7 Bizarre Witch Trial Tests

7 Bizarre Witch Trial Tests

1. Swimming Test

As part of the infamous “swimming test,” accused witches were dragged to the nearest body of water, stripped to their undergarments, bound and then tossed in to to see if they would sink or float. Since witches were believed to have spurned the sacrament of baptism, it was thought that the water would reject their body and prevent them from submerging. According to this logic, an innocent person would sink like a stone, but a witch would simply bob on the surface. The victim typically had a rope tied around their waist so they could be pulled from the water if they sank, but it wasn’t unusual for accidental drowning deaths to occur.

Witch swimming derived from the “trial by water,” an ancient practice where suspected criminals and sorcerers were thrown into rushing rivers to allow a higher power to decide their fate. This custom was banned in many European counties in the Middle Ages, only to reemerge in the 17th century as a witch experiment, and it persisted in some locales well into the 18th century. For example, in 1710, the swimming test was used as evidence against a Hungarian woman named Dorko Boda, who was later beaten and burned at the stake as a witch.

2. Prayer Test

Medieval wisdom held that witches were incapable of speaking scripture aloud, so accused sorcerers were made to recite selections from the Bible—usually the Lord’s Prayer—without making mistakes or omissions. While it may have simply been a sign that the suspected witch was illiterate or nervous, any errors were viewed as proof that the speaker was in league with the devil. This twisted test of public speaking ability was commonly used as hard evidence in witch trials. In 1712, it was applied in the case Jane Wenham, an accused witch who supposedly struggled to speak the words “forgive us our trespasses” and “lead us not into temptation” during her interrogation. Still, even a successful prayer test didn’t guarantee an acquittal. During the Salem Witch Trials, the accused sorcerer George Burroughs flawlessly recited the prayer from the gallows just before his execution. The performance was dismissed as a devil’s trick, and the hanging proceeded as planned.

3. Touch Test

The touch test worked on the idea that victims of sorcery would have a special reaction to physical contact with their evildoer. In cases where a possessed person fell into spells or fits, the suspected witch would be brought into the room and asked to a lay a hand on them. A non-reaction signaled innocence, but if the victim came out of their fit, it was seen as proof that the suspect had placed them under a spell.

Touch tests played a famous part in the 1662 trial of Rose Cullender and Amy Denny, two elderly English women charged with bewitching a pair of young girls. The children had been suffering from fits that left their fists clenched so tightly that even a strong man could not pry their fingers apart, but early tests showed they easily opened whenever Cullender or Denny touched them. To ensure the reaction was genuine, judges had the children blindfolded and touched by other members of the court. The girls unclenched their fists anyway, which suggested they were faking, but even this was not enough to prove the women’s innocence. Cullender and Denny were both later hanged as witches.

4. Witch Cakes

A bizarre form of counter-magic, the witch cake was a supernatural dessert used to identify suspected evildoers. In cases of mysterious illness or possession, witch-hunters would take a sample of the victim’s urine, mix it with rye-meal and ashes and bake it into a cake. This stomach-turning concoction was then fed to a dog—the “familiars,” or animal helpers, of witches—in the hope that the beast would fall under its spell and reveal the name of the guilty sorcerer. During the hysteria that preceded the Salem Witch Trials, the slave Tituba famously helped prepare a witch cake to identify the person responsible for bewitching young Betty Parris and others. The brew failed to work, and Tituba’s supposed knowledge of spells and folk remedies was later used as evidence against her when she was accused of being a witch.

5. Witch’s Marks

Witch-hunters often had their suspects stripped and publically examined for signs of an unsightly blemish that witches were said to receive upon making their pact with Satan. This “Devil’s Mark” could supposedly change shape and color, and was believed to be numb and insensitive to pain. Prosecutors might also search for the “witches’ teat,” an extra nipple allegedly used to suckle the witch’s helper animals. In both cases, it was easy for even the most minor physical imperfections to be labeled as the work of the devil himself. Moles, scars, birthmarks, sores, supernumerary nipples and tattoos could all qualify, so examiners rarely came up empty-handed. In the midst of witch hunts, desperate villagers would sometimes even burn or cut off any offending marks on their bodies, only to have their wounds labeled as proof of a covenant with the devil.

