We all have heard of witches. Sometimes in Halloween tales, sometimes in movies and sometimes in books; witches are a very common part of horror stories. Even though, many believe that witches are fictional and a part of one’s imagination, they are definitely for real. During the 16th and 17th century, witch-hunting was common practice across Europe. Religious fervor and superstition were the precursors of such paranoia. Sorcery was rampant during this time, and witches were blamed for most of the calamities which took place during those times. To throw light on the history of witches and their evil practices, the following is a list of 13 notorious real witches in history from across the globe who instilled fear in everyone.
The first in this list of real witches in history is Merga Bien who was rich heiress. Merga was a witch of German origin. She had confessed that she was the one who killed her second husband and his children with the use of witchcraft. She was also accused of attending a witches’ Sabbath and carrying a baby, which was fathered by the devil himself. Balthasar Von Dernbach, the witch hunter was the man who got her executed. Merga was the first woman he had arrested, and even though she was pregnant she was not exempted from being executed by the fire at the stake. 250 other witches were executed in a similar manner, under Dernbach’s supervision.
One of the most notorious witches in history, Bridget Bishop was quite an extrovert. She was an outspoken person; she was a successful businesswoman who owned several taverns. She was always dressed in red provocative garments. There were many accusations against her; she bewitched 5 girls, attacked sleeping men, killed a pig and practiced voodoo. All these accusations were testified by the locals of the town. She was later executed after most of the allegations were proven right.
A Danish witch, was also known as “The Devil’s mother”. She was held responsible for calling storms against the queen’s (Queen Anne) ship. She also got together with other witches and performed spells against the Queen. By this time, witch hunting was a common tool in the hands of high-ranking officials, who used it for their political advantage. The Danish minister of finance was the one who pointed fingers at Anna Koldings for causing trouble to the ship; this lead to her arrest. After being tortured during her imprisonment, Koldings finally admitted her crime and gave the name of five other women who were involved. Anna was burned at stake with 12 other women in Kornberg. This was the very location where Shakespeare’s “Hamlet” was set.
Way back in 1590, Agnes Sampson was said to have attended a witch’s coven which was hosted by Satan himself. She was from Scotland, and her insidious intention behind this meeting was to raise a huge storm to sink King James VI’s bride Queen Anne’s caravel. Indeed, they were storms which affected Queen Anne’s voyage; when the news reached the King, he questioned Agnes and started a trial, which lead to the execution of 70 other witches. Agnes underwent a lot of torture to confess her crime; she was also fitted on witch’s bridle! After she confessed her crime she was burnt at a stake.
Katharina Henot belonged to Germany and was the country’s first female postmaster. She was accused by a nun of a local convent of causing death and illness amongst nuns. Henot was arrested on the archbishop’s orders; she was severely tortured but never confessed to her accusation. She was one of fewest witches in history, who did not confess her crimes despite being tortured. She was sentenced to be burnt alive despite her brother putting his best efforts to save her. Her exoneration was cleared recently, and the church cleared her name. The church was of the opinion that the woman fell victim to political conspiracies.
Karin was from Sweden, she was a maid who claimed that her 7 children were fathered by the King of the Fairies. She was put on trial in the year 1656, post her confession. Back in the day, consorting with fairies was considered a grave crime in Sweden which fell in the same category as bestially or sodomy. The judge hearing her case, was convinced that it was Satan who had driven her mad, because of which she had compassion for the insane. Instead of punishing her, the judge asked the church to pray for Karin.
She was a Dutch midwife, who admitted to have killed newborn babies and fetuses during the Roermond witch trials which took place in the year 1613. Gillis along with many other women were arrested for the fact that their black magic had caused miscarriages, diseases and sudden deaths of newborns. 63 witches were rounded up in this trial as an emergency measure by the church. All 63 women were sentenced to death with executions taking place within a short period of time.
Kael Merrie was also a Dutch woman in the Netherlands who was also a part of the Roermond trial. She was accused of paralyzing pigs, making chicken sick and preventing milk to be churned into butter. The accused witches often hoped for an acquittal, but majority of them were lynched. Kael Merrie was one of the first few witches in history to be tried in court which is why the authorities did not exercise torture to extract her confession. In fact she was banished by the court instead of being executed. However, once she left for her exile, Spanish mercenaries drowned her.
Next in this list of witches in history is Maret Jonsdotter. She was of Swedish origin. She was the very first witch to be tried in Sweden during “The Great Noise”, a movement which swept across the country between 1667 and 1676. She was accused of introducing a local shepherd girl with black magic, and apparently she also led her to meet the devil. Even though Maret never confessed to any of the aforementioned allegations, she was found guilty during the trial. As a punishment she was first decapitated and then burnt.
She was the very last victim of the great noise in Sweden. Usually, witches who were found guilty were either hung to death, or decapitated before being burnt, but neither of these cases was with Malin Matsdotter. She never admitted and confessed to her allegations. Her trial took place in Stockholm; she was accused of abducting children and taking them to the witches Sabbath. Her own daughter accused her of practicing witchcraft. In the year 1676, she was burnt alive in Hotorget square, along with another witch Anna Simonsdotter. As per legend, she did not scream while she was burnt alive, because witches feel no pain.
Alice was a wealthy Irish woman, who was a money lender. She was married to four men, each of which died one after another. When her fourth husband died, her children grew suspicious on her, and accused her of poisoning her husbands and using them as a sacrifice to Satan. Mysterious powders and spells were found from different parts of her home. She was tried for witchcraft in the year 1324. Interestingly, the woman disappeared the night before execution and was never seen again.
Angele was accused of having sexual intercourse with the devil, which also produced a son who was half-man, half wolf-snake. The child was often regarded as a beast, who fed on other babies. Angele was born in the year 1230, and belonged to France. She was the very first woman to have been presumed to be a witch, during the witch hunt being conducted in the Medieval period. She was accused of witchcraft, which lead to the disappearance of babies in her local area. After being severely tortured, she finally confessed to her sins and was later executed.
Born of a teenage mother who herself was accused of witchcraft Ursula Southheil was a deformed child. She had sunken cheeks, large head and twisted limbs; villagers believed that she was the daughter of the devil, and therefore she automatically became a witch. Later, she came to be known as Mother Shipton, and lived from 1488 to 1561 in Yorkshire. She was accused of performing black magic and sorcery which is why she lived as an outcast all her life. Even though she was a witch, she had a quality which very few witches possessed; she was clairvoyant. She predicted many events in the distant future, which turned out to be true.
The aforementioned details on the history of witches is definitely petrifying and intriguing at the same time. When talking about real witches in history, it is hard to believe that so many women were involved in witchcraft and sorcery because of which they had to be executed in the most horrifying way. Though it is true that witches existed, a lot of them were falsely allegated and had to die. They had to confess to their charges owing to a lot of torture.