Zugarramurdi Witches As part of their efforts to stem public hysteria over witches and sorcerers (see sorcery), Spanish inquisitors conducted mass trials of accused witches in the Basque village of Zugarramurdi from June 10 to November 8, 1610. For all the hue and cry mounted by the local folk and the lurid testimony given at the lengthy trials, only six persons went to the stake. Zugarramurdi, a Navarre town on the border of the Labourd region, where the infamous witch-hunter pIerre de lAnCre was scouring the countryside for witches, provided a rich setting for superstitious villagers. Nearby was a large, subterranean cave, cut through by a river called the Infernukeorreka, or “stream of Hell,” a perfect place for witches to gather and practice their alleged cult of Satan and various pagan rites. The Supreme Inquisition appointed Don Juan Valle Alvarado as inquisitor in charge of the investigation at Zugarramurdi. Alvarado spent several months gathering testimony, which cast suspicion of witchcraft crimes upon nearly 300 persons, not counting children. The testimony of wild diabolical activities was accepted without question. Alvarado determined that 40 of the suspects were obviously guilty. He had them arrested and taken to Logrono for trial before three judges. According to the testimony given at the trials, the Zugarramurdi witches were organized in a hierarchy. At the top were senior sorcerers and witches, followed by second-grade initiates who served as tutors of novices. First-grade initiates were responsible for making poIsons and casting spells. Child recruits included those under the age of five who were taken to Sabbats by force; those from age five or six up who were induced to attend sabbats with false promises or goodies; older novices who were preparing to renounce Christianity; and neophytes who had made their renunciation. The entire lot of them were said to worship an ugly, gargoylelike Devil. Detailed descriptions were given of renunciation ceremonies. The novice was presented to the Devil and formally renounced God, the Blessed Virgin, the saints, baptism
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and confirmation, parents and godparents, Christianity and all those who follow it. The novice kissed the Devil’s hind end (see Kiss of Shame). The Devil marked the novice with his claw, drawing blood, which was caught in a bowl or cup, and also marked the novice in the pupil of the eye with a shape of a Toad (see Devil’s Mark). The novice, now an initiate, was bound over as a slave to a master or mistress, who was paid in Silver by the Devil. According to testimony, the silver vanished if not spent within 24 hours (see money). The initiate was given a toad as his or her Familiar, which had been tended by a master or mistress, and instructions for evildoing. After a satisfactory trial period, the initiate was given complete control of the toad and was allowed to make poisons. Child recruits were bound over to instructors and given many toads to care for. The witches were said to meet every Friday night and to hold special masses on the night before major Christian holy days. On these occasions, the Devil preached sermons. The Zugarramurdi witches also were accused of the usual maleficia attributed to witches elsewhere: Metamorphosis. They changed into animals in order to frighten and hurt others. Spells. They sabotaged flourishing crops with powders and poisons made from snakes, lizards, toads, newts,
slugs, snails and puffballs. The witches metamorphosed into animals and, led by the Devil, sprinkled their poisons over the crops while intoning, “Powder, powder, ruin everything,” or “Let all [or half] be lost with the exception of anything that belongs to me.” These spells usually were cast during an early autumn southerly wind called sorguin aizia or “the wind of the witches.” The witches also raised storms (see storm raising) to destroy crops. They allegedly poisoned animals and murdered human beings by administering poisonous powder or ointments which caused people to become ill and die. Vampirism. Villagers claimed witches stole children out of their beds at night, carried them off and consumed their blood and flesh. Some cases of vampirism of adults also were given at court. Of the 40 accused witches, 18 confessed and tearfully asked for mercy, and were reconciled with the church. Six were burned at the stake, including Maria Zozaya, an elderly woman who was said to be one of the senior witches. Five of the accused died during the trials; effigies of them were burned along with the six who were executed. The remaining 11 presumably were not convicted. FURTHER READING : Henningsen, Gustav. The Witches’ Advocate: Basque Witchcraft & the Spanish Inquisition. reno: University of Nevada Press, 1980.
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