The Werewolf Witch Trials of Estonia
I was so excited when I ran across this piece of research that talked about the werewolf witch trials of Estonia, which occurred in the 1600s. At first I was excited because I’m part Estonian and so this particular piece of werewolf history was especially interesting to me. Then reading further, I find that the werewolf witch trials of Estonia have a connection with the Benandanti werewolves, which I posted on and can be found here, quite some time ago. Just one of those things that’s too weird. So, the story about the werewolf witch trials of Estonia goes….
Why the title of ‘witch’ was included in the name of trials is really unknown. During the time of 1610 – 1659, there were about 100 ‘witch’ trials in Estonia even though the Baltic people that lived there at the time did not believe in devils or witches. They did believe in magic but mostly held it in high regard and something that could be used for very good reasons. The Estonian people at that time also believed fully in werewolves, and this was a crime that was punishable by death. Therefore, the accused were actually considered mostly to be werewolves, but were still deemed as ‘witches’ by the government.
During this time in Estonia, there were 18 trials held where 18 women and 13 men were accused of being ‘witches’ (or werewolves) and for causing damage to property and much of the farmers’ cattle in the area. After being tortured, they admitted that they had hid their wolves’ clothing underneath a rock so that they could make the change unnoticed. But still, in order to make this a bona fide witch trial, they still needed to prove that the accused had made a pact with the Devil. Sort of confusing seeing as how they didn’t really believe in the Devil. Still, they managed to extract the fact from the accused that they had made some sort of pact, also using the form of torture.
In all the Estonian witch trials, the attempt was to convert those who practiced other forms of religion to convert to Pagan traditions and beliefs. The Roman Catholic church had already tried this on the Baltic people and had been unsuccessful. Whether or not torturing them while on trial helped them in that endeavor is hard to say. But werewolves were also not always treated this way in the Estonian region. It was the case of Thiess and the Benandanti werewolves that happened only decades later in 1692, that also occurred in the same area. In this case, they also tried to get Thiess to admit that he had made a pact with the Devil but Thiess was not so prone to giving into their pressure. Instead, he received a whipping and was sent on his way.
Just goes to show that sometimes, werewolves need to stand their ground!