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1603 - 1603
a dangerous slander in Aberdeen

The period 1560-1720 was marked by persecution of witches in Scotland. To slander someone as a witch was therefore extremely harmful for the victim; in this case, the woman slandered is successful in clearing her name and the slanderer is punished by the kirk, including with the threat of excommunication. Not all people who were called witches were able to clear themselves.

The original Scots version follows the translation below.


25th September, 1603.


The which day, about the action of slander pursued by Jelis Traill, widow of late Andrew Young, cordiner, against John Ferguson, burgess of this burgh [Aberdeen], by virtue of a bill [written pleading] making mention that upon 3 September, the said John came to her house and there injured and slandered her most unjustly and in an ungodly manner, claiming that she had bewitched him with her sorcery and witchcraft, in such a way that she had wrecked him and consumed all his goods and possessions; and that she was a manifest and rank witch in all her doings, consulting with the devil for his ruin; and that he should prove her a witch and follow forth on the same. [Jelis] desired therefore the session to take trial on these things; and it being verified that the said John had slandered her in the foresaid manner, that he might be ordained to make amends and satisfaction to her, at the decreet of the session. The said John being lawfully summoned to answer to the said bill, and being often called, but not appearing;and at last, he being summoned to this day to hear and see decreet pronounced on this matter, he did not appear; and the session being advised on the said bill and with the depositions of witnesses being called to prove the same, finds that the said John has heinously slandered the said Jelis, etc, etc. And therefore the session convicted the said John of the slander and ordained him to appear next Sunday in his parish kirk, and immediately after the ending of the morning sermon, to sit down on his knees before the pulpit, and there confess his offence done to the said Jelis, in slandering her in the said manner; crave God's pardon for this and the pardon of the said Jelis whom he had offended, and to promise never to speak or utter such slanderous speeches against her in time to come; and if the said John fails in this, and obeys not this ordinance by making public satisfaction, [the session] ordains the minister to proceed against him with the censures of the kirk.



The quhilk day, anent the actioun of sclander persewit be Jelis Traill, relict of umquhill Andro Young, cordonar, aganis Johne Fergussoun, burges of this burt, be vertew of ane bill, mackand mentioun that, vpon the third day of September instant, the said Johne come to hir hous, and thair iniured and sclanderit hir maist iniustlie and vngodlie, affirming that scho had bevitched him with hir sorcerie and witchecraft, in sic sort, that scho had wrackit him and consumit his haill guidis and geir; and that scho wes ane manifest and rank witche in all hir doingis, consulting with the devill for his wrak; and that he suld prowe hir to be a witche, and suld folow furth the same:  desyrand, thairfor, the sessioun to take tryell in the premissis; and it being verefeit that the said Johne had sclanderit hir in maner forsaid, that he micht be ordanit to make hir ane mendios and satisfactioun thairfoir, at the appoyntement of the sessioun. The said Johne being lawfullie warnit to answer to the said bill, oftymes callit, and not comperand; and, at last, he being warnit to this day, to heir and sie decreit pronuncit thairintill, and not comperand, and the sessioun, being advysit with the said bill, and with the depositionis of the witness producit and vsit for preving thairof, findis that the said Johne hes sclanderit hainouslie the said Jelis, &c. &c., and thairfor the sessioun, convictit the said Johne in the said sklander; and ordanit him to compeer on  Sonday nixt in his paroche kirk, and immediatlie efter the ending of the sermone afoirnone, sitt doun on his kneis befoir the pulpytt, and thair confess his offence done to the said Jelis in sclandering her in maner forsaid; crave God pardoun thairfor, and the said Jelis quhom he had offendit, and promeis never to speike nor utter sic sklanderous speiches aganis her in tyme cumming: and, gif the said Johne failyeis heirin, and obeyis not this ordinance, be making of a publict satisfactioun, as said is, ordanis the ministeris to proceed aganes him with the censures of the kirk.



Selections from the Records of the Kirk Session, Presbytery, and Synod of Aberdeen ed John Stuart (Aberdeen: Spalding Club, 1846)

pp 28-9. Translation by E. Ewan


Tags: witchhunt slander