From the Middle Ages through the 18th century, Maribor, Slovenia experienced witch hunts that, while similar to those in other parts of Europe, had some unique characteristics. This article delves into a comparative analysis of these historical events.

  • Mass Executions: Witch trials in Maribor often led to large-scale condemnations. In one notable instance from 1546, ten individuals were sentenced to death and burned at the stake on the same day. Even entire populations, like that of Bočkovo in Inner Carniola, fell victim to accusations of witchcraft and subsequent executions.
  • Diverse Victims: While women were the primary victims of these trials, approximately 15% of the accused were men, a higher proportion than typically seen in other European regions. Shockingly, children and even priests sometimes found themselves accused of witchcraft in Maribor.
  • Scope of Accusations: Accused witches in Maribor bore the blame for a wide array of misfortunes. From diseases and natural disasters to poor crop yields, witchcraft was often the scapegoat during periods of societal turmoil, leading to an increase in witch burnings.
  • Torture Practices: Accused witches in Maribor underwent extensive torture before giving their confessions, a practice informed by a specific inquisition manual.
  • End of Witch Trials: The last confirmed witch execution in Slovenia occurred in the town of Krško in 1714. However, even after an edict from Empress Maria Theresa outlawed witch burnings across the Austrian Empire, remote country courts continued the practice until as late as 1746.
  • Reasons for Accusations: In some trials, accusations stemmed from envy or suspicion of success rather than fear of the supernatural. In a 1746 trial, a woman who produced more butter than others was accused of being a witch but was later acquitted.
  • Legacy of the Witch Hunts: These trials have left a lasting legacy on Slovenian culture, with witches continuing to play a significant role in local folklore and fairy tales. Today, the Miklova Hiša museum in Ribnica holds a permanent exhibition on witch burnings as a stark reminder of this historical period.

In conclusion, the witch hunts in Maribor were complex phenomena shaped by a multitude of social, economic, and religious factors. They mirrored many practices seen throughout Europe, yet they also bore unique characteristics that continue to impact the cultural landscape of Slovenia.