Wednesday, August 09, 2006


More from the book. All good stuff, really. Comments forthcoming.

James VI of Scotland, aka the later James I of England, was astonishingly intellectual for a monarch which quality earned him the sobriquet, "the wisest fool in Christendom." Well, what else do you call someone who translated texts from Latin to French to English as a child for fun? (p.124) Low on fluffy-lambkin character traits, high on paranoia (p.126), he feared a coven of witches were plotting against him and kicked off the first mass witch-hunt in Scotland.

So things weren't very much in the way of sweetness and light in late 17th century Scotland, what with Jamie-boy forming a commission to safeguard the country from sorcery, authorising the use of torture and worse still, publishing an enormously thick treatise on witchcraft, the smash (well, it was heavy enough to kill a cockroach acting as a minion of the dark side) hit Daemonologie, which recycled most of the usual superstitions and anecdotes. However, by 1597 he'd chilled out a bit and reined in the activities of witch-hunters, as well as starting to question some of the prosecutions. (p.128)

But James' influence on the rise in witch-hunting shouldn't be over-stated. It was actually a period which marked a rise in witch-hunts throughout Europe. Also, about twelve times the number of witches were burned in Scotland as in England at this time, a phenomenon Kadri attributes to institutional differences between the two countries. Scotland had moved to a more continental-style of trials led by judges, often in private, whereas England usually had jury trials. (p.128)

However, Jamie-boy would soon have other irons in the fire. Even DEAD ones...


RPC said...

I'm sitting here reading about the burning of witches, utterly rapt. Love it.

What would be great is if you could dig up details of medieval witch hunts (or similar punishments for heresy, etc.) in Old Czechoslovakia (sorry to drop in a To The Manor Born reference there). Doubtless your local library has all that good gory stuff, though I realise Mrs Jana may not have advanced your Czech sufficiently to deal with historical texts at this point...

EvilAuntiePeril said...

Bohemian witches? Tricky one... I'll see what I can do. In the meantime, it's not witches but it is popes. Which is almost as good. Guess what I nearly titled it, only didn't have time to figure out the accents?