Grave of the Torryburn Witch Found in Scotland

The grave of a witch in Torryburn, Scotland

In 1704, an old poor woman in Torryburn, Scotland named Lilias Adie confessed to being a witch and having sex with the devil. She died in prison, however, before she could be tried, sentenced and burned at the stake.

She was buried in the muck of the coast with a large rock slab over her, most likely to prevent her corpse being reanimated by the devil to have sex with other witches.

Sometime in the late 19th century, her skull and other bits were dug up and sold. Her skull ended up in the St Andrews University Museum, where it was photographed before being lost, much like the grave itself.

The skull of the Torryburn witch stolen on display in the St Andrews University Museum

Though the location of Lilias’ skull remains a mystery, the BBC reports that Fife Council archaeologist Douglas Speirs and his crew recently discovered the grave by following 19th century descriptions of the location. Speirs says it is likely some of the witch’s remains may still be found beneath the stone slab.

Recent: Face of the Torryburn witch revealed in digital reconstruction

53 replies
  1. Avatar
    Jan says:

    I read the article, because I stumbled upon it on Pinterest and was intrigued by the title. After reading all of the comments, I couldn’t help but think that poor Lilias doesn’t even have peace in death. Here we are in a new millennium and people continue to put her on trial. Best thing we can do is let this go and bury our hatchet with poor Lilias. Lets be kinder to one another starting now. Haven’t we learned anything from these witchcraft accusations in days of old that were more often baseless and s very cruel that they ruined people’s lives? Oh, people! When will we stop fighting with one another and just live in peace?

    Reply
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    Felix Hummel says:

    That surely doesn’t look like the skull of an old woman. That’s a young person for sure. The teeth are almost complete, just some lost post mortem and no sing of periodontal disease.

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    R1ck says:

    No 1. Fu@# religion, I’m nice to people because I want to be not because a fairy tale tells me to.

    No2. This is why I want to be buried. After I’ve given my whole body to donation so I can live on that bit longer. Bury me shallow and somewhere in the way, after the rats have knawed on my bones some kids might find my skull sticking out and nick it! Then have a good kick about. After finding it’s not a football with fillings they’ll take it to some gypsies who’ll cut a hole in the top and flog it as a piggy bank. Not forgetting my bones, hopefully scientists will find them and declare this man was either brutally murdered or just partied hard then wot eva the end…

    Reply
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      Devi Welch says:

      R1ck Gypsy is not a proper term it’s ROMA people.I’m Roma and I don’t nick skulls and sell them as piggy banks.I don’t know any that do or anyone really roma or not that would do that.Just saying we are neither Egyptian which is what “gypsy”is slang for.WE are all originally,culturally Indian /India.Just Saying!Have a great week.Cheers,Devi Welch 😉

      Reply
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      Allen J Werth says:

      She was or is a which, the Devil is part of a Christian religions story, ie we don’t believe in the Devil other than the devils that tortured this women into admitting to any fantasy their sick religion fueled minds could come up with, Now I may not believe in you bible but I have read it. Maybe you should, there is no hell in your book. It is a garbage pit were they burned the trash on the side of the city.

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        hoodedman1 says:

        Hopefully so that we don’t believe falsehoods about our past and place in the world AND don’t sound like a brainless oaf

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        Simone Templar says:

        I seem to be the only commenter that realizes Nicole was being totally facetious to poke fun at mindsurfer’s “get over it” comment. One of my favorite parts of the internet is watching people lob insults like “dipshit” and “brainless oaf” while themselves waist-deep in the process of not getting it. The more condescending they are, the funnier the sound of shit sailing over their head.

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  4. Avatar
    Maura says:

    What makes me wonder is this: ~Who~ claimed it to be her skull and where is the proof of it? Was her head removed before interment, to be buried elsewhere? Did someone claim it as such to gain notoriety? No one should rob a grave for any reason, but this disturbs me greatly. If it is her skull, I feel sorry for her, poor lady.

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    • Avatar
      Stephen says:

      If it is an idiot you look for , or in Christianity a fool, you need look no further then your own comment. As for the story, of which your comment had no relation too, well take time to read it…pretty interesting..

      Reply
  5. Avatar
    Steve Wilson says:

    Old women often occupied land that the greedy coveted, and may even have been kept by “the parish” – essentially living off charity. The easiest way to get rid of them was to accuse them of witchcraft. I am a pagan of of over 35 years standing and I long ago stopped recuiting old dead Christian women to my faith through a distorted view of history and a perverted desire to make my beliefs seem more valid because they are old. The pagan revival began in recent decades, the Druid revival in just the last couple of centuries, and these poor old women had nothing to do with either.

