Scottish Witches with Karen Soutar

I’m so happy, no….. elated to have Karen Soutar here to talk about her native witches with us. Karen and I have been planning this for some time now and the anticipation was becoming unbearable.

If you haven’t already you NEED to read her story about her local witches

So without me rambling on further…Because I will do it…. I’ll hand it over to Karen and her first post …. yes, I did forget to mention that didn’t I? Karen’s agreed to doing a series for us. A whole month of Scottish Witches!!! YES!!! Four posts about Scottish Witches….. Oh be still my content heart…

Here’s Karen…..

How I discovered the wonderful, wicked world of witches

What do you think of when you hear the words ‘Scottish witches’? The three from Shakespeare’s ‘Macbeth’, hunched round their cauldron? The ones who chase Tam O’ Shanter in Robert Burns’s poem? Scotland is a country rich with tales of witches. Some are legends that have grown with the telling, some are completely made up, and some of them actually happened.

Why do witches fascinate me? They always have, ever since I was a little girl. I don’t remember exactly, but I think I read my first ‘scary’ witch story when I was about seven. I never bought into the good witch, bad witch thing. ‘The Wizard of Oz’ wasn’t a favourite of mine. (I much prefer ‘Wicked’). Even when I was young, I understood that ‘good’ and ‘evil’ are often subjective. When I read books and watched films, I always thought the wicked witch character was a lot more interesting than the simpering heroine. I still do. Witches appeal to my dark side. There are as many aspects to witchcraft as there are to life: witches are people and the same ones can be good or bad depending on what they’re doing and who’s describing them. I love that.

In my home of Scotland I have spent a lot of time visiting spooky sites and absorbing local stories, many of which go back before written records. We have a great ‘oral tradition’ of folk tales. A few forward-thinking writers captured some of them on paper before they were lost forever. Witches, fairies (NOT the fluttery pretty kind), ghosts…they are everywhere. Dark, forbidding mountains and crags, wild weather, dense forest – even the landscape conspires with the legends.

One of my earliest memories of a ‘real’ witch (or in this case, warlock) story comes from a school trip to Edinburgh, again when I was about seven or eight. On this trip to Scotland’s capital city, we went to the waxworks museum. When we got to the inevitable ‘chamber of horrors’ you could choose whether to go through or not. Guess which I did? I thought it was BRILLIANT. I bought the guidebook and devoured it when I got home. One of the characters I was particularly taken with was Major Weir.

Major Thomas Weir was born in 1599 and lived in the street called the West Bow, between Edinburgh Castle and the Grassmarket. He attended his local Protestant prayer meetings and was a respected pillar of the community. Then the Major fell sick, and decided, in his feverish state of mind, to divulge his secret life to his fellow worshippers.

He admitted ‘crimes against man and God’, including necromancy and other supernatural activities that resulted from witchcraft. He was taken into custody, along with his sister Jean, who was his partner in these arts. Both were tried on April 9, 1670 and sentenced to death. While Jean was hanged in the Grassmarket, Major Weir was burned alive somewhere between Edinburgh and Leith. He fervently refused to repent his sins. There is a popular legend that his staff was cast into the flames after him, where it twisted and writhed due to ‘whatever incantation was in it’.

The house where Weir and his sister lived and practiced their witchcraft stands to this day, and neighbours have confirmed sightings of his ghost and strange lights from within; also the sounds of laughter and revelry – a macabre sign that ‘The Wizard of West Bow’ and his cohorts still enjoy their distractions!

With this story I was hooked. I moved to Edinburgh when I was seventeen and found out more about the history of the city. During the reign of King James VI, more ‘witches’ were put to death on Castlehill than anywhere else in Scotland. From 1590 onwards, hundreds of women were executed. Of course, it is doubtful that most of these were witches at all, and even those that were, mostly used their arts to cure illness, heal wounds, and provide the occasional love potion.

The idea of ‘black’ and ‘white’ witches can be traced back to Roman times and beyond. But James VI considered himself an expert on witchcraft, and adopted the theory that all witches had made a deliberate pact with the devil, leading to a wholesale persecution of witches. They were often accused of plotting treason and trying to bring about the King’s downfall by using black arts. I’ll tell the story of one such coven in a future post.

So far it doesn’t sound as though witches had a very happy time in Scotland! But there were plenty of places where they could practise their arts undisturbed. Abandoned ‘Kirks’ (churches) were a favoured spot. One of these is a few miles from my home. Logie Old Kirk, just outside the town of Stirling, was the meeting place for a coven in the 1700s – more on them next time…

(c) City of Edinburgh Council; Supplied by The Public Catalogue FoundationEdinburgh Castle with Old Town present dayMajor Weirs West Bow House

The Witching Hour: Modern and Evil

I’ve seen a few witch movie trailers, many of the witches are portrayed as evil. Where there is evil in witchcraft, it is evil that that person wants and that is why they are evil, not that all witches are evil. Much the same as some people rape or kill and others don’t.

Today for The Witching Hour, I want to look at modern witches, and the idea of evil witches.

Does she look like a witch to you?

Does she look like a witch to you?


One movie portrays witches in the past; they wear dark dresses and clothes. This is a common stereotypical idea of witches. It’s believed that they wear only black or dark colored clothes, and a lot of silver and crystal jewelry. Another idea is that they wear long colorful dresses or skirts have long hair, usually with a lot of colorful streaks, exaggerated make-up, and again the jewelry. Halloween has brought the idea of a black pointy hat, a long hooked nose, and a greenish color of the skin.
What about her, Does she look like a witch?

What about her, Does she look like a witch?

None of this is true. What if I told you the woman at the library or who checked you out at Wal-Mart this morning, or maybe the woman at the doctor’s office last week, you know the one in the suit, were all witches. What about the man filling his gas tank behind you at the gas station, could he be a witch? Would you believe me? Why not? They very well could be witches, no one can tell what someone believes in by the way they dress, and yes men can be witches.

Do these women look like witches? Why not?

Do these women look like witches? Why not?


Believes in? Yes, witchcraft is very similar to a religion. It actually is a religion of nature. Most witches believe in not hurting others. There are some that do hurt others, but we have that outside of witchcraft too.
Another movie I’ve seen trailers for, has a young girl who comes from a magical family. She’s told she’ll have to choose between good and evil on her birthday, but we’re given the idea that the choice has already been made for her. In real life, this is not possible. No one can make a choice for you; you are the only one who can choose your path. In addition, if you choose wrong, you can repent and work hard to stop and get back on the right path.

I understand the idea of an evil witch, is much more fun to write about or make movies about. I want you to think for just a moment though…

Cinderella’s fairy Godmother, was she a witch? Don’t tell me, “No, she was a fairy Godmother.” She was a witch; she used Magic to make Cindy’s dreams come true. The tree fairy Godmothers of Sleeping Beauty? Same thing, all three were witches too. They used magic. These four women were witches; they used their magic for good, so we could say they were white witches. They didn’t look like the evil witches who were causing harm.

My Witching Hour point for today is no matter what movie you watch, or novel/story you read. Please know there are good witches out there, just like there are bad people in the world. Being a witch doesn’t automatically make you evil, just as being a wine drinker doesn’t make you a habitual drunk.