1645: Marion Pardon’s Witchcraft

The Legend:

In 1645 a woman name Marion Pardon from Hillswick in Shetland, Scotland, was executed along with her husband. The reasons for this are extrodinary. Pardon had a reputation for possessing an ability to curse other living beings with ill luck with a mere word or glance. It was known she had verbally cursed another woman, Janet Robinson, who was thrown into fits and pains by the curse. Pardon was also said to have looked evily upon a cow, which then "crapped togidder till no lyfe was leukit for her." But these were not the matters for which Pardon was executed.

        It was said that Pardon had become malicious somehow towards the crew of a fishing-boat, and had transformed herself into porpoise and then swam out and upset the boat, drowning the men aboard. She was caught because another witch had told people that Pardon had done this; otehrwise, naturally, she would have gotten away with it. Still, the other witch might have been lying; so the accusation had to be tested.

        Marion Pardon and her husband, Swene, were made to perform the simple, and well-known at the time, test called the bahr-recht... the "law of the bier". They both were commanded to lay their hands upon two of the dead bodies of the fishermen that had been recovered... and these bodies began to gush blood, one from the collar-bone, and the other from the head and fingers. This was taken as irrefutable proof of divine judgement against Pardon and her husband, and for these reasons she was executed for the deaths of the fishermen.

My Source

        My source for the strange story above is a collection of Shetland tales and lore published in 1822. The author gives no source for the story, so it may have been told to him rather than found in a separate and earlier volume. He presents the story of Pardon's execution as a factual event caused by superstitious people, so I treat the fact of the execution as a possible historic event. Naturally, I would like to find an earlier manuscript that can confirm both the occurrence of the event, and the accusation made against Pardon and her husband; but even without, the tale above stands as an excellent example of what people in Scotland in the 18th~19th Centuries expected a witch to be.