Stories of witches and witch-hunting in early modern Europe have captivated us for centuries. During the early modern period of European history, stretching from roughly 1450 to about 1750, about 100,000 people ‒ most of them women ‒ were tried for the crime of witchcraft. About half of these people were executed, in most cases by burning at the stake.
Åland has the questionable honour of having started the great witch-hunt in the Swedish Kingdom 350 years ago. Between 1666 and 1670, a total of seven women were executed in Åland, convicted of witchcraft. And StampNews.com is glad to introduce a dramatic issue by artist Juha Pykäläinen of Åland Post that reminds us of the tragic events happened 350 years ago.
On 5 April 1666, proceedings were instituted against Karin Persdotter from Emkarby. Known as "the wise bitch", she was accused of practising sorcery; she was thought to be able to find lost items, single out thieves and foresee who was going to die. From whom had she received the gift if not from the Devil? Convicted of witchcraft, she was condemned to be executed by axe and burnt at the stake.
(The) driving force in the Åland witch-hunt was district judge and zealous witch expert Nils Psilander and Bryniel Kjellinius, pastor in Sund. They visited Karin in the Kastelholm jail, wishing to have her "full and truthful confession" so that she could receive the Holy Communion before death. In the end, she informed on 13 women.
A total of seven women were executed during this period, including Karin. Many more Åland women, the tragic destiny of whom commemorated with a new stamp by Åland Post, were prosecuted and tortured, none of whom, however, were burnt alive at the stake, neither was the so called trial by water ordeal applied. Other forms of "mild torture" were applied such as handcuffs being tightened.
The Åland witch-hunts preceded the outbreaks in both Sweden (1668) and Finland (1669). The last witch trial in Åland took place in 1691.