Sunday, 21 August 2011

Witches

Today I came across The Witches Fountain. It is very near the Castle walls in Edinburgh on an area called Castlehill. Near this site over 2000 witches were burnt at the stake. More witches were burnt on Castlehill in the C16th than almost anywhere in Europe. 
 
The fountain was designed by John Duncan R.S.A.,There are two heads one looking wicked the other serene.They are Hygeia The Goddess of Health and Aesculapius The God of Medicine. The Serpent and a Foxglove show the two sides of the story , Good and bad.


The North Berwick Witches sparked the start of witch hunting in Scotland. Over 3800 people were accused of being a witch with over 2000 of them being put to death. Mary Queen of Scots brought the Witchcraft Act from Europe which meant that witches would be strangled ( 'werrit' ) first before being burnt. Many were also tortured in the most horrid of ways. They were also thrown into The Nor'Loch, now Princes Street Gardens. In the well known way if they floated then they were guilty ,if they drowned they were Innocent.  This is known as 'Dooking' in Scotland.The North Berwick Witches with the help of 'Ould Clootie' the Devil at Halloween, confessed under torture of causing hurricanes off the coast, trying to prevent Anne ,Princess of Denmark, King James V1's future wife,from reaching Scotland. Dame Euphane MaCalzean accused of being one of the witches.
Men were burnt too. In 1702 James Reid of Mussellburgh was burnt alive on Castlehill. He was accused of throwing enchanted stones into a field farmed by David Libberton,thus destroying his crops and by making a wax image,melting it in the fire and causing the death of the farmer.Janet Home was the last person to be executed as a witch in 1722. The law was abolished in 1736.
I was in for a witchy day,The National Museum had a small section on charms which include a few stones with natural holes in and a witches rope. The Holey stones were used as charms against witches and elves. They were often threaded with red wool or ribbon and hung over stables and cattle byres to protect the animals. Traditionally after seven years the stones were taken down and thrown into a river or running water before being replaced with a newly found stone. Whatever badness the stone had gathered in the seven years would be washed away.
By the late afternoon I went for a walk through the Braids and there was some Enchanters Nightshade. The Enchanter was Circe the Witch whose spells turned the shipmates of Ulysses into pigs. This was the plant that was thought to have been used and its botanical name is Circaea.

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