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.’
My Fitcher’s Bird Sestina is up at the beautifully edited Sycorax Journal. It’s one of a collection of 13 poems, all new versions of traditional bird-lore fairy tales. Fitcher’s Bird is a Grimm’s Bluebeard tale, and I have set it to the music of the sestina form. I have long been obsessed with the fractal like structure of sestinas, with their intricate feeling of spiralling return.
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.
My author interview with the Luna Station Quarterly Editors is up at the LSQ website. You can read it here. My story “Gald” about a fictional Pictish potion was published in their 10 year anniversary issue.