'Athena' Memorial Statue - Atlas Obscura

'Athena' Memorial Statue

Prestopans, Scotland

A monument honoring 81 residents of this Scottish town who were executed for witchcraft in the 16th century. 

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Situated in a cul-de-sac of a residential housing development in the suburbs of the coastal town of Prestopans, stands a larger-than-life statue of a woman in period dress reading a book. There is no placard present to give the viewer a reason or explanation for this metal sculpture, but it is a memorial to a dark and unsettling period in history.

A couple hundred years ago, many parts of Europe were swept up in a hysterical episode known as the witch craze. Between the 14th and 18th centuries, thousands of individuals—mostly women—were accused of practicing dark arts and consorting with the devil. Scotland was notorious for its high rates of convictions and executions. The sleepy seaside village of Prestopans did not escape this scourge unscathed.

It is estimated that 81 residents of Prestopans, both women and men (and some animals) were tried and convicted of practicing witchcraft. This statue was created to acknowledge this heinous act of barbarity and to pay tribute to all of those who lost their lives unjustly. It was commissioned by the Stewart Milne Homes company to increase the number of public artworks in the community.

This monument was the work of the Glasgow-based sculptor Andy Scott. He is credited with creating the nearby Dunbear, but is better known for The Kelpies. He is quoted as saying this work “represents a proud and dignified woman rather than a victim.”

Both locales and visitors admire this metal nearly 10-foot-tall statue, so much so, that it has garnered the nickname “Athena.” This just happens to be the name of the residential sub-development, as well as the name of the last alleged witch to be condemned. The name Athena is also associated with the Greek goddess of wisdom.

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