6. Pricking and Scratching Tests

If witch-hunters struggled to find obvious evidence of “witch’s marks” on a suspect’s body, they might resort to the ghastly practice of “pricking” as a means of sussing it out. Witch-hunting books and instructional pamphlets noted that the marks were insensitive to pain and couldn’t bleed, so examiners used specially designed needles to repeatedly stab and prick at the accused person’s flesh until they discovered a spot that produced the desired results. In England and Scotland, the torture was eventually performed by well-paid professional “prickers,” many of whom were actually con men who used dulled needlepoints to identify fake witch’s marks.

Along with pricking, the unfortunate suspect might also be subjected to “scratching” by their supposed victims. This test was based on the notion that possessed people found relief by scratching the person responsible with their fingernails until they drew blood. If their symptoms improved after clawing at the accused’s skin, it was seen as partial evidence of guilt.

7. Incantations

Also known as “charging,” this test involved forcing the accused witch to verbally order the devil to let the possessed victim come out of their fit or trance. Other people would also utter the words to act as a “control,” and judges would then gauge whether the statements had any effect on the victim’s condition. Charges were famously used in the 16th century witch trial of Alice Samuel and her husband and daughter, who were accused of bewitching five girls from the wealthy Throckmorton family. During the proceedings, judges forced the Samuels to demand that the devil release the girls from their spell by stating, “As I am a witch…so I charge the devil to let Mistress Throckmorton come out of her fit at this present.” When the possessed girls immediately recovered, the Samuels were found guilty and hanged as witches.


Quiz: Would you have been accused of witchcraft?

Hundreds of innocent men and women during the 16th and 17th centuries were charged with witchcraft – but would you have been one of them? Take our quiz to find out.

This competition is now closed

Published: April 16, 2021 at 2:51 pm

The history of witchcraft in Britain is a dark one, brimming with trials, persecution and torture, which claimed the lives of hundreds of innocent men and women during the 16th and 17th centuries. But what did you actually have to do to end up in the dock, accused of devil worship and crimes of witchcraft? Very little, as the following eight questions, compiled with the help of Owen Davies, professor of social history at the University of Hertfordshire, reveal…

Are you female?

Although around 80 per cent of those tried for witchcraft in Britain were women, men also suffered at the hands of so-called witch hunters, too. In 1863, an elderly man from Sible Hedingham, Essex, was accused of bewitching the wife of the local beerhouse owner. Using the more informal type of trial of ‘swimming’ the accused to prove their guilt, the villagers threw the man into a nearby brook. If he sank, he was deemed innocent if he floated, he had been rejected by the water as a servant of the devil, in a type of reverse baptism. The victim died a few days later from shock and pneumonia caused by the constant immersion and ill treatment.

Do you have any pets?

The stereotypical witch with his or her black cat actually has its roots in history, and the keeping of ‘familiars’ in animal or human form was seen as an important indicator of witchcraft activity. ‘Familiars’ – cats, rats, toads, dogs and other domestic animals – were often believed to have been ‘seen’ to assist witches in the practice of magic. The first major trial in England, held at the Chelmsford assizes in July 1566, saw the accused, Agnes Waterhouse, confess to giving her blood to the Devil in the likeness of a white-spotted cat named Satan.

Do you live alone?

No one was safe from an accusation of witchcraft but marginalised women were more prone to accusations – particularly elderly spinsters, widows, and those living alone.

Have you ever asked for charity?

Begging lay at the root of many witchcraft allegations, and beggars were often accused of practising witchcraft against those who had refused them help. The persecution of the so-called Pendle witches began when a young woman, Alison Device, asked a peddler for a pin. She was refused and the peddler later suffered a stroke, leading to an accusation of witchcraft against Device.

Have you ever fallen out with neighbours?

Popular pressure and the power of the community often lay behind witchcraft sentences, so it paid to be on good terms with your neighbours. An accusation of witchcraft could be used as a way of explaining misfortune or illness, as well as a way of ridding oneself of a troublesome neighbour. In 1712, after arguing with a local farmer, Jane Wenham, dubbed ‘the wise woman of Walkern’, was accused of bewitching one of the farmer’s workers. She was eventually acquitted after receiving a royal pardon from Queen Anne.

Have you ever uttered vague threats?

