Witch Craze in the Medieval Europe: The Case of Suzanne Gaudry
In Early Modern Europe, women were widely accused of being witches, Suzanne Gaudry being one of them. They accused her of practicing witchcraft and worshipping the Devil because the Devil marked her. Throughout her trial, she was interrogated twice, tortured, and retracted her statements, which made her look guilty. Suzanne Gaudry was an old French woman who was illiterate but came from a good family. What led people to believe that she, along with many others, was practicing witchcraft?
Witch hunting started occurring in the middle of the fifteenth century, lasting until the middle of the eighteenth century, mainly taking precedence in Germany and Europe. The persecution of witches never hit some places in Northern and Eastern Europe, and this was most likely because they were not super populated areas (Rowlands, A.1998). As centuries went on the trials for witch hunts became relatively more brutal than the century before. This is because the courts were making the penalty of being accused of a witch stricter (Levack, P. Brian 1987). In the early sixth century, witches had been discussed in earlier centuries, but interestingly enough was not a point of concern. What was more concerning to the Romans was the use of magic, especially when involved in battles. However, during the fifteenth century and until the eighteenth century, magic overall was considered evil (Rowlands, A.1998).
Women were among the most accused out of men and children. The kinds of women accused the most were the ones that were widowed and had to fend for themselves because they were easy targets since they would not have a man to defend them (Barstow, Anne Llewellyn, 1995). When the plague unfolded, crops perished, power between religions ran deep, and witches were taking the blame. Men thought women were easy targets to consider being witches because they thought of them as too quick to give in to temptation, sinful, and stuck firmly into their faith (Cana, C., 2014). They fit the stereotype of old, ugly, weak, poor, and illiterate. When the hunts started happening, people executed with no evidence. It was the word of the victims, and the confession from the accused that sentenced them to death. They were are all coerced confessions so that they would have a reason to execute them which resulted in many innocent people losing their lives.
Suzanne Gaudry’s case was exceptional because most examples from this period are not fully intact and have much detail as to what occurred during her interrogations. In the first interrogation, it was more about how she ended up meeting the Devil and what she did with him, while in the second interrogation, people regarded it as the evil she had done. N.N is another known trial of a woman who was 40 years old and accused by her neighbors of witchcraft. She would state she was a witch and then deny it. N.N was known as illiterate and laughed when brought into the court, while Suzanne had the courage and was intelligent. N.N’s real name is unknown, but her trial is similar to Suzanne Gaudry. Both trials were likely written in the eyes of men, so, who knows how entirely accurate both trials are (Levack, B. 2015).
Suzanne was an old French lady, from Rieux with her parents, Jean, and Marguerite (A Kors, A.C & Peters, E, 2001). Suzanne stated she was from Esgavans, but they had fled because of the wars between France and Spain. During her first interrogation on May 28th, 1652, she was hoping to be liberated and was fearful that she would ultimately be persecuted for being a witch. Even throughout her trial, she would contradict her statement of being a witch. Throughout the entire interrogation, Suzanne was questioned regarding the Devil, nocturnal dance, and powder. Suzanne admitted she was with her lover, the Devil, for about 25 to 26 six years, and his name was Petit-Grignon, but he gave her the name Magin. He wore a hat and black pants, and he left his mark on her left shoulder.
When they had asked her about the nocturnal dance, she replied that she had gone a dozen times. In the same instance, she ended up renouncing God, lent, and baptism. When Suzanne had gone to her first nocturnal dance, she was blind in one eye due to the Devil abusing her. Because she had been beaten so badly, she could hardly recognize anyone that was at the nocturnal dance. However, when she went again, she recognized the faces of the people. The interrogators then asked if her lover ever gave her some form of powder. She then spoke of a woman named Elisabeth Dehan, whom her lover wanted her to give the powder to because she had destroyed her lover’s crops.
Suzanne denied then, of course, her lovers request. Everyone that would attend the nocturnal dance would dance to music all night long and would only stop dancing when they were too tired to carry on. After the dance, Suzanne explained they gathered into a circle and a man, whom she described as the king, wore all black, had a long black beard and wore a red hat upon his head. The king was a forceful and powerful man who ensured that everyone in attendance of the nocturnal dance would do what he had told them to do. When he was finished talking to the crowd of people, everyone had vanished into thin air and disappeared in an instant. Towards the end of her first interrogation, she told them she had not heard from or seen her lover, Petit for three or four days. They then proceeded to ask if she had given up going to the Holy Communion, but she said despite her lover’s efforts to get her to stop going, she could not give up her bread and wine and continued to attend. When the finals words had been exchanged, they had Suzanne sign her name and proceed to the next interrogation.
