Was a human sacrifice carried out on Black Isle?

The brutal killing of a 'friendless man' is said to have been carried out by a wizard as two lairds sought a cure for a strange, fatal disease sweeping their cattle.

Redcastle at Killearnan on the Black Isle. It's laird is said to have agreed to hand over a local man for a human sacrifice in the late 1600s. PIC Wikicommons.

During the late 17th Century, a large number of cattle in the Black Isle were attacked by a “strange malady” which usually ended in madness and death of the beasts.

The Kilcoy and Redcastle estates, in the possession of Clan Mackenzie, were particularly badly hit, with a “large sum of money” offered by the lairds to anyone who could find a cure.

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It is claimed an “old warlock belonging to the parish” agree to protect the cattle from the disease - as long as he was provided with a human sacrifice for the job.

The lairds are said to have agreed to this rather dark proposal.

The account is included in the The Prophecies of the Brahan Seer by folklorist Alexander Mackenzie, which was originally published in 1899 and reprinted in 1970 with further commentary on his predictions.

It said: “A large barn at Parkton was, from its secluded position, selected as a suitable place for the horrid crime, where a poor friendless man, who lived at Linwood, close to the site of the present Free Church manse, was requested, under some pretence, to appear on a certain day.”

The account spares no details as to the brutal treatment of the Highlander.

It added: “The unsuspecting creature obeyed the summons of his superiors; he was instantly bound and disembowelled alive by the horrid wizard, who dried the heart, liver, pancreas and reduced them to powder, of which he ordered a little to be given to the diseased animals in water.”

Close to death, the victim is said to have uttered his last words. When translated from Gaelic, they read: “Let the day never come when the family of Redcastle shall be without a female idiot, or the family of Kilcoy without a food.”

It is said that the Brahan Seer, in an earlier written work, predicted the spell would be made against the family and that its call would be ultimately granted.

The account said: “The history of the Kilcoy family has been an unfortunate one in late years.

“It appears, not only that this wild imprecation was to some extent realised, but also that the Brahan Seeer, years before, knew and predicted it would be made, and that it prayer would be ultimately granted.

“It would be difficult to describe the position of the family and the state of their castle, with out present knowledge of their history, and in their present position, more faithfully that Coinneach Odhar has done more that two centuries ago.”

Redcastle had passed into the possession of the Mackenzies by the early 17th century. Rory Mackenzie succeeded to Redcastle in 1629 and his own new strong house of Redcastle was plundered by The Covenanters in 1649.

In 1790, the debt-ridden Mackenzie’s sold Redcastle and it now forms part of the Douchfour Estate. It is now a ruin.

Meanwhile, much work has been done to both discredit and support the recorded predictions of the Brahan Seer, real name Coinneach Odhar, or Kenneth Mackenzie in English, believed to have been born on Lewis in the 1600s.

It is said he was killed in a barrel of hot tar on the orders of Lady Seaforth, for whom he worked at Brahan Castle near Dingwall, after he predicted her husband was having an affair.

Some believe Brahan Seer never even existed - and that he was indeed the creation of Mackenzie himself.