Losing your temper with someone could be a death sentence in early modern England, particularly if your idle threats came true. In 1644, Edinburgh shopkeeper Agnes Finnie was charged with 20 counts of witchcraft after falling out with a number of neighbours and customers. In one case, Agnes was accused of “having fallen in a controversy with Margaret Williamson [and] most outrageously wished the Devil to blow her blind”. Witnesses reported that Williamson did indeed fall ill after this threat, and allegedly lost her sight.

Have you ever told people’s fortunes or given herbal remedies?

Cunning folk (‘wise’ men and women who practised ‘good’ witchcraft) were common in the early modern period and their help could be sought for a number of different occasions: illness, fertility, and even to combat evil forces thought to be at large. However, cunning folk could often find themselves on the receiving end of an allegation of witchcraft, accused of bewitching rather than curing.

Do you have a vivid imagination?

Records of witch trials show that in some cases, those accused of witchcraft appeared to go along with the so-called ‘evidence’ presented against them, often confessing to the most unlikely crimes and thus feeding the suspicions of the magistrate. The first major witch trial in England, in 1566, saw the accused ‘confess’ that she had used her cat as means to work her magic, feeding it chickens and drops of her own blood in return. Other trials reveal admissions of flying and meeting with the Devil. Some of these confessions were clearly the result of torture, especially in Scotland where torture was legal, but others were mostly likely the products of a vivid imagination.

RESULTS

Would you have been tried for witchcraft? It all depends on how many of the questions you answered ‘yes’ to…

Score 0-1: You’re safe

Judging by your answers, you would probably have avoided any accusations of witchcraft. However, you may well have known others accused of the crime, or even have been called as a witness against them.

Score 2–4: You’re raising concerns

Your answers show that you would not have been immune from an accusation of witchcraft during the early modern period. Although not all accusations led to trial, even the smallest suspicion cast against you could have resulted in a visit from the local witch finder.

Score 5–7: You’re highly suspect

By answering ‘yes’ to the majority of our questions, it’s clear that an accusation of witchcraft against you would have been highly likely. Such an allegation would have seen you subjected to a number of ‘witch tests’, some of which may have involved ‘informal’ torture such as ‘witch pricking’ (the method of piercing the skin to find areas of flesh that do not bleed). If you lived in Scotland where the use of torture was once permitted, you may have been subjected to sleep deprivation, thumbscrews and leg crushers until you confessed. Once a confession was made, it would have been left up to the courts to sentence you.

Score 8: You’re a witch (in the eyes of those around you)

You’ve achieved the highest possible score and would probably have been tried at your local assizes and found guilty of cavorting with the Devil and causing death by witchcraft during the early modern period. Contrary to popular belief, death by fire was only common on the continent those found guilty of witchcraft in Britain would have been publicly hanged as an example to others.


6 Northampton Witch Trials

The 1612 Northampton Witch Trials started like presumably many others in that era: with the nobility accusing common women of witchery. The main accuser was Elizabeth Belcher, who disliked a young lady called Joan Browne.

Elizabeth started claiming that the girl had put a curse on her. When Elizabeth fell ill soon afterward, that&rsquos all she needed to take things to court. Her brother William Avery joined in on the accusations, claiming that he had tried to go to the Browne cottage to lift the curse, but an invisible barrier had held him back.

Joan Browne, her old mother Agnes, and four others were arrested for witchcraft and sentenced to hang. There was never much hope for them because &ldquoinnocent until proven guilty&rdquo was an unknown concept in those days. When someone brought you to court, everyone assumed you had done something to deserve it.

The story says that before they were hanged, William Avery was even allowed to enter the women&rsquos cells and beat old Agnes Browne bloody&mdashbecause spilling a witch&rsquos blood was thought to lift her curses.

In the same year, Northampton also hanged a man called Arthur Bill, who supposedly &ldquobewitched&rdquo a woman to death along with some cattle. Arthur was reputedly from a witching family, so people already suspected he was on the side of evil. [5]

The accusations ended up ripping the whole family apart. Although Arthur pleaded innocence, his father &ldquodefected&rdquo from witchcraft and testified against him. Arthur&rsquos mother ended up slitting her own throat out of fear of being hanged as well.


5 Trial By Ordeal Bean

In some West African tribes, to identify whether a woman was a witch or possessed by an evil spirit, they would have her swallow a calabar bean (aka an ordeal bean), which is an extremely poisonous seed. They believed that God would perform a miracle and allow the accused to live by vomiting up the seed if she was innocent.

