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Dr Emma Wilby explores the impossible witch confession of Isobel Gowdie and why she did it and how it was elicited.

Now it's time to step inside the interrogation room in one of the most famous cases of all. In the spring of 1662, in Auldearn in north east Scotland, the peasant woman, Isobel Gowdie, was interrogated for witchcraft. Her confessions, made over a six-week period were studded with startling revelations of the fairy world, shot-through with folklore and charms and well-told anecdotes. They have been arresting the imagination of writers and scholars and artists for hundreds of years. They would even give birth to one of Scotland's best-known orchestral pieces: James Macmillan's 'The Confession of Isobel Gowdie'. But if you ask a witchcraft scholar like Dr Emma Wilby of Exeter University what's so remarkable about those confessions (apart from 'everything'), it's the way Isobel's own voice seems to come through to such an extent that we can begin to disentangle her from her interrogators, that we can begin to see the alchemy behind this unique confession, and to meet Isobel herself, who appears for us through her own words read by the actor Gerda Stevenson.

15 minutes

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