Walking along the Murraygate pedestrian thoroughfare in Dundee, Scotland, you will come to an alleyway called Peter Street. At the entrance, on the ground, you’ll see a tiled art piece in the shape of a cone. On the opposite side of the footpath is another mosaic cone. The first looks to be holding water and the other fire. In between is a blue plaque that reads “Grissel Jaffray (Spaewife, ? - 1669).” Yet there is no further information about who this person was, or what atrocious event took place here.
Grissel Jaffray was the wife of a local and respectable businessman in the 17th century, and both she and her husband were accused of practicing witchcraft. (The term “spaewife” is Scottish for a female fortune-teller or prophetess.) Records of the trial have been lost, so there is no account of their crimes. The names of the accusers—three local ministers—and the method by which she was put to death are all that remains.
On the 11th of November, 1669, Jaffray was found guilty. As punishment, she was to be first strangled and then burnt at the stake. Apparently, her husband did not suffer the same fate. He was set free, and eventually died in the poor house.
It has also been said that Grissel Jaffray had a son who was a sailor. On learning that the smoke rising from Dundee was due to his mother’s execution, he never returned to the city.
Know Before You Go
Peter Street is at the end of the pedestrian walkway Murraygate and runs perpendicular to Seagate. The site is accessible at all hours, though daylight times are advisable to be able to admire the artwork.