Cantrips and carlins : magic, medicine and society in the presbyteries of Haddington and Stirling, 1603-88
This thesis is an examination of the belief and practice of popular magic, specifically related to charmers, in the presbyteries of Haddington and Stirling between the years 1603 and 1688. It is the first study of either locality which concentrates on identifying the difference between charmers and witches, and considers the practice of the former in the broader context of seventeenth-century attitudes towards health and disease of both orthodox medical practitioners and the wider population. The thesis examines charmers and their healing practice in reference to theories of power, popular and elite culture, the church and gender, and reveals new information about seventeenth-century society. The principles and practice of charmers are then compared to orthodox medicine and popular magic, and the recorded healing treatments and rituals have been examined and analysed in close detail. A comparative analysis has been made of the two localities which assesses and contrasts patterns of witchcraft and charming accusation on a parish level. By using evidence contained in kirk records, supplemented by secular court material, it has been shown that all levels of society identified differences between the practice and intent of charmers and witches. Accusation and prosecution of witches was influenced more by local elites, and by elite demonological theories, than accusations of charming. Importantly, the devil was not a feature of charming accusations. Due to the overt nature of charming, differences in its perception and acceptability were highlighted by the less severe penalties which were ordered by the kirk. The dilemma for the church and society was that the church had, to an extent, surrendered its practical healing role with the abandonment of pre-Reformation ritual. The emphasis on personal piety and prayer for the relief of mental and physical suffering did not appear to offer sufficient comfort for the rest of society.