Ashes and Stones

A Scottish journey in search of witches and witness

It’s summer. I stand where perhaps Ellen stood, in this ground thick with new thistle and long grass. She would have ken this coast in all weathers: in the summer when it was as gentle as a lake and in the winter, with the high winds and stinging salt spray.’

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. We visit modern memorials, roadside shrines and standing stones, and roam among forests and hedge mazes, folk lore and political fantasies. From fairy hills to forgotten caves, we explore a spellbound landscape.

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.

…atmospheric, scholarly – and gripping – Ashes & Stones… gives life to many of the women burned as witches in Scotland.  Shocking and important – it made me realise this hasn’t been done before, nor have I questioned why until now.

–Laline Paull, author of Pod and The Bees

Shaw’s writing is utterly compelling and her perspective is vital. I was spellbound from start to finish, Ashes & Stone is a work of devotion. This is what it means to write with care and with candour. Ashes and Stones is both genuine memorial and galvanising activism in book form.

–Sally Huband, author of Sea Bean

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Available at Watersones

Blackwells (offers free shipping to the USA)

…a moving reminder for us all to connect with what’s gone before

-The Stylist

The North American edition, titled Ashes and Stones: a journey through Scotland in search of women hunted as witches will be published by Pegasus Books, distributed b Simon & Schuster. Out on October 3rd, 2023.

Praise from readers

…an adventure, a true eye-opener, a vividly haunting true story which will remain with me for a very long time.

Katja, Haddington

This is a book that speaks back to power, both currently and indeed across the centuries. 

Eims, Goodreads

,,,the author herself had an extremely compelling reason not only to write the book, but to include within it, a memoir of why she has chosen to do this. This lends added poignancy to each piece of information she uncovers…

The horrifying carnage of what happened to these Scottish women who failed to conform will likely shock many – as it should. But what is also likely to stay with them is the profound empathy and respect with which Ms Shaw has brought them back to life on these pages.

–Melanie Garrett