The Survey of Scottish Witchcraft


By Julian Goodare, Lauren Martin, Joyce Miller and Louise Yeoman, January 2003

The Survey of Scottish Witchcraft logo

Case Details

C/EGD/63 Agnes Sampsoune

name of accused
Agnes Sampsoune
designated title
no information
Accused Reference
Case date start
Given case date
no information
Case commission
no information
case complaint
no information
case correspondence
no information
case chronicle
no information
other details
no information


  • unorthodox religious practise (secondary characteristic)
  • demonic (secondary characteristic)
  • folk healing (secondary characteristic)
  • folk healing (primary characteristic)
  • maleficium (secondary characteristic)
  • midwifery (secondary characteristic)
  • treason (secondary characteristic)
  • white magic (secondary characteristic)
Characterisation Notes
Part 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.

Qualitative information

Non-natural beings

Devil 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.
  • Male black man
  • Animal Devil a dog
  • Spirit named Elva (Eloa)
  • Animal Devil a white stag
  • Inanimate Object Devil ruck of hay

Demonic pacts

  • Anti-baptism
  • Want nothing
  • Servant
  • Devil's Mark right knee

witches meetings

  • Witches meeting
  • Devil present
  • Malificium
  • Devilworship
  • Food and drink
  • Dancing
  • Singing
One 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?)

Meeting places

  • North Berwick Kirk Kirk
  • off the coast of the pannes Ship
  • the grace of God Ship
  • all along the south coast of the forth Shore
  • Kirk of Garvett, be-eist Burn syde Kirk
  • Foulstruther
  • Natoun Kirk Kirk
  • pier-head
  • North Berwick Kirk
  • None Hilltop

musical instruments

  • Trump

Folk culture

  • Elphane or Fairyland
  • Specific Verbal Formulae
  • Specific ritual acts
  • Unorthodox religious practice
Predicted 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.

Counter strategies

  • no information

white magic

  • Finding lost goods
  • Love magic
  • Prophesy

Elf/fairy elements

  • Elfshot
  • Meeting at 12:00


  • no information

Ritual objects

  • Elfshot
  • Shirt
  • Cat
  • Corpse
  • Wax/clay images
  • Corpse powder
  • Salt
  • Thread
  • Glass
  • Egg
  • Vinegar
  • Wine
  • Aqua Vitae

Religious motif

  • Prayer
  • Nine
  • Six

Calendar customs

  • Halloween
  • Easter
  • Michaelmas

Diseases or illness

  • Human death
  • Transferring disease
  • Removal bewitchment
  • Quarreling
  • Rec. healer
  • Healing humans
  • Healing animals
  • Midwifery
She 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.

Cause of witch's malice

  • no information

Other maleficia

  • Property damage
  • Weather modification
  • Damage to property

    • Boats

    weather modification

    • Wind
    Part 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

    Other charges

    • no information



    Claimed bewitched
    Claimed possessed
    Admitted lesser charges
    No defence
    Claimed natural causes
    Case Notes
    A 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.
    name notes
    Books of Adjournal JC2/2 fo. 201r-207r Also listed in the High Court Record Index, no. 1 for 11/1/1591.
    Dalkeith Presbytery records CH2/424/1, 126v. Note in presbytery that Agnes Samson has been apprehended for witchcraft and the brethren are to inquire in their areas for more information about her. Later note (5/11/1590) urges the brethren to use further diligence in their efforts to get information.
    Pitcairn v I, part II, page 209-213 Her trial, same text as JC2/2
    Pitcairn v I, part II, page 209-211 None
    Books of Adjournal JC2/2 fo. 195r-197r None
    Pitcairn v I, part II, page 246 None
    Pitcairn v I, part II, page 252-254 None
    Books of Adjournal JC2/2 221r - 226r None
    Calendar of State Papers Relating to Scotland v. 10, p. 464-467 her confession of 27/1/1591
    Process Notes JC26/2 witchcraft bundle, item 12 mega-confession regarding healing. Document is torn and the date is obscured.
    Process Notes JC26/2 witchcraft bundle, item 4 interrogation a shortened list.