However, she would be presumed guilty if she ingested the calabar bean. This would also likely kill her because the ordeal bean releases chemicals that disrupt the communications between the muscular and nervous systems. She would die due to asphyxiation when the diaphragm failed to respond. [6]


4 The Peasant Who Used Witchcraft To Catch A Witch

Chonrad Stoeckhlin was a peasant who lived in an isolated village in the 16th-century Alps. In 1586, he accused an elderly local woman of being a witch. He explained that he had been told she was a witch by the phantoms of the night, a group of spirits who flew through the air above his village.

Chonrad said that he would leave his body and journey to mysterious realms with the phantoms. He was genuinely surprised when his testimony got him arrested for witchcraft, too.

According to Chonrad, his journey into the spirit world began when his dead friend appeared to him and ordered him to repent his sins. After he did so, he was visited by an angelic being with a red cross on his forehead who taught Chonrad how to leave his body and introduced him to the phantoms. In turn, they helped him to identify evil witches hiding in the area.

Chonrad Stoeckhlin was executed as a witch in 1587. [7]


Trial by Ordeal in the Old Testament

It is said that examples of trials by ordeals can be found in the Ramayana, a Hindu epic, and the Book of Numbers in the Old Testament. In the latter, a trial by ordeal for women accused of adultery was prescribed by God to Moses. The instructions for such a trial are as follows:

“And the priest shall bring her near, and set her before the LORD: And the priest shall take holy water in an earthen vessel and of the dust that is in the floor of the tabernacle the priest shall take, and put it into the water: And the priest shall set the woman before the LORD, and uncover the woman's head, and put the offering of memorial in her hands, which is the jealousy offering: and the priest shall have in his hand the bitter water that causeth the curse: And the priest shall charge her by an oath, and say unto the woman, If no man have lain with thee, and if thou hast not gone aside to uncleanness with another instead of thy husband, be thou free from this bitter water that causeth the curse: But if thou hast gone aside to another instead of thy husband, and if thou be defiled, and some man have lain with thee beside thine husband: Then the priest shall charge the woman with an oath of cursing, and the priest shall say unto the woman, The LORD make thee a curse and an oath among thy people, when the LORD doth make thy thigh to rot, and thy belly to swell And this water that causeth the curse shall go into thy bowels, to make thy belly to swell, and thy thigh to rot:”

In the Old Testament, Moses issues a trial by ordeal to a woman accused of adultery. Painting of Moses by Rembrandt ( Wikipedia)


Contents

Context Edit

The first persecutions in Würzburg started with the consent of Julius Echter von Mespelbrunn, Prince bishop of Würzburg, and reached its climax during the reign of his nephew and successor Philipp Adolf von Ehrenberg. They started in the territory around the city in 1626 and evapourated in 1630. As so often with the mass trials of sorcery, the victims soon counted people from all society, including nobles, councilmen and mayors. This was during a witch hysteria that caused a series of witch trials in South Germany, such as in Bamberg, Eichstätt, Mainz and Ellwangen.

In the 1620s, with the destruction of Protestantism in Bohemia and the Electorate of the Palatinate, the Catholic reconquest of Germany was resumed. In 1629, with the Edict of Restitution, its basis seemed complete. Those same years saw, in central Europe at least, the worst of all witch-persecutions, the climax of the European craze.

Many of the witch-trials of the 1620s multiplied with the Catholic reconquest. In some areas the lord or bishop was the instigator, in others the Jesuits. Sometimes local witch-committees were set up to further the work. Among prince-bishops, Philipp Adolf von Ehrenberg of Würzburg was particularly active: in his reign of eight years (1623–31) he burnt 900 persons, including his own nephew, nineteen Catholic priests, and children of seven who were said to have had intercourse with demons. The years 1627–29 were dreadful years in Baden, recently reconquered for Catholicism by Tilly: there were 70 victims in Ortenau, 79 in Offenburg. In Eichstätt, a Bavarian prince-bishopric, a judge claimed the death of 274 witches in 1629. At Reichertshofen, in the district of Neuburg an der Donau, 50 were executed between November 1628 and August 1630. In the three prince-archbishoprics of the Rhineland the fires were also relit. At Coblenz, the seat of the Prince-Archbishop of Trier, 24 witches were burnt in 1629 at Sélestat at least 30—the beginning of a five-year persecution. In Mainz, too, the burnings were renewed. At Cologne the City Fathers had always been merciful, much to the annoyance of the prince-archbishop, but in 1627 he was able to put pressure on the city and it gave in. Naturally enough, the persecution raged most violently in Bonn, his own capital. There the chancellor and his wife and the archbishop's secretary's wife were executed, children of three and four years were accused of having devils for their paramours, and students and small boys of noble birth were sent to the bonfire.

