The Crone's Blog 

Singing their Souls Home - Healing the original Witch Wound

I moved to Kinross two years ago. As someone who walks the old path, a healer and midwife of souls. It is important for me to work with the ancestors of place, as well as blood. To get to know the stories in the bones that are buried in the land I live in. For me, that meant the accused witches from the Crook of Devon.


I have always found it unforgiveable that even after all the trauma they endured, the accused were denied funerary rites and their charred remains most likely thrown on the local midden. At that time, to people of any faith, that was inconceivable. For without the observance of death customs and funerary rites most believed that the soul would not ascend to heaven.


It come to me in the dreamtime, that I should (in a very small way) try to right this wrong. That in my role as psychopomp, guide over any souls from the witchcraft trails who had not crossed because they endured such trauma and were denied these funerary rites. I jumped up out of bed, and in the middle of the night put together a small memorial ceremony for the 10 women and 1 man, who died at the little village beside my hometown.


I shared the ceremony in the hope that it might create a little movement and inspire others to hold something similar in their hometowns. If that were to happen, I would imagine every village, town or city in Scotland would have a cairn of remembrance to the accused witches. Something that I believe is needed as well as a national memorial.


I am sharing it once again in this blog with the same hope in my heart. That they will be remembered for all eternity and that by performing some traditional funerary rights that were denied to the accused witches, their souls might rest in peace. For me, this is the original witch wound and believe that by healing this wound, we can begin to heal in the present.


SINGING THEIR SOULS HOME CEREMONY

In September 2021. Thirteen women gathered in the Crook of Devon as ANUM CARA'S (soul friends) to the 10 women and 1 man who were accused of witchcraft, tortured, strangled, and burnt in the Crook of Devon. I spoke about Scottish death traditions, the Lykewake and associated rites. Their importance on a spiritual level to people from mid-century Scotland. How the community played a part in caring for the soul of the deceased.


Each person chose one of the accused, or perhaps they chose them. We held a simple but poignant rite. Each woman lit a candle, performed part of an ancient saining rite, spoke the name of the accused and rung the death bell to announce their passing. As a circle of women, we whispered to water from a local healing well, to bless it. This was used to consecrate the place of burning as a sacred site. We wrote their names on stones, so they could be remembered in a cairn, in way of our Scottish forefathers.


We sung the following Lament, to help cross them over.

Oh ah sing a song o’ sorrow fir the folk who wir killed at the crook

Tortured, burnt by kirk an’ king

Falsely accused, cawed witch on a whim

Oh ah sing a song o’ sorrow fir the folk who wir killed at the crook

Tortured, burnt by kirk an’ king

Said tae dance wie the deil an’ renouncing God’s holy book

Oh ah sing a song o’ sorrow fir the folk who wir killed at the crook

Tortured, burnt by kirk an’ king

May they rest in eternal peace wie clan an’ kin


With the help of the old woman from the otherworld (my spirit guide), I performed a crossing over ceremony for any of the accused who were the restless dead. The pain they endured was immense. I still felt the pain of strangulation the following day.

On that night we walked to the hill where their bodies were burnt and held the short service below.


Here lies the Dust of 11 souls, accused of witchcraft, tortured, strangled, and burnt during the Scottish Witch trials in the year 1662. Denied a burial in consecrated ground, we now bless this place with our holy water that it becomes a sacred site. Denied prayers, or tears, we stand before you now full of sorrow at the injustice of your passing. We open our hearts to the heavens, and each offer a silent prayer of remembrance for our soul friends. Denied a stone to mark their resting place. We now lay a simple stone, so your names will be known for all eternity in a cairn of remembrance, as was the way of our Scottish ancestors.

Everyone took a turn to say the name of the accused they mourned that night as their soul friend and laid their stones and flowers. I offered bread that the dead may never be hungry and water that they never thirst. Then said the following traditional Gaelic blessing, with a little change to it:


May the road rise up to meet you.

May the wind be always at your back.

May the sunshine warm upon your face.

the rains fall soft upon your fields,

and until we meet again, may creation hold you in the palm of its hand.


