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The Witches of Lillhärdal

Pressmeddelande   •   Apr 02, 2007 15:19 CEST

In the middle of the 17th century Härjedalen’s people were poor and had faced a harsh period of time. Härjedalen had recently separated from Norway and now the people were struggling to understand its place under the rule of the Swedish church. It was during this era that the 23 year old girl named Stor Märit faced hell on earth. Her family and the village of Lillhärdal turned against her due to rumours that she was a witch. The stories told that she had kidnapped kids to see the Devil in Blåkulla. However, the only thing Stor Märit can be blamed for was to fall in love with the wrong man. Her husband to be had a very jealous 12 year old daughter, Getrud. This young girl started the stories about her step mother taking her to Blåkulla. The village priest heard about the story and it became his mission to see Stor Märit sentenced to death for being in pact with the devil. But first Stor Märit had to make a confession. Swedish law prohibited execution before the accused confessed her crimes. The system of justice did not want to send any one to hell and that was exactly what would happen if no confession was made before execution. This approach was very effective because every ones greatest fear was to spend eternity in hell. The majority of prisoners sentenced to death - innocent or not - did confess their crimes. They knew they could not escape the death sentence.

Surprisingly for the court Stor Märit did not confess, not even under torture or when her mother begged her to do so since she did not want her daughter to go to hell. The court even arranged a fake execution to bring out a confession. After four years the court of law got tired of the always returning case of Stor Märit and in 1673 she got beheaded and burned. This was the start of a hysteric witch hunt in Sweden where over 350 innocent people got executed in the name of God for being the devil’s helper.

It was in Lillhärdal everything started and it was in Lillhärdal where the Swedish church in 2003 after more than 400 years made a first official statement of the wrongness for the witch hunt. Close to the execution place of Stor Marit now rises an impressive and beautiful memorial stone. This stone acknowledges all the innocent people that died during the hysteria of the Swedish witch hunt.

Today Lillhärdal is not a low-spirited place due to its dark history it is the contrary. The town wants to tell the world the story of Stor Märit.
A unique museum has been build, visiting tourists are being dressed in 17th century fashion and taken around Lillhärdal’s historical places with horse and carriage. A drama/documentary has been filmed and shown on Swedish TV and a theatre group has put up the story of Stor Märit. In a near future there are plans for an entire house dedicated to the theme of witches. It will be an attraction for a wide target group, for example people interested in history, families taking their kids to see the fun side of witches- the fairy tales, people interested in traditional herbal medicine or people who want to challenge their mind to what “witch processes” are occurring in the world today. Or maybe someone just wants to relax in the interesting Blåkulla cafe.

We welcome you to Lillhärdal where you will find an extraordinary and unique tourism destination.

For more information please contact
Anna Martinez – tourism development officer
anna@haxkraft.se
phone: +46 (0) 70 628 00 51

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