The craze of the 1620s was not confined to Germany: it raged also across the Rhine in Alsace, Lorraine and Franche-Comté. In the lands ruled by the abbey of Luxueil, in Franche-Comté, the years 1628–30 have been described as an "épidémie démoniaque." "Le mal va croissant chaque jour," declared the magistrates of Dôle, "et cette malheureuse engeance va pullulant de toutes parts." The witches, they said, "in the hour of death accuse an infinity of others in fifteen or sixteen other villages."

Local background and outbreak Edit

The witchcraft persecutions in Würzburg was initiated by the Reform Catholic and Counter-Reformation Catholic Prince Bishop Julius Echter von Mespelbrunn, Prince Bishop of Würzburg in 1609-1622. In 1612 he incorporated the Protestant city of Freudenburg in the Catholic Bishopric, which resulted in a witch trial with fifty executions. [2] This was followed by a witch trial in Würzburg itself, were 300 people were executed between July 1616 and July 1617, [2] before the persecutions suddenly stopped at the outbreak of the Thirty Years War in 1618. [3]

The exact cause of the witch trials of 1625-1631 is not entirely clear due to the incomplete documentation. A first witch trial took place in 1625, though it was an isolated case. In 1626, the vine grape harvest was destroyed by the frost. [3] Upon rumours that the frost had been caused by sorcery, some suspects were arrested and confessed under torture that they had caused the frost by use of magic. [3]

Legal process Edit

The Würzburg witch trials of 1625-1631 was initiated by the Reform Catholic and Counter-Reformation Catholic Prince Bishop Philipp Adolf von Ehrenberg, Prince Bishop of Würzburg in 1623-1631, who was the nephew and successor of Julius Echter von Mespelbrunn. The territory was close to the Catholic-Protestant religious border, and the goal of the new Prince Bishop was to create a "godly state" in accordance with the ideals of the Counter-Reformation, and to make the population obedient, devout and conformally Catholic, [3] and when witchcraft was rumoured to excist in the city, he ordered an investigation.

A special Witch Commission was organized with the task to handle all cases of witchcraft. [2] The Witch Commission used torture without any of the restrictions regulated by the Constitutio Criminalis Carolina, in order to force the accused to first confess to their own guilt and then to name accomplices and other they had seen performing magic or attending the Witches' Sabbath. Those who had been named as accomplices was arrested in turn and tortured to name new accomplices, which caused the witch trial to expand rapidly in number of arrests and executions, especially since the Witch Commission did not discriminate in which names to accept but arrested men and women of all ages and classes indiscriminately. [3]

Cases and accused Edit

Typical for both the Würzburg witch trial as well as the parallell witch trial in Bamberg, members of the elite were arrested after having been named by working class people under torture, which was a phenomena which would normally not have happened in contemporary society, if the process had been about a different crime. [3] Würzburg and Bamberg however differed somewhat in that in Würzburg, many members of the clerical elite were arrested, and that a large number of children were among the accused. [3] The first arrests in the city were composed of the traditionally suspected poor working class women, but as the trials expanded in size, more and more men and children from all classes were among the accused, and in the later years of the trials, men were sometimes in the majority of the executed. [2] 43 priests were executed, as well as Ernst von Ehrenberg, who was the nephew of the Prince Bishop himself. [3] At least 49 children under the age of twelve are confirmed to have been executed, [3] many of them from the orphanage and school Julius-Spital. [4]

A contemporary letter from 1629 describe how people of all ages and classes were arrested every day and that a third of the population were suspected of having attended the Witches' Sabbath and being noted in the black book of Satan, which the authorities were searching for. [3] People from all walks of life were arrested and charged, regardless of age, profession or sex, for reasons ranging from murder and satanism to humming a song including the name of the Devil, or simply for being vagrants and unable to give a satisfactory explanation of why they were passing through town: thirty-two of them appear to have been vagrant.

