Pride, not Prejudice

Does love follow the rue of gender barriers? Not really, though we are usually accustomed to assume so.

On the 2nd anniversary of lifting the article 377 of Indian constitution, this is the tribute to Love beyond gender norm. I am happy that one of my stories is included here:

https://www.amazon.in/Pride-Not-Prejudice-Decriminalising-Love-ebook/dp/B08HJN4Y12/ref=sr_1_3?dchild=1&keywords=pride%2C+not+prejudice&qid=1599398783&sr=8-3

Blessed by COVID

Can a terrifying Pandemic bring some relief in someone’s life?
We may be unable to imagine this, but that is what we saw happening with a university student in Kolkata. Discover how a global pandemic brought a much awaited respite in her love life.

A contemporary comedy in form of a short story.

The Lake Dönges

Dönges-See -picture from Wikimedia commons

A verbally transmitted story from Hessen

There is a village named Dönges in Hessen. There lies the lake Dönges or Haut lake, which turns blood red on a certain day of the year.

Why does it happen so? There is a legend associated.

Once the villagers were celebrating a funfair for several days. Two strangers – exquisitely beautiful but unknown virgins danced with the peasant boys and made fun with them. The funfair continued day and night, but the girls suddenly disappeared at twelve o’clock at night.

However, everyone was pleased to see them were back the next day. One of the village boys liked them so much that he thought it would be excellent if they always stayed in the village. One of them took off her gloves during the dance and hide in nicely. The girls, unaware of village boy’s intension, danced with them again till night. As midnight approached, they wanted to leave. Now the girl without gloves went on looking for her gloves in all corners. Not finding them anywhere, she became anxious. But when it struck twelve during the search, both the girls began running in some unknown panic, went straight to the lake and plunged into it. The next day the lake was blood red. The boys saw  small crowns appearing on the gloves they had hidden.

The lake still goes red the same day every year.

We have another story regarding the same phenomenon. They say that one night two riders came to a nanny’s home, woke her up and ordered her to go with them. She refused, but her refusal angered them. They used violence, tied her on horseback and dragged her away to the Donges Lake. There she was supposed to assist the fairy queen of Nöthen. Under the lake, the nanny saw many wonderful objects, unimaginable treasures and expensive materials, but had to swear never to tell anyone about those. After she had worked there all day, she was given abundant gifts. From then onward, she was being brought there every night brought up again at night. After many years, she fell ill. But death denied accepting her until she confessed everything before the priest. Afterwards the lake goes red once a year in memoriam of the nanny.

Story of the Unfinished Cologne Cathedral

The picture of the Cathedral taken in early 20th century: credit Wikimedia commons

Orally transmitted story from the same city

As the construction of the Cologne Cathedral began, a water channel was supposed to be built as well. The Master Architect himself missed the design of the channel but said, “The large cathedral should be completed sooner than the minor hydraulic engineering!” Doesn’t this sound an excuse? You are right. He said this because only he knew where the water spring can be reached and a channel could be built. As he discovered the secret, he did not reveal it to anyone but his wife. At the same time he made her promise that she would protect the secret even at the risk of her life and limb. The construction of the cathedral started and went well, but the water channel that would be the only source of water could not be dug up. The other architect searched in vain for the source of water. His wife saw him grieve about it, and she promised him help. She went to the Master Architect’s wife and finally tricked her to reveal the location of secret source of water. She understood that the spring is just under the tower of the cathedral. Yet the mouth of the spring is covered with a large stone slab. She went back to her husband with the information. After her husband found the much needed help, the following day he went to the stone slab, drilled it and immediately the water came out. Now the Master Architect’s plan of the water pipe no doubt came to a standstill. When the Master Architect saw that his secret was betrayed and he would be put to shame in public for his proud promise, he angrily cursed the building that it should never be completed, and then died of depression.

After his death, whenever other architects or builders tried to continue with the construction of the building, however strongly they tried to put the bricks together, those would fall into pieces next morning. No matter how well a stone-block was inserted and firmly adhered, it had to fall the next day. From then onward, not a single stone was added to the famous Dome of Cologne.

There is another version of the story about the never finished structure. The devil was jealous of the sacred work that Mr. Gerhard, the Chief Architect intended to complete. Obviously it was going to be a pompous construction. The devil made an evil plan not to return empty handed. To prevent the completion of the cathedral, he made a bet with Mr. Gerhard: he would make a stream flow from Trier to Cologne, to the cathedral, as soon as Mr. Gerhard would complete his construction. But if not completed, that is if he won the bet, he would also own Chief Architect‘s soul.

