The Witches of Zugarramurdi return four centuries later: Logroño recalls their auto de fe

Logroño recently hosted a popular celebration that will serve as a tribute to the victims of the auto de fe that began in November 1610 against twenty women from the Navarran town of Zugarramurdi who had been accused of practicing witchcraft and worshiping Satan.

The inability of human beings to answer the two anthropocentric questions that they have been asking since they left the caves, what are we doing here and where are we going, is the breeding ground from which religions arose, unscientific hypotheses that evolved from paganism polytheist who worshiped the Sun about monotheistic sects that dosed moral norms, palliative lies, ritual practices and social populism.

The social engineers who designed these sects needed to make themselves understood and respected by their peers who they thought, in some cases with reason, that they were still animals tamed by their baser instincts. And for this they made the vineyard guarded with the fear instilled by the Devil and other equivalents that represent a God of evil who had been expelled from the idyllic paradise that awaits as a gift to the obedient: heaven.

Those tales began to crack with the Enlightenment, a humanistic battle against ignorance, superstition and tyranny. The lights would end up overthrowing the Old Regime, but there were privileged forces that showed resistance two centuries ago: a bull promulgated by Pope Innocent VIII in 1484 went on to persecute witchcraft, which in the previous six centuries had been classified as a ‘venial sin ‘.

This intransigent posture of the Vatican contributed to the collective hysteria that shook Europe mainly in the 16th and 17th centuries with hammers such as the Spanish Holy Inquisition, a grotesque Iberian court promoted by the Catholic Monarchs and protected by different Spanish monarchs until its disappearance… 1834.

The Parliament of Catalonia approved last year a resolution that seeks to repair the memory of the witches who burned in the inquisitorial bonfires. This initiative came from the historical magazine Sapiens, which leads the campaign ‘They were not witches, they were women’ that follows in the footsteps of the feminist movement, vindicating the witch as a symbol of an empowered woman (since she had psychological and medical ‘powers’: predictions and infusions).

The Catalan Chamber urged city councils to dedicate the names of some streets to these women, many of them single, who were accused of worshiping the Devil, ruining crops and spreading evil among their peers.


Zugarramurdi Cave.

These, under torture, had no choice but to admit misdeeds that they did not do, possess supernatural powers that they did not enjoy and see the Devil (whom they had perhaps intuited after consuming jimsonweed vaginally, from which the iconic image of the witch rises to the broom or stick to spread ointments in the akelarres, ‘medieval nightclubs’).

One of the Parliament’s intentions with measures like these is to change a situation that causes, as highlighted by the recent research by the Pablo Olavide University of Seville, that barely 12% of the streets of the Spanish State are dedicated to women.

Party for the Witches in Logroño

Logroño hosted this past weekend some festive days that will serve to honor ‘the Witches of Zugarramurdi’. The capital of La Rioja, still not digesting Halloween, embarked on a program of almost thirty activities organized by the Asociación Histórico-Cultural Guardias de Santiago 1521 and the Asociación de Vecinos Centro Histórico, in collaboration with the City Council of the capital of La Rioja.

This Saturday the auto de fe of 1610 was staged in the Plaza de San Bartolomé after which six Navarran women were burned, and the effigy of another five who had already died prior to the inquisitorial process.

irrational fever

At the beginning of the 17th century, France suffered from an irrational fever of hunting witches and wizards. At that time, in 1608, the servant María de Ximildegui, who had practiced witchcraft on the other side of the border (Labrot), returned to Navarre from the Gallic country and claimed to have seen a neighbor of Zugarramurdi, María de Jureteguía, practicing these rituals. who confessed to being a witch after being instructed by her aunt.

De Ximildegui denounced other residents of his municipality, who ended up confessing in the parish church. The matter worsened when the controversy reached the ears of the court of the Holy Inquisition in Logroño, which had jurisdiction in Navarra thanks to the invasion of the old kingdom by Castilian troops in the previous century,

A commissioner of the Inquisition visited the Pyrenean municipality of Zugarramurdi to begin a judicial process in whose sentence a summary of what was understood by akelarre has been left: “(the participant) rubs his hands, his face, his chest, the parts pudenda and the soles of the feet with greenish and fetid water, and then it is blown through the air to the place of the Sabbath; there appears the devil sitting on a kind of throne; he has the appearance of a black man, with horns that illuminate the scene; the newcomer denies the faith of Christ, recognizes the devil as god and lord and adores him by kissing his left hand, mouth, chest and private parts; the demon turns around and shows his backside, which the witcher has to kiss too.”

The year after the infamous sentence, which led to 18 people confessing lies and another 6 being killed, light was shed on the process by the work of the humanist Pedro de Valencia, who presented the Holy Inquisition with a clarifying report on this hunt that became universal thanks to to two best sellers of the time.

The report

De Valencia pointed out with the Castilian of the time that the accused had to be studied (“It must be examined first if the prisoners are in their right mind or if they are demonic or melancholic or desperate”) and affirmed that their work seemed “more crazy than eregist and that it should be cured with whips and sticks rather than infamies or sanbenitos”.


‘The Sabbath’ (Francisco de Goya, 1798).

In the report entitled ‘Pedro de Valencia’s speech about the number of Witches and things related to Magic’, it is stated that in these nocturnal meetings, in reality, he left “with the desire to commit fornication, adultery or sodomy” and it is stated that the defendants invented “those meetings and mysteries of evil in which someone, the greatest vellaco, pretends (pretends) Sathanas and compose himself with those horns and costume (costume) horribe of obscenity and dirt that count”.

De Valencia summarized the covens as “carnal awkwardness” which was related to the famous bacchanals that took place in Ancient Rome.

The Witches of Zugarramurdi return four centuries later: Logroño recalls their auto de fe