Five things Kerry Barrett learnt about the Scottish witch hunts

Kerry Barrett’s latest timeslip novel, The Secrets of Thistle Cottage, takes us to the 1600’s where a woman is accused of witchcraft. In researching for her novel, here are five things Kerry Barrett learnt about the Scottish witch hunts.

Five things I learned about the Scottish witch hunts while I was researching The Secrets of Thistle Cottage

1. They were really brutal, very bloody and they lasted a very long time.

I’m sure you’ve all heard of the Salem witch trials in America, and the Pendle witches in England. Let me tell you, they are small fry compared with Scotland. Nineteen people were executed in Salem, and 12 in Pendle. It’s estimated that more than 2000 women were executed as witches in Scotland, along with 400 men, in witch hunts that lasted for the best part of 200 years.

2. Women were tortured.

When I was reading about witch trials I had to keep putting the books down and going to do something else, because it was all so gruesome. Sleep deprivation was the main way the women were forced to confess but there were all sorts of grim torture devices that were used. Sometimes the witch hunters would torture the women’s children in front of them, in order to get them to confess. It was a very dark time.

3. Witches weren’t burned at the stake.

Well, they were, but only after they had been strangled. Remember I said they were brutal?

4. They only happened in certain places.

I was born in Edinburgh, and East Lothian, just along the coast from Edinburgh, was a hot bed of witch hunts. In fact, one of my favourite spots – North Berwick, a very sweet little seaside town – was the scene of one of the most gruesome, horrific witch hunts. It went on for almost two years and as many as 200 women were tortured and executed. A bleak time in history, most definitely, and an excellent place to set my novel. But the trials didn’t happen all over Scotland. You can find out more about where they took place with this excellent map

5. There is a Witches of Scotland campaign.

The Witches of Scotland campaign is asking for a pardon, an apology and a memorial for the Scottish women and men who were convicted of witchcraft. You can find out more at their website or find them on Instagram @witches.of.scotland or Twitter @witchesofscotl

The Secrets of Thistle Cottage by Kerry Barrett is out in eBook on the 9th June.

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