Enigmas of the Horizon. Liv Helene Willumsen, Alison Karasyk and Youmna Chlala in Conversation
The text ‘Enigmas of the Horizon’ is a conversation between historian Liv Helene Willumsen, curator Alison Karasyk, and artist Youmna Chlala. The text is published in Alison Karasyk and Jeppe Ugelvig (eds.), Witch Hunt: A Reader on the Nordic Witchcraft Trials (Copenhagen, 2020). The book is part of the exhibition Witch Hunt, 7 November 2020–17 January 2021, Kunsthal Charlottenborg, Copenhagen, Denmark. The conversation focuses on meeting points between history, artistic expression and museum exhibitions. It includes topics like a historian’s work with original sources, an artist’s work with memory and futurity, and a curator’s work with the museum as an ever-evolving space. The conversation took place on 13 August 2020. ( PDF )
Article on magic numbers and Orkney women
The article ‘The ninety-nine dancers of Moaness: Orkney women between the visible and invisible’ draws attention to magic numbers in folk belief, witches’ meetings, and the imagination of seventeenth-century Orkney women. Departing from a witchcraft confession 1643, wherein a striking tale about ninety-nine dancers in the landscape of Moaness in Orkney is told, a detailed analysis is carried out. The article sheds light on the mentality of ordinary Orkney women, who on the one hand struggled to maintain daily existence, on the other hand maintained beliefs in the invisible and unrealistic. ( PDF )
Witches' Gatherings in Finnmark
This essay is part of the book Demonology and Witch-Hunting in Early Modern Europe. It analyses ideas related to witches’ gatherings in the northernmost part of Europe. In the district of Finnmark, in the far north of Norway, severe witchcraft trials took place between 1600 and 1692, with distinct panics in 1620–21, 1651–52, and 1662–63. The essay deals with cultural transference of ideas. It presents the concept of witches’ meetings as expressed in the confessions of the accused during the first panic, in 1620–21. It contextualizes the concepts, drawing attention to similar ideas in other European countries and thus to the question of transference of ideas. The prominent features are dancing and drinking, joy and sisterhood, the decent behaviour of the participants, the shape-shifting, the flights, the playfulness of the Devil – and even playing board games with their demons.( PDF )
Article on Witchcraft against Royal Danish Ships in 1589 and Transfer of Ideas
Liv Helene Willumsen has published an article in International Review of Scottish Studies, 2020. The article deals with witchcraft against royal Danish ships in 1598 and transnational transfer of ideas about witchcraft from Denmark to Scotland. The outset is alleged witchcraft performed against a royal Danish fleet that was to carry Princess Anne across the North Sea to her husband, King James VI of Scotland, autumn 1589, and following trials in Copenhagen. These include court records from witchcraft trials and diplomatic correspondence between Denmark, England and Scotland. By close-readings of these texts, a multi-layered narrative emerges. The article sheds light on the routes for transmission of witchcraft ideas, as well as the contemporary context for interpreting witchcraft notions. ( PDF )
Article on Orkney and Steilneset Memorials
An article on Orkney and Steilneset Memorials to the Victims of the Witchcraft Trials has been published in New Orkney Antiquarian Journal, no. 9, 2020. This issue of the journal is related to the opening of the Orkney Witch Memorial in Kirkwall on 9 March 2019. ( PDF )
Article in Magic, Ritual and Witchcraft
Liv Helene Willumsen has together with Arne Kruse written a new article titled ‘Magic Language: The Transmission of an Idea over
Geographical Distance and Linguistic Barriers’. The article deals with a fascinating transnational path regarding
the transfer of ideas concerning witchcraft. Published in Magic, Ritual, and Witchcraft, Volume 15, Number 1, Spring 2020, pp. 1-32. ( PDF )
Article in Folklore
Liv Helene Willumsen has recently published an article about the Sami Shaman Anders Poulsen, who was accused of witchcraft in Finnmark, Northern Norway, in 1692. The article is published in Folklore, (2020), 131:2, 135-158. ( PDF )
Honoured Guest at Inauguration Day Orkney Memorial
Liv Helene Willumsen was invited as Honoured Guest at the Inauguration Day of Orkney Witch
Memorial, Kirkwall, on 9 March 2019, where she gave a lecture:
‘Painful history in the public space: Steilneset Memorial, Norway’. Inauguration Day,
Memorial to the victims of the witchcraft trials, Kirkwall, Orkney, 09.03.2019.
