Agnes Sampson

Scottish midwife, cunning woman and healer; central figure in the North Berwick witch trials

Alice Nutter

Alice Nutter was one of the 11 men and women found guilty
of causing harm by witchcraft in the Pendle witch trials of 1612. She was unique among the accused in being a respectable wealthy widow.

Alison Pearson, witch

Scottish woman found guilty of sorcery, witchcraft and invoking the spirits of the Devil in 1588, then strangled and burned

Allison Balfour

The 1594 trial of alleged witch Allison Balfour is one of the most frequently cited Scottish witchcraft cases.

Barbara Napier, witch

Barbara Napier or sometimes Barbara Naper (c. 1554 – sometime between 1592 to 1600) was an Edinburgh woman accused of witchcraft and conspiracy to murder in the series of trials from 1590 until 1592 that become known as the North Berwick witch trials.

Black cat

The numerous folk beliefs about black cats, and cats in general, are often contradictory. Superstitions surrounding black cats are almost certainly some of the most prevalent even today, along with the number thirteen and walking under a ladder.

Bute witches

Six Scottish women accused of witchcraft on Bute during the Great Scottish Witch Hunt of 1661–62.

Edmund Hartley

Edmund Hartley, (died March 1597), the Tyldesley witch, was a cunning man who was alleged to have practised witchcraft at Cleworth Hall in Tyldesley, Lancashire for a year in 1595–96. Hartley was hanged, twice, after a trial at Lancaster Assizes in March 1597. Part of the evidence against him was that under interrogation he was unable to recite the Lord’s Prayer.

Elspeth Reoch

Scottish woman who confessed to witchcraft and deceiving islanders by pretending she was mute

Geillis Duncan, witch

Geillis Duncan, also known as Gillie Duncan, a young Scottish maidservant, was suspected of witchcraft by her employer, David Seton, in November 1590. After being tortured, the initial testimony she gave led to the start of the North Berwick witch trials.

Isobel Gowdie

Isobel Gowdie was accused of witchcraft in 1662; she was likely executed although that is uncertain. Her detailed testimony provides one of the most comprehensive insights into European witchcraft folklore at the end of the era of witch-hunts.

Jane Wenham

Jane Wenham was the last person to be condemned for witchcraft in an English court, when she was found guilty at Hertford in 1712.

Janet Boyman

A Scottish woman found guilty and executed for witchcraft and associating with fairies

John Kincaid, witch-finder

John Kincaid or Kinkaid was a professional witch-finder or pricker of witches based in Tranent, East Lothian.

Joseph Neil Paton

Damask designer and antiquarian with an extensive collection containing witchcraft paraphernalia that included the skull of Lilias Adie. Father of the artist Joseph Noel Paton

Lilias Adie, witch

Elderly Torryburn woman who died after confessing to witchcraft; her face was reconstructed from photos of her skull.


Maleficium is an act of sorcery, historically usually performed by a witch, intended to cause harm or injury.

Malkin Tower

Malkin Tower was the home of Elizabeth Southerns, also known as Demdike, and her granddaughter Alizon Device, two of the chief protagonists in the Lancashire witch trials of 1612.

Margaretha Horn, witch

Woman arrested on suspicion of witchcraft in Rothenburg in 1652, who despite being tortured, vigorously protested her innocence

Matthew Hopkins

Matthew Hopkins (c. 1620 – 12 August 1647) was an English witch-hunter who claimed to hold the office of Witchfinder General, although that title was never bestowed by Parliament.

Newes from Scotland

Pamphlet describing the North Berwick witch trials in Scotland detailing the confessions given by the accused witches before the King.

Osculum infame

Osculum infame, also known as the Kiss of Shame, the Obscene Kiss, is the name commonly given to the ritual of a witch paying homage to the Devil by kissing his genitals, anus or feet.

Padiham witch

Margaret Pearson was a convicted witch who escaped the death penalty because she had caused no harm to anyone.

Paisley witches

The Paisley witches, also known as the Bargarran witches or the Renfrewshire witches, were tried in Paisley, Renfrewshire, central Scotland, in 1697.

Pendle witches

The trials of the Pendle witches in 1612 are among the most famous witch trials in English history, and some of the best recorded of the 17th century.

Pittenweem witches

Five Scottish women accused of witchcraft in the small fishing village of Pittenweem in Fife on the east coast of Scotland in 1704

Richard Graham

Richard Graham, sometimes Ritchie Graham or Rychie Grahame, was a sorcerer, necromancer and wizard. Executed on the last day of February 1592 as part of the North Berwick witch trials, he was an associate of Francis Stewart, fifth Earl of Bothwell.

Samlesbury witches

The Samlesbury witches were three women from the Lancashire village of Samlesbury – Jane Southworth, Jennet Bierley, and Ellen Bierley – accused by a 14-year-old girl, Grace Sowerbutts, of practising witchcraft. Their trial at Lancaster Assizes in England on 19 August 1612 was one in a series of witch trials held there over two days. All three women were acquitted.

Seely wights

The seely wights were fairy-like creatures at the centre of a shamanistic Scottish cult that existed in the 16th century. Members were able to enter into a trance which allowed them to fly out at night on swallows and join with the seely wights.

Summis desiderantes affectibus

Summis desiderantes affectibus, (Latin for “Desiring with supreme ardor”), sometimes abbreviated to Summis desiderantes was a papal bull regarding witchcraft issued by Pope Innocent VIII on 5 December 1484.

Witch of Endor

The Witch of Endor is a female sorcerer who appears in the Old Testament (1 Samuel 28:3–25).

Witch trials in early modern Scotland

The judicial proceedings in Scotland between the early 16th century and the mid-18th century concerned with crimes of witchcraft, part of a series of witch trials in Early Modern Europe.

Witch’s broomstick

Although witches in the popular imagination are widely believed to have flown through the air on broomsticks, only a very small number ever confessed to having done so.

Witchcraft Act 1735

The Witchcraft Act 1735 (9 Geo. II c. 5), sometimes referred to as the Witchcraft Act 1736 owing to dating complexities, repealed the earlier statutes concerning witchcraft throughout Great Britain including Scotland, which had its own legal system.

Witchcraft Acts

Until the passage of Henry VIII’s Act of 1542 witchcraft was dealt with by the ecclesiastical courts rather being seen as a secular felony. It is unknown what triggered the perceived need for such a law, but it undoubtedly suited Henry’s agenda of wresting power from the Catholic Church.

Witchcraft in Orkney

Witchcraft in Orkney possibly has its roots in the settlement of Norsemen on the archipelago from the eighth century onwards. Until the early modern period magical powers were accepted as part of the general lifestyle, but witch-hunts began on the mainland of Scotland in about 1550.