Testament of a Witch by Douglas Watt sampler

1687 . The nation is gripped by fear of witches and hunts are taking place all over the country. In Edinburgh, a young woman is accused of witchcraft, tortured with pins and sleep deprivation. As John MacKenzie and his assistant Davie Scougall investigate her suspicious death, they find themselves in a village overwhelmed by superstition, resentment and puritanical religion. In this time of spiritual, political and social upheaval, will reason allow MacKenzie to reveal the true evil lurking in the town, before the witch-hunt claims yet another victim?

1687 . The nation is gripped by fear of witches and hunts are taking place all over the country. In Edinburgh, a young woman is accused of witchcraft, tortured with pins and sleep deprivation.

As John MacKenzie and his assistant Davie Scougall investigate her suspicious death, they find themselves in a village overwhelmed by superstition, resentment and puritanical religion. In this time of spiritual, political and social upheaval, will reason allow MacKenzie to reveal the true evil lurking in the town, before the witch-hunt claims yet another victim?


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douglas watt was born in Edinburgh and brought up there and in<br />

Aberdeen. He was educated at the University <strong>of</strong> Edinburgh, where<br />

he gained an ma and phd in Scottish History. <strong>Douglas</strong> is the author<br />

<strong>of</strong> a series <strong>of</strong> historical crime novels set in late 17th century Scotland<br />

featuring investigative advocate John MacKenzie and his sidekick<br />

Davie Scougall. He is also the author <strong>of</strong> The Price <strong>of</strong> Scotland, a<br />

prize-winning history <strong>of</strong> Scotland’s Darien Disaster. He lives in<br />

Midlothian with his wife Julie.<br />

<strong>by</strong> the same author<br />

historical crime fiction:<br />

Death <strong>of</strong> a Chief<br />

<strong>Testament</strong> <strong>of</strong> a <strong>Witch</strong><br />

Pilgrim <strong>of</strong> Slaughter<br />

The Unnatural Death <strong>of</strong> a Jacobite<br />

history:<br />

The Price <strong>of</strong> Scotland<br />

<strong>Watt</strong> conjures up a pungent atmosphere <strong>of</strong> darkness and period detail.<br />

the herald<br />

A whodunnit satisfyingly rich in unfamiliar period detail.<br />

morning star<br />

Historical crime doesn’t come much better. Walking the streets <strong>of</strong> 17th<br />

century Edinburgh has never been so vivid.<br />

liam rudden<br />

Paints the period vividly in a gripping read.<br />

edinburgh evening news<br />

Think Rebus for the 17th century, in a tense mystery.<br />

scottish field<br />

<strong>Watt</strong> really sinks his teeth into the drama unfolding at the time… <strong>Watt</strong> is<br />

an intelligent writer. The strength and quality <strong>of</strong> his writing is maintained<br />

throughout the book, ensuring it remains an intriguing read.<br />

the courier & advertiser<br />

Move over Rebus. There’s a new – or should that be old – detective in<br />

town.<br />

i-on edinburgh on Death <strong>of</strong> a Chief

This is Ian Rankin meets Sir Walter Scott (but without the academic<br />

monologues): dastardly deeds, men and women with twisted motives,<br />

dynastic struggles, bitter religious factionalism, all leavened with some<br />

hints <strong>of</strong> romance, but the essence <strong>of</strong> the tale remains the mystery <strong>of</strong><br />

MacLean’s death and its unravelling… a rollicking good read.<br />

lothian life on Death <strong>of</strong> a Chief<br />

Very evocative and atmospheric.<br />

crimesquad on Death <strong>of</strong> a Chief<br />

Conjures up an Edinburgh which is strangely familiar but also<br />

somewhat different to the present-day city.<br />

edinburgh evening news on Death <strong>of</strong> a Chief<br />

Conjures up a convincingly dark atmosphere at this cusp <strong>of</strong> the age <strong>of</strong><br />

reason.<br />

the herald on <strong>Testament</strong> <strong>of</strong> a <strong>Witch</strong><br />

