise
in their ears, whilst every action of their subsequent lives is
said to have been governed by enchantment. And since this untoward
event, no witch, after condemnation, was suffered to fall asleep.
Jack, pp. 62, 63.
Dunfermline.Jun. 26 Agnes Mulikine, alias Bessie Boswell,
in Dunfermeling, wes Banist and exilit for Wichecraft.
Pitcairn, p. 432.
The 28th of Apryle thair was ane witche brunt in St Androis, wha
was accused of mony horrible thingis, which scho denyed; albeit
they were sufficientlie proven. Being desyred that scho wold forgive
a man, that had done hir some offence (as scho alledged), refused;
then when ane vtlier that stude by said, gif scho did not forgive,
that God wald not forgive hir, and so scho suld be dampned. Bot
scho not caren for hell nor heawin, said opinlie, I pas Ill not
whidder I goe to hell or heawin, with dyvers vtheris execrable
wordis. Efter hir handis were bound, the provest causeth lift
vp hir claithis, to see hir mark that scho had, or to sic gif
scho had ony thing vpon hir I can not weill tell, hot thair was
a white claith like a collore craig CII with stringis in betuene
hit leggis, whairon was mony knottis vpon the stringis of the
said collore craig, which was taken from hir sore gainst hir will;
for belyke scho thought that scho suld not have died that being
vpon her, for scho said, when it was taken from hir, Now
I have no hoip of myself.
Bannatyne, p. 339.
August 29th 1704.
Lillias Adie declared some hours before her death, in audience
of the minister, precentor, George Pringle and John Paterson,
that what she had said of Elspeth Williamson and Agnes Curie was
as true as the Gospel; and added, it is as true as the sun shines
on that floor, and dim as my eyes are I see that. Lillias Adie
died in prison and was buried within the sea mark at Torryburn.
Webster , pp. 27-34.
Margaret Aitken, the Witch of Balwearie.
This summer there was a great business for the trial of witches.
Amongst others one Margaret Aitken, being apprehended on suspicion,
and threatened with torture, did confess herself guilty. Being
examined touching her associates in that trade, she named a few,
and perceiving her delations find credit, made offer to detect
all of that sort, and to purge the country of them, so she might
have her life granted. For the reason of her knowledge, she said
That they had a secret mark all of that sort, in their eyes,
whereby she could surely tell, how soon she looked upon any, whether
they were witches or not, and in this she was so readily
believed, that for the space of three or four months she was carried
from town to town to make discoveries in that kind. Many were
brought in question by her delations, especially at Glasgow, where
divers innocent women through the credulity of the minister Mr
John Cowper, were condemned and put to death. In the end she was
found to be a mere deceiver (for the same persons that the one
day she had declared guilty the next day being presented in another
habit she cleansed), and sent back to Fife, where first she was
apprehended. At her trial she affirmed all to be false that she
had confessed, either of herself or others, and persisted in this
to her death; which made many forthink their too great forwardness
that way, and moved the King to recall the commissions given out
against such persons, discharging all proceedings against them,
except in case of voluntary confession till a solid order should
be taken by the Estates touching the form that should be kept
in their trial.
Chambers, p. 291
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