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The Carruthers Crest

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Carruthers Crest

Carruthers clan crest-no head 5

At the very top of a Coat of Arms sits the Crest.  When we updated the Coat of Arms I learned a lot about each and every piece of art word on a Coat of Arms.  Each and every piece had to be of historical significance to the Carruthers family.  I hope to send out information about each part of the Coat of Arms for you.

If you did not see it, there are three Fleur de Lis’ on the shield and a blog was sent out about that already.

If you live in Scotland, you might be presented with an individual Coat of Arms, that can only be used for the person it is given too.  The last individual Coat of Arms of a Carruthers was in the Holmain line, and many people have seen it.  It was not the first Coat of Arms issued to a Carruthers.  This Coat of Arms by the Holmains can only be used by the man it was given to, not for use by all Carruthers.

CarruthersShieldw

Through out time there has been an artistic license taken with the Crest, and its description.  The description most people see today is “Seraphim Volant”.  This was the Crest description on an individuals Coat of Arms. It is believed that there were changes made to either the drawings or the descriptions.  We had to look at this quite carefully.

 

Seraphim means: An order or group of Divine Beings distinguished for fervent zeal, unconquerable will, and religious ardour and vivacity. Yet on this individual Coat of Arms, it is a single angel, not a group of angels.

Volant means:  In flight

There are not a group of angels, or Divine Beings in flight on the Crest.

On one of the older Crests, the upright angel has their right arm raised in the air.  This might represent being in flight to some.

Lets look at the word Seraph, or Saraph.

It is said the word Seraph comes from the Hebrew verb saraph (fiery or to burn), or Hebrew noun saraph (a fiery, flying serpent).

seraphim6

Seraph as a Verb

The word Seraph appears three times in the Torah (Numbers 21:6–8, Deuteronomy 8:15) and four times in the Book of Isaiah (6:2–6, 14:29, 30:6). In Isaiah 6:2-6 the term is used to describe a type of celestial being or angel.

The vision in Isaiah Chapter 6 of seraphim in an idealised Jerusalem First Temple represents the sole instance in the Hebrew Bible of this word being used to describe celestial beings. “… I saw the Lord sitting upon a throne, high and lifted up; and His train filled the Hekhal (sanctuary). Above him stood the Seraphim; each had six wings; with two he covered his face, and with two he covered his feet, and with two he flew.” (Isaiah 6:1–3)

In Jewish, Christian and Islamic literature, they use it in the verbial sense as a celestial being with two or three pairs of wings who guards the throne of God. They are described as very tall, with six wings and four heads, one for of the cardinal directions. One pair of wings are for flying, one for covering their eyes (for even they may not look directly at God), and one for covering their feet (which is almost certainly a euphemism for genitals).

 

Seraph as a Noun

As a Herbrew noun, the term appears several times with reference to the serpents encountered in the wilderness (Num. 21.8, Deut. 8.15; Isa. 14.29; 30.6), it has often been understood to refer to “fiery serpents”. From this it has also often been proposed that the seraphim were serpentine in form and in some sense “fiery” creatures or associated with fire.

The text describes the “seraphim” as winged celestial beings with a fiery passion for doing God’s good work. Notwithstanding the wording of the text itself, at least one Hebrew scholar claims that in the Hebrew Bible the seraphim do not have the status of angels, and that it is only in later sources (like De Coelesti Hierarchia or Summa Theologiae that they are considered to be a division of the divine messengers.

carriuthers Pat narrow final wings (1)

So, a Seraph may not be an angelic being at all, but a fiery flying serpent.  Either noun or verb, it is said that whoever lays eyes on a Seraph, he would instantly be incinerated due to the immense brightness or fire.

 

Are we using the right symbol?

The ancient symbol of a Seraph is the six wings.  If you do a quick search you will see how this ancient symbol has been used for thousands of years.  Eastern Orthodox religions, Buddhist, Japanese, Egyptian, and such all have used this symbol for a Seraph.

flyingserpant

There is one more twist to this.

Our relatives The Gotlanders may have something to do with all of this too.

flammende flyvende slange :  This is a term used to describe our relatives in Gotland. The ship builders, the men of the Ash Tree, the adventurers who sailed the seas, and the warriors who dangerously sailed at night.

fiery flying serpent is the translation:  Men who were rich from making ships that sailed so fast.  Men who were the ones they hired to sail at night, with a fire on board their boats.  Men who had the symbol of a serpent on their sails.

vikingsship

Isaiah 30:6:

The burden of the beasts of the south: into the land of trouble and anguish, from whence come the young and old lion, the viper and fiery flying serpent, they will carry their riches upon the shoulders of young asses, and their treasures upon the bunches of camels, to a people that shall not profit them.

 

The Jewish Encyclopaedia states: “The seraphim are frequently mentioned in the Book of Enoch (xx. 7, lxi. 10, lxxi. 7), where they are designated as δράκονες (‘serpents’), and are always mentioned, in conjunction with the cherubim, as the heavenly creatures standing nearest to God.  …Some authorities hold that the seraphim had their origin in the Egyptian ‘seref,’ a composite, winged creature…” (Hirsch and Benzinger, 2002, p. 201).  Since the Israelites had lived with Egyptians for so many years, it is not surprising that they would have adopted their word.

 

Is Seraph/Saraph a noun, a verb, a sailing ship or even a pterosaur?

 

Anyway you want to look at it, it is ours!

wings

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Christina Bruce: An Uncommon Sister

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An Uncommon Sister – Christian Bruce

 

Christian Bruce was one of the many children of Sir Robert le Brus, Lord of Annandale, and his wife Marjorie, Countess of Carrick in her own right. Christian was one of 11 children, with 5 boys and 5 girls surviving infancy. Unfortunately we don’t know when she was born, nor whether or not she was an older or younger sibling.

turnberrycastle

Christian was probably born at her father’s castle of Turnberry sometime in the 1270s or early 1280s.

 

Christian’s grandfather was another Robert le Brus, one of the 13 Competitors for the throne of Scotland following the death of Margaret, the Maid of Norway; when the vacancy of the Scottish throne was resolved by Edward I of England in favour of John Balliol. And when Balliol’s kingship failed it was Christian’s brother, Robert the Bruce, who became one of the leading candidates for the Scottish throne.

 

There are some question marks over Christian’s marital history. Some sources claim she married Gartnait, Earl of Mar in the 1290s, and was the mother of Donald of Mar. However, this has recently been disputed. Christian never seems to have been addressed, or described, as the Countess of Mar, and there seems to have been little communication between Christian and her supposed son, Donald, even though they were both held prisoner in England simultaneously.

robertandbruceelizabethRobert the Bruce and Elizabeth De Burgh

 

The main argument against the marriage appears to be that Abbot Walter Bower had stated that Gartnait had been married to the ‘eldest Bruce daughter’, a description never applied to Christian. However, if the elder daughters were already married, Christian may well have been the eldest ‘unmarried’ Bruce daughter.

 

By 1305, however, Gartanit was dead and Christian had married Sir Christopher Seton (c. 1278-1306). Sir Christopher was a knight with lands in Annandale and northern England. He was a stalwart supporter of Robert the Bruce, his family having had a long tradition of serving the Bruce family. We know little to nothing about Christian’s short marriage to Sir Christopher; their relationship had to take a back seat to the national events of the time.

