In the wake of the witch hunts that swept through Europe in the 16th and 17th centuries, Maribor, Slovenia was no stranger to the societal and legal intricacies involved in accusing and trying an individual for witchcraft. The process was multi-faceted and often brutal, with specifics that could greatly fluctuate based on the time, local laws, customs, and the individuals involved. 

  • Accusations: The initiation of the witch trial process typically started with an accusation. This allegation could be made by a neighbor, local official, or even a family member. In many instances, the accused was a woman, specifically one who was either elderly, living alone, or marginalized in some way. However, men and children weren’t exempt from these witchcraft accusations.
  • Arrest and Imprisonment: Post-accusation, the accused individual was arrested and imprisoned. In many instances, the imprisonment conditions were harsh, with confinement periods lasting months or even years before a trial took place.
  • Interrogation and Torture: The accused then underwent interrogation, often paired with torture, aiming to elicit a confession. Torture methods were ruthless and varied, encompassing techniques like the rack, thumbscrews, and sleep deprivation.
  • Trials: Trials were held in local courts, which could be secular or ecclesiastical, depending on the region and period. The evidence presented often included the accused’s confession (acquired under torture), witness testimonies (typically from the accusers), and ‘proofs’ of witchcraft, such as the supposed ‘witch’s mark’ on the accused’s body.
  • Verdict and Sentence: If the accused was found guilty, their punishment often involved execution, with methods varying across regions. However, burning at the stake was a common practice.

In terms of the typical identities of the accusers and the accused, it’s notable that the accused often consisted of women who were in some way vulnerable or marginalized. The accusers could be almost anyone within the community but were typically neighbors or local officials. Witchcraft accusations were often fueled more by personal conflicts, social tensions, or economic motivations than by tangible evidence of witchcraft.