The description of municipal route: Poznań

Kolberg’s visits in Poznań were associated mainly, at least at the beginning, with the publishing of his work. He cooperated with Jan Żupański who published Kolberg’s collection of folk songs with piano accompaniment. Later, the ethnographer met some social and political activists who understood the importance of his work and supported him.

Jan Żupański Publishing House

Jan Konstanty Żupański was an editor, bookseller and publisher from Poznań. He was one of the initiators of the Poznań Society of Friends of Science. He published works of eminent Polish poets and writers (among others Mickiewicz, Kraszewski, Lenartowicz), along with academic papers, textbooks, and diaries. Kolberg cooperated with the publisher in the years 1842-45 when he released his first collections of folk songs with piano accompaniment in the series ‘Songs of the Polish people’.

The Poznań Society of Friends of Sciences

The organization was established on February 13, 1857 by 42 founding members. The main initiators were Kazimierz Szulc, Franciszek Ksawery Malinowski, Kazimierz Jarochowski, Leon Wagner, Roger Maurycy Raczyński and Tytus Działyński. The society aimed at the development of Polish education and culture in the grim realities of the Prussian rule. At the same time the society gathered a collection of books and many museum exhibits; moreover it supported the scientific, cultural and publishing research of Polish people. Kolberg wrote that in 1868 he occupied the building of the society for a whole week to copy the numerous ethnographical material from the so-called ‘szematas’.


The statistical form from the 19th century was sent to many places located in the Grand Duchy of Poznań by the Poznań Society of Friends of Sciences. It consisted of three parts: geographical, historical and ethnographical. However, from about two thousand forms that were sent, only a part was received. Kolberg had access to this documentation, which we know from his foreword to the Poznań monograph (volume 9 of CWOK). He used the information to enrich his documentation from Greater Poland.

Biblianna Moraczewska

She was a Polish writer, activist and correspondent of Kolberg. She propagated and supported Polish culture and helped Kolberg in distribution of his work in the region of Poznań.

She met Kolberg in Warsaw. Henceforth they exchanged letters regularly. She acted as a middleman in providing Kolberg with ethnographical material from the people she knew and supplied the subscribers with the issues of his monographs. This is what Kolberg wrote to her in 1880:

“I read the text of Mr Klepaczewski about magic and I wrote down some quotations. But what I’m asking for is some folk proverbs that you, my lady, may find out through your maid. I’m attaching some similar proverbs as an example and a few characterizations of some supernatural creatures from folk beliefs. I need to know if those descriptions are accurate and do not need any additions”.

Oskar Kolberg collected some interesting tales about the capital of Greater Poland:

“The beginnings of the history of Poznań are unknown; similarly to the history of ancient inhabitants of this land. Each tale about the beginning of the city is only a conjecture. However, the name of the city revels its Slavic roots”.

The following tale is related to the creation of the Castle Hill in Poznań:

“After the death of Mieczysław Gnuśny, local people, who were not so consolidated in their Christian faith yet, started to return to idolatry. The God got upset and order the Lucifer to punish them. The Lucifer instructed his devils to bring one hill from Silesia and place it in the channel of the Warta river to flood the sleeping city. Although they hurried, they did not manage to reach the river before the first cock crowed. They left the hill a few hundred meters before the river. In the morning, the city inhabitants were surprised that the place of the former plain was occupied by a hill”.

In his material from this region, Kolberg described the inside of the peasants’ houses from the region of Poznań:

“The inside of a house of any inhabitant of this region looks better and wealthier in comparison to the houses in other parts of the country. The chamber, although usually is quite small, has white walls painted with lime and is generally very clean. The furniture is usually similar to the one used in cities and manors in other parts of the country (only a little older); moreover, it is usually oil-finished or varnished, and usually has dark red or fire brick colour”.

Kolberg gave also some accounts of equipment:

“Tidiness of women from Greater Poland is expressed not only in their outfit, but also in the way they keep their houses. On white, sometimes upholstered, walls they hung usually a clock, some paintings, a big mirror, and, inevitably, the painting of the Saviour. The house equipment includes a wardrobe, a chest, a neatly made bed, a bench with a table and sometimes a few plaited chairs. There are flowers in the windows”.

The monograph of the Grand Duchy of Poznań includes many folktales:

About a birch:

“Birches, whose moaning can be heard in the woods and on a desert, are the souls of early dead virgins. On February and March, when their branches are covered with frost, they dance in the moonlight. When a mortal starts to dance with them only the death can stop him”.

In the volume devoted to the Poznań region, there are numerous accounts of witchcraft:

“In Greater Poland, like in other regions, the female nature is more prone to get entangled with demonic sphere, in comparison to the male nature. This is why there are so many female witches, so-called ‘ciotas’”.

“The name ‘ciota’ [from ‘ciocia’ – aunt] is more popular here, than ‘czarownica’ [witch]. The latter one is used in connection with a witch of a higher rank. The name ‘ciota’ derives from a belief that she is the aunt of a devil”.

“Some people believe that before a witch leaves her house she covers herself with the magical smear; according to others, she calls the devil forces upon to help her. Then she takes a broom and flies out through the chimney or window to Łysa Góra, where she can abandon herself to different pleasures and spend time with her team”.