The Great Scottish Witch Hunt of 1592 was a very tragic and scary series of witch trials that took place all over Scotland. Almost 400 people were tried for witchcraft. It was the second of five nationwide witch hunts that took in the 16th and 17th centuries.
This was the least documented of the 3 major witch hunts as it was not sponsored or enacted by a royal commission. No one knows for sure what caused this particular hunt, but it followed extreme political turmoil, plague and famine.
The most well-known case during this time was that of Margaret Aitken, also known as The Great Witch of Balwearie. After being arrested, she pled guilty under extreme torture. In an effort to save her own life, she claimed to be able to recognize other witches by looking into their eyes. So the “commission” pardoned her conviction in order to let her help hunt these women down and execute them. In a period of only four months, Margaret caused the deaths of many, many women until eventually she was exposed as a fraud in August of 1597.
As a result of what happened that year, the commission was ordered to stop the trials until the claims could be examined. The accusations and trials stopped in October of that year… only to begin again from 1628-1631, 1649-1650, and again from 1661-1662.
Yes, she did what she had to do to survive, but I don’t think she’s resting comfortably in the afterlife. I was unable to find out what became of Ms. Aitken, but I’m fascinated with her story so I’ll continue to do research and report back.