Orkney Heritage Society.
Web page for the event
Article on early mission in Finnmark
This article deals with Isaac Olsen, one of the earliest missionaries among the Sami people in
Norway. Isaac Olsen worked as a teacher and preacher in Finnmark from 1703 until 1716.
Isaac Olsen was the forerunner of missionary Thomas von Westen.
‘Isaac Olsen – The First Missionary Among the Sami People in Finnmark?’, Nordlit, no.
( Link )
Performance Closing Ritual in Vardø
Liv Helene Willumsen was invited to Vardø by Laterna dance group, Marianne Skjeldal and
Inger-Reidun Olsen, in connection with Laterna’s performance Closing Ritual in Vardø June
2019. This performance was part of the art project CoSA - Concerning the Spiritual in Art
(2018-2020) - 'Steilneset'. Willumsen gave lectures during the project.
Facebook, and Webpage.
In a book review of Gunvor Simonsen’s book Slave Stories, the analyses of narrative
structures in court records are emphasized and evaluated. Slave Stories: Law, Representation and Gender in the
Danish West Indies, Aarhus University Press, Aarhus, 2017. In Sjuttonhundratal, 2019, p.
161–163. ( PDF )
Talk at Birmingham Conference
In November 2018, I gave a talk about Steilneset Memorial in Norway at a conference
arranged by National Archives and National Library, England: ‘Painful history in the public space: Steilneset Memorial, Norway’. #DCDC 2018. The
conference was arranged by National Archives and National Library, England. Birmingham,
Article on an adult son's assault on parents
This article is an analysis of court records from a trial against an adult son's assault on parents in a seventeenth-century Sami community in Northern Norway.
Article on oral transfer of ideas about witchcraft
This article examines oral transfer of ideas about witchcraft in
seventeenth-century Northern Norway, using close-reading of court records
as a method of analysis. (PDF)
Steilneset Memorial, Vardø, commemorating the Victims of the Finnmark Witchcraft Trials
Her Majesty Queen Sonja of Norway and historian Liv Helene Willumsen during the first officially guided tour at Steilneset Memorial
From the opening of Steilneset Memorial, Vardø, 23 June 2011. From left: Jerry Gorovoy, Louise Bourgeois' Studio, Her Majesty Queen Sonja, historian Liv Helene Willumsen, architect Peter Zumthor.
Article in Oxford Bibliographies: 'Historical Approaches to Child Witches'
The district of Finnmark in Northern Norway experienced severe witchcraft persecution during the 17th century. For a short introduction to the Finnmark witchcraft trials, click here:
At the Nordic History Meeting August 2011 in Tromsø, the following presentation
about witchcraft historiography in Norway from 1994 to 2011 was given by me. Click here for text (PDF).
Steilneset Memorial. Art Architecture History
This book contains a collection of articles related to Steilneset Memorial, Vardø, Norway.
The articles provide interesting perspectives on this unique memorial, which commemorates the 91 victims of the Finnmark witchcraft trials in the 17th century. Authors from Norway and other countries give their contributions to the book. Stamsund 2015. Co-edited with Reidun Laura Andreassen.
Witches of the North. Scotland and Finnmark
Witches of the North. Scotland and Finnmark is a comparative study of witchcraft persecution
in Scotland and Finnmark, Norway. A wide range of quantitative and qualitative analyses
based mainly on legal documents shed light on the witch-hunts in the two regions during the
seventeenth century. Statistical analyses give information about tendencies in the source
material in total. The qualitative chapters contain close-readings of trial documents, wherein
the various voices heard during a trial are analysed: the voice of the scribe, the voice of
the law, the voice of the accused person and the voices of the witnesses. The analyses
combined provide a broad view of the historical phenomenon in question as well as in-depth
studies of individual witchcraft cases.
