Mary’s Witch Trial

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Mary’s Witch Trial (Bamberg)

Post#51 » Mon Oct 05, 2020 11:07 am

The end of the witch hunt in Bamberg

The interruption and subsequent cessation of all witch trials in Bamberg happened first out of caution and then out of necessity when the fortunes of war turned - but never out of understanding! As early as 1630, the Swedish King Gustav II Adolf had crossed the Baltic Sea with his troops and raised an army of 40,000 men to help the oppressed Protestants in Germany.
While Gustav Adolf was still gathering allies, the city of Magdeburg had been besieged for months by the troops of the Catholic League under the leadership of Field Marshal Tilly (the 'sack' of Magdeburg). Inside the town they had hoped in vain that the Swedes would intervene. In May 1632 Tilly gave the order to storm the city. Magdeburg was conquered within hours and a massacre of the population was committed. At least 20,000 people were killed, countless women raped beforehand, girls abducted to serve the soldiers. Hundreds of women plung to their deaths from the city walls to avoid a much worse fate by falling into the hands of the conquerors ...The city was burned down and completely depopulated. The bodies of the many dead were thrown into the Elbe, where dams formed from the corpses, which the great river repeatedly dammed up until these dams broke again ... Tilly stayed out of town for two days and let his soldiers murder, pillage and rape as they pleased. But that did not release the general from his responsibility for the massacre ... at least Gustav Adolf was determined to put Tilly in battle and defeat him.
The Pope and the Emperor cheered when they heard the news. "There was a great death among the Protestants", it was said belittling. The conquest of the city and the massacre of the population were cynically referred to as the "Magdeburg Blood Wedding".
This event actually dwarfs the whole witch hunt and it deeply shook the claim of the Catholic League to fight for the right faith. And it angered Gustav Adolf, the King of Sweden, who saw Magdeburg shortly after the massacre and heard the stories of the few surviving eyewitnesses. He gave up his idea of a cautious advance and decided to attack the Catholics. Later he announced: "I will devastate Bavaria to the ground and lay it in ashes, so that the imperial soldiers will eat up themselves." One outrage was followed by another...
The joy of Tilly, the Pope and Emperor Ferdinand II over the victory and the many deaths should therefore not last long. The Swedish king pursued Tilly's retreating troops and defeated them twice, first in Saxony near Leipzig and then at the Lech in Bavaria. Tilly was seriously injured and died two weeks later in an appropriately agonizing way ... Gustav Adolf and his troops occupied Munich, the Bavarian Duke fled to Salzburg (all in 1631). The situation of the war had completely turned within half a year. But it should turn several times...
At times, Swedish troops marched through the Catholic heartland of Bavaria, plundering. Suddenly the bishop of Bamberg had other worries than continuing to burn witches; he sat on packed things to flee. The next year Gustav Adolf fell in the Battle of Lützen (November 16, 1632), but Bernhard of Sachsen-Weimar took over the command of the shocked Swedish Protestant troops and nevertheless ended the battle victoriously but with great losses. In February 1633 he occupied Bamberg, but could not penetrate into Austria ... The Bamberg prince-bishop Johann Georg II had to flee to avoid adequate punishment. He died a little later on March 16, 1633 in Austria.

Tilly and Johan Georg II, two of the main people responsible for unimaginable murders and sufferings, had been wiped out by the war, but how many victims did that cost and how many should follow? The war for faith and power was only halfway through in 1633.
(16) The conquest of the city of Magdeburg on May 20, 1631 (Magdeburg Blood Wedding, copperplate engraving)
(17) Painting ‘Magdeburg Blood Wedding’: many women plunge to their death to avoid falling into the hands of the conquerors.
(18) Bones from the mass graves of the battle of Lützen in Saxony, where the Swedish King Gustav II Adolf fell (November 6, 1632)

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Mary’s Witch Trial (witch hunt)

