SCANDINAVIA
[For the early history of occultism in Scandinavia, see the
entry on the Teutons.]
Witchcraft
In medieval times, Scandinavian examples of the witchcraft
persecutions that arose in much of Europe were rare, but in
1669–70 a great outbreak against witchcraft commenced in
Sweden, in the villages of Mohra and Elfdale in the district of
Elfdale. In 1669 a strange report was circulated that the children
of the neighborhood were carried away nightly to a place
they called Blockula, where they were received by Satan in person.
The children themselves, who were responsible for the report,
pointed out numerous women, who, they said, were witches
and carried them there.
The alarm and terror in the district became so great that a
report was at last made to King Charles XI, who nominated
commissioners, partly clergy and partly laymen, to inquire into
the extraordinary circumstances that had been brought to his
notice. These commissioners arrived in Mohra and announced
their intention of opening proceedings on August 13, 1670.
One day preceding, the commissioners met at the parsonage-house
and heard the complaints of the minister and several
people of the upper class, who told them of the miserable condition
they were in. They gravely told the commissioners that
by the help of witches, hundreds of their children had been
drawn to Satan, who had been seen to go in a visible shape
through the country and to appear daily to the people. They
said that the poorer people had been seduced by him feasting
them with meat and drink.
The commissioners entered upon their duties the next day
with the utmost diligence, and the result of their misguided
zeal formed one of the most remarkable examples of cruel and
remorseless persecution that stains the annals of sorcery. No
fewer than 70 inhabitants of the village and district of Mohra,
23 of whom made confessions, were condemned and executed.
One woman pleaded that she was with child, and many denied
their guilt, but they were sent to Fahluna, where most of them
were put to death.
Among those who suffered death were 15 children, and 36
more, of different ages between nine and sixteen, were forced
to run a gauntlet and be scourged on the hands at the church
door every Sunday for one year. Twenty more, who had been
drawn into these practices more unwillingly, and were very
young, were condemned to be scourged with rods upon their
hands for three successive Sundays at the church door. Some
300 children were accused in all.
It appears that the commissioners began by taking the confessions
of the children, and then they confronted them with
the witches, whom the children accused as their seducers. Most
of the latter, to use the words of the authorized report, had
‘‘. . . children with them, which they had either seduced or attempted
to seduce, some seven years of age, nay, from four to
sixteen years.’’
‘‘Some of the children complained lamentably of the misery
and mischief they were forced sometimes to suffer of the devil
and the witches.’’ Being asked, if they were sure that they were
at any time carried away by the devil, they all replied in the affirmative.
‘‘Hereupon the witches themselves were asked,
whether the confessions of those children were true, and admonished
to confess the truth, that they might turn away from
the devil unto the living God.’’ One account noted,
‘‘At first, most of them did very stiffly, and without shedding
the least tear, deny it, though much against their will and inclination.
After this the children were examined every one by
themselves, to see whether their confessions did agree or no,
and the commissioners found that all of them, except some
very little ones, which could not tell all the circumstances, did
punctually agree in their confessions of particulars.
‘‘In the meanwhile, the commissioners that were of the clergy
examined the witches, but could not bring them to any confession,
all continuing steadfast in their denials, till at last some
of them burst into tears, and their confession agreed with what
the children said; and these expressed their abhorrence of the
fact, and begged pardon. Adding that the devil, whom they
called Locyta, had stopped the mouths of some of them, so
loath was he to part with his prey, and had stopped the ears of
others. And being now gone from them, they could no longer
conceal it; for they had now perceived his treachery.’’
The witches asserted that the journey to ‘‘Blockula’’ was not
always made with the same kind of conveyance. They commonly
used humans, animals, and even spits and posts, according
to opportunity. They preferred, however, riding upon goats,
and if they had more children with them than the animal could
conveniently carry, they elongated its back by means of a spit
annointed with their magical ointment.
It was further stated that if the children did at any time
name the names of those, either man or woman, that had been
with them and had carried them away, they were again carried
by force, either to ‘‘Blockula’’ or the crossway, and there beaten,
insomuch that some of them died of it, ‘‘and this some of
the witches confessed, and added, that now they were exceedingly
troubled and tortured in their minds for it.’’
One thing was lacking to confirm these confessions the
marks of the whip could not be found on the bodies of the victims,
except on one boy, who had some wounds and holes in
his back that were given him with thorns; but the witches said
they would quickly vanish.