 

Sir Christopher was with Christian’s brother on the fateful day in the Greyfriars Church in Dumfries, when Robert the Bruce fatally stabbed John Comyn, his rival to  the Scottish throne. Robert then made the dash for Scone, hoping to achieve his coronation before the Christian world erupted in uproar over his sacrilege. An excommunicate could not be crowned. Christian accompanied her brother, his wife Elizabeth and daughter Marjorie and her sister Mary to Scone Abbey. The Stone of Scone was the traditional coronation seat of the Kings of Scotland and, although the stone had been stolen by the English and spirited away to London, holding the coronation at the Abbey sent a message of defiance to the English.

Scone Abbey with a replica of the Stone of Scone in the forefront.Scone Abbey with a replica of the Stone of Scone in the forefront.

 

On 25th March 1306 Christian, alongside her husband, saw her brother crowned King Robert I by William Lamberton, Bishop of St Andrews, just 6 weeks after Comyn’s murder. The next day saw the ceremony repeated following the late arrival of Isabella MacDuff, Countess of Buchan, who claimed her family’s hereditary right to crown Scotland’s kings (despite her being married to a Comyn).

 

Robert’s coronation was the start of the most desperate period of his life – and that of his supporters. Edward I of England was never a one to casually acquiesce when he saw his will flouted. He sent his army into Scotland to hunt down the new king and his adherents. After his defeat by the English at Methven in 1306, Robert went into hiding in the Highlands. He sent his wife and daughter north to what he hoped would be safety. Christian, her sister Mary and the Countess of Buchan accompanied them, escorted by  the Earl of Atholl and Christian’s brother, Sir Neil Bruce.

 

It is thought that the Bruce women were heading north to Orkney in order to take a boat to Norway, where Robert’s sister, Isabel, was queen consort to King Erik II. Unfortunately they would never make it. The English caught up with them at Kildrummy Castle and laid siege to it. The defenders were betrayed by someone in their own garrison, a blacksmith who set fire to the barns, making the castle indefensible. The women managed to escape with the Earl of Atholl, but Neil Bruce remained with the garrison to mount a desperate defence in order give the queen, his niece and sisters enough time to escape.

 

Following their capitulation the entire garrison was executed. Sir Neil Bruce was given a traitor’s death; he was hung, drawn and quartered at Berwick in September 1306.

Dooncastle

 

Doon Castle

Christian and her companions did not escape for long; they made for Tain, in Easter Ross, possibly in the hope of finding a boat to take them onwards. They were hiding in the sanctuary of St Duthac when they were captured by the Earl of Ross (a former adherent of the deposed King John Balliol), who handed them over to the English. They were sent south, to Edward I at Lanercost Priory in Cumbria.

 

Following the coronation Christian’s husband, Sir Christopher Seton, had been sent to hold Loch Doon Castle against the English. Following a siege the castle was surrendered by its Governor, Sir Gilbert de Carrick. Seton was executed on the orders of Edward I; the poor man was hanged.

 

Christian’s sister Mary and Isabella, Countess of Buchan, were treated particularly harshly by Edward I. The English king had special cages built for them and for centuries it has been thought they were suspended from the walls of the keeps at Roxburgh and Berwick Castles, exposed to the elements and the derision of the English garrisons and populace, and a taunt to the Scots just over the border. However, the cages were in fact indoors, within rooms in the castles’ keeps. In contrast, Christian was sent into captivity to a Gilbertine convent at Sixhills in Lincolnshire; she was probably told of her husband’s death – and the manner of it – some time during the journey south. Christian languished at Sixhills for 8 years, until shortly after her brother’s remarkable victory over the English at Bannockburn, in 1314.

 

King Robert the Bruce had managed to captured several notable English prisoners, including Humphrey de Bohun, 4th Earl of Hereford and Essex. Suddenly in a strong bargaining position, the Scots King was able to exchanged his English captives for his family, incarcerated in England.

 

Once home in Scotland Christian joined her brother’s court. In no hurry to remarry, she accompanied the king and his family on a short progress around Tyndale, an area of Northumberland which was officially in Scottish hands. Some time after her return to Scotland, Christian had also been granted the Bruce lands of Garioch in Aberdeenshire.

 

David II, Robert the Bruce_s son and successor

David II, Robert the Bruce’s son and successor

The Scottish Wars of Independence took a heavy toll on Christian’s family. Having lost her brother and husband in 1306, she lost her 2 younger brothers on the same day in 1307. Thomas and Alexander Bruce had been leading a force into Galloway when they were overwhelmed by the forces of Dungal MacDouall, a supporter of the Comyn faction. The brothers, both in their early 20s, were handed over to the English and were beheaded at Carlisle on 9th February 1307. Robert and Christian’s surviving brother, Edward, was killed in battle in Ireland in 1318.

 

The sad losses must have seemed endless to Christian. In 1316 King Robert had lost his daughter, Marjorie, in childbirth. She was just 19. Her son, Robert Stewart, survived and would be the king’s heir until the birth of his only son, David, in 1324. Marjorie’s son would eventually succeed as King Robert II following his uncle David II’s death in 1371. And in 1323 Christian’s sister Mary died; Mary had survived 4 years imprisoned in an iron cage at Roxburgh Castle before being transferred to a more comfortable imprisonment in 1310. It wouldn’t be surprising if her inhumane incarceration had contributed to Mary’s death in her early 40s.

 

Christian remained unmarried for many years. Although their marriage had been a short one, Christian kept her husband’s memory alive for many years to come; in 1324 she founded a chapel in Dumfries in his honour. There is a possibility  she was the Bruce sister mooted as a bride for Sir Andrew Harclay, earl of Carlisle, as part of a peace treaty with Scotland in 1323. However, negotiations broke down and the marriage never took place.

 

Bothwell Castle

Bothwell Castle southeast tower

Christian eventually married in 1326, to a man who was probably about 20 years her junior. Her 2nd husband was Sir Andrew Murray of Bothwell, posthumous son of the Sir Andrew Murray who had fought beside Sir William Wallace in the victory at Stirling Bridge.

 

Christian and Andrew were to have 2 children, sons. Their eldest, John, married Margaret Graham, Countess of Mentieth, sometime after 21st November 1348. John died in 1352 and Margaret would go on to marry Robert Duke of Albany, brother of Robert III and a great-grandson of King Robert the Bruce. A 2nd son, Thomas, would marry Joan, a daughter of Maurice Moray, Earl of Strathearn, and died in 1361.

 

On the death of Christian’s surviving brother, Robert the Bruce, in 1329, Scotland was once again thrown into turmoil. His 5-year-old son, David, was proclaimed king, with regents set to rule for him. As a member of the royal family Christian took part in David’s coronation in 1331. She shared a room in Scone Palace with her nieces, the new king’s sisters.

 

The English, however, saw the Bruce’s death as an opportunity and backed Edward Balliol‘s invasion of Scotland. Edward was crowned king in 1332, but could not consolidate his position. In the same year Murray was chosen as Guardian of Scotland and spent the next 5 years fighting the English and repulsing their attempts to return Balliol to the throne. Again, Christian found herself in the thick of the fighting when Sir Andrew installed her as keeper of Kildrummy Castle. In 1335 she was besieged by one of Balliol’s commanders, David Strathbogie, earl of Atholl. Her husband marched to her aid with a force of over a thousand men; he was able to surprise Atholl and defeated him at Culblean.