Post#52 » Sun Oct 11, 2020 10:24 am

V. - More about Witch Hunt

A view beyond Bamberg...
Local centers of witch hunts

Similar massive witch hunts as in Bamberg (1000) can also be found in southern Germany in other towns with bishop's seats such as Würzburg (around 900) and Eichstaett (250, of which 220 women, almost 90%) as well as in Kurmainz (almost 1800) and Ellwangen (400), or a little earlier and further north in Fulda (250) and in the city of Osnabrueck (280, without a bishop). The estimated and largely proven numbers of victims are given in brackets. In total, this is around 5,000 executions for witchcraft in only seven locations and mostly within a few years – more than ever in France and 20% of all victims in Germany over around two centuries! Except for Kurmainz, these were all rather small towns and patches of land. And with the exception of Osnabrueck, a prince-bishop ruled almost inviolable with both ecclesiastical and secular authority, because the Pope in Rome and the Emperor in Vienna were far away and they had other worries. But even if they tried to intervene, their decrees and mandates sometimes were simply disregarded, as we have learned.
No secular ruler would have been interested in exterminating his own population, especially not in times of war - some fanatical bishops without legitimate heirs of their own obviously had no inhibitions...
It wasn't common everywhere to force confessing witches to denounce other people and accusing them to be seen at the Witches’ Sabbath. It remained with individual executions, the notorious, never-ending chain trials - one witch accused others - did not take place.
Only one witch was burned in the imperial residence of Vienna during the entire era of the witch hunt. In Protestant regions, the witch hunt spread out over the area, concentrated less clearly on focal points as in the Catholic regions (Germany, Switzerland).
Nevertheless, there were individual focal points in Protestant regions too, but with striking differences compared to the Catholic witch-hunting centers: In the Protestant Osnabrueck, 278 people were executed for witchcraft, but only 2 men (less than 1%).
The convicted witches in Osnabrueck were not tied to a stake at which they had to stand in the flames, but they were tied to a ladder and then pushed into the blazing fire - death was likely to have occurred after a few but agonizing minutes by suffocation (look images: Different versions to burn a witch).
In the Catholic Bamberg, however, witches were particularly cruel executed at the stake, where the victim stood while burning alive slowly.

The Calvinist Switzerland is obviously a specialty, here the witch hunts began especially early, around 1430, and did not end until 1782, so they stretched over 350 years. At least 6,000, possibly up to 10,000 victims are counted, about 80 % of them were women. In no other country is the period so long; nowhere are there so many victims in relation to the population. Nonetheless, over this long period of time there was an average of 'only' around 20 executions per year, spread across the various regions and cantons. In Switzerland, too, there were regional focuses and waves of persecution, but not of the magnitude that occurred in some of the hotspots in Germany (see above).

For the number of victims in different countries and for other backgrounds, please also note my compilation under "Appendix 6 - Witch Hunt - A Review of History" here as Post # 24.

Differences in the "image of a witch"

The youngest witch to be burned in the Protestant town of Osnabrueck was 28 years old, most of the victims were over 40, and a remarkable number of them were even over 60. The role model was: the widow or old woman as a witch like in a fairy tale.
Among the victims in the Catholic Bamberg, on the other hand, there were a striking number of young women, including girls, among the victims (see my examples of the victims). The exact proportion of underage girls can no longer be determined today, since the Bamberg trial files usually only contain "daughter of ..." or "unmarried daughter of ...", without any age information. Given the typical low marriage age for girls at the time, these victims were barely over 20 years old, and tended to be younger.
The rule here was: the beautiful young woman as a seductress and witch as a role model. So it was hardly surprising that the 'most beautiful girl in town' (so it was noted) was an early victim of the witch hunt in Bamberg! (Burned at the stake before 1628, exact dates are not available to me).
These differences in the 'image of a witch' are certainly related to the fact that no Protestants were expected to live in chastity and celibacy. The reformer Martin Lutter, originally a studied monk, had married himself ... Catholic priests or monks, on the other hand, have to deny their natural disposition up to this day, they have to suppress their sexual needs... The sight of a beautiful woman then tempts them 'against their will', arouses them 'sinful' thoughts, leads them off the 'right path'... At former times it was obvious for them to feel 'bewitched' by beautiful girls and attractive women. Beautiful women would always be a threat to them.
witch burning_1.jpg
(1) Burning of a witch at the stake
witch burning_2.jpg
(2) Burning of a witch on a ladder
witch burning_3.jpg
(3) burning of a witch at a seesaw
Last edited by Rupert_137 on Fri Oct 16, 2020 4:21 pm, edited 3 times in total.

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Mary’s Witch Trial (witch hunt)

Post#53 » Tue Oct 13, 2020 6:53 am

Who were the victims?

