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Trial In Lukh :: History 229: The Age of the Witch Hunts

Trial In Lukh

In Russia, accusations of witchcraft were made by petitioning the local town governor, and in the autumn of 1657, the town of Lukh came up with a number of petitions due to the affliction of the townspeople’s wives. They were apparently afflicted with a form of magical bewitchment called klikushestvo, which is translated as “shrieking” or “spirit possession.”

The first of the petitions came from Petrushka Vasil’ev, who claimed another townsman cast a shrieking curse on his wife, motivated by some unknown reason. In response, Tereshka Malakurov and his wife were interrogated, but neither confessed to anything incriminating. The governor of Lukh then wrote to the tsar saying that a case of bewitchment had broken out in the town and that it was out of his power. A special investigator named Ivan Romanchiukov was sent to conduct the interrogations and it was he who documented all the steps he took and the transcripts of the interrogations.

The afflicted women uniformly stated that they could not remember what they said or did while bewitched, only that they felt faint and queasy and their hearts pounded “as if about to explode, and chills, aches, and fevers wracked their bodies.” They also admitted to experiencing darkness, spinning walls and great terror which could last up to several weeks. Male witnesses gave more complete descriptions of the symptoms, saying that the women made inhuman sounds such as growling like bears, honking like geese, and barking like dogs. Hiccupping was also a common symptom throughout the trials in all of Russia, not only in Lukh.

When the interrogator asked the women who had bewitched them, they did not make any accusations, saying that they did not know. In the townspeople’s petition, they only mentioned the names of fellow townspeople Ignashka and Ianka Salautin, town healer Tereshka Malakurov, monastic peasant Arkhipko Fadeev, and traveling minstrel Ian’ka Erokhin because the bewitched people supposedly cried out their names when they were stricken.

The interrogator then tortured these five people “without mercy,” using hot pincers and by crushing their “secret parts” with pincers. Ignashka Salautin said nothing even after three rounds of torture; however his wife, Ianka, Tereshka Malakurov, and Arkhipko Fadeev admitted to bewitching the townspeople. Tereshka Malakurov accused his wife, saying that he had taught her his witchcraft practice and that he had learned from an old horse-healer named Oska who had died long ago. Because he was the town healer, he admitted to bewitching people in order to charge them money for curing them, but he wasn’t able to heal them all. Both Ianka Salautin and Arkhipko Fadeev admitted to bewitching people together by releasing spells on smoke and in the wind.

In conclusion, Tereshka Malakurov, his wife Olenka, Ianka Salautin, and Arkihpka Fadeev were found guilty. The three males were sentenced to execution by beheading, and Olenka was buried alive.


Kivelson, Valerie A.”Through the Prism of Witchcraft: Gender and Social Change in Seventeenth-Century Muscovy.” New Perspectives on Witchcraft, Magic, and Demonology. Ed. Brian P. Levack. New York: Routledge, 2001. Print.

Levack, Brian P., ed,”A Russian Witch-Trial at Lukh, 1657.” In The Witchcraft Sourcebook. New York: Routledge, 2004.

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