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Back on the witch hunt

I am on a witch-hunt that has nothing to do with the expenses scandal at Westminster or Michael Jackson’s pharmacist.

It concerns an actual, convicted witch. Her name is Janet Horne, a former resident of the Highland town of Dornoch. Horne was the last woman to be executed in Scotland for the crime of witchcraft. Three centuries after she met her end, she still casts a spell over people, and I intend to find out why.

Horne’s life and death have inspired one of the highlights of this year’s Edinburgh International Festival (EIF): a play called The Last Witch. According to the play’s author, leading Scottish dramatist Rona Munro, Horne’s story is a metaphor for what catastrophes can unfold when a politically apathetic society, as many people consider present-day Britain to be, allows itself to be influenced by dangerous ideas.

The hunt for Horne is not a search for a body: hers was burned to ashes in a wooden barrel filled with flaming tar. It is a hunt for a body of evidence. Who was Janet Horne? Why was she accused of witchcraft? How does the real Horne compare with the fictional character in Munro’s play? The quest will take me from one end of Scotland to the other.

Read the original article at: Herald Scotland

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