WAR ON SUPERSTITION IN THE MONITOR
It was a firm conviction of the Enlightenment publicists that the Polish Commonwealth needed to be liberated from the burden of old-age superstitions and religious fanaticism. Their principal weapon was the Warsaw journal Monitor (1765-1785). Monitor made a regular job of attacking the popular belief in demons, ghosts and witches, and ridiculing both the respect accorded to portents, omens or astrological predictions in the almanacs as well as the odd rituals used to avert bad luck or an impending disaster. In its war on superstition the journal employed a wide range of journalistic forms - from dispassionate, well-argued essays to vitriolic satires. In this respect the Warsaw Monitor sought to follow the example of 18th-century English periodicals with a didactic agenda, especially The Spectator. Monitor's reformist campaign had the support of the leading pens of the Polish Enlightenment, Bishop Ignacy Krasicki, Franciszek Bohomolec, and Aleksander Zorawski. A typical article on the theme of superstition paints form of narrative sketches which highlight the adventures of superstitions country squires and the sad consequences of their irrational belief in the existence of demons, ghosts, witches, bad omens, etc. Some publications - spoof news stories or mock astrological predictions - strike a lighter tone and depend for their effect on irony. Regardless of its tone or form each of those articles carries a severe criticism of Polish religious fanaticism and the Poles' adherence to superstitions, which the Monitor writers see as a disgrace of the Catholic religion and a shameful mental relic in the Age of Reason. The year 1776, when prosecution for witchcraft and the use of torture in judicial proceedings were banned by law, was a watershed in the history of struggle against superstition in Poland. It was a triumph for the Polish intellectual elites and for its vanguard magazine. Now that the main object of Monitor's campaign had been achieved, the theme of superstition all but disappeared from its pages.
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