SWEDEN
Witchcraft
In 1649, Queen Christina banned witch trials, stating that
witchcraft confessions of women were due to illusions or disorders
of health. However, there was an extraordinary outbreak
of witchcraft hysteria between 1669 and 1670 at Mora, in Dalecarlia,
resulting in the burning of 85 individuals accused of
transporting no fewer than 300 children by magical flights to
a witches’ sabbat on the island of Blockula.
On July 5, 1668, the pastor of Elfdale in Dalecarlia stated
that Gertrude Svensen, aged 18, had been accused by Eric Ericsen,
aged 15, of stealing children for the devil. There followed
similar charges. Then in May 1669, King Charles XI appointed
a commission to look into the matter and attempt to redeem
the accused by prayers rather than punishment or torture.
However, the prayers resulted in mass hysteria among the
3,000 people who had assembled. The commissioners claimed
to have discovered 70 adult witches, who were all burned, together
with 15 children. Lesser sentences were given to 56
other children who were punished by having to run a gauntlet
or be lashed with rods.
The witches were said to have carried the children on goats,
sticks, and the backs of sleeping men, even flying through windows.
One writer recorded that ‘‘being asked how they could
go with their Bodies through Chimneys and broken panes of
Glass, they said, that the Devil did first remove all that might
hinder them in their flight, and so they had room enough to
go.’’ They assembled for their sabbat in a large meadow, where
they feasted, danced, and performed diabolical rituals.
Commenting on the affair, Bishop Francis Hutchinson
states in his book An Historical Essay Concerning Witchcraft
(1718)
‘‘Is it not plain that the people had frightened their children
with so many tales, that they could not sleep without dreaming
of the devil, and then made the poor women of the town confess
what the children said of them.’’
Other witchcraft persecutions followed, and between 1674
and 1675, individuals were burned or beheaded in three parishes.
There was also a witchcraft mania in Stockholm in following
years, but when it was discovered that accusations were due
to the malice or greed of young informers, Charles XI once
again prohibited witchcraft prosecutions.
Spiritualism and Psychical Research
Spiritualism entered Sweden at the end of the nineteenth
century and progressed slowly. In the decades following World
War I, there was a general apathy, and in some areas a marked
hostility to Spiritualism, fortune-telling, and psychic matters.
On March 14, 1931, a bill was presented to the Swedish Parliament
with the intention both of regularizing mediumship
and legitimizing psychical research. It did not succeed and
Spiritualism was still actively discouraged. However, there was
a revival of interest after World War II.
In spite of the hostility to psychical research, the Sällskapet
för Parapsykologisk Forskning was established in Stockholm
after World War II. It has carried out valuable experimental
work. Gosta Rodhe, the president, has now been succeeded by
Rolf Evjegärd. The former secretary, Eva Hellström, well
known as a clairvoyant, was succeeded by Eric Uggla. The society
maintains a good research library, has organized lectures
and meetings, and has carried out research in psychometry and
precognition. Another important experimenter was Haakon
Forwald (1897–1978) of Ludvika, who in the 1950s began research
in psychokinesis. More recently, a branch of the
Churches’ Fellowship for Psychic and Spiritualist Studies
was organized, and may be reached co Mrs. Eva Lejam, St.
Sodergatan 17, Lund.
Sources
Berger, Arthur S., and Joyce Berger. The Encyclopedia of
Parapsychology and Psychical Research. New York Paragon
House, 1991.
Robbins, Rossell Hope. The Encyclopedia of Witchcraft and Demonology.
New York Crown Publishers, 1959.