Why Remember? Why Educate?
Our Learning Resources project is well underway and we're excited to be making connections with schools and community spaces across Scotland. Margaret S. Malloch, from our Learning Resources subgroup, has shared a short update on the group's aims and their progress so far.
One of the aims of RAWS (Remembering the Accused Witches of Scotland) is ‘to educate and raise awareness of the impact of the Scottish Witch Trials’. We do this by sharing education and information resources, contributing to discussions and debates, and providing a platform for the research and historical enquiry that is going on across Scotland (and internationally) into the historical witch-hunts. Wherever possible, we support the uncovering of the histories of individuals and local communities.
Our intention in remembering is to make sure that the women and men who were accused, and often executed, under the historical Witchcraft Acts are not forgotten. As well as educating and raising awareness, we have been working tirelessly to obtain an apology from the state and Scottish churches, and for a national monument that will sustain the memory of the estimated 4,000 Scottish women and men accused and persecuted as witches.
It is often said that the past is a foreign country, but it is important that we acknowledge, and try to understand, our history. RAWS is in the process of developing a series of learning resources – developed by our Learning Resource Group – to educate people about the historical witch-hunts and their enduring legacy. We believe it is important to tell people about these historic events and to continue to raise awareness of the wider impact of the trials and persecutions. The activities of the group are focused on bringing people together to share information and raise awareness – in our conferences, through social media and by supporting and encouraging Citizen Researchers to carry out investigations in their own local areas.
We also consider it important to highlight these historical events to children and young people, and we aim to do this by connecting with teachers and raising awareness through local community spaces like libraries and museums. Our learning resources set out to challenge the stereotypes of witches and witchcraft that children and young people are too frequently exposed to. Halloween has become an annual event that presents a commercialised and distorted view of witches; it provides a humorous depiction of the fears that set-in motion, and sustained, the witch-hunts. RAWS aims to provide accurate details of the historic witchcraft acts and their long-term impacts.
Our work aims to support the education of children and young people about their local areas, and to encourage them to seek out knowledge for themselves. We want to support young people to uncover the history of women and men whose stories are otherwise concealed or distorted. In the process, we highlight the resonance of historical injustices to ensure they are not repeated. Part of our campaign is to get recognition and acknowledgement of the wrongs done – the miscarriage of justice that the witch-hunts constituted.
For RAWS, it is important to tell the stories of the individuals and local communities that were caught up in the sixteenth and seventeenth century witch-hunts. When we can uncover the personal tragedies that occurred, and recognise them as shared experiences located within our own communities, we can see them as political issues; the personal as political. All too often, the stories of women have been excluded from the history books, and as well as recognising the accomplishments of women, it is also important to recognise the injustices of the past. We are connected to our past in many ways, some of which ultimately shape our contemporary society.
The disproportionate punishment of the poor and marginalised, state violence and religious conflict, miscarriages of justice remain features of societies around the world. Exploring the causes of such injustice is necessary to change things – and to recognise and acknowledge the role of women and men in fighting back!
Across many countries, the state and the church, both key players in the witch-hunts, have still not acknowledged the crimes that were committed against (mainly) women and men. We are pleased that Scottish First Minister, Nicola Sturgeon did issue a posthumous apology on 8 March 2022 to all those persecuted under the historical witchcraft acts. This is an important recognition of this historical injustice. Although many of the documents of the time have been lost or destroyed, or the events not even recorded, there is increasing interest in this period of history and calls for acknowledgement and recognition.
We, at RAWS, are working to remember the accused, as ordinary women and men, who were subject to a great injustice that needs to be recorded and remembered. Education is vital in this process of remembering and acknowledging the events of the past.
If you're interested in finding out more about our Learning Resources project, or would like to receive a copy of the finished pack, please contact: firstname.lastname@example.org