The Witches’ Mark


A fishing village in Fife at the time of Charles II. Pheemie is an old, lonely, deformed woman who lives in a little cottage in the woods just outside the village. But this was a time when superstition was rife and Pheemie is believed to be a witch. The fishermen think she should be burnt. But Pheemie has a worse enemy than any of the fishermen. This is the powerful and evil local laird.

                Nevertheless Pheemie does have a few friends. A local lad, fifteen-year-old Murdo, does a simple act of kindness for Pheemie. That leads to him being put off his fishing boat. He goes to live with her and is later joined by his best friend Alex. And Pheemie has a really staunch friend in the local minister who definitely does not believe in witchcraft.

                Matters come to a head when the laird decides to bring Pheemie to trial and sends for a witchfinder to come down from Edinburgh to ‘test’ her. The minister knows this is against the law. He hides Pheemie in his stable and sends Murdo and Alex to Edinburgh to get a warrant from the Lord Advocate to stop the trial.

                Does Pheemie remain hidden or is she discovered? Do the boys get the warrant from the Lord Advocate?

                This book is notable for bringing out the fact that despite the hysteria against witches the witch trials with the monstrosities of pricking and swimming were actually governed by the law of the land. The prickers – the men who would push needles into a so-called witch to find a part where she felt no pain (the witches’ mark) – had actually to have a license. It also shows that in the second half of the 17th century many people were beginning to question the old beliefs in witches.

                The story moves at a good pace and clearly brings out the ideas and convictions of the age. For ages 9-13.

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(UK) £5.99

(UK) 0863155723




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