Myths and Magic in Royal Deeside

Crathes Castle - Visit Scotland

With Halloween all around us this 31st October, our blog reflects on Myth & Magic of the area.

Myths and magic are so tightly woven into Scotland's history that it's sometimes impossible to separate reality from legend. Beyond the official histories are the stories that were passed on by word of mouth, of ghosts and witches and curses...

Scottish Witch Hunt from the National Library of Scotland

Royal Deeside is no different and has had its fair share of tales, too many to retell here. However when witch-hunting mania swept the northeast of Scotland in the late 16th Century, this was one of the areas noted for 'the “detestabil practize" of witchcraft'.

It is written that the warlock stone (or 'gryt stane o' cragleauche') just outside Torphins was where the Deeside coven of witches met. Led by the warlock Colin Massie of Glendye. The Aberdeen witch trials of 1596-97 list the names of the witches and their crimes.

Margaret Clarke of Lumphanan, accused of the death of John Burnett.  She was said to cast up her hands and mumble devilish prayers as he rode by on horseback and he took to his bed and died.

Janet Davidson of Sundayswells, Torphins said to have killed Patrick Hunter with ‘diverse writing of witchcraft’.

Helen Rogie of Findtrack, Torphins specialized in making ‘pictours’ of her intended victims.  (made from soft lead or wax and other materials). 

Margaret Ogg accused of bewitching her neighbours cattle.

Janet Lucas had a magical charm of coloured thread in her purse when arrested.

Isobel Ogg of Craigtown of Lumphanan indicted for witchcraft so that two Banchory women could outsell their rivals at market.

Isobel Strathanchyn or Scudder, her list of crimes were; creating love potions, breaking wheels of a mill in revenge after the miller had refused to give her food 

Katherine Fergus, executed with Isobel Strathanchyn, it seems for a love spell delivered to one that decided it was evil witchcraft and almost burned down her house after throwing it into the hearth fire.

Colin Massie of Glendye, a warlock, (though Witch is not gender specific, and warlock is considered an insult), who like his aged mother (shot by a zealous citizen) who owned a lot of property was said to be able to take the form of a hare.

They were all imprisoned in the Tolbooth in Aberdeen and most likely tortured to get confessions by means like thumb-screws, red hot leg irons, heavy weights, the witch bridle (an iron muzzle in an iron framework that enclosed the head) and or the ducking stool.

Twenty-three women and one man were tried and convicted of witchcraft. Twenty-two of them were burned on Castle Hill in Aberdeen. They were publicly hanged, then burned after being tortured into confession. Nearly a dozen from the village of Lumphanan were killed - which at the time would’ve been a considerable proportion of the female population. Read more on historical crime & punishment of Aberdeenshire in Doric Columns

Thankfully things are much more peaceful now, so enjoy the trick or treating and Halloween parties everywhere.

We have created a YouTube playlist of some of the haunting stories and ghost hunting from around the area. Have to say Fyvie Castle on Most Haunted gives you the goosebumps!

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