A CAMPAIGN is to be launched for a national memorial to Scotland’s “witches” as well as the return of the missing remains of the woman given the country’s only revenant burial.

At a special ceremony at the grave of Lilias Adie next Saturday a proposal will also be put forward for a Witches Memorial Trail along the coastal path in West Fife.

Adie, who died in custody in 1704, became the only “witch” to be given a revenant burial as it was feared she would rise from the grave and return to wreak revenge on her persecutors.

The site in Torryburn is the only known witch’s grave in Scotland but it was robbed by curio hunters in 1852 and the last sighting of her skull was at the Empire Exhibition in 1938 at Bellahouston in Glasgow.

Now an appeal is being made for the return of her bones so that a proper memorial can be made to honour Adie and all those who suffered during the witch persecutions in Scotland.

Usually those accused of being witches were burned but because Adie died in custody after being maltreated it was thought her body would be reanimated by Satan and she would come back to terrorise those who had persecuted her.

Medieval historians referred to these reanimated bodies as “revenants” from the Latin word “reveniens”, meaning returning, and the related French verb “revenir”, meaning to come back.

“The idea of returning from the grave was a very old one and a key feature of witchcraft belief was that if someone died having given power to Satan he could reanimate you after your death,” said Fife Council archaeologist Douglas Speirs who rediscovered the grave in 2014.

“Fearing the potential of revenant they buried her hastily and unceremoniously out on the foreshore which was traditionally reserved for those who died out of God’s grace. They locked her in a wooden box rather than a coffin and for good measure put a half ton slab on top of her to stop her rising out.

“It’s a gut churningly, sickening story – you can’t help being moved by it.

“Poor Lilias was treated so harshly but after her death she became almost a celebrity. Part of her coffin was owned by the world’s richest man and her skull was in the Empire Exhibition.”

Wood from the chest containing Adie’s body was taken from her grave in 1852 by curio hunters along with her skull and bones. They were working on the instructions of Dunfermline’s famed antiquarian Joseph Neil Paton who was keen on phrenology, a quasi-science widespread at the time, which postulated that a person’s character could be determined from the lumps and bumps on their skull.

He passed Adie’s skull on to the Fife Medical Association and it then went on to the University of St Andrew’s anatomical collection. Meanwhile some of the wood from her “coffin” was crafted into two walking sticks as trophy momentos.

One of these is in Dunfermline Museum and the other in the Dunfermline Carnegie Birthplace Museum.

Andrew Carnegie was given the walking stick by Robert Baxter Brimer, who had helped dig up Adie’s grave in 1852.

It’s also possible that Adie’s skull features in one of the paintings by Paton’s son, the artist Joseph Noel Paton, who often used items from his father’s collection in the background of his works.

There are old photographs of the skull taken 100 years ago at St Andrews University. This has allowed a facial reconstruction to be created – the only accurate likeness of a Scottish “witch” in existence.

Speirs, who was introduced to Adie’s case in 2014 by historian Dr Louise Yeoman, managed to find the grave on Torryburn’s foreshore. He has since been hunting for her skull and bones.

“I’ve written to various collections in Scotland but so far not been able to find them,” he said.

He said it seemed strange that there was no national memorial or retrospective apology to those who had been persecuted.

“It’s surprising there has been not yet been a degree of interest in the wrong done by the authorities in this case and there is no national memorial to commemorate these innocent people who were persecuted,” he said.

“It seems fitting to erect a memorial both to Lilias and more widely to all those persecuted as it was a horrible phase of historical injustice with a gender bias against women.

“Innocent people were persecuted and tried in an appalling way but that human suffering issue has been lost in the way we talk about witchcraft.

“The really stunning thing about Adie’s case is that it happened in 1704, the Enlightenment century and century of achievement.

“It’s a horrible reminder of the degree to which there was still a very strong belief in witchcraft.”

On Saturday a wreath will be laid on behalf of Fife Council by depute provost Julie Ford. Another wreath will be laid after a wreath-making workshop in Torryburn Hall led by countryside ranger Lyn Strachan and Councillor Kate Stewart, who has been a key driver in pushing for more recognition of Adie’s case.

“We are wanting a memorial not just for her but for everybody who perished after being accused of being a witch,” said Stewart. “There is no recognition that these people were killed for nothing.’’

“When you dig down it was a horrible, horrible time for ordinary folk, particularly women. The suffering was horrendous and we should recognise that wrong was done and remember them in a respectful way.”

She said a witch trail could link Torryburn with Culross, which was a centre of witch executions and is already attracting visitors after featuring in hit TV series Outlander.