 

kildrummy_castle_2

Kildrummy Castle

Christian remained in possession of Kildrummy Castle even after Sir Andrew’s death; her husband had died at Avoch Castle in Ross in 1338, having retired from national politics the year before. Christian is known to have entertained her nephew’s wife, Queen Joan, at Kildrummy Castle in 1342. David II was generous to his aunt, providing her with an income from a number of sources, including the customs of Aberdeen.

 

It is believed that Christian died sometime in 1356, the last time she was mention in the exchequer rolls. She must have been well into her 70s, a great age for the time. I couldn’t find any source to confirm where she was buried; however, her husband was initially buried in the chapel at Rossmarkie, but later reinterred in Dunfermline Abbey, suggesting that this is also Christian’s resting place. It would be appropriate if it was, as so many of her ancestors and family are buried there; including her husband, brother, Robert, and niece, Marjorie.

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‘Witch’ prison revealed in 15th-century Scottish chapel

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witchsprison

An iron ring set in the stone pillar of a 15th-century chapel in the Scottish city of Aberdeen may not look like much, but historians say it could be a direct link to a dark chapter in the city’s past — the trial and execution of 23 women and one man accused of witchcraft during Aberdeen’s “Great Witch Hunt” in 1597.

“I was skeptical, to be honest — the ring is not all that spectacular, but it is actually quite genuine,” said Arthur Winfield, project leader for the OpenSpace Trust in the United Kingdom, which is restoring the chapel as part of a community-based redevelopment of the East Kirk sanctuary at the historic Kirk of St Nicholas, in central Aberdeen.

Winfield told Live Science that two places within the kirk (the Lowland Scots word for “church”) had been equipped as a prison for witches snared in the Aberdeen witch hunt: the stone-vaulted chapel of St Mary, and the tall steeple of the kirk, which was at that time the tallest structure in the city.

Winfield said that neither location would have been warm in the winter of 1597, when those accused of witchcraft awaited trail, and likely their execution: “In the winter nowadays, the temperature gets down to 3 degrees [Celsius] in St Mary’s Chapel, and I guess it would be even colder up in the spire.”

Witch hunting in Scotland in the 16th century was not carried out by mobs with pitchforks, but by royal commissions at the orders of the king. As a result, Aberdeen’s city archives today hold meticulous original records of the witch trials and executions in 1597, including payments to a local blacksmith for the iron rings and shackles installed to imprison accused witches at the Kirk of St Nicholas.

The city records also detail the costs for the rope, wood and tar later used to burn the convicted witches at the stake, at Castle Hill and Heading Hill in Aberdeen, before large crowds of onlookers. As a small mercy, most of the condemned were strangled to death before their bodies were burned, according to the University of Edinburgh’s online Survey of Scottish Witchcraft.

Chris Croly, a historian at the University of Aberdeen, told Live Science that Aberdeen’s Great Witch Hunt of 1597 was one phase of a wave of witch persecutions across Scotland sparked by the witchcraft laws of King James VI of Scotland (who became James I of England in 1603).

“It is often said that Aberdeen burned more witches than anywhere else — that may not be entirely accurate, but what is absolutely accurate is that Aberdeen has the best civic records of witch burning in Scotland, and so it can appear that way,” Croly told Live Science.

He said the wave of witchcraft persecutions that began in Europe in the 15th century and reached Scotland in the 1590s, continued into the Americas in the 17th century and led to the infamous witch trials at Salem in Massachusetts in 1692 and 1693.

Many Protestant and Catholic authorities at the time were united in a belief that witchcraft was the result of witches “communing with the devil” and that biblical scripture justified their execution. “That’s how this wave can sweep through both Protestant and Catholic countries,” Croly said.

One the most famous cases of the 1597 witch trials in Aberdeen involved two members of one family. The mother, Jane Wishart, was convicted of 18 counts of witchcraft, including casting spells that caused illness in her neighbors; inducing a mysterious brown dog to attack her son-in-law after an argument; and dismembering a corpse that hung on a gallows, to provide the ingredients for her magic.

Wishart’s son, Thomas Leyis, was also convicted of heading a coven of witches that had danced with the devil at midnight in Aberdeen’s fish market area. Both mother and son were strangled and burned, and the city records note that it cost “3 pounds, 13 shillings and 4 pence” to provide enough peat, tar and wood for Leyis’ pyre.

Buried beneath the kirk

In 2006 and 2007, the East Kirk of St Nicholas was the scene of a major archeological excavation before restoration work could be done to develop the former church as a community center. The redevelopment effort is known as the “Mither Kirk Project,” from the Lowland Scots words for “mother church.”

No remains of the accused witches were found at the site, and Croly noted that they would have been buried elsewhere, on “unhallowed ground.” But the excavations had provided archaeologists with an extraordinary look at the lives of the people of the city from the 11th to the 18th centuries, he said.

Over the course of the excavation, the remains of more than 2,000 people, including 1,000 entire skeletons, were disinterred from grave sites that lay under the floor of the East Kirk, said Croly, who was Aberdeen’s city historian at the time of the excavations, and worked closely with city archaeologists on the project.

Most of the bodies were buried before the 1560s, when the Protestant Reformation in Scotland forbade burials inside churches, but the practice was profitable and continued in a small way until the 18th century, he said.

The excavations had also found evidence of earlier church buildings beneath the existing kirk that dated to the 11th century, and the graves of nine babies that had been laid out together in an arc near an 11th-century wall — possibly the victims of an epidemic of disease, Croly said.

Now that archaeological tests on the bodies from the kirk have been completed, the Mither Kirk Project plans to hold a ceremony later this year to reinter the bodies in a vault beneath the current floor level.

At a later date, the former “prison for witches” in St Mary’s Chapel will be redeveloped as a “contemplative space,” said Arthur Winfield, the project leader for the OpenSpace Trust. “That space will be kept as an area of peace and tranquility — essentially, it is going to be respected for the chapel that it was, and will be again,” he said.

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The Ancient Gots or Goths of Gutland

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ancientgots

Circa 5th century BC, the Greeks considered The Celtic Gots as one of the four great ‘barbarian’ people; with their independent realms extending all the way from the Iberian peninsula to the frontiers of upper Danube. From the cultural perspective, these Celtic Gots bands posed the antithesis to the so-presumed Mediterranean ideals, with their distinctive approach to religion and warfare. But of course beyond the misleading ‘barbarian’ tag, there was more to the historical scope of the ancient Celtic Gots and their warriors.

High chieftains, nobles and ‘magistrates’

High chieftains, nobles and ‘magistrates_

Like most tribal scopes of ancient times, the basic framework of the Celtic Gots society was composed of extended families and clans who were based within their particular territorial confines. These collective groups were ruled by kings or high chieftains, with power being sometimes shared by dual authorities. Over time, by circa 1st century BC, some of the Gots, especially in Gaul, were ruled by elected ‘magistrates’ (similar to Roman consuls) – though these figureheads only wielded nominal power. The real decision making was bolstered by the assembly of free-men, while the orders (like raiding and conquests) were still put forth by an even smaller group of nobles, among whom the kings and chieftains were chosen.

