The Law, the State, and Judges: Denmark

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Denamrk had a brief, but particularly vicious, period of witchcraft persecution between the years 1617-1625. A major force behind the push to eradicate witches was Denmark's king, Christian IV. The witchcraft left Denmark after this period as its leader and its people became involved in the Thirty Years War.

King Christian IV became fascinated with the topic of witcraft in 1612 when he witnessed a trial in Koge, in which 11 women were executed. He brought one of the accused women to Copenhagen for further questioning; her testimony fascinated him (Briggs, p.326)

"In Jutland, at least some 60 percent of all known cases were concentrated in these few years." (Briggs. p.326)

Christian IV, a strict Lutheran, appointed the Bishop Hans Polsen Resen in 1615. Polsen was a strict advocate against witches. Clergy of a lower rank were not as concerned with the persecution of witches.

Christian's influence spread to lower courts, which actually began to have higher rates of persection and conviction than the high courts in Denmark.

The period of witchcraft persecution in Denmark was swift and furious, brought on by an overzealous leader, and ended by a war.

Christian IV, detail of an oil painting by Pieter Isaacsz, 1612; in Frederiksborg Castle, Denmark




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