The witches of Sokndal

There were two women that were charged with witchcraft in Sokndal in the 1600s. Both are mentioned for the first time in 1623, and they were both condemned to death by burning, but it appears that only one of them actually was burned.

What caused these trials ? Did the 17. century people actually believe in witchcraft ? Did the authorities believe in it ? Or was it elderly, bothersome, single females that someone needed to rid themselves of ? Both of them were widows. One of them had a son that was a criminal.
We will probably never find the real answer to these questions. But there are enough examples in our own time to suggest why this really was carried out.

The first of the witches in Sokndal to appear was :

Married to Kristen Ribland, mentioned 1602 - 1603, dead before 1613
Son : a. Peder

The first time she is mentioned, is in 1623 when Halvor Urdal's wife Liv were accused with calling her a witch.

Jørgen Åros testified, that Ståle Hauge had said to him, that she indeed was a witch.

Ommund Haneberg testified, under oath, that Ståle Hauge was under the impression that she had hurt his wife.

Ola Immerstein also testified , that he had heard that Ståle said, that Dorte had killed his wife.

The peasants in Sokndal refused to give her their support, and shouted that she had always been notorious for witchcraft.

Jens Danielsen and Peder Kristensen testified, that once when she was telling them about the religion, she said that she believed that the devil would come back to judge the living and the dead.

"Sivert Regedal testified that when they once argued, she promised him pain, and he got pain.
He continued that for over twenty years ago, when he came looking for his animals on Dorte's land, they again started arguing. Then she cursed him, and promised him evil. He immediately went home, and then his child was turned mute. This child was 3 years old, and it died within 6 days. When they were to bury the child, Dorte went behind the procession on their way to church. The child's mother told her to put her hand on the child's forehead, and swear that she didn't have any thing to do with it's death. This she refused to do.

Her trial lasted over 6 years. She was sentenced to "punishment usually given to witches, which is death by burning, and all her possessions to be confiscated." Her son fought to clear her of all charges, he knew of course what had happened with Barbro Bjelland. In the end at least 4 people would swear to her innocence, and after 1629 she disappears from the records, so that could mean that the case was dropped.



Born appx. 1555, charged with witchcraft in 1623, daughter of Jørgen Øgreid in Hetland.

People where afraid of her. The "sheriff" in Hetland parish once said :" I'd rather walk 100 miles, than collect the taxes from her, because she's always curses people."

Peder Grøsfjeld testified that once he collected some of the taxes, he immediately lost 5 cows, after she had sweared and promised that this would happen.

In the court records we can find her confession, which she were supposed to present on January 19th. 1623 in the morning,"voluntary and untormented". She claimed she could heal people and beast with 5 different verses, that the scribe didn't include in his manuscript. She said she had learned this from a woman called Steinvor Herredsvela.

She also blamed Siri Rapstad, Magle Grøtfjeld, Siri Grøssereid, Endre Eie, Gitlaug Eie, Ommund Rapstad's daughter Mette Stene and Jon Årstad for dealing in witchcraft, but the peasants shouted that none of these people ever where known to do this, but instead it was all in Barbro's imagination. Furthermore Mette Stene had been dead at least 20 years.

She further claimed that she could see the devil, and ghosts sitting at her table. When asked how she saw this, she explained how. She went to the church, and gathered some water that were dripping from its roof. When she washed her face in this, she immediately could see them seated wearing red hoods. When she wanted to get rid of them, she washed herself in masswine in stead.

She was condemned to death by burning, and the sentence was executed in 1623. She had a son that had been in jail, but had managed to escape. She was also charged with using her powers to help him break out of his chains, and escape from prison.