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      utd8yf8ycihv says:

      Amen! I respect the sh*t out of you for not using Christianity for a back drop to describe your beliefs. I.E. I’m a Pagan, here is what my religion is NOT (insert nothing but Christian bashing). I’d sit and listen to a Pagan all day without judgement if they could do their own apologetics!

      Reply
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      greyskye says:

      Sadly, a practice still going on today in many countries. Always look to who benefited most from the death of the witch to find the real evil.

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  6. Avatar
    Stacy says:

    Pagans crack me up. Do you honestly think these poor people had access to multi colored little candles, statues of Isis, sage bundles, or made wands with jewelry hanging off them? What remained of any sort of “paganism” was simple folk medicine or sympathetic magic like water witching. These people of 1500 to 1700 were long past remembering any gods or goddesses. Brigid would be bout the only one because she was enveloped into Christianity. This woman was most assuredly a Christian who confessed because you had a better chance of surviving if you confessed. Scotland’s witch trials made Salem look like a utopia. I say give the woman a secular funeral whether any more remains are found or not.

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      Pete says:

      why would she get a Pagan Burial, we don’t even know if she was a pagan, whatever that means? and who really cares? this poor woman was treated badly she deserved a fair chance, she never got it!

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    Monica says:

    Maybe Christian to others by label, but I bet in her heart & soul she still knew who she was, hence, the jail time….

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    Ozma says:

    So sad for the poor woman. All of her remains need to be found and she needs to be given a respectable burial, whatever that may be, and she should be left in peace. Also, her story should be told lest we forget the lessons from our past.

    Reply
  9. Avatar
    Pete says:

    I studied life of Lilly for adult learning project, she was badly treated, glad her grave was found again, I hope one day she gets a Christian Burial x

    Reply
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          Monica says:

          Why not? Because she WASN’T a Christian. Definitely not by choice. Sure, Scotland may have been Christian by default, but look what they were put through. She deserves a Pagan burial, with bagpipes playing Going Home.

          Reply
          • Avatar
            Pete says:

            Thing is we don’t know if she was pagan? it was proved by the shape of her skull which was misshapen she may have had mental issues, maybe she was just insane?

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            BJ says:

            Even if she wasn’t Christian by choice, she wasn’t Pagan either. At least not in any way that would resemble contemporary NeoPaganism. If she engaged in local folk customs then that wouldn’t look like ancient Scottish Paganism so modern Reconstructionist Paganism wouldn’t match to it either. There are some good folklorist collections which record Scottish folk customs that would have been similar at the time she lived, but they would have all been in a Christian context. So if she died under normal circumstances she would have had a Christian funeral with local folk traditions attached. It’s somewhat insulting and is reminiscent of ethnographic bias or cultural imperialism to try and force a deceased 18th century woman to be a modern Pagan because of our assumptions and viewpoints. She probably did not do witchcraft, if she did it would not have been similar to modern Wicca or NeoPagan witchcraft.

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            Pete says:

            I am not sure if anyone in them days bothered if they were pagan or Christian, don’t suppose they new what a Pagan was lol, they just did what they felt right, just like we do today 🙂

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          Amanda says:

          I was Christened but am and will always be pagan. As with many christenings mine was done for a family get together nothing else lol

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          John Bowler says:

          Sorry but I believe you’re wrong I was christened as a baby as such I was indoctrinated without my knowledge or approval

          Reply
    • Avatar
      Sommer says:

      Why would she want a Christian burial, healers/witches were killed and treated as they were because they didn’t/wouldn’t conform to Christian church

      Reply
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        lily says:

        That’s not entirely true. Many, many women and men who were Christians, so to speak, we’re accused,tried and convicted of witchcraft. It was easier to be accused if you were different, especially if you were female and a healer, but pagan and Christian rites were practiced together and still are if you really study where and how holidays and many saints were once pagan but adopted by the church. I have not read about this particular woman yet so I don’t know why she was accused but if she was poor, old, and in anyway slightly different than the rest of her society, her chances of being accused of being a witch were very high.

        Reply
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        D.R. Marks says:

        I see a lot of complete stupidity here. I’m not saying everyone here is stupid. Just some of you. I am a Christian and bash others of my own beliefs for their complete stupidity. I believe you should believe what ever you want. Who Am I to put down another person for their beliefs. We should learn to evolve as humans and ban together instead of bicker over our petty differences. I see similarities of paganism in Christianity. And see the same christian similarities in paganism. Most beliefs teach morality and love. Why should We war with each other when there is so much more we can do as a species together. The past is full of errors on the part of people doing dumb things out of fear or attempted control of others. Or done out of a complete lack of knowledge. People fear what they do not understand. So please in the future think before you speak. After all many wars have been fought over a lack of understanding another person. Or a prejudice of some one different.

        Reply

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