Witchcraft in Saaremaa during the Danish Age

The high time for witchcraft trials in Estonia occurred in the second quarter of the 17th century. There are not much data about their occurrence in Saaremaa as the court archives of that time have not been preserved. The author of the article, M. A. candidate of the history department at Tartu University P. Pedakmäe, has found interesting documents in the Danish State Archives which provide evidence about the existence of "witches" in Saaremaa in the Danish Period (1559 - 1645).

These pertain to the process which took place in the Royal Danish Supreme Court in 1639. The brothers Lohmann of Kuressaare lodged a complaint against Lord Lieutenant Anders Bille, who was said to have unfairly accused and punished their mother Reimerske of witchery.
In the court protocol one can also find data about other witches of Saaremaa.

Interestingly, these facts are about men: while in almost the whole of Europe witchcraft was a women's crime, but in Estonia, Iceland and Eastern Finland men were often considered to be witches.
In Saaremaa, as elsewhere, healers who used simple, traditional methods were most commonly suspected of witchcraft. It bears mention that in the Reimerske court case the water ordeal was never mentioned. In other parts of Estonia the test was a wide - spread method to ascertain witches.

The author agrees with the theory of English scientists, cited in the article, that the hight of the witch - hunt has been linked to the efforts of the Church to Christianize the society completely. It was also connected with the beginning of the transition from a closely integrated village community to individualized society. Psychologically the reason for accusing somebody of witchcraft was primarily to project an accuser's own guilt on the "witch".

"Yearbook of Saaremaa Museum"