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Paying respects to the last "witch" of Europe

by Sarah Morris - Copy Editor
Tue, Apr 24th 2018 10:00 pm

Much like the United States, parts of Europe had its own versions of witch trials and executed a number of people across the continent. From around the 16th century to 18th century, there was a widespread scare within the Christian population that Satanic witches were plotting against them. 

These “worshipers of the Devil” were literal butt kissers, as they were known to kiss the butt cheeks of Satan during meetings, which they traveled to on their broomsticks. They were accused of the usual witchcraft clichés: precognition, causing illnesses and death, and heresy. In that time, roughly 50,000 women and men were executed. Half the number of women killed were for witchcraft, though some argue the death toll is much higher, maybe up to millions.

According to 15minutehistory.org, “Accused witches would have their thumbs screwed tight in iron vises, their legs crushed until the bones were reduced to pulp, and their bodies hung by their wrists from the ceiling in order to make them confess to harmful magic and the worship of the Devil.”

Out of all the people who were killed, up to 6,000 were from Switzerland. The Republic of Swiss holds an incredible record of persecution among the European witch hunt for such a small country. Even the slightest display of rebellion in society was enough evidence that someone was a witch. 

One of the witches killed during the European witch hunt was Anna Göldi, who was born in Sennwald, Republic of Swiss during the fall of 1734. Next to nothing is known about her life prior to being accused as a witch for the first time around the year of 1765, after her infant baby died the first night it was born. She was sentenced to house arrest and also pilloried, where she was humiliated in public.

After Göldi was completely free, she began to work with a family whose son, she had a child with out of wedlock. She later started working for the Tschudi family in 1780, where she was accused again of witchcraft. Jakob Tschudi, one of the family members and her employer, reported her using supernatural forces to hide needles in bread and milk in hopes to harm one of his daughters. According to BBC News’s Imogen Foulkes, Göldi may have actually had been having an affair with her boss, who turned her over to the police when she threatened to come clean about them.  

Göldi escaped at first but was later captured on February 9, 1782, after the authorities of the Canton of Glarus sent out for her capture with a reward for whoever brought her forward.

According to atlasobscura.com, Göldi was “hung by her thumbs with stones tied to her feet. The torture broke her, and she confessed to having used the power of the Devil, whom she claimed (in notably cliché details) had appeared to her in the form of a large black dog and given her the needles.”

The witch hunts had pretty much just ended, but no one in Glarus seemed to get the message, and unfortunately for Göldi, she was decapitated with a sword four months later.

What makes Göldi, just another “witch,” so special? Well, she was the last witch in Europe to be wrongly executed. In fact, she is honored today in Switzerland and has an entire museum dedicated to her.

In 2008, 226 years after her execution, the Glarus parliament decided to acknowledge the execution of Anna Göldi as a miscarriage of justice and was given an eternal light memorial. Two permanently lit lamps sit on each side of the Glarus court house represent the atonement for Göldi and the injustice that took place that day.




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