Though the tide of popular delusion in regard to this crime may be said to have turned during the reign of Charles II., its opening was perhaps more bloody than that of any of its predecessors. In the first year after the Restoration (1661), about twenty persons appear to have been condemned by the Justiciary Court, two of whom, though acquitted on their first trial, were condemned on the second on new charges. The numbers executed throughout the country are noticed by Lamont. Fourteen commissions for trials in the provinces appear to have been issued by the Privy Council in one day (November 7, 1661). Of the numbers of nameless wretches who died and made no sign, under the hands of those " understanding gentlemen" (as the General Assembly's overture styles them) to whom the commissions were granted, it is now almost impossible to form a conjecture. In reference however to the course of procedure in such cases, we may refer to some singular manuscripts relative to the examination of two confessing witches in Morayshire in 1662, in the possession of the family of Rose, of Kilravock ; more particularly as the details they contain are, both from their minuteness and the unparalleled singularity of their contents, far more striking than anything to be found on the Records of Justiciary about this time.
The names of these crazed beldames were Isobel Gowdie and Janet Braidhead. Two of the latter's examinations are preserved ; the former appears to have been four times examined at different dates between the 13th April and 27th May, 1662, before the sheriff and several gentlemen and ministers of the neighbourhood ; and on one of these is a marking by the Justice Depute Col ville, as follows :-" Having read and considered the confession of Isobel Gowdie, within contained, as paction with Sathan, renunciation of baptism, with divers maléfices, I find that a commission may be very justly given for her last trial.-A. Calville*The confessions are written under the hand of a notary public, and subscribed by all the clergymen, gentlenien, and other witnesses present ; as would appear to have been the practice where the precognitions were to be transmitted to the Justiciary, with the view of obtaining a commission to try and punish the crime. What the result of Isobel Gowdie's " last trial" was, it is easy, from the nature of her confessions, to conjecture.
* The paper is marked on the back, " Edinburgh, July 10th, 1662 : considered and found relevant by the Justice Depute." The part of Janet Braidhead's deposition, which appears to have borne a similar marking by the Justice Depute, is torn off.
" Non ragioniam di lor, ma guarda, e passa".
Though examined on four different occasions, at considerable intervals of time, and undoubtedly undergoing solitary confinement in the interim, so minute and invariable are the accounts given by Gowdie in particular, of the whole life and conversation of the witches to whom she belonged, that a pretty complete institute of infernal science might be compiled from her confession. The distinctness with which the visions seem to have haunted her, the consistency they had assumed in her own mind, and yet the inconceivable absurdity and monstrosity of these conceptions, to many of which we cannot even allude, furnish some most important contributions to the history of hypochondriac in-sanity.