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salt-boilings and the later notions of witchcraft. On certain days of festivity the witches took their station on the hill in the sacred wood, where the salt wells spring forth, with cooking apparatus, spoons, and forks, and their salt-pan glowed in the darkness of night.
It is well known that annually in Germany there was a general expedition of the witches on the night of the first of May-Walpurgisnacht—that is, at the time of the sacrificial feast of the ancient assembly of the people. On the first of May, through many ages, were held the unsummoned tribunals, and on this day were celebrated the merry Maygames,—that is, the riding of Summer into the country, which in Denmark occurred on the Walpurgis day. Such Maygames in the ancient Danish and Swedish chronicles are frequently spoken of; they were a great gathering of the nobility for sport. Nobility and royalty frequently took part in them. The young men rode first; then the May Earl with two wreaths of flowers on each shoulder; the rest of the people only with one. Songs were sung; all the young maidens formed a circle round the May-Earl, and he chose a May-Countess by throwing at her a garland (see Grimm, 449). The first of May is one of the most distinguished festivals of the heathen. But if we mention two or three witch-feasts, that of Walpurgis, St. John's, and St. Bartholomew's days, we are reminded by them of all the prosecutions of the Middle Ages. The Danish witch-trials name Valborg Eve St. Hans' Eve; and Maria, Besögelsesdag's Eve. The people would not have given up their honourable days of assembly to the witches had not these been in their hereditary possession.
Still more striking is the accordance in the places of meeting. The witches proceeded to those places precisely where the ancient popular tribunals were held, or where sacred offerings were made. Their gatherings took place in the meadows, in groves of oak, under the lime-trees, under the oak, by the pear-tree. In the boughs of the tree sat the musician whose aid they require for the dance. Sometimes they danced at the place of execution, under the gallows. But most commonly mountains, hills, or the highest points of the country were the places of their rendezvous.
The fame of particular witch-mountains extended itself
over whole kingdoms; and which are named after gods, sacrifices, and ancient tribunals. Nearly all the witchmountains were mountains of sacrifice, fire hills, salt-hills. The whole of Germany is familiar with the Brocken or Blocksberg. The oldest name of it is Brockersberg ; others write it Brockelsberg and Blockersberg, Blocksbarg. A confession-book of the fifteenth century speaks of the sorceresses who were on the Brockisberg. Huiberg, near Halberstadt, is mentioned as a witch-mountain. In Thuringia they went to Horselberg near Eisenach, or to the Inselberg near Smalcalde; in Westphalia to Köterberg, near Corvei; to Wechinstein - Wedingstein, where Wittekind or Witte lived, near Minden; in Swabia, to the Schwarzwald, or to Heuberg near Ballingen ; in Franconia to Staffelstein near Bamberg. The Swedish rendezvous
was called Blokula, and that of Norway Blakalla. The Neapolitan Streghe assembled under a nut-tree in Benevento; the people call it the Benevento wedding. Exactly on this spot stood the sacred tree of the Longobards; and thus witchcraft depends clearly on ancient pagan worship. The witch-mountains of Italy are, the Barco di Ferrara, the Paterno di Bologna, Spirato della Mirandolo, Tossale di Bergamo. In France the Puy de Dôme near Clermont is famous. The Spanish Hechizeras held their dance on the heath near Buraona, in the sands of Seville, in the fields of Cirniegolo.
A part of Carpathia between Hungary and Poland is called in Polish Babia gora,—the Old Women's Mountain. The witches succeeded to the dethroned goddesses, and the manner in which it took place was this. When the populace went over to the new faith, there were a few who hung back, and for a long time clung to the ancient belief, and in secret continued to practise their rites. From this state of things, the demonology of the ancients mingled itself imperceptibly with Christianity, and from an union of actuality and imagination arose the representation of the nocturnal flights of witches, in which all the barbarities of ancient paganism were perpetuated. How near to the Greek Diana, or the Jewish Herodias, lay the Frau Holda,-a Celtic Abundia, who was soon herself changed into an Unhold, or unholy thing. This agrees curiously with the tradition that the Thüringian Horselberg was simultaneously possessed by
Holda and her host, and by the witches. Kiesersberg makes the night-travelling witches proceed to no other place than to Venusberg-Frau Venus with her train—where there is good eating, dancing, and leaping. These nocturnal women, white mothers,—dominæ nocturna ; bonne dames ; lamiæ sive geniciales femina, were originally demoniac, elfish women, who appeared in female shape, and showed kindness to men.
Holda, Abundia, to whom a third part of the world is subject, conducts the dances; and Grimm attributes the original appearances of the witch-dances to the leaping about of the ignis fatuæ, to which may be united their derivation from the heathen May-dances. Burchard von Morin, in his collection of decrees from the beginning of the eleventh century, gives the following lively picture of those meetings. “ Et si aliqua femina est, quæ se dicat, cum dæmonum turba in similitudinem mulierum transformata, certis noctibus equitare super quasdam bestias, et in eorum consortio (dæmonum) annumeratum esse. Quædam sceleratæ mulieres retro post Satanam conversæ, dæmonum illusionibus seductæ, credunt se nocturnis horis cum Diana paganorum dea vel cum Herodia et innumera multitudine mulierum equitare super
super quasdam bestias, et multæ terrarum spatia intempesta noctis silentio pertransire, ejusque jussionibus velut dominæ obedire et certis noctibus ad ejus servitium evocari.”
