Scotland Apologizes to the Witches

Scotland Apologizes to the Witches

Over 400 years after the fact, Scotland is finally apologizing to the thousands of people that were accused of witchcraft and executed under the country's Witchcraft Act.

Scotland's first minister, Nicola Sturgeon, made the announcement on International Women's Day, describing it as an “egregious historic injustice” in the formal posthumous apology. Similar to the way that the Salem Witch Trials resulted in dozens of false accusations, the Scotland Witchcraft Act made the practice of witchcraft or associating with witches a capitol level offense and was responsible for the deaths of an estimated 4,000 people, most of whom were women, from 1563 to 1736.

"Those who met this fate were not witches, they were people, and they were overwhelmingly women,” Sturgeon said during her remarks. “At a time when women were not even allowed to speak as witnesses in a courtroom, they were accused and killed because they were poor, different, vulnerable.”

Sturgeon's formal apology comes as the result of years-long campaign by the Witches of Scotland seeking a pardon and national memorial for those that were accused of witchcraft during the moral panic. Scotland was by no means the only country to have a similar law on the books, England even introduced “An Act Against Conjurations, Enchantments and Witchcrafts” the exact same year, and the rate of accusations was four to five times the European average at the time.

“This is not yet historic,” Sturgeon added. “There are parts of our world where even today, women and girls face persecution and sometimes death because they have been accused of witchcraft... While here in Scotland the Witchcraft Act may have been consigned to history a long time ago, the deep misogyny that motivated it has not. We live with that still.”

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