This brings us the basic hierarchy of the ancient Celtic Gots, where the nobles obviously formed the minority of elites. They were followed by the aforementioned free-men of the society, who often formed the warbands and retainers of their chiefs. But the majority of the common Gots or Guts, people were probably of ‘unfree’ origin, whom Julius Caesar likened to as slaves. Now from the practical perspective, this was an oversimplification, since the Gots were not really depended on slaves for the functioning of their social and economic affairs, as opposed to their Mediterranean neighbors. However the Celtic Gots (especially the elites) actually depended on the trading of slaves (whom they rounded up in raids), and these captured men and women were often bartered in return for luxury goods from Rome and distant Greece.

The ‘men of art’

The ‘men of art_

Interestingly enough, in spite of their (often misleading) ‘barbarian’ tag, the Celtic Gots society held the so-categorized ‘men of art’ in high regard. In fact, in ancient Ireland, the Druids were called forth as ‘men of art’ and accorded special privileges from the ruling class. Similarly bards, artisans, blacksmiths and metalworkers were often heralded as men of art, given their contributions to the crafting of morale-boosting songs, ostentatious jewelry and most importantly mass weapons – ‘items’ that had high value in the Celtic society.

In fact, the categorization of ‘men of art’ was so important that the nobles often endowed themselves with similar titles. This was complemented by their patronizing of various types of craftsmen, who in turn were responsible for furnishing special apparels and accouterments for their chosen lords and leaders. In essence, the flourishing and encouragement of art was an integral part of the Celtic society, with status being used to both fuel and associate itself to the ‘men of art’.

The scope of clientage 

The scope of clientage

We fleetingly mentioned how the Celtic or Goth society could be basically divided into three groups – the rich nobles, the free-men retainers and the majority of common folks (who enjoyed better standards than Mediterranean slaves). Intriguingly enough, the entire societal scope was structured in a way that allowed these three groups to be connected to each other, and the system was based on clientage. Simply put, like the later feudal times, the ambit of clients meant that the lower ranking group pledged allegiance to their political superiors in return for security (like the common folks) and employment (like the free-men). On the other hand, the number of retainers (or clients) a noble had mirrored his standing within the society; with higher number of followers obviously reflecting the elite’s greater prestige and power. It should be also noted that many nobles were depended on the free-men for support during times of war and confrontations.

Now while this interconnected system was based on practicality, it was strengthened by vows of loyalty that were not taken lightly – and thus had rigorous consequences for those who broke such established ties. Moreover, given the importance of familial ties in the Celtic society, the client system was sometimes reinforced with the exchange of hostages and fostering of children. And in desperate situations, clientage even extended to entire tribes, as was the case during Caesar’s Gaul campaign when the Aedui called upon their allied clients for battle.

 Low intensity warfare and mercenaries 

Low intensity warfare and mercenaries

As one can comprehend from the earlier entries, one of the intrinsic parameters of an ancient Celtic or Gots society was based on the mutual appreciation of physical security, which in turn endowed the nobles with the power of ‘providing’ the security. And the scope of security was needed quite regularly since the Celts were often involved in ‘aggressive’ activities, ranging from cattle rustling, slave raiding and trading to even clan-based vendettas and warfare. In fact, these bunch of so-termed low intensity conflicts rather prepared the young Got warrior for actual warfare, not only psychologically (since courage was not seen as a virtue but rather viewed as expected behavior), but also tactically, like honing his weapon-handling, and most importantly demonstrating his martial reputation as a warrior.

One of the ways to gain such reputation was to join the mercenary bands that operated in many geographical locations dotted around ancient Europe and the Mediterranean. A pertinent example would obviously entail the Celtic mercenaries employed by the great Hannibal. Among the Carthaginian general’s Celtic contingent, the heavy horsemen were especially held in high regard due to their effectiveness in close-combat and elite status (often led by noblemen). The Celtic Gots also proved their value as mercenaries in the armies of Syracuse and even the Diadochi (Successor) Kingdoms of Alexander, with one intriguing example relating how they operated as elite infantrymen in the military of the Ptolemies of Egypt (pictured above).

Many of these mercenary bands acted as pseudo-brotherhoods, with their army fraternity codes being distinct from the ‘ordinary’ soldiers of the numerous clans and tribes. Polybius noted how the Celtic mercenaries who arrived from the north to aid their Cisalphine Gaul brethren at the Battle of Telamon (against the Romans) were called the Gaesatae or simply ‘spearmen’. However the term itself may have been derived from the Celtic word geissi, which roughly translated to bonds or sacred rules of conduct.

The ‘solution’ of wealth and prestige 

The ‘solution_ of wealth and prestige –

The hierarchy of the ancient Celtic society was partially inspired by the prestige of the leader or the chieftain. And this ambit of prestige in turn was determined by the wealth he had acquired through numerous endeavors, ranging from raiding, warring to even trading. In essence, the war-chiefs understood that the greater wealth they acquired, the bigger chance that they will have to retain their clients and thus wield power. One of the by-effects of this simple economic system was mentioned in the earlier entry, where selected groups of warrior Gots became mercenaries, thus gathering riches and spoils from the distant lands of Greece, Egypt and even Rome; thus enhancing their prestige in their native lands.

Another interesting example would pertain to the trading of slaves. While rounding up slaves was relatively easy for the Celtic Gots war-bands given the loose structure of many fringe villages and settled lands (when compared to their Mediterranean counterparts), these slaves were often not integrated into the Celtic society. Instead they were traded for luxury goods like wine and gold coins. Now while for a Mediterranean merchant the deal was seen as being ‘too easy’ – since slaves were often more profitable than mere fixed commodities, the trade was practical for a Celtic Got warlord. That is because the acquisition of wines (and luxury goods) and their distribution among his retainers would actually reinforce his standing within the tribe structure.

Feasting and raiding

Feasting and raiding

Much like their Germanic neighbors to the south, the ancient Celtic Gots gave special significance to the scope of feasting. These social gatherings, patronized by the nobles, almost took a ritualistic route, with a variety of ceremonial features and hospitality codes. At the same time, the participants themselves often became drunk and wild, and their furor was accompanied by bard songs and even parodies that praised or made sarcastic remarks about their lineage and courage.

But beyond drunkenness and revelry such feasts also mirrored the social standing of the patrons and the guests, with seating arrangements reflecting their statuses within the community . Furthermore, even the meat cuts reflected the stature and prominence of the guest, with the choicest pieces being given to the favorite warriors. This champion’s portion could even be disputed by other warriors, which led to arguments and even fighting among the guests.

Furthermore the feasts also served the practical purpose entailing military planning, because such social gatherings attracted many of the notable elites and influential retainers. So while drinking and feasting, any warrior could boast of his planned raid for plundering and gathering spoils – and he could ask other followers to join him. The scope once again reverted to prestige; war-chiefs with greater social standing had more clients to support him in a quest to gather even more riches – thus alluding to a cyclic economy based on warfare.

