I took some liberties in her appearance. But no write-up can compare with this touching video of this story. Please take fifteen minutes out of your day to watch this. It’s compelling, tragic, and wonderful all at the same time. I’m so touched by the story, that I may just paint her again- a more elaborate tribute.
Very horrifying story. Dorte was a single Danish woman supporting herself by spinning thread in her village of Øster Grønning.
What started as rumors became open accusations of witchcraft. Villagers claimed she had made children and cattle sick, and then said she killed a child and a horse using magic. The owner of the dead horse and the mother of the dead child convinced a mob to apprehend Dorte and arranged for a private witch trial. They “convicted” her, tied her to a chair in her own home and set the house on fire.
The two women that instigated this were eventually arrested and executed for murder.
Right about now, I’m thankful that I don’t really talk to my neighbors much.
The Great Scottish Witch Hunt of 1592 was a very tragic and scary series of witch trials that took place all over Scotland. Almost 400 people were tried for witchcraft. It was the second of five nationwide witch hunts that took in the 16th and 17th centuries.
This was the least documented of the 3 major witch hunts as it was not sponsored or enacted by a royal commission. No one knows for sure what caused this particular hunt, but it followed extreme political turmoil, plague and famine.
The most well-known case during this time was that of Margaret Aitken, also known as The Great Witch of Balwearie. After being arrested, she pled guilty under extreme torture. In an effort to save her own life, she claimed to be able to recognize other witches by looking into their eyes. So the “commission” pardoned her conviction in order to let her help hunt these women down and execute them. In a period of only four months, Margaret caused the deaths of many, many women until eventually she was exposed as a fraud in August of 1597.
As a result of what happened that year, the commission was ordered to stop the trials until the claims could be examined. The accusations and trials stopped in October of that year… only to begin again from 1628-1631, 1649-1650, and again from 1661-1662.
Yes, she did what she had to do to survive, but I don’t think she’s resting comfortably in the afterlife. I was unable to find out what became of Ms. Aitken, but I’m fascinated with her story so I’ll continue to do research and report back.
The stories surrounding the Salem witch trials are well-known and retold, but not so for the nearby town of Gloucester. They had more accused witches than any other town in the area (aside from Salem.) Records have been lost, but the accusations began in 1692.
The accused witches were- Hester Elwell (which was on the show Who Do You Think You Are? in which Sarah Jessica Parker found out that Elwell is her ancestor.) Hester was accused, along with her mother Ruth Dutch. Also accused: Rebecca Dike, Rachel Vinson, Phoebe Day, Elizabeth Dicer, Joan Penney, and 3 generations of the Prince family- Margaret Prince, Mary Prince Rowe, and Abigail Rowe.
I’ve painted a portrait of Abigail, who was just 15 years old. Unusual, but not unheard of for a child to be accused, Abigail was brought on charges of witchcraft alongside her mother and grandmother for which was likely a case of animosity between the town’s elite- a fight that spiraled out of control and resulted in a trial. Fortunately, “spectral evidence” was banned in October of 1692 leaving the prosecutors with zero evidence.
There is a great article about these women here: http://historyofmassachusetts.org/the-accused-witches-of-gloucester/
and here: http://minerdescent.com/2011/11/18/witch-trials-victims/
Mary Bliss Parsons (1625ish-1715) was charged of being a witch twice!
She was born in England and moved to Massachusetts when she was a child. The family settled in Springfield, MA, but her father died soon after.
Mary married a man named Joseph Parsons and settled in Northampton, MA. Because he was a merchant and fur trader, they were very wealthy and well known in the area. The rumor mill went off immediately. Gossipy townsfolk claimed that their success came at the expense of other families and was a result of Mary’s dealings with the devil. Joseph tried to counteract the slander with a lawsuit against those who said these things and won. But eighteen years later Mary was once again accused and formally tried as a witch. She was found not guilty.
