Grissell Jaffray is undoubtedly the most famous witch of Dundee, having been the last witch to be executed in Dundee, but Dundee’s superstitious side was still alive and well in the 19th century, when Janet Kindy, or ‘Hurkle Jean’, was believed to be responsible for a number of afflictions that allegedly beset the town. Sickness in cattle and children was attributed to the evil presence of Hurkle Jean. Sadly for Janet, her deformed appearance only served as more fuel to the fire for the townsfolk, and thus, another legend was born. Belief in Hurkle Jean’s demonic abilities was so ardent, that, by the time it had reached its peak, effigies were being burned and exorcisms performed!

 

Thankfully with the repeal of the witchcraft acts in 1735, Janet was protected from persecution by law; but this didn’t prevent her neighbours from demonising her all the same, as a letter from one of her close neighbours “M.G.”, submitted to the Edinburgh Magazine in 1818 tells us:

“Mr Editor,

Dundee, as you know, was the last place in Scotland where the public execution of a witch took place; and the witch burnt there was neither so old, so ugly, nor so poor, as these unfortunate persons usually are. That Grizzel Jamfre [sic] was not poor, however, was probably the cause of her death; for the lawyers who could prove the crime of witchcraft against any person, were rewarded by great part, if not the whole, of what the convict died possessed of, – no small temptation to use diligence. But though the modern capital of Angus is thus distinguished in the annals of demonology, I did not expect to find the belief in witchcraft so general among the lower classes, as you will perceive it is from the following account, the heroine of which is my very near neighbour.

Janet Kindy, otherwise Hurkle Jean, is poor, old, and deformed; her evil eye is so dreaded in this neighbourhood that the sickness of children and cattle is often attributed to it, and if she happen to cross a fisherman’s path as he goes to his boat, the fishing is invariably spoiled for that day. I verily believe that nothing but the feat of the law prevents the tragedy of the witches of Pittenweem from being acted over again, so convinced are her neighbours of her supernatural powers, and so inveterate is their hatred against her. Six years ago, a boat having been for some months unfortunate in fishing, a council of war was held among the elder fishers, and it was agreed that the boat should be exorcised, and that Janet was the spirit which tormented it. Accordingly, the ceremony of exorcism was performed as follows. In each boat there is a cavity called the tap-hole; on this occasion the hollow was filled with a particular kind of water, furnished by the mistress of the boat, a straw effigy of poor Jane was placed over it, and had they dared to touch her life, Janet herself would have been there. The boat was then rowed out to sea before sunrise, and, to use the technical expression, the figure was burnt between the sun and the sky, i.e. after daylight appeared, but before the sun rose above the horizon, while the master called aloud ‘Avoid ye Satan!’. The boat was then brought home, and since that time has been fortunate as any belonging to the village.

M.G. goes on to describe an account of another witch who transformed into a hare, and a necromancer from Forfar called William Grey…but those are stories for another day.

(Letter taken from – https://books.google.co.uk/books?id=QF0AAAAAYAAJ&source=gbs_navlinks_s)

 

For decades, there have been rumours about supposed black magic rituals being undertaken in well-known local sites such as Balgay hill, the Law, Ballumbie, Templeton Woods and Claypotts Castle, to name but a few. By day, these places appear tranquil and serene, but if the rumours are true, it’s a completely different world at night. Magic, as we have come to know it over the ages, covers a wide variety of topics, from healing and spiritualism right through to demonic possession and the undertaking of the Black Mass. White magic and black magic seem to have very different rules regarding their use, with white magic being predominantly used in the benefit of others, whilst black magic is used for selfish purposes. They are two very opposite sides of the same coin – each harnessing equal and opposing magical and mystical energies. Those who associate with white magic are usually selfless, loving, helpful people who are kind and giving and who promote healthy spiritual wellbeing. However, the practitioners of black magic tend to be those with dark, troubled pasts, who perhaps anger easily and look to channel the unseen forces of the negative spiritual energies in order for profit, gain or revenge. Witches have had a rough time throughout history – by now we should all be familiar with the tale of poor Grissell Jaffray – so, it’s no surprise that even those who practice white witchcraft are still relatively shy about coming forward. Although we may no longer burn our “witches”, there is still a certain social stigma about proclaiming oneself to be witch of any sort.

