Catalonia takes a step to recognize and institutionally repair the memory of women accused of witchcraft, which were hundreds in the country between the fifteenth and eighteenth centuries. Specifically, the Parliament has approved this Wednesday a resolution proposal in which it recognizes those accused and convicted of witchcraft as “victims of a misogynistic persecution that led to the murder of thousands of women around the world”. In addition, it joins the campaign “They were not witches, they were women”, promoted by the magazine Sapiens and that accumulates more than 12,000 adhesions. Within the framework of the initiative, this week the documentary Bruixes, the big lie [Brujas, la gran mentira], a co-production with the popular historical magazine. The motion has been approved with the votes of ERC, Junts, the CUP, En Comú Podem –the four groups had registered it jointly– and PSC, while Cs has abstained and Vox and PP have voted against.
As several experts have documented, Catalonia was one of the territories in Europe where more women were accused of witchcraft. It is estimated that in total the number of victims is around a thousand people, the vast majority of whom were women, who in practically all cases suffered tortures to get false confessions and were executed. It has recently been possible to recover the names of more than 700 victims of persecution and, in this sense, the proposal approved in the Parliament urges the Government to promote reparation actions already “sensitize the population as a whole to the values of equality and human rights”.
The motion, presented jointly by ERC, Junts, the CUP and En Comú Podem, also claims “promote academic studies with a gender perspective on the witch hunt and its causes”, promote informative actions to publicize this historical fact and summon the Catalan city councils to include in their gazetteers the names of women convicted of witchcraft in their municipality. Recognition and reparation continues the path previously traveled through territories such as Scotland, Switzerland, Norway or Navarra, where the hunting of women under the accusation of witchcraft was also common for several centuries.
The parliamentary text argues that the witch hunt is a “clear example of the violence and discrimination to which women have been subjected throughout history” and that they were accused of being witches “based on lies and the way of forcing them to confess these unbelievable crimes were the most terrible tortures”. “Against these women, the power broke the laws themselves and judged them and pointed them out without any procedural guarantee”, it is added.
“They are not legends, they are historical facts”
Misogyny, which was already common during the Middle Ages and has not disappeared even today, is behind the persecution of women through false accusations. In this sense, the beginning of the witch hunt is framed in a moment, the fifteenth century, marked by social crisis, poverty and poor harvests, which stimulated the search for culprits. The phenomenon was more common in rural or mountain areas than in cities, and in Catalonia the first reference dates back to 1424, through a law in the Valls d’Àneu, in the Pyrenees. For Ivet Eroles, journalist, writer and author of Gifts on the side Bruixes and other histories of stigma and oblit (Fonoll), the murder of a thousand people in Catalonia accused of a crime they had never committed “they are not legends or stories: they are historical facts”.
Catalonia was one of the territories where the witch hunt was most important, and one of the most consolidated explanations by experts is due to the fact that it was a feudal kingdom with its own laws, where local powers had a lot of legal autonomy. “The Catalan-Aragonese Crown or the Kingdom of Navarre had their own privileges and laws where the Inquisition had no jurisdiction, since these are civil and not ecclesiastical trials,” he explained a few months ago to this medium Pau Castell, historian and professor at the University of Barcelona in the Department of Medieval and Modern History. And it is that, contrary to its black legend, where the Inquisition reached with greater ease, much fewer convictions and executions for witchcraft were committed. The beginning of the process was often a complaint from the neighbors themselves.