Cities like Bamberg were hit by the witch madness; others had only a few victims. The female population of entire villages was almost completely wiped out during the witch hunts, while other places were completely spared. The evaluation of extensive historical trial files shows that the risk of being sued and executed for witchcraft depended primarily on where you lived, at what time you lived and which sovereign ruled (did he stop persecutions or support them) ... Then of course it depended on what gender someone was. Women were more affected everywhere, but especially in Protestant areas. The social status was also important, but it played a much smaller role. Mayors and even nobles were convicted of witchcraft, but mostly beheaded, rarely burned… And often political reasons or family quarrels were behind them. It was just so easy to get rid of someone on charges of witchcraft, for example a competitor, an unwanted inheritance, a problematic lover ....
Depending on the region, the risk for women was at least twice as high as for men and could also be much higher (Germany, Switzerland, Austria). The age played a very different role in Protestant or Catholic regions (see above), but the occupation practiced was hardly of any importance. The often-voiced assumption that midwives and healers (wise women) were particularly badly affected by the witch hunt is now considered refuted. For example, around 800 female victims of witch hunt in the 16th and 17th centuries in the vicinity of the city of Trier are documented, but upon closer examination only three of them were midwives.
The accusation of witchcraft therefore caught most of the victims completely unprepared, because the background to the persecution was almost arbitrary, after all it was a crime that was generally believed in, but could not even exist! Besides, inevitably no one was aware of any guilt.
If, however, a witch was once convicted in one's own family, there was a significantly increased risk of further denunciations and further convictions for generations. The direct female line was particularly affected by the 'witch's curse': grandmother - mother - daughter. Cases are repeatedly documented in which from the grandmother to mother and daughter all ended up burned at the stake at intervals of many years (i.e. not in the course of a single wave of witch hunt).
The daughters of convicted witches were worst hit; they had the highest risk of being burned with their mother or even many years later. Of course, this also had to do with the fact that it wasn't a real crime. The only decisive factor was who was suspected of being a witch, when storms and bad harvests occurred, people or cattle fell ill, a farm was burned down by lightning, serious accidents occurred or children died ... And then of course the daughter of a witch was often accused. It seemed obvious that the daughter, like the mother, would get involved with the devil.... There were many reasons for suspicion, and it was confirmed through torture... And so it was actually 'confirmed' again and again that the daughter is like the mother.

The end of the witch hunts

The change in people's thinking and understanding of nature first brought about a very significant decline of witch hunt in the 18th century and finally their end in Europe.
This also meant a victory for the Enlightenment, which no longer focused on church and faith, but on reason. With advancing knowledge in the natural sciences, one no longer needed 'weather witches' to explain thunderstorms and hail, at the same time the lack of any evidence that humans can perform magic as witches or had personal contact with the devil, raised doubts about the basic possibility of witchcraft.

As early as 1407 there was the only execution for witchcraft in Greenland, an alleged sorcerer and adulterer was burned.
In the New England states (now the USA), the first, isolated witch trials began in 1647, and then culminated in the Salem witch trials in 1692 (200 suspects, 150 imprisonments, 20 executions), only to end again in January 1693.
The last women in France were burned as witches about 1680. The last executions for witchcraft took place in Denmark in 1693 and in Sweden in 1704.
In 1736, the offense of witchcraft was completely removed from the statutes of England. In 1727 the last witch was burned in Scotland after there had been the last mass execution for witchcraft in Europe in 1697 (Paisley Witches)
The use of torture was forbidden in Prussia as early as 1708, which meant that there was no basis for confessions of witchcraft!
The last witches executed in Germany and Austria were frighteningly young, they obviously could not defend themselves adequately: 1701 in Prussia (15-year-old maid, beheaded), 1738 in the Rhineland (14-year-old girl, burned together with a mother of 3 children), 1756 in Bavaria (15-year-old girl, first beheaded, then burned). In 1750, the last victim of the witch hunt in Austria was beheaded (16-year-old girl).
In 1775 there was the last witch trial in Germany (Bavaria). The pronounced death sentence was not carried out, however, a review process was delayed and the accused woman died in prison in 1781.
In Switzerland, the last witch was beheaded in Glarus in 1782. Although the charge was “hexing a sick” and the trial dealt with this allegation, the judgment “witchcraft” was changed at short notice to “poison mixing” because the judges probably no longer wanted to convict a “witch”... From today's perspective, however, the whole process should have been reopened and the accused woman should have been proven to have used poison with intent to kill!
In 1793 two women were burned for the last time in Posen (Poland) on charges of witchcraft in Europe.

