10 things about Isobel Gowdie Scotland’s most famous Witch
Never heard of our local witch? Let us tell you more about Isobel Gowdie not only the most famous witch of Nairnshire but Scotland.
1. Isobel Gowdie is Scotland’s most famous witch
Scotland’s most famous witch, Isobel Gowdie, lived in the Lochloy area of Nairn in the 17th Century. Indeed the Moray Coast is famous for its witchcraft. It is estimated that over 4000 witches were killed along the Moray Coast. Indeed if you visit Forres today be sure to visit the Witches Stone. This marks the spot where witches were driven in barrels, through which spikes were driven and then the barrel was burnt.
2. Confessed to Witchcraft
Isobel’s case is incredibly fascinating as the original transcripts of her trial still exist and are located in the National Archives of Scotland. The detail of Isobel’s confessions over a six week period are rich with detail although we have no idea of the tortures she endured during the time of solitary confinement.
3. The original transcripts of Isobel Gowdie’s trial still exist
Isobel Gowdie confessed, most probably under extreme duress and torture. It was transcribed that she used magic to attempt to destroy her neighbours crops, she used effigies which she burnt to bring harm to the Laird’s male offspring. Fairies, hares, jackdaws, the devil and other creatures feature in Isobel’s confessions, along with implicating her neighbours and friends.
4. Isobel was tried by 12 powerful men of Nairnshire
Local Lairds (including the Laird of Park and Loch Loy, her landlord), Harry Forbes the local minister. Also present and part of her interrogation was Hugh Rose, public notary John Innes and church elders.
5. Isobel Gowdie was tried in Auldearn
It is believed that Isobel was held in Auldearn Tolbooth and it is also in Auldearn where Isobel confessed, she would meet the devil at the Auld Kirk. At Auldearn Kirk she also confessed that the devil sent her on an errand to Auldearn disguised as a hare.
6. Isobel implicated 12 other members of the community as part of her coven
From the confessions tortured from Isobel, Janet Breadhead and Margret Brodie were also put on trial. In total, forty-one people were arrested as a result of Isobel’s tortured confessions.
7. The fate of Isobel Gowdie is not certain
After the six weeks of trial the true fate of Isobel has been lost in time. However just outside Auldearn, as a place known locally as Gallowhill, it is believed that Isobel and the rest of her coven were hung and burnt.
8. Green Witch of Auldearn
To this day there are sightings of a green lady in Auldearn. An ethereal ghost or restless soul which roams Auldearn and Nairn seeking resolution and compassion. It is actually believed the Isobel was probably a healer or midwife to her local community. It is suggested that she probably spurned the sexual advances of her local Laird and fell foul to the zealot local minister. Although we do not know much about Isobel we do know that at this time in Nairnshire there was famine, war and sand storms. Perhaps a time where a convenient scapegoat had to be found and blamed for the difficult times.
9. Books, Orchestral Works, Songs,Plays, Podcasts and of course the original transcripts
Isobel Gowdie is the most famous witch in Scotland and has proven to be an inspiration to writers and historians alike. This enigma of a woman, a poor cottar’s wife, who provided so much detail in her tortured confessions remains fresh in the memories of locals and visitors alike.
- Isobel Gowdie the Green Witch of Auldearn – Children’s Book, by Mandy E Rush
- The Confessions of Isobel Gowdie – Orchestral Work, by James MacMillan
- The Witch of Auldearn – Play, by John Lawson
- Weight of Sand – Podcast, by Stories of Scotland
10. Visit Nairn Museum, Auldearn Church and the Isobel Gowdie Mural
If you are now intrigued about Isobel Gowdie, perhaps you would be interested in finding out a little bit more about this innocently accused woman? Thana tourism or dark tourism, refers to visiting places where dark events of human history occurred.
In this case, we would encourage you to visit Nairn Museum for more information of Isobel Gowdie and of course visit the Auld Kirk in Auldearn. Auldearn is a sleep and beautiful village just a short bicycle ride outside Nairn, where not only can you visit the original chapel but local a local artist has painted a mural in the local square which details Isobel’s story.
This Blog was kindly written for VisitNairn by Mandy Elizabeth Rush, local Author and Property let owner.