 Mr. Gerhard was not at fault, but defeating the hellish trick of devil is not an easy task.

One day he climbed the tower, which was already as high as it is today, and the first thing he saw from above were a flock of ducks brought by the devil flying away chattering. The Chief shouted in anger, “You have won me, devil, but you cannot catch me alive!” Telling this, he jumped from the top of the tower so that he fell head over heels down the tower. The devil quickly jumped behind in the shape of a dog. That is how both characters were carved in stone later. The curving is still seen in the tower. Lying down on the earth on your ear, you can also hear the stream flowing under the dome.

The third version of the story is fiddly. In this version, the devil finds the Chief Architect’s design secret from the architect’s wife by trickery and makes some plan so that the building never completes. Finally he elopes with her.

Which version do you find most interesting?

The Mountain of Fire

Wernigerode castle

An orally transmitted story collected from Wernigerode, a town in the Harz district of central Germany, Saxony-Anhalt region:

A few hours away from Halberstadt stands a mountain, which was once barren but now covered with tall firs and oaks. People of this region called this one Feuerberg or fiery mountain. In the deep hallow of its depth, lives the devil. He would be busy playing with own tricks of burning everything in intense flames.

Once in the old days, a count lived in the Halberstadt area. He was greedy and ill-tempered; hence tortured the people of his county whenever he could. He owed a shepherd a lot of money for many years, but every time the shepherd met him to remind him about that, he rudely dismissed him. The helpless lender had to go back empty handed every time.

One day the count suddenly disappeared. Rumour was spread that he had died in some distant land. The shepherd rushed to the castle. But the heirs and survivors of the count did not want to know about how he once financed the count. They chased him down the castle as he tried to explain the fact. He understood he had no way to get his money back. Distressed, he went to the field and mourned his loss alone. Then he entered the forest to relieve his heart talking to the trees. Suddenly a figure appeared in front of him and said, “Follow me if you want to see your old debtor.”

The shepherd followed the barely seen figure who led him through the forest. Finally they arrived before a high, bare mountain. It opened at once with a roar in front of both, as if to invite them inside; and closed again. Everything was blazing fire inside. The trembling shepherd saw the count sitting on a chair, around which a thousand flames rolled on the glowing walls and on the floor. The sinner cried, “O dear friend! I would tell you right away how to get your money. Take this handkerchief – show this to my heirs in the castle and tell them how you have seen me sitting in hellfire where I have to suffer forever for my evil acts.” Then he tore a cloth from his head and gave it to the shepherd. Sparks sprayed from his eyes and hands while he was tearing it. The shepherd almost fainted in fear.

However, guided by the unknown guide, he hurried back in shaking feet. The mountain opened again and closed behind him as soon as he came out. He went to the Count’s castle with the piece of cloth, showed it there and told what he had seen. The count’s heirs gladly returned him his money this time.

Wernigerode is a town in the Harz district of central Germany, Saxony-Anhalt region..

Meeting a Ghost who doesn’t Harm

Dugadugi river : picture from Wikipedia

This is first time I decided not to come back to a place attractive for its natural beauty.

I left my job last year to take up the profession of a travel blogger. I had travelled in different parts of southern India. Two months back I thought of visiting Palamu district to begin my northern venture. My camera person is an old friend whose ancestral home is in Jharkhand. Upon his advice, we took Palamou Express from Patna. Our final destination was Barkakana. We planned to visit places around Barkakana hiring a local cab.

As it commonly happens during our trips, after boarding the train we decided to get down in McCluskieganj to take a closure look of the colonial township and then take a train or cab from there to Barkakana. But goddess of fate had a different intension. Within an hour, my friend changed his mind. He was not feeling well; wanted to reach Barkanana early and take rest in the hotel we have reserved there. McCluskieganj was of special interest to me due to its association to colonial period. I was not ready to miss the chance to visit the old township of Anglo-India settlers. Though only twenty of the three hundred original settlers do stay there till date, I was sure of the presence of lot of architectural attraction in the town; and who knows what else? So I stuck to my plan – my friend was not seriously ill, of course!

McCluskieganj is located in typically hilly region with a beautiful natural landscape dotted with hills, rivers, jungles and villages. I had breakfast at station, with a plan to roam around the whole day and take any of the convenient trains to Barkakana in the evening. Hiring a cab for local sightseeing was not difficult; however had to change my mind after a couple of hours as I found my dream of finding architectural wonders in the “little England” would be futile going by cab drivers whim. I dropped in the only government guest house in the town, had lunch and then decided to walk towards Dugadugi river.

