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In Remembrance of Margaret Lauder

By Laquitha Glass

Art credit Vincent van Gogh (1884), from the public domain. This is not an artists

rendering of Margaret Lauder.

~+~ Margaret Lauder ~+~

Margaret Lauder, a resident of Edinburgh, found herself first accused of witchcraft after a visit to another woman in prison. The woman, possibly Jonet Barker, had been interrogated and also subjected to witch-pricking, a form of testing used to 'identify' witches. While visiting, Margaret and a group of about 12 women drank ale together. Later, Jonet Barker accused Margaret of asking her not to implicate her in suspected witchcraft by bribing her with cake. Jonet did eventually name her as a suspect, stating that she confessed to witchcraft in her sleep and had been drinking beer and having sex with the devil. Both women were tried together, found guilty of witchcraft, and executed by strangulation and burning on Castle Hill.

~+~ My Point of View ~+~

Although the majority of these cases were clearly extreme miscarriages of justice, Margaret's case has really resonated as an extremely biased and unfounded investigation in my opinion. The fact that she was not implicated until she visited another woman already in prison was a red flag, particularly because many individuals experienced extreme forms of torture while under investigation in order to extract some form of confession of witchcraft. It was also used to implicate others who may not have been implicated if the person accusing them was not under extreme physical duress. Although it was stated in the trial notes that Margaret tried to bribe Jonet with something sweet in order to not be named, and it stated that this was one of the reasons she became a suspect, the presence of a well-known witch-pricker changes the tone of the investigation in my opinion. As the hysteria surrounding the witch hunting practices began to intensify, professional witch hunting became a lucrative career for those willing to round up mostly women and hand them over for torture and murder. It would be easy to see how this could lead to large groups of women being gathered in order for these individuals to maximize their profits. The fact that this started off with one woman under investigation and snowballed into a names being asked for from a group of 12 seems to align with the idea that this case was frivolously conjured up in order to benefit some other unknown entity. When reading the notes, I even questioned myself if these individuals had been lured in on the pretense of visiting, for the sake of gathering names of additional victims of this 'investigation.' Saying that a person was 'having sex and drinking beer with the devil' and then ordering them to be strangled and burned is a miscarriage of justice. When looking at the assize or court in this case,  I noticed that it was made up of a merchant, cordiner, wright, baxter, stabler, and a locksmith. It does not seem like they would be the most unbiased when it came to identifyng, investigating, and sentencing women to death for witchcraft, yet they were granted this type of power over Margaret's life.

The Licht Nichts

by Violet Jacob

Ye’ve left the sun an the canle-licht an the starlicht 

The woods baith green an sere, 

And yet I hear ye singin doon the braes 

I’ the licht nichts o the year. 

Ye were sae glad; ye were ae sae like the laverock 

Wha’s hert is i the lift 

Nae mair for ye the young green leaves will dance 

Nor yet the auld anes drift. 

What thocht had you o the ill-faured dairk o winter 

But the ingle-nooks o hame?

Love lit yer way an played aboot yer feet 

Year in, year oot, the same. 

And noo my best, my bonniest and my dearest, 

I’ll lay ma hert tae sleep 

And let the warld, that has nae soonds for me, 

Its watch o silence keep. 

But, whiles an whiles, i the canle-licht an the starlicht 

I’ll wauken it to hear 

The liltin voice that’s singin doon the braes 

I’ the licht nichts o the year.

~+~ Resources ~+~

Survey of Scottish Witchcraft

Scottish History , School of History and Classics

The University of Edinburgh


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