The exact number of executions is not known, since documentation is only partially preserved. A list describes 157 executions from 1627 until February 1629 in the city itself, but Hauber who preserved the list in Acta et Scripta Magica, noted that the list was far from complete and that there were a great many other burnings too many to specify. February 1629 was, further more, also in the middle of the witch trials, with the trials continuing for two more years before ending in 1631. The executions within the city itself have been estimated to 219, with additional 900 in the areas outside the city under the authority of the Prince Bishop. It has been referred to as the greatest witch trial ever to have occurred in Franconia, though the parallell Bamberg witch trials of 1626-1630 was a close second.

The end Edit

The ongoing mass process in Würzburg attracted a lot of attention. The fact that the Witch Commission accepted the names of accomplices given by accused witches under torture indiscriminately regardless of class, had the result than many people arrested had influential relatives, family members and friends of the upper classes, with sufficient resources and knowledge to escape the territory and to issue complaints against the Prince Bishop and his witch trials to his superiors, such as the Holy Roman Emperor and the Pope. In 1630, a refugee from the Würzburg witch trials issued a complaint against the witch trials of the Prince Bishop to the Imperial Chamber Court in Speyer, who issued a public condemnation against the persecutions. [2]

On 16 July 1631, the Prince Bishop Philipp Adolf von Ehrenberg died. The same year, the city was taken by the Swedish army under king Gustavus Adolphus of Sweden, and the witch trials was put to an end.

In contemporary Germany, the gigantic, parallell mass witch trials of Würzburg and Bamberg were seen as role models by other states and cities interested in investigating witchcraft, notably Wertheim and Mergentheim. [5] The Würzburg witch trials influenced the start of the Mergentheim witch trials in 1628, [6] and unrestricted witchcraft persecutions came to be known as "Würzburgisch work". [2]

Accounts Edit

While the parallell Bamberg witch trials are famous for the contemporary letter of the prisoner Johannes Junius to his daughter, the Würzburg witch trials are famous for the contemporary letter written by a councillor of the Prince Bishop to a friend, describing the ongoing witch hunt.

In August, 1629, the Chancellor of the Prince-Bishop of Würzburg thus wrote (in German) to a friend:

As to the affair of the witches, which Your Grace thinks brought to an end before this, it has started up afresh, and no words can do justice to it. Ah, the woe and the misery of it--there are still four hundred in the city, high and low, of every rank and sex, nay, even clerics, so strongly accused that they may be arrested at any hour. It is true that, of the people of my Gracious Prince here, some out of all offices and faculties must be executed: clerics, electoral councilors and doctors, city officials, court assessors, several of whom Your Grace knows. There are law students to be arrested. The Prince-Bishop has over forty students who are soon to be pastors among them thirteen or fourteen are said to be witches. A few days ago a Dean was arrested two others who were summoned have fled. The notary of our Church consistory, a very learned man, was yesterday arrested and put to the torture. In a word, a third part of the city is surely involved. The richest, most attractive, most prominent, of the clergy are already executed. A week ago a maiden of nineteen was executed, of whom it is everywhere said that she was the fairest in the whole city, and was held by everybody a girl of singular modesty and purity. She will be followed by seven or eight others of the best and most attractive persons . And thus many are put to death for renouncing God and being at the witch-dances, against whom nobody has ever else spoken a word.

To conclude this wretched matter, there are children of three and four years, to the number of three hundred, who are said to have had intercourse with the Devil. I have seen put to death children of seven, promising students of ten, twelve, fourteen, and fifteen. Of the nobles--but I cannot and must not write more of this misery. There are persons of yet higher rank, whom you know, and would marvel to hear of, nay, would scarcely believe it let justice be done . . .

P. S.--Though there are many wonderful and terrible things happening, it is beyond doubt that, at a place called the Fraw-Rengberg, the Devil in person, with eight thousand of his followers, held an assembly and celebrated mass before them all, administering to his audience (that is, the witches) turnip-rinds and parings in place of the Holy Eucharist. There took place not only foul but most horrible and hideous blasphemies, whereof I shudder to write. It is also true that they all vowed not to be enrolled in the Book of Life, but all agreed to be inscribed by a notary who is well known to me and my colleagues. We hope, too, that the book in which they are enrolled will yet be found, and there is no little search being made for it. [3]

