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Tuesday, March 15, 2005

Napier's wizard roots

The Scotsman has a fascinating story:

He was considered a brilliant man. His role in Scotland and the impact he had across the Continent were great. He was a mathematician, inventor, laird, as well as a devoted and deeply religious family man.

He was also a noted wizard.

In fact several members of John Napier’s family – respected and wealthy participants of Edinburgh society - were commonly known to be wizards or sorcerers. Their necromantic power was feared by nobles as well as peasants from far and wide.

Digging through the digital archive of The Scotsman, one comes across a story from 1910 that is steeped in mystery, magic and intrigue. It involves the Napier family of the 16th and 17th centuries, a time in Scotland’s history when superstitions and the occult were popularly accepted. The newspaper account of the Napiers' magical links makes for interesting reading, even if it was written more than 200 years after the fact.

The family wizardry started with Napier's father, Sir Archibald, seventh Laird of Merchiston, who successfully predicted when Mary, then the former Queen of Scotland, would leave Lochleven Castle, where she was imprisoned. The story goes: "Claude Nan, the Queen's secretary, wrote that 'the Laird of Markyston (Sir Archibald), who had the reputation of being a great wizard, made bets with several persons to the amount of five hundred crowns, that by the 5th of May Her Majesty would be out of Lochleven." Mary escaped on 2 May 1568 – and the senior Napier was presumably wealthier for his prediction.


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