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Is this stone evidence of wizard’s grave?

By Will Clark

Ashley Cowie holds the stele found at the claimed burial site of wizard Murdo Rivach.
Ashley Cowie holds the stele found at the claimed burial site of wizard Murdo Rivach.

AN unusual discovery made by a local historian at the site of what could be a wizard’s grave in Watten may be the evidence needed to prove the story behind his death.

The village is believed to be the only known location outside of the Scottish Borders which is home to such a mystical burial place.

It is believed Murdo Rivach was beheaded by locals and buried in the village in the 14th century. London-based historian and television presenter Ashley Cowie, who is originally from Wick, discovered a carved stone head at the east end of Loch Watten which is likely to be a stele, CORRECT a stone used to ward off or sometimes attract evil spirits.

He said the stone was the closest link to ever proving the wizard was buried in a circular grave in the village.

“The stele is an extremely rare find,” he said. “Very often in Victorian times, witches were found coming to these sites and performed rituals where they would leave these carved stones.

“I have analysed the stone with the help of an engineer and have discovered it has two faces which was a very common practice in witchcraft.

“Each face signified the polar opposites such as the good and the bad and these stones were used in rituals to either protect from evil or summon up a curse to bring upon evil.

“The significance of this find is that nothing has ever been recovered from that field like this.”

There are a number of accounts about how Rivach came to his end in around 1360.

But the one theory which has proved most popular among historians is that Rivach was sent to Caithness by Hugh Ross, of Sutherland, to collect rent from those who lived on his land.

But locals did not take kindly to the presence of the wizard and reacted to Rivach’s demands by slicing off his head and dumping his body in a circular grave.

There are only eight other recorded wizard burial sites in Scotland and they are all located in the Scottish Borders, which makes the Rivach story even more intriguing to historians.

Mr Cowie is planning to make his discovery known to the archaeological community and said when it was made public, there would be a massive amount of interest in the area.

“If we discover a grave under the site, it would be a magic flag for Caithness,” he said.

“Whether it’s a wizard’s grave, a neolithic grave or a Viking grave, it will be an unusual find.

Mr Cowie is planning to visit the grave site in August and is inviting people to meet him there and find out more about the story.

To register your interest contact him directly at www.ashleycowie.com

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