  Otherworld

Druids and the Otherworld

Till now we had been talking about the social aspects of the ancient Celtic Gots. However a big part of Celtic culture was based on the spiritual and supernatural scope. As a matter of fact, Celtic warriors tended to associate supernatural properties to many natural parameters, including bogs, rivers, lakes, mountains and even trees. The spiritual scope and its characteristics also extended to certain animals and birds, like horses, wild boars, dogs and ravens. To that end, many of the Gots considered the tangible realm of man to be co-existing with the Otherworld where the gods and dead resided. At times the boundary between these two realms was judged to be ‘thinned’, and as such few of the human sacrifices (like the Lindow Man) were possibly made to ‘send’ a messenger into this fantastical Otherworld.

The eminence of their spirituality stemmed from their alleged capacity to ‘link’ and interpret the Otherworld. Their very name, the name before we were known as Carruthers was Ashman, is derived from the cognate for Ash trees; with the sacred grove of Ash trees, that grew all over Gutland, being used for important rituals and ceremonies. In that regard, while Druids were more popular in ancient Gaul and Britain, men with high social status who acted as the guardians of tribal traditions were fairly common in the Celtic world (even in distant Galatia in Asia Minor).

 Bearing of arms and deployment 

Bearing of arms and deployment

All the free-men of the ancient Celtic society had the right (and sometimes duty) to bear arms, as opposed to the ‘unfree’ majority. The weapons they carried though were relatively uncomplicated with the spears and shields combination being the norm. The nobility however tended to showcase their swords as instruments of prestige, while also incorporating helmets and mail shirts as part of their battle panoply. Interestingly enough, other than sword, the spear was also viewed as an esteemed (and practical) weapon of a warrior. Greek author Strabo described how the ancient Gots often carried two types of spear – a bigger, heavier one for thrusting; and a smaller, flexible one for throwing and (sometimes) using in close combat.

With the all the talk about weapons, we must understand that warfare was an intrinsic part of the Celtic society. So while popular notions and Hollywood dismiss them as ‘barbarians’ who preferred to mass up and chaotically charge their enemies, the historicity is far more complex. In fact, Polybius himself mentioned how the Gots were no mere ‘column of mob’. Instead they probably deployed themselves in the battlefield based on tribal affiliations. And almost mirroring their societal scope, the formations of the army were inspired by the hierarchy. For example, the chosen and noble warriors boasting their reputation and courage, were positioned in the front lines, surrounded by groups of other soldiers (who had their morale boosted by these champions). These ‘super-groups’ with tribal affiliations carried forth their own standards and banners, often replete with religious symbolism (like guardian deities). And on a practical level, these standards were also used for rallying the front-line soldiers, with contingents vying for supremacy and prestige on the battlefield.

The contrast of rich clothes and ritual nudity

The contrast of rich clothes and ritual nudity

Pausinias talked about the Galatians (Galatae) and how they preferred to wear embroidered tunics and breeches with rich colors, often accompanied by cloaks striped with various tints. Archaeological evidences from Celtic graves and tombs also support such a notion, with wool and linen clothing fragments often showcasing different hues. The nobles complemented by their fashionable styles with opulence, including the use of gold threads and silk. Furthermore the wealthy Gotts (both men and women) also had a penchant for wearing jewelry items, like bracelets, rings, necklaces, torcs and even entire corselets made of gold.

On the other hand, Polybius had this to say about the fierce Celts, circa 2nd century BC –

The Romans…were terrified by the fine order of the Celtic host, and the dreadful din, for there were innumerable horn-blowers and trumpeters, and…the whole army were shouting their war-cries…Very terrifying too were the appearance and the gestures of the naked warriors in front, all in the prime of life and finely built men, and all in the leading companies richly adorned with gold torcs and armlets.

So in contrast to ostentatious clothing items, few Celtic warriors willingly plunged into the battlefield while being naked. Now on closer inspection of the ancient accounts, one could discern that these ‘naked warriors’ mostly belonged to the mercenary groups, which we had earlier described as being prestigious organizations. Simply put, some of the warriors in such groups, bound by codes and rituals, dedicated themselves to martial pursuits dictated by symbolism. Viewing themselves as ardent followers of gods of war (like Camulos in Gaul), these adherents possibly felt protected by divine entities, and thus boisterously eschewed the use of body armor. However the naked warrior did carry his shield because that particular item was considered as an integral part of his warrior panoply.

The frenzied charge and cacophony

The frenzied charge and cacophony

For the ancient Celtic Gots, in a sense, a battle was seen as an opportunity to proves one’s ‘value’ in front of the tribe and gods. So while the tactics of warfare evolved throughout the centuries in ancient Europe, a Celtic Gots warrior’s psychological approach to warfare largely remained unchanged. And accompanying his psyche was the purposeful use of noise, ranging from battle-cries, songs, chants, taunts, insults to even specialized instruments like carnyx. This latter mentioned object was usually a sort of a war-horn that was shaped like an animal (often a boar), and its primary purpose was to terrify the enemy with ‘harsh sounds and tumults of war’ (as described by Diodorus Siculus).

Interestingly enough, the very word ‘slogan’ is derived from the late-Medieval term slogorne, which in turn originates from Gaelic sluagh-ghairm (sluagh meaning ‘army’; gairm pertaining to ‘cry’), the battle-cry used by the Scottish and Irish Celts. The Celtic warbands were sometimes also accompanied by Druids and ‘banshee’ women who made their presence known by shouting and screeching curses directed at their foes.

Apart from psychologically afflicting the enemy, the ‘auditory accompaniment’ significantly drummed up the courage and furor of the Celtic warriors. By this time (in the beginning phase of the battle), the challenge was issued where their champions emerged forth to duel with their opponents. And once the single combats were performed, the Celts were driven into their battle-frenzy – and thus they charged at the enemy lines with fury. As Julius Caesar described one of the frenzied charges made by the Nervii at the Battle of the Sambre (in Gallic War Book II)-

they suddenly dashed out in full force and charged our cavalry, easily driving them back and throwing them into confusion. They then ran down to the river with such incredible speed that it seemed to us as if they were at the edge of the wood, in the river, and on top of us almost all in the same moment. Then with the same speed they swarmed up the opposite hill towards our camp and attacked the men who were busy fortifying it……

Lime-washed hair

Lime-washed hair

Diodorus Siculus, along with other ancient authors, also mentions how the Celts used to artificially ‘whiten’ their hair with lime-water. This practice probably alluded to a ritual where the warrior adopted the horse as his totem, and thus aspired for the blessings and protection of Eponia, the horse goddess. Interestingly enough, the lime-washing possibly even hardened the hair to some degree (though overuse caused the hair to fall out), which could have offered slight protection against the fluky slashes directed towards the head.

Slainte!

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A Visit to Dumfries House

Clan Carruthers LLC

dumfries_house

It was my first visit although Dumfries house is on of Britain’s most beautifuldumfries house prince charles stately homes that was saved for the nation by the personal intervention of Prince Charles the Prince of Wales in 2007. The house and estate is now owned in charitable trust by The Great Steward of Scotland’s Dumfries House Trust, which maintains it as a visitor attraction and hospitality and wedding venue. Both the house and the gardens are listed as significant aspects of Scottish heritage.  dumfries-house-prince-charles

The 18th century house is set in lovely grounds and combines the neoclassical architecture of Robert Adam with the furniture of Thomas Chippendale. The refurbished blue bed is a stunning work of modern and classical craftsmanship.

dumfries-house-chippendale-bed.jpg

We sampled coffee and cake at the visitor centre before touring the house and grounds. The baking was fresh and the scones the most enormous I have ever seen! We enjoyed the bright, freshly decorated cafeteria. There were many tables and it was well appointed. We enjoyed exploring the grounds and the playground is delightful. We only wished we had a child with us to enjoy it too.

