Saturday, 29 October 2016

#Halloween and #Isobel Cockie of #Kintore

Halloween approaches in a couple of days and today (Saturday) is my regular slot at the Writing Wranglers and Warriors Blog

I've written before on that blog about Halloween and its Samhain Celtic connections so today I've posted something of a hybrid. 

The gist of what I wrote on Wranglers is REBLOGGED here but you'll find more information below.

"Halloween stories of witches have been told around the firesides for many generations - and none more so than in the place where I live in Scotland. My village is Kintore, in Aberdeenshire, and one claim to fame is that Kintore was the home of a famous witch named #Isobel Cockie who met a sad demise in 1597.

Wikimedia Commons - pamphlet 1590

There have been many great Witch Hunts in the past in Scotland but one of the greatest was the one of 1597. 

The witch trials took place all over Scotland and it’s believed that some 400 people were brought to court, around 200 of whom ended up being tied to the stake and burned as a witch (some male, though most female). 

The one consolation appears to be that the condemned was probably strangled first, though that can’t always be corroborated.

The bill for the Aberdeen hangings of Jonett Wischart and Isebel Cocker went something like this:

For tuentie leads of peattis to burne thame,                             xI       sh.
For ane Boill of Coillis,                                                           xxiiii  sh
For four Tar barrellis,                                                               xxvi   sh  viii d
For fyr and Irne barrellis                                                          xvi     sh  viii d
For a staik and dressing of it                                                    xvi     sh
For four fadome if Towis                                                         iiii      sh (currently 24 US cents) 
For careing the peittis, coillis, and barrellis to the Hill           xiii     sh  iiii d
To Jon Justice for thair executioun                                          xiii     sh  iiii  d (currently 45 US cents)
Reasons for Isobel Cockie being hanged varied from stopping cows from producing healthy milk and making it poisonous; stopping a woman from being able to churn her milk into cream, butter or cheese; making people that she had ‘bad words’ with fall ill with fevers, some of the victims not surviving; robbing people of the power of speech and having the ability to return it via potions and drugs when pressed to do, and other such instances.

A particularly bad accusation for Isobel was encountering Thomas Makkie ‘Reader of Kintore’ one dark night. It’s said she laid her hand on the shoulder of his five year old horse and it promptly fell down and died. The ‘Reader of Kintore’ was an alternative name of the era for the schoolmaster (Maister of the Inglis Scuill in Kintore) and as such would have been a respected worthy of the village and someone whose testimony would have been well valued.   
Woodcut 1720 Wellcome trust - via Wikimedia commons
Dancing with the devil, and especially on Hallowe'en, was the most damning indictment but it appears that the bold Isobel Cockie from Kintore went one better than that. Said to be part of a witches coven who met regularly in the city of Aberdeen, Isobel (also known as “Tibby”) was dancing along with her fellow witch cronies at the Market and Fish Cross, also of the Meal Market, between 12 and 1 a.m. on the Hallowe'en of 1595 “betuixt tuell and ane houris at nycht, to the mercat and fishe croces of Aberdene, an meil mercet of the sam”. 

It's said of the dancers "some appeared as hares, cats and other likenesses"- I'm thinking they either wore some good costumes or shape shifting was going on. 

The Devil was playing his ‘Trump’ (I kid you not, that’s what they called it! – it was a form of Jew’s Harp) but ‘Tibby’ didn’t think too much of his unmelodious playing and snatched the instrument from his mouth, after which it seems she played it herself. “In the quhilk danse, thow was the ring ledar, next to Thomas Leyis: and becaws the Dewill playit nocht so melodiousle and weill as thow crewit, thou tuik his instrument (Trump) out of his moutht, than tuik him on the chaftis therwith, and plaid thi self theron to thi hail cumpanie” My translation of ‘took him on the chaftis therewith’ stretches to she slapped him on the cheeks, but please don’t quote me on that one since it’s the only translation I can find, and although I’ve lived in Kintore for 28 years I still ‘canna ‘spik a’ Doric’!

Other reasons for being found guilty of witchcraft that year included murder by using magic; poisoning meat; making wax images to create a storm and removing body parts from the dead to use in witchly potions (fingers, toes and genitals being popular).  More information HERE. 

So, why were so many witches burnt at the stake in 1597? Well, the answer is that was a particularly bad year but there were others nearly as dire before that. Witch trials had occurred more sporadically over the centuries but by the 1590s it became a serious cause for complaint.

James VI of Scotland- National Gallery of Scotland via Wikimedia Commons 

The Scottish king of the time was James VI, the son of the famous Mary Queen of Scots and the one known to many around the world as having sponsored the translation of the bible which became known as the ‘Authorised King James (VI)  Version of the Bible’ of 1611. 
(He also became James I of England> Great Britain)

James VI’s interest in witchcraft was probably kindled after his visit to Denmark, the home of his young Queen Anne. In 1589, after a betrothal by proxy, Anne set out to sail to Scotland but the ship was blown off course to Norway. On hearing of the plight of his newly betrothed, James VI set off himself to fetch her. After a formal wedding in Oslo James VI then spent a month in Denmark feasting and learning all sorts of interesting things. Denmark being a country familiar to witch-hunts sparked a curiosity in James VI which became more of an obsession with him for the next decade. Being an avid scholar, he deemed the study of witchcraft and demonology a branch of theology.

There were some who believed that witches’ spells had caused the winds to blow king’s ship off course on his return to Scotland with his bride, or another version is that it was Anne's ship that blew off course and ended in Norway. Whichever -  it caused a furore!

Very soon after his return to Scotland, he personally became involved in the #North Berwick Witch Trials of 1590. These trials implicated 70 people, some of whom were high born (5th Earl of Bothwell), and ran for two years.

The interest in witch hunting continued for James VI and in 1597 he wrote a treatise in 3 books called #‘Daemonology’ in which he laid out the principles of Witchery (as he saw it) and the reasons for the church needing to be thorough in stamping out the practice.
( ) - p.s. there are some inconsistencies in the sites available on the internet with information on JamesVI.

It’s not documented where Isobel Cockie’s remains were interred after her burning at the stake but earlier this year some 900 skeletons were found under St. Nicholas Kirk in the centre of Aberdeen. This was the very place where those accused of witchcraft were chained to the walls while awaiting trial.

I think on the Halloween of 1597, the witches covens in Scotland must have been very quiet affairs!

Whatever, and however, you may be celebrating this Halloween make sure not to play the devil’s ‘Trump’.  J

SlĂ inthe! 


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