In the 16th century the ferocious repression of witches was justified as in the eyes of the law and the common people they were responsible for many ills including impotence in men, sterility in women, miscarriages and the death of crops, animals and people.
Witch’s crimes were almost always difficult to prove as in most cases they didn’t actually exist. As a result, the villagers of Pozán de Vero met on the 25th October 1534 to create the Contrafueros, a group that would judge crimes without the need for any kind of investigation; the testimonies of the people were enough.
In the eyes of her neighbours, Dominga Ferrer, also known as Dominica La Coja, went from being a “midwife, entertainer, curer and giver of blessings” to being a bride of the Devil. A process was started under Civil and Common Law through which she was accused of witchcraft and finally, after being subject to torture, she confessed to innumerable crimes.
During this process, Dominica named María Miranda, Pascuala de Salas, La Nadala, La Piqueras and the daughter of la Benedetta as her accomplices. They were all subjected to torture during which they confessed to having caused the death of many knights, of turning the wine in the village’s cellars sour and of accepting the Devil as their master. They also confessed to having killed a high number of newborn babies in the cruelest way imaginable. In some cases they used poisons concocted from toads, which they skinned, dried and made into powder to be mixed with arsenic. In other cases they strangled the babies with their bare hands. They even admitted to roasting them in the kitchen of the house where they lived away from the watchful eyes of their parents who were sent into a deep sleep by placing poisonous henbane leaves at the threshold of their bedrooms.
They were always accompanied by the Devil during these adventures, who went before them opening all the necessary doors.
“That same Sunday night, Gracia la Nadal came … and it was the two together who entered the house of Roiz Castellon and the devil opened the door for them, and they went inside to the chamber of Roiz and his wife who were sleeping, and took the child from the arms of Roiz and took it to the kitchen and…thanks to La Nadala they took embers from the fire and placed the child on the embers and roasted the child’s tummy.”
Trial of Dominga Ferrer. Fragment of the notarial transcript of the confession of Dominica la Coja. 1534. Historical Provincial Archive of Zaragoza. C.31-2, fol. 91
Dominga Ferrer, la Coja, was condemned to death at the stake but she died before the sentence could be carried out.