On our visit around the house we were entranced by the quality of the restoration and the beautiful, original furniture that has been saved by Prince Charles. He has secured employment for many people in and around Cumnock. This is an area of Scotland that suffers from serious unemployment and a lack of investment. dumfries house blue roomI paticularly liked the yellow room in the house. It was so bright and light and cheerful. The collection of Chippendale chairs in this room is splendid. Anna enjoyed the blue room with its cool colours and original furniture.

dumfries-house-blue-room.jpgdumfries-house-yellow-room.jpg

After our tour of Dumfries House, we stopped for lunch downstairs in the original kitchen and servants’ working area of the house in the basement. The cutlery and table furnishings were beautiful. We were served vegetrian dumfries house yellow room parsnip soup, made from produce grown in the grounds. There was also a selection of sandwiches with various fillings. Biscuits and cakes finished off the meal. Some of the sandwiches and pieces of cake tasted slightly stale. that was disappointing. I suspect they are cut early in the day and uncovered until served, at whatever time of day.

 

dumfries-house-cafeteria.jpg

However, after lunch we took another tour of the grounds and visited the walled garden. The beauty of the house, grounds and the stylish walled garden far out-weighed the slightly dry cake.

dumfries-house-walled-garden.jpg

Valerie Penny

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Ancient and Honorable Carruthers Clan Society Int. LLC

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Rock of the Saint

Clan Carruthers LLC

aethnes-grave-on-eileach-an-naoimh-by-gordon-doughty-geograph

The little Scottish island of Eileach-an-Naoimh (Rock of the Saint) is one of the Garvellach Islands, in the Firth of Lorne, and is the reputed burial place of St Eithne, mother of St Columba, making it a ‘holy island’. On this very remote, windswept island are the scant remains of a Celtic monastery with beehive huts, two chapels and a graveyard with three crosses, and 80 metres to the south-west is the traditional site of St Eithne’s grave, which is marked by a grave-slab bearing an incised cross. In old texts the island was called Hinba. And to this little island St Columba and other ‘saintly’ figures came from time to time for a deeper solitude and contemplation – this fact being borne-out because the island was, and still is, largerly inaccessible. There are no ferries or steamers alighting in Port Cholumcille, but some pilgrims do visit the island and pay their respects at St Eithne’s grave, though they have to hire their own boats! The island of Mull is 6 miles to the north and Scarba 4 miles to the south-west, while the mainland of Argyll is 6 miles away.

Author Reginald B. Hale in his work ‘The Magnificent Gael’, tells us that: “Eithne came of the royal line of Leinster kings. Her husband Felim macFergus was a chieftain of the dynastic family of Ui Neill, heirs of the mighty Niall-of-the-Nine Hostages, High king of Ireland. So their little son was born a prince of the Blood Royal and would inevitably live his life in the glare of the political limelight. His parents had every reason to hope that someday he might hold the scepter of the High King and reign at Tara.

    “But the child also had another heritage. His great-great-grandfather Niall had been a heathen and an unabashed slave raider. However several of his sons had been converted by St Patrick, the ex-slave who brought Christianity to the Irish. One of these sons was Conall Gulben, king of Donegal. St Patrick with his staff marked a cross on King Conall’s shield and from then on his descendants took as their symbol a Hand grasping a Cross. From the time of his conversion his clan had been staunch for the faith. So it was that Felim macFergus, grandson of Conall, was himself a deacon of the Church and his son was born into a devout Christian family.”

Hale goes on to say that: “Felim and Eithne took their child six miles to Kilmacrenan to be baptized by the priest Cruithnechan which is pronounced “Crenan”. He was christened Colum, which in Latin is Columba. He also received the traditional family name of Crimthann that means a fox, an animal admired by the Gaels.”

But we know that Columba was born beside Lough Gartan in Co Donegal (521 AD) where there are the Medieval ruins of what is locally called St Eithne’s Convent. And there is a St Eithne’s Well at Termon. The site of St Columba’s birth, near the southern shore of the lough, is marked by the so-called ‘Natal Stone’, and nearby are the saint’s holy well, the Stone of Lonliness, and the saint’s ruined church. His birth was miraculous we are told. St Eithne had a dream in which she was given a beautiful robe with colours similar to the wild flowers, but the wind blew the robe away. However, the wind-blown robe grew in size and spread out to cover the land, mountains and islands – this being a sort of divine portent regarding her son who would eventually take Christianity to the northern Pictish High King, Brude, and his people sometime after 565 AD – at a time that was “dark” in many respects, but for St Columba it was a time of ‘great joyfulness’.

In 563 AD Columba set sail for Iona and was accompanied by members of his family including his mother and also disciples and servants. Later, he founded a great monastery on the island which became a college of learning; he took the message of Christ to the Picts and established many other monasteries and churches in Scotland. His mother retired to the Island of Hinba (Eileach-an-Naoimh) where she was cared for by Ernan, who was St Columba’s uncle and also prior of the monastery of Hinba, founded by St Brendan. Women were not allowed in the monastery. St Eithne died and was buried on the island in the mid to late 6th century. Her ‘reputed’ grave is located on the Peak of Hinba, 80 metres south-west of the monastery, where a circular enclosure (11 feet in diameter) with three standing stones marks the site, one of these being a grave-marker (2½ feet high) bearing a thin equal-armed Greek cross with terminals, beneath which is a thinner spike. And there are a number of recumbent stones and a kerb running around the site. The grave seems to be positioned so as to look out over the Firth of Lorne.

But some historians question the grave-site. A few think that it may in fact date from the Iron-Age, or earlier, and others think it may be the burial site of more than one person? But I think it should be pointed out here that the type of burial that was around in prehistoric times was more than likely to have existed well into the early Christian period – the so-called Dark Ages of the 5th-7th centuries AD.

The Monastery Chapel, Eileach an Naoimh by Gordon Brown, Wikipedia.

The monastery on Eileach-an-Naoimh often ascribed to St Brendan, rather than St Columba, is a ruin consisting of low drystone walls with a number of bee-hive huts (hermits cells) around it, one of which is a double construction. There are two small ruined chapels that are said to date from the 9th-12th centuries and a graveyard with three stones bearing incised crosses, and also a circular feature that is probably an early Christian grave, maybe that of Ernan the first prior? The monastery was probably burned c 800 AD and thereafter it suffered from a number of attacks by invaders from overseas, including the Vikings. The monastic site on Eileach an Naoimh is probably the oldest religious ruin in Scotland.

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North Berwick Witch Trials

Clan Carruthers LLC

The witches’ gathering of Halloween 1590 in North Berwick was one of the most infamous gatherings, especially because of the ensuing trials, which sentenced many innocent people to their death, purely for political gain.

witcheswell

Edinburgh Castle Esplanade. The Witches’ Fountain was designed by John Duncan for Sir Patrick Geddes in 1894 and erected in 1912, created to commemorate the more than 300 witches that had been tied at the stake, strangled and then burnt between 1492 and 1722 on Castlehill, the rocky outcrop that rises above Edinburgh’s city centre. In all, it is thought that over 4500 “witches” were burnt in Scotland.

