Weekly Witch: A precocious young girl

“My mother led in the bridegroom, it was Thursday night, and the cocks were already crowing, when we got married. Mrs Siedlarka took a silk rope and gold wedding rings. Then she joined us together. There were six wax candles burning. Siedlarka said to me, do you take this man, and I said nothing and I didn’t want to. But he said I take this woman, then immediately we danced back to back and I danced with my bridegroom. My stepmother danced with her partner, who was called Kazimierz. He played for us on the pipes.”

A cosy description of a wedding? Not quite, the bridegroom was the devil and the bride was eleven year old Dorota from Gniezno. Dorota continued,

“When he came to me, he hid me and did with me what he wanted, and he was cold.”

That was no honeymoon, but a reference to the way in which Polish witches were bound to the devil, not by a pact, but by sex with the devil, and the devil always had a cold penis. Dorota was tried in 1689, when witchcraft trials were coming to an end in western Europe and when Poland was just entering the peak of the persecution. Dorota was tried with her mother Zofia, in a particularly cruel but common case of trying both mothers and daughters, since being a witch was supposed to be hereditary. Dorota described her mother in the following way, after having consistently described her as her stepmother. “She gave birth to me, but I don’t regard her as my mother, because she never taught me the Our Father, and I pity a dog more than her.” A precocious case of teenage angst that was to have fatal consequences.

Even under the extreme stress of the trial, the mother Zofia denied that she was a witch, until she was tortured and then she swore on the image of the crucifix that:

“We danced, the devils took us home where we danced and had sex, just as with our husbands, three times and he was cold. Not everyday, just on Thursdays and we had sex at home, my husband felt nothing and knew nothing although it was at home, because the devil lay on the left side and my husband lay on the right.”

In fact, Zophia was her real mother and her father had died. The family had moved many times, making them obvious objects of suspicion in the local community, and probably poorer than their neighbours. These were merely some of the factors that made them more likely to be accused of witchcraft.

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