You are hereIsabel Gowdie, Witch of Auldearn

Isabel Gowdie, Witch of Auldearn

Isabel (Isobel) Gowdie was a young housewife from Auldearn in Nairnshire who is remembered not just for being tried as a witch, but for her detailed confession. Her trial was in 1662 and what makes her confession so interesting, apart from the detail, is that is that it was supposedly taken without the use of torture. It has been suggested that she confessed so freely to avoid the torture or perhaps as a plea of leniency. It has also been suggested that the confession may have been a result of psychosis. The confessions of Isabel Gowdie are in the third volume of Pitcairn's Scottish Criminal Trials.

She claimed to have been in league with the Devil for fifteen years and first met him at a church in Auldearn. Her confessions were groundbreaking and may have been the first to introduce the term coven and the rule of a coven having thirteen members. She claimed that her coven members could even change into the shape of animals with incantations like the following:

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.

And then back gain:

Hare, hare, God send thee care.
I am in a hare's likeness now,
But I shall be in a woman's likeness even now.

Isobel claimed to know Elphame, Queen of the Faeries and that she would often visit the fairy kingdom under the hills. She also described the arrows used by the fairies:

"As for Elf arrows, the Divell sharpes them with his ain hand, and deliveris them to Elf boys, wha whyttlis and dightis them with a sharp thing lyk a paking needle; bot whan I was in Elfland, I saw them whyttling and dighting them."

She claimed that she and her coven had carnal knowledge of the Devil who would come amongst them:

"And within a few days, he came to me, in the New Ward's of Inshoch, and there had carnal copulation with me. He was a very huge, black, rough man, very cold; and I found his nature within me all cold as spring well water. He will lie all heavy upon us, when he has carnal dealing with us, like a sack of barley malt. His member is exceedingly great and long; no man's member is so long and big as his. He would be among us like a stud horse among mares."

"The youngest and lustiest women will have very great pleasure in their carnal copulation with him, yea much more than with their own husbands; and they will have an exceedingly great desire for it with him, as much as he can give them and more, and never think shame of it. He is abler for us that way than any man can be (Alas! that I should compare him to any man!) only he is heavy like a sack of barley malt; a huge nature, very cold as ice. "

Amongst her many confessions was how they would steal cow's milk. "We plait the rope the wrong way, in the Devil's name, and we draw the tether between the cow's hind feet, and out betwixt her forward feet, in the Devil's name, and thereby take with us the cow's milk."

Isabel Gowdie was probably mentally disturbed in some way, but this may have played in her favor, for although I cannot see how she could have avoided being executed, I have come across many sources saying there is no record of Isabel Gowdie being killed.

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Re: Isabel Gowdie, Witch of Auldearn

Is this church in Auldearn still standing?

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Ian Topham
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Re: Isabel Gowdie, Witch of Auldearn

Hi Nickiepink, to be honest Iam not sure.  From what I have found on other sites the earliest churches in Auldearn were dedicated to St Columba and first was possibly founded in 600AD.  The current parish church dates from 1757, as the previous one was destroyed in a fire.  Therefore, if Isabel met at the parish church in the 1600's I assume tis is the one that burned down.  I am not sure however how many churches are in Auldearn, their ages or exactly which on Gowdie used.

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Re: Isabel Gowdie, Witch of Auldearn

Many years ago I lived near Auldearn at a place called Inshoch where there was a ruined castle in the field behind the house.   One night on returning home I looked up and saw the vision/ghost of a lady in a long green dress.  On further investigation we found out that this was the ghost of Isobel Gowdie {known as 'The Green Lady} who was a witch who had been burned at the stake in Auldearn for witchcraft but the date of when this happened I do not know but I believe was in the 1600s.   I revisited my old home in 2009 and although the house had been renovaed the castle was still in the same state of disrepair as when Ieft in 1969.
As far as the matter of churches referred to above I am afraid I cannot help with this, there has only ever been one church in Auldearn that I know of.

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Ian Topham
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Re: Isabel Gowdie, Witch of Auldearn

Hi Susan, I did not know that Isobel has been seen as a Green Lady.  Thanks for the input, you cannot beat local knowledge :)

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Re: Isabel Gowdie, Witch of Auldearn

i lived 2 miles from auldearn went to school there many fond memories there is another church about a mile away on the lethen road don`t no how old it is it is used for selling old stuff now we u played in the woods there is a big hollow that we were always told it was the fairey dell can`t remember why and up at the doocot a small track and its said that at certain time of the year the green lady runs through it theres other things to about the graveyard that i do no but it brings back scary memorys of something we saw back in the 70s



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