The Witches That Weren't

"The Witch of Snow Whitethe old lady with the wart on her nose, is the result of a genocide that took place previously against wise women, against women who had knowledge of medicine. Behind the Evil Queen there are hundreds of femicides, "he says. the writer Joan de Déu Prats. "Fairy tales have fine morals. Their witches, the ones who appear in popular stories, are bad because they have a lesson to teach us. The good witches correspond to those who were falsely accused, those who executed. On the contrary, those of the stories were bad and as such, they painted them terrifyingly », he states, for his part, Jordi Folck.

A combination of both, fantastic and real, collects the writer Juan de Dios Prats in The great book of Catalan witcheswith illustrations by Maria Padilla (Editorial Comanegra). Thus, it includes from the witches of Altafulla to the Vampira del Raval, the Terra Alta healers who healed with their hands or the witch of love, in Montsià, without forgetting the flixense Joan Malet, the witch hunter who began his terrifying way in Arnes.

folk wisdom

It was precisely in Catalonia where it all started, where it was classified as a crime. «The first trial against these women took place in 1424. They are the Ordinations of the Valleys of Àneufor which the punishments to be applied were established", explains Folck, author of The curse of the witches.

The Moorish Joan Maletwho called himself Master Malet, tried in harness, in 1548, going against women of affluent position, which backfired on him. He then changed his strategy and turned to elderly, lonely and humble women, whom he pointed out in Montblanc, Reus, Alcover or Tarragona. "Obviously, if they were alone it was easier to go against them, although the accusation could also occur if they were married," says Joan de Déu.

Midwives, healers and trementinaires they were subjected to public ridicule and sentenced to death by hanging. «Popular wisdom converged in them. So, the local power, not so much the Inquisition or the king, who were more even-handed in this sense, used them as scapegoats, just as they did with the Jews or the Moors. As there was famine, wars and pestilence, so that the people would not protest against the bosses, they used them”, defends Joan de Déu. The writer also comments that, paradoxically, it was in the Renaissance when all this wisdom was truncated. «It was the birth of humanism, but at the same time of unique thought. Just one culture, one language, one state. There could be no divergent thoughts. And behind the persecutions there was a political intention. The colleges of apothecaries, doctors, all men, saw them as a competition, something they underestimated. In spite of everything, although he did not persecute them, the first spark was lit by the Church with the writings of the Dominicans. They were the pretext, since it was not convenient for them to have competition, "says Prats.

Among the accusations are follow the devil and pay homage to him; deny the Christian faith; steal children and poison or prepare potions in pursuit of both love and heartbreak. But the hailstorms that spoiled the crops were also attributed to them and caused famines. For example in The great book of Catalan witches it is said that In Solivella, in Conca de Barberà, it has always been said that their women were witches. And that the worst hailstorms in Camp de Tarragona come from this town.

In recent times there has been a vindication of these women, against their trials, which were a fallacy and, ultimately, a reparation for a social drama that has come down to our days very blurred.

in Catalonia

1424: The first witch trials in Europe

The book 'Ordinaciones de los Valles de Àneu', in the Pallars Sobirà region (Lleida), includes the first law known in Europe on the crime of witchcraft. Some provisions:

The devil. Pay homage to him and deny the Christian faith; killing children and offering poisonous potions was punished with "the loss of the body and property with public ridicule and execution by fire."

Offer poisons. It was punishable by the loss of "body and property with execution by fire."

make hexes or placing poisons under the threshold of someone's door to harm them was punished by "loss of body and property."

Curse with tumors. Loss of body and property.

Perform bindings or spells with the aim of preventing carnal intercourse was punished with "public ridicule and the loss of half of the tongue".

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