JUST in time for Halloween, a Borders author has released her second book on the history of witches in the region.

Mary Craig, originally from Glasgow but now living in Stow, first wrote about Borders witches in 2008, but more than a decade later she has uncovered further information on the ‘outsiders’.

Ms Craig said: “It’s a fascinating part of Scottish history, to explore just how dangerous the Borders was.

“I’ve always been interested by people on the edge, the people pushed aside.”

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Ms Craig’s fascination with witches began at a young age, from when she was a young girl dressing up as a witch, to enjoying the hit show Bewitched.

“I thought they [witches] were brilliant,” said Ms Craig, who attended the University of Glasgow. “But when I went to university, I was disappointed. No pointy hats, no ‘warty’ noses.

“And for some reason I had thought witches were from medieval times, but they’re from the 17th century. So, not that long ago.”

But no-one can be blamed for thinking of the ‘witchy’ stereotype we all know – pointed black hat, a broom in hand and a black cat by her side.

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Even in the 17th century, woodcarvings (pictured) depicting this type of witch were used to warn people.

Ms Craig said: “They [woodcarvings] were like the headlines of today.

“They fuelled fear and people tried to make them as outlandish as possible.

“People were illiterate but woodcuttings had an effect.

“They’d be passed around the alehouse, and even if there was no witch in that town, people would still worry about witches in other towns.”

And Ms Craig added that looking back on this period of history, the people were no more “superstitious or stupid” than people today.

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“Human belief moves slowly,” she said. “We still say things like ‘touch wood’ or throw salt over our shoulder.

“And before Christianity, we made offerings to Pagan gods.

“A belief in the supernatural has always been there.”

In her book, Borders Witch Hunt, Ms Craig shares the story of one of the most deadly witch trials in the Borders – the trial of 27 women and men accused of being ‘vehementlie suspect of wytchcraft’.

“In 1629 there was a mass trial in Peebles,” she said.

“The kirk elders then got together and they were given 27 names, all suspected of being witches.

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“So, they wrote to the privy council for approval to hold a witch trial.”

By Christmas Eve, all 27 had been strangled to death.

The last Borders witch trial took place in Selkirk in 1700.

Ms Craig added that the settling of the church in Scotland and the improvement in conditions (no plague or famine) by the turn of the century meant people had less to concern themselves with, so fewer accusations.

Borders Witch Hunt is released today (October 31), and can be purchased through Luath press at: www.luath.co.uk/product/borders-witch-hunt 

It is also available on Amazon and with other retailers.