I am pleased to announce the next ceremony was filmed for an international documentary. The old gods must have been listening, for if this does not inspire more of this work, nothing will. 

From the Ashes - IWD Memorial Event

On the 9th of March 2022, I held a collaborative event for International Women’s Day with Karen Strang Artist. It was my personal continued vision of remembrance. My way of remembering the accused witches, from a spiritual perspective. A lens that is rarely considered in these contemporary times of disconnection. One that is mostly overlooked by the witch trial academics. Something that is at the heart of what I do, whether that is telling their stories or singing their soul’s home.

Sheila Gaul, Chairperson of Remembering the Accused Witches of Scotland, spoke about the work of the newly founded charity. Then Karen Strang Artist introduced her art practice with a short presentation on the materials of traditional painting, how this connects directly with our collective past of the 1600s and how through research and process of painting she set about visualising the trials and the women accused. Her work is powerful, alchemical, and raw magic!

I spoke about singing home the souls of the accused and my vision of remembrance. Before I told the story I had wrote about the Crook of Devon accused witches, called A MURDER OF CROWS. This was inspired by the spirit of an accused witch who shared her pain with me. It was not an easy place to inhabit while I wrote this story. A story of all accused witches. You can see it on my YouTube channel.


After the performance the audience were invited to take part in a short memorial ceremony for the ordinary folk from the Crook of Devon who were murdered for a crime they did not commit. Before they lit a candle in remembrance, they laid their stones for the cairn and flowers on the floor. This was followed by a minute’s silence for accused witches from all over the world.


The second half of the event began with a brief exploration of the invisible legacy of witch trials, known as the witch wound. With the help of my deer skin drum, I led a shamanic journey to help heal this ancestral trauma by awakening the wild woman archetype within. During the journey we reclaimed the element of fire and used it to transform any residual trauma. To enable us to break free from patterns of fear that had been past down from mother to daughter since the burning times. I will also be doing more of this work on a deeper scale.


To finish of the event, Karen led a drawing session to create a collective work of art that symbolised a rising from the ashes of the past. Some final words from Karen.


“In this first collaboration with Rowan, I enjoyed the synergy between the different disciplines of Storytelling, Shamanism, and drawing. The audience was hugely responsive and supportive and there was a definite 'connect' in the venue regarding remembering the accused women. I want to thank everyone who took part. A poignant, illuminating, and creative journey.”


We donated £200 to RAWS from the event to help with their campaign. The day after it, I laid all the stones and flowers and am very happy to say that the wee cairn of remembrance is starting to grow.

Healing the Witch Wound  Workshop - Voice is Medicine

A group of women travelled near and far to gather close to the time of Midsummer. Not for celebration, but to learn the forgotten female practices of keening and lamenting the loss of the dead, like women had done centuries ago. They came together on this day to learn the old ways, so they could sing home the souls of the accused witches of Scotland.


My land and one that is woven with supernatural stories and keeps a secret sadness trapped in its rich dark soil. For the body of the Cailleach lovingly holds the spirits of those who were tortured, strangled, and bodies burnt to ash. The daughters and sons of a nation, whose supposed learned elite forced false confessions down the throats of innocents and condemned them as witches in a time not that long ago in history.


This workshop aimed to begin to heal the invisible legacy of the witch trials. A wound that is not seen but deeply felt by many and has continued to disempower women for centuries. An ancestral trauma felt by the descendants of those who were burned for witchcraft. But you don't have to have blood ties to feel this wound. Women have lived in fear of being persecuted for centuries, and this fear has been passed down the generations to the present day. It is a scar in the soul that manifests as a fear of judgement for intuitive abilities. Fear of repercussions for possessing healing skills. Fear of arcane knowledge. Fear of the second sight and the cunning ways of old. In essence, a fear of all the elements that enable women to embrace our wild nature. The unwanted inheritance of a patriarchal curse that prevents us from living an authentic life.


