About Allyson Shaw

Black and white photograph of a woman holding a sheep skull taken with an antique camera.
Portrait by Gordon Fraser taken with an antique collodion camera.

Allyson Shaw has worked as a professional writer for the last thirty years. Her writing on folklore and history has appeared in numerous journals and anthologies including Monster Verse: Poems Human and Inhuman in the Everyman’s Library Pocket Poets Series, Rituals and Declarations and The Bottle Imp. She spent her formative years in California and now lives on the northeast coast of Scotland.

She is represented by Kevin Pocklington at The North Literary Agency.

Her first creative nonfiction book, Ashes and Stones: a Scottish journey in search of witches & witness will be published by Sceptre, an imprint of Hodder & Stoughton, 19 January 2023.

out 19 Jan 23

 Ashes and Stones is a moving and personal journey, along rugged coasts and through remote villages and modern cities, in search of the traces of those accused of witchcraft in seventeenth-century Scotland.

Allyson Shaw has built a monument in words to the thousands persecuted as witches in Scotland. A fascinating and necessary book. 

— Peter Ross, author of A Tomb with a View, winner of the Saltaire Award for nonfiction, 2022. 

Allyson Shaw untangles the myth of witchcraft and gives voice to those erased by it. Her elegant and lucid prose weaves threads of history and feminist reclamation, alongside beautiful travel, nature and memoir writing, to create a vibrant memorial. This is the untold story of the witches’ monuments of Scotland and the women’s lives they mark. Ashes and Stones is a trove of folklore linking the lives of modern women to the horrors of the past, and it is record of resilience and a call to choose and remember our ancestors. 

‘I longed for an authentic glimpse of the women executed for witchcraft hundreds of years ago, and I went out into the landscape to meet them. Their voices and lives became braided with my own in moving and unexpected ways. I’m excited that Sceptre will bring this humanising perspective on the accused to a wider audience.’

–Allyson Shaw

Charlotte Humphery, Senior Commissioning Editor at Sceptre, says: ‘Ashes and Stones is a beautiful exploration of a dark history that is often forgotten or trivialised. Thousands of women were murdered by state forces during the witch hunts and Allyson Shaw revives some of these women – through historical records, physical presence and informed imagination – with tenderness and compassion. In this book, she has created her own memorial that is rich with magic of folk lore and the power of the Scottish landscape and resonant with the politics of today. We are delighted to be publishing this brilliant and important book.’

Praise for Shaw’s poetry:

“Here Narrative–if elsewhere in disgrace,
dares lift her skirts–she’s armed with talons–
and show her face.
What’s this she hurls with both her fists?
Bonbons from the burning moon
to poison our parents–
not a moment too soon.”
–Rikki Ducornet

“Allyson Shaw’s poetry wrestles fearlessly with strong angels, and invokes the aid of some great provocateurs – William Blake and Sylvia Plath among them. The drama is terrific here: Shaw has a righteous quarrel with the order of things, and at the same time her language displays a tender, eloquent love of this world. Passion and pattern strike a rare accord in these poems.”
– Judith Grossman, author of How Aliens Think

“Allyson Shaw renders female experience with the dark wit of Anne Sexton– mixed with the sensual surprise and elegiac glee of Emily Dickinson.” — Jill Hoffman, author of Mink Coat.

6 thoughts on “About Allyson Shaw

  1. Dear Allyson, I am currently signed up for Alice and Claire’s online tarot course, Toil and Trouble, so that’s how I got to see the ‘Rites for Writing’ information, and lo and behold, it was already sold out. I’m not at all surprised. But if you have a list of people waiting to see if you have any cancellations, please may I join it? Are you planning to provide any other classes?
    I’m currently plotting a novel based around medicine, early printing, tarot, witchcraft and generally seeking one’s path, set in early 16thC England and the Netherlands, and I crave beautiful writing from other pens as input for my inspiration and guidance.


    1. Hello Maggie–thank you for getting in touch. Cailleach Herbarium and the Taibshear Collective are organising the Rot and Rising workshops– it would be best to get in touch with them to be added to a waiting list. Your novel sounds fascinating and just the kind of thing I like to read. I will be teaching other workshops in the future. I will announce them via email and you can sign up for my email newsletter here http://eepurl.com/hpTa8v


  2. I am loving your book ‘Ashes & Stones”Allyson. It is a great comfort to me after the loss of my shamanic partner. I am writing a book about her.


    1. Hello Ian, thank you so much for your comment and for reading the book. I’m so sorry for your loss. A book is a profound offering! I wish you well on your path and with the writing.


  3. Dear Allyson
    I just wanted to say how much I found Ashes & Stones truly, exceptionally and profoundly moving. The way you have woven your own biography with the lives of these wonderful women is seamless and I thank you so much for bringing their tragic stories to light; these so needed to be told. As someone who recently lived in a remote farmer’s cottage under the shadow of the Law in North Berwick and who now lives in Haddington which seemingly was a hotbed of witch activity in East Lothian in the 17thC, I so felt I could identify with your profound protagonists and travelled your journey round Scotland with you- and them. Having also lived in Edinburgh for almost 2 decades before moving to rural climes, on a recent return I could simply not look at the city the same way again; for me it is now drenched in the blood- no, ashes, and tears of those prosecuted and I shuddered at the Castle which looms above the main thoroughfare. Thank you again for this most exceptional book, an adventure, a true eye-opener, a vividly haunting true story which will remain with me for a very long time.
    Blessed Be, Katja, Haddington


    1. Katja, thank you so much for reading the book and for your kindness here. It is healing for me to hear ways the book is resonating with folk who share the landscape with these ancestors. This journey changed Scotland for me, too–and continues to in wonderful and unexpected ways, as I connect with passionate readers like yourself!


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