Following the end of the first interrogation, they interrogated her a second time (A Kors, A.C & Peters, E, 2001). This interrogation started on May 29th, 1652 and they followed up with making sure everything she stated to them in the first interrogation was, in fact, right and she stated it was not and then changed her mind and said it was. When they asked who her lover was again, the answer was not the same as the first time. This time her lover was Grinniou, but he liked to be called Magnin instead. Originally Magnin was the name he had given her. The first time they met was in her home, and she described him wearing black pants and a hat. He marked her left shoulder, and so Suzanne then gave him oil in exchange for love. When her lover had confronted her with baring his child, the thought had never crossed her mind and ultimately did not fear to carry his child. When they had brought up the nocturnal dance again, Suzanne’s story did not change, and she kept it consistent with what she had stated in the first interrogation.
However, one small difference in the story was that her lover had attended the dance with her. She was able to pinpoint whom she saw at the gathering, which was Pasquette, Noelle Gerne, and Marie Homitte. She never spoke to either one of them, and they never talked to her as well, but they were all together there, and the sabbath occurred in the little meadow. They then questioned her on how long it had been since she had seen her lover and if she had ever seen Marie Hourie and her daughter during the nocturnal dance.
She then made a remark that she had not seen her lover for two years, but recanted this statement and changed it to fifteen days (three weeks) since seeing him, and as for Marie Hourie and her daughter, she stated that she had not seen them. When the dance concluded they met with the chief and he would hand out powder to everyone, but Suzanne did not want any. She did, however, take the powder and was told to use it for evil by her lover, but she did not listen to him. Suzanne was never beaten by her lover nor hurt by him. She admitted to five or six years ago after she wanted nothing to do with the powder she tossed it into her garden, which ended up killing all her herbs and crops. Gaudry would continue to prove that she was not a witch but when they pressured her into admitting she had killed a horse with powder she said it was true even though she never did such a thing. They coerced her into admitting it because they knew she somehow committed maleficia. She knew there was no other way to get around it, so she agreed to it in, hoping to save her self.
Lastly, after her second interrogation, they finally resorted to torture (A Kors, A.C & Peters, E, 2001). As they were strapping her to the rack, Suzanne had confessed that she was not a witch and did not have a lover, but her cries did not stop them from tying her down. They then asked why she left Rieux, and she would not tell them. She continued to deny being a witch, and in her moments of being strapped down and sentenced to death, she tried to convince them that she was forced into saying and doing what she had been doing. When she still denied it, they stretched her more on the rack.
She then went on to say she lied about using witchcraft for twenty-six years and never had Philippe Cornie’s horse put to death that it was all a lie. When the doctor searched her body and found that mark on her left shoulder from her lover, they concluded that it was the mark of the Devil. When they continued to pursue her to confess and tortured her even more by stretching her body, she caved and admitted to being a witch. Suzanne openly told them she had been with her lover, the Devil for twenty years. His name was Petit- Grignon, and he would always visit her at her home. When they pulled her off the rack, she became quick to take back everything she said and instead denied it by stating she was not a witch. When they tried to question her again, Suzanne pretended she was sick and said no more to their questions. As they stepped torturing her, Suzanne went into a dream state because as she was ready to confess to the people, she stopped short and began talking to someone who was near her. Because no one had seen this, Suzanne was sentenced to jail and never spoke again until the verdict.
On July 9th, 1652, the trial involving Suzanne Gaudry reached a verdict. She became sentenced to death for renouncing God, lent and baptism, going to the nocturnal dances, meeting with the Devil, being marked by him, and practicing witchcraft (A Kors, A.C & Peters, E, 2001). All of these accusations were coerced and not proven with substantial evidence, but because of witnesses and her mark, she was accused. Suzanne Gaudry had a lot of courage and a very brilliant women. Throughout her interrogations, she did well at resisting and when asked questions, she gave quick answers.
For most trials during the witch-hunts, many people were wrongfully executed and did not always receive a fair trial. Many witnesses accused their neighbors of witchcraft because a loved one would die, their livestock would die, and their crops would perish. If they noticed someone causing illness or curing one, it was known as malefici, which means wrongdoings (Ankarloo, Bengt & Clark, Stuart & Monter, William, 2002). So, as a result, they would believe it to be witchcraft and that their neighbor was a witch. Once an individual became branded as a witch, it was hard not to be found guilty.
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In Early Modern Europe, women were widely accused of being witches, Suzanne Gaudry being one of them. They accused her of practicing witchcraft and worshipping the Devil because the Devil […]