Anna Eriksdotter

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Anna Eriksdotter or Anna Ersdotter (1624 – 15 June 1704), called Sotpackan (English: soot-witch), was an Swedish woman accused of being a witch. She was the last person executed for sorcery in Sweden.[1]

Background

Anna Eriksdotter was widely rumored to be a witch for decades before she was put on trial. She was originally from Bollnäs and moved to the village of Skomakarbacken, Lista with her husband, who was a soldier, in about 1680.

Her claimed ability to heal blood-wounds and her unusual good hand with animals gave her the nickname 'Sotpackan' and caused gossip that she had a pact with Satan. She was for a period a servant of the village vicar, but he fired her when he heard of the gossip.

One morning when the vicar was going to the church to give a sermon, seeds were planted on the road to the church, and when he got there, he was allegedly unable to speak.[2]

Trial

In 1704, Anna Eriksdotter was arrested and imprisoned in Eskilstuna. She was put on trial accused by Nils Jonsson of having caused him blindness, muteness and deafness by the use of magic. Her motive was that Nils had refused to give her tobacco. She had then asked him to give her sausage, a cake and wool, which he had given her, and then went home. A time later, he had been standing talking to dowager Karin when he claimed he suddenly felt a whiff of air touch his cheek and felt as if his face become paralysed, then claimed water had come from his right ear and his mouth became twisted. Anna was suspected of having cast a spell on him. She had been called for and asked to remove her curse, of which she had "agreed", and he had then felt better. Witnesses claimed it was true.

Sentence

Anna herself freely confirmed the whole story. She claimed that she had performed some spells because Nils Jonsson had acted "Somewhat disgusting" towards her. She also confessed to having put a curse on the vicar as vengeance after he fired her. She claimed to have been in the service of Satan since her childhood, when she had created wolves to attack the neighbour's sheep. She claimed that when she was a girl, her mother had smeared a veal with ointment and flew with her through the chimney to Blockula.

The local court judged her as guilty of sorcery and sentenced her to death. The national high court revoked the death sentence. However, the monarch, who had the authority to confirm or revoke any sentence, confirmed the death sentence, despite the high court's recommendation that she should be spared the death sentence because she was old and confused and "full with mad imaginations". She was described as remorseful and "very devout in her prays and invocation".

Execution and aftermath

She was executed in Eskilstuna by decapitation on 15 June 1704. She was the last person to be executed for sorcery in Sweden. Her case was an isolated one; few people had been accused of sorcery in Sweden after Malin Matsdotter in 1676, and she was also to be the last one. There was, however, to be one more occasion where people were judged guilty of sorcery, though they did not lead to death sentences. In 1720, a girl in the village of Södra Ny socken, Värmland accused eleven women of child abduction to Satan, and in 1724, those among the accused who had confessed were sentenced to be whipped, which was the last time anyone was judged guilty of sorcery in Sweden.[3]

In 1757, a witch hysteria broke out in the parish of Ål in Dalarna, where thirteen women and five men were accused of child abduction to Satan. Governor Pehr Ekman allowed for them to be arrested, interrogated and tortured. The matter was treated by the local authorities and church, and when it became known in the country, it was treated as a scandal: the parliament issued an investigation, the accused were all freed and paid compensation by the aide of Catherine Charlotte De la Gardie, and Ekman, who had accepted charges of witchcraft and allowed torture, was sentenced to jail and stripped from his position. Formally, the law of witchcraft remained until it was abolished in 1779.[4]

References

  1. Ankarloo, Bengt, Satans raseri: en sannfärdig berättelse om det stora häxoväsendet i Sverige och omgivande länder, Ordfront, Stockholm, 2007 (Rage of Satan) (Swedish)
  2. Ankarloo, Bengt, Satans raseri: en sannfärdig berättelse om det stora häxoväsendet i Sverige och omgivande länder, Ordfront, Stockholm, 2007 (Rage of Satan) (Swedish)
  3. Ankarloo, Bengt, Satans raseri: en sannfärdig berättelse om det stora häxoväsendet i Sverige och omgivande länder, Ordfront, Stockholm, 2007 (Rage of Satan) (Swedish)
  4. Ankarloo, Bengt, Satans raseri: en sannfärdig berättelse om det stora häxoväsendet i Sverige och omgivande länder, Ordfront, Stockholm, 2007 (Rage of Satan) (Swedish)