It turned an unimaginably pleasant hike. By the time I reached the riverbank, the golden sunlight of the afternoon covered the entire area like a transparent veil on the face of the beautiful nature, making her even more attractive; in a word, a dream sequence gorgeous enough to mesmerize any photographer. I was missing my friend; still wanted to take a closure look into the forest alongside the course of the river. Who could resist the chance of collecting a few snaps of the plush natural beauty?

I stepped into the area surrounded by tree and bushes; indulged myself in taking snaps whereas the presence of pea-fowls and monkeys on the tree-tops made my adventure even more exiting. Trouble started after sometime when I wanted to return. It was about dusk. Coming out of the jungle area was urgent not only to be able to catch my train, but also to avoid wild animals those start their venture at night. But busy with my camera since last ten fifteen minutes, I somehow messed the direction.

After an unsuccessful attempt to find the way out, I was convinced about own foolishness. The beautifully veiled nature of few minutes back around me turned into a fierce dark lady of immense strength, trying to chock me from all sides by her tall shadowy presence. Alone, surrounded by monstrous trees from all sides, I understood the meaning of losing direction in a forest. Waiting for another hour till the moon’s unveiling its supporting face in the sky remained only option. Sitting in a relatively empty space inside the jungle I had to wait for moonlight – began searching for the route to come out as soon as I found my surrounding visible.

Success came, but it took long efforts. I knew I would not be able to catch any of the trains to Barkakana that night. I started walking towards the guest house again, assuming that the manager would be able to provide me a safe shelter for the night, even if not a grand accommodation. I reached the guest house by ten. The manager was a friendly person; arranged dinner for me even at that odd time. But there was no vacant room in the guest house. I had no other option but to seek his help. He sounded baffled, “Well, I can send you to another bungalow, but these are places where old colonialists lived, you know.” I didn’t get him; said, “I just need a place to spend the night. I don’t have issue with old occupants here!” His next sentence was explicit, “Well sir, you know, there are ghost stories about some of the old bungalows here. I know one of those vacant places. But not sure if I should send you there.” His words made me laugh aloud, “Am a travel blogger, had spent time in adverse situations. I only need a bed and space to keep my backpack for the night!” The manager called an attendant to take me to the bungalow not far from the guest house. He was well-trained it seemed; didn’t talk during our seven minutes walk towards my shelter for night. It was a small and clean place – only three bedrooms in a row – all having a door from a long verandah – common architectural plan of colonial residential buildings here. This should have an inner courtyard too, I thought. But this did not look like a haunted house at all. Surprised, I asked him, “You manager told me this was a haunted place?” I don’t believe in ghosts, there’s no reason to believe. I just wanted to check this submissive looking local boy’s wit. He sounded serious, “I don’t think anything will happen to you. Whoever comes to stay here at night did not kill anyone till date. The caretaker comes to clean this house at daytime and he experienced nothing wrong. Only be careful and don’t switch off the lights.” He was talking without a pause while unlocking one of the doors, “You have an attached bath with this room.” He finished in hurry, kept the key on the bedside table and ran away with a hurried good bye, “Good night Sir – take care.” I felt curious, but didn’t find chance to talk to him.

I was damn tired – locked the door, washed my hands, threw my shoes under the bed, switched the light off and went to bed without delay. It was a large bedroom furnished in colonial style with and old–style western toilette. Only problem was the absence of a bed switch. But my kinds of travelers don’t mind these small things, especially in such a situation.

I didn’t know how long I slept, but as I wake up – the light was on. I remembered clearly that I did switch off the light. Was there any issue with the electric switch? “Uff, these old bungalows! They don’t even maintain properly” – irritated, I began murmuring inside my blanket. I cannot sleep with lights on. I jumped out of bed. Switched the light off and went to bed. But this time the light was on within moments. I was angry – got out of bed violently and rushed to the switch board. All on a sudden – I felt someone was there in the attached bathroom. The sound of water coming out from the tap hit my ears. I pushed the door – it was closed from inside. This time I was little scared. “Is this a night shelter of local burglars?” – I told to myself. I knew criminals use those kinds of deserted homes as shelter sometimes. Going out of room seemed unsafe. Coming back to bed, I pondered what should be my next action.

The sound stopped after a minute. I was still sitting on the bed though irresistibly sleepy. Anyway I wanted to check the bathroom again. I lightly pushed the door – it opened. Nothing suspicious showed up. Even if there was a burglar group, they were not using this bathroom for sure.  Being a victim of superstitions annoyed me about myself.

