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She Turned Me Into a Newt!

German City Will Re-Open the Case of Katharina Henot, Burned at the Stake for Witchcraft in 1627

One of Germany’s most notorious witch trials will be re-examined with the goal of clearing the name of a woman many believe was wrongly accused and executed for being a witch. Katharina Henot ran the post office for the city of Cologne with her brother, and apparently, the Imperial Court wanted in on some of their profits and started planning a central post office. So, when a local nun started pointing paranoid fingers at Henoit and her case went to the Imperial court, she didn’t exactly have many allies. While thousands were subject to the witch trials, the results of Henot’s was considered especially egregious, so much so that Henot was immortalized as a statue on the Cologne Town Hall building after her execution. Now, the city council that convicted her is taking another look at the case and trying to clear her name.

Henot, who was an important lady in 17th century Cologne, is considered by some to be Germany’s first female postmaster. She and her brother Harger inherited the post office from their father, which put them both in a high social position in Cologne. However, there was a continued conflict with the Imperial Court, particularly with one Count Leonhard II von Taxis, who was trying to establish a single, central post office.

This political conflict would spell the downfall of Henot during the Würzburg Witch Trials that took place from 1626 to 1631. At some point, a nun from a convent started becoming obsessed with Katharina. Rumors started spreading, and eventually, both siblings were accused of sorcery and causing the death and sickness of Cologne citizens. After being arrested on the order of the archbishop, Katharina was imprisoned and tortured for months, denied bail and representation in court. And despite her repeated denials, the Imperial Court sentenced her to be burned at the stake for her “crimes.”

After her death, there was tons of evidence that she was wrongly accused, let alone convicted. Her brother tried to clear her name after she was executed, but then he was accused — again — of being a witch himself. He went to prison, but the trials ended before he was sentenced.

Now, an evangelical priest, Hartmut Hegeler, is seeking justice for Katharina Henot, saying that no respectable member of the clergy would allow such a verdict to stand, even after all this time.

‘Katharina held her own reputation in high esteem, she would want to have it cleared.

‘As Christians, we find it challenging when innocent people are executed, even If it was centuries ago.’

Hegeler has officially petitioned the Cologne council — the same Cologne council that convicted Henot — to take another look at the case and clear her name. Evidence will be examined by local politicians, members of the clergy, and laypersons. Living relatives of Henot, while supportive, still feel that there are people who are alive today who would benefit from such an effort. But they’re not going to stop Hegeler from clearing the name of one of Cologne’s most influential women.

(via The Daily Mail)


  • Eric Waggle

    The primary evidence for this woman not being a witch is… well… the non-existence of witchcraft.  Sure there are witches, but they don’t have any real power.  

  • Frodo Baggins

    Yeah, I’m all for drawing attention to correcting clerical criminality (especially when that effort comes from within the church, which is a nice change), but surely they can just open the case, say, “Oh right, witches aren’t real, we’re not mental any more, she was innocent. Our bad,” and close it again.

  • Frodo Baggins

    So, are we to take the fact that Comic Book Men is advertising on this site to mean that The Mary Sue staff have no objections to the behind the scenes issues brought to light here?

  • Jill Pantozzi


  • Frodo Baggins

    Okay, that sounds like a generally negative opinion of the show. So… why are you advertising it? Sorry, I don’t mean to harp on this, and I hope it doesn’t come off as an attack. I’m just confused, and admittedly rather interested in the ins and outs of ad-supported content.

  • Terence Ng

    Unless she WAS a witch and this is the case that blows the lid on the entire witchy cover up that’s been going on for millenniums. 

  • Frodo Baggins

    Salem was an inside job.

  • Jinxy Blastwave

     I think this is one of those art vs. commerce debates.  In order for the site to be profitable, they have to make sure they advertise things that readers are likely to click on, and sometimes that means advertising things they might not be 100% thrilled with.  So we should all click through, go to the Comic Book Men website, and leave politely rude messages. 

  • Carmen Sandiego


  • Anonymous

    I figure the re-opening of the case won’t exclusively be about witchcraft, but also about if this woman and her brother did anything at all to warrant the treatment they got. Just saying folks today don’t believe in witchcraft anymore and recognizing them as innocent solely on that seems not very satisfying to me.

  • Matt Fonti

    “many believe [she] was wrongly accused and executed for being a witch”-Gee, I wonder what could have brought them to that conclusion?

  • Adam Whitley

    ‘As Christians, we find it challenging when innocent people are executed, even If it was centuries ago.’

    well said

  • Kalynn Osburn

    *sigh* I’m debating whether it’s worth it or not to get offended over this comment. 

  • Kalynn Osburn

    See now here is one of those catch 22 stories. Yes you would think it’s obvious that witchcraft doesn’t exist these days because of COURSE people aren’t CRAZY enough to believe in something as STUPID as witchcraft! Guffaw and ha!

    And yet they believe in carpenters who are resurrected from the dead, a prince who achieved unity with the universe and we all believe that Sam loved Frodo until the end of all things. (Because he did dammit!) But people yes witchcraft does exist. As a practicing witch I can tell you that it does exist, in many forms and facets, in many paths and beliefs. You can argue if it does or doesn’t exist, and as a skeptic myself I won’t hesitate to say everything should be taken with a grain of salt. But I have seen a few things that I simply can not explain through logical conclusions.

    The problem with this argument being that if witchcraft exists, then people can by default be ‘guilty’ of it. So I suppose if we are going to try it on the basis of existence than yes it is possible. But by the same token are we referring to someone who in and of themselves is a person practicing a witchcraft tradition (whatever theirs was at the time), or someone who was accused of practicing witchcraft and therefor innocent of any assumption? And if she was a witch…well…er…was she a good witch or a bad witch? Both exist. Or at least insofar as human morality is designed to make one either a redeemable character or a poisonous one. If she was the healer/midwife/physician/herbalist sort that Wiccans love to say all witches were (because we live in a world of singularities apparently) then she’s an innocent and shouldn’t have been persecuted. But it’s not impossible for her to have been a hexmaker and curse weaver who was intentionally out to harm people either from personal malice or because she was paid to. In which case their are other guilty parties…

    URGH!! Can’t they just apologize for slaughtering women in a shame trial for centuries and skip all the legal crap!

  • Adam Whitley

    When they say witchcraft  they really mean litteral Satanism not Wiccan. I’m not convinced they even had a concept of Wiccan.

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