Tales from the Outskirts of Society
Agneta Horns autobiography, which she called “Description of my wretched and much-troubled wanderings” is a ‘memory of lament’ recounting the story of a criticised, neglected, and little-loved girl who nonetheless manages to assert her will and give her opponents as good as she gets.Agneta Horns lefverne is fundamentally an account of Agneta Horn’s relationship with her father and with paternal power, of the identity as dutiful daughter that she and the times considered to be the ideal. Between the lines we can read disgreement between Agneta Horn and her stepmother, Sigrid Bielke. Objectively, the conflict revolved on the inheritance from Agneta’s father; ideologically, it revolved on Agneta Horn’s obedience to her father’s resolve.
There is a great variety in the quantity of creative or academic material passed down to us from each of the approximately one-hundred-and-fifty illustrious writing women living in the Nordic region between 1500 and 1800. If we pick out the Nordic women’s literary oeuvres and gather them together, big and small, we see the Nordic region in fine bloom, with committed, moving, keen, sincere, quality writing often arranged in bouquets around a scholarly family, a manor or a convent. A female consciousness and a literary aesthetic equal to those found elsewhere in Europe is clearly present in the work of the Nordic “feminae illustres”.
Swedish Sophie Sager’s production is small. She became known for her statements in a case of assault and battery, in which she was the victim. These statements were first published in 1848 as a serial in the newspaper Stockholms Dagblad, and in the same year they appeared with a preface and comments by Sophie Sager under the title Sagerska målet (The Sager Case). Her statements are marked by her strong ambition and desire to receive satisfaction for the offence she had suffered. The offence primarily concerns her right as a woman to reject sexual invitations.It is the way in which she differs from the passive, nice femininity of the time and causes offence through her activities that makes her interesting to us today. Through the story of her life and through her texts we are able to study the development of a female consciousness – how she is initially driven to fight for her own cause, and how at a later point she is roused to extend the fight to the women’s cause in general.
Witch persecutions were institutionalised with the papal bull and the later renowned Malleus Maleficarum (The Hammer of Witches), published in 1487 and written by Sprenger and Institoris. From then onwards, secular and ecclesiastical authorities were obliged – whether they wanted to or not – to see it as their legitimate duty to get witchcraft under control. The accused were submitted to interrogations that often resulted in physical mutilation and death. They must confess, at any price. This would last 300 years. The last official witch-burning in Europe took place at the end of the eighteenth century. It is highly unlikely that the persecutions came to an end because it was thought that the ‘offence’, which the papal bull and Malleus Maleficarum had attempted to pin down, had been eradicated. The below treats of confessions in Danish witch trials in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries.