Singing Their Souls Back Home
I moved to Kinross two years ago. As someone who walks the old path, a healer and midwife of souls. It is important for me to work with the ancestors of place, as well as blood. To get to know the stories in the bones that are buried in the land I live in. For me, that meant the accused witches from the Crook of Devon.
I have always found it unforgivable that even after all the trauma they endured, the accused were denied funerary rites and their charred remains were most likely thrown on the local midden. At that time, to people of any faith, that was inconceivable. For without the observance of death customs and funerary rites most believed that the soul would not ascend to heaven.
It came to me in the dreamtime, that I should (in a very small way) try to right this wrong. In my role as psychopomp, guide over any souls from the witchcraft trials who had not crossed because they endured such trauma and were denied these funerary rites. I jumped up out of bed, and in the middle of the night put together a small memorial ceremony for the 10 women and 1 man, who died at the little village beside my hometown.
I shared the ceremony in the hope that it might create a little movement and inspire others to hold something similar in their hometowns. If that were to happen, I would imagine every village, town or city in Scotland would have a cairn of remembrance to the accused witches. Something that I believe is needed as well as a national memorial.
I am sharing it once again in this blog with the same hope in my heart. That they will be remembered for all eternity and that by performing some traditional funerary rights that were denied to the accused witches, their souls might rest in peace. For me, this is the original witch wound and believe that by healing this wound, we can begin to heal in the present.
SINGING THEIR SOULS HOME CEREMONY
In September 2021. Thirteen women gathered in the Crook of Devon as ANUM CARA'S (soul friends) to the 10 women and 1 man who were accused of witchcraft, tortured, strangled, and burnt in the Crook of Devon. I spoke about Scottish death traditions, the Lykewake and associated rites. Their importance on a spiritual level to people from mid-century Scotland. How the community played a part in caring for the soul of the deceased.
Each person chose one of the accused, or perhaps they chose them. We held a simple but poignant rite. Each woman lit a candle, performed part of an ancient saining rite, spoke the name of the accused, and rang the death bell to announce their passing. As a circle of women, we whispered to water from a local healing well, to bless it. This was used to consecrate the place of burning as a sacred site. We wrote their names on stones, so they could be remembered in a cairn, in the way of our Scottish forefathers.
We sang a Lament, to help cross them over. With the help of the old woman from the otherworld (my spirit guide), I performed a crossing-over ceremony for any of the accused who were the restless dead. The pain they endured was immense. I still felt the pain of strangulation the following day.
On that night we walked to the hill where their bodies were burnt and held the short service below. Here lies the Dust of 11 souls, accused of witchcraft, tortured, strangled, and burnt during the Scottish Witch trials in the year 1662. Denied a burial in consecrated ground, we now bless this place with our holy water so that it becomes a sacred site. Denied prayers, or tears, we stand before you now full of sorrow at the injustice of your passing. We open our hearts to the heavens, and each offer a silent prayer of remembrance for our soul friends. Denied a stone to mark their resting place. We now lay a simple stone, so your names will be known for all eternity in a cairn of remembrance, as was the way of our Scottish ancestors.
Everyone took a turn to say the name of the accused they mourned that night as their soul friend and laid their stones and flowers. I offered bread that the dead may never be hungry and water that they never thirst. Then said the following traditional Gaelic blessing, with a little change to it:
May the road rise up to meet you.
May the wind be always at your back.
May the sun shine warm upon your face.
The rains fall soft upon your fields,
Until we meet again, may creation hold you in the palm of its hand.
I am pleased to announce the next ceremony was filmed for an international documentary. The old gods must have been listening, for if this does not inspire more of this work, nothing will.