In no country perhaps did this gloomy superstition assume a darker or bloodier character than in Scotland. Wild, mountainous, and pastoral countries, partly from the striking, varied, and sometimes terrible phenomena which they present, -partly from the habits and manner of life, the tendency to thought and meditation which they create and foster,-have always been the great haunts in which superstition finds its cradle and home. The temper of the Scots, combining reflection with enthusiasm-their mode of life in earlier davs, which amidst the occasional bustle of wild and agitating exertion, left many intervals of mental vacuity in solitude-their night watches bv the cave on the hill-side-their uncertain elimate, of sunshine and vapour and storm-all contributed to exalt and keep alive that superstitious fear with which ignorance looks on every extraordinary movement of nature. From the earliest period of the Scottish annals, " All was bot gaistis, and eldrich phantasie;" the meteors and aurorse boréales which prevailed in this mountainous region were tortured into apparitions of horsemen combating in the air, or corpse-candles burning on the hill-tops*. Skeletons danced as familiar guests at the nuptials of our kingsf: spectres warned them back from the battle-field of Flod-den, and visionary heralds proclaimed from the market-cross the long catalogue of the slain.
* Trials and other Proceedings in Matters Criminal before the High Comi: of Justiciary in Scotland, selected from the Records of that Comi:. By Robert Pitcairn. Edinburgh.
" Figures that seemed to rise and die. Gibber and sign, advance and fly, While nought confirmed, could ear or eye
Discern of soimd or mien ; Yet darkly did it seem as there Heralds and pursuivants appear, With trumpet sound and blazon fair, A summons to proclaim".
Marmioriy canto v.
Incubi and succubi wandered about in all direc-tions, with a degree of assurance and plausibility which would have deceived the very elect J ; and wicked churchmen were cited by audible voices and an accompaniment of thunder before the tribunal of Heaven*. The annals of the thirteenth century are dignified with the exploits of three wizards, before whom Nostradamus and Merlin must stoop their crests, Thomas of Ercildoune, Sir Michael Scott, and Lord Soulis. The Tramontane fame of the second had even crossed the Alps, for Dante t accommodates him with a place in Hell, between Bonatto, the astrologer of Guido di Monte Feltro, and Asciente of Parma.
* Holingshed, vol. i. pp. 50, 317.
+ At the second marriage of Alexander III., Fordun, vol. ii. p. 128. Boece, p. 294, ed. 1574.
J Boece, p. 149. *
But previous to the Reformation, these superstitious notions, though generally prevalent, had hardly assumed a form much calculated to disturb the peace of society. Though in some cases, where these powers had been supposed to have been exercised for treasonable purposes, the punishment of death had been inflicted on the witches J, men did not as yet think it necessaiy, merely for the supposed possession of such powers, or their benevolent exercise, to apply the purifying power of fire to eradicate the disorder. Sir Michael and the Rhymer lived and died peaceably ; and the tragical fate of the tyrant Soulis on the Nine Stane Rigg was owing, not to the supposed sorceries which had polluted his Castle of Hermitage, but to those more palpable atrocities which had been dictated by the demon of his own evil conscience, and executed by those iron-handed and iron-hearted agents, who were 'so readily evoked by the simpler spell of feudal despotism.
* In the case of Cameron, Bishop of Glasgow, 1466.-Buchanan. Pitscottie.
+ " Quell' altro, che nei fianchi è così poco, Michele Scotto fu, che veramente Delle magiche frode seppe il giuoco."-Canto xx. % As in the case of the witches at Forres, who attempted to destroy King Duffus by the favourite pagan charm of roasting his hnage in wax, and those burnt at Edinburgh for a similar attempt against James III., in 1479.
From the commencement of the Records of the Scottish Justiciary Court, down to the reign of Mary, no trial properly for witchcraft appears on the record. For though in the case of the unfortunate Countess of Glammis, executed in 1536, during the reign of James V., on an accusation of treasonably conspiring the king's death by poison, some hints of sorcery are thrown into the dittay, probably with the view of exciting a popular prejudice against one whose personal beauty and high spirit rendered her a favourite with the people, it is obvious that nothing was really rested on this charge.
