Ashes and Stones: A Scottish Journey in Search of Witches and Witness

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Ashes and Stones: A Scottish Journey in Search of Witches and Witness

Ashes and Stones: A Scottish Journey in Search of Witches and Witness

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It’s getting darker. Join us at Conway Hall as we explore the Haunted Landscape – our annual gathering of witchcraft, folklore, ghosts, and fairies from the British Isles. This was something that I experienced and led me to return to Britain, where I was born yet not raised. So I can attest to how powerful that ancestral bond can be.

Allyson Shaw has built a monument in words to the thousands persecuted as witches in Scotland. A fascinating and necessary book.’ Peter Ross A beautifully written journey through Scottish history and across the Scottish landscape in search of the women accused and killed during the witch hunts. As the author visits each area to learn more about the women she has researched, you really feel her connection with the areas and their stories. She gives these women their voices all these years later, and hearing about their treatment and trials was truly astonishing. I always am fascinated by the stories of witch trials from all over the world, and focussing on the Scottish ones was a brilliant way to get a sense of the history and poor treatment that was the norm for so long. And by naming the women, it made it even more powerful as you really got a sense of the character and the insanity of the whole movement. From the late sixteenth century to the early eighteenth century in Scotland, more than four thousand people were accused of witchcraft, and more than two thousand of them were executed. Roughly eighty-five percent of those killed were women. In her study Ashes and Stones: A Journey Through Scotland in Search of Women Hunted as Witches, Allyson Shaw investigates the experiences of some of these women, considering not only their trials and executions but the ways in which the victims have been remembered and memorialized over the centuries.I have always been fascinated by the history of the witch trials, but Shaw's book has to be one of the most thought-provoking, most human-centred accounts to have been written. It is a book that will stay with me for a very long time indeed. The book also touches on the broader implications of witch trials and persecution of women. The writings helps us connect this history to present-day issues such as gender inequality and violence against women, making the book both timely and relevant.

In an effort to understand how such an atrocity could have happened, academic historians have investigated the underlying cauldron of religious and social disruption in European communities as the area transformed from medieval to modern. There is no obvious answer for why community leaders started believing that witches lived in their midst. Some scholars suggest that part of the explanation might be economic. Most of the witchcraft accusations and executions in Scotland happened during five specific periods lasting only a year or two, and those specific years had especially intense financial upheavals during which many communities were forced to reduce aid for spinsters, widows, people with disabilities, and other people in need of social support. These people seem to have been accused of witchcraft in much higher numbers than other community members. After reading this I feel I learned nothing, all this book did was irritate me. And that’s a shame because there are so many stories to be told. Around 2500 people were executed for witchcraft in Scotland. For comparison 112 were executed in England and 19 in the US. There are quite literally thousands of stories to be told, but this book told us who some of them were, Edinburgh University has a database that can do that. I got no sense of who they were, what their lives were like, and I got no sense of how witch trials affected the communities. Awful, awful book Allyson Shaw leads us to a compelling tale of a journey across Scotland while visiting the memorials of so-called "witches" or the scenes of witch trials while discussing the history of those innocents unjustly murdered through misogyny and deep-rooted superstition. Allyson Shaw untangles the myth of witchcraft and gives voice to those erased by it. Her elegant and lucid prose weaves together threads of history and feminist reclamation to create a vibrant memorial. This is the untold story of the witches' monuments of Scotland and the women's lives they mark. Ashes and Stones is a trove of folklore linking the lives of contemporary women to the horrors of the past, a record of resilience and a call to choose and remember our ancestors.It's a beautifully written, impeccably researched tome. Not only has the author done her reading - often painstakingly untangling old Scots language, but she has also stood on every spot, comparing accounts from then to what is to be found now. The result is a unique addition to the canon, and one which will readers will be turning to in centuries to come. Brooklyn Museum’s Copy Machine Manifesto: artists make zines, running from 17th November 2023 to 31 March, 2024 will include my zines from the 1990s made in collaboration with artist Laura Splan. In conversation with Alistair Braidwood on the Scots Whay Hae! Podcast. The episode is archived here.

I’ve just begun researching accused witches in Shetland and Orkney. In the coming year, I’ll explore the islands through the eyes of these women. This book is a fascinating read and one that is quite hard to categorise. Though non-fiction it also is a memoir of Allyson's journey to a remote Scottish village and her fascinating research and discoveries of the Scottish Witch Trials, Witches monuments, gardens and folklore and myths that have accurately or inaccurately been passed on through the ages.The second is a personal journey by the author, the book also a memoir of sorts that adds a beautifully personal touch, making this more than just an historical fact book and more a logging of personal details, emotional feelings towards the history she is searching for and, I think, finding a part of herself in amongst the named but face less women she writes so wonderfully about. Overall, ‘Ashes & Stones’ was an inspiring, beautifully written book, rich in descriptions of the Scottish landscape and powerful accounts of those who were victims of these trials. It concludes with a glossary and bibliography.



  • Fruugo ID: 258392218-563234582
  • EAN: 764486781913
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