The fear of witches did not die with the execution in Dundee of Grizzel Jaffray.
More than 100 years after her burning in 1669 the eccentricities of fate were still being blamed on those who stood out from the crowd. In the most part these were women of disability, women who had not married or who retreated into solitude in later years.
Women with no one to defend them.
We know as fact that Aberdeen-born Jaffray was targeted because of her wealth, or Quaker background, or a convenient combination of both. Her accusers were entitled to a large share of her estate on conviction and, well, they did profit from her death
They even threw a few crumbs at her impoverished and bereaved husband.
The fear of witchcraft manufactured by avarice of bureaucrats lingered on in popular memory for decades. Even as recently as the early 1800s, the people of Dundee had to restrain themselves from tarring and burning a witch.
The town’s hatred burned for Janet Kindy who was known as Hurkle Jean. Janet was poor, old and deformed and attributed to her was the power to cause sickness in children and cattle.
It was said if she crossed the path of a fisherman on the way to his boat, his day’s fishing would be spoilt. Only the fear of the law prevented the population from taking Hurkle Jean and burning her.
In 1806, one Dundee fishing boat experienced months of lean catches so a council of fishing elders was called. It was agreed that Hurkle Jean was to blame. The solution was an exorcism to remove the transient spirit of the witch.
The entire Dundee fishing fleet was involved in this action. Before dawn, the taphole cavity of the afflicted boat was furnished with a particular water supplied by the skipper’s wife and a straw effigy of Hurkle Jean placed above it.
The boat took to the sea and the effigy was burnt between the sun and the sky.
This is the brief pause of daylight before the sun rises over the horizon. And it worked. Success returned to the boat
A few years earlier, in the late 1700s, the estates around Dundee were plagued by a witch who took the form of a hare.
The hare destroyed kail and saplings but one laird had a hunch who was the malevolent occupant of the animal’s body.
This demonic hare was pursued by men and dogs without success but the canny laird took his chance when he saw it in the garden of one of his staff. He fired off a silver button from his musket and wounded the beast.
The laird witnessed its partial transformation as it dragged its bleeding body through the window of the cottage.
The howls of human pain and sorrow confirmed to the laird that his hunch had been correct. He knocked at the cottage door of his worker and was able to see the man’s wife retire to bed, wounded.