Book listing those accused of witchcraft in 17th century Scotland digitised



The pages of a 350-year-old book listing the names of people in Scotland accused of witchcraft have been made available online for the first time.

The Names of Witches in Scotland is a collection from 1658 that has been digitised from the original book held by the Wellcome Library.

It lists the names of men and women accused of being witches as well as notes of confession.

The practice of witchcraft or of consulting with witches were capital crimes under the Scottish Witchcraft Act 1583.

It is thought that between 3,000 and 5,000 women were accused of being witches during the 16th and 17th centuries – a substantially higher figure than in England.

Persecution of those believed to be witches reached its high watermark between 1658 and 1662, during which time the list was created.

In many cases the people accused were healers for whom things went awry if their treatments failed, leading to accusations of witchcraft.

The names were published by Ancestry, which specialises in family histories.

Ancestry senior content manager Miriam Silverman, said: “Many of us have donned a black dress, pointy hat and even green face paint to go to Halloween parties as witches, but that’s our almost comic interpretation of something mysterious and scary that people feared in the past.

“In the 17th century, people believed that the unholy forces of witchcraft were lurking in their communities, and those accused of being witches were persecuted on the basis of these dark suspicions.

“Whether your ancestors were accused witches or not, you can find out more about them and their lives by searching these – and many other collections – online today.”

Dr Christopher Hil most comic interpretation of something mysterious and scary that people feared in the past.

“In the 17th century, people believed that the unholy forces of witchcraft were lurking in their communities, and those accused of being witches were persecuted on the basis of these dark suspicions.

“Whether your ancestors were accused witches or not, you can find out more about them and their lives by searching these – and many other collections – online today.”

Dr Christopher Hilton, senior archivist at Wellcome Library said: “This manuscript offers us a glimpse into a world that often went undocumented: how ordinary people, outside the mainstream of science and medicine, tried to bring order and control to the world around them. This might mean charms and spells, or the use of healing herbs and other types of folk medicine, or both. We’ll probably never know the combinations of events that saw each of these individuals accused of witchcraft.”