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Finding magic under the stars of the Camino Santiago de Compostela

Monday, November 16, 2015

The Witches of Logroño

Vuelo de Brujas - by Goya
One of the most famous events associated with Logroño
were the Basque witch trials,
which took place between 1609 and 1610.
These trials represented the some of the most ambitious attempts
at rooting out witches ever undertaken by the Spanish Inquisition.
By the end of the trials,
some 7,000 people had been examined by the Inquisition.

It was not only women who were accused.
Just as in Massachusetts,  fingers were pointed at children and men.
Even priests were not exempt from accusation.
The priests were accused and found guilty of healing with nóminas,
amulets with names of saints.

The first phase of the witchcraft trials in Logroño
ended with a declaration of auto-da-fé (act of faith)
against thirty-one of the accused.
Auto-da-fé was the ritual of public penance of condemned heretics.
Up to a dozen of these people were  burned to death.
Five of them were burned symbolically,
as they had died before the declaration had been made.

Inquisitors suspended the trials after a while
and took time to round up as many witches as possible.
There was believed to be a widespread witch cult in the Basque regions.
 The Grand Inquisitor traveled the countryside,
promising  pardon to all those who voluntarily reported themselves
and denounced their accomplices.
He traveled mainly in the vicinity of Zugarramurdi, near the French border.
 Here were caves and a water stream
still said to be the meeting place of the witches.

Denunciations flowed like water,
and the Grand Inquisitor returned to Logroño
 with "confessions"
from close on 2,000 people.
1,384 of those were children between the ages of seven and fourteen.

 Most of the witnesses eventually retracted their statements,
attributing their confessions to torture.
The evidence gathered covered 11,000 pages.
Only six people out of 1,802 maintained their confessions
and claimed to have celebrated Witch’s Sabbats.
Contrary to the usual picture of the Inquisition,
the youngest judge, Salazar, was skeptical about the whole witch hunt.
He said he had found no substantive proof of witchcraft on his travels.
He also questioned the whole basis of the trials.
Because of disagreement on how to proceed,
the matter was referred to the Inquisitor-General in Madrid.
The senior judges, Alonso Becerra y Holquin and Juan del Valle Alvarado,
even went so far as to accuse Salazar, their colleague,
of being "in league with the Devil".

Some of Salazar's objections are remarkable,
considering the dangerous atmosphere of the times:
“The real question is: are we to believe that witchcraft occurred in a given situation simply because of what the witches claim? No: it is clear that the witches are not to be believed, and the judges should not pass sentence on anyone, unless the case can be proven with external and objective evidence sufficient to convince everyone who hears it. And who can accept the following: that a person can frequently fly through the air and travel a hundred leagues in an hour; that a woman can get through a space not big enough for a fly; that a person can make himself invisible; that he can be in a river or the open sea and not get wet; or that he can be in bed at the sabbath at the same time... and that a witch can turn herself into any shape she fancies, be it housefly or raven? Indeed, these claims go beyond all human reason and may even pass the limits permitted by the Devil.”

The Inquisitor-General appeared to share the view
that confession and accusation on their own were not enough.
In August 1614 all of the trials pending at Logroño were dismissed
against the Basque witches.

The "Cave of the Witches" near Akelarre in Zugarramurdi.
It is said the witches of Zugarramurdi met at the meadow of Akelarre
(Basque for "meadow of the he-goat").
Today, aquelarre is the Spanish word for a witch's Sabbat.

All throughout the area , if you keep your eyes open,
you will see evidence of the “Basque witches.”
They have become a tourist attraction!
Witches are on the sides of buildings,
on the tops of the chimneys,
on the candy wrappers,
and even in the shop windows.

I found this witch in O Cebreiro
Weathervanes like this one are not uncommon in Galicia
Insurance window sports a witch! Broomstick accidents?

This witch can be found in Santiago -- do you know where?
Zugarramurdi now celebrates the witches
with a feast by the cave on Midsummer's eve,
June 23, the folk date for the summer solstice.
It is a well-attended affair as you can see by the photo below!

Many people still attend the Sabbat on Midsummer's Eve.

There are 'sacred plays' as well as feasting for the participants.

Zugarramurdi loves its witches! 
There are witches everywhere!

 They even have a Witch Museum,
 El Museu de las Brujas:

Our path on the Camino Santiago does not take us through Zugarramurdi.
But the Way definitely DOES take us through "witch country."

 So I caution you to beware...
for you never know who might be walking right past you!
This wonderful photo is by Brian Greaney

Here is what happened to many of the accused, according to the  Auñamendi Encyclopedia:

  • María de Echachute, burnt at the stake.
  • María de Echalecu, died in prison .
  • Joanes de Echegui, died in prison.
  • María de Echegui, sentenced to confiscation her belongings and life prison. Freed later. María de Endara, sentenced to confiscation of her belongings and life prison. Freed later.
  • Inesa Gaxen, their belongings were returned and she was indulted. Upon her return to Hondarribia, the local administration did not accept the Inquisition decision; she and her companions were banned to Hendaye.
  • Joanes de Goiburu, sentenced to confiscation of his belongings and life prison.
  • Miguel Goiburu, died in prison. His image was burnt at the stake.
  • Hernando de Golarte, Jesuit. He pleaded for many of the defendants.
  • Joanes de Iribarren, sentenced to confiscation of his belongings and life prison.
  • Petri de Joangorena, burnt at the stake.
  • María de Jureteguia, sentenced to confiscation of her belongings and life prison. Freed later.
  • Beltrana de Lafarga, sentenced to confiscation of her belongings and limited prison.
  • Joanes de Lambert, sentenced to confiscation of his belongings and limited prison.
  • Joanes de Odia, died in prison. His bones were "relaxed to the secular arm".
  • Estefanía de Petrisancena, died in prison. Her bones were "relaxed to the secular arm".
  • María Presona, sentenced to confiscation of her belongings and life prison.
  • Alonso de Salazar y Frías, inquisitor. His reports led to the practical suppression of witch burnings in the Spanish empire one century before the rest of Europe.
  • Joanes de Sansin, sentenced to confiscation of her belongings and life prison.
  • Domingo de Subildegui, burnt at the stake.
  • María de Telechea, sentenced to confiscation of her belongings and life prison. Freed later.
  • Graciana Xarra, burnt at the stake.
  • María de Zozaya, died from the tortures before the auto-da-fé. Her bones were "relaxed to the secular arm". The article quotes from the confession extracted by Alonso Becerra and Juan del Valle Alvarado.

See my AnnieWalkersCamino website at 
for more information about
Guided Walks on the Camino Santiago 

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