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Thursday, October 18, 2007

Witchy Woman

This time of year, in the Swiss canton of Glarus, cows are herded down from snowcapped mountains to spend the winter in the valleys, their bells clanging. Sheep chew pastures with dizzying gradients. And in the pastoral villages that dot this cityless territory an hour's drive from Zurich's urbane bustle, many of the houses look like cuckoo clocks. But behind this gentle bucolic setting lies a legacy of sex, torture and ultimately political murder in the beheading of Anna Göldi, Europe's so-called last witch. Now, 225 years later, with a new museum, a best-selling book and a parliamentarian's fight to have Göldi absolved, Glarus is looking to turn its dark page of the Enlightenment.

In the hamlet of Mollis, population 3,000, a road the width of a single car was renamed Anna Göldi Way for the 225th anniversary of her death on June 13. In a mansion along the road, on a grassy gated lot, a new permanent exhibition at the local museum details Göldi's ordeal. Just as American schoolchildren read Arthur Miller's McCarthy-era parable "The Crucible," about 17th-century superstition and persecution in Salem, Mass., Swiss children learn of Göldi. Europe too was the stage for accusations of sorcery and the burning of outcasts deemed witches by maniacal courts. The death toll is estimated to have been 50,000 in Europe. Full Story

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