TWIST – Horrific History of Scottish Witch-hunts in Paint and Verse

TWIST – horror of historic Scottish witch-hunts

(on witch-hunts) Those convicted were almost always strangled at the stake and then their dead body was burned. We have records of 141 sentences specifying an execution method; 120 were for strangling and burning. Of the 17 sentenced simply to burning, many may have been strangled first—though a very small number are known to have been burned alive. In the sentences of beheading (3) and hanging (1), crimes other than witchcraft were also involved. Survey of Scottish Witchcraft, School of History and Classics, Edinburgh University

Twist by Pauline McGee

© Pauline McGee

Pauline McGee is an artist. We share a distinctive collaboration. We started working together when I was writer-in-residence for the SafeSpace fundraising project in Dunfermline. The patron was the late Iain Banks. It’s wonderful being recognised as a writer in such august company. I worked on writing with survivors. I recall some of their work – remarkable to say the least.

Through the project, Pauline and I became friends. We shared and talked. One day, I saw the witch-finding paintings. My poetry bell rang and with it, our partnership. The next poem is here.

The painting, Twist, portrays victims of the Scottish witch-hunts times and the abuse of the accused. As a poet, I absorbed the image and reacted. If you’d like to hear the poem, read by me (Mac Logan), there’s a link below. Why not view the image and listen?

Comments most welcome.


Slim hands extend
A raven’s beak
A bloody flower
They cannot speak … of torment, fear and brutal hate

No gentle friends
Nor fam’ly care
Nor loving touch
For no-one’s there … to love, protect and fairly serve

A sapphire eye
A crystal drop
A ruby splash
Dull spirits flop … no pleading can divert the lash

Crisscrossed skin
Harsh diamond rash
Reproachful glance
The “just” still thrash … and say the devil lies within

From lies to law
Judgement to death
Pleas unheard
A waste of breath … the kindling lies beneath the stake

A blood-red sky
On-rushing doom
Their last morn dawns
Denies the gloom … vile vengeance soon begins

Most floors wither
Yet one grows
Midst sanctimony
Heaven knows … of evil hearts disguised in duty

Exhausted eyes
Have seen so much
And yearn yet for
A loving touch … the tactile loss beyond despair

Scorching flames rise
Primal beauty
As evil hearts
Disguised in duty … lend an ear to fading screams

Ashes smoulder
Bones white glow
And peace descends
For now we know … the awful dark: depraved, unjust

Burnt away
At last they’re free
Centuries late
We hear their plea … and thoughtful eyed move on

© Mac Logan: 8th March 2016

Borderlines exhibition poster

This Post Has 7 Comments

  1. Seumas Gallacher

    Reblogged this on Seumas Gallacher and commented:
    …another excellent fusion of the art of Pauline McGee and the poetry of my pal, Mac Logan… enjoy! 🙂

  2. Mac Logan

    Thanks Bob. Pauline is an artist with a rich thoughtful talent. Her next painting is in my inbox — and me a thriller writer. I hope our paths (Bob and Mac) cross ere long.

  3. abrach1

    A powerful piece of work, Mac. We see the same faith-driven barbarity in Syria and Iraq in the present day, but our religious leaders were no better only a few generations ago.

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