I switched off the light and went to bed. No, it was not simple superstition. Within minutes, the light was switched on again. And the sound of water started coming from this bathroom. I sprang out of bed, banged on the bathroom door, “Who is this?” I was so angry that I wanted to punch on this person’s face, be him a burglar or ghost. I found the door closed. And…someone started laughing – hee hee hee – heeh –heeh – heeh. The voice made me shiver. No human being can laugh that way in that kind of voice! – Who was that? I somehow gathered courage to ask again, “Who is that?” None replied, the whole world seemed suddenly sunk into an eerie silence. I felt a chill in my spine. Who is that who doesn’t want me to switch off the light?

My readers know I am not a coward type. I switched off the light again, determined to go back to bed, but before I reached bed, the light was on again and the spooky laughter started. I could not tolerate any longer. Covered my ears with my palms and somehow sat on the bed – still trembling convulsively – I lost strength to talk or move again. It was unusually chill inside the room. Laughter continued – I was trying to gather all kinds of logic. Even if some burglar arranged a system to switch off the light from outside, the bathroom had no other door that a person could get in and close the door! I started sweating – and different sounds started coming up. The bathroom door opened couple of times on its own; then closed again. Someone was gurgling inside. At some point of there came a sound as if someone was taking shower – I neither had the strength to enquire again, nor courage. I knew I wouldn’t get a reply – none would show up. It was three in the morning. I recalled the attendant’s words, “Whoever comes to stay here at night did not kill anyone till date.” What else one could do but waiting for the morning light in such a situation?

Birds started chirping outside. The dawn brought quietness in the bungalow. I opened the door. The first ray of the morning sun not yet entered the bungalow. However I was not ready to wait any longer. An unusual calm reigned in the place. I picked up my backpack, put on my shoes, locked the door and walked to the guest house.  Little after four thirty in the morning I reached the guest house. Gate was open but nobody was around. I lied down on the sofa in the lawn.

It was seven thirty when I opened my eyes. The attendant who took me to the bungalow was standing nearby. “Good morning sir. When did you arrive? I thought you must be too tired, that’s why didn’t wake you up.”

I replied, “Good morning. Where is your manager?”

“He will meet you for breakfast Sir.” – The attendant left.

At the sight of the manager at the breakfast table, I could not resist describing my previous night’s experience. Manager said admitting, “I was telling you the same sir. None can sleep peacefully there though the ghost doesn’t harm anyone. I found my nerve back in the meantime – listening to his version of the story of the Anglo-Indian bungalow owner who probably returns to sleep in same bungalow every night.

 ………………………………………………………………

I boarded the train towards Barkakana. Hope this will reach within another hour or so. I finished writing last night’s weird experience in my notebook. Be it a ghost or some miscreant burglars who went on threatening me throughout the night, I am not going to come back to McCluskieganj for sure. 

The Roofer

from Wikimedia commons: Stephansdom, a medieval church tower and roof in Vienna

Orally transmitted story

A young roofer should concentrate in creating a masterpiece when engaged in making a roof. On completion of a magnifiscent task, the cheerful roofers sometimes could not resist speaking from the top of a finished tower addressing people below.

Once it happened that one roofer, while in the middle of his speeches from rooftop began to wave and suddenly called his father, who was standing in the crowd below, “Father, the villages, mountains and forests which seemed far away now seem very close to me!”

The father immediately fell down on his knees and prayed for his son’s soul and requested all the people to do the same.

Their prayer did not do a wonder. Soon the son fell down dead. There was a way to prevent this. Being the master of the family the father could grab the young son right away and push him to the ground before his son had climbed up in front of him for the first time. He could not start talking mistakenly from the roof top in that case. If the father did so, he would not have seen the fatal fall.

Brutpfenning or Heckegroschen

Picture from Wikiwand – not the magical one, but Silver Saxony coin of Frederick III, known as Groschen, minted ca. 1507–25.

One can obtain the Brutpfenning or Heckegroschen in an uniquely magical way. Some may get it following some weird way. Those who want to communicate with the devil go to a crossing of roads under the clear sky on Christmas evening, as it begins to darken. In the middle of this crossroad, they lay thirty pfennings or a groschen called thale, in a round ring next to each other and begin to count the pieces backwards and forwards. They have to take up this counting while trying to measure the ring. During the counting, the hellish spirit tries to make all kinds of terrible faces ranging from a blazing oven, bizarre carts to wild humans. The devil does this to hamper the counting, because when the man stumbles slightest during the counting, his neck is turned. The Devil always has an objective to harm a man. But if he continues counting correctly, the devil throws the one and thirty pieces of the same coin for the thirty pieces in the ring. This first and thirtieth pfenning has the quality that it produces a pfenning like itself every night.

