Today Halloween- in the lighter places at least- is associated with weans chasing sugar, but dig deeper, beyond the sweet stuff and you will find injustice, blood and suffering.
Originally Halloween was a Celtic celebration, Hallows Eve marking harvest, the end of summer and the beginning of winter. Winter is coming John Snow.
Although Celtic traditions involve human blood sacrifice, witches have a different story. Legend tells of witches gathering twice a year before the Devil in salacious celebration, as seasons change- on April 30th, the eve of May and on Hallows Eve- Halloween. On such occasions witches inflict mischief and worse on folk. Any ill fortune suffered by the town or people following Hallows Eve is blamed on witches work.
In Scotland it is told over 4,500 people- mostly woman- accused as witches were killed. In Fife thousands were strangled, stoned to death and burnt along the coast. In Kirkcaldy, not a mile down the road from where I sit lies an erie ancient graveyard and Kirk on a sharp hill above the town. There William Coke and his wife, Alison Dick, sat imprisoned before condemned to death, tarred and burnt for the crime of witchcraft. After death the bodies of some victims were carted down to the shore and buried under giant stone slabs so they could not again rise from the dead on Hallows Eve.
Just down the road in Pittenweem, Fife – where Ian Stewart of The Rolling Stones was born- 26 “witches” were tortured and 18 killed in the early 18th Century. When the government of the day ordered a stop to the persecution, the few surviving women were released. Nobody in the village was ever bought to justice for the atrocities.
“One accused witch, Janet Cornfoot they swung from a rope, stoned, and then crushed under a heavy door piled high with boulders. To make quite certain she was dead, a horse and cart was repeatedly driven over her body and her remains buried in an area called West Braes. Sir Sean Connery’s ancestors were reportedly among the lynch mob that tortured and killed her. The records state that everyone in the village took part in the horrific murder.”
Feelings for and against witches still run deep here. Not long ago the 1,600 citizens of Pittenweem considered a motion to build a memorial for the dead ‘witches’ but failed to pass it. As the English Parliament prepares to pass a bill absolving all those convicted of past homosexuality related offenses, it is only a few years ago that the Scottish Parliament could not forgive the ‘witches’ and voted down a proposed law to pardon all the burnt and tortured witches on the grounds it would be inappropriate as ‘the people were tried and convicted in the laws at the time’.
Could not the victims- the falsely accused and the real witches – be justly enraged, enough so to cast off an unholy stone tomb?
On Hallows Eve, keep you and your children out of ancient places… and the shadows, just to be sure. JD