Format Hardcover
Publication Date 10/03/23
ISBN 9781639365296
Trim Size / Pages 6 x 9 in / 304

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Ashes and Stones

A Journey Through Scotland in Search of Women Hunted as Witches

Allyson Shaw

A moving and personal journey, along rugged coasts and through remote villages and cities, in search of the traces of those accused of witchcraft in seventeenth-century Scotland.

'It's summer. I stand where perhaps Ellen stood, in this ground thick with new thistle and long grass. She would have kenned this coast in all weathers: in the summer when it was as gentle as a lake and in the winter, with the high winds and stinging salt spray.'

In Ashes and Stones we visit modern memorials and standing stones, and roam among forests and hedge mazes, folklore and political fantasies. From fairy hills to forgotten caves, we explore a spellbound landscape.

Allyson Shaw untangles the myth of witchcraft and gives voice to those erased by it. Her elegant and lucid prose weaves together threads of history and feminist reclamation to create a vibrant memorial. This is the untold story of the witches' monuments of Scotland and the women's lives they mark. Ashes and Stones is a trove of folklore linking the lives of contemporary women to the horrors of the past, a record of resilience and a call to choose and remember our ancestors.

Allyson Shaw has worked as a professional writer for the last thirty years. Her writing on folklore and history has appeared in numerous journals and anthologies including Monster Verse: Poems Human and Inhuman in the Everyman's Library Pocket Poets Series, Rituals and Declarations and The Bottle Imp. She spent her formative years in California and now lives on the northeast coast of Scotland. Find her online at

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Endorsements & Reviews

“In Ashes and Stones, an incantational group biography infused with personal narrative, Allyson Shaw excavates lives exploited by literature and pop culture. Shaw passes over centuries-old footsteps like fingers on Braille; the lilt of her voice on the page is lyrical magic.” The New York Times Book Review
“Ashes and Stones is a powerful travelogue that revisits the history of the witch trials in Scotland. The intimacy of Shaw’s musings, and the parallels that she draws between the victims of the witch trials and the realities that many modern women face, make this a consequential history text. It stands to change the ways that people view those who were killed. And it honors women who were neither supernatural nor evil, but who were human and deserving of remembrance as such.” Foreword Reviews
“Very atmospheric, scholarly, and gripping. Shaw gives life to many of the women burned as witches in Scotland. Shocking and important—it made me realize this hasn't been done before, nor have I questioned why until now." Laline Paull, author of The Bees and Pod, Finalist for the Women’s Prize
"Allyson Shaw’s journey is both deeply insightful and profoundly respectful. Shaw’s writing is utterly compelling and her perspective is vital. I was spellbound from start to finish, Ashes & Stones is a work of devotion and both genuine memorial and galvanizing activism. This is what it means to write with care and with candor.” Sally Huband, author of Sea Bean
“The past is a treacherous landscape shrouded in the mists of myth and misogyny, and Shaw is the sun burning through to reveal clear paths and daunting vistas alike. Profound, personal, and tragically timely, this is more than an important book—it’s a requiem that rises to a rallying cry.” Jesse Bullington, author of The Folly of the World
"In Ashes and Stone Shaw has written a compelling and intimate pilgrimage across Scotland as she visits the sites of notorious witch trials to connect with and comment on the memorials left there to the murdered people who perished through greed, misogyny, and superstition. A fascinating exploration of the search for personal identity, the ever-present dangers of religious and political extremism, and how we examine and process the murderous injustices from our past."
Helen Callaghan, author of Night Falls, Still Moving
“Allyson Shaw has built a monument in words to the thousands persecuted as witches in Scotland. A fascinating and necessary book.”
Peter Ross, author of A Tomb With a View