Katherine Craigie was sentenced to death on 12th July 1643 “for airt and pairt of the using and practeising of the witchcraftis, sorceries, divinatiounes and superstitiounes…”. She was then taken by the lockman “hir handis behind hir back, and caryit to the place of execution and thair wirreit at a staik and burnt in ashes”.
She listened to how the seals wailed and understood the chatter of gulls
which from their travels out to sea knew a future before it arrived.
She knew the virtues of plants, spells of leaves and roots, knelt
under trees, gave away her knowledge freely: healed
a baby’s teething, a woman’s bruising, a sailor’s cracked lips,
nursed islanders through birth and death with softly spoken words.
But when the law mentioned witch, people remembered how when
she passed their door, wind changed direction or hens stopped laying;
that once when she churned milk she’d said, Tara Gott, that’s done;
Saviskeal’s boat casten awa on the Riff o’ Saequoy just as it happened;
how when the newborn with a nuchal cord died a thunderstorm broke;
how curlews called and called as if in distress when she arrived;
how somehow she made people need her too much
and this was evidence enough to convict.
Rebecca Gethin has written 6 poetry publications. She was a Hawthornden Fellow and a Poetry School tutor. Vanishings was published by Palewell Press in 2020 and Fathom by Marble in 2021. Messages was a winner in the first Coast to Coast to Coast pamphlet competition. She blogs sporadically at www.rebeccagethin.wordpress.com.