Thursday, October 16, 2014

Vardø - witch burning memorial

The next morning the conference moved from the hotel to the cruise ship. The Hurtigrute (which means "speedy route") boat is a small cruise ship with a nightclub and hot tubs on the top deck and a good restaurant and modern conference facilities. The fleet of Hurtigrute boats travel from Kirkenes in the north to Bergen in the south, making a round trip in 11 days. Along the way the boat stops, sometimes just short stops to let people on and off, and sometime it makes longer stops to allow for sight-seeing.


Our first sight-seeing stop was Vardø, the easternmost city in Norway on a small island. Vardø is small, but features a very nice fortress, a radar installation that is supposedly for tracking space-junk but is probably spying on Russia, and a witch-burning memorial. I was not prepared to be so surprised by the memorial...
From inside the fortress at Vardø
The witch-burning memorial standing lonely on an isolated area of beach.
What the heck is it? A walkway leads to a canvas cocoon...
Inside is a long dark tunnel filled with glowing lights and signs.
Each sign gives the name, alleged crime of witchcraft, and other details for victims of the witch trials in Norway in 1621. 
It is an eerie and solemn walk down the hallwall.
Coming out of the other end is another walkway and a mysterious glass building.
Inside is an eternal flame and many large ellipical mirrors suspended from the ceiling.
The flame is coming from a chair. This place is weird and beautiful!
The story is pretty amazing. In winter 1617 a storm suddenly hit the area and 10 boats were sunk, killing 40 men. In 1620 Norway and Denmark made a new union and new anti-sorcery laws came into effect. It was believed that the northernmost lands practiced witchcraft (think "Game of Thrones"), and trials began in 1621.

A woman was alleged to be the ringleader of a great group of witches. The women all transformed into birds or foxes or other animals and flew to Bergen for a big Christmas party with Satan on top of a mountain, where they drank and fornicated with demons. Upon their return, they confessed to this sorcery, under extreme torture of course. They also confessed that they caused the storm in 1617 by tying three knots in a fishing rope and spitting on it.

In all, 150 people in northern Norway were executed for witchcraft. The momument is a way of apologizing for past injustices.

Here's the wikipedia article on the trials. Interesting stuff.

Tomorrow, we visit the top of the world!

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