Friday, September 27, 2013

Hell Hath No Fury Like a Woman Forewarned (By a Witch Doctor)

The Detroit Free Press, March 9, 1910
Mrs. John Skowerinski was no Rose Veres. Hell, she wasn't even a middling Samantha Stephens but rather a congenial neighbor who came face-to-face with a real life witch named Josephine Gawronski. Mind you, she was neither a witch in the impractical sense of the word; broom, pointed hat, a brood of black cats primping by a smoking cauldron; nor the practical tradition, but one in the metaphysical realm. More simply put, a lunatic.

This was confirmed when Gawronski invited Skowerinski to her home for the sole purpose of attacking, beating and bloodying the unsuspecting woman. Surely, she must have done something to provoke this episode of senseless brutality. Gawronski's reasoning? Skowerinski was a witch who had put a spell on her attacker and inflicted upon her a stomach malady.

As queer as it may sound to the progressive thinker it was a common superstition among our forebearers up until the last 50 or so years. In Mrs. Gawronski's defense she was also a sick woman. Physically ill, that is, with catarrh of the stomach. Not deathly ill but sick enough. Which may or may not have led to her mental afflictions and plans for retribution against Mrs. Skowerinski, but it was a prime mover in the matter.

With the onset and continuation of her illness unabated, she apparently received a diagnosis from a medical doctor but was unsatisfied with his determination. So Jospehine decided that she needed a second opinion and called upon an east side witch doctor who convinced her that she was bewitched. Encouraged to think back to a galvanizing moment before the symptoms occurred she recalled a wedding party a month or so earlier where Skowerinski had secured Gawronski a drink and then possibly wished an incantation against her. To reverse the effects of the spell she would have to accost the witch and draw blood. Which she did. Once completed, for good measure, Gawronski made the poor prone woman chant thrice, "I take it back."

Needless to say, the catarrh persisted and the witch doctor was summoned once more. Whereupon he proclaimed Mrs. Skowerinski innocent and ordered another woman beaten! That woman apparently didn't come forward to tell her story. Skowerinski did though in the form of a lawsuit. Whereby the gathered raucous anti-witch revelers in support of Gawronski were admonished by Justice Lemke for their beliefs in superstition. He deemed them worthy of a spanking and Mrs. Skowerinski $25 in damages.

L'abeille de la Nouvelle-Orleans, May 19, 1910

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