Victoria Slind-flor last visited our region in 2005 when she was guest at Sacred Harvest Festival – ” Folk Medicine, Folk Magick “. Her extensive knowledge of all things Scandinavian and her love of craft work enchanted all who met her. For many of us she became our Pagan grandmother, and she still refers to us as the Minnesota relatives. I followed her recent trip to Norway with delight, and below is a story of one adventure. Reprinted with permission, …. Nels
I wanted to wait until today, Oct. 31, to write about this part of my trip to Norway. That’s because it is the custom in my coven that on this day we remember those who were persecuted and burned for witches, both in ancient times and the present day.
One of the main reasons for my trip to Norway was a chance to visit the Steilneset Memorial on the island of Vardø in Norway’s far north. Vardø is an island in the Barents Sea, reachable only by ship or a 2.9 km tunnel under the sea.
To reach Vardø I had to fly into Kirkenes, rent a car and make a 250 km drive down the length of Verangerfjord and back to the fjord’s mouth on the other side, and then along Norway’s arctic coast. Because the trip took so long, I had to spend two nights on the island, which is a rather bleak place with a declining population (now below 2,000), and perpetually gloomy weather.
CONTINUE ON TO SEE ALL THE PHOTOS!
It was here between 1601 and 1692 that 91 people were burned to death, hanged, or subjected to trial by water, all on accusations of witchcraft. The reasons were many and bizarre: one woman was accused of tying a knot in a towel and, after blowing on the knot, causing the wind to rise. Another was accused of giving someone a fish that made her sick. Another was executed after confessing (following torture) that she knew a charm for cows that yielded no milk.
In reality, some of these woman and men were mentally ill. Others had the misfortune to be the target of jealousy, to have a sharp tongue, or to have children who were anxious to inherit the parent’s possessions.
The trials took place at the Vardøhus Castle — really more of a fortress — and the executions were carried out there, often following torture.
In 2011 the memorial to the witches was dedicated in Vardø. Commissioned by the Norwegian government and dedicated by Norway’s Queen Sonja, it is a joint project between the late artist Louise Bourgeois and Peter Zumthor, a Swiss architect. The fact that this monument was created reflects a changing attitude in Norway, and a sense that sins of the past must never be recreated.
Unlike many of the witch persecutions in the rest of Europe, the Catholic church was not involved, This persecution occurred almost 100 years after the Reformation, and the trials were conducted by Norwegian civil authorities. Some of the accused were Saami, the indigenous people or Northern Scandinavia. Others were likely to have been early Kven immigrants from Finland.
What is remembered lives! And those who fail to learn from the past are doomed to repeat it.
Here are the names of those who were killed and are memorialized at this place:
Christen the Tailor
Anne, Laurits Pedersen’s wife
Lisbet, Peder Torfindsen’s wife
Ingri, Thorkild Andersen’s wife
Kari, Jetmund Siversen’s wife
Synøve, Anders Mordmøring’s wife
Kirsten, Rasmus Siversen’s wife
Marette, Oluf Møring’s wife
Lisbet, Oluf Nilsen’s wife
Mari, Østen’s wife
Maren, Jon Dass’s wife
Kirseten the Maidservant
Marette, Torsten’s wife
Oluf Rasmussen’s wife
Mari, Oluf Jonsen’s wife
Baarne, Willands the Bell Ringer’s wife
Ingeborg, Peder Krog’s wife
Curi, Laurits’s wife
Victoria Slind-Flor is a founding member of the Coven of the Sacred Feminine in the San Francisco Bay Area, an all-women’s group that celebrates the work of women’s hands. In her mundane life, she’s a journalist covering intellectual property legal issues, and when she’s not pounding the computer keyboard, she can be found making art, photographing wildflowers, or wildly applauding San Francisco Ballet. Over the past decade she has taught workshops at a number of Pagan festivals and gatherings, and has written for a variety of Pagan publications. Although she is well into her crone years, she still dreams of climbing Mt. Rainier one day, and just knows she would have been one heck of a Viking traveler.