As described in the court records, the mysterious ‘‘Blockula’’
was situated in a large meadow, like a plain sea, ‘‘wherein you
can see no end.’’ The house they met at had a great gate painted
with many different colors. Through this gate they went into
a little meadow distinct from the other, and here they turned
their animals to graze. When they had used men for their beasts
of burden, they set them up against the wall in a state of helpless
slumber, and there they remained until needed for the
homeward flight. In a very large room of this house stood a
long table, at which the witches sat down, and adjoining this
room was another chamber, where there were ‘‘lovely and delicate
beds.’’
As soon as they arrived at the ritual site, the visitors were required
to deny their baptism and devote themselves body and
soul to Satan, whom they promised to serve faithfully. Hereupon
the devil cut their fingers, and they wrote their names
with blood in his book. He then caused them to be baptized
anew, by priests appointed for that purpose.
Upon this the devil gave them a purse, wherein there were
filings of clocks, with a big stone tied to it, which they threw into
the water, and said, ‘‘As these filings of the clock do never return
to the clock, from which they were taken, so may my soul
never return to heaven!’’
Since few of the children had any marks on their fingers to
show where they had been cut, another difficulty arose in verifying
their statement. But here again the story was helped by
a girl who had hurt her finger, and who declared that because
she would not stretch out her finger, the devil in anger had
wounded it.
When the ceremonies were completed, the witches sat down
at the table, those whom the devil esteemed most being placed
nearest to him, but the children were made to stand at the
door, where he himself gave them meat and drink. The food
with which the visitors to ‘‘Blockula’’ were regaled consisted of
‘‘broth, with coleworts and bacon in it, oatmeal bread spread
with butter, milk and cheese.’’ They said that the food sometimes
tasted very good, and sometimes very bad.
After meals, they danced, and it was one peculiarity of these
northern witches’ sabbaths that the dance was usually followed
by fighting. Those of Elfdale confessed that the devil used to
play upon a harp before them. Another peculiarity of these
northern witches was, it was said, that children resulted from
SCANDINAVIA Encyclopedia of Occultism & Parapsychology • 5th Ed.
1352
their intercourse with Satan, and these children, having married
together, became the parents of toads and serpents.
The witches of Sweden appear to have been less noxious
than those of most other countries, for, whatever they confessed,
there seems to have been no real evidence of mischief
done by them. They confessed that they were obliged to promise
Satan that they would do all kinds of mischief and that the
devil taught them to ‘‘milk’’ in the following manner. They
used to stick a knife in the wall and hang a kind of label on it,
which they drew and stroked, and as long as this lasted, the persons
they had power over were miserably plagued. The beasts
that were milked like this sometimes died.
One woman confessed that the devil gave her a wooden
knife, with which, going into houses, she had the power to kill
anything she touched. However, there were few that could confess
that they had hurt any man or woman. Being asked if they
had murdered any children, they confessed that they had indeed
tormented many, but did not know whether any of them
died of these plagues. They also said that the devil had showed
them several places where he had power to do mischief.
The minister of Elfdale declared that one night these witches
were, to his thinking, on the crown of his head, and that from
this he had a long-continued headache. One of the witches confessed
that the devil had sent her to torment the minister, and
that she was ordered to strike a nail into his head, but his skull
was so hard that the nail would not penetrate it and merely produced
that headache. The minister said further that one night
he felt a pain as if he were torn with an instrument used for
combing flax, and when he awoke, he heard somebody scratching
and scraping at the window, but could see nobody. One of
the witches confessed that she was the person who had disturbed
him.
The minister of Mohra also claimed that one night one of
these witches came into his house and so violently took him by
the throat that he thought he would choke. Upon awaking, he
saw the person that did it, but did not recognize her, and for
some weeks he was not able to speak or perform divine service.
An old woman of Elfdale confessed that the devil had helped
her make a nail, which she stuck into a boy’s knee, of which
stroke the boy remained lame a long time. She added that before
she was burned or executed by the hand of justice, the boy
would recover.
Another circumstance confessed by these witches was that
the devil gave them a beast, about the shape and size of a cat,
which they called a ‘‘carrier,’’ and a bird as big as a raven, but
white, and these they could send anywhere, and wherever they
went, they took away all sorts of victuals, such as butter, cheese,
milk, bacon, and all sorts of seeds, and carried them to the
witches.
What the bird brought, they kept for themselves, but what
the carrier brought they took to ‘‘Blockula,’’ where the archfiend
gave them as much of it as he thought good. The carriers,
they said, often filled themselves so full that they were forced
to disgorge by the way, and what they thus rendered fell to the
ground, and was found in several gardens where coleworts
grew, and far from the houses of the witches. It was of a yellow
color like gold and was called witches’ butter.
