Culture

The witch trials of Szeged, Hungary

Tisza SzegedThe most famous witch trials in history might be the Salem Witch Trials of 1692. Though we, Hungarians also had our famous series of witch trials in the 18th century.I was a university student in Szeged for five years. Szeged is a beautiful city and I loved living there. But what I didn’t understand for quite a while was why a certain area of the city was called Witches’ Island. In semester 6 we had a seminar in English about witches – I’ve already mentioned in my previous witchcraft-related post – and at that seminar, I learnt the reason.

On July 23rd, 1728 twelve people were burnt at the stake on the so-called Witches’ Island. They had been found guilty of witchcraft. The whole fuss was started by a woman called Mrs Kökény, née Anna Nagy who was a bad-tempered midwife and liked to argue with others. During the interrogations, she confessed to her own crimes and also dumped on her accomplices.

The leader of the witches was their captain, Dániel Rózsa who was in his eighties. They had their black Sabbaths on Gellért Hill, during which they swore a solemn oath to the Devil. The Devil appeared in the form of a goat, they went around him ten times, kissed his bottom, then the goat turned into a young man and they had sex with him. Novices were transported to Gellért Hill – which is 170 km from Szeged – with shovels, they made pacts with the Devil orally and in written form and many of them were also branded by the Devil. Their laureate days were on Saint George’s Day, at Carnival time and on December 13th.

witchcraftWe can learn from the confessions that the accused collected dewfall with bedsheets and sold it to the officers, they bathed their children in stork’s nests, buried the altar bread they had got during holy communion, and they sold the rain tied up a small bag to the Turks for seven years. There was a woman who confessed that she could lay chicken’s eggs, while another person was accused of making grass unable to grow where they sat.

At the end of the trials, the method of execution was decided by voting. There was a woman who was sentenced to death by hanging instead of burning at the stake because she was pregnant – it was thought to be a more humane form of execution. She was sentenced to death because she had confessed that her conceived by the Devil.

Out of the eighteen accused, twelve died on the stake, three died during the swimming test – though their bodies were burnt on the stake subsequently -, one person was hanged, one was supposedly suffocated in prison and one woman was beheaded.

Witch trials were banned by Maria Theresa in 1755.

(sources of the photos: own, Wikipedia)

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