Waterpainting by

At the Entrance to Hell

Fantasies concerning the entrance to hell could be quite specific at times. When the long-stretched mountain, Domen (between Kiberg and Vardø), was revealed as the haunt of massive witch sabbaths, in 1662, the entrance to hell was also localized. Several accused witches, and a couple of younger witches less than twelve years old, could tell during several witch trials of their visits to hell. In long extracts taken from the legal proceedings, we can read about women and children who tell of the road to Satan's woeful abode and their ultimate stay there. The prince of darkness himself had shown them the character and wonder of this place. Hell appeared as a long black valley. At the bottom of this valley was a lake. The water boiled when Satan spewed fire out of an iron pipe. A twelve-year old girl could tell court officials how Satan held a piece of fat in the water for a brief moment and that it cooked immediately. Women and men lay screeching like cats in the same water. Satan told the little girl that she, too, would come to burn in the water as compensation for her services. Devils and demons were known to have spread across the world from a cave inside Domen. The commotion stirred by these witches was horrendous in and around the cave entrance. From here, these polar people unleashed their natural powers and worked great mischief by casting spells upon all of Europe. The so-called "nordsending" could be felt as the cold and harmful winds of the northern witches that led to illness among the pious. Shuddering and rheumatic infections followed in the wake of these cold northern and northeastern winds. And behind it all, full of wrath and hate, was the northern Satan.

This kind of notion was widespread throughout both the 16th- and 17th-centuries. Such was the case in travel literature, cartography, among historians, in ethnographic accounts, among diplomats, in geographical volumes and demonological studies. Portrayals of the Lappland witches were a favorite motif in literary fiction during the 17th- and 18th-centuries. The expression, "the Lappland witches," is well-known among renowned writers like Daniel Defoe, Henry More, John Milton and Jonathan Swift - to name a few.


   © University Library of Tromsø - 1999.
The Northern Lights Route is part of The Council of Europe Cultural Routes. The Cultural Routes are an invitation to Europeans to wander the paths and explore the places where the unity and diversity of our European identity were forged.