Dundee is no stranger to tales of the occult, and the vast array of local stories about fooling about with ouija boards and finding strange markings and evidence of rituals come across our desks more often than you could imagine – you lot are a strange bunch! Even Bonnie Dundee, Bloody Clavers himself, is reported to have made a deal with the devil to make him more robust in battle (although we all know how that worked out for him in the end). Black magic, worship of the devil and dark occultism have been around for millennia. Before science took a grip of the world, almost everyone believed in some form of higher power and the practise of witchcraft in some form or another. People engaged with each other by telling stories, and, as the story passed from person to person, it became more embellished and elaborate – a trait which is still dominant in us to this day. There is very little in the way of documented evidence showing demonic invocation, possession, necromancy, or even the healing powers of white magic, yet still it is a touchy subject for most of us. This is because the tales and stories we have heard touch us in a primal place of fear and unknowing which allows our darkest thoughts to take over. On the surface, we may not believe, but the feeling of walking into an empty basement covered with bizarre markings scrawled on the walls, used black candle remnants stuck to the floor and signs of fornication would be enough to put chills down anybody’s spine (as told to us by a woman who wishes to only be known as Tracy, from Dundee).

In October 1978, a Dundee warlock was sentenced to 2 years imprisonment for fooling three young schoolgirls to take part in a Satanic ritual known as the “Oscular Inflame” or “Kiss of Shame”. The girls believed they were to be involved in a white magic ritual, but instead were subjected to the ritual in which each of them kissed with the warlock during the ceremony. The belief behind this practise is to show subservience to the will of the High Priest, as Satan’s presence on earth, initiating them into the coven of black witches and warlocks. The media at the time blamed social unrest, claiming that witchcraft itself was “the new religion of the bored residents of suburbia” (Glasgow Herald, 1978). It further went on to say that most witchcraft rituals were sexual in nature, and that said rituals were a means of satisfying a deviant sexual appetite. The “Kiss of Shame” involves kissing the High Priest or Priestess on 5 parts of their body – the feet, knees, genitals, breast and lips. In some rituals, an initiate would then be given forty lashes. After this, the initiate undertakes an oath of secrecy with the words “I, in the presence of the Mighty Ones do of my own free will and accord, most solemnly swear that I will ever keep secret and never reveal the secrets of the Art except it to be a proper person, properly prepared, with a circle such as this, and that I will never deny the secrets of the Art to such a person if he or she be vouched for by a Brother or Sister of the Art. All this I swear by my hopes of a future life mindful that my measure has been taken and may my magical weapons turn against me if I break this my solemn oath.” Finally the initiate is given various paraphernalia, including a ceremonial knife of power and welcomed to the coven. More often than not, these rituals take place behind closed doors, with a room acting as a makeshift temple, but sometimes, when the situation calls for it, rituals can take place outdoors in secluded wooded areas, or areas where there are caves or grottos to act as a makeshift temple. People claim to have seen evidence of rituals in and around Dundee, including concentric stone patterns, carvings on trees and even people in robes walking amongst the trees on Balgay hill. Whether you choose to believe or not, the fact remains that people are practising black magic all over the world, so, statistically, the chances are high that it’s happening right under our noses in our own city. There’s no smoke without fire, so maybe there is a shred or two of truth to the rumours after all (not that we’ll be going out to check).

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Another theme that crops up in a lot of the stories we read from people, is the use of the Ouija board. The Ouija board or spirit board, is a means of communicating with the spirit world by using the letters and numbers on the board in association with a moving object such as a glass to help spell out the message. It was first released as a fun parlour game until a spiritualist by the name of Pearl Curran used it for divination during the First World War and rumours began about the board being a conduit to the spirit world. It’s worth noting here that the Ouija board is actually illegal in the UK. Under antiquated Witchcraft Laws, it is illegal to sell, own or use one. The Law is still in effect because it has never been challenged for repeal.

Robert Stamper recalls playing with a Ouija board: I invited a real horror into my house with a Ouija board once, when I was much, much younger. My brother and I got no results when we started to use the board, but suddenly the message indicator mysteriously began to move. The first thing the board told us was that the message was being sent by a male called Seth. Then I made the mistake of telling the board to prove it was real by doing something supernatural. The results were startling and scary. The board told us that the grandfather of one of my best friends would die in a week. The chandelier in the room began to shake violently and the chimes rang like pieces of metal being smashed together. The room became as cold as ice and we were shivering, even though the room was warm. A horrible smell filled the room and we couldn’t stop gagging and coughing. My brother and I looked at each other in terror. We opened the windows to get rid of the stink, and told each other we’d forget the whole thing. But a week later the grandfather of one of my best friends died just as the board has predicted! From time to time, that awful smell would return. We threw the board away and told my mother about the experience – as you could imagine, she went crazy and we were grounded for weeks afterwards.

The Ouija board and it’s use has come under extreme criticism and, like black magic, is something we do not wish to talk about in society, as it is deemed taboo, superstitious and very dangerous. Clinical trials of Ouija seances have shown that the users have, in fact, moved the board themselves using micro-movements they claim to have been unaware of. Where science tells them they have moved the object around the board themselves, they counter-argue that it is the spirit taking over their body. As this can neither be proved or disproved, the debate rages on. Either way, no good can come from playing with forces we know nothing about, and, in our opinion, the best course of action would be to steer well clear!