Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Switzerland's Last 'Witch' Exonerated

A Swiss woman executed for witchcraft in 1782 is the subject of a new museum. A new book examines her case and calls for judicial exoneration. From Newsweek's article:

In the hamlet of Mollis, population 3,000, a road the width of a single car was renamed Anna Göldi Way for the 225th anniversary of her death on June 13. In a mansion along the road, on a grassy gated lot, a new permanent exhibition at the local museum details Göldi's ordeal. Just as American schoolchildren read Arthur Miller's McCarthy-era parable "The Crucible," about 17th-century superstition and persecution in Salem, Mass., Swiss children learn of Göldi. Europe too was the stage for accusations of sorcery and the burning of outcasts deemed witches by maniacal courts. The death toll is estimated to have been 50,000 in Europe.

Today, historians trying to explain the flights of anxiety that sparked witch hunts blame everything from high inflation to cyclical poor weather and low crop yields to the tensions of the Protestant Reformation and Catholic Counter-Reformation of the day. But the difference, the shame, of the Glarus story is that when Göldi was beheaded with a sword in 1782, 90 years after Salem, Europe should have known better. "Witch" killings on the continent had dropped off precipitously after 1650. Other Swiss cantons, Geneva in 1652 and Zurich in 1701, had long since executed their last alleged witches. Europe was awash with the Enlightenment, and superstition was meant to have ceded to reason. It was, after all, only about 100 years before Le Corbusier and Paul Klee, Louis Chevrolet and Carl Jung, modern Swiss who are today part of our globalized lexicon.

In a semi-related vein, Jason Pitzl-Waters covers an attempted suit against someone's dead witch Halloween display. No, I don't think it's a "hate crime" either (but Senator Clinton's supporters might, since the "witch" is apparently her).

But read the comments and see what you think.

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