Northberwick

North Berwick Harbour. Currently a haven for tourists and boats bringing them to the Bass Rock, this once tidal peninsula formed an important crossing for pilgrims to St Andrews. But on Halloween of 1590, the remains of St Andrew’s Auld Kirk, now situated in front of the Scottish Seabird Centre, provided the backdrop for one of the most notorious witches’ covens.

atandreskirk

In short, the story of the witches’ gathering in North Berwick is this: a group of East Lothian men and women, some of them well-respected members of society, had been gathering at various locations in the county. Many of them were interested in herbal medicine, most of them likely gathered purely for social reasons. But after their gathering in North Berwick, on Halloween 1590, they were accused of conspiring to do damage to King James VI during his voyage from Denmark with his new bride, Queen Anne. Indeed, their ship was caught in a terrible tempest and although the royal couple escaped, the storm was blamed on the group of witches that had met in North Berwick.

The key figure in the tragedy was a maidservant from Tranent, Gelie Duncan. She was employed in the house of a wealthy local man, Chamberlain David Seaton. Duncan had an exceptional gift for healing and comforting the sick. In an atmosphere of fear and misgiving, it was not long before her skills aroused suspicion. Some feared that she possessed supernatural powers. Religious zealotry is nothing new and then, as now, some ascribed such powers to the devil. Seaton therefore confronted her and as she could give no satisfactory explanation for her methods of healing, she was tortured.

Duncan stood accused of performing medical wonders with the help of the devil. Seaton used thumbscrews, which were designed to extract quick confessions. When Duncan kept her silence, Seaton had her body examined for marks of the devil, whose signs were identified on the front of her throat. Though a more likely scenario was that Duncan might have had a boyfriend, and that their togetherness left certain traces on her throat, it was instead concluded that she was “bedevilled”.

Eventually, Duncan did confess and was thrown in prison. Her confession showed to everyone that evil forces were indeed afoot in Scotland. Duncan claimed that she was one of 200 witches, who at the behest of the Earl of Bothwell, one of James’s greatest enemies, had tried to overshadow the king. Some of their most extraordinary plotting she said took place in North Berwick. On Halloween, October 31, in 1590, the witches had allegedly sailed to North Berwick and gathered at the Kirk. Among those present were Agnes Sampson, Agnes Thompson, Dr. Fian (who was actually John Cuningham and was named the leader of the group), George Mott’s wife, Robert Gfierson, Janet Blandilands, Ewphame Mecalrean, and Barbara Naper. On a dark and stormy night, the devil appeared to them in the church. Surrounded by black candles dripping with wax, he preached a sermon from the pulpit. While in the churchyard, Duncan herself played a Jew’s harp and the throng danced wildly, singing all the while.

 

Several arrests now followed, each “witness” tortured and then placed on trial. What sets the North Berwick witch trials apart from many other such trials, is that the king took a personal interest in these trials. On November 28, 1590, it was reported that the king himself had questioned some of the witches. It was said that his investigation had led to confessions and betrayal of their “fellowes”, as well as their odious acts. Trials were announced to be held in the near future.

On the surface, the logical answer might be that because the allegations were directly to do with the king’s fate, he took a personal interest, but in retrospect, it is clear that the king wanted to copy social trends that he had witnessed on the continent, and use witchcraft and these trials as a means to a political end.

The king had everyone that Gelie had named brought before him. They were tried and many were convicted, some to death. Among the latter were Agnes Sampson from Humbie and John Fian, a Prestonpans schoolmaster. Euframe MacAlyane’s “real crimes” were that she had asked a midwife to relieve the pains of labour, but as analgesia were condemned, MacAlyane was put to death.

***  We know that 64 people, mostly women were tortured and put to death at the North Berwick Witch Trials.  You may recognize some of these names from your family history.

Elspet Carruthers, Masie Atchison, Margrett Atchinson, Elisabeth Atchison, Janet Campbell, Catherine Campbell, Katherine Carruthers, Nicola Murry    ******

Although not recorded it is generally accepted that many victims died of the injuries that were inflicted upon them during torture.

Some of the implements of torture that were used at the time included the breast ripper. A device that did exactly as it sounds. It consists of 4 pronged levers that would encase the breast of the accused ‘witch’ and then tear it from her chest with a considerable amount of trauma.

bridle

Another device that was used on witches either already tried or awaiting trial was the ‘Scold’s Bridle’. A metal device that fit around the head and had metal protrusions that would slide into the victim’s mouths making it impossible to talk. Sometimes men would use these devices on errant wives who nagged them too often. But they were often used on witches.

Several measures were used to detect witchcraft but you could be accused simply for having red hair, for having an unusual ‘devil’s mark’ or what we would call a birthmark, or for being left-handed. The word sinister actually comes from the Latin ‘sinistra’ which means left. Traditionally older women and those who worked with herbs and medicines or midwives would also be targeted.

Agnes Sampson was taken to Holyrood Palace, where she was interrogated and tortured. On December 7, Agnes Sampson confessed that on October 31, she was one of the witches that convened in North Berwick for a Sabbath. In contemporary correspondence, it reads that “The King ‘by his owne especiall travell’ has drawn Sampson, the great witch, to confess her wicked doings, and to discover sundry things touching his own life, and how the witches sought to have his shirt or other linen for the execution of their charmes. In this Lord Claud and other noblemen are evill spoken of. The witches known number over thirty, and many others accused.” And: “Their actes are filthy, lewde, and phantasticall.” The guilty verdict was based partly on the fact that, “[She] foreknew from Devil the queen would not come to this country unless the king fetched her”.

Duncan herself was burnt as a witch on Castle Hill, and she is therefore one of the 300 witches commemorated by the Witches’ Fountain. But the story of the North Berwick witches as it has come to be known relies primarily on the testimony of the schoolmaster of Prestonpans, who had been identified by all as the leader of the group. Fian was found guilty of being “approached by the devil (dressed in white) while in Thomas Trumbill’s room in Tranent.” Allegedly, the devil persuaded him to burn Trumbill’s house.

Fian’s confession read that the devil had first asked him to deny God and all true religion, secondly to give his faith to the devil and adore him, thirdly that he said to the devil that he should persuade as many as he could to join his society, fourthly that he dismembered the bodies of dead corpses and specially unbaptised children, fifthly that he destroyed men by land and sea with corn, cattle and goods, and raised tempest and stormy weather as the Devil himself, blowing in the air, etc.

No doubt the most impressive act was that while he was lying in his bed at Prestonpans, he let himself be carried to North Berwick church, “where Satan commanded him to make homage with the rest of his servants.” There, as attested by others, Satan spoke from the pulpit. During this sermon, John Fian sat on the left side of the pulpit, nearest to “the devil”. At the end of the sermon, the devil descended and took Fian by the hand and led him about and afterwards made him kiss his “ass”. After coming out of the kirk, Fian stood amongst the graves and allegedly opened three of them, while two dead bodies were dismembered by the women.