The Witchcraft Trials in Finnmark, Northern Norway
This book contains the original sources of the Finnmark witchcraft trials during the period 1620 to 1692. The court records of the 17th century witchcraft trials were entered into protocols by a magistrate.
In this book the original facsimiles are rendered together with transcription of the sources.
The Witchcraft Trials in Finnmark, Northern Norway. Bergen 2010. The book is published by Varanger Museum and Skald Publisher.
Steilneset. Memorial to the Victims of the Finnmark Witchcraft Trials
This book contains all the 91 exhibition texts in the Memorial Hall at Steilneset Memorial, Vardø, Finnmark. Each of the victims of the
Finnmark witchcraft trials has got one text, with factual information about the
trial as well as information about the confession given before the court.
The texts in the Memorial Hall are written in Norwegian. The Norwegian texts are translated into English,German, and Finnish.
The book is available in these four languages.
To see one of the texts from a trial in 1621, click here: (PDF), or for another one, click here:(PDF)
Seventeenth-Century Witchcraft Trials in Scotland and Northern Norway
Abstract of Ph.D. thesis: Seventeenth-Century Witchcraft Trials in Scotland and Northern Norway by Liv Helene Willumsen is a comparative study of witchcraft persecution in Scotland and Finnmark, the northernmost region of Norway.
The hypothesis to be tested is that the historical witch-hunts in the two regions are complex phenomena, wherein several influential
explanatory factors are at work: the demonological element, the role of the state, the local courts, the role of the church, neighbourhood disputes,
the spoken word, folk belief, the superstitious north, the personal factor and lastly a direct connection between Scotland and Finnmark through a
Scottish district governor installed in Finnmark. A wide range of quantitative and qualitative analyses shed light on the witch-hunts in the two regions
during the period 1600-1700. The analyses are based on primary sources from witchcraft persecution, mainly legal documents. The quantitative chapters contain
statistical analyses and give information about tendencies in the source material in total. The qualitative chapters contain close-readings of trial documents
from a narratological perspective. Through discourse analyses the various voices heard during a trial are analysed: the voice of the scribe, the voice of the law,
the voice of the accused person and the voices of the witnesses. The quantitative and qualitative analyses combined provide a broad view of the historical phenomenon
in question as well as in-depth studies of individual witchcraft cases. The main finding of the quantitative analyses is that there is a strong correlation between
use of torture, demonic pact confessions, panics, local courts and females. The same finding is strengthened by the qualitative analyses, which in addition point
to the introduction of demonological notions by the learned elite, the spread of these notions in oral societies, the important roles of government officials
and the direct Scottish connection through a governmental official as explanatory factors. The conclusion is that the impact of the demonological doctrine on
legal and clerical institutions, the use of torture in local courts to extract demonological confessions and the pressure from local communities to start a
witchcraft trial must be seen as influential factors during the witchcraft trials in Scotland and Finnmark.
Seventeenth-Century Witchcraft Trials in Scotland and Northern Norway, Ph.D. thesis, University of Edinburgh, 2008, 325 pages
Trollkvinne i nord [Witch in the North]
This book was published in 1994. It is based on my Master's thesis from 1984, University of Tromsoe.
The study is the very first to point to the strong influence of demonology in the Finnmark witchcraft trials.
It is also the first study to point to the connection between the Finnmark witchcraft trials and the Scottish witchcraft trials.
The similarities particularly come to the fore with regard to the contents of the accused persons confessions before the court.
The occurrence of panics, linked witchcraft trials, is a similar feature in the two areas, so is the use of torture
in local courts and a strong majority of women among the accused. Also a high execution rate related to the witchcraft trials is found
in both areas. In the district of Finnmark, two ethnic groups lived side by side, The Norwegians and the Sami. Among the women accused
and executed for practising witchcraft, Norwegian women were targeted; among the men accused and executed, Sami men were targeted. A few of these were shamans.