A thoroughly well told and entertaining historical crime drama…<br />

Historical fiction needs to be well researched, but from a reader’s point<br />

<strong>of</strong> view the results <strong>of</strong> the research need to be woven into a narrative in<br />

a way that appears effortless. <strong>Douglas</strong> <strong>Watt</strong> has succeeded admirably in<br />

immersing the reader in a Scotland very alien to the one we see around<br />

us today. The historical settings and characters feel just right, and the<br />

result is a book which both entertains and informs.<br />

undiscovered scotland on <strong>Testament</strong> <strong>of</strong> a <strong>Witch</strong><br />

The book is well written, well plotted and the main characters engage<br />

our sympathies from the outset. The murder and detection elements<br />

are woven well into the historical aspects <strong>of</strong> the book. The descriptions<br />

<strong>of</strong> how witches were identified and dealt with are both fascinating and<br />

horrifying.<br />

fictionfan on <strong>Testament</strong> <strong>of</strong> a <strong>Witch</strong><br />

Edinburgh is one <strong>of</strong> the book’s main characters, and <strong>Douglas</strong> <strong>Watt</strong><br />

has caught the rhythms <strong>of</strong> the great city – it’s pulsating politics, its<br />

strict religious codes tempered <strong>by</strong> bawdiness, and its grasping love <strong>of</strong><br />

commerce and money.<br />

crimesquad on Pilgrim <strong>of</strong> Slaughter<br />

<strong>Watt</strong> skilfully reconstructs the political events <strong>of</strong> the period and weaves<br />

a convincing mystery around them.<br />

lothian life on Pilgrim <strong>of</strong> Slaughter

The identity <strong>of</strong> the murderer will keep you guessing until the very<br />

end and the idea a murderer is on the loose during the turmoil <strong>of</strong><br />

the revolution keeps the pages turning. A must-read if either murder<br />

mysteries or history are your thing.<br />

nicky cooper brown on Pilgrim <strong>of</strong> Slaughter

<strong>Testament</strong> <strong>of</strong> a <strong>Witch</strong><br />


First published 2011<br />

New edition 2021<br />

isbn: 978-1-913025-28-1<br />

The author’s right to be identified as author <strong>of</strong> this book<br />

under the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act 1988 has been asserted.<br />

The paper used in this book is recyclable.<br />

It is made from low chlorine pulps<br />

produced in a low energy, low emission manner<br />

from renewable forests.<br />

Printed and bound<br />

<strong>by</strong> iPrint Global, Ely<br />

Typeset in 10.5 point Sabon<br />

<strong>by</strong> Main Point Books, Edinburgh<br />

© <strong>Douglas</strong> <strong>Watt</strong> 2011

To Robbie

Nam, ut vere loquamur, superstitio fusa per gentis oppressit<br />

omnium fere animos atque hominum imbecillitatem occupavit.<br />

Cicero, De Divinatione, Book 2, Chapter 72<br />

Speaking frankly, superstition, which is widespread among<br />

the nations, has taken advantage <strong>of</strong> human weakness<br />

to cast its spell over the mind <strong>of</strong> almost every man.

testament <strong>of</strong> a witch<br />

prelude<br />

A Sermon on <strong>Witch</strong>craft<br />

October 1687<br />

‘this parish is enthralled to the Devil,’ the minister began<br />

his sermon, carefully articulating each word. He was a young<br />

man in his thirties dressed in black gowns, standing in a large<br />

wooden pulpit elevated above the congregation. On the canopy<br />

above his head, a board was carved with the text: ‘Fear the<br />

Lord and honour his house.’ His eyes darted round the packed<br />

church, moving from face to face.<br />

‘This parish is enthralled to the Devil,’ he repeated, before<br />

turning over an hourglass at the side <strong>of</strong> the lectern. ‘Satan walks<br />

amongst us.’ He waited through an intense silence.<br />

‘We begin,’ he continued, ‘with Exodus Chapter 22, Verse<br />

18.’ The people knew what was coming. They had heard the<br />

verse on countless Sabbaths. He raised the volume <strong>of</strong> his voice:<br />

‘Thou shalt not suffer a witch to live.’ Then shouting: ‘Thou<br />

shalt not suffer a witch to live!’<br />

His eyes came to rest on two penitents, a man and woman<br />

wearing sackcloth, sitting on stools at the front. Cards tied to<br />

their shoulders allowed those behind to read the words scrolled<br />

in capitals on their backs:<br />


‘We have in this verse a precept <strong>of</strong> the Law <strong>of</strong> God, a precept<br />