Friedrich Spee Edit

A Jesuit, Friedrich Spee, was more radically converted by his experience as a confessor of witches in the great persecution at Würzburg. That experience, which turned his hair prematurely white, convinced him that all confessions were worthless, being based solely on torture, and that not a single witch whom he had led to the stake had been guilty. Since he could not utter his thoughts otherwise — for, as he wrote, he dreaded the fate of Tanner — he wrote a book which he intended to circulate in manuscript, anonymously. But a friend secretly conveyed it to the Protestant city of Hameln, were it was printed in 1631 under the title Cautio Criminalis. [3]

There is a famous list of the executions in the Würzburg witch trials, which were published in 1745 in the Eberhard David Hauber: Bibliotheca sive acta et scripta magica. Gründliche Nachrichten und Urtheile von solchen Büchern und Handlungen, welche die Macht des Teufels in leiblichen Dingen betreffen, 36 Stücke in 3 Bänden. Lemgo 1738-1745, Bibl. mag. 36. Stück, 1745, S. 807.

This list is far from complete, as it is based on a document which explicitly states that it has cited only a selection of the executions and that there were numerous other burnings beside those enumerated in the list and it further more only list executions from before the date 16 February 1629, when the witch trials was ongoing and continued for over two years after.

Most of the executed are not mentioned by name, only in terms such as Gobel Babelin, aged nineteen, "The prettiest girl in town", "A wandering boy, twelve years of age" and "Four strange men and women, found sleeping in the market-place". Many of the executed for termed as "strange", which simply means that they were not residents of Würzburg.

The list cites the following cases: [7]

In the First Burning, Four Persons.

  • The wife of Liebler.
  • Old Ancker's widow.
  • The wife of Gutbrodt.
  • The wife of Hooker.

In the Second Burning, Four Persons.

  • The old wife of Beutler.
  • Two strange women. [8]
  • The old woman who kept the pot-house.

In the Third Burning, Five Persons.

  • Tungersleber, a minstrel.
  • The wife of Kuler.
  • The wife of Stier, a proctor.
  • The brushmaker's wife.
  • The goldsmith's wife.

In the Fourth Burning, Five Persons.

  • The wife of Siegmund the glazier, a burgomaster.
  • Brickmann's wife.
  • The midwife. N.B. She was the origin of all the mischief.
  • Old Rume's wife.
  • A strange man.

In the Fifth Burning, Eight Persons.

  • Liitz, an eminent shopkeeper.
  • Rutscher, a shopkeeper.
  • The housekeeper of the dean of the cathedral.
  • The old wife of the court ropemaker.
  • Jo. Stembach's housekeeper.
  • The wife of Baunach, a senator.
  • A woman named Znickel Babel.
  • An old woman.

In the Sixth Burning, Six Persons

  • The steward of the senate, named Gering.
  • Old Mrs. Canzler.
  • The fat tailor's wife.
  • The woman cook of Mr. Mengerdorf.
  • A strange man.
  • A strange woman.

In the Seventh Burning, Seven Persons.

  • A strange girl of twelve years old.
  • A strange man.
  • A strange woman.*
  • A strange bailiff (schultheiss).
  • Three strange women.

In the Eighth Burning, Seven Persons.

  • Baunach, a senator, the fattest citizen in Wurzburg.
  • The steward of the dean of the cathedral.
  • A strange man.
  • The knife-grinder.
  • The ganger's wife.
  • Two strange women.

In the Ninth Burning, Five Persons.

  • Wunth, the wheelwright.
  • A strange man
  • Bentze's daughter.
  • Bentze's wife herself.
  • The wife of Eyering.

In the Tenth Burning, Three Persons.

In the Eleventh Burning, Four Persons.

  • Schwerdt, a vicar- choral in the cathedral.
  • Rensackeis housekeeper.
  • The wife of Stiecher.
  • Silberhans, a minstrel.

In the Twelfth Burning, Two Persons.

In the Thirteenth Burning, Four Persons.

  • The old smith of the court.
  • An old woman,
  • A little girl nine or ten years old.
  • A younger girl, her little sister.

In the Fourteenth Burning, Two Persons.

  • The mother of the two little girls before mentioned.
  • Liebler's daughter, aged twenty-four years.

In the Fifteenth Burning, Two Persons.

In the Sixteenth Burning, Six Persons.