Translation of the historical part of the book to be read here (PDF). Translated from Norwegian by Katjana Edwardsen.
‘"His Disobedient Son": Sami Narratives of Parental Authority in Eighteenth-Century Finnmark’ in M. Muravyeva and R.M. Toivo (eds.), Parricide and Violence Against
Parents throughout History, World Histories of Crime, Culture
and Violence, pp. 213–241, Palgrave Macmillan, London, 2017 (PDF)
‘Oral Transfer of Ideas about Witchcraft in Seventeenth-Century Norway’ in Thomas V. Cohen and Lesley K. Twomey (eds.), Spoken Word and Social Practice. Orality in Europe (1400–1700),
Brill, Leiden, 2015, pp. 47–83 (PDF)
‘Historical Approaches to Child Witches’, Oxford Bibliographies, 2015, (PDF), DOI 10.1093/OBO/9780199791231-0156
‘The Historical Dimension: From Court Records to Exhibition Texts’ in Reidun Laura Andreassen and Liv Helene Willumsen (eds.), Steilneset Memorial. Art, Architecture, History (Stamsund, 2014), pp. 31–48
‘Introduction’ in Reidun Laura Andreassen and Liv Helene Willumsen (ed.), Steilneset Memorial. Art, Architecture, History (Stamsund, 2014), p. 1–10. Co-author Reidun Laura Andreassen.
’From Fife to Finnmark. John Cunningham’s Way to Finnmark’, The Genealogist, vol. 28, no. 2, (Fall 2014), p. 180–199 (PDF)
’Children accused of witchcraft in 17-th century Finnmark’, Scandinavian Journal of History, vol. 38, no. 1, 2013, p. 18-41 (PDF)
’Exporting the Devil across the North Sea: John Cunningham and the Finnmark Witch-Hunt’ in Julian Goodare (ed.), Scottish Witches and Witch-Hunters (Basingstoke, 2013), pp. 49–66 (PDF)
‘The Visions of Isobel Gowdie: magic, witchcraft and dark shamanism in seventeenth-century Scotland’ in Women’s History Review, Eastbourne, 2013, vol. 22, no. 3, pp. 509–511 (PDF)
‘Witch in the North – Reality and Fiction’ in Ulla Manns and Fia Sundevall (eds.), Methods, interventions, and reflections: report from the 10th Nordic Women’s and Gender History Conference, Bergen, Norway, 9-12 August 2012, Makadam Publisher (Gøteborg/Stockholm, 2014), pp. 173–183
‘Seventeenth-century Witchcraft Trials in Scotland and Northern Norway. Comparative Aspects‘, History Research, 2011
‘A Narratological Approach to Witchcraft Studies: A Scottish Case’, Journal of Early Modern History, vol. 15, 2011, pp. 531-560 (PDF)
’Introduction’ in The Witchcraft Trials in Finnmark, Northern Norway, Bergen 2010, pp. 11-18
"Witches in Scotland and Northern Norway. Two case studies" in Peter Graves and Arne Kruse (eds.): Images and Imaginations. Perspectives on Britain and Scandinavia, Lockharton Press, Edinburgh, 2007, pp. 35-66. (PDF)
"Witches of the High North", Scandinavian Journal of History, no. 3, 1996, pp. 199-221 (PDF)
‘Sturm und Wetter im Norden’. AKIH Frühjahrstagung 1–3 February 2018, Die Hexen und
das Wetter. Tagungszentrum Hohenheim, Akademie der Diözese Rottenburg-Stuttgart.