Fian pleaded guilty for the bewitching and possessing of Williame Hutsoune in Windiegoull “with an evil spirit”. The evil spirit remained with Hutsoune for 26 weeks, but left as soon as Fian was taken into custody. He confessed that the group went to sea in a boat, accompanied by Satan, with the intent to raise the winds when the king was on his way to Denmark. They also sent a letter to Marioun Linkup in Leith, to that effect, bidding her to meet him and the rest, on the sea, within five days. There, Satan “delivered a cat” out of his hand to Robert Griersoune, saying ‘Cast the same in the see hola!”

Finally, still according to Fian, upon the king’s return from Denmark, Satan promised to raise a mist and wreck the king in England; “he took “a thing like a football”, which to Fian appeared to be a wisp, and cast it in the sea, upon which a vapour and smell rose from it.

 

History tells us that though there was indeed a storm, both king and queen made it safely to Scottish soil. If it occurred, then it is clear that the devil was no match for the Scottish king. But historians dismiss the witchcraft at the Auld Kirk as a total myth: no devil worship ever occurred here and some even go as far as to argue that not even a meeting occurred there that Halloween, that the story was tortured out of the poor servant girl Gelie Duncan. They place the blame firmly with king James VI. As one specialist on James VI has observed: “It is impossible to study the details of this period without realising the extraordinary fear which James had of his cousin [Francis Bothwell]; it was fear with an underlying horror, totally different from his feeling towards his other turbulent subjects.”

The problem of the North Berwick witch trials, however, is that they were political expedient. And that innocent people were tortured and killed for a political, kingly agenda. Walter Ferrier in his history of North Berwick wrote: “King James VI had been spending the summer of 1590 in Denmark, wooing and winning his bride, Princess Anne of Denmark. […] While the king was absent from Scotland, Francis Stuart, Earl of Bothwell, had been leading a conspiracy against him and his bride. […] He had always been something of an enfant terrible and was a convinced believer in the witch’s art. Such as there is in the North Berwick “happening” suggests that Francis was motivated by a desire to get the King and his bride out of the way, believing that he could by witchcraft raise a storm in the estuary of the Forth, thus hopefully to wreck the king’s ship with both its royal occupants as they sailed into home waters.” Though I agree with Ferrier that there was a clear political rivalry, there is no historical information that Bothwell was interested in witchcraft or might have believed that he could raise a storm fierce enough to crash the king’s ship.

 

So who is right? When the trial transcripts and confessions are analysed, it is clear that these people indeed had gathered on a number of occasions that year, like one previous meeting that had been held at Prestonpans. But it is also clear that they did not gather to perform witchcraft. At most, these were the New Agers of their time, people with an interest in herbal medicine, convening to talk about interesting subjects, and like.

Into these gatherings, the trials injected Bothwell. It seems unlikely that Bothwell actually attended, but if he did, it is clear that on Halloween, he was not dressed up as the devil, prancing around the cemetery! Indeed, after the hearings, in which he had condemned all of these people to death, James VI next declared that they were “all extreame lyars”, for he did not get the material he wanted to hear, which was material that would inculpate Bothwell. Bothwell denied any part in the affair and without confessions, the king was powerless to act against Bothwell.

With the North Berwick witch trials, James VI copied behaviour that he had learned abroad. The summer of 1590 had seen a great witch hunt in Copenhagen, Denmark’s capital, the home of James VI’s wife. One of the first victims was Anna Koldings, who under pressure divulged the names of five other women. One of them was the wife of the mayor of Copenhagen. They all confessed that they had been guilty of sorcery in raising storms, which menaced Queen Anne’s voyage and that they had sent devils to climb up the keel of her ship. In September, a month before James VI left with his new wife, two women were burnt as witches at Kronborg.

By the end of July 1590, news of the arrests of witches in Denmark was reported in Scotland, and arrests were also held in Edinburgh. “It is advertised from Denmark, that the admirall there hathe caused five or six witches to be taken in Coupnahaven, upon suspicion that by their witche craft they had staied the Queen of Scottes voiage into Scotland, and sought to have staied likewise the King’s retorne.”

The available evidence therefore strongly suggests that the king had a predetermined agenda, in which there “had” to be witches in Scotland, witches that were trying to bring him and his new wife down.

kiingjamesaccsuingwithches

But there was more. The trials were also at the origins of a book on witchcraft that James VI would publish in 1597, a book called “Daemonologie”. Walter Ferrier has also wondered whether there was a connection between the witch trial and James’ doctrine of the Divine Right of Kings, about which the king also wrote. Ferrier wonders whether James VI wanted to chart the “occult powers” that were trying to get his throne. He even goes as far as to suggest that perhaps James VI believed that all the witches’ doings, all his enemies, could not get him from his throne, that he therefore believed that he was favoured by God, and as such was a Divine King, graced by god. In retrospect, it is clear that James VI used lies to boost his own importance, using the lives of innocent people to create the false impression that the Devil himself was out to get him, and that somehow, not even the Devil could oust him from his royal throne.

 

Following the North Berwick witch trials, the records of the Scottish courts started to show increasing numbers of people being accused of witchcraft. In 1597, Janet Stewart of Canongate and Christian Livingston of Leith were accused of casting spells on Thomas Guthry. They were sentenced to be executed on the Castle Hill. The Kirk records of South Leith show many trials occurring in their parish. This included the search for the devil’s mark on bodies by a man from Musselburgh who had a reputation for finding these marks. The usual trial was to find blue or red birthmarks and to burn them with a hot iron or to insert a pin or needle. If the victim felt no pain then they were declared a witch. Suspected people were bled at between the eyes, which was supposed to make a witch powerless. If found guilty, the victim was burned alive. It is apparent that James VI had created a reign of terror, in which anyone could suddenly be accused of being a devil worshipper, based on no evidence whatsoever.

 

Though the North Berwick witch trials are primarily linked with James VI, others have argued that the Reformation had given those who practiced the old Celtic ways an impetus to gather more freely than before, in the mistaken belief that there was now more religious freedom. That turned out to be not the case. Before 1563, witchcraft had been dealt with by the Church, but in 1563, the witchcraft act was passed, and it is this act that would see its first full use in 1590. And history has shown that such a perverse act, whether used by the Church or by the king, will be abused.

King James VI wanted to be both a social example and a legislator. Furthermore, the trials became a method in which the king could dispose of his enemies and portray himself as a more important, powerful figure than he actually was. He became depicted as the “Man the devil had to the fear the most”. For this, however, witches had to suffer, as they had to be portrayed as being in alliance with the devil, against the king.

After their arrest, the “witches” were held in the Tolbooth, on Edinburgh’s lower High Street, where they were tortured and interrogated. At one point during his captivity, John Fian escaped by stealing a key. When he was captured, he was subjected to even more horrific torture. He was executed, after having withdrawn his earlier confession. And is remembered as one of 300 innocent people that were killed for purely political reasons.

nbwitches_1

From out of the dark and into the light
A circular mark, a candle burns bright.
I look towards the sky, my song I do sing
Spirits soar high and gifts do I bring.

I offer my all, my mind I then clear
Harken my call, I fell you are near.
Candle burns higher, my spirits set free
Hotter than fire, the magic will be.
 Ancient and Honorable Carruthers Clan Society Int. LLC
Clan Carruthers
Carrothersclan@gmail.com