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  Witchcraft in the Orkney Islands

The Spae Wife

According to the 19th century Orkney folklorist, Walter Traill Dennison, the Orcadian wise-woman, or spae-wife, was said to possess:

“..all the supernatural wisdom, some of the supernatural power, without any of the malevolent spirit of witches.

He goes on:

"The women of this class were skilled in medicinal and surgery, in dreams, in foresight and second-sight, and in forestalling the evil influence of witchcraft. Such women were looked upon with a kind of holy respect.”

The spae-wife in Orkney was generally well-regarded in her local community, treated with an awed-respect that, in many cases, probably bordered on fear.

Primarily regarded as healers, these women were indispensable members of each community, called upon for healing, childbirth, charms, protection from evil.

But as the zeal of the witch-hunters grew, no doubt a great many of the county's spae-women met untimely ends.

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Documented Accounts and Trials

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