Add comment February 5th, 2017 Headsman
Despite the late date — the entire cosmology of witchery was coming apart by the 18th century — she fit the classical demographic profile of a witch hunt victim. Wagemann was an aged — 66 or 67 at the time of her trial, she thought — and penniless woman who knew her way around medicinal herbs and had a pre-existing reputation for witchcraft.
When the burning times were truly aflame, marginal people like this could easily be ignited by the accusations a torturer wrung from the last luckless soul to be named to the Black Sabbath. By 1716, when Wagemann went on trial, the case strangely conjoined an ancient superstition to a ponderous Enlightenment legal process, with an 879-page codex of the interrogations with vague witness accusations endorsed by jurists at the University of Tübingen.*
There weren’t any raging famines or plagues afoot that demanded supernatural attribution. It seems in this case that before the neighbors could accuse her of drying up their cows and such, Anna Maria Wagemann was targeted thanks to the oldest enmity in the book: family politics. A daughter-in-law of our principal was either quite convinced she had married into sorcery or else quite weary of the dynamic at family meals, and it was her denunciations (supported by her 9- and 12-year-old daughters) that brought Wagemann to book. It’s difficult to piece together the chain of causation; this woman, Anna Margarethe Wagemann, was herself suspected of witchcraft and jailed for many weeks,** so her charge too might have been issued under duress. In the end, it was only Anna Maria who was tried, and Anna Margarethe gave evidence against her — although Anna Margarethe was also punished by being made to witness the execution with her young daughters, and then being expelled from Fürfeld.
* We’ve seen this university in our pages before, involved in the case against Johannes Kepler’s mother.
** Years later, she would appeal for compensation for her wrongful imprisonment. (It’s not known whether the appeal succeeded.)
On this day..
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- 1862: Samuel Calhoun, antebellum serial killer - 2013
- 1860: John Guthrie, antislavery horse thief - 2012
- Feast Day of St. Agatha - 2011
- 1945: Denise Bloch, Lilian Rolfe and Violette Szabo - 2010
- 1894: Auguste Vaillant, bomb-throwing anarchist - 2009
- 1597: The 26 Martyrs of Japan, for God and trade routes - 2008