Den ogudaktige prästen och de predikande kvinnorna. Om folkligt reformationsmotstånd under Vasatiden


  • Jan Wall


The Ungodly Priest and Preaching Women Popular Anti-Reformation Movements during the Vasa Period Towards the end of the sixteenth century the Swedish church was divided into two factions. One, led by King Johan III, was striving to draw the Protestant Church closer to the Roman Catholic Church, while the other, under the protection of the king's brother Karl, wanted to rid the Protestant service and liturgy of the remaining vestiges of Roman Catholicism. In 1593 the anti-Catholic phalanx was victorious, and a 1595 assembly moved to abolish all remaining Roman Catholic practices. The most controversial point was the decision not to elevate the sacraments during mass. According to common belief it was at this moment that Christ became part of the bread and the wine. If the sacraments were not raised, no transformation took place and the sacraments remained merely bread and wine. Another popular belief was in the sacredness of Saturdays, probably a remnant of the Virgin Mary cult, which had also been abolished by the Protestant Church. During the late sixteenth and most of the seventeenth centuries many lay preachers appeared with divine messages. They were concerned not only with the elevation of the sacraments and the Saturday Sabbath, but also dealt with lavishness in dress and tales of an imminent doomsday. These preachers were part of an eschatological trend, as well as a medieval Visionary tradition. Their messages had come to them through journeys to heaven and hell or by means of visitation by a heavenly angel. In 1601 a movement started in the parish of Vassunda in Uppland. An old woman named Marit claimed that she had made journeys to heaven and hell, but very little is known about what she reported. Johannes Bureus, the first Swedish State Antiquarian, who was brought up in Vassunda, noted that he paid a visit to the area together with his half-brother Jonas and talked to her neighbours. A young man who was one of the woman's followers stated du ring an interrogation that he had been visited by an angel who had talked about the elevation of the sacraments and the Saturday Sabbath. It is probable that Marit’s message was the same. From his youth Johannes Bureus had been interested in cabala and the supernatural. He may have been influenced by his father-in-law, Mårten Hansson or Martinus Johannis, a former clergyman in Stockholm. Mårten Hansson had on more than one occasion been defrocked' due to accusations of theft, rape, slander, possession of works concerning witchcraft, etc. He had also been a follower of Johan III and his liturgy. In October and November 1602 Bureus again noted that persons from Vassunda claiming to have been to heaven and hell were interrogated. This time his own family was involved. His half-brother Jonas was examined, and his father-in-law was placed on the rack, as some women claimed receiving instruction from him. At least two of the Vassunda women were burned as witches, and Mårten Hansson was beheaded in Stockholm. He had probably given the women instruction in Roman Catholic practices such as the elevation of the sacraments. Although the preaching women from Vassunda were executed as witches, no remaining documents support the conclusion that they practised witchcraft. The women seem rather to have represented a popular religious tradition. However, for the authorities there was probably little difference between a papist and any other follower of the devil. During the seventeenth century other lay preachers with similar experiences and messages appeared. There is further evidence that the authorities tended to confuse revivalist movements with witchcraft. During the initial stages of the great Swedish witchcraft trials, which started in the Darlecarlian parish of Älvdalen in 1668, children related tales of preaching angels and journeys to heaven and hell. The most striking dissimilarity in comparison with earlier descriptions is that a witch was said to have brought them to meet the devil. However, the angelic white companion of the earlier visions is still present in their stories. He protected them during the devil's feast, showed them a chamber of angels, and brought them to heaven. It was also this angel who was the source of the divine message to be preached on their return. They were to reveal the wiles of the devil.