Argentinian street artist Milu Correch has painted two murals for Nuart Aberdeen that reference North East Scotland’s witch hunts of the late 16th and early 17th centuries. Drawing on one of the darker aspects of The Granite City’s rich cultural heritage, Correch depicted two witches in two separate murals in tribute to the many women who were persecuted for practicing ‘witchcraft’ (a crime that was publishable by death) under the rule of King James VI.
In 1563 the Queen’s Act against witchcraft was introduced in Scotland. The Act stated that no person should ‘use any manner of witchcraft, sorcery or necromancy, nor give themselves forth to have any such craft or knowledge thereof’. The penalty for being convicted as a witch was death. There followed two main periods of witch persecution in Scotland, the first of which was in the 1590’s and the second in the 1640’s. The late 16th-century craze was encouraged by the return journey of King James VI and his wife from Denmark when bad weather put the convoy of ships at risk. One of the King’s attendant ships was lost and it was widely believed that the high winds were caused by a number of witches assembled at North Berwick Church and in Copenhagen. Many arrests were made following rumours of a conspiracy between the witches of the two countries against the King.
Whilst James VI was in Denmark he was influenced by discussions about witchcraft and witch hunting which had already begun in that country. His power to influence had a major effect on the number of witch persecutions and in 1596 and 1597 the highest ever figures for persecutions were recorded. His views quickly permeated to the ruling classes and the clergy. James insisted that all witches, all ages, all ranks and even bairns deserved death by fire.