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Witchcraft in 1597 Aberdeen: an analytic study of its causes, system of beliefs, benchmarks and characters

Grant number: 18/14505-0
Support Opportunities:Scholarships abroad - Research Internship - Master's degree
Effective date (Start): October 01, 2018
Effective date (End): March 31, 2019
Field of knowledge:Humanities - History - Modern and Contemporary History
Principal Investigator:Rui Luis Rodrigues
Grantee:Marcela Delia
Supervisor: Julian Goodare
Host Institution: Instituto de Filosofia e Ciências Humanas (IFCH). Universidade Estadual de Campinas (UNICAMP). Campinas , SP, Brazil
Research place: University of Edinburgh, Scotland  
Associated to the scholarship:17/26441-4 - Witchcraft in 1597 Aberdeen: an analytic study of its causes, system of beliefs, external factors and characters, BP.MS


My main research in Brazil works with two different types of primary sources - King James VI's demonological treatise, the Demonology, and Aberdeen witchcraft trials; both produced in 1597. While the first is necessary for the comprehension of the cultural-linguistic sphere; the latter cast light into the world of everyday life experiences and jurisdictions, which we summarize under the concept of 'social benchmarks'. This two-sided analysis is necessary since History is not composed only by mentality or beliefs, at the same time as benchmarks and legal administration cannot be fully comprehended without the understanding of the cultural-linguistic code. All of this explains the importance behind both records used in this work. One of them, though, is more complex than it seems. The 1597 witchcraft trials were produced by two types of local authorities: the elders of the Kirk - the Scottish Church in a parish - and the magistrates from the Burgh Court of Aberdeen. This happens because there were more than one jurisdiction for the witchcraft persecutions in sixteenth-century Scotland. So, when burgh or parish residents wanted to press charge against someone they had to go to the Kirk. The kirk elders, then, took notes on the situation and selected the more dangerous and worrying cases to, later, pass to the Burgh Court magistrates. These, on the other hand, had to (i) ask permission to the Crown to hold a trial in Aberdeen, which was granted under the sign of a Commission of Justiciary and (ii) rewrite those first cases to make them more suitable to be used in Court. In this process, thus, the actual victims testimony was remolded to not only be more convincing but more judgement appropriate. This step was necessary for judicial matters, but imposes an obstacle for the historian, since the Kirk records have a totally different approach in comparison with the Burgh Court's. While the first is more focused on neighbourly dynamics, since they were just keeping record for some complaints; the second is more 'demonological infused' - concerned with issues such as demonic pact, Sabbath, murders, harm spells, and curses to argue against the accused person. We, then, are faced with two types of records (the Kirk's, religious and the Burgh Court's, secular) which have differences that can separate us from the social aspects and benchmarks of the Aberdonians. The secular records have been transcribed by a nineteenth-century antiquarian club, the Spalding, and published into volume I of the Spalding Club Miscellany (SCM) collection, but some of the processes have been left behind by them for some reason. Thereby, this source doesn't provide us neither the totality of the Burgh Court's records and neither any type of Kirk entry; whom can contain fundamental information for the conclusion of this research. Both of these sources are held today by the Aberdeen City Archives (ACA), which means that an internship project in Scotland would be extremely rich for not only allowing me to access these 'left out' records but also for giving me the opportunity to be supervised by one of the main scholars from the Early Modern History and witchcraft studies: professor Julian Goodare from the School of History, Classics and Archaeology from The University of Edinburgh He is not only responsible for The Survey of Scottish Witchcraft, #1 database about the phenomenon in Scotland but also the publication of more than 10 works between books, chapters and articles regarding witchcraft; this without mentioning his other studies about politics and jurisdiction in early modern period.

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