Author Archives: Sara Moir

King James VI

King James the VI played an important role in the legal development of witch trials in Scotland. He did not show a large interest in witch until the early 1590s. When his bride to be, Princess Anne of Denmark, was unable to reach Scotland due to storms and other difficulties on the ship the king […]

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Scottish act of 1563

The Scottish act of 1563 went into effect in 1563, establishing witchcraft as a crime punishable by death. The act did not specify how to handle a witchcraft trial, nor did it establish qualifications for how to identify a witch. It is unclear who exactly drafted the piece of legislation. The act went through a […]

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Sir George Mackenzie

Sir George Mackenzie was born in 1636 and worked as a Scottish lawyer and judge. He was known for expressing skepticism in certain witch trials. However, he believed that the devil had the power to inflict and cure diseases, and he thought the devil could transport witches to the Sabbath. He acquitted several witches during his time as a […]

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North Berwick Trials

The North Berwick trials began in November 1590 when David Seton accused his servant, Geillis Duncan, of being a witch. Duncan was a known healer in the area, which contributed to Seton’s suspicions. He tortured her and forced her to name other witches that had been her accomplices, thus beginning the first great witch-hunt in […]

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David Cowan

David Cowan lived in Prestonpans, Scotland. He worked as a drummer and witch-pricker, particularly from 1678 to 1679. He was involved in at least six known witchcraft cases. In five of these trials he pricked the accused witches to check for devil’s marks, and in the sixth trial he served as an investigator. According to Scottish law, torture […]

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