But with the introduction of the Reformation " novus rerum nascitur ordo." Far from divesting themselves of the dark and bloody superstitions which Innocent's bull had systematized and propagated, the German reformers had preserved this, while they demolished every other idol, and moving " In dismal dance around the furnace blue," had made even children pass through the fire to Moloch. Their Scottish brethren, adopting implicitly the creed of their continental prototypes, transplanted to our own country, a soil unfortunately but too well prepared for such a seed, the whole doctrine of Satan's risible agency on earth, with all the grotesque horrors of liis commerce with mankind. The aid of the sword of justice was immediately found to be indispensable to the weapons of the spirit j and the verse of Moses which declares that a witch shall not be suffered to live, was forthwith made the groundwork of the Act 73 of the ninth parliament of Queen Mary, which enacted the punishment of death against witches or considters with witches.
The consequences of this authoritative recognition of the creed of witchcraft became immediately obvious with the reign of James which followed. Witchcraft became the all-engrossing topic of the day, and the ordinary accusation resorted to whenever it was the object of one individual to ruin another, just as certain other offences were during the reign of Justinian, and during the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries in Italy. In Scotland the evil was not less busy in high places, than among the humbler beings, who had generally been professors of the art magic. A sort of relation of clientage seems to have been established between the operative performers, and those noble patrons (chiefly, we regret to say, of the fair sex) by whom their services were put in requisition. The Lady Buccleugh, of Branxholm Hall, whose spells have furnished our own Northern Wizard with some of his most striking pictures,-the Countess of Athol, the Countess of Huntly, the wife of the Chancellor Arran, the Lady Ker, wife of James, Master of Requests, the Countess of Lothian, the Countess of Angus, (more fortunate in her generation than her grandmother Lady Glammis), were all, if we are to believe the scandal of Scotstarvet, either protectors of witches or themselves dabblers in the art**. Even Knox himself did not escape the accusation of witchcraft; the power and energy of mind with which Providence had gifted him, the enemies of the Reformation attributed to a darker source. He was accused of having attempted to raise "some sanctes" in the churchyard of St. Andrew's ; but in the course of this resuscitation upstarted the devil himself, having a huge pair of horns on his head, at which terrible sight Knox's secretary became mad with fear, and shortly after died. Nay, to such a height had the mania gone, that Scot of Scotstarvet mentions that Sir Lewis Ballantyne, Lord Justice Clerk of Scotland, "by curiosity dealt with a warlock called Richard Grahame," (the same person who figures in the trial of Alison Balfour, as a confederate of Both-well) , " to raise the devil, who having raised him in his own yard in the Canongate, he was thereby so terrified that he took sickness and thereof died." This was a "staggering state of Scots Nor, in fact, was the Church less deeply implicated than the court and the hall of justice; for in the case of Alison Pearson, (1588) we find the celebrated Patrick Adamson, Archbishop of St. Andrew's, laying aside the fear of the Act of Parliament, and condescending to apply to this poor wretch for a potion to cure him of his sickness !
* Scot of Scotstarvet, Home of G-odscroft, passim» statesmen" indeed, when even the supreme criminal judge of Scotland was thus at the head of the delinquents. Well might any unfortunate criminal have said with Angelo-
" Thieves for their robbery have authority, When judges steal themselves".
Measure f. Measure, ii. 2..
A faith so strong and so general could not be long in manifesting itself in works. In 1572 occurs the first entry in the Justiciary Record, the trial of Janet Bowman, of which no particulars are given, except the emphatic sentence " Convict : and Brynt." No fewer than thirty-five trials appear to have taken place before the Court of Justiciary during the remainder of James's reign, (to 1625), in almost all of which the result is the same as in the case of Bowman.