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The Witches of the Ruiten AA

A project from Marjan Daanje en Melissa Steenhuis, within the Atelier Living Heritage

Did you know that between 1587-1597 several women were convicted as 'toverse' (a synonym for witch within the dialect of Groningen) and consequently burned alive on the Geselberg in Vlagtwedde? The number of women killed during the Westerwold’s witch trials makes this one of the largest persecutions in our country. Yet this event has been neglected in our history. Therefore, we, students at the University of Groningen, want to shed light on this in collaboration with the Monastery Museum Ter Apel.

Advertisement poster for the exhibition: The Witches of the Ruiten AA in the Monastery Museum Ter Apel from March 24 – July 16, 2023. Created by Marjan Daanje and Melissa Steenhuis.
Advertisement poster for the exhibition: The Witches of the Ruiten AA in the Monastery Museum Ter Apel from March 24 – July 16, 2023. Created by Marjan Daanje and Melissa Steenhuis.
Witch trials

At the beginning of the early modern period, witches were persecuted all over Europe, with prosecutors using horrific torturing techniques. The guidelines for this were found in the "Hammer of Witches," a book approved by the pope dating from 1486 that taught people how to recognize witches and how to punish them. The witch trials in the Netherlands took place during a time of economic disaster, a crisis within the Christian faith and the war with Spain. Women of low houses were designated as scapegoats during this turbulent period.

In the Netherlands remnants of witch trials can still be found in the form of stories of descendants. In Westerwolde, a story is told about an accused woman who went through the entire criminal process and was eventually burned at the stake. Rumor has it that Prior Johannes Emmen, the monastery head of Ter Apel, was present at this trial. But is this story true?

Exhibition

The exhibition: The Witches of the Ruiten AA, which runs from March 24 to July 16, 2023, in the Monastery Museum, answers the question of how the witch trials took place, who were involved and what role the monastery played in this. In this exhibition, local artist Ludmilla van der Spoel gives the condemned women a face through sculptures. Go to https://www.kloosterterapel.nl/en/ for more information regarding the monastery and this exhibition or scan the QR code.

Last modified:10 March 2022 12.21 p.m.
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