Open Access (free)

Marking (dis)order

Witchcraft and the symbolics of hierarchy in late seventeenth- and early eighteenth-century Finland

Raisa Maria Toivo

This chapter examines how the vocabulary and imagery of witchcraft and magic in the trials reflects the symbolics of social hierarchy as well as the basis and creation of hierarchies in peasant communities. The inversion of hierarchy symbolised in witchcraft served to define the order through negation, not only as hierarchical in general, but also as a specific kind of hierarchy. On the level of social and ideological theory, witchcraft and vidskepelse thus fitted into the model of social misrule, which symbolised the opposite of world order. The chapter provides a brief outline of witch trials in late seventeenth-and early eighteenth-century Finland. Even though the trend was for the prosecution of benevolent magic and 'superstition', in the western Finnish parish of Ulvila, maleficium trials continued into the early eighteenth century.