UK PSYCHICS REPORT - 30 October 2004
A town in Scotland is to celebrate Halloween this year by officially pardoning dozens of "witches" executed more than 400 years ago.
Prestonpans, in East Lothian, will grant the pardons under ancient feudal powers which will disappear next month under legislation passed by MSPs in 2000 to end Scotland's feudal system. .
At least 4,000 Scots, mainly women, were executed during the Reformation, for crimes such as owning a black cat and brewing up herbal remedies. Anti-Witch hysteria reached its peak under the rule of King James VI - later King James I of England. An estimated 5million women were executed worldwide during the Persecution, usually by being burned at the stake.
This Sunday - Halloween - 81 pardons, secured in the Prestoungrange Baronial Court on 27 July this year, will be publicly declared and a floral tribute laid at a specially-commissioned plaque.
Local historian Roy Pugh, who helped secure the pardons by presenting evidence to the court, will make the declaration in what he described as a "simple and solemn" ceremony.
He said: "It will recognise the crimes that were perpetrated against these people.
"It's too late to apologise, but it's a sort of symbolic recognition that these people were put to death for hysterical ignorance and paranoia."
Mr Pugh's book, The Deil's Ain, caused controversy several years ago for its strong criticism of the role played by the Church of Scotland in persecuting and putting to death supposed witches.
The pardons relate to convictions under the Witchcraft Act 1735.
Descendants and namesakes of the 81 people executed in the Prestonpans area are expected to attend the ceremony.
The Witchcraft Act was not repealed until 1951, when it was replaced by the Fraudulent Mediums Act.