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

Lublin, Poland

In 1631, townswoman pani (or Lady) Michalowa wanted to prepare a ritual bath in herb-infused water to heal her child of consumption. So, she asked pani Deczowaska if she knew of any remedies. Pani Deczowaska advised her to purchase a shilling’s worth of beef from a yearling cow, boil it with herbs, and wash the child in the water three times, then empty the water at the crossroads outside of town. So, Michalowa heeded Deczowaska’s advice and prepared this bath for her child.

Afterwards, she had her serving woman empty the dirty bathwater at the crossroads away from the town. However, the serving woman did not want to walk out to the crossroads and instead emptied the dirty bathwater in the street. Unfortunately, a neighbor complained that pani Michalowa had instructed her servant empty the witchcraft where others could be subjected to its power or illness. Pani Michalowa immediately grabbed the girl and began punishing her and reiterating to the girl that she was instructed to empty the water, “out past the suburbs.” Unfortunately, pani Michalowa’s actions appeared to have connotations of witchcraft and she was sent to trial.

In the court, she defended herself. She cited her punishment of the servant, explained her intentions, explained that her husband was aware of her endeavor, and that an upstanding lady in town recommended this remedy to her. She stressed that she had no special knowledge and that she did not intend to commit the act of witchcraft – pouring the water out in the city where the sickness could affect others.

This case embodied the characteristics of a noblewoman’s trial. Pani Michalowa’s upstanding reputation kept her out of trouble

. Her standing also kept her from being imprisoned without due process and she was provided the opportunity to explain herself without being tortured. If Michalowa was a peasant woman she would have endured a very different experience. The courts did not immediately presume she was guilty. Michalowa received a fair trial by today’s standards.

Ostling, Michael. Between the Devil and the Host: Imagining Witchcraft in Early Modern Poland. (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2011), 65-66.

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