The Witch’s Trinity spent a good couple of years on my TBR list, and I am so glad I finally got to it. Transporting the reader into late medieval Germany, it tackles the fascinating and terrifying topic of witch trials and the social, economic and religious structures that made them possible.
During the winter of 1507, the village of Tierkinddorf is experiencing a famine due to yet another failed harvest. Not only that, the surrounding woods are empty of game and the traps fail to yield even small rabbits. As a result, the residents are forced to eat thin broth and snow to survive.
Amid the calamity, a Dominican friar and self-proclaimed witch hunter arrives in the village and pronounces that the disaster is due to a woman’s ill will and devilish deeds. Soon, suspicion falls on Kunne Himmelman, the village healer. She is put on trial that features all the familiar elements of such a proceeding, including a trial by boiling water and accusations from aggrieved neighbors, desperate to blame a cow’s death on someone.
The story is narrated by Gude, Kunne’s childhood friend. As she sees the community’s hysteria mounting, she begins to fear for her own life, not least because her daughter-in-law, upset at having an extra mouth to feed, begins to drop hints that she might denounce Gude to the friar.
Each chapter is prefaced with a quotation from Malleus Maleficarum, a book on how to identify and punish witches. Written in the late 15th century, it became a catalyst for the hysteria and the crimes that plagued Europe for the next four centuries.
The Witch’s Trinity reminds us of the patriarchal structures that cloaked their fear of women in a mantle of authority over their lives, and it invokes the complicity of the Catholic Church in persecutions born of hatred and disdain. It is worth reading as a cautionary tale of what can happen when superstition and distrust of “otherness” are allowed free reign in any society.
The Witch’s Trinity is the second book by Erika Mailman that I have read, the other being The Murderer’s Maid, based on the true story of the notorious LIzzie Borden. I reviewed it on this blog in 2017 and highly recommend it as well.
If you enjoy medieval historical fiction, check out my novel The Greenest Branch, based on the life of Hildegard of Bingen, Germany’s first female physician. It is out now in ebook and paperback on Amazon US, Amazon UK, and several other Amazon marketplaces. It’s also FREE on Kindle Unlimited.