A dark chapter ends in Europe (and North America), but by no means worldwide.
Witches Sabbath.jpg
Witches' Sabbath, artist's impression. On the left you can see a weather witch at work.
witch memorial_Trier.jpg
witch memorial in Trier
Witch memorial_Bratislawa.jpg
witch memorial in Bratislawa

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Mary’s Witch Trial (witch hunt and more)

Post#54 » Thu Oct 15, 2020 6:53 am

Who did not have the right faith...

You didn't have to be an alleged witch to be agonized and tortured, drowned, beaten to death, impaled or burned ... and as a woman often to be raped beforehand ... It was enough that you had the wrong faith in the Middle Ages and in the early Modern Times, even if there were only minor deviations ... And the extent of these persecutions were even more terrible than in the witch hunts, because the number of victims is in the tens of thousands, sometimes thousands were murdered or rather cruelly slaughtered in just one day.

I found the pictures 1) to 3) during my research on the witch hunt.
The first pair of pictures is very reminiscent of witch burnings - but so many at once?
At first glance, the second picture suggests insidious murders that should be covered up as accidents - but so many people involved?
The third picture seems to depict the particularly gruesome public execution of a woman by impaling - but in an official execution the woman would probably not have been completely naked.

In fact, it is a matter of the massacres against Waldensians from the 13th to the 17th century, at the time when the witch hunts were also raging. The Waldensians were an early Protestant religious community whose origins go back to the 12th century.
The Archbishop of Lyon and several popes excommunicated the Waldensians, dubbed them “forever dishonorable” and threatened them with severe punitive actions. From around 1240 the Waldensians were persecuted by the Inquisition and there were repeated, regional attempts to exterminate the Waldensians there.

In 1545, 24 Waldensian villages in the Luberon mountain range - to which the persecuted Waldensians had withdrawn - were systematically attacked and devastated with around 2,000 victims.
Again in 1655 an even worse massacre caused around 6,000 victims among the Waldensians in Piedmont, belittlingly described as the 'Piedmont Blood Spring'. In total these are already about twice as many victims as all executions on charges of witchcraft in France.
(1) Burning of Waldensians in France_Jan Luyken.jpg
(1) Mass burning of Waldensians, drawn by Jan Luyken around 1685
(2) Massacre of the Vaudois of Merindol 1545.jpg
(2) Massacre of the Waldensians in the Luberon in 1545, artist's impression
(3) Anna Charboniere tortured and impaled 1655.jpg
(3) Cruel torture by impaling in the course of the massacre of the Waldensians in 1655. The victim depicted is said to be Anna Charboniere, daughter of Giovanni Charboniere de La Torre.
Last edited by Rupert_137 on Fri Oct 16, 2020 4:17 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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Mary’s Witch Trial (witch hunt and more)

Post#55 » Fri Oct 16, 2020 4:12 pm

More cruel persecutions…

At this time there were also persecutions and massacres of the Huguenots (French Protestants). In the so-called ‘Saint Bartholomew's Day’ in Paris in 1572 alone, there were thousands of victims: Parisian Blood Wedding, again a belittling name. And once again the Pope in Rome was happy about the death of so the many Protestants. He had printed a commemorative medal on the occasion of the massacre. From today's point of view, this revealed a frightening cold feeling and terribly bad taste in personality of a man who claimed to be the "leader of Christianity" (picture 5).
An eyewitness describes: “A slaughter began everywhere in Paris that soon there was no more alley, not even the smallest, where no one was killed. And the blood flowed over the streets as if it had rained heavily. The river [the Seine] was already covered with corpses and completely red with blood..." (picture 4).

The Templars were persecuted in France as early as the Middle Ages because the French King Phillipe IV le belle ‘the beautiful’ was heavily in debt. He put pressure on the Pope, who was then residing in Avignon, to charge all supporters of the Templar Order of heresy and to confiscate the order's property. So there were numerous arrests and executions by burning in France from 1310 to 1312 (picture 5)

But in other countries, too, it was often not much different. I had already reported on the massacre of 20,000 Protestants in Magdeburg in 1631 (Germany). In England, both Catholics and Protestants were persecuted under Henry VIII (1509-1547). Under his son Edward VI Catholics continued to be persecuted, under his successor Maria I (1553-1558) again Protestants who did not want to switch back to the Catholic faith, only to be harassed as a Catholic again under the more moderate Queen Elizabeth I since 1558.
Under Queen Maria I, around 300 Protestants were burned at the stake during her reign of only 5 years, and she also had executed her Protestant competitor for the English crown, her own niece the 17-year-old Lady Jane Gray (The Nine Days' Queen of 1553). All of this earned her the nickname 'Bloody Mary' - we still call a cocktail with tomato juice with this name today.

