Isobel Gowdie - A Witch's Narration
The following narration was part of the Weather Witches Event. I am pleased to say that we raised nearly £700 for Remembering the Accused Witches of Scotland.
I am Isobel Gowdie. Every woman is Isobel Gowdie. Each woman is a witch in the pious eyes of righteous men, whose hunger to burn the flesh of women is insatiable. I lived in 17th-century Scotland. In a tempestuous time of religious, political, and social upheaval. That created a cultural contempt for womankind. A sickness of the soul that infected the educated elite of the land with notions of witchcraft born of their own fundamentalist fears.
I could tell you the truth of the matter, but the Calvinist extremists from Auldearn with twisted views of what constitutes sin did not want to hear what was spoken from the filthy mouth of a lowly cottar’s wife. That in these unenlightened times, women are enslaved to mankind. Only existing in this unequal world. If we like the children, we have died bearing, are the property of mankind. A plaything of flesh and bone to use and abuse as they desire. The worth of the peasant class is less than the sheep that graze in the green fields of Nairnshire.
These godly men that are chained to their pulpits, waited with bated breath to hear about the diabolic acts of a witch. While I, Isobel Gowdie, sat at my hearth after a day’s labour on the farm and wanted to know why my soul was not worthy in the eyes of a merciless God, who, according to these zealots, views me as his eternal enemy.
These puritanical investigators wanted salacious and malicious depositions. Hence, I did not disappoint. I gave them four separate confessions over six weeks. There was no subjection or silence from this illiterate woman.
I told the local minister Harry Forbes, God’s elect on earth. How I met with a cloven-footed devil in his kirkyard. How I cast a spell with my twisted tongue to render him bedridden. Upon hearing this, his wrinkled face turned whiter than the ash of a witch’s bones. Of pacts with the devil where sinful women renounced their baptism and gave everything over from the top of their heads to the sole of their feet to their master. How Satan suckled on the flesh of my shoulder and baptised me with my blood. Their diabolical fantasy of female subordination, not mine!
They did not enjoy hearing about the size of the devil’s member compared to the size of a man. Or of the beast’s prowess in the liberated world of a witch, where women took pleasure in carnal copulation and felt no shame for their earthly desires of the flesh.
I told this court tales of a coven of thirteen who flew above Lochloy on enchanted horses to spoil crops and thieve corn. Of plowing fields with puddocks, so only thistles and briars would grow. Of how we raised a howling wind that blew across the Moray Firth to bring some fish our way.
Wind Raising Charm
“When we raise the wind, we take a rag of cloth and wet it in water. And we take a laundry stick and knock the rag on a stane, and we say three times: “I knock this rag upon this stane to raise the wind in the Devil’s name. It shall not lie until I please again.
When we wanted to lay the wind, we would dry the rag and say three times:
We lay the wind in the Devil’s name. It shall not rise till we like to raise it again and if the wind does not instantly lie after we say this, we call upon our spirit and say to him. Thief, thief, conjure the wind, and cause it to lie.”
(From the confessions of Isobel Gowdie)
The power coursed through my veins when I spoke of the coven breaking into the homes of the high and mighty to steal food and drink. Of pissing in the ale barrels of the same landowners, who sat in judgment of me in the year 1662. That confession stole the very breath from the lungs of the Laird of Park. The man who believed he had the right to take my body without my consent just because he owned the land, my husband John Gilbert and I farmed. I felt the seed perish in the laird’s privy parts when I told all present that I had put a curse on him and any male children he might produce. Let that bastard wallow in fear, as his tenants wallowed in squalor.
I squealed with delight in recanting tales of visiting the king and queen of the fairies at Downie Hill. A realm where they make elfin arrows. Where I was free from the brand of a sinner and existed as a wise woman. Not the whore of a devil, or a mad and bad bitch of a witch.
I took many forms, such as cat, crow, and hare. The real magic was I shifted shaped into the unashamed voice of the disenfranchised female race. Prison had set me free from their sermons and chains of gender expectations. If I were to perish, my death would be on my terms. On the night of my execution, my flesh would burn brighter than the stars above Scotland. I would become one with the Red Reiver, my trusted spirit familiar.
There is no record of my death, but in knowing all you do of those times, do you think the elite of the land would suffer such a witch to live? There was no act of purification for the devil's concubine.
They reported all my confessions to have been procured without the use of torture. Most women were uneducated in those dark times, but that does not mean I was not intelligent enough to know that I was damned from the moment I was called a witch. That any denial would lead to indescribable pain at the hands of men who would take pleasure in the stripping, shearing, and searching for the devil’s mark.
Even now, over three hundred years later, they still talk of my confessions. They are considered the most extraordinary in the history of witchcraft. Those that do not believe in the existence of magic call me a fantasist, a storyteller. Say that I was suffering from delusions.
Yet, they still pick at the bones of my corpse. Is my spirit never to be allowed to rest in peace? The only thing I had power over was my own words. They are an enchanted spell that has lived on in the world for over three centuries. That is the true magic of Isobel Gowdie – Witch queen of Scotland!