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Kalisz, Poland :: History 229: The Age of the Witch Hunts

Kalisz, Poland

In 1584, at the beginning of the period of Polish witch hunts, Elzbieta of Tyniec, appeared before court under accusations of being an incantatrix or witch. She was a married female servant who was accused of using witchcraft to increase the milk output of her cows. She claimed to have learned from Christian citizens a means to increase milk production by invoking the Lord, the Virgin Mary, and the saints. Then she washed the cow with river water and rubbed it with dirt from the earth.

However, because she was of the peasant class, she was sentenced to interrogation under torture after the magistrates heard her initial story. After interrogation under torture commenced, she admitted that she learned this ritual from a woman who “poured wax.” This was a profession often associated with cunning women and witches. Although she never outwardly admitted to being a witch or practicing witchcraft, the magistrates deemed she practiced “dark magic.” However, because Elziebeta survived the torture and never admitted to being a witch, she was not sentenced to death rather exiled from Kalisz.

Sadly, Elziebeta committed this action out of hunger. She was a servant and not receiving enough nutrition to satisfy her needs, so when her cow did not produce adequate amount of milk, she attempted to invoke a higher being to aid it in producing more milk. By exiling her, the courts reaffirmed that they believed Elziebeta had practiced a dark art but was not completely dominated by darkness, she could still save herself and lead a healthy Christian life. But, the courts did not want her to remain in the town fearing that she may revert to her dark ways and spread witchcraft amongst the village.

Wyporksa, Wanda. Witchcraft in Early Modern Poland, 1500-1800. (Hampshire: Palgrave Macmillan, 2013) 33.


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