<strong>of</strong> law given to the judges <strong>of</strong> the people <strong>of</strong> Israel, a precept given<br />

to those to whom the power <strong>of</strong> the sword is committed. They<br />

shall not suffer a witch to live.’ Again silence.<br />


douglas watt<br />

‘But what is a witch?’ He glared across the worshippers<br />

before looking down at his notes. Some gazed longingly back<br />

at him. Others were so terrified they could not raise their eyes<br />

lest he see into their black hearts.<br />

‘By a witch is understood to be a person that hath immediate<br />

converse with the Devil. So Leviticus Chapter 20, Verse 27 tells<br />

us: “A man also or woman that hath a familiar spirit, or that<br />

is a wizard, shall surely be put to death: they shall stone them<br />

with stones: their blood shall be upon them.” The spirit <strong>of</strong> God<br />

doth expressly mention either man or woman.’<br />

His eyes shone with the ecstasy <strong>of</strong> power. ‘And Deuteronomy<br />

Chapter 18, Verses 10 to 13, says: “There shall not be<br />

found among you any one that maketh his son or his daughter<br />

to pass through the fire, or that useth divination, or an observer<br />

<strong>of</strong> times, or an enchanter, or a witch, or a charmer, or a consulter<br />

with familiar spirits, or a wizard, or a necromancer. For all<br />

that do these things are an abomination unto the Lord.”’<br />

He snatched a look at the hourglass. There was still plenty<br />

<strong>of</strong> time. He repeated with more vigour: ‘An abomination unto<br />

the Lord!’<br />

Raising his eyes, he continued: ‘There are some sins so gross<br />

in nature that every single act <strong>of</strong> them deserves death <strong>by</strong> the law<br />

<strong>of</strong> God.’ He slowed his delivery to emphasise what followed:<br />

‘Such sins are bestiality, incest and sodomy. And so I take an act<br />

<strong>of</strong> witchcraft to be such a gross sin. Every act deserves death <strong>by</strong><br />

the law <strong>of</strong> God.’ The expression on his face was suffused with<br />

such earnestness, no one could have doubted that he believed<br />

what he said.<br />

‘What constitutes a person to be a witch? I speak now <strong>of</strong> both<br />

men and women, as from scripture. It requires a real compact<br />

between Satan and that person. They receive the Devil’s Mark<br />

upon their flesh. Or the parent <strong>of</strong>fers their child unto Satan.’<br />

He addressed a line <strong>of</strong> older children in the second pew on<br />

the left side <strong>of</strong> the congregation: ‘The parent <strong>of</strong>fers their child<br />

to him. They receive his mark just as the children <strong>of</strong> pr<strong>of</strong>essing<br />

parents receiving baptism will be in covenant with God. A<br />

witch shall worship Satan as their God. They shall follow him<br />

as their guide. They are constituted to be worshippers <strong>of</strong> Satan.<br />


testament <strong>of</strong> a witch<br />

They sell themselves in body and soul to do wickedness. They<br />

follow the Devil who is the prince <strong>of</strong> the power <strong>of</strong> the air.’ He<br />

lowered his head, briefly pausing.<br />

‘Why do God’s creatures turn from him? It flows from the<br />

blindness and perverseness that have fallen upon us <strong>by</strong> the fall <strong>of</strong><br />

Man. It flows from people who undervalue, slight and condemn<br />

the Gospel <strong>of</strong> Jesus Christ. It flows from the prevalence <strong>of</strong> lust<br />

and corruption among the people in the visible church. It flows<br />

from covetousness, pride and malice.’ He raised his head: ‘Turn<br />

you away from Satan.’ Then, after another longer pause, lifting<br />

his voice: ‘Turn you away from Satan!’, then shouting: ‘Turn<br />

you away from Satan!’<br />

He stared again at the penitents. The woman looked down at<br />

her bare feet in humiliation. The man gazed at the whitewashed<br />

wall behind the minister.<br />

‘Men and women are led <strong>by</strong> Satan to carry out deeds <strong>of</strong><br />

depravity and evil whether <strong>by</strong> ordinary means, such as using a<br />

cord or napkin to strangle with, or <strong>by</strong> putting pins in a picture<br />

or clay figure, roasting it on a fire and flaming it with vinegar<br />

and brandy. This is done to put an innocent person to torment.<br />

<strong>Witch</strong>es are called to meetings <strong>by</strong> Satan where all manner<br />

