During the 16th and 17th centuries, witch trials were a frightening reality throughout Europe, and Scotland was no exception. One of the most famous cases in Scotland was that of Isobel Gowdie, a woman from the rural town of Auldearn in the Highlands, who was accused of practicing magic and consorting with the devil. Isobel's trial took place in 1662, during which she made a full confession of her activities as a witch, renouncing her Christian faith and claiming to have entered into a pact with the devil.
Isobel Gowdie provided detailed accounts of the spells and rituals she had performed, including weather control, healing, protection, love, and causing harm to others. She also claimed to have the ability to shape-shift into animals and fly through the air on a broomstick. During her trial, she described a number of spells and rituals used for various purposes, including cursing an enemy, causing a storm, and casting spells by using objects and spoken incantations.
Isobel Gowdie's Spells
One of the most fascinating aspects of Isobel's confession is the detailed accounts she provided of the spells she used. These spells were used for a variety of purposes, including weather control, healing, protection, love, and causing harm to others.
In one spell, she called upon the powers of the fairy queen to heal a sick person. In another spell, she invoked the powers of the wind and the sea to protect herself and her livestock from harm. In a love spell, she called upon the spirits of the air to bring her a lover.
For example, she described a spell to cause rain by casting a spell on a bundle of hazel rods and tossing it into a stream. She also described a spell to cure a headache by rubbing a rock called a "power stone" on the affected area.
A Spell for Calling Forth Fairies
One of her spells, described as the "fary" spell, involved calling forth the fairies and asking them to help with household tasks. Isobel would recite an incantation, such as:
"I shall goe into a haire, With sorrow, and sych, and mickle care; And I shall goe in the devil's name, Ay while I come back againe."
A Spell for Storms
In her testimony, Gowdie also detailed a number of spells and rituals that she used for various purposes. One such spell was for causing a storm, which she described as follows:
"I call the devil to come, the devil to come and take the wind from the four corners of the world and bring it here to me."
The Spell To Curse An Enemy
Another spell she described was used to curse an enemy. This spell involved burying a clay effigy of the enemy and then reciting a chant over it. According to Gowdie's testimony, the spell was intended to cause harm to the enemy:
"And then I would say the spell over it, that the person I named would be in pain, sickness, or trouble, and that it would continue until the clay figure was dug up again."
Isobel Gowdie's confession is one of the most detailed accounts of witchcraft from the time of the witch trials and is considered a valuable historical record. Her testimony provides a glimpse into the beliefs and practices of witches in Scotland during the 17th century and serves as a reminder of the fear and persecution that characterized the witch trials.
For more information on Isobel Gowdie, check out these sources:
"Exploring The Confession of Isobel Gowdie" by Emma Wilby: https://emmawilby.com/the-confession-of-isobel-gowdie/
"Discovering Scotland's Most Famous Witch: Isobel Gowdie" by Tristan Hughes: https://www.ancient-origins.net/history-famous-people/isobel-gowdie-scotland-s-most-famous-witch-008837
"The Intriguing Trials of Isobel Gowdie" by Lorna Watson: https://www.lornawatson.co.uk/the-trials-of-isobel-gowdie/