In 1590 three hundred Scottish 'witches' were tried for plotting the murder of their King, James VI of Scotland (soon to be James I of England). James is known to have suffered from a morbid fear of violent death, and the trial heightened his anxiety over this apparently treasonous 'un-Christian' sect, and stimulated him to study the whole subject of witchcraft. 'Daemonologie' is the result of this royal research, detailing his opinions on the topic in the form of a Socratic dialogue between the sceptic Philomathes and witch-averse Epistemon, who reveals many aspects of witch-craft. The book consists of three sections, on magic, on sorcery and witchcraft, and on spirits and ghosts, and ends with a lurid account of the North Berwick witch trials, based on the evidence of Dr John Fian, the alleged head of the coven, whose 'confession' was obtained with the aid of thumbscrews, the Boot, and by the ripping out of his fingernails.
Written by King James I and published in 1597, the original edition of Demonology is widely regarded as one of the most interesting and controversial religious writings in history, yet because it is written in the language of its day, it has been notoriously difficult to understand. Now occult scholar Donald Tyson has modernized and annotated the original text, making this historically important work accessible to contemporary readers. Also deciphered here, for the first time, is the anonymous tract News from Scotland, an account of the North Berwick witch trials over which King James presided. Tyson examines King James’ obsession with witches and their alleged attempts on his life, and offers a knowledgeable and sympathetic look at the details of magick and witchcraft in the Jacobean period. Demonology features historical woodcut illustrations and includes the original old English texts in their entirety. This reference work is the key to an essential source text on seventeenth-century witchcraft and the Scottish witch trials
King James is well known as the most prolific writer of all the Stuart monarchs, publishing works on numerous topics and issues. These works were widely read, not only in Scotland and England but also on the Continent, where they appeared in several translations. In this book, Dr Stilma looks both at the domestic and international context to James's writings, using as a case study a set of Dutch translations which includes his religious meditations, his epic poem The Battle of Lepanto, his treatise on witchcraft Daemonologie and his manual on kingship Basilikon Doron. The book provides an examination of James's writings within their original Scottish context, particularly their political implications and their role in his management of his religio-political reputation both at home and abroad. The second half of each chapter is concerned with contemporary interpretations of these works by James's readers. The Dutch translations are presented as a case study of an ultra-protestant and anti-Spanish reading from which James emerges as a potential leader of protestant Europe; a reputation he initially courted, then distanced himself from after his accession to the English throne in 1603. In so doing this book greatly adds to our appreciation of James as an author, providing an exploration of his works as politically expedient statements, which were sometimes ambiguous enough to allow diverging - and occasionally unwelcome - interpretations. It is one of the few studies of James to offer a sustained critical reading of these texts, together with an exploration of the national and international context in which they were published and read. As such this book contributes to the understanding not only of James's works as political tools, but also of the preoccupations of publishers and translators, and the interpretative spaces in the works they were making available to an international audience.