A peasant lady at Pantschdorf near Wittenberg, who had such a breeding penning, became infamous for being a witch. Once she needed to go somewhere for some work. She called the maid and directed to finish her chores. Before milking the other cows, the maid sieved the milk from the already milked cow on a white bread in a bowl and put the bowl in a certain crate, the way the old lady told her to keep. However the maid either forgot what else she was told or thought it didn’t matter whether she would boil the milk before or after milking the other cows. Then she milked other cows and boiled the milk.

Afterwards when she took the boiling milk from the fire holding the milk pot in one hand and about to open the crate with the other, she saw a pitch-black calf sitting on it opening its mouth. In sheer horror she poured the boiled milk into its mouth. The calf fled away immediately and set the entire house on fire.

The lady was called in as she returned home. She confessed her having a breeding pfenning. The farmers in the region followed the practice of keeping the breeding pfenning in a common crate for a long time.

Crossroads and number thirty in a ring is symbol of evil as per biblical tradition – due to crucifixion and last supper connection. We have those references in many post Christian tales, but stories of coins is available in pre-Christian period as well.  

Ten pfennig coin must be of high value in medieval period. But Brutpfenning or Heckegroschen is an imaginary ten pfennig coin more valued because of its having the power of breeding own copies. This is mentioned in many German folktales. This story of Grimms gives one option to obtain it, I remember another story in the collection of Karl Friedrich von Klöden giving people another option to obtain it. It says that one needs to catch a black cat on Christmas night, take it to the church, meet the devil there and offer the cat to him. The pleased devil pays with this coin. One should never spend the coin but preserve it carefully hiding from other’s eyes.

Since civilized human invented currency to be used as unit of exchange, wealth in form of currency gained immense value. One needs to have lot of coins to become wealthy. Only then he would live a comfortable life. The authority to mint currency, however, rests with the richest person of the land – either the king or his favoured regional ruler. How would the commoner gain access to that form of exchange then? They need to obtain one which is capable of self minting by some magical way – and who does not know that only the devil can provide the magical object that helps a commoner to become rich?

Folktales tale a lot, right? 🙂 

The Pear Tree in Walserfeld

The following story is found in an old book in Brixen:

picture from Wikimedia commons: This symbol was accepted as the symbol of Salzburg state in 1948, to commemorate this popular folktale in this region

At Salzburg, in a place called Walserfeld, a terrible battle will take place someday. Everything will be in toss. There will be such a terrible bloodbath that the blood of the combatants scattered on the floor would stick to the shoes. The bad people will be killed by the good people. A special pear tree will be associated to this battle.

The withered pear tree on this Walserfeld will commemorate the last battle. The tree was cut down three times, but its roots always regenerated. Then it again began to grow green and became a perfect tree. It remains skinny for many years, but when it starts to turn green, it is time for a grave battle to start soon and as soon as it bears fruit, the battle begins. Then the tree with pears hang on it will be in the coat of arms though nobody will know what it means.

The fountain at Steinau

Picture from WIkimedia commons – this coat of arms of Steinau is a 1956 design , presenting St. Catherine, patron saint of the city – but older Steinau Coat of Arms too have a wheel and a sword.

From Thuringia. Also this story gives an explanation of a design on the Coat of Arms of a Steinau noblility

This is a story of one Abbot’s being subject to hostility by subordinates that happened in CE 1271. The Abbot Berold of Fulda fell prey of own subjects who conspired to take his life. One day when he was reading at the St. Jacobs CapelleMesse, the rulers of Steinau and Eberstein as well as Albrecht von Brandau, Ebert von Spala, and Ritter Conrad entered there together, attacked and killed him. The attackers were thirty in number.

Soon these assassins with their twenty horses were captured at Hasselstein for committing the robbery and crime in the church. They were executed by swords and their homes destroyed. For this reason, the ruling family of Steinau had to inscribe three wheels with three hatchets in their coat of arms to memorize the event subsequently. The site where they formed the alliance to plan the assassination of the Abbot is in Steinau at a street in Hanau. Though the location is beside a fountain on a lawn, the space became barren revealing the sin of the killing. No grass grows there till date.

