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

Szyszynko, Poland

In 1691, the noble Zbierzchowski brothers invited the wojt, or governor of a group of villages, and the jury of the Kleczew court to their village. They wished to hold the trial of Jadwiga Wieczorkowa and another woman who stood accused of bewitching their mother. However, the party deemed there was insufficient evidence and left shortly thereafter.

At the demand of the brothers, the court was re-summoned to the village to interrogate the accused under the influence of torture. Despite insufficient evidence against Jadwiga and her lack of confession under torture to the crime, the Zbierzchowski brothers swore an oath to the Lord that she was guilty. The brothers absolved the court of any responsibility, so the court issued a guilty verdict. Jadwiga was burned at the stake on the conviction of witchcraft.

This case was an example of the corrupt power the szlachta had over the serf classes in the legal system. The Zbierzchowski brothers, members of the szlachta class, summoned the court to their village to conduct this trial. According to the 1673 decree, all capital trials must be sent to the more learned magistrates of the town courts. However, the trial took place in the Szyszynko village where the brothers felt most comfortable and the jury would not feel the pressures of the masses to issue a just verdict. Since the brothers were paying for this trial to occur in their village, the court felt pressured to appease them and issue a guilty verdict despite the lack of evidence. This woman was burned legally on the insufficient evidence that the brothers swore she committed witchcraft.

Ostling, Michael. Between the Devil and the Host: Imagining Witchcraft in Early Modern Poland. (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2011), 95-96.

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