CNN.com reports that a Scottish town is going to "publicly declare pardons for 81 local people executed in the 16th and 17th centuries for being witches." The article notes that, for Scotland as a whole, "More than 3,500 Scots, mainly woman and children, and their cats were killed in witch hunts at a time of political intrigue and religious ferment." No doubt the cats were suspected of being "familiar spirits" in league with Satan along with their witch-owners. Or maybe they were killed simply for being cats. It happens. Cat lovers will be pleased to learn, however, that the town of Prestonpans extended the pardon to the executed cats as well as the women and children. FARMS research lead: Egyptians loved cats. There must be a link.
This is no Halloween joke. The issues, it seems, actually fall under the jurisdiction of "the Baron Courts of Prestoungrange and Dolphinstoun," which is due to be abolished at the end of November and apparently decided to provide a measure of relief to the departed witches (and their cats) before its dissolution. In its order, the court supported the decision to pardon woman, child, and beast by noting that most "were convicted on the basis of spectral evidence -- that is to say, prosecuting witnesses declared that they felt the presence of evil sprits or heard spirit voices." The court continued: "Such spectral evidence is impossible to prove or to disprove; nor is it possible for the accused to cross-examine the spirit concerned." Yes, spectral evidence raises a host of troubling questions.