There are some strange circumstances with this case, paired with the fact that another woman named Mary Lewis Parsons was also charged with witchcraft at the time- it becomes confusing as to what is what. Methinks Mary was probably the victim of jealousy, nosy, town gossips who didn’t like to see anyone succeed. My oh my, some things never change.
Margaret Matson was tried for witchcraft in Philadelphia in 1683.
Margaret and her husband Neals, of Swedish-Finnish descent, had a farm in what is now known as Eddystone, PA. She was a well-known healer in the area of the lower Delaware River.
She was accused by a few neighbors and even her own daughter of making threats, bewitching cattle and witnesses testified that she appeared to them in spectral form. As if that isn’t interesting enough… she was actually found guilty, but not of being a witch, but for having a reputation of a witch. Boy, if some of us were charged of having a bad reputation- there’d be a lot of pending trial dates.
They dismissed the charges that she had killed livestock. She was released with fines and a promised of 6 months of good behavior. There are myths that claim the charges were dismissed because she had a legal right to fly on a broomstick- but there are no court records that confirm this.
Marguerite Porete (? – 1310.)
Continuing with my Heretics theme (which will go on until Halloween- broken up by some witches too) Marguerite was a French mystic and author of The Mirror of Simple Souls. The details of her life are somewhat biased as it is only described in her trial records. She was highly educated which means she was probably born into the upper class of northern France.
Her first book was written in the 1290’s, and was immediately deemed heretical- it was publicly burned and she was ordered to never spread her ideas again. That did not stop Marguerite- she kept writing. In 1310, a commission of 21 theologians examined her work and again, deemed it heretical.
The book itself states that when the Soul is truly full of God’s love, it is united with God. When one’s soul is at this unified state, it cannot sin because it is wholly united with nature. ” I am God, says Love, for Love is God and God is Love, and this Soul is God by the condition of Love. I am God by divine nature and this Soul is God by the condition of Love. Thus this precious beloved of mine is taught and guided by me, without herself, for she is transformed into me, and such a perfect one, says Love, takes my nourishment.”
No one is all that sure why she was such a target and why all the effort was put into her trial (21 men?!?!?) but it was most likely due to the growing hostility within different political groups at the time.
She was burned at the stake for heresy in 1310 in Paris.
Giovanna Bonanno (1713-1789.)
There is very little information about this woman- but what there is, makes the hair on the back of my neck stand up.
She was a well known witch. People went to her for spells and potions, but mostly for murder. That is how she made her living. Buyers actually believed that because the magic they sought was to kill through occult powers, it rendered them morally and legally blameless. Wives who wanted to eliminate husbands for cheating, wives who wanted to eliminate their husbands to be with a boyfriend, wives who wanted to eliminate their husbands’ girlfriends… they all came to Giovanna for her “mysterious vinegar.”
Her evil potion (which was most likely a concoction of arsenic derived from lotion used to kill lice) was said to “resolve all family conflicts.” It had no taste, and a natural scent with a hint of vinegar (GREAT marketing campaign.) Because it wasn’t possible to prove poison was used, courts convicted based on accusations. However, in this case, Giovanna confessed. She confessed to everything (but not the ingredients of her potion.)
When a woman named Maria Pitarra was delivering an order of poison for Giovanna, she realized that it was to be used on a friend’s son- and gave her friend a warning. It was this incident that ended up being her Giovanna’s demise. Witnesses and owners of apothecaries, that were selling her poison, we called to testify- she was convicted of sorcery, tortured and executed by hanging on July 30, 1789 in Palermo, Italy.
Also famous for demanding a divorce, Anne was forced into marriage at the age of 15 as a substitute for her sister who died. She sought the divorce on the grounds that her husband did not believe in her strong Protestant faith. The marriage was troublesome to say the least, but they did have a son.
She was arrested and accused of Heresy and because of the extreme torture she underwent, she was carried to her execution. From what I’ve read of the torture methods, I imagine that death would have been welcomed.