Betwixt and Between: Isobel Gowdie, The Witch of Auldearn

Betwixt and Between
Isobel Gowdie, the Witch of Auldearn

Museum of Witchcraft and Magic
April 1st – October 31st 2019

‘I shall go into a hare,
With sorrow and sych and meickle care;
And I shall go in the Devil’s name,
Ay while I come home again.’

Isobel Gowdie’s chant to shape-shift to a hare.

17th century Scotland had one of the highest rates of witchcraft persecution in Europe – and the trial of Isobel Gowdie is deemed as one of the most important within this period.

The confessions of Isobel Gowdie are renowned worldwide as some of the most extraordinary and graphic descriptions of 17th century witchcraft and fairy belief. In 1662 Gowdie gave the first of four confessions, witnessed by the ministers of Auldearn and Nairn as well as local lairds and church elders. Her testimonies told of her taking on the guise of animals, cursing her enemies, ruining crops as well as her rise to be Queen of the Coven.

No doubt Gowdie’s sexual confessions have played their part in history remembering her, but importantly alongside these facets of her, we should note her detailed descriptions of rites and rituals have been woven into modern Wiccan practices. The first time we ever hear of a coven of thirteen is from the lips of Isobel Gowdie.

For our new exhibition at the MWM, the director Simon Costin, along with artist Jazz Collins, have created a series of works which focus on the confessions of Gowdie and the rich imagery her testimonies carry- her shape shifting into a Hare, the of riding on horses made from straw while flicking ‘elf-shot’ from her thumb to destroy enemies. As well as feasting beneath the Downie Hill with the King & Queen of the Fairies and of the orgiastic coven meetings with the devil.

Isabel Gowdie was all of this and everything Betwixt and Between.