Going on a Witch Hunt with new BBC radio podcast

BBC Radio Scotland has launched Witch Hunt – a podcast on Halloween.

Witch Hunt is from the team that produces Time Travels, BBC Radio Scotland’s history magazine programme.

Over six episodes, Susan Morrison and Dr Louise Yeoman take an in-depth look at one of Scotland’s biggest historical miscarriages of justice.

About 450 years ago, the country was convulsed by waves of savage panics and purges which led to the judicial murder of thousands of its own citizens, mainly women.

They were convicted of crimes they didn’t commit, crimes which were, in any case, imaginary. Because of the ugly stereotypes applied to women in this deeply sexist society, they were most at risk. Witch Hunt brings together a team of historians to investigate how this could possibly have happened.

Listeners will get a glimpse into the heads of the people living in 16th and 17th century Scotland; to understand their cast-iron belief that the Devil was real.

They genuinely believed it was possible for their neighbours to sell their souls in exchange for superpowers: flying through the air, raising storms, sinking ships, even killing or maiming with curses. These beliefs ran deep through Scottish society from the King right down with James VI viewing witch hunts as a great war to be waged with Satan, a perfect pastime for a pious monarch.

Recent research on false confessions sheds light on how so many accused witches could have confessed to imaginary crimes. Not only torture is to blame, the subtler dynamics which were at work still lead to miscarriages of justice today.

Listeners will be introduced to a range of colourful figures across the length and breadth of Scotland, from servant girl Geillis Duncan convicted of witchcraft (who inspired a namesake character in the Outlander series) to Margaret Aitken, known as the ‘Great Witch of Balwearie’ and sinister witch prickers, like John Kincaid.

Susan Morrison is a stand-up comedian with a passion for history. She presents BBC Radio Scotland’s history magazine programme, Time Travels and runs Edinburgh’s History Festival. Dr Louise Yeoman is a historian, specialising in the Scottish witch hunt and 17th century Scottish religious beliefs and is a BBC Radio producer.

Visit HERE to download or listen.