Margareta Johansdotter was one of Sweden’s most famous prophets who was active during the first half of the seventeenth century. Her prophecies gained the attention of King Gustav II Adolf, the archbishop of Sweden, as well as other learned individuals in Sweden at that time.
Margareta Johansdotter was the daughter of Johannes Laurentii, a parson in Kumla. It is, however, unclear which of Laurentii’s wives was her mother.
Margareta Johandsdotter became a well-known figure throughout Sweden as a result of a series of religious experiences she experienced which eventually led to her becoming a prophet. Her first experience occurred when she was a teenager. In 1626, shortly before Christmas, she saw a small white bird flying silently towards her in the dark. Upon her revelation of what she had seen, hope burgeoned that the Holy Spirit had decided to visit her family in Kumla. However, soon her experiences became increasingly unpleasant. The visiting white bird was replaced by a black man who entered her chamber night after night. On each visit he became more and more threatening. He pinched her and he slapped her until Margareta Johansdotter began to believe that he would kill her. Strange things began to happen at the parsonage shortly afterwards: muted tapping and knocking could be heard in the building’s walls. Initially this only happened beside Margareta Johansdotter’s bed but subsequently spread throughout the house until the noise could even be heard out in the yard and as far away as the nearby church. Although investigations were made at the house in an attempt to discover the origin of the sounds nothing was discovered.
Following these events Margareta Johansdotter began to show signs of being possessed. Her body shook with cramp, her limbs inexplicably extended and then curled up, her eyes turned inwards, she almost swallowed her tongue, whilst her ears became blocked and she could not hear anything. When she did speak proclamations of Satan’s power and blasphemous expressions against God and the holy trinity oozed forth. This continued for a period of three weeks, only ending when she saw a vision of “the holy trinity’s angel of light” approaching her one night. Nevertheless, the struggle between evil and good carried on in her body and soul for months afterwards. Further to Margareta Johansdotter’s aforenoted symptoms remarkable phenomena occurred in the skies and eerie shouts and voices were heard as though emanating from on high.
Following these occurrences people began to visit the parsonage in Kumla. News spread that a girl at the parsonage had begun to preach. Margareta Johansdotter would stand before the gathering crowd and proclaim that she had seen God’s kingdom and wonder with her own eyes and now, she said, God was using her voice to declaim his word throughout the world.
A time of visitations was upon them, she announced to her visitors, which included many priests who had cancelled their own religious services. A plague would arrive with such terror that the living would not have the energy to bury the dead. Stockholm, Nyköping, and Uppsala would be subject to plagues which would ravage them. She also claimed that God had shown her a letter which he was in the process of writing and which he wanted her to read out loud. A major miracle would occur when the contents of the letter were revealed. Across the world people’s eyes would be opened and the angels in all their glory would become visible to everyone. At the same time Margareta Johansdotter condemned ostentation and pride in how one dressed, advocating that Saturday should also be treated as a rest day. She also performed an act of healing by restoring hearing to a deaf boy.
News about Margareta Johansdotter travelled far from Kumla. Johan Bure, pre-historian and national antiquarian of Sweden, maintained running notes of her experiences, which angels she had met, and her ever-changing physical condition. In February 1628 King Gustav II Adolf forbad people from travelling to hear her preach. Two priests from the Strängnäs chapter were sent to Kumla whilst bishop Laurentius Paulinus Gothus produced a report shortly thereafter in which he gave a detailed explanation as to why Margareta Johansdotter was not legitimately speaking on behalf of God but had been possessed by demons. Bure, along with others, remained far more open to the idea that Margareta Johansdotter was in fact divinely inspired and that her words should be taken seriously.
Nothing is known of Margareta Johansdotter’s final fate. It is thus highly unlikely that she was in any way punished for her behaviour. Her father died shortly after these events reached their peak in 1629.