Thursday, March 31, 2011

Sweden: The Mora Witch Trials


We now journey to Norway’s neighbor: Sweden. Now Sweden didn’t have as many witch trials and executions as Norway or many of the other Northern European countries at this time in history (mid 1600s). This was mainly due to the reign of Queen Christina which lasted from 1618 – 1648.

This blockade from hysteria didn’t last very long after her reign, and sure enough just years later in 1669 all hell broke loose. The panic and hysteria of the “witches” was widespread across this area and people in mass quantities were tried and executed (witches.net).

The Mora witch trial was the largest trial of this region and most internationally known. At the start of the investigation a total of 70 individuals were charged with practicing witchcraft as well as trying to influence children to practice witchcraft. During the investigation 23 of these 70 confessed to crimes that included holding feasts that were of “witchcraft in nature.” Among these confessions it also came out that around 300 children attended these feasts. Apparently the majority of the children looked forward to attending these feasts but there were handfuls that were dragged against their will to the feasts (Aberg 1989).

Now once again we have to take a step back and think who is writing these accounts down and realize that there is bias surrounding these records. One quote that I thought stuck out the most was what one of the Bailiffs said to the governor: “In Alvdalen and Mora, children and teenagers are being seduced by old witches unto the devil” (Lagerlof). We will perhaps never know what actually went down at these so called “witchcraft feasts.” What though seems to very cut is dry in the sentencing and execution of these so called witches.

The judges and rest of the commission (which was a “magical board” that was mainly made up of priests) took this case very seriously. At the end 83 people were charges with these crimes. This included the 23 that confessed, 15 children and a handful of others that were originally charged (witches.net). The charged were then imprisoned and not soon after 15 were executed. The 14 women and 1 man were beheaded shortly after they were initially imprisoned. After they were beheaded their bodies were all burned to ash on stakes that were situated at the peninsula across from a church (Aberg 1989).

The trial and punishment didn’t stop there. The main problem that the commission feared was the rest of the kids that attended these feasts and were being “seduced… unto the devil” (Lagerlof). The commission then made another 36 children run the gauntlet and then were beaten with rods over the course of an entire year. In addition to that the 20 youngest of these children were whipped on their hands three Sundays in a row before they walked into church (Aberg 1989).

This whole thing was a horrible series of events and was made to scare off all other “witches” in the area. In fact there were depictions of these executions all over Western Europe especially in Germany. The problem was that the depictions were incorrect. The executions were just depicted as witches being burnt at the stake and not beheaded as they really were. It was in fact these images that were thought to have influenced the Salem witch trials which were known for burning the accused at the stake (Lagerlof).


References:

The Witches. The Great Swedish Witch Trials of 1668-1676. (English translation) by: Alf Aberg

The Eruption of Swedish Witch Trials 1668 – 1671. (English translation) by: Birgitta Lagerlof

http://www.witches.net

List of executed can be found on the Wikipedia Page for the Mora Witch Trials.

Photo Courtesy of a a woodcut from 1598 showing the apparent exorcism of a Scandinavian witch.

1 comments:

ItsBritt said...

Hey; I'm doing a transcription assignment for my uni course on an old primary text written about the Mora witch trials, and the two books you've referenced look interesting but I can't find them. Do you have an original (non-english) title; or a link?

Thanks heaps :)
Britt

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