On November 6, 1662, Dorthe Lauritzdotter was burned at the stake for witchcraft in Vardø, Norway. This marked the beginning of the Vardø witch hunts. Between 1601-1692, 140 witch trials were held in Northern Norway. An estimated 64% of these women and girls were sentenced to death in what has been considered one of the worst persecutions in times of peace in Norway. The peak of these witch hunts took place in Vardø during the winter of 1662-1663, where women were persecuted for sorcery and pacts with the Devil.

Steilneset Memorial in Vardø, Finnmark, Norway, commemorating the trial and execution in 1621 of 91 people for witchcraft. Installation by Louise Bourgeois.

On December 25, 1662, three young girls, whose mother had been executed alongside Lauritzdotter, were accused of witchcraft. Ingeborg and Karen Iversdatter, Ingeborg’s 8-year-old sister, and Maren Olsdatter, their cousin, all confessed during month-long interrogations, where they were held in a “witches-hole” in a fortress. They all named other girls within their confessions, who were all brought into the “witches-hole” as well. There many of the girls were tortured. Ingeborg Krog, who had been named by Maren, was subjected to horrific torture that included burning iron and Sulphur. Her body could not withstand the torture and she passed away in the ‘witches-hole.” She maintained her innocence until her death.

In June 1663, Anne Rhodius, a doctor’s wife, had been accused by several children of forcing them to confess and name other witches or face severe torture. Rhodius was convicted and was sentenced to exile in the Vardø fortress. All of the children were acquitted, but several had been killed through torture or at the stake as part of their sentencing. 

Although witch trials continued in Norway through the end of the 17th century, the Vardø witch trials were some of the worst. In 2011, Queen Sonja of Norway commemorated the victims with the Steilneset Memorial entitled, “The Damned, The Possessed and The Beloved.” It was the last major installation of artist Louise Bourgeois.

-Ria Smith
Junior Girl

Sources:
Hagen, Rune Blix (2014-01-01). “6 Witchcraft and Ethnicity: A Critical Perspective on Sami Shamanism in Seventeenth-Century Northern Norway”. Writing Witch-Hunt Histories: 141–166.
“Vardø Witch Trials (Norway, 1662 – 1663) – Witchcraft”. Wise Witches and Witchcraft. 2018-12-16.
Willumsen, Liv Helene (2013-02-01). “Children accused of witchcraft in 17th-century Finnmark”. Scandinavian Journal of History. 38 (1): 18–41.

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