The Witch’s Trinity
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". . . a deeply disturbing book."
The Witch’s Trinity by Ericka Mailman is a deeply disturbing book. It documents a period when the Catholic Church sanctified institutionalized misogyny. They targeted older women who behaved outside “normal” bounds such as healers and seers, or just women with no man to protect them.
This book documents the ordeal of Gude who lives with her son and his family in the village of Tierkinddorf, Germany in 1507 during a severe famine. Her daughter-in-law, Irmeltrud, hates her and resents that she is eating food that should go to her children.
In an effort to explain the famine someone decides that there is a witch in the village. Kunne, a healer and Gude’s best friend, is accused. A friar from the Vatican arrives for the inquisition. She fails the trial, and is burned at the stake — after Gude slips her pills to knock her out. Unfortunately the friar isn’t satisfied. There were no screams, so he wants more blood.
With Gude’s son away with the men on a hunting trip, she is vulnerable and Irmeltrud accuses her of being a witch. She uses Gude’s dreams and a scratch Gude had gotten while sewing as her “devil’s sign.” While Gude is wasting in the make-shift Witch’s Tower, Irmeltrud is accused by a woman who wants to take her two children as her own. Soon accusations are flying.
The friar has a time schedule so Irmeltrud won’t get her three day trial, she’ll hear her accuser and burn with Gude in one day. Unfortunately while the friar is handing down the Pope’s quick justice, the hunting party returns with abundant meat and a scapegoat of their own — a young woman who lives alone in the woods.
The friar is angered because the hunting party’s scapegoat was determined by the use of pagan rituals while his scapegoats are sanctioned by the Pope. Unfortunately the crowd turns on the friar with disastrous results.
With all that has happened Gude can no longer endure the thought of her daughter-in-law’s abuse so she moves into Kunne’s house. Her granddaughter, Alke, comes to live with her. During the trials Gude had saved the girl from being caught up in the accusations when her own mother had only been concerned with saving herself. Slowly life settled into a semblance of normal but the memories remained.
The language is spare and the pacing fast enough to keep the reader’s attention focused. Sufficient dialogue balances Gude’s introspection. The time covered is only a few days but in that short period lives are destroyed and changed forever.
Reviewer: Denise Lowe