But I'll find time to read this one.
"The Visions of Isobel Gowdie" by historian Emma Wilby of the University of Exeter, is the first-ever full-length study of the Nairnshire witch, Isobel Gowdie, [and] has just been published this month, by Sussex Academic Press.
Gowdie was tried for witchcraft in her home village of Auldearn in 1662, and her story has featured in books, songs and composer James MacMillan's acclaimed orchestral piece "The Confession of Isobel Gowdie", but until now, little has been known about her life, or the conditions in which the confessions were generated.
Over a six-week period the ministers of Auldearn and Nairn, along with various local dignitaries, elicited four detailed confessions that have since been celebrated by historians for providing an exceptionally vivid insight into 17th century Scottish folk belief.
. . .
Wilby concludes that Gowdie's confessions provide us with a unique insight into the complexities of popular spirituality in 17th century Scotland and point to the importance of dream and vision experience in the lives of the poor - a spirituality that is generally hidden from view because, as most peasants were illiterate, it was seldom recorded.
"Isobel and her contemporaries were heavily influenced by Christian teachings, and indeed saw themselves as Christians, but combined the beliefs they inherited from the pulpit with more ambiguous folkloric beliefs inherited from the fireside.
"Through this 'popular mysticism', they sought to survive in a harsh pre-industrial world - healing their sick and protecting their animals and crops from both harmful spirits and disease." Wilby suggests that this "hybrid Christianity" generally served the population well unless it conflicted with Church authorities - when it was frequently demonised and condemned as witchcraft.
And I just love it that there are historical finds, still out there, just waiting to be made:
During her research, Wilby discovered Isobel Gowdie's original trial records in an uncatalogued box of papers held at the National Archives of Scotland, thus clearing up the question of authenticity once and for all.
A young housewife living at Auldearn, Highland, Scotland, her confession painted a wild word-picture about the deeds of her coven. They were claimed to have the ability to transform themselves into animals; to turn into a hare, she would say:
I shall go into a hare,
With sorrow and sych and meickle care;
And I shall go in the Devil's name,
Ay while I come home again.
(sych: such; meickle: great) [duh!]
To change back, she would say:
Hare, hare, God send thee care.
I am in a hare's likeness now,
But I shall be in a woman's likeness even now.
She allegedly was entertained by the Queen of the Fairies [well, and, to paraphrase J. Kerry, who among us has not had, at least, an invitation?] , also known as the [Q]ueen of Elphame, in her home "under the hills."
It is unclear whether Gowdie's confession is the result of psychosis, whether she had fallen under suspicion of witchcraft and sought leniency by confessing, or was she simply much smarter than her inquisitors. It is also unclear whether there was some truth to her remarkable confessions. Her confession was not consistent with the folklore and records of the trials of witches, and it was more detailed than most. There is no record of her being executed.
In 1955, retired English soldier Robin Green [now there's a Witch name if there ever was one!] believed that he saw the ghost of Isobel Gowdie while camping alone in Auldearn.
Isobel Gowdie and her magic have been remembered in a number of later works of culture. She has appeared as a character in several novels, such as the biographical novels The Devil's Mistress by novelist and occultist J. W. Brodie-Innes, Isobel by Jane Parkhurst, the fantasy novel Night Plague by Graham Masterton, and Noches Paganas: Cuentos Narrados junto al Fuego del Sabbath by Luis G. Abbadie; Isobel Gowdie is also the subject of songs by Creeping Myrtle and Alex Harvey. Maddy Prior's song The Fabled Hare is based upon the spell quoted above. The Inkubus Sukkubus song Woman to Hare, from the album Vampyre Erotica is based on Isobel's statement, and quotes her words at the end of the lyrics. The Confession of Isobel Gowdie is a work for symphony orchestra by the Scottish composer James MacMillan.
Can I just say that this:
It is unclear whether Gowdie's confession is the result of psychosis, whether she had fallen under suspicion of witchcraft and sought leniency by confessing, or was she simply much smarter than her inquisitors. It is also unclear whether there was some truth to her remarkable confessions.
is so much better than most Wiki posts, and so much more open, that it completely rocks.
More on the Emma Wilby.