There were many reasons why people were accused as witches. One being the dislike of outspoken women, who many believed could charm, curse, and cast spells with their voices. For me, this made working with traditional practices like chanting, keening, and lamenting even more relevant. I knew that by reclaiming the voice as medicine, its power could be used to emancipate women from this ancestral curse. That by using our voices in this way, we give voice to the thousands who were killed during the witchcraft trials in this land. It is time to reclaim the right to be heard as indigenous women of magic.


During the workshop, we welcomed the spirit of the voice and fed it honey as an offering. The women learnt charms and chants old and new before they tasted the warm salty tears of those that had gone before. It was then that I witnessed the birth of a tribe of lamenting women, who keened and cried for Scotland’s accused witches. I felt a mother’s pride running threw my veins, to know that this sacred work will be carried forward. That these traditions will be kept alive and that those who were persecuted would never be forgotten by those present that day.


We carried out ritual to begin to break this ancestral curse in the here and now. By the washing of our wombs in well water that we made sacred by our prayers. The soft chants that filled the air were truly magical. I could feel the unwinding of a curse that had hidden in the flesh and bones of our lineages for generations. The healing of fears that were not ours to bear but as women we endured them none the less.


Then this circle of sisters wrote their laments for the accused witches of Scotland. These were sung at the ‘carn na cuimhne’ (Cairn of Remembrance). I have built this with stones from each ceremony and event I have held to honour the innocents killed by kirk and king. It is not a grand memorial but a simple folk memorial. If you stop by, please pay your respects by leaving ONLY a stone to remember the accused. This was the way of our Scottish forefathers.

Why do this work? It is my hope that by healing this wound, that the curse of fear that has disempowered women for centuries can be broken. That by healing the original witch wound by offering traditional death rites and singing their souls home, the accused witches can join their ancestors and become the peaceful dead.


Please get in touch if you would like to learn these traditional practices from a Scottish wise woman……

Letter to an accused witch

As part of the Scottish Big Story Ripple, my fee is being paid for a storytelling session for Remembering the Accused Witches of Scotland. In return, they must pay this kindness forward, so I suggested creating an online memorial page. This would allow the public to add to a commemoration of words in written form. If this proves to be popular, they might even be turned into a book. The letter below is the starting contribution. 


Letter to an accused witch

It is said that love transcends time. I pray that is true. For the words in this letter are woven with golden threads of compassion stitched into every line. Every full stop, a tender kiss upon your brow. Each comma, arms gently holding your broken and bruised body.


Though 300 years have past and gone. You are not forgotten in my heart. Nor in the land of our shared birth. You are remembered as a grandmother, mother, and daughter. A woman, not a witch, that died with the dirty hands of a man wrapped tightly around your neck. A woman, not a witch, whose flesh was burnt through fevered fears of unholy pacts with the devil.


I see your spirit in the reflection of my eyes. Your blood is my blood. Like a red river running down my legs. I hear your cries when the wind screams over the North Sea. I have dug your grave a thousand times and buried your bones in fertile soil. A fragrant rose grows upon the earth to mark your resting place.


Are you dancing a reel my dearest? Singing an ancient lament to the stars? I can see you now, dressed in your Sunday best. Oh, bonnie lass weep not, for one day I will join you when my soul returns to heaven.


While I have breath in my body, you will be remembered.


Love always,

Rowan 

EVENT TESTIMONIAL

I came along to the event "From The Ashes We Shall Rise", as a representative from RAWS, not knowing what to expect as I had never attended anything of this ilk before. It was fascinating, enlightening, informative but most of all very moving. Rowan then gave us a Murder of Crows, spoken in old scots, telling of those accused in the Crook of Devon. Very poignant, even more thought provoking being spoken in such a way. The memorial ceremony which followed was very reverent. Then Rowan performed a piece to the accompaniment of her deer skin drum. I closed my eyes during this journey, but sparks and stars were dancing behind my eyelids, my ears were listening to the words, my fingers were tapping in time with Rowan's drumbeat. Tingles were felt.

Elizabeth McMann - Remembering the Accused Witches of Scotland