Sweden - Witchcraze! Persecution of Witches

The Element Encyclopedia of Witchcraft: The Complete A-Z for the Entire Magical World - Judika Illes 2005

Witchcraze! Persecution of Witches

Between 1520 and 1699, over 1,000 people were accused of witchcraft and sorcery in Sweden. This is only an estimate as the true number is unknown as some court records were destroyed by fire.

The most famous and best-documented witch panic in Sweden occurred between 1668 and 1670 in the villages of Mohra and Elfdale. Children testified that multitudes of witches brought them to sabbats at a place called Blakulla, where they were placed in the service of the devil.

The citizens of Mohra drafted a petition to Charles XI, the 14-year-old king. He responded by sending two commissions to Mohra with the power to examine witnesses and proceed with legal action. Records of these witch trials were preserved in an official report.

Witnesses claimed that somewhere between 100 and 300 children were carried away to Blakulla. When they returned, they were witches. The children were never physically missing: during the time these witchy revels allegedly occurred, the children were typically at home, asleep, supervised by parents. However, parents noted (and testified) that their children behaved oddly in their sleep: they were restless, unnaturally cold, and difficult to wake up. When they finally awakened, they gave long, detailed descriptions of their journeys.

Three thousand people ultimately testified before the Commission. The confessions of the children uniformly state that they journeyed to Blakulla.

The standard story was that they traveled to a gravel pit near a crossroads and danced around it, then ran to the crossroads and called the devil three times: once softly, once more loudly, and then finally really loudly. They called, “Come Antecessor, carry us to Blakolla!” And immediately he did. The devil is described as having a red beard and sporting a brightly colored wardrobe, favoring the colors red and blue.

Antecessor brings animals for the witches to ride to the sabbat and also gives them flying ointment. Other witches traveled on posts, rails, and sticks with children mounted behind. Secrecy was enforced: if anyone mentioned the name of another witch, except at the sabbats, they were beaten to the point of fatality. At the sabbat, they danced while the devil played the harp.

Seventy people were accused of witchcraft; twenty-three confessed. They were beheaded and their bodies burned. Fifteen children were executed. Thirty-six others, ranging in age from 9 to 16, were sentenced to run a gauntlet and then be caned once a week for one year. Twenty infants were punished otherwise (details unknown); presumably these infants were too young to run a gauntlet.

In another witch panic between 1675 and 1676, at least 157 people were accused of witchcraft; 41 were executed. The death penalty for witchcraft was abolished in 1779 by King Gustavus III.