'Worst Injustice in Norway': Lawyer Seeks to Revert 400-Year-Old Witch Trials
In witch trials that took place across Europe between 1450 and 1750, about 100,000 people, mostly women, stood accused of witchcraft. About 45,000 were executed; they were usually burned at the stake.
Lawyer Jostein Løken, a partner in the law firm Elden AS, has been fascinated by the historic witch-burning that took place in his native town of Elverum in the year 1625 and wants the trials resumed in court, the verdicts pronounced null and void and the victims acquitted.
Løken sees the witch trial, in which local woman Ingeborg Knutsdatter Økset, her son and sister were sentenced to death and burned alive for witchcraft, as “arguably the worst injustice anyone has ever been subjected to in Norway” and seeks to rectify it 396 years later, national broadcaster NRK reported
According to him, the victims deserve a “completely different, humane and just trial”.
“Ingeborg was turned over by her sister under torture. The same with Ingeborg's son. All three were subjected to atrocities. It has bothered me and I think we can not accept this.”
Løken views the “bestial atrocities” to which innocent women and a boy were exposed and ultimately burned at stake over a “completely absurd accusation” as a blemish on the Norwegian legal system.
“A relative can get a kind of redress, and the violations can to a certain extent be compensated if you get these sentences pronounced null and void,” Jostein Løken said. “It does not matter much whether the victims are alive or dead. Violations must be compensated and rectified. We are concerned about this in this professional environment.”
Løken already got in touch with descendants of Ingeborg Knutsdatter Økset and her family and said that several have already signed up, including her nine times great-grandchildren.
Historian and specialist in witchcraft and witchcraft trials in Norway Rune Blix Hagen argued that it is an exciting, but demanding, project. He emphasised that it was a matter of how well-preserved the sources are, since documents tend to be lost and timeworn at best in a matter of centuries.
“It can be a little difficult. My experience is that when we come down to the 17th century, it's a little bad with these kinds of sources. But it's not impossible at all,” Blix Hagen mused.
1 October 2021, 06:58 GMT
According to him, about 800 names of Norwegian wizards and witches put on trial are known, the majority of them being women. Over 300 of these were sentenced to death, which usually meant being burned alive at the stake. At that time, there was a duty to attend the burnings, which were meant to frighten the population.
In Europe, witch trials took place between 1450 and 1750, with intensity peaking between 1580 and 1630. About 100,000 people, mostly women, went through the legal system due to alleged witchcraft. About 45,000 were executed.