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Trolldoms- och vidskepelseprocesserna i Göta hovrätt 1635-1754
Umeå University, Faculty of Arts, Historical Studies.
1993 (Swedish)Doctoral thesis, monograph (Other academic)Alternative title
Witchcraft and magic trials in the Göta Royal Superior Court, 1635-1754 (English)
Abstract [en]

Extensive witchcraft trials took place in Sweden between the years 1668 and 1676. Approximately three hundred individuals were executed during a period of very few years. However, far more common were trials of a more modest nature, concerning minor magic and malevolent witchcraft without aspects of diabolism. The present dissertation deals with these minor cases, which have previously attracted very little academic interest.

The source material for this study comprises 353 cases (involving 880 individuals), submitted to the Göta Royal Superior Court by informants during the period 1635-1754. The area of jurisdiction covered by the Göta Royal Superior Court embraced the southernmost areas of Sweden.

This study discusses witchcraft and magic trials from three perspectives:

1. The elite perspective (the acculturation model);

2. The functionalistic conflict perspective; and

3. The systems-oriented perspective of popular magic.

Ideologically and religiously coloured perceptions of magic became more pervasive at the same time as the number of trials increased. This was caused by central administrative measures, which broadened the opportunities for pursuing cases on the local level. However, the increased influence of the dite cannot be characterized as a conquest of folk culture by the elite. It is more adequate to speak of a movement of repression, originating in a state become all the more civilized. Death sentences were few and far between and most of the cases concerned minor magic.

There existed no independent popular level such as emerges in the reports from the proceedings of the trials. People clearly differentiated between different types of malevolent witchcraft when standing before the courts. They were more likely to go directly to trial when the signs preceding their misfortunes hinted at magical activity (viewed as sorcery), than they were when suspicions against witches were based on threats made in conflict situations. Witchcraft which had its basis in conflict situations appears to have been more dependent upon first receiving encouragement in the form of obliging courts, before people would take their cases to trial. This has created a pattern which ostensibly makes it seem that the level of social tensions was low, so that people therefore appeared indifferent toward malevolent witchcraft. Just as illusory is the competing image of an uninfluenced popular perception of witchcraft which actually emerges in the Göta Royal Superior Court. However, this does not mean that the actions of individuals was characterized by an assimilation of the values of the dominant culture. Receptivity to the signals of the elite was certainly clear, but at the same time the responses indicate a great deal of independence. Popular participation in witchcraft trials took place without any prerequisite profound cultural transformations.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
Umeå :: Umeå universitet , 1993. , 229 p.
Umeå studies in the humanities, ISSN 0345-0155 ; 114
Keyword [en]
Witchcraft - Europe - History -17th Century, Witchcraft - Europe - History -18th Century, Witchcraft - Sweden - History - 17th Century, Witchcraft - Sweden - History - 18th Century
Keyword [sv]
häxprocesser i Sverige
National Category
URN: urn:nbn:se:umu:diva-65857ISBN: 91-7174-802-4OAI: diva2:605068
Public defence
1993-06-04, Humanisthuset, hörsal G, Umeå universitet, Umeå, 10:15
Available from: 2013-02-13 Created: 2013-02-12 Last updated: 2013-02-13Bibliographically approved

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