If we look back further into history, the First Crusade in 1099 for the 'liberation of the Holy Land' ended with the conquest of Jerusalem and at the same time with a bloodbath of the previous population made up of Jews and Muslims (3,000 to 10,000 victims, the population at the time is not known). The crusaders themselves reported that they stood in the blood of the slaughtered people (picture 6).
(4) St-Bartholomews Day Massacre 1572_Francois Dubois.jpg
(4) St Bartholomews Day Massacre 1572 in Paris - painting by Francois Dubois
(5) Templer_St-Bartholomews Day Massacre 1572_Gregory XIII Medal.jpg
(5) Paris: Burning of the Templer 1310 - St Bartholomews Day Massacre 1572 (madal Gregory XIII)
(6) taking of Jerusalem by the-crusaders_Emile Signol.jpg
(6) The taking of Jerusalem by the crusaders 1099 - painting by Emile Signol

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Mary’s Witch Trial (witch hunt and more)

Post#56 » Sun Oct 18, 2020 4:04 am

Queen Brunhilda

I would like to end my posts with a look back further into history, to the early Middle Ages, to Queen Brunhilda (Brunichild / Brunichildis), Franconian Queen of Burgundy and Austrasia (northeastern Franconian Empire on both sides of the Rhine) with Visigoth origins. When, after years of armed conflict, her allies fell away from Brunhilda, she was handed over to Clodewig, her rival for rule over the Frankish Empire.
The victory over Brunhilda won in this way was not enough to satisfy the Frankish king Clodewig (Chlothar/ Clovis). He must have hated the brave and combative queen so much that he executed Brunhilda in a particularly cruel way in 613 AD.
According to a tradition Brunhilda was tortured for three days by order of Clodewig; then she had to show herself to the army on a camel (half-naked?). Finally, the Frankish king had her tied to the tail of a wild horse with her head hair, one foot and one arm; whereupon she was razed to death and torn to pieces as it galloped. According to another tradition, he ordered Brunhilda to be tied between four horses to tear her body apart.
There are many artistic depictions about the murder of Queen Brunhilda - sometimes she is naked, sometimes clothed and there are different variations of how she is torn or tied to a horse. Descriptions from that time are often exaggerated or they are based on imaginative stories from later times. There were certainly no camels under the influence of the Franks at that time.
In any case it was a particularly cruel execution of a queen. Her defeat was seen as the victory of the Frankish nobility over the idea of a powerful, central kingdom, whose idea Brunhilda embodied. Certainly the motive played a role too that she was a powerful opponent to Clodewig and at the same time a strong woman...
Maybe she was even accused of sorcery and magic arts to justify this type of execution. In this sense, she would ultimately have been condemned as a witch and cruelly executed. Queen Brunhilda is a fitting conclusion to my overview of the witch hunt, according to this background.

In the Nordic and German legends as well as in many French place names, Brunhilda lives on as Brunhild / Brynhildr in different ways as a strong woman with extraordinary abilities (as a Valkyrie, a mythical fighting woman) ... while King Clodewig has long been forgotten
(7) Brunhilda torn to death.jpg
Brunhilda torn between four horses
(8) Brunhilda razed to death.jpg
Brunhilda razed to death, various artistic representations
(9) Brunhilda razed to death.jpg
Brunhilda razed to death, artistic imagination

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Mary’s Witch Trial (End)

Post#57 » Sun Oct 18, 2020 4:14 am

The Ending

With my brief report about Queen Brunhilda I end my compilations on the witch hunt and more... even if this is already the third ending ... But there comes a point where the subject is dealt with exhaustively.

At post # 1 I have added an overview to help you find your way around in my compilations a little better.

Thank you for the overall great interest in my posts and for the patience of many who have followed me here for up to 10 weeks!

I was able to expand my knowledge a lot myself during this time.
(10) Brunhild_G Bussiere_1897.jpg
Brunhild - mythical queen and valkyrie - painting by G. Bussiere 1897
(11) Brunhilda carried by warriors as a mighty queen.jpg
Brunhilda carried by warriors as a mighty queen
(12) Brunhilda put on display, razed, dismembered.jpg
Brunhilda, another variant of her execution: exhibited, razed, dismembered

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