Here we have the nocturnal women, good, social servants, who went with the witches on these expeditions, brought good luck, performed various little offices, examined the furniture of the house, blessed the children in the cradle ; and still this superstition was totally heathen, for the name of Christ might not be mentioned; they were not considered devilish.
We may quote the following as giving one of the most complete descriptions of the proceedings at the witch assemblies:The devil appears as a handsome young man, wearing feathers, and amorously disposed. When it is too late, the witches first perceive the horse-foot or the goose-foot. He then compels them to renounce God, baptizes them, and gives them a new name, at the same time that he conceals his own. Sometimes he approaches as a mouse, crow, or fly, but soon assumes the human form. After repeated intercourse with him the witches only receive small presents of money, which, in fact, are only disguised filth. He appoints certain days on which they shall visit him, or he fetches them to nightly feasts which are celebrated in the company of other devils and witches. When the devil fetches them, he sits before them on the staff, fire-shovel, or whatever it be on which they ride. Or he comes on a he-goat on which they mount; or they travel on horses which rise out of the earth. They find at the place of rendezvous many witches, some of them who have long been dead, and others ladies of station, who are masked. Their paramours, however, are only servants of the chief devil, who, in the shape of a he-goat, with a black man's face, sits solemnly on a tall chair, or on a stone table in the middle of the circle, where all do homage to him by curtseys and kisses. He also appoints witch-queens. Sable candles which burn between the horns of the he-goat light up the unsatisfactory meal. They there relate what mischiefs they have done, and resolve
If the devil disapproves of their deeds, he chastises them. After the meal, which neither satisfies nor nourishes, the dance begins. The musician sits on a tree; hisfiddle is a horse's head; his pipe is a cudgel or a cat's tail ; in the dance they turn round backwards, and in the morning there are seen in the grass the intersecting traces of the hoofs of cows and goats. When the dance is over, they flog one another with flails or mangle-rollers ; finally, they burn the great hegoat to ashes, which are distributed among the witches as a means of mischief. A young witch is not at once admitted to the feast and dance, but is set on one side to take care of toads with a white stick. The return home is in the same manner as the going thither. The husband, who all the time has had a piece of wood in bed, in the place of his wife, knows nothing of the affair. The mischiefs chiefly done by the witches are on the corn and cattle of their neighbours. They milk the cows of others, without approaching them. They stick a knife into an oaken post, hang a string to it, down which the milk flows (see Goethe's Faust in Auerbach's cellar), or they strike an axe into the door-post, and milk out of the axe-handle. Good milk they turn blue or bloody; if they shake milk it will produce no butter, and therefore witches are styled “milk
thieves.” Bewitched milk must be whipped in a pot, or a sickle must be run through it, and every stroke or cut is felt in the body of the witch.
By striking with their besoms or hooks, by scattering water or pebbles in the air, or by throwing sand towards the sunset, they could occasion storms and hail, dash down the corn and fruits of their neighbours to the carth, or sow devil's ashes over the fields. If they bind together the legs of a white horse, they can heal the broken bones of absent persons. If at a wedding, they turn the key of a locs, and ding the lock into the water, and which is called making a net, or tying a witch knot, so long as that knot remains unfound and untied the married pair are without children. If the witches stick pins into pictures or dolls, they are able to kill men. They are said to dig up the bodies of young children from the churchyard, and cut off their fingers, which they use as instruments of witchcraft. Their children by the devils are elfish creatures, and called elves or Holds. These are sometimes butterflies, sometimes humble bees, sometimes caterpillars, or worms. They are called good or bad things-Holds or Holdiken. They injure cattle with them ; conjure them into the stem of a tree; bury them under the elder-bushes; and as the caterpillars eat the foliage of the tree, the hearts of those people are troubled of whom the witches think.
Not unfrequently the devil appears in the form of a butterfly, or of an asp. Sometimes the witches offer black cattle to him; and sometimes also their daughters at their birth. They delight to find themselves together at cross roads; they can pass in and out of houses through the key-hole. When there are three candles in a room, the witches have power. They hate the ringing of bells. When brought before the tribunal, if they can touch the earth they instantly disappear. They have no power to shed a tear, and when thrown into the water they swim. “Easdem præterea non posse mergi ne veste quidem degravatas,” Pliny, viii. 2. The devil, it is said, promises to bring them an iron bar, so that they may be able to sink, but he brings them only a needle. If the witch can catch the eye of the judge he immediately feels compassion, and never can condemn her.
It is characteristic that all witches, spite of their art and the power of the devil, continue in misery and deep poverty.