Our popular conception of witches in the 21st century is like of the villain in The Wizard of Oz, little more than a Halloween costume, a fun legend used to tell stories of magic. But up until 300 years ago, the accusation of being a witch was serious- deadly serious. In Scotland, 3,837 people were accused of witchcraft under the Witchcraft Act, and two-thirds of them were ultimately executed. Their trials involved torture until they confessed, carried out by keeping them awake until they hallucinated and pricking their skin with pins all over their bodies. In sheer numbers, Scotland was an outlier in pursuing and killing people for witchcraft over incidences that usually amounted to nothing.
A group called the Witches of Scotland is seeking justice for those executed of witchcraft between 1563 and 1736. That would include a a legal pardon, an apology and national monument. They don't want to erase the history of the trials, quite the contrary, but acknowledgement that they were done wrong. Claire Mitchell and Zoe Venditozzi, the founders of the Witches of Scotland, explain who these victims were, what they endured, and why Scotland needs to own up to its past at Atlas Obscura.
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