National Witch Conference Held Near Site of 17th Century Witch-Burnings

August 28, 2004

Source: IOL

Wire Service: AFP

On August 28, 2004 Agence France-Presse reported, "Half a millennium after witch-burning reached its peak across Europe, the first ever witch conference got underway on Friday in northern Norway, where a disproportionately large number of women lost their lives to the flames. 'We will walk in the witches' footsteps tonight. We'll be going down to the area where all the so-called water tests were held, and then we'll cook our dinner over a bonfire on the same spot as where the witches were burned,' said Riita Leinonen, who runs Hexeria, the historical experience travel agency that organized the conference. The chilling water test involved throwing a suspected witch into the water. If she succeeded in not drowning and managed to float, she was deemed guilty and burnt to death...The conference here, which is scheduled to last through Sunday, is taking a historic and academic approach to the subject, according to Leinonen. 'We wanted to give people a feeling of what it was really like to be accused of being a witch - not the plastic image,' she said, admitting that a lecture on wizard wonder kid Harry Potter did figure on the agenda... In addition to academic lectures and artistic performances, the conference will offer its approximately 100 participants the opportunity to explore the mystical, barren surroundings of Vardoe, which are thought to have helped inspire the belief that evil magical forces were at work."