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Edward Burne-Jones (Edward Burne Jones) (1833-1898)  Sidonia von Bork  Gouache, 1860  43 x 84 cm (16.93
Goback 8 / 46 Forward

Title: Sidonia von Bork
Edward Burne-Jones (Edward Burne Jones) (1833-1898)
Sidonia von Bork
Gouache, 1860
43 x 84 cm (16.93" x 33.07")
Tate Gallery, London, United Kingdom

Sidonia von Borcke (1548–1620), also spelled Sidonie von Bork, Borke or Borken, was a Pomeranian noble woman tried and uted for witchcraft. In posthumous legends, she was depicted as femme fatale and entered English literature as Sidonia the Sorceress.

Sidonia von Borcke was born in 1548 into the rich old noble Pomeranian family von Borcke. Her father, Otto von Borcke zu Stramehl-Regenwalde, died in 1551, and her mother, Anna von Schwiechelt, died in 1568. After an unsteady life and the death of her sister in 1600, she spent her late life (since 1604) in former Marienfließ Abbey, which since the Protestant Reformation was a convent for unmarried noble women. Before, she was involved in several lawsuits about her alimonies against her brother, Ulrich, and Johann Friedrich, Duke of Pomerania (died 1600), one of which even made it to the imperial court at Vienna.

In Marienfließ, Sidonia von Borcken was engaged in several private and judicial conflicts with her mostly younger roommates as well as the administrative and technical staff. When she was dismissed from her post as a Unterpriorin (subprioress) by the convent's prioress Magdalena von Petersdorff in 1606, she appealed to Bogislaw XIII, Duke of Pomerania, who sent a commission headed by Joachim von Wedel to investigate the dispute. The interaction between the commission and Sidonia von Borcken soon evolved into a major conflict, and von Wedel met in private with Marienfließ Hauptmann Johannes von Hechthausen to think about "getting rid of this poisonous snake". The dispute ended with the deaths of Bogislaw XIII in 1606, and the deaths of von Petersdorff, von Wedel and von Hechthausen all in 1609. Two years later, Sidonia von Borcke filed complaints against the new prioress, Agnes von Kleist, to the new duke, Philipp II. Like his predecessor, Philipp installed a commission to investigate the claims, this time headed by Jost von Borcke, a relative of Sidonia, who already had been involved and humiliated in prior lawsuits concerning Sidonia.

The commission did not succeed in calming the dispute, and Jost von Borcke described the situation at Marienfließ as one of chaos, mistrust, name-calling and occasional violence.Philipp II died in 1618, and was succeeded by Duke Franz I. Jost von Borcke was in good standing at Franz I's court and remained head of the investigating commission.
Trial and death

In July 1619, a dispute between Sidonia von Borcke and Unterpriorin (subprioress) Dorothea von Stettin escalated during a Mass, and both were arrested. Dorothea von Stettin then accused Sidonia von Borcke of witchcraft, namely of forcing former Marienfließ factotum Wolde Albrechts to ask the devil about her future. Wolde Albrechts made her living from fortune-telling and begging after she had lost her position at Marienfließ due to the death of von Hechthausen. Furthermore, she had been travelling with "gypsies" in her youth, was known for several unstable sexual relationships, and was unmarried with an illegitimate child. Dorothea von Stettin persuaded her Marienfließ roommate Anna von Apenburg to second her story. According to contemporary law, the Constitutio Criminalis Carolina, two eyewitnesses were sufficient to convict and sentence both Sidonia von Borcke and Wolde Albrechts. Anna von Apenburg however withdrew from her statement when asked to repeat under oath.

The following trials, which took place at the court in Stettin (now Szczecin) are well documented, and more than 1,000 original pages are in the state archive in Greifswald (Rep 40 II Nr.37 Bd.I-III). The recent unexpected deaths of several Pomeranian dukes and the then widespread superstition in the Duchy of Pomerania resulted in a public prepared to blame the dukes' deaths on Sidonia von Borcken's alleged witchcraft, a belief that would further manifest with the extinction of the Pomeranian dynasty in 1637.

The preface of Sidonia von Borcken's trial was the trial of Wolde Albrechts, who was arrested on 28 July 1619. On 18 August, she was charged with maleficium and Teufelsbuhlschaft, i.e. sexual relations with the devil. On 2 September, torture was admitted as a legitimate means of interrogation by the supreme court at Magdeburg. On 7 September, Wolde Albrechts confessed under torture and further accused Sidonia von Borcke and two other women of witchcraft. She repeated these confessions in presence of Sidonia von Borcke at the court on 1 October, and was burned at the stake on 9 October. Her confession was used to open the trial of Sidonia von Borcke on 1 October. Still arrested in Marienfließ, she attempted a flight and a suicide, both failed.

On 18 November 1619, Sidonia von Borcke was transferred to a prison in Stettin. In December, 72 charges were formulated.The most important were
murder of her nephew, Otto von Borcke
murder of priest David Lüdecke
murder of duke Philipp II of Pomerania-Stettin (died 1618)
murder of Magdalena von Petersdorff, prioress at Marienfließ
murder of Matthias Winterfeld, gatekeeper at Marienfließ
murder of Konsistorialrat Dr. Heinrich Schwalenberg
paralyzation of Katharina Hanow, noble woman at Marienfließ
consultation of soothsayers
knowledge of future and distant events
sexual contacts with the devil, who allegedly materialized in pets such as von Borcke's cat Chim.
magical practices like praying the "Judas psalm" and crossing brooms under the kitchen's table

In January, about fifty witnesses were questioned, and Sidonia von Borcke was appointed a defender, Elias Pauli. Though drafting a defense showing that the allegedly murdered died natural deaths, Pauli also dissociated himself from statements of Sidona von Borcke incriminating Jost von Borcke and other officials. On 28 June, the Magdeburg court permitted the Stettin court to use torture. When torture was applied on 28 July, Sidona von Borcken confessed, and the verdict read death by dragging to the ution site, rupturing four times with plies, and finally burning. When Sidonia von Borcken revoked her confession, she was tortured anew on 16 August.

The final verdict of 1 September 1620 read death by decapitation and burning of the body. The verdict was carried out in Stettin, outside the mill gate. The exact date is of her death is uncertain.
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Goback 8 / 46 Forward
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