The Story of a Castle-wall and a Lake

The ancient forest in Stubniz – picture from Wikimedia Commons

You will see a very strong mud wall in Stubniz on the Pomeranian island of Rügen. Shagged trunks of beech trees and bushes covered the wall which surrounds a long circular space. The middle of this space is congested with various tree roots. Also you will see stones scattered in this zone. A lake which is locals call Black Lake or Burgsee, is seen in a round and deep basin just next to the eastern edge of the wall.

There is a story associated to this castle wall. Locals here believe that in ancient days the devil was worshiped in front of this wall. Also a virgin was sacrificed at his service. After some time when the devil got tired of the virgin, his priests drove her to the Black lake and drowned her there.

Apart from father God, saints, priests, devil, peasants and knights, virgin girls appear time and again in European folk stories and legends. Some of them have magical powers that evil power cannot do any harm to them; some others are fragile – easy prey of evil power. We have seen this type in the previous story, “The essential Shirt” too. We also find stories of powerful and terrible aristocrats or knights living in inaccessible castles looting virgins like in the Story from Blumenstein – probably these terrible men became devil later in folk belief in some places.

Another interesting point in this story is of course the reference of the natural beech forest in Stubniz located in the east coast of the Jasmund peninsula on the German Baltic Sea island of Rügen. This forest is really ancient, whereas the water-filled hollows one of which is called Black lake here dates back to the last Ice-age. Evidence of stone-age settlement was found in Rügen. In last 2000 years the island was part of Slavic, Scandinavian, Pomeranian empire – when exactly the story was developed in therefore difficult to assume.

The Mouse Tower in Bingen

Mouse Tower in Bingen – photo taken from Wikimedia commons

In Bingen, we see a tall tower rising out of in the middle of the Rhine. We know of a legend regarding this.

In the year 974 there was great inflation in Germany. People were dying in hunger. Many finally began eating cats and dogs and that too drove many to death. At the same time, the Bishop of Mainz was Hatto der Andere. He was a miser; only engaged in thinking about increasing own treasure. He too watched the poor people fall down on the allies due to hunger and the hungry running to the bread banks forming a large crowd and taking the bread by force. But no mercy came in the bishop. He planned something else. He announced, “Let all poor and needy gather in a barn in front of the city, I will feed them.”

The hungry crowd thronged the barn. All entered the barn till there was no space left. When the barn was full of people, he ordered to close its door, set it in fire and burn the poor together. As people whimpered and whined in the flames, Bishop Hatto cried, “Listen! Listen how the mice whistle here!”

However the supreme Lord soon wanted to plague him by inflicting a proper punishment. He wanted that a platoon of mice should run over him and eat the Bishop day and night. As God sent the mice, the Bishop could not save himself from their bite even resisting them with all his might. None of the city councils could be of any help.

At last when he knew no other city council to approach, he had a tower built near Bingen in the middle of the Rhine, and thought he would be saved by waiting there a while. He went to leave there leaving the city, but numerous mice swam through the stream, approached the tower and ate the bishop alive.

The tower is still standing there.

One of the many legends of the greedy bishops and torturous priests in medieval Europe. Want to know more about them? Check this: https://en.wikisource.org/wiki/Curious_Myths_of_the_Middle_Ages/Bishop_Hatto

Story from Blumenstein Castle

Ruines of Blumenstein castle from Wikimedia Commons

This is a story of the time when the kings and knights were still alive in Blumenstein near Rosenburg in Hesse. A daring peasant girl in the neighbouring village of Höhnenbach bet that she would enter the terrible castle in the middle of a moonlit light and come back with a brick from there.

As planned, she entered the castle and walked through its walkways. She picked up one brick that would be her proof of entry in the castle. But the moment she picked it, the sound of hoofs entered her ear in that quiet night. In order to save herself, she quickly jumped under the drawbridge. She could barely stand in the narrow space, but tried her best to remain invisible. She saw the knight, owner of the castle on a trotting horse carrying a beautiful virgin in front of him. Obviously he had robed the girl from somewhere. He had packed her exclusive cloths in a bundle and kept it behind him. As he was riding above the bridge, the bundle fell off. The peasant girl picked that up and quickly ran away. By the time she climbed half of the mountain Spiss that stands between Höhenbach and Blumenstein, she heard the knight riding over the drawbridge again. She understood that he might be searching the bundle.

She had no other option but to leave the mountain road she had taken. Again quickly she hid herself in the thick dark forest. She heard the knight riding and after long, the sound of horse hooves weakened.

She was not only saved, next morning she came back home with the bundle of expensive cloths as a proof of her visiting the castle.   

