From the coven of witches said to be based in the hills behind Logie Kirk, to the sinister stories of Mad Bessie’ Stivenson and Magdalene Blair, Stirling’s history is rich in tales of alleged witchcraft.
This Autumn Stirling Council are hosting a variety of witch-themed events in the run up to Halloween, including a family friendly lantern parade and several witch-themed scary movie screenings.
The programme includes a free, two-week exhibition dedicated to Stirling’s history with Witch accusations, called ‘The Witching Hour’, which is being hosted at the Tolbooth from October 16th to November 2nd.
The event will display authentic excerpts from Stirling Archives’ ecclesiastical records, showcasing the reporting of suspected witches in the local area from centuries ago. The digitised records, which will be blown up to poster size and mounted, will be accompanied by an explanation from Stirling Council archivist Pam McNicol.
Local artist Dawn McLaren, whose work draws inspiration from Paganism, Spirituality and the ‘natural realm’, will also show three pieces at the exhibition, while the Gallery will contain a digital display of ‘The Names of Witches in Scotland, 1658 ’, thanks to The Wellcome Collection.
Then on October 24th a panel of experts will shine a light on one of Stirling’s darkest chapters and all things witch-related during a public panel discussion.
Promising a fun, informative and engaging evening, the panel will include representatives from across different fields, such as Jean Fowler, High Priestess of Wicca; Dr Lizanne Henderson, Senior Lecturer in History, University of Glasgow; Pam McNicol, Stirling’s Archivist and Dr Murray Cook, Stirling Council’s archaeologist.
The evening will begin with a reception in the Gallery to view The Witching Hour exhibition, then move to the Tolbooth’s auditorium for a short talk from Pam McNicol who will give an introduction to Stirling’s History of Witch Accusations. There will then follow a panel discussion hosted by broadcaster Jennie Cook – which will include a section for any questions from the audience.
Convenor of the Community Planning and Regeneration Committee, Councillor Chris Kane said: “Stirling was caught up in the culture of fear and panic over witchcraft that swept across Europe during the 17th century, resulting in witch trials which led to the execution of thousands of innocent men and women.
“There are a number of tales of witchcraft and magic which have their roots firmly planted in the history of Stirling, and both the exhibition and panel discussion offer an excellent way to delve deep in into our murky past, with compelling insight from experts in their field.”
Vice Convenor, Councillor Maureen Bennison, said: “Many of us will have the image in our heads of a witch wearing a black dress, pointy hat and green face paint. However, the reality was very different.
“These women were persecuted under suspicion that unholy forces were lurking in their communities, and the authentic tales of Stirling’s witches will be brought to life through our Halloween events which will prove both fun and educational for people of all ages.”
The events being held at the Tolbooth offering a modern take on tall tales of witches and ghosts include:
- October 16th – November 2nd - The Witching Hour (Exhibition), Free
- October 24th - The Witching Hour (Panel discussion)
- October 26th - Witchfinder General (movie)
- October 27th - Hocus Pocus (movie)
- October 31st - The Blair Witch Project (movie)
- November 1st - Stirling Queen (new musical programme)
- November 2nd - Halloween ceilidh, 2pm
- November 2nd - Stirling’s Halloween Lantern Parade, Port Street, 5pm