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How Has Scotland Made Amends for Its Witchcraft Trials?

Updated May 17, 2024
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Salem, Massachusetts, gets all of the notoriety regarding witches and the trials that sometimes ended in death, but other places have similar sinister past. And perhaps none has a darker relationship with so-called witches than Scotland.

Between 1563 and 1736, approximately 4,000 Scottish men and women were convicted of breaking the Witchcraft Act, which ended in execution at a rate approximately five times higher than the European average. However, it seems that the country is finally making amends. After ongoing pleas from groups like the Witches of Scotland asking for apologies and pardons, First Minister of Scotland Nicola Sturgeon complied in March 2022.

Calling the events an "egregious historic injustice," Sturgeon said that pardons could be something taken up by the legislature. "At a time when women were not even allowed to speak as witnesses in a courtroom, they were accused and killed because they were poor, different, vulnerable or in many cases just because they were women," she said, going on to "extend a formal posthumous apology to all of those accused, convicted, vilified or executed under the Witchcraft Act of 1563."

Wondering about witches?

  • No one was ever burned at the stake during the Salem Witch Trials. Nearly all of the convicted "witches" in Salem were executed by hanging. It was a different matter at European witch trials, though.

  • The origin of the word "witch" is unknown, though some believe it comes from the Old English word "wicce," meaning “female sorceress.”

  • In 1484, Pope Innocent VIII issued a papal bull that officially recognized the existence of witches by the Catholic Church.

WiseGeek is dedicated to providing accurate and trustworthy information. We carefully select reputable sources and employ a rigorous fact-checking process to maintain the highest standards. To learn more about our commitment to accuracy, read our editorial process.
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