Catalonia granted a belated pardon to more than 700 women convicted of witchcraft between the 15th and 17th centuries

Accusations of witchcraft cost the lives of thousands of women across Europe. EFE/Leo Rodriguez (Leo Rodriguez/)

The plenary session of the Catalan Parliament approved this Wednesday a broad consensus resolution that “repairs” the memory of women convicted of witchcraft in Catalonia, calls the fact “misogynistic persecution”, and calls on the city councils to review the nomenclature of their streets to incorporate the names of these women.

According to historians’ estimates, between the 15th and 17th centuries at least 700 women were executed for witchcraft accusations in Catalonia. In addition, hundreds of other women received sentences related to witchcraft but their sanctions were lighter.

Three centuries have passed for the Parliament of Catalonia to grant a “pardon” to these sentences, in an effort to recognize the mistakes of the past and recover the memory of the women victims.

“Before we were called witches, now they call us ‘feminazis’, they call us hysterical, they call us ‘miserable’. Before they used to say witch hunts and now we call them femicides”, sustained Jenn Díaz, deputy of the Esquerra Republicana de Catalunya (ERC), party that promoted the initiative, together with Junts per Catalunya (JuntsxCat), the Candidatura d’Unitat Popular (CUP) and the Comunes.

The opposition to the initiative was led by the Popular Party (PP) and Vox, from the right and extreme right respectively, while the Ciudadanos party abstained and the Socialist Party of Catalonia (PSC) voted in favour, the latter two stating that they did not consider the matter as a priority.

This pardon was made after the publication of a study in the journal Sapiens that detailed how widespread the house of ‘witches’ was in the Spanish region of Catalonia. According to this investigation, the main persecutions were carried out against heterodox women who did not comply with social norms, were widows, had knowledge in medicine or some other atypical discipline for a woman of the time, this aroused fear in their neighbors and they were accused of witchcraft.

The Catalan Parliament pardoned the witchcraft crimes of hundreds of women convicted and executed between the 15th and 17th centuries in an effort to recognize the historical memory of the victims.
The Catalan Parliament pardoned the witchcraft crimes of hundreds of women convicted and executed between the 15th and 17th centuries in an effort to recognize the historical memory of the victims. (EUROPE PRESS/)

Many laws were issued in those years to “prohibit witchcraft”, one of the oldest dates from 1424 and was imposed in the Vall d’Àneu, in the Pallars Sobirà region (Lleida), one of the places with the most executions in the area, author of the oldest law against the crime of “witchcraft” in all of Europe.

“With the vision we have today, we would talk about femicide and political persecution of dissidence,” ERC deputy Jenn Díaz, one of the promoters of the resolution proposal, explains in statements to EFE.

The resolution where the pardon is granted and the memory of the victims is repaired says that women “Prosecuted, tortured and executed” for alleged witchcraft were “migrants, poor, healers, with knowledge about sexuality and reproduction, gypsies, widows and considered conflictive”.

“All of them stigmatized and pointed out by their own neighbors as witches and poisoners”, add the text.

According to the deputy of JxCat, Aurora Madaula, the call to incorporate the names of these women in the nomenclature of the streets of Barcelona is relevant because it constitutes a symbolic exercise of reparation and defense of memory.

“We cannot do ‘presentism’ or annul the sentences, but we can focus on recovering the memory and the knowledge that there was a persecution of women who left the macho system,” said Madaula, who has a doctorate in History. Torture was a regulated procedure in Catalonia between the 15th and 18th centuries.


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