The town of Zugarramurdi on the Basque border in northern Spain may be small but during the 17th century Spanish Inquisition the rural settlement was the focus of one of the largest witch trials in history which ended in the deaths of countless innocents and it is the folk beliefs and lives of these victims that is remembered in the Zugarramurdi Witch Museum.
According to legend, a young woman from the town had the power to fly, and strange occult activities were held regularly in a cave near town. The truth of these myths cannot be proven, but in reality, these myths were powerful enough to scare the Spanish government into bringing the inquisition to the gate of Zugarramurdi.
They rounded up the accused in 1610 and tried them in nearby Logroño in the largest trial of its kind in history. Over 7,000 individual cases were tried, mainly focusing on the woman accused, although a great deal of men and children were included as well. 53 individuals were found guilty of practicing witchcraft. Many of them were marched to prisons and died along the way, while others were quickly burned at the stake. Years of non-superstitious beliefs later, all the alleged witchcraft was deemed traditional folk medicine and the Inquisition was deemed an atrocity.
Ever since the trials, Zugarramurdi has been associated with witchcraft and today the town embraces their pagan heritage with such sites as the witch museum. The museum, which is housed in the town’s former hospital, was established in 2007 and features a number of displays illustrating both the reality and myth surrounding the local witches. There are “floating” dresses and cauldrons and goats heads on display, giving the proper due to the folk beliefs of the area and also the misconceptions of the witches. In contrast there are also displays exploring the role of the female herbalist which was most often associated with witchcraft. There is also a film explaining the process behind the 1610 trials.
The Zugarramurdi Witch Museum also takes part in the annual celebration of the summer solstice held in the nearby caves. The town seems to have taken back its identity not by distancing itself from its historic tragedy, but by embracing its legacy, warts and all.
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Witching & Bitching (Spanish: Las brujas de Zugarramurdi; "The Witches of Zugarramurdi") is a 2013 Spanish comedy horror film co-written and directed by Álex de la Iglesia. It stars Hugo Silva, Mario Casas and Carmen Maura.
It won the most awards at the 28th Goya Awards with eight wins out of ten nominations.
The film opens with two men, José (Hugo Silva) and Tony (Mario Casas) robbing a pawn shop. Tony is unhappy that José has brought his son Sergio (Gabriel Delgado) along on the heist and is even unhappier that the child is participating with them, as this puts both him and them at risk. The robbery initially seems to go well and the group collects a large bag full of gold rings and jewellery, only for the robbery to turn sour and for several people to die in the resulting gunfire. The men hijack a taxi and stow its unwilling passenger in the trunk, then force the driver, Manuel (Jaime Ordóñez), to drive towards Spain's border with the intent to flee to France.
The group is followed by Sergio's mother and José's ex Silvia (Macarena Gómez) as well as two police investigators Pacheco (Secun de la Rosa) and Calvo (Pepón Nieto), who are following Silvia. The men end up in the Navarrese town of Zugarramurdi where they come across a group of cannibalistic witches led by Graciana (Carmen Maura), whose mother Maritxu (Terele Pávez) tries to cook Sergio in her oven. They manage to escape the witches once but are forced to turn back when they realise that José has accidentally left the loot at the witches' house. They return but are swiftly captured by the witches with the exception of Sergio, who escapes but is ultimately re-captured by Maritxu. At this point José learns that Sergio will be used as part of an arcane ritual to Graciana's goddess and that the rest of them will likely be killed as part of the ritual.
Silvia, who has been following the men's trail throughout the film, manages to find the witches' house in time to see Sergio get carried into the house. She enlists the help of the cops (as she knew that they had been following her) and the three of them manage to break into the house, where they find a secret passage that allows them to witness a dinner party Graciana is holding for various witches that will be attending the night's ritual. The secret passage, which was in the ceiling, ends up to be too weak to hold the weight of Silvia and both cops, and the trio ends up landing on the dinner table. José, Tony, and Manuel end up escaping in the chaos, however Silvia and the two cops are captured, with Silvia turned into a witch with the use of tainted toad juice. The three men are then chased by the witches and are all eventually re-captured except for José, who survives only through the intervention of Graciana's daughter Eva (Carolina Bang), who had fallen instantly in love with him. She demands that he leave with her right away, forsaking all of the others, only for José to refuse to leave his son behind. Eva throws a fit, which sends José flying and he flees the scene. He ultimately ends up in an underground chamber in the house, where he comes across Eva's brother Luismi, who has been imprisoned for years. José frees Luismi, who then shows him the way to the ritual chamber. Along the way they free Eva, who had been buried alive by her mother for her betrayal. Eva professes her love for José, who turns her away because she is a witch and because everything is so chaotic.
Ultimately Luismi and José make it to the ritual chamber where they see Tony, Manuel, Pacheco, and Calvo get put in front of a fire to slowly burn to death. They also witness the emergence of Graciana's ugly goddess, a grotesque gargantuan woman resembling a fertility statue. The ugly goddess devours Sergio, who passes through the giant and emerges alive, much to the joy of the witches, who proclaim that he will lead them all to victory over mankind. José confronts the witches with the help of Eva, who manages to cause the goddess's destruction, and José manages to escape the chaos with Sergio, Eva, and the other men. The witches are all presumed to have died in the chaos caused by the goddess's death throes. The film ends with an epilogue that takes place at a school talent show one month later. José and Eva are shown to be a couple raising Sergio, who is growing into his powers. Everything seems to have ended happily, only for the camera to show that Silvia, Graciana, and Maritxu are all alive and are content to wait for the couple to grow discontent with their happiness and once again turn to the witches.
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Critical reception for Witching & Bitching has been positive and the film currently holds a rating of 83% on Rotten Tomatoes (based on 24 reviews), with the consensus "Dark, nasty, and delightfully subversive, Witching and Bitching is gross-out genre fun with a heaping helping of warped comedy for good measure".