Witch hunts: Catalonia pardons 1000 people

After 400 years
Catalonia pardons nearly 1,000 alleged witches

Long noses, pointed hats and broomsticks: the women who fell victim to witch hunts probably had little to do with this idea.

© Wolfram Steinberg / Picture Alliance

Up until the 18th century, witch hunts were a reality in Catalonia. Now the regional parliament has pardoned almost 1,000 people who were convicted of alleged witchcraft.

They didn’t live to see this resolution: In Catalonia, in north-eastern Spain, up to 1000 people who had been accused of witchcraft were pardoned – after 400 years.

The resolution primarily targeted women accused of witchcraft in Catalonia in the 16th and 17th centuries. During that time, around 50,000 people across Europe were sentenced to death for witchcraft, 80 percent of whom were women.

As Deutschlandfunk Nova reports, witch hunts were rare in Spain in the Middle Ages. The Inquisition at the time was more intent on prosecuting alleged heresy by Jews and Muslims who had been forcibly converted to Christianity.

President Aragonès calls witch hunts “institutionalized femicide”

It was different in self-proclaimed independent Catalonia. Alleged witches were persecuted, hunted down and killed there until the 18th century. In most cases, however, they were not burned at the stake as in other countries, but hung to save firewood.

Catalan President Pere Aragonès called the witch hunt “institutionalized femicide.” Jenn Díaz, a member of the Republican Left in the Catalan Parliament, made a similar statement:

“We are the heirs of the witches, the poisoners and the healers. Today we are called Feminazis. There is a connection between witch hunts and the murder of women,” said the MP, and continued: “We want reparations and we understand that we are still far from it are removed.”

Parliament’s decision aims to commemorate the witches who were murdered in Catalonia during the 15th and 18th centuries, encourage studies and motivate communities to, for example, name streets after them.

“They weren’t witches, they were women”

Similar pardons had already been granted in Scotland, Sweden and Switzerland. With the decision, Catalonia also supports the finding that women were persecuted and condemned by their own neighbors in a thoroughly misogynist society without any reason at this time.

The resolution, signed by the separatists, Republicans and leftists, supports the manifesto “It wasn’t witches, it was women” published by Sapiens magazine.

MP Susanna Segovia also called the witch hunt “femicide” and lamented that this dark chapter is disappearing from the history books that children learn. A lot still has to change in the way witches are viewed, Segovia continued: “They were independent, healers, lived alone and knew the reproductive systems.”

She also asked the Institute for Catalan Studies to redefine the word witch. Currently, a witch would be defined not only as a person who practices witchcraft, but also as an “old and ugly woman” or an “old and bad woman”. These definitions would have absolutely nothing to do with witches.

Sources: El País, Deutschlandfunk Nova

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