Refer to the story of 13th century Blumenstein castle in Alsatian border that was probably destroyed during a 16th century peasant’s war. The story proves that the owners of the castle, the medieval knights were not really in a good relationship with the peasants in the region.

The Mountain Monk in the Harz Mountains


Natural entrance to the Unicorn Cave – dolomite mine in Harz in Central Germany

Oral tradition from the Harz mountain region

There were two miners who always worked together. One day they started walking through the tunnel together, as they did every day, but by the time they reached their work location in the shaft, they saw from their lights that they didn’t have enough oil to fuel the lamps.

“What are we going to do?” – They said to each other, “if we run out of oil, we would be in the dark in the daytime. We have bad luck today – the shaft is already dangerous. But if we go out right now to get from oil from the miner’s cottage, he will punish us really harsh. We have never saw him being good with us.”

They were worried for life when they saw a light in the distance coming towards them. At first they were hopeful, but when it got closer, they were terrified. It was an enormous, gigantic and tall man walking up the route bending in the shaft. He had a large cap on his head but was otherwise dressed like a monk. He was carrying a powerful pit light in hand. The labourers recognized the scary Mountain Monk!

When he strode up towards them, they were standing – in fact unable to move in fear. He stood there straight up and said: “Do not be afraid. I do not want to harm you, rather do good for you. You are good men.” He took their lamps and poured oil from his lamp on those. Then he grasped their shovels and worked for them for one hour more than they would have worked. He worked that way for one whole week to get them reward for all their hard work.

After one week he said: “Never tell anyone that you saw me.” Before leaving he struck the left side of the wall with his fist. The wall broke apart and the miners saw a long tunnel like crack, shimmering with gold and silver. The unexpected shine blinded their eyes; they turned away. By the time they were able to look again, everything was gone. If they had thrown their hoe with a hatchet or any other part of their shovel towards the tunnel, the route would remain open and could help them to discover a lot of wealth. Also they could receive great reward for that. As they averted looking at that by closing their eye, their opportunity of gaining that immense wealth was gone.

However the oil gifted by the welcoming spirit never finished in their lamp. The lamps did not diminish and were therefore great advantage for them.

After many years, once the miners were brawling with their close friends on a Saturday in a tavern.  They were making fun of the Mountain Monk they once met. The drunken men told the whole story there. On Monday morning when they started for work, there was no oil in the lamps. From them onward, they had to fill the lamps again every day like the other miners.

The Spirit in the Mountain

Oral narrative

The mountain spirit or Meister Hämmerling is commonly called Mountain Monk. He sometimes shows himself in canyons, usually in the form of a giant in a black monk’s cowl. But there are stories that he took different forms in different locations.  

He often appeared in a mine in the Graubünden Alps and was particularly busy on Fridays pouring the excavated ore from one bucket into the other. The owner of the mine was not annoyed by him, and was never offended by him.

On the other hand, when once a worker, angry with this kind of useless creatures, scolded and cursed the spirit, the spirit seized him with such force that he did not die, but his face was turned.

In Annaberg, there is a cave called Rosary. There he breathed on twelve miners during the work. All of the workers died of the hot steam from his nose. The mining pit though rich in silver, was not explored further. Here he showed himself in the form of a horse with a long neck having terrifying eyes on his forehead.

At Schneeberg, however, he appeared as a black monk in the St. Georgen pit which was once rich in silver. There he grabbed a miner, picked him up from the earth and threw him down so hard in the pit that the poor miner was badly injured.

Once on the Harz he punished a wicked climber who tortured the miners. He stood over the pit invisible to the wicked person; and as the person came up, the ghost pressed his head with his knees, leaving him dead.

Like Kobolds, numerous stories associated to Bergmönch found in Germany. Among German mountain spirits who help the good people and punish the bad ones, Bergmönch is the opposite of mountain Dwarf in size, but able to take different shape and form alike.

The outgoing Smoke

A copperplate engraving of Bad Hersfeld in 1655 – from Wikipedia

Once upon a time, two maidservants served in a house in Hersfeld. They used to sit quietly for some time in the room every night before going to bed. This bedtime ritual of sitting quiet made the master curious as he came to know about this. He wanted to check the matter staying awake till late at night. So he hid himself in the room where the maids lived.

Sitting at the table, when the maids became sure that everyone in the house went to sleep, one of them stood up and chanted:

“Dear soul you find enjoyment –

By pushing one or other servant!”

A thick black smoke rose from her neck and that of the other maid at once and crawled out the window. The maids fell asleep at the same time. The owner of the house went to one of them, called her by name and shook her, but to no avail, she remained immobile. He could not wake her up.

