Monday, March 11, 2013

"All agreed that it was Witchcraft." (A case of beneficent Witchcraft in Sweden)

The following passage is from Magic, Body and the Self in Eighteenth-Century Sweden by Jaqueline Van Gent (Brill, 2009), chapter five, "The Ambiguity of Magic."

In 1709, when Anna Thoresdotter and her daughter, Kierstin, had to defend themselves against the accusation of theft and the use of superstition, they stated very clearly their ideas about the meaning of their special powers:

the widow Anna Thoresdottir [said that she] had neither learned nor used any superstition at any time, but admitted that all she could do was to bless pain [Signa Wred] which she does not regard as a damned or sinful, but rather as a useful art, in which she uses the following word or blessing over folk and animals: 'Jesus stroked over a joint, so badly did his horse hurt its foot that Jesus dismounted [from the horse]." In this way she blessed the painful [wredna] blood in Jesus' blessed name.

This blessing Anna Thorseottir occasionally used, with success, and she did not believe that she had committed any sin, for goo and pious words were used.

In contrast, the local court regarded Anna's magical healing practices as sinful. For her misuse of Jesus' name, her Christian faith was further questioned in subsequent interrogations. To Anna, however, there was no contradiction between her blessing of people and animals, and her Christianity. Instead, she represented herself as being in the succession of Christ, emphasizing repeatedly that Jesus himself, 'when he was in flesh on earth', had sued these words.

In the course of Anna Thoresdottir's trial, other witnesses from her local community accused her directly and indirectly of witchcraft. Although nobody interpreted her magical practices as sin or blashpemy, all agreed that it was witchcraft.
[p. 159]