  • A noble page of Ratzenstein, was executed in the chancellor's yard at six o'clock in the morning, and left upon his bier all day, and then next day burnt with the following :
  • A boy of ten years of age.
  • The two daughters of the steward of the senate, and his maid.
  • The fat ropemaker's wife.

In the Seventeenth Burning, Four Persons.

  • The innkeeper of the Baumgarten.
  • A boy eleven years old.
  • The wife of the apothecary at the Hirsch [the Stag), and her daughter.
  • N.B. — A woman who played the harp had hanged herself.

In the Eighteenth Burning, Six Persons.

  • Batsch, a tanner.
  • Two boys of twelve years old.
  • The daughter of Dr. Junge.
  • A girl of fifteen years of age.
  • A strange woman.

In the Nineteenth Burning, Six Persons.

  • A noble page of Rotenham was beheaded at six o'clock in the chancellor's yard, and burnt the following day
  • The wife of the secretary Schellhar.
  • A woman.
  • A boy of ten years of age.
  • Another boy twelve years old.
  • Brugler's wife, a cymbal-player (heckin), was burnt alive.

In the Twentieth Burning Six Persons.

  • Gobel's child, the most beautiful girl in Wiirzburg.
  • A student on the fifth form, who knew many languages, and was an excellent musician vocaliter et instrumentalite.
  • Two boys from the new minister, each twelve years old.
  • Stepper's little daughter.
  • The woman who kept the bridge-gate.

In the Twenty-first Burning, Six Persons.

  • The master of the Dietricher hospital, a very learned man.
  • Stoffel Holtzmann.
  • A boy foHrteen years old.
  • The little son of Senator Stolzenberger.
  • Two alumni.

In the Twenty- second Burning, Six Persons.

  • Stiirman, a rich cooper.
  • A strange boy.
  • The grown-up daughter of Senator Stolzenberger.
  • The wife of Stolzenberger herself.
  • The washerwoman in the new building.
  • A strange woman.

In the Twenty-third Burning, Nine Persons.

  • David Crolen's boy, of nine years old, on the second form.
  • The two sons of the prince's cook, one of fourteen years, the other often years, from the first school.
  • Melchior Hammelraann, vicar at Hach.
  • Nicodemns Hirsch, a canon in the new minster.
  • Christopher Berger, vicar in the new minster.
  • An alumnus.
  • N.B. — The bailiff in the Brennerbach court and an alumnus were burnt alive.

In the Twenty-fourth Burning, Seven Persons.

  • Two boys in the hospital.
  • A rich cooper.
  • Lorenz Stiiber, vicar in the new minster.
  • Batz, vicar in the new minster.
  • Lorenz Roth, vicar in the new minster.
  • A woman named Rossleins Martin.

In the Twenty-fifth Burning, Six Persons.

  • Frederick Basser, vicar in the cathedral.
  • Stab, vicar at Hach.
  • Lambrecht, canon in the new minster.
  • The wife of Gallus Hansen.
  • A strange boy.
  • Schelmerei, the huckstress.

In the Twenty-sixth Burning, Seven Persons.

  • David Hans, a canon in the new minster.
  • Weydenbusch, a senator.
  • The innkeeper's wife of the Bamugarten.
  • An old woman.
  • The little daughter of Valkenberger was privately executed and burnt on her bier.
  • The little son of the town council bailiff.
  • Herr Wagner, vicar in the cathedral, was burnt alive.

In the Twenty-seventh Burning, Seven Persons.

  • A butcher, named Kilian Hans.
  • The keeper of the bridge-gate.
  • A strange boy.
  • A strange woman.
  • The son of the female minstrel, vicar at Hach.
  • Michel Wagner, vicar at Hach.
  • Knor, vicar at Hach.

In the Twenty-eighth Burning, after Candlemas, 1629, Six Persons.


The Truth Is There

Despite the modern lighthearted approach to the witch trials and the humorous tones in which they are often conveyed, it’s important to understand the truth of what drove the real witch hunts of the early modern era, and that includes the social issues that fanned the flames of a health crisis and made it worse.

Famine and widespread crop blights are likely a thing of the past, but fanaticism still persists today in many forms. It seems unlikely that the widespread persecution of a group solely as a scapegoat could happen today, but viewing events through the lens of history could save humanity from the curse of repeating the past.


Watch the video: 7 Záhadných a Děsivých videí, které strachy nedokoukáte do konce!