Malaficia

Between the 16th and 18th centuries, the East Neuk of Fife in Scotland was one of the major areas in Europe for witch trials and executions. Over 5,000 recorded trials resulted in at least 1,500 executions, an outrageous amount for a small country. Hundreds of years of conflict and natural disasters gradually took their toll on villages of the East Neuk, particularly between Edinburgh and St. Andrews. The fear of raiding Scandinavians from the east, ongoing warfare and disputes with the English in the south, and severe climatic events resulted in starvation and extreme poverty in many places, breeding intra-village paranoia, hatred, suspicion, and jealousy amongst desperate populations.

It took very little to be considered a witch; a ruined crop field, a petty argument over money, a spurned lover, or maybe the fisherman’s catch was poor. What better way to gain the upper hand over another person or family than to accuse them of witchcraft?

Using an Ordnance Survey map I selected five separate grid squares within daily travel distance of the village of Pittenweem. Through a process of forensic investigation involving archival research and oral histories I uncovered witch murders within each of the squares and set out by foot, walking along and amongst the grid lines, to explore and document their gloomy tales.

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