Collectors of Fortean-related stamps - and we know there are quite a few out there - will be interested in a new stamp issued by the Åland Islands, a small self-governing dependency of Finland with an entirely Swedish-speaking population. The stamps, depicting a dramatic image of a witch about to be executed, mark the 350th anniversary of the first witch trails in the islands, which at the time were part of Sweden. The website of the Åland Post Office gives this description:
"Åland has the questionable honour of having started the great witch-hunt in the Swedish Kingdom 350 years ago. Between 1666 and 1670, a total of seven women were executed in Åland, convicted of witchcraft. 8 April sees a dramatic issue by artist Juha Pykäläinen.
"On 5 April 1666, proceedings were instituted against Karin Persdotter from Emkarby. Known as "the wise bitch", she was accused of practicing sorcery; she was thought to be able to find lost items, single out thieves and foresee who was going to die. From whom had she received the gift if not from the Devil? Convicted of witchcraft, she was condemned to be executed by axe and burnt at the stake.
"The driving force in the Åland witch-hunt was district judge and zealous witch expert Nils Psilander and Bryniel Kjellinius, pastor in Sund. They visited Karin in the Kastelholm jail, wishing to have her "full and truthful confession" so that she could receive the Holy Communion before death. In the end, she informed on thirteen women. A total of seven women were executed during this period, including Karin. Many more Åland women were prosecuted and tortured, none of whom, however, were burnt alive at the stake, neither was the so called trial by water ordeal applied. Other forms of "mild torture" were applied such as handcuffs being tightened.
"The Åland witch-hunts preceded the outbreaks in both Sweden (1668) and Finland (1669). The last witch trial in Åland took place in 1691."
- The stamps are denominated for letter post to Europe and have a face value of €1.30.