Witches & witchcraft

A Detection of Damnable Driftes

Sixteenth-century pamphlet describing prominent Chelmsford witchcraft trials against Elizabeth Francis and others

Agnes Sampson

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

Agnes Waterhouse, witch

Elderly Essex woman convicted and hanged for witchcraft at Chelmsford in 1566.

Alice Gooderidge

Staffordshire woman convicted of witchcraft in 1596 on the false testimony of an 14-year-old boy.

Alice Nutter

One of the 11 men and women found guilty of causing harm by witchcraft in the Pendle witch trials of 1612, 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

Woman accused of witchcraft and conspiracy to murder during the North Berwick witch trials

Bargarran witches

Redirected to Paisley witches.

Beatrix Laing, witch

Redirected to Pittenweem witches.

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.

Chelmsford witches

Redirected to Agnes Waterhouse, witch.

David Gregory

Scottish physician and inventor accused of witchcraft. He inherited Kinnairdy Castle in Banffshire.

Edmund Hartley

Cunning man who is alleged to have practised witchcraft at Cleworth Hall in Lancashire


Elfshot is a medical condition caused by invisible elves or witches shooting invisible arrows at people or animals.

Elizabeth Francis, witch

Elizabeth Francis was an English woman tried three times for witchcraft and hanged in 1579.

Elizabeth Hicks, witch

Redirected to Whole trial and examination of Mrs. Mary Hicks and her daughter Elizabeth.

Elizabeth Mortlock, witch

Elizabeth Mortlock was a woman from the small farming village of Pampisford, in Cambridgeshire, convicted of witchcraft in an ecclestiastical court in Ely in 1566.

Elleine Smithe, witch

Essex woman convicted and hanged for witchcraft in 1579

Elspeth Reoch

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

Euphame MacCalzean

Wealthy Scottish heiress and member of the gentry convicted of witchcraft. A key figure in the North Berwick witchcraft trials of 1590–1591.

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 Adam, witch

Redirected to Pittenweem witches.

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.

Isobel Young, witch

Scottish woman tried, convicted and executed for witchcraft in 1629. Her case gives an almost unrivalled glimpse into 17th-century proceedings in witch trials.

Issobell Young

Redirected to Isobel Young, witch

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.

Janet Kennedy, visionary

Janet or Jonet Kennedy from Redden or Reydon was a Scottish visionary involved in the North Berwick witch trials of 1590–1593.

Jean Lyon, Countess of Angus

Scottish countess named in North Berwick witch trials as consulting with witches

Jean Maxwell, sorceress

A Scottish cunning woman convicted of pretending to practise witchcraft

Jinney Bingham, Mother Damnable

17th-century woman, also known as Mother Red Cap and the Shrew of Kentish Town, suspected of being a witch, a murderer and poisoner.

John Fian

School teacher convicted of witchcraft in 1590, a central figure in the North Berwick witch trials

John Kincaid, witch-finder

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

John Kincaid, witch-pricker

Redirected to John Kincaid, witch-finder.

Joseph Neil Paton

Damask designer and antiquarian with large collection containing witchcraft objects, including the skull of Lilias Adie. Father of the artist Joseph Noel Paton.

Kiss of Shame

Redirected to Osculum Infame.

Lilias Adie, witch

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

Lillie Wallace, witch

Redirected to Pittenweem witches.


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.

Margaret Aitken, the great witch of Balwearie

Margaret Aitken or Atkin (died Fife c. August 1597), known as the great witch of Balwearie, was a pivotal figure in the great Scottish witchcraft panic of 1597.

Margaret Echlin, Lady Pittathrow

Redirected to Margaret Henderson, Lady Pittadrow.

Margaret Henderson, Lady Pittadro

A member of the Scottish elite who was accused then incarcerated for witchcraft in 1649, but died before her case went to trial.

Margaretha Horn, witch

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

Mary Hicks, witch

Redirected to Whole trial and examination of Mrs. Mary Hicks and her daughter Elizabeth.

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.

Mother Haggy

Witch of St. Albans, best-known for her salve to restore the hymen.

Mother Red Cap

Redirected to Jinney Bingham, Mother Damnable

Newes from Scotland

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

Nicolas Lawson, witch

Redirected to Pittenweem witches.

North Berwick witch trials

Series of Scottish witch trials held between 1590 and 1593

Obscene Kiss

Redirected to Osculum Infame.

Osculum infame

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

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.

Renfrewshire witches

Redirected to Paisley witches.

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.

Robert Grierson, witchcraft

Named by several accused of witchcraft during the North Berwick witch trials, Grierson died whilst being tortured during his interrogation.

Robin Grison

Redirected to Robert Grierson, witchcraft.

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.

Shrew of Kentish Town

Redirected to Jinney Bingham, Mother Damnable

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.

The examination and confession of certaine Wytches at Chensforde

First pamphlet describing witchcraft trials in England; it covers the testimony of witches at Chelmsford Assizes in 1566.

The Wonderfull Discoverie of Witches in the Countie of Lancaster

The Wonderfull Discoverie of Witches in the Countie of Lancaster is the account of a series of English witch trials that took place on 18–19 August 1612, commonly known as the Lancashire witch trials.

Tyldesley witch

Redirected to Edmund Hartley.

Walter Bruce, minister

Scottish minister at Inverkeithing and Rosyth who played a significant role in the witch-hunt of 1649–1650.

Whole trial and examination of Mrs. Mary Hicks and her daughter Elizabeth

Pamphlet purporting to tell the story of Mary Hicks, executed for witchcraft in 1716.

Witch of Endor

A female sorcerer who appears in the Old Testament (1 Samuel 28:3–25).

Witch of Redden

Redirected to Janet Kennedy, visionary.

Witch of Stapenhill

Redirected to Alice Gooderidge.

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.


Methods used to identify witches.

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 dated as 1736, repealed the statutes concerning witchcraft throughout Great Britain, including Scotland.

Witchcraft Acts

A series of Acts passed by the Parliaments of England and Scotland making witchcraft a secular offence punishable by death.

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.

Witches of Belvoir

The Witches of Belvoir were a mother and her two daughters accused of causing the deaths by witchcraft of two young nobles, Henry and Francis Manners.