Most people know all about the Salem Witch Trials of the late 1600s, but not as many are aware of the larger-scale witch hunts in Spain that happened earlier that century.
During the Spanish Inquisition, the Catholic church attempted to maintain its position as the dominant religion by punishing baptized members who were accused of not adhering to its teachings or going directly against them — namely those who converted from Judaism and Islam after royal decrees issued in 1492 and 1502 ordered Jews and Muslims to convert to Catholicism or leave Spain.
The people accused of heresy were forced to testify in tribunal courts and were sentenced to death if they refused, and their families often didn’t defend them because they would likely be put on trial themselves.
Inquisitors also targeted non-Catholics, including Protestants and even
so-called “witches,” some of whom were burned to death at the stake as
part of the largest witch trial in history.
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Beginning in 1609, the Basque Witch Trials led to the investigation of 7,000 men, women, and even children in the town of Zugarramurdi accused of practicing witchcraft.
Once a person was convicted of being a witch, they were displayed in front of the entire village in a punishment ritual called auto-da-fe. They were then walked through the town and executed.
Several thousand of the accused were tried in court, and about a dozen people were burned at the stake. Five of them died while being tortured, so an effigy was symbolically burned during auto-da-fe proceedings.
The caves in Zugarramurdi attracted inquisitors to the town, as they were said to be the setting for many pagan festivities held by locals during the 17th century. They now serve as permanent reminders of the town’s dark past.
Every year around the summer solstice, hundreds of people participate in a festival held in the Cave of Zugarramurdi, or the “Cave of the Witches,” to celebrate the town’s historical association with the occult.
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(via All That Is Interesting / Atlas Obscura)