Women executed 300 years ago as witches in Scotland set to receive pardons

Three centuries after repeal of Witchcraft Act thousands tried as witches could get official apologies.

From allegations of cursing the king’s ships, to shape-shifting into animals and birds, or dancing with the devil, a satanic panic in early modern Scotland meant that thousands of women were accused of witchcraft in the 16th-18th centuries with many executed.

Now, three centuries after the Witchcraft Act was repealed, campaigners are on course to win pardons and official apologies for the estimated 3,837 people – 84% of whom were women – tried as witches, of which two-thirds were executed and burned.


How Scholars Cracked a Medieval Alchemist's Secret Code

The fabric and leather-bound manuscript has 31 leaves of both parchment and paper. Certain pages are written upside down, so Piorko had to flip the entire notebook to read it. It was on one of those inverted pages that she found a puzzling passage written in code. On an opposing page was a strange-looking table filled with letters. She didn’t know it at the time, but the coded text had been hiding the alchemists' recipe to the elixir of life—what those in the profession called the “Philosopher’s Stone.”


The Famous Fight Over the Turn-of-the-Century Trend of Spirit Photography

In 1923 and 1924, Arthur Conan Doyle and Harry Houdini both toured the United States. They both sold out theaters, often in the same city within days of one another, and neither of them was offering crowds what they were most famous for. The author was not there to tell tales of Sherlock Holmes, and the magician did not execute his most daring illusions or escapes. Instead, spectators filled the seats to hear lectures—lectures about communing with the dead.


Disease, Demons, and Discord—How the Vampire Myth Was Born

The vampire is a common image in today’s pop culture, and one that takes many forms: from Alucard, the dashing spawn of Dracula in the PlayStation game Castlevania: Symphony of the Night, to Edward, the romantic, idealistic lover in the Twilight series.

In many respects, the vampire of today is far removed from its roots in Eastern European folklore. As a professor of Slavic studies who has taught a course on vampires called “Dracula” for more than a decade, I’m always fascinated by the vampire’s popularity, considering its origins—as a demonic creature strongly associated with disease.


The Fortunes of Mother Shipton

The story of Mother Shipton, as well as being a window on the past, is a mirror in which modern capitalism is reflected. It looks like one of the more solid of English legends: she has approximate dates; she is claimed by a definite place, Knaresborough; and she even has her own tourist attraction, in Mother Shipton’s Cave. But the closer we get, the more elusive she becomes. After picking over her bones, it turns out that the really interesting story is about the creation and promotion of folklore in the service of money-making and the marketplace. A tale that may be more common than we think…