The 'Little Witch Girl' of Rothenburg
Alison Rowlands investigates the case of a 'child-witch' during the Thirty Years War.
In History Review in September 1996 Robin Briggs noted that 'the widespread legal persecution of witches is one of the most fascinating and puzzling features of early modern European history'. Perhaps one of the most fascinating and puzzling aspects of the witch-hunt phenomenon itself was the fact that many children became caught up in its mechanisms. Sometimes they were the apparently innocent victims of the torments of witches and the devil; this was, for example, the case with the allegedly bewitched girls whose fits and strange behaviour triggered the Salem witch-hunt of 1692. Sometimes, however, children claimed to be witches themselves, often with little or no prompting from adults, and gave detailed accounts of their activities as witches which usually implicated many other people as their accomplices in evil. In Germany, for example, children who accused themselves and others of witchcraft first emerged in the large-scale witch-trials that took place in the Electorate of Trier in the late 1580s; they were to become an even more common feature of witch-trials in seventeenth and early-eighteenth-century Germany.