The Supernatural in Early Modern Scotland

Event date: 
Friday 26 May
Institute for Advanced Studies in the Humanities 2 Hope Park Square

details and booking

The Supernatural in Early Modern Scotland


A workshop at The Institute for Advanced Studies in the Humanities
University of Edinburgh

Friday 26 May 2017


Supernatural beliefs have been vital to Scottish cultural development. In the early modern period, the kirk played an all-important role in parish life, schooling the Scots on how to interpret the invisible world. Theologians and philosophers mused about the nature of God’s providence and the wiles of the Devil, while folk tradition peopled the landscape with fairies and nature spirits. The witch trials indicate the very real consequences of belief systems that would later be reframed as fantastical.

This workshop will analyse the Scottish supernatural between c. 1500 and 1800. Drawing together scholars with interests in history, ethnology and literary studies, the workshop will explore the diverse ways in which Scots understood magical beings and extraordinary events. It will examine the cultural function of supernatural beliefs, and consider how these beliefs evolved amidst the upheaval of the Reformation, political and religious revolution, the emergence of the Enlightenment and the beginnings of romanticism. Papers from the workshop will subsequently be redrafted to form part of an edited collection.


Convener: Dr Louise Yeoman



10.20 Tea/coffee

10.40 Welcome

10.50 Dr Julian Goodare (University of Edinburgh), ‘Emotional Relationships with Spirit-Guides in Early Modern Scotland’.

11.30 Professor Liv Helene Willumsen (University of Tromsø), ‘The Ninety-Nine Dancers of Moaness: Orkney Women Between the Visible and Invisible’.

12.10 Dr Lizanne Henderson (University of Glasgow), ‘(Super)natural Animals in Early Modern Scotland’.

12.50 Lunch (provided on premises)

14.00 Dr Martha McGill (University of Edinburgh), ‘Angels and Folk Culture in Early Modern Scotland’.

14.40 Dr Michael Riordan (independent scholar), ‘The Whole Prophesie in its English and Scottish Contexts, 1603-1800’.

15.20 Tea/coffee

15.50 Dr Domhnall Uilleam Stiùbhart (Sabhal Mòr Ostaig, University of the Highlands and Islands), ‘Setting Highland Second Sight in its Historical Context’.

16.30 Dr Hamish Mathison (University of Sheffield), ‘“This mottie, misty clime”: Allan Ramsay, Robert Burns and Supernatural Verse’.

17.10 Roundtable discussion

17.55 Conclusion


For enquiries, please contact Martha McGill, m.mcgill [at]