Catalonia pardons girls accused of witchcraft 400 years in the past

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About 400 hundred years in the past, within the small Catalan village of Viladrau, 14 girls have been accused of witchcraft, tortured and hanged. On the time — between 1618 and 1622 — there have been fewer than 100 residents. 

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“We’ve gone down in historical past for being the city with the largest witch hunt in Catalonia. … However they weren’t witches — they have been marginalized girls like widows, immigrants and herbalists.”

Noemí Bastias, mayor, Viladrau, Catalonia

“We’ve gone down in historical past for being the city with the largest witch hunt in Catalonia,” mentioned Noemí Bastias, the city’s mayor. “However they weren’t witches — they have been marginalized girls like widows, immigrants and herbalists.”

Final month, the regional Catalan authorities in northeast Spain handed a decision to pardon as much as 1,000 individuals executed for witchcraft in Catalonia 400 years in the past. 

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Nations reminiscent of Scotland and Germany are additionally providing witchcraft pardons. An estimated 50,000 individuals have been killed between the fifteenth and 18th centuries when a witch-hunting craze swept over Europe. About 80% of victims have been girls — however males and youngsters have been additionally executed.

Till lately, witch trials in Spain had been largely unknown. However an investigation by the native historical past journal Sàpiens unearthed these tales and stirred curiosity. 

“We’re speaking about hundreds of witch trials,” mentioned Clàudia Pujol, the journal’s director. “We need to make clear this violent and misogynist a part of historical past.” 

And it received’t be lengthy till different Catalan cities observe swimsuit.

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Pujol mentioned most instances in Spain have been in cities alongside the Pyrenees mountains, within the areas of Catalonia, Aragon and Navarra. They have been geographically removed from centralized Castilian courts of the Spanish Inquisition, who persecuted Jewish and Muslim communities on the time.

“Witch hunts in Catalonia have been spearheaded by native secular courts who have been ruthless and didn’t observe any legal guidelines,” Pujol mentioned.

This method relied closely on accusations from neighbors who have been determined for scapegoats each time unhealthy luck struck the city — like crop failures, sudden illnesses or pure disasters.

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“We have a tendency to love the slogan: ‘We’re the daughters of the witches they couldn’t burn.’ … However statistically, we’re extra probably the daughters of the neighbors who pointed fingers and who have been in favor of the executions.”

Clàudia Pujol, editor, Sàpiens journal

“We have a tendency to love the slogan: ‘We’re the daughters of the witches they couldn’t burn,’” Pujol mentioned. “However statistically, we’re extra probably the daughters of the neighbors who pointed fingers and who have been in favor of the executions.”

Pau Castell, a number one historian on witch hunts in Catalonia, labored with Pujol on the journal’s investigation. As a part of the marketing campaign, Sàpiens revealed a complete census of all witch trials that took place in Catalonia — an unprecedented accomplishment. 

“We will place Catalonia among the many areas in Europe with the very best quantity of witchcraft trials,” Castell mentioned.

He mentioned the primary documented regulation towards witchcraft was handed within the Catalan space of Vall d’Aneu in 1424. His hope is that the journal’s marketing campaign will convey lengthy overdue consideration to Catalonia’s function in witch hunts and assist individuals mirror on what this historical past can train us in the present day.

“[We need] to investigate the current and the mechanics in play [sic] in our society relating to violence towards girls, but additionally violence towards sure teams of people, sure communities.”

Pau Castell, witch hunts historian, Catalonia

“[We need] to investigate the current and the mechanics in play [sic] in our society relating to violence towards girls, but additionally violence towards sure teams of people, sure communities,” Castell mentioned.

After we scapegoat marginalized communities, he added, we’re simply repeating historical past.

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In the meantime, the tales of ladies persecuted for witchcraft stay on by way of an annual theater efficiency within the village of Viladrau referred to as the “Ball of the Witches,” drawing hundreds of spectators every year to the small city tucked away within the Montseny mountains, about an hour and a half from Barcelona. 

The city additionally has a number of streets named after the ladies who have been tried and killed as witches and, in recent times, their tales are actually included within the native faculty’s historical past curriculum.

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