Tempel Anneke was a widowed older woman accused of witchcraft just outside of Brunswick, Germany in 1663. This trial is one of the later trials in Germany. A very detailed account of the trials is available and allows for great analyse of the court procedures. Tempel Anneke was widowed by her husband in the Thirty Years War and lived with her only son. She was very dependent on the community as well as her son because she had no substantial income. Rather, she was trained by her mother as a natural based healer, mostly working with herbs and native plants. People regularly hired her to help cure their relatives, their animals, and protect against negative curses. However, she was also seen as a danger to the community. She possessed the knowledge and power of her healing skills and was seen as being able to use them for both good and evil.
Tempel Anneke represents the typical accused witch because she was a marginalized figure, older and dependent on the community. However, she possessed a very sharp wit and high temper that appears frequently in the trial. She makes quips with the judges and frequently identifies the trial as ridiculous. It was her neighbors that have accused her because she was said to have cursed their animals and children using her skills in natural substances. The trials is fairly indicative of many trials in Germany, showing the use of torture, searching for the witch’s teat, and leading questions. However, Tempel Anneke’s actions are not indicative of the typical accused witch.
For one point, she could read and write. She owned books that she kept in her home. While this may have given more supposed reason and probability to her being a witch, it also showed that she had the education and presence of mind to thoroughly answer the questions that the judge asked and not to fall into the trap of leading questions. There are many spaces in the record that she refuses to answer the question if it was too leading and she frequently pronounces exasperation. In this way, she attempted to flout the patriarchal structure of the witch hunts through noncompliance and speaking her mind freely.
Her accusations are also interesting, because they provide insight into contemporary cultural beliefs. The majority of the accusers had at one point asked for Tempel Anneke’s services, either to help themselves or in some cases bring harm to others. Her use of magic or herbal remedies was most likely exaggerated, but there it was also accepted as a fact and sometimes helpful one at that. The only point at which it became a problem that must be accused is when Tempel Anneke broke other cultural norms such as going to church, or when her remedies or treatments did not work according to plan. The townspeople had set much store by her beliefs and expected them to work; they became upset and accusatory when they did not.
The court soon turned to the use of torture, however. Tempel Anneke’s answers to the repeated question take an obvious turn after several months in captivity and the listing of “applied torture.” After she has been tortured, she admits to her supposed crime of witchcraft and also does mention that names of where she learned her witch craft and where. She does not implicate very many women as her fellow accomplices, but she does say that she learned from an older woman and from her mother and therefore upholds the cultural perception that women are possessors of witchcraft lore.
Although Tempel Anneke does present an exceptional case for an educated and outspoken woman during the witch hunts, her exceptional traits do not allow any escape from her fate. The use of torture in her trial broke her denial of the accusations and eventually led to her admitted guilt.
Morton, Peter A. The Trial of Tempel Anneke. (Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 2006).