Such were the details, as far as they can now be obtained, of
this extraordinary occurrence, the only one known to have occurred
in the northern part of Europe during the age of the
witchcraft trials. In other countries, we can generally trace
some particular cause that gave rise to great persecutions of
this kind, but here, as the story is told, we see none, for it is
hardly likely that such a strange series of accusations should
have been the mere involuntary creation of a party of little children.
Suspicion is excited by the peculiar part the two clergymen
of Elfdale and Mohra played in this affair, and perhaps they
were not altogether innocent of fabrication. They seem to have
been weak, superstitious men, and perhaps they had been
reading the witchcraft books of the south until they imagined
the country around them to be overrun with witches. Perhaps
the two clergymen themselves became alarmed, but one thing
seems certain, that the moment the commission was revoked
and the persecution ceased, no more witches were heard of.
The proceedings at Mohra caused so much alarm throughout
Sweden that prayers were ordered in all the churches for
delivery from the snares of Satan, who was believed to have
been let loose in that kingdom. A new edict of the king suddenly
put a stop to the whole process, and the matter was brought
to a close rather mysteriously. It is said that the witch prosecution
was increasing so much in intensity that accusations began
to be made against people of a higher class in society, and then
a complaint was made to the king, and the mania brought to
a close.
Spiritualism
In 1843, an epidemic of ‘‘preaching’’ occurred in southern
Sweden, which provided Joseph Ennemoser with material for
an interesting passage in his History of Magic (1854). The manifestation
of this was similar in character to outbreaks described
elsewhere. A writer in the London Medium and Daybreak of 1878
states,
‘‘It is about a year and a half since I changed my abode from
Stockholm to this place, and during that period it is wonderful
how Spiritualism has gained ground in Sweden. The leading
papers, that used in my time to refuse to publish any article on
Spiritualism excepting such as ridiculed the doctrine, have of
late thrown their columns wide open to the serious discussion
of the matter. Many a Spiritualist in secret, has thus been encouraged
to give publicity to his opinions without standing any
longer in awe of that demon, public ridicule, which intimidates
so many of our brethren.
‘‘Several of Allan Kardec’s works have been translated into
Swedish, among which I may mention his Evangile selon le Spiritisme
as particularly well-rendered in Swedish by Walter Jochnick.
A spiritual Library was opened in Stockholm on the 1st of
April last, which will no doubt greatly contribute to the spreading
of the blessed doctrine. The visit of Mr. Eglinton to Stockholm
was of the greatest benefit to the cause. Let us hope that
the stay of Mrs. Esperance in the south of Sweden may have an
equally beneficial effect.
‘‘Notwithstanding all this progress of the cause in the neighbouring
country, Spiritualism is looked upon here as something
akin to madness, but even here there are thin, very thin
rays, and very wide apart, struggling to pierce the darkness.’’
In Norway, Spiritualism as known to modern Europe, did
not seem to have become existent until about 1880. A writer in
a number of the Dawn of Light published in that year states,
‘‘Spiritualism is just commencing to give a sign of its existence
here in Norway. The newspapers have begun to attack it
as a delusion and the ‘expose’ of Mrs. C., which recently took
place at 38 Great Russell St., London, has made the round
through all the papers in Scandinavia. After all, it must sooner
or later take root as in all other parts of the world. Mr. Eglinton,
the English medium, has done a good work in Stockholm,
showing some of the great savants a new world; and a couple
of years ago Mr. Slade visited Copenhagen. The works of Mr.
Zollner, the great astronomer of Leipzig, have been mentioned
in the papers and caused a good deal of sensation.
‘‘Of mediums there are several here, but all, as yet, afraid to
speak out. One writes with both hands; a gentleman is developing
as a drawing medium. A peasant, who died about five years
ago, and lived not far from here, was an excellent healing medium;
his name was Knud, and the people had given him the
nickname of Vise Knud (the wise Knud); directly when he
touched a patient he knew if the same could be cured or not,
and often, in severe cases, the pains of the sick person went
through his own body. He was also an auditive medium, startling
the people many times by telling them what was going to
happen in the future; but the poor fellow suffered much from
the ignorance and fanaticism around him, and was several
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times put in prison. I am doing all I can to make people acquainted
with our grand cause.’’
