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The Witch Trials of Norway

 

One of the darkest chapters in Norwegian history is the Witch Trials that took place around the 16th and 17th century. During this period hundreds of women and men were sentenced as "trollfolk"  and were executed, usually by being burned alive. Trollfolk were regarded as dangerous individuals capable of black magic (maleficium) harming animals, crops and humans. They summoned storms that wrecked ships, cast curses that caused sickness and harm unto their fellow humans and were therefore seen as a menace to society. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The use of black magic was punishable by death in Norway. Also the use of white, or healing magic was pursued by the death penalty before 1617. People who used white magic was often referred to as "signere". Signere were looked at much fonder by their local communities as they were resourcefull individuals who healed and helped.  In the eyes of the law however their powers were blasphemous as it did not originate from God. Torture, terrible prison stays and the notorious swimming test were commonplace during the trials as they were viewed as necesarry tools to fight back against the evils of witchcraft.

The people found guilty during the trials were often given copious amounts of wine to dull their senses before they were bound to a ladder and thrown into the fire.

In Norway the Witch Trials were a relatively common occurence, both women and men were sentenced and executed. The last burning took place in Troms in 1695, when Johanne Nielsdatter was burned. 

The trials continued for some time during the 18th century but with no executions and the last relevant law was abolished in 1842. 

It seems to have been around 850 Witch Trials in Norway, with over 250 executed women and around 50 men.

In Agder there were 73 people accused of witchcraft and 20 of them executed. One of these unfortunates were Siri Sjursdatter that lived at Møglestu in Oddernes. While she was imprisoned her belongings were estimated and these records give insight into a gripping lovestory with a tragic outcome.

Siri was originally from Vestfold, but had eloped from her husband with the farmboy and lived with a hidden identity for 20 years. After Siri was accused of witchcraft she endured immense pressure and eventually confessed to having made a pact with the devil, participating in a Sabbath and withcraft. Siri was therefore burned in 1650, her lover executed and their few belongings seized by the state.

Sources:

Trolldomsprosessene i Norge på 1500-1600-tallet: En retts- og sosialhistorisk undersøkelse. 1982. Oslo: Universitetsforlaget. Hans Øyvind Næss. 

Trolldomsprosessene på Østlandet: En kulturhistorisk undersøkelse. 1998. Oslo: Tingbokprosjektet. Gunnar Winsnes Knutsen

Kilder til trolldomsprosessene i Finnmark. 2017. Tromsø: Statsarkivet i Tromsø Skald. Liv Helene Willumsen

Til Skræk Og Exempel: trolldom, Dødsstraff og Kriminalitet På Agder Ca. 1550-1700. 2008. Kristiansand: Portal. Terje Sødal.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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