The Supernatural in Early Modern Scotland

Today, Manchester University Press published The Supernatural in Early Modern Scotland, a fine collection of papers which originated at a conference back in 2017, which was hosted by the Institute for Advanced Studies in the Humanities at the University of Edinburgh. It is edited by Julian Goodare, the pre-eminent scholar of Scottish witchcraft and the supernatural, and Martha McGill, whose work — across wide range of themes, from ghosts to purgatory — asks us to take the use of supernatural seriously as an intellectual project. They have put together a volume which provides a snapshot of some of the best work by scholars working in the field today, both old hats and emerging names.

My own chapter on the Whole Prophesie of Scotland examines the use of prophecies by leading politicians, to challenge the prevailing view of the supernatural as a language of the unintelligent masses.

I was lucky enough to share a fine day of discussion with five other contributors to this volume: Julian, Martha and I were joined by Domhnall Uilleam Stiùbhart, Liv Helene Willumsen and Hamish Mathison. Sadly we don’t have Lizanne Henderson’s answer to the exciting question she posed back in 2017, ‘What was life like for a cow in early modern Scotland?’ But that should not distract from the many excellent contributions. The book, like the conference, takes a broad view of the supernatural and its place in Early Modern Scotland, and has an interdisciplinary range of papers. Janet Hadley Williams and Hamish Mathison are literary scholars working on literary themes, and Georgie Blears – who won the Annabella Kirkpatrick prize for her honours dissertation, uses psychology to assess experiences of trance.

  1. Julian Goodare and Martha McGill, Exploring the supernatural in early modern Scotland
  2. Janet Hadley Williams, The elrich poems: the supernatural and the textual
  3. Julian Goodare, Emotional relationships with spirit-guides in early modern Scotland
  4. Georgie Blears, Experiencing the invisible polity: trance in early modern Scotland
  5. Liv Helene Willumsen, The ninety-nine dancers of Moaness: Orkney women between the visible and invisible
  6. Martha McGill, Angels in early modern Scotland
  7. Michael B. Riordan, Scottish political prophecies and the crowns of Britain, 1500-1840
  8. Jane Ridder-Patrick, Astrology and supernatural power in early modern Scotland
  9. Michelle D. Brock, Fallen spirits and divine grace: sermons and the supernatural in post-Reformation Scotland
  10. Martha McGill and Alasdair Raffe, The uses of providence in early modern Scotland
  11. Domhnall Uilleam Stiùbhart, The invention of Highland Second Sight
  12. Felicity Loughlin, The pagan supernatural in the Scottish Enlightenment
  13. Hamish Mathison, Eighteenth-century Scotland and the visionary supernatural

You don’t have to wait till the book hits the library shelves. If you have a subscription to Manchester Hive you can read my contribution online, or you can buy the book from Manchester University Press.