A second and more hopeful letter of 1881, addressed to the
editor of the Revue Spirite, was as follows
‘‘My dear Brothers, Here our science advances without
noise. An excellent writing medium has been developed among
us, one who writes simultaneously with both hands; while we
have music in a room where there are no musical instruments;
and where there is a piano it plays itself. At Bergen, where I
have recently been, I found mediums, who in the dark, made
sketches—were dessinateurs—using also both hands. I have
seen, also, with pleasure that several men of letters and of science
have begun to investigate our science spirite. The pastor
Eckhoff, of Bergen, has for the second time preached against
Spiritualism, ‘this instrument of the devil, this psychographie’;
and to give more of eclat to his sermon he has had the goodness
to have it printed; so we see that the spirits are working. The
suit against the medium, Mme. F., in London, is going the
rounds of the papers of Christiania; these journals opening
their columns, when occasion offers, to ridicule Spiritualism.
We are, however, friends of the truth, but there are scabby
sheep among us of a different temperament. From Stockholm
they write me that a library of spiritual works has been opened
there, and that they are to have a medium from Newcastle, with
whom séances are to be held.’’
In the London Spiritual Magazine of May 1885, is a long and
interesting paper on Swedish Spiritualism by William Howitt,
in which he gives quite a notable collection of narratives concerning
the ‘‘Phenomenal Spiritual Manifestations in Sweden,’’
most of which were furnished by an eminent and learned Swedish
gentleman—Count Piper. Howitt stated that the public had
become so thoroughly sated with tales of hauntings, apparitions,
previsions, etc., that Piper’s narrations would present
few, if any, features of interest, save in justification of one assertion,
that Spiritualism was rife in human experience everywhere,
although it might not take the form of a public movement,
as it had in America and England.
As early as 1864, the Afton Blad, one of the most popular
journals circulated in Sweden, published a number of excellent
leading articles commending the belief in spiritual ministry,
and the study of such phenomena that would promote communion
between the ‘‘two worlds.’’
Psychical Research and Parapsychology
Scandinavia has produced some notable psychical researchers,
including Sydney Alrutz (1868–1925) of Uppsala University;
Chr. Winther of Copenhagen, who was president of the
Danish Society for Psychical Research (Selskapet for Psykisk
Forsking) and experimented with the medium Anna Rasmussen;
and Aage Slomann (died 1970), a full-time parapsychologist
and president of the Danish Society. Professor Jaeger
and Thornstein Wereide (who edited the Oslo Psykisk Tidsschrift)
led the effort in Norway, and in Iceland could be found
Harald Nielsson (died 1928), who wrote books on theological
and psychic subjects; Gudmundur Hannesson of the University
of Reykjavik; and Einar Hjorleifsson Kvaran (1859–1938), who
founded the Icelandic Society for Psychical Research in 1918.
In 1942, the Swedish Sällskapet för Parapsykologisk Forskning
(Society for Parapsychological Research) was founded in
Stockholm. Well-known members included Gosta Rodhe, Rolf
Evjegärd, Eric Uggla, and Eva Hellström (who was also clairvoyant).
The engineer Haakon Forwald (1897–1978) carried
out valuable studies in psychokinesis. Other Swedish parapsychologists
include Martin Johnson and Nils Olof Jacobson.
In Norway, there is the Norsk Parapsykologist Selskap,
under Kirsten Pauss (Dahlsgt. 33, Oslo 3). The dramatist Wiers
Jensen (1866–1925) made notable contributions to the study of
the ‘‘vardo/gr’’ or ‘‘projected double’’ phenomenon, and also
edited the journal Norsk Tiddesskrift for Psykisk Forskning from
1922 to 1925.
In Finland there has also been much activity in parapsychological
research, which has received favorable notice from
such scientists as Sven Segerstråle, professor of biology; Sven
Krohn, professor of philosophy and former president of
Parapsykologinen Tutkimusseura; Väinö Auer, famous geologist;
and Uuno Saarnio, philosopher and mathematician. The
Finnish Society for Psychical Research was established as early
as 1907 under the name Sällskapet för Forsking i FinlandSuomen
Psyykkinen Tutkimusseura. The psychical researcher
Jarl Fahler was president for a number of years, and also experimented
with ESP and psychokinesis; a later president was
Stefan Talqvist. In 1938, the Parapsykologinen Tutkimusseura
was established and has been active ever since. In 1965, an Institute
of Parapsychology was established in Helsingfors, directed
by Jarl Fahler, who is also president of the Society for Hypnosis
in Finland. Another parapsychological organization is
Tampereen Parapsykologinen Tutkimusseura, in Tammersfors,
under the presidency of Gunnar Strömmer.