‘North Berwick Trials Revisited’. Institute for Advanced Studies in the Humanities, IASH
Seminar, University of Edinburgh, 01.06.2017
"The Ninety-Nine Dancers of Moaness: Orkney Women Between the Visible and
Invisible". Supernatural in Early Modern Scotland; Seminar Institute for Advanced
Studies, University of Edinburgh, 26.05.2017
"On Desmond Bell's documentary film 'The Last Storyteller'". Seminar Celtic and Scottish
Studies, University of Edinburgh, 17.02.2017
‘Witches’ Words: Features of Orality in Seventeenth-Century Scottish and Norwegian Court
Records’, Scottish History Seminar, University of Edinburgh, 26. November 2015
‘Transfer of Witchcraft Ideas’, Medieval and Renaissance Seminar, University of Edinburgh, 10
’Northern Witches’, Tolbooth Museum, Interdiciplinary North Seminar Series 2014, University of Aberdeen, 12 December 2014
’On my Work with Steilneset Memorial Text Exhibition’, Keynote-speaker at Symposium: Fire from the North, Norwegian Art College, Oslo, 24 October 2014
‘The Finnmark Witchcraft Trials: Ideas About Witches’ Gatherings’, presentation 12 September 2014 at the conference Witches and Demons: The Impact of Demonology on European Witch Hunts, University of Tromsø 11-13 September 2014
’On the history behind Steilneset Memorial”, presentation 27 August at the conference Den lange reisen – en nasjonal konferanse om turistveger, trolldom, kvinner og demokrati [The long journey- a national conference on tourist routes, witchcraft, women, and democracy], Vardø, 27 – 28 August 2014. Arranged by National Tourist Routes, Norway
’Transmitting witchcraft ideas across Europe’, Round Table Conference, The 28th Nordic History Meeting, Joensuu, Finland, 16 August 2014
’From Fife to Finnmark. John Cunningham – Admiral, District Governor and Witch-Hunter’,
Annual Day, arranged by Northern Studies, Edinburgh, 22 November 2013
’The Voices of Women in Witchcraft Trials’, The Ida Blom Conference 2013, University of
Bergen, Bergen, 14-15 October 2013, presentation held 15 October 2013
‘Anders Poulsen – A Shaman from the North’, Conference on Second Sight and Prophesy,
University of Aberdeen, Scotland, 14-16 June 2013, presantation held 15 June 2013
‘Folkloristic Notions and Demonological Ideas in the Finnmark Witchcraft Trials, Northern
Norway’, XI Gustav Vasa Seminar: Witchcraft, Magic and Popular Religion, University of
Jyväskylä, 11-12 June 2013
’Seventeenth-Century Witchcraft Trials in Finnmark, Northern Norway’, History Seminar,
University of Islands and Highlands, Kirkwall, 21 May 2012
’Seventeenth-Century Witchcraft Trials in Finnmark, Northern Norway’, History Seminar,
University of Islands and Highlands, Scalloway, 22 May 2012
’Witch in the North – Reality and Fiction’, Tenth Nordic Conference in Gender, University of
Bergen, Bergen, 8-12 August 2012
’The Voices of Women and Children during the Finnmark Witchcraft Panic of 1662–63’, Tagung
Gerichtsacten, Arbeitskreis Geschlechtergeschichte der Frühen Neuzeit, AKIH Akademie der
Diözese Rottenburg-Stuttgart, 3-5 November 2011 in Stuttgart-Hohenheim
’17th Century Witchcraft Trials in Orkney and Shetland’, Departemental Seminar in Celtic & Scottish Studies, University of Edinburgh, 25 April 2008
’Witch-trials in Finnmark and Scotland - Torture and Confession’, The Midnight Sun Witchcraft Conference, Vardø, 29 June 2007
’Seventeenth-Century Witchcraft Documents from Scotland and Norway’, The Conference A Woman's Island? Shetland Women - Past, present and Future, Lerwick, Shetland, 21 April 2007
’Witches in Scotland and Northern Norway’, History Research Seminar, School of History and Classics, University of Edinburgh, Scotland, 1 March 2007
Exhibition texts, Memorial Hall, Steilneset Memorial to the Victims of the Finnmark Witchcraft Trials
List of persons accused of witchcraft during the Finnmark Witchcraft Trials, Northern Norway (PDF)