<strong>of</strong> debauchery and perversity is manifest, such as dancing,<br />

drinking strong liquor and singing. All kinds <strong>of</strong> sin are indulged<br />

in, including,’ he paused to emphasise what was coming, ‘the<br />

gravest sin <strong>of</strong> all, the grossest sin imaginable – carnal dealings<br />

with Satan. It is so opposite to that natural moral honesty which<br />

dignifies the marriage <strong>of</strong> man and woman. It flows from that<br />

blindness and perverseness that have fallen upon us <strong>by</strong> the fall<br />

<strong>of</strong> Man.<br />

‘<strong>Witch</strong>es are the greatest hypocrites under the sun. <strong>Witch</strong>craft<br />

is one <strong>of</strong> those evil deeds that the spirit <strong>of</strong> God enjoins death<br />

upon. There are today witches in our midst who pollute the<br />

parish <strong>of</strong> Lammersheugh, bringing discord and immorality. We<br />

desire that God will bring their works <strong>of</strong> darkness to light so<br />

that His enemies may be punished. Satan blinds the mind <strong>of</strong><br />

those that despise the Gospel. Show us, oh God – show us who<br />

they are.’<br />


douglas watt<br />

The silence was unbearable. It was broken <strong>by</strong> a finely dressed<br />

middle-aged woman rising from her pew. With head bowed, she<br />

walked to a side door and left the kirk. She was followed <strong>by</strong> an<br />

old woman, shuffling behind.<br />

The movement distracted the minister, breaking the dramatic<br />

momentum <strong>of</strong> his sermon. Although he was angered <strong>by</strong> the<br />

interruption, he quickly gathered his thoughts.<br />

‘Satan blinds the mind <strong>of</strong> those who despise the Gospel. Let<br />

this humble us all. Let us bewail it as a great evil that such a<br />

place as Scotland, where the gospel <strong>of</strong> Christ has been purely<br />

preached, should have so many under suspicion <strong>of</strong> the crime<br />

<strong>of</strong> witchcraft. You that are free, bless God that hath kept you<br />

from the wicked one, and pray out <strong>of</strong> zeal to God and his Glory<br />

that he shall bring these works <strong>of</strong> darkness to light that mar our<br />

solemnities and are fearful spots in our feasts. I beseech you, be<br />

vigilant. Watch your neighbours. Watch your children. Watch<br />

your mother and your father. Watch your master and your<br />

servant. None are free from the stain that darkens the nation.<br />

Satan walks and smiles in our parish. He spreads evil amongst<br />

us. Let us pray…’<br />

Placing a hand on the Bible in the lectern, he closed his eyes,<br />

raising the other above his head, palm outwards. At last he<br />

appeared to relax. A smile was on his face. It was the smile <strong>of</strong><br />

a man communing with God, the smile <strong>of</strong> a man who knew<br />

God, a man who knew he was right in what he did, a man who<br />

knew that he was saved, chosen from the beginning <strong>of</strong> time to<br />

be one <strong>of</strong> God’s Elect. The congregation lowered their heads<br />

and followed the prayer.<br />

‘Let all the congregation say Amen. Let all the saints in<br />

heaven and earth praise him. Let all the congregation say Amen.<br />

Let sun and moon praise him. Let fire, hailstorms, winds and<br />

vapours praise him. Let all the congregation say Amen. Let men<br />

and women praise him. Let all the congregation say Amen.’<br />


testament <strong>of</strong> a witch<br />

chapter 1<br />

Lammer Law<br />

the woman was a streak <strong>of</strong> black against the browns and greens<br />

