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The history of witch trials on the border of Nysa - Jeseník

3Last known sentences of death at the stake in the land of Duchy of Nysa comes from the years 1683 – 1684. 25th of November, 1683, a sentence against Kacper Gottwald was pronounced, and on 19th of February against Anna Stenzel and her daughter Rozyna. All three came from Domašov. The first trial concerned a person, who was supposed to participate in Sabbaths, which likely took place at Petrovy Kameny (Peter's stones), near the highest peak of Jesenik – Praděd (Grandfather). This place, however, is not given in the sentence, but it was assumed that that is where all "witches" from Silesia and Moravia flew to. However, it has been recorded that Gottwald gained knowledge by which he could, with only thought, kill cattle and allegedly did it to... one cow, and what is more, with his own blood he signed in in a special "black book", in which only the closest associates of the devil appeared.

In the second protocol, there is a record, which says that Rozyna Stenzel during three interrogations, pled guilty "voluntarily", saying that with her mother "deceived by the horrible felony she gave herself to the black magic, flew through the chimney on pitchfork, arrived at the devil meetings in pasture lands, where in accordance with the tradition of witches she danced". Watching today in Museum of Jesenik preserved instruments of torture, it is not difficult to understand protocols absurdity of such interrogations, and the word "voluntarily" totally departs from the truth.
The last trial in Silesia took place in 1740, in Ścinawa on the river Oder. Still in 1775, the residents of Nysa and surrounding areas tried to trigger a new wave of persecution of women accused of witchcraft, but the attempt was later discovered as simple denunciation and slanders.

It is hard to state it unambiguously, but the end of witch trials can be attributed to one of the most enlightened dukes of Nysa, the Bishop Francis Louis of Neuburg. Being prepared from the very early age, he received a very good education, both intellectual and religious and moral. The Bishop only in 1684 began his ruling in the bishop's duchy. From the beginning, he introduced a number of reforms to improve the position of the poorest class of the society that after half century still felt the effects of the Thirty Years' War. He put the greatest emphasis on medical care. An important role in its early days, in the Duchy of Nysa, was performed by a midwife or more obstetrix. She was called not only for a childbirth, but she also advised in other medical problems. People interested in herbal medicine, that is those who not so long ago lost their lives at the stake, were usually chosen. They were often folk healers, what sometimes aroused vigilance and concern of church inspectors, although at the times of the Bishop of Neuburg, nobody dared to accuse them of witchcraft. For the conclusion, a very important summary of the total amount of victims of a witch-hunt. Detailed information probably will never be found, but on the basis of the most accurate evaluation, the trials in the Duchy of Nysa, and especially in its southern part in the years 1622 – 1684, claimed lives of at least 250 people. However, the real number will be much higher. Only in selected cities of submontane part of the Duchy of Nysa, nearly 200 victims were counted: in Zlaté Hory – 85, in Jesenik – 102, in Głuchołazy – 22 (including two men). What is interesting, unlike the rest of the cities, in Głuchołazy, people accused of witchcraft were not burnt at the stake, but hung on the hill outside the town. The remains of the gallows that stood there were to be burnt by Napoleon's soldiers in 1807. Nonetheless, today the hill is officially called the Gallows Mountain, and related with the trials is also the name of the cliff situated several dozen meters further, called Czarcia Ambona (The Devils Pulpit). At the Gallows Mountain, ashes of the victims were also buried. The victims were interrogated in the basement of the local, non-existent today town hall, built in the south part of the main square. So called "witches throne" (a chair bristled with nails); torture lasted no longer than 8 days. Commissioner Schoenwitz and Pascal Nase were the judges, who received 90 Thalers for the 12 day stay in Głuchołazy. The role of the executioner was performed by Georg Hillebrand, called Mistrz Jerzy (Master George), who for his service received 138 Thalers and a lot of barrels of wine. General expenses of the trials are 748 Marks, and from the confiscation of victims' property an income of 622 Marks was obtained.

In addition to the Gallows Mountain of Głuchołazy, other preserved names also relate to the tragic events of the seventeenth-century trials, e.g., Witch Grave between Szyndzielowa Kopa and Zamkowa Góra (Castle Mountain) in Opawskie Mountains, Čertovy kameny, that is the Devil's Stone over Jesenik, Čertovy Kazatelny (Devil's Pulpit) near Javornik, or Hexen Berg, a pre-war name of the hill, northwest of Nysa, just beside the railway line to Brzeg.

Paweł Szymkowicz

Bibliography:

1. Brachtl Z., Čarodějnické procesy na Jesenícku v 17.století, w: „Vlastivědné zajímavosti", Šumperk 1987
2. Korcz W., Wspólniczki diabła czyli o procesach czarownic na Ślasku w XVII wieku, Katowice 1985
3. Šindelář B., Hon na čarodějnice: západní a střední Evropa v 16.-17. století, Praha 1986
4. Šindelář B., Příspěvek k dějinám slezských procesů s čarodějnicemi se zvláštním zřetelem k procesům
frývaldovským v letech 1651-1684, w: Slezsky Sbornik nr. 44 rok 1946
5. Przybyszewski L., Czary i czarownice, Wrocław 1999
6. Wrzesiński Sz., Wspólniczki szatana. Czarownice na ziemiach polskich, Warszawa 2008
7. Zuber R., Jesenicko v období feudalismu do roku 1848, Ostrava 1966

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