Calvin's gloomy creed, and James VI., who, in spite of his scholarship and vast learning, was as superstitious as a savage and as cruel, took a sinister interest in these matters. The first act against witchcraft was passed in 1563: thence-forward trials of witches became common. These witches might be mere "spae-wives" or healers; or they might be participants in the more Satanic aspects of the craft and the witch Sabbat. Let us remember this distinction in referring to some of the trials.
The earliest recorded trial in which the mingling of witch and fairy, as well as the ghost world, occurs is that of Bessie Dunlop of Dairy, Ayrshire, in 1576. She was a healer, and alleged that her skill came from the ghost of Thome Reid, slain at Pinkie in 1547. He was the intermediary between her and the fairy-queen, who also visited her with others of the fairy-folk. The queen was far from regal—a stout carline who begged for a drink. Thomas alternately besought Bessie to go with the "gude wychtis" and dissuaded her, and he also gave her messages to relatives and friends still living—I commend this to our modern scientific necromancers. He was invisible to all but herself. For these communings with the ghost and fairy world—not however with Satan— Bessie was convicted and burned, probably on the Castle Hill of Edinburgh.
Alisoun Pearson, a young woman, was tried in 1588 for "haunting and communing with the gude neighbours and the queen of Elfland," as well as with a ghostly familiar, William Sympsoun. She had been carried off by the fairies, and had seen their revels, and because she had revealed these, she was struck by them, the blow leaving an insensible spot on her body, like the well-known witch mark. The ghost usually appeared immediately before the fairies' coming, and he told her how he had been carried off by them, his relatives supposing him to be dead. From
- R. Pitcairn, Criminal Trials in Scotland (Bannatyne Club), Edinburgh, 1833, i. 49 ff.