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Secrets of Swedish witch hunt revealed

Published: 30 Nov 2006 12:19 GMT+01:00
Updated: 30 Nov 2006 12:19 GMT+01:00

A manuscript containing previously unpublished information about witch trials in northern Sweden has been discovered in a museum archive in northern Sweden.

“A true tale about the nature of witchcraft” was penned by a minister called Jöns Hornaeus.

“Most of the text is already available at the National Library of Sweden,” archivist Göran Gullbro told the Local.

“But until this summer nobody knew where the original manuscript was. And now it seems that there are some pages not seen before,” said Gullbro.

Author Jöns Hornaeus’ grandfather was one of Sweden’s most notorious witch-hunters. And in 1675 “the evil chaplain”, Laurentius Hornaeus, received word that there was witchcraft afoot in Västernorrland County.

As a result of his investigations a total of 71 suspected witches, 65 of them women, were beheaded and burned in what turned out to Sweden’s largest ever mass execution of witches on a single day.

A total of approximately 300 witches were killed in Sweden over the course of the 17th century. The witch trials were particularly fearsome in the Ångermanland region.

Gullbro found the manuscript when a student came to the museum looking for information about witch trials in the area.

The new pages discovered by Gullbro and the student include details of the trials and interviews with villagers in the area. The text is partially crossed out and its content is not yet known.

“It is quite difficult to read as his handwriting is very small and careless,” said Gullbro.

The archivist found the manuscript in a folder labelled “Sorcery and superstition, witches, witches’ rides and recipes”.

Paul O'Mahony (paul.omahony@thelocal.se)

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