The North Berwick Witches in Scotland 1590-91 and the aftermath to 1597

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  • North Berwick witches in Scotland, 1590-91 and the aftermath 1597
    • Why did persecutions begin?
      • Witchcraft Act 1563 passed under Mary Queen of Scots
      • Gilly Duncan's confession
      • James' voyage to Denmark is driven back by storms
        • before his voyage, the act was rarely enforced
      • James met courtiers who held strong beliefs in group witch trials and theologian Neils Hemmingsen
      • Scotland may have been infleunced by other witch hunts like the one carried out by Lutheran Bishop Peter Palladius
      • Anna Koldings
        • authorities looked for other explanations before turning to witchcraft
    • what was the impact of confessions, trials and executions?
      • Agnes Sampson
        • Interrogated and examined by James himself
      • John Fian
      • Newes from Scotland
      • James took a personal interest
        • childhood marked by political crisis
        • the accused were charged with attempting to harm him
        • Grew up in religiously charged environment
      • use of torture to gain confessions
      • Earl of Bothwell
      • 70 people implicated in total
    • why were the persecutions widespread?
      • Judges given permission to torture at will
      • lack of general commission in regards to witchcraft
      • cases should be submitted to the Privy council from 1596 onwards
        • case of Alison Balfour explains why commissions reduced after 1597
        • reports to them were limited
      • Janet Wishart's claims of witches in 1597 raised suspicion
      • Poor harvest and weather conditions led to more accusations
      • judicial procedures meant disgruntled local witnesses were often relied on
      • The Kirk had a vested interest in ensuring James failed
      • trials often carried out by local officials with no instructions from central government
      • Lack of central control
      • Publication of Daemonologie
      • Scotland was highly patriarchal
    • Why was it more widespread and severe in comparison to England?
      • Monarchy was relatively weak
      • Fewer royal agents at the monarch's disposal so officials could pursue witch-hunts without interference
      • Simple majority needed to find a suspect guilty
      • Protestant reformation on stricter, Calvanist lines
      • Scotland was relatively poor
      • Witch's get
      • Deeply held belief in fairies and folk magic


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