Crime

Romanian woman burned alive for witchcraft

Myths, legends and superstitions are more or less part of every society’s cultural values and belief system, in some cases with country-specific characteristics. In Romania, these myths are mostly related to the living dead and evil witches with demonic powers. One might think that in the 21st century a witch-burning case could only be part of a horror movie, but then one would be wrong: as unbelievable as it seems, the other day a man set an 83-year-old woman on fire in southern Romania because he believed she was a witch.

As Romanian news portals related the horrific event, in the village of Pleniţa, located in Dolj County, one of the locals alerted the authorities that a crime had taken place; a woman’s partially carbonized body was seen in a yard.

Representatives of the county police informed the press that their team found the remains of the victim in the yard of a 43-year-old man from the village. Inside the house, they also came across the body of his deceased mother.

The man was taken into custody, and admitted that he had set his neighbor, the old woman, on fire but denied the killing of his mother. When asked why he killed the 83-year-old, he replied: “Did you know that this old one is a witch? And there are more of them. They had done nothing but hurt us and ruin our future … Do you believe me?”

Authorities have ordered an autopsy on both corpses to determine the exact causes of their deaths. The investigations were taken over by the prosecutors of Dolj County courthouse.

Just a few interesting facts: The Hungarian word for witch, “boszorkány” is of old Turkish origin, and it means “pressing nightmare, incubus.” In Transylvania, dozens of witch trials were documented in the past centuries. Interestingly enough, witches were burnt at the stake not just in medieval ages, but in the 16th to 18th centuries as well, after having been condemned by secular courts of justice. For instance, in Kolozsvár, the first documented witch trial happened in 1565, and the accused woman was burned at the stake somewhere near the Nádas Creek, at the outskirts of the city.

Actually, a few centuries ago, if people started gossiping about a woman that she might be a witch, soon enough several witnesses were keen to say that she consorted with demonic forces. The indictment files prove that if something bad happened in a community, for instance, if a malady struck, babies died or animals got sick, fear took over, and people started to look around for someone to blame…

The last death sentence in a witch trial is documented in 1753 in Marosvásárhely (Târgu Mureş, Neumarkt): A midwife was accused of being a witch by a husband, as yet a second child from a second wife had died. The midwife was not present at the first childbirth, and told the father that had she been there, the child would have lived. She was asked to be there at the second one’s birth, but the baby did not make it, so she was indicted. Her fellow midwives were witnesses against her – probably out of hate and envy – along with dozens of other people. She did not pass the trial of water, as she floated with her big white petticoat, thus she ended up at the stake…

Midwives were particularly exposed to the danger of being proclaimed a witch, as in many places they were the only ones who could help deliver babies. They usually knew the attributes of different herbs and had the knowledge of healing practices. But, it was also a bad omen if a woman was old, had a big mouth, some kind of handicap or even just a wart on her face…

 

Title image: Burning witches alive was common in many parts of Europe centuries ago. But that doesn’t mean that it can’t happen nowadays too…

Source of illustration: nationalgeographic.co.uk

 

Author: Éva Zay