Stirling's 'Blair Witch'

‘Sixteen Hundred and Fifty Nine, it was, that folk in Stirling noticed the strange ways o’ three local biddies. They didna’ quite fit in, ye understand. The first, Auld Bessie Stivenson. Well, she’d never been right, no’ since she was a lass…cloth’d in rags an’ tatters – ravin’ tae hersel’. Then there was Isobel Bennet – a spinster – well, she’d lived alone in her late faither’s farm for many years, biddin’ a’ that came tae see her go, and let her live in peace. She had nae time for folk, ye see. A’ways mixin’ potions, they were – an’ the gossips cried auld Izzy killed a bitch in heat…cut oot it’s liver tae use in a love potion. Poor auld souls, the pair o’ them…but mair harm tae themselves than ithers...

Or so the townsfolk though.Magdalene Blair

Then someone sickened…someone died, an’…well…it cou’dna just be chance, cou’d it? An’ so the gossips got tae talk o’ witchcraft….there’s nae smoke withoot fire, after a’. There was a trial o’ course, guid Maister Norrie, the Town Clerk, saw tae that, an’ the biddies were tortured tae confess their crimes…

Bessie they burned. Izzy Bennet they banished. And the third…? Well, she was the strangest o’ them a’…

A pretty young thing, they say. Turned the heads o’ many a local lad, but spurned their ‘hearts an’ flowers’. Thought hersel’ above them a’, it seems. Spent a’ day gatherin’ herbs an’ roots, mixin’ salves an’potions…just like Bessie had…just like Agnes Christie…an’ soon the gossips set their tongues tae talk o’ her…soon ‘twas Maggie Blair that stood ‘fore Maister Norrie, the Baillie’s Clerk.

An’ when he ranted an’ he railed at her - when he bid her tae confess her wicked ways - she simply smiled at him, this pretty lass. She looked that lawyer in the eye, and said “Aye!”, she was a witch. She wadna deny it. Yet, for a’ her powers she’d caused harm tae none…at least until that hour.

But she was no ravin’, half-mad crone – she’d no’ be tricked or tortured tae confess tae what she was – an’, should any in the toon raise but one finger ‘gainst her from that moment on...well...she’d set a blight upon their blood, wither their crops an’ cattle in the field, an’ curse each man, each woman an’ each bairn within the Burgh for a hundred generations.

Strange, is it no’ that Norrie let the jade – a confess’d witch, mark ye – walk free frae the Court an’ the Burgh. A’most as though the laddie was fear’t o’ what might happen if he didna.

An that ‘harlot’s name? Why, I’m sure ye’ve guessed...it is my ain. Magdalene Blair, gentles: your servant.

An’ the lesson o’ our tale…? That when ye feel tempted tae damn others as devils just ‘cos they are different, ye should better best learn tae ho’d your tongues an’ let them be…’cos sometimes – just sometimes, mind – they’ll be just what ye imagine them tae be!’

 

Taken from Stirling GhostWalk 2005

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