July 19th 1623
Which Witch?In Scotland, it is believed that some three thousand persons, mainly women, were burned for the crime of witchcraft. The Biblical injunction ‘Thou shalt not suffer a witch to live’ was followed with zeal and enthusiasm and with the aid of a little judicious torture, more psychological than physical, the conviction rate was satisfyingly high. Some believed, or were prepared to confess to believe, that they were indeed in league with the Devil but many were old women with perhaps a small knowledge of herbal cures and a good line of patter.
One such was Janet Traill of Dunning who was tried by the Presbytery of Perth. It was stated that she was visited by Duncan Tawis who told her that he thought his child was dead it being “stiff as an aik tree and unable to move.”
She went to his house and “took the bairn upon her knee before the fire and drew the fingers of its hands and every toe of its feet, mumbling all the while some words that could not be heard, and immediately the bairn was cured.”
She was questioned as to where she had learned her skills. She answered, “When I was lying in childhood lair, I was drawn forth from my bed to a dub (puddle) near my house door in Dunning and was there puddled and troubled.” “By whom?” she was asked. “By the fairy folks who appeared, some of them red and some of them grey and riding upon horses. The principal of them that spake to me was like a bonny white man riding upon a grey horse. He desired me to speak of God and do good to poor folk and he showed me the means how I might do this which was by washing, bathing, speaking words, putting sick persons through hasps of yarn and the like.”
Not, you might think, a witch in league with the Devil, but they were not taking any chances. Janet Traill was strangled and then burned in the approved manner.