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.’
The day after Nicola Sturgeon issued a formal apology for those accused of witchcraft in Scotland, Sceptre has publicised the press release for my book on the same topic. It is wonderful timing. Sturgeon’s apology is healing not only the past but present and future misogyny. I am moved to tears and so proud to be Scottish right now.
From the Ashes and Stones trade announcement:
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 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.
Charlotte Humphery, Senior Commissioning Editor at Sceptre, who is working with Francine Toon’s authors while Toon is on parental leave, 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.’
Online via Zoom, April 30th, 7pm gmt Tickets are £25 available from Eventbrite
In this two hour workshop we’ll explore the monstrous through an intimate, personal perspective. We’ll embrace the persona of the outsider, the not-quite-human, using subversive world-building, and writing through the eyes of the cursed, the spellbound, the exiled.
April 30th is the second Halloween of the witches’ calendar. The veil is thin, the dead walk among us, werewolves are born and all good witches fly to the Brocken.
Let’s celebrate and write stories together.
For this workshop you’ll need a pen, paper and a six sided die.
This workshop is driven by feminist ideas, reworking the monstrous into new empowering guises—but also a way to explore folk horror as a wider genre with space for women and non binary people. Every workshop I design is an offering of community, creative fuel and fire to the writers and makers around me. And this one is GONNA BE HELLA FUN.
As part of the Winter’s Last program, I will presenting poetry as well as teaching an online writing workshop on January 29th.
Ghost Missives: A Writing Workshop Exploring Ancestors and Place
The nights are long and the veil is thin. We tell tales of the dead in verse and song and they tell of us in the wind, rain, ice, and stone.
In this collaborative workshop, I will facilitate the writing of letters in prose poetry to and from the ancestors.The writing will be rooted the Scottish landscape. To set the tone, the session will begin with readings specific to the liminal landscape, and move on to collaborative work.I will guide the group as they work with prompts or “Wilding Cards” I will have made up.These will be exchanged by the group. After some dealing and discussion we will get down to write using the prompts we all have. Writers will be invited to play with voice, speaking from the point of view of our ancestors, ourselves or the land itself. In the final section of the workshop there will be opportunity for further collaboration between writers as well as time to read and share with the group.
Hello friends– this month’s new moon tale is inspired by a visit to Hoy I made many years ago to visit the 5,000 year old stone house/portal tomb called the Dwarvie Stane. On that visit, I happened upon the grave of Betty Corrigall. This was back before everything could be found on the internet, back before her grave had a brown tourist sign. The grave held a fascination to me–who was she? Now you can find online the answers to everything but this question. It was only recently I found that this grave has held an entirely different, ghoulish fascination for others. This tale is also inspired by an old fairy tale called the “Dwarvie Stane.” Become a subscriber to my Patreon to listen and read this tale now.
Every month I write a new fairy tale based on an old Scottish tale, and I share it with my Patrons on Patreon. This month’s New Moon tale is “The Bell that Never Rang” It is a fairytale laid over the psychogeography at the centre of Glasgow. I have always loved Glasgow. Tourists may visit Edinburgh—and it is a lovely place—but if I had to choose a city that is the heart and soul of Scotland, it would be Glasgow. “St. Enoch” is a name you see in the city, and I always assumed it was the name of some random, male Christian saint who converted the Picts. But Enoch is a woman—the first recorded rape victim in Scotland. In this tale, I’ve shifted the “facts” of the prism of her life to let the light through another facet.
Her sacred places were many in the city and they are all now lost, renamed and buried under shopping malls and roundabouts. She was the mother of the founder of Glasgow, Saint Mungo. His name is perhaps more famous now because of the Hospital for Magical Maladies in the Harry Potter books, which is named after him.
School children used this mnemonic device to remember his miracles, and I have used one of them to name this story:
Here is the bird that never flew
Here is the tree that never grew
Here is the bell that never rang
Here is the fish that never swam
The image of Saint Tenu in the collage above is taken from an icon in the Mull Monastery by Friar Serafim.
“On that cold night, the trows watched and waited. Everyone knows the veil is thin when a new soul comes into the world…”
This month’s New Moon Tale, “The Changelings,” is a version of a Shetlandic story called “Mind the Crooked Finger,” up at my Patreon. For the Seelie Court and Golden Fold subscription tiers, There is a PDF file to download and read at your leisure, and an mp3 sound file of me reading the story.
At each New Moon since the pandemic lockdown’s began, I’ve published a bedtime story based on a traditional Scottish folktale. This is the sixth in what I plan to be a series of 13.
Other good news–you can now subscribe to my Patreon in your own currency. Current subscribers can also change to their own currency, but the amount you pay will stay the same.
My piece “The Witch’s Skull: the Search for Lilias Adie’s Remains is published at Cunning Folk Magazine. You can read it here. The illustration for the piece is by the wonderful artist, Kaitlynn Copithorne.
My poem “Moth” about the folk belief that moths were perhaps witches in another form, will appear in the Superstition themed issue of Stonecoast Review, number 13, available from this online bookseller.