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Survey of Scottish Witchcraft Database

Survey of Scottish Witchcraft
Scottish History, School of History and Classics, The University of Edinburgh, Scotland

Woodcut of a witch trial

Agnes Sampsoune (28/1/1591)

Case details

The accused Sampsoune, Agnes
Start date22/10/1590
End date28/1/1591
Characterisation Demonic
Folk healing
Unorthodox religious practice
White magic
Notes on characterisationPart of the North Berwick hunt, that revovled around witchcraft and treason. She was definitely a folk healer who got mixed up in the treason trials. She implicated 59 people for witchcraft. She was a folk healer who healed very high status people.
Notes on caseA copy of her confession was sent from Bowes to Burghley, in it he said that she confessed to 58 out of the 102 items in her dittay. She died penitent and praying to God for her salvation.

People involved in case

Name Involvement in case Notes
Thomas Gedde Investigator
James (VI) Stewart Investigator

Trials associated with this case

Sampsoune,Agnes Mentioned in a trial
Sampsoune,Agnes (trial date 21/1/1591) Central trial

Qualitative information

Non-natural beings

NotesDevil came to her after her husband died, she was moved by poverty and the chance for revenge. At the time she thought the Devil's mark was a hurt she received from one of her children who was in bed with her. In order to heal she called the Devil by the name of 'Elva' and he came as a dog. The Devil carried a staff. She confessed to these things in front of King James VI. She denied that the spirits she met were the Devil.

Appearance of Non-natural beings

Type of beingNotes
Animal Devila dog
Animal Devila white stag
Inanimate Object Devilruck of hay
Maleblack man
Spiritnamed Elva (Eloa)

Demonic pact

Type of pactNotes
Devil's Markright knee
Want nothing

Witches' Meetings

Witches' meetingYes
Devil presentYes
Devil worshipYes
Food and drinkYes
NotesOne of the meetings was like a party at sea with good wine and ale. She travelled over the water in a boat like a chimney and the Devil went before them in a ruk of hay. They baptised a cat. Witches meeting with nine people. She described 11 separate witches meetings. North Berwick meeting was a classic description of a black mass. First there was dancing. The women payed homage, then the men. The men walked withershins 9 times, the women 6 tymes. Fean was the right hand man, Johnne Gray-meil guarded the door. There were prayers, black candles and a whole service. There were supposedly 6 men to 94 women at the meeting. She also denied all the North Berwick stuff in a mega-confession. Then later in the confession she talked about the North Berwick stuff (was she tortured?)

Musical instruments

Type of instrumentNotes

Witches' Meeting Place

Place Location
all along the south coast of the forth Shore
Kirk of Garvett, be-eist Burn syde Kirk
Natoun Kirk Kirk
North Berwick Kirk
North Berwick Kirk Kirk
off the coast of the pannes Ship
the grace of God Ship

Folk Culture

Specific verbal formulaeYes
Specific ritual actsYes
Unorthodox religious practiceYes
Folk NotesPredicted someone's death. She said the Devil was responsible for storms around Michaelmas and that they would continue. Learned her healing from her father. Gripping to cure. She did lots of rituals with cats, passing them around and combining them with joints (dead people's). They cast live cats into the sea, the cats swam out again. Did a version of the Lord's Prayer, Ave Marias. She was paid to heal very high status people (Lords, lairds, and their wives) from a large territory. She prescribed an egg dipped in vinager, and one dipped in white wine, rubbed a patient with Aqua vitea. Healed someone on Halloween. She blessed a ring.

Elf/fairy elements

Meeting at 12:00

White magic

Finding lost goods
Love magic

Ritual objects

Aqua Vitae
Corpse powder
Wax/clay images

Calendar customs


Religious motif



Human deathYes
Transferring diseaseYes
Removal of bewitchmentYes
Recognised healerYes
Healing humansYes
Healing animalsYes
Notes on diseaseShe was accused of failing to heal many times. Her range in healing was large, North Berwick, Direlton, Preston, Dalkeith. She was hired by rich and poor people for healing. She was paid for her services. She helped ease the pain of childbirth.

Other maleficia

Property damageYes
Weather modificationYes
NotesPart of the witches' crew that wanted to destroy King James VI and Queen Ann of Denmark. The Devil bad them party on a ship, but the mariners could not see them, the Devil raised wind and rocked the boat. She confessed that she quarreled with J. Straton

Property damage


Weather modification



Books of Adjournal JC2/2 fo. 201r-207r
Books of Adjournal JC2/2 221r - 226r
Books of Adjournal JC2/2 fo. 195r-197r
Calendar of State Papers Relating to Scotland v. 10, p. 464-467
Dalkeith Presbytery records CH2/424/1, 126v.
Pitcairn v I, part II, page 209-213
Pitcairn v I, part II, page 209-211
Pitcairn v I, part II, page 246
Pitcairn v I, part II, page 252-254
Process Notes JC26/2 witchcraft bundle, item 12
Process Notes JC26/2 witchcraft bundle, item 4