Witchcraft Panic in the Bishopric of Basel, 1670


During the spring of 1670 in the Franches-Montagnes district of the Bishopric of Basel, three old women assaulted a man who disturbed them. The women claimed to have mistaken him for the Devil, and he thought he had interrupted a witch’s sabbat. The old women were already suspected of causing possessing in some children and drying up the milk in their neighbors’ cows.

One of the women, Marie Grisard of Bemont, immediately left on a long pilgrimage and returned after the panic subsided.
Another of the women, a sixty year old named Madelein Guenat confessed under torture to attending the witches’ sabbat and performing maleficia, and accused one other woman of witchcraft. She was executed later that month.

Seventy-two-year-old Jeanette Maillard was arrested due to Madelein’s accusation. She was checked for the Devil’s Mark and engaged in a hunger strike to avoid torture. Although her home was searched for witch-like powders and liquids, none were found. Then, still without being subjected to torture, she confessed to adultery, infanticide, and to having become a witch eight years earlier. She denied, however, that she’d ever attended a witches’ sabbat or had relations with the Devil, and claimed that she had since been absolved of her witchcraft. Nonetheless, she was burned at the stake ten days after her arrest.

No other witches were subsequently arrested.

William Monter, Witchcraft in France and Switzerland: The Borderlands During the Reformation. (Ithaca, N.Y.: Cornell University Press, 1976), 99-100.

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Allschwilerstrasse 114, 4055 Basel, Switzerland
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