Beyond the Witch Trials: Witchcraft and Magic in Enlightenment Europe

By Owen Davies; William de Blécourt | Go to book overview

4
Responses to witchcraft in late seventeenth- and
eighteenth-century Sweden
The aftermath of the witch-hunt in Dalarna

Marie Lennersand

The witch-hunts of the early modern period must have left a profound mark on many local communities. The intense trials and executions which took place during the second half of the seventeenth century were dreadful events that touched many people. All those involved, from the accused and the witnesses to the judges and the clergy, had to make decisions that changed and even ended people's lives. Other people too must have remembered the accusations, and felt the fear and hatred for a long time afterwards. Those involved had families, neighbours and friends who were, at the very least, emotionally affected by the proceedings. Moreover, such events were difficult not only for individuals but also for local societies as a unit. In a time when unity, neighbourliness and harmony were meant to characterise a good Christian society, the disorder that a large-scale witch-hunt created was especially threatening.

So what happened in a community following a witch-hunt? In the years that followed people had to go on living together. But what became of them? Were the accused witches who had not been executed reintegrated into the local society, or were they forever witches in the eyes of their neighbours? What relationship did the accusers have to the people they had accused, or the families of those who had been executed? Did the witch accusations go on in some other form? Were new conflicts created instead? The issue of the aftermath is important because witch-hunts did not begin or end with the trial proceedings. There was usually a long history of related events following a trial as well as leading up to it. In this context it is important to question both the ways in which local society affected a witch-hunt and how the witch-hunt altered the lives of everybody involved.

In the historiography of witchcraft it has been recognised that the background and the relationships between the involved parties in a witchhunt were determining factors for how things would turn out. Even if accuser and accused had not been involved in face-to-face conflicts before the accusations were made, certain patterns can be detected in how the witch-hunt

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