Estonia Werewolf witch trials


In Estonia, accusations of magic, which were often about enchanted potions, were rare, while the belief in magic was common.[citation needed] Accusations of werewolves, on the other hand, were common. At 18 trials, 18 women and 13 men were accused of causing damage to property and cattle while in the shape of werewolves. Under torture, they confessed to having hidden their wolvf-skins under a rock.[citation needed] The werewolf trials petered out at the end of the 17th century. As late as 1696, however, a pack of werewolves was believed to run wild in Vastemoisa under their leader Libbe Matz.[3]



The werewolf was not always regarded as evil in the Baltic. A notable case in Jürgensburg in Livonia in 1692, follows a similar pattern, but did not end in a death sentence: the eighty-year-old Thiess confessed to be a werewolf who, with other werewolves, regularly went to hell three times a year to fight the witches and wizards of Satan to ensure a good harvest. This case is was also noted by Carlo Ginzburg as similar to that of the Benandanti.[4] The court tried to make Theiss confess that he had made a pact with the devil and that the werewolf was in the service of Satan, but they did not succeed, and he was sentenced to whipping on 10 October 1692.

Hans the Werewolf

The trial of “Hans the Werewolf” is a typical example of the combined werewolf and witch trials, which dominated witch hunts in Estonia.

In 1651, Hans was brought before the court in Idavare accused of being a werewolf at the age of eighteen. He had confessed that he had hunted as a werewolf for two years. He claimed he had gotten the body of a wolf by a man in black. “When asked by the judges if his body took part in the hunt, or if only his soul was transmuted, Hans confirmed that he had found a dog’s teeth-marks on his own leg, which he had received while a werewolf. Further asked whether he felt himself to be a man or a beast while transmuted, he said that he felt himself to be beast”.[5]

Thereby, the court considered it proof that he had not dressed out, but really transformed into a werewolf, which meant he had undergone a magical transformation. Furthermore, as he was given this disguise by a “man in black,” which the court thought was obviously Satan, he could be judged guilty of witchcraft and sentenced to death. In the Baltic countries, this was a common method of turning a werewolf trial into a witch trial.[3]


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