Rudolph Koch (see the bibliography)
writes that this is the sign of the Vehmic Courts.
or Femgerichte from old German fem, meaning
tribunals, at times
working more or less secretly. The power struggles between the Popes
and the emperors of the Roman Empire of the German Nation made these courts
important law enforcing institutions, especially during the fourteenth
and fifteenth centuries. They had the right, given them by the
emperor, to judge in the case of crimes with capital punishment.
The judges, at least seven when they passed judgement, had to be irreproachable men born in lawful wedlock. They were obliged to execute the sentence. They were called "free-judges" or, collectively, "the Knowing", and were presided over by one of them, named Freigraf.
The Femgerichte mostly judged in cases of witchcraft, sorcery, rape, theft, robbery, manslaughter and murder. If the accused was found guilty, the punishment (mostly the death-penalty) was executed immediately. If the accused did not appear, sentence was passed, and it was the duty of each "Knowing" to kill the convicted person at first sight.
These courts were especially common in Westphalia on behalf of the lack of a prince dynasty there to supervise the enforcement of the law of the land.
In time the Vehmic Courts became so many, and so widely spread, that some Knowing or free-judges began to abuse them to obtain personal vengeance, etc. The power of the Vehmgerichte was broken before the end of the fifteenth century, but the last Vehmic tribunal was held in Zell as late as 1568.
Compare with in Group 42:a.