Judgments at regional level in north Norwegian witchcraft trials 1647–1680

The northeast county of Finnmark had not only the worst persecution of so-called witches in Norway, but also amongst the most severe witch-hunts in Europe during the seventeenth century. Sources from the very late seventeenth century reveal a total population of approximately 3,200 inhabitants, of which 1,500 were Sami, the native people of northern Europe. Among these, as many as over 138 people were accused of sorcery during the period 1593–1692. At least ninety-two individuals, mostly women, got the death sentence and were burned at the stake. Trying to acquit people of accusations of witchcraft, the senior judge, Mandrup P. Schönnebøl (1603–1682) of the Court of Appeal in the northern part of Norway (Hålogaland Lagmannsdømme), represents a countercurrent against these grotesque numbers. The article shows and discusses his argument and law references in comparison with similar cases throughout Europe.