Bewitchment

TCS Talk | Narratives of Bewitchment in Scotland | November 15th 2019

G.02, 50 George Square, Edinburgh |  16:15-18:00 (roughly)
Friday 15th November

For our second talk of the season, the Traditional Cosmology Society presents a lecture by Julian Goodare, Professor of History at the University of Edinburgh.

Professor Goodare was Director of the online Survey of Scottish Witchcraft, and has published widely on witchcraft in Scotland. His most recent book is The European Witch-Hunt (London: Routledge, 2016).

In his TCS talk, Professor Goodare will review statements contained in Scottish witchcraft trial records, given by people who presented themselves as victims of witchcraft. As recounted in these statements, bewitchment could take many forms: it sometimes affected the victims’ own health; at other times it was the health of a child or other family member, or the health of their farm animals, or their dairying, ale-brewing or prosperity generally. The bewitchment itself was placed within a wider narrative of community relationships, often involving quarrels, and sometimes including threats or curses.

Professor Goodare will focus on how the narrators explained the concept of bewitchment. The key legal point at issue in their testimony was: were these events caused by the suspect’s witchcraft, or not? On this point, the reported accounts varied greatly: some of the supposed victims explained the bewitchment in detail; others told of misfortune, but avoided saying anything about bewitchment. Some victims seem to have been reluctant accusers. At the other extreme, some victims told stories of their own experience of magical events, or even of having encountered the Devil. Seen together, these narratives reveal much about witchcraft victims’ beliefs, and about the remarkable spectrum of nuances they encompassed, a spectrum in which we come to glimpse a connection between the quotidian and the uncanny.

 

(more…)