The Auld Toun Blog explores Edinburgh’s stories and gives updates about our latest news.
In August thousands of people pass through the Royal Mile on their way to the Royal Edinburgh Military Tattoo. Many will walk past the Witches’ Well and not notice it, tucked away into the wall of the Edinburgh Castle esplanade.
From the 16th to 18th centuries, over 300 women were accused and executed, many burned to death at the site of the Witches’ Well. Kind locals ensure the flowers are always watered and blooming.
The ‘test’ for witches was to bind their hands and throw them into the Nor’ Loch, now Princes Street Gardens. If they drowned, they were innocent, and if they survived they were burned at the stake.
Built in 1894, the Witches’ Well is a memorial to those people. The plaque reads, ‘This Fountain, designed by John Duncan, R.S.A. is near the site on which many witches were burned at the stake. The wicked head and serene head signify that some used their exceptional knowledge for evil purposes while others were misunderstood and wished their kind nothing but good. The serpent has the dual significance of evil and wisdom. The Foxglove spray further emphasises the dual purpose of many common objects.’
As you walk up to Edinburgh Castle, take a moment to remember the innocent women who were victims of the witch hysteria.