Bid to return skull taken from Scotland's only witch grave launched

The digitally reconstructed face of 18th-century 'witch' Lilias Adie. University of Dundee
The digitally reconstructed face of 18th-century 'witch' Lilias Adie. University of Dundee
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Campaigners have launched a search for the missing skull of a 18th century woman accused of having sex with the devil.

Fife councilllor Kate Stewart said she hopes members of the public can help locate the skull of Fife woman Lilias Adie who was accused of being a witch in 1704.

Originally from Torryburn, she confessed to being a witch and having sex with the devil.

Lilias Adie died in prison before she could be tried, sentenced and burned. To prevent her soul coming back to torment the living, her body was buried under a large stone slab on Torryburn beach.

By the 19th century, some of her bones, including her skull, had been removed from the grave. The skull’s last known location was at the Empire Exhibition at Bellahouston Park in Glasgow in 1938.

Before it went on display, photographs were taken by St Andrews University.

Dr Christopher Rynn at the University of Dundee created a facial reconstruction of Lilias in 2018, giving us the only known face of a Scottish woman accused of witchcraft.

On Saturday August 31, a memorial service will be held for Lilias to highlight the history of witch persecution in Fife in an aim to re-position them from “hallowe’en style” villains, to the innocent victims of gender bias.

Cllr Stewart said: “A conference was held in May in Dunfermline, with about 140 attendees, where people said they wanted to highlight this injustice against women.

“Lilias Adie is the only witch’s grave in Scotland – the rest were all burned.

“I don’t think even a lot of local people are aware of just how important the grave is, or even that it’s there.”

She added: “There’s also the campaign to return Lilias’ bones. They were sold to St Andrews students in the 1800s. We’re trying to trace her to bring her home to Torryburn.”