<strong>of</strong> the broad rounded hilltop. She stood under a heavy sky beside<br />

a small copse <strong>of</strong> birch. Staring northwards, she listened to the<br />

wind in the leaves. It was their last song before autumn cast<br />

them into the universe.<br />

When she removed her bonnet, dark auburn hair flecked with<br />

grey fell down onto her shoulders. She let the breeze enliven her<br />

pallid face as she watched a small boat miles away on the Firth,<br />

far beneath her to the north. It was bound for Leith, having<br />

crossed the German Sea with a cargo from Amsterdam, she<br />

supposed. In her mind she saw a sailor on board thinking <strong>of</strong> his<br />

sweetheart in the Indies, a world away. She felt his loneliness as<br />

he stared on the grey sky and brown hills <strong>of</strong> Scotland. Her own<br />

daughters had always loved her stories. Their two faces came<br />

to her as they were when young girls. They had lived inside her<br />

body once, also. She had been able to protect them, then.<br />

She looked over to the Bass Rock, a dark tooth protruding<br />

from the sea. It was where the conventiclers were imprisoned;<br />

rigid, self-righteous men. Her eyes moved to the cone-shaped<br />

Berwick Law where they burned witches long ago. In the far<br />

distance to the west was the sleeping lion <strong>of</strong> Arthur’s Seat and<br />

the town <strong>of</strong> Edinburgh. She had not been there for years, not<br />

since before Alexander’s death. Her eyes focused on a castle in<br />

the foreground, perhaps two miles to the north-east <strong>of</strong> where she<br />

stood, but a thousand feet beneath her. It was a fine structure,<br />

perhaps more <strong>of</strong> a great house than a fortified dwelling, for it<br />

had been substantially altered <strong>by</strong> the Earl during her lifetime.<br />


douglas watt<br />

Tweeddale was the head <strong>of</strong> her husband’s family, the Hays. But<br />

she did not think that he would be able to help her.<br />

A few miles from the castle were the lineaments <strong>of</strong> her own<br />

world. How still and peaceful it appeared from here – the spire<br />

<strong>of</strong> a kirk, a few dwelling houses between the trees, the gables <strong>of</strong><br />

Lammersheugh House where she had lived since her marriage,<br />

all those years before. The House was surrounded <strong>by</strong> gardens<br />

which they had planted together. It seemed like another world,<br />

or someone else’s life. She saw him as she always did when she<br />

thought <strong>of</strong> him, or when someone spoke <strong>of</strong> him, walking in<br />

the garden in summer. The image <strong>of</strong> his body sent a wave <strong>of</strong><br />

excitement through her. The girls are playing at his feet. He<br />

takes one <strong>of</strong> them <strong>by</strong> the arms, Euphame, and lifts her <strong>of</strong>f the<br />

ground. There are screams <strong>of</strong> delight. Then the image fades. His<br />

arm is round her waist in the lengthening shadows. The memory<br />

<strong>of</strong> the feel <strong>of</strong> him returns, the memory <strong>of</strong> happiness – real love,<br />

not just desire. They had known each other since they were<br />

children, although he was two years older. There had always<br />

been something between them. She had watched him standing<br />

beside his tall sister in the kirk. But she had not expected that<br />

he would choose her. She was the daughter <strong>of</strong> a decaying house.<br />

When he had gone to college in Edinburgh the heart was ripped<br />

from her life. The two long years he was in Europe were empty<br />

ones when she imagined he had found a rich foreign heiress. But<br />

he came back to her, as he had said he would.<br />

She closed her eyes, luxuriating in the bliss <strong>of</strong> <strong>by</strong>gone years.<br />

It was as if they had lived in a storybook which was not real,<br />

a dream maybe. This was real life. She opened her eyes. Pain<br />

engulfed her like the tide on a lonely shore.<br />

The vision <strong>of</strong> the garden was gone. She saw him lying in<br />

his winding sheet; pale, cold, but still beautiful. Now he would<br />

never return from across the water. And would she ever see him<br />

again? In her heart she believed that the minister and elders were<br />

wrong. There was still a chance that they might be reunited. She<br />

must believe that.<br />

‘Grissell.’<br />

For a moment she thought that he was calling her name, that<br />


testament <strong>of</strong> a witch<br />

he had come back to her. But in an instant despair returned. The<br />

voice was familiar. But it was not his. She did not turn in the<br />

direction it came from. The realisation <strong>of</strong> the present cut deep.<br />

She did not hate the voice, only the thought that it was not his.<br />

She imagined the small red heart beating inside her.<br />


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