Newes from Scotland

Brief summary
News from Scottland of sorcerers and witches, deputy bailiff of a Scottish town suspected his servant of witchcraft for having healing powers, tortured her and looked for the mark of the devil, she confessed and then informed them about three other witches, two woman and a man named Doctor Fian, the devil had licked them to leave his mark of which hair is a sign, then one of the accused Agnis Simpson was shaved entirely, the devil made them all kiss his butt, King of Scottland present at the trials, Satan used them for sex, the Doctor was tortured to near death, then executed, and the others remained in prison.

Fuller summary
As is often the case, the pamphlet is prefaced with a note to the reader justifying and guaranteeing the truthfulness of the events to be described. The pamphlet begins with a brief praise of God, and mentions His intention to shed light on witchcraft to mankind through the various witchcraft-related events that occured. It is also mentioned that all the events were described to the King.

Geillis Duncane, maid servant of David Seaton, often went out to help the poor and afflicted. She did this with such miraculous efficacy and skill (given her lack of experience) that Seaton, her master, grew suspicious. He interrogated Geillis on the matter and, since she gave no response, proceeded to torture her “with the helpe of others”. Seaton and his fellows discovered a mark on her throat that seemed to be that of the devil. Upon discovery, Geillis confessed to witchcraft. She was sent to prison where she named several other individuals who were witches, including John Cunningham (aka Doctor Fian) and Agnis Thompson. Similarly, Thompson wouldn’t confess to anything in spite of intense torture until her hairs were all shaven and a Devil’s mark found “upon her privities”.

Thompson describes to the King a gathering of two-hundred witches (among them, Geillis) at the “kerke of North Barrick in Lowthian” during the night of Allhollon Even (Halloween?) where the Devil manifested himself in the form of a man and required that each witch “kiss his buttocks in sign of duty to him,” after which he expressed his deep hatred of the King and, having received oath of the witches’ service to him, left. The King being skeptical of Thompson’s words, she proceeds to whisper to him the exact words he had exchanged with the Queen on the first night of their marriage, in Norway. The King is astonished and believes her entirely from then on.

The pamphlet describes attempts at the King’s life by Thompson: poisoning his clothes and setting the wind against his boat at sea using a “christened cat”. She affirms that she would have succeeded had it not been for the faith of the King and the devotion of his servants. The questioned witches describe that, having vowed themselves to the Devil, would be “carnally used” by him.

John Cunningham, also denounced by Geillis, was imprisoned and tortured with “the most severe and cruel pain in the world” (the boots) but still would not confess until certain charmed pins thrust under his tongue were removed by fellow witches. Cunningham then confessed to being the “Clarke” at the witch congregations (keeping count of the witches who did or didn’t renew their oath to the devil). He initially turned to sorcery/witchcraft to “obtain” the gentlewoman of whom he was enamoured by convincing her brother, one of his students, to bring him three of the girl’s private hairs with which he could magically make her love him. The plan failed when the girl’s mother finds out about it and made the boy give Cunningham three cow hairs. As soon as he “wrought his Art” upon the hairs, the cow ran into the church where he was and “leaped and danced upon him”. Because many townsfolk saw this happen, Doctor Cunningham (aka Doctor Fian) became well-known in Scotland as someone who worked with the devil.

After his confession, Fian was sent back to prison where he renounced his alliance to the devil and converted himself to a devout Christian. That night, the devil appeared to Fian and asked him if he would keep serving him, to which Fian directly responds that he will not but would forsake him, and Satan vanished. The following day, Fian appeared solitary and seeking redemption, calling upon God, and yet that same night steals the key to his prison door and escapes back to his residence at the Salt Pans. The King initiated a “hot and hard pursuit” and brought him back to the prison. That night, Fian denied all that he had confessed and attested true under his name the day before. Suspected of having pacted with the devil anew, Fian is searched for another mark of the devil, in vain. He is then tortured by having his fingernails pulled off with pincers and having two needles thrust where the fingernails would have been, yet still does not confess. He is then once again tortured with the boots—this time to irreparable, excruciating extremes—yet still does not admit to his previous confession, stating that his confession and previous actions were only said and done for fear of going through the tortures again.

Following this, the King decides to soon have Doctor Fian executed. He was strangled and burned in a great fire in the Castle Hill of Edenbrough in January 1591. The other witches not yet executed were, at the time of the pamphlet, still in prison. The pamphlet ends with an elogy of the King as a true Christian and an undaunted mind.

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