Norway // North Norway //

Dark times: witchfinding in Finnmark

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Finnmark was long known to medieval Christians as Ultima Thule – the end of the world – and legend has it that the road to hell was a small, unpaved one set out towards the Varanger peninsula, presided over by devils and dark knights. After paganism was outlawed and the Black Death decimated local populations in the late 1300s, the Scandinavian kingdoms exhibited marked intolerance towards anyone harbouring anti-Christian tendencies. Although the Church had long regarded the extremes of Finnmark as the realm of the devil, witchfinding only took a hold in the 1620s – half a century or so later than the rest of Europe – when, it was alleged, a coven set up shop in a cave on the edge of Vardø. Over the next sixty years, Norway indicted 135 “witches” found in and around the town, and burned 91 of them alive at the stake – a huge number considering the size of the population.

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