At last he walked away leaving the maids there. The next morning the maid whom he had shaken was found dead in her room, but the other one whom he did not touch stayed alive.

A Farmer and his Kobold

Drawing of a Kobold from Wikipeda

A farmer had grown irritated with his Kobold as it was causing all kinds of disturbance through its mischievous acts. Even after many efforts he couldn’t get rid of it. The Kobold played its trick as it always wanted.

Finally he was able to make a quick decision. He went to light the barn where the Kobold lived so that it also burns with the barn. He mover all his straw out of the barn by his cart. After driving the last cart out of the barn he locked the barn blocking the ghost’s way out. Then he lit the fire.

As the barn was already in full blaze, the farmer looked around for a moment. He saw the Kobold sitting on the back of the cart and clapping its hands. It chanted: “It was time we came out! It was perfect time when we came out!”

The farmer had to turn back keeping the Kobold unharmed. He could not get rid of it.

German Kobold may be another form of Goblin which is mischievous ghost character familiar to farmers. The belief in these creatures able to take different forms was prevalent in ancient Greece. But German Kobold is associated more with pre-Christian era Pagan practices. Apart from farmers, medieval German miners too had number of stories of Kobold. Germans worshipped them asking for good health and prosperity whereas some of them were naughty and creating disturbance to householders. There are numerous stories in entire Europe on these creatures; trying to tell all of them will create another collection of stories J

The old wine cellar near Salorno


Ruins of the ancient Haderburg castle in Salorno in South Tyrol – it was mentioned in a document as early as  in 6th century.

Found in Message from ghosts. Frankfurt. 1737

In the town hall of the Tyrolean town of Salorno close to Adige, two old bottles are displayed. The story written there are remarkable. It says: In 1688, one person called Christoph Patzeber travelled from St. Michael to Salorno on some business activities. As he was passing through the ruins of the old castle of Salorno, he felt intrigued by its beauty. He wanted to take a closer look of the walls. He looked around the upper floor of the castle with the hope of some amazing discovery; finally found a staircase going underground. This staircase however, seemed so bright that he descended and came to a descent cellar.

In the cellar he saw large barrels stacked on both sides. In the sunbeam coming through the cracks of the wall, he could clearly count eighteen vessels, each of which would make fifty portions. There was neither a tap nor a lifting device at the front of the barrels. As the man turned around daringly, he was amazed to see a stream of wine as delicious as oil flowing from one of the barrels. He tasted the drink. He found the taste to be heavenly – so wonderful that he was not being able to gulp – that is moving it out of his mouth. He would like to have it for his wife and children too. Only if he had a harness on hand to move one barrel!

A common legend he had once heard about this castle came to his mind – it was about some innocent people’s becoming rich. He pondered whether he should be happy with this discovery – what if he had a scope of becoming rich? He took the road to town, finished the business for which he went there and bought two large earthen bottles and funnels. Before sunset he entered the old castle once again.

He found everything just as it was when he came here first time. He filled his two bottles with wine, which could hold about twenty measurements, and he wanted to leave the cellar. But when he turned around, he suddenly saw that three old men sitting at a small table blocked the corridor. In front of them there was a black board on which something was written in chalk. The tradesman was terrified. He wanted to run away abandoning all the wine there; began to pray ardently asking the cellar owners for forgiveness again and again.

One of the three men one was having long beard, a leather hat on his head and was wearing a black skirt.  He said, “Come as often as you want, you should always get what is necessary for you and your family.”

Then all the faces disappeared all on a sudden. The wine-lover man was able to leave freely without facing an obstruction. Happily he came home to his wife, to whom he told everything that had happened to him. In the beginning, the lady was uncertain about drinking this wine, but when she saw her husband drinking it without harm, she also tried it and gave it to all her friends in turn.

The supply ran out soon. The man confidently took the two earthen jugs, went back into the cellar and refilled, and this happened several times over a whole year. The drink, which was suitable to be on an imperial table, did not cost him a penny.

Once three of his neighbors visited him, with whom he shared his potion of grace. Those neighbours found the drink so delicious that they were suspicious and suspected that he collected it by some wrong way. They were enemies of him anyway, hence went to the town hall and sued him. The law-abiding citizen appeared before the judges and revealed how he got to the wine, although he knew that he might have got his last share from the castle-barrels. The council directed him to bring the wine to court and unanimously agreed that no such thing could be found anywhere in the country; hence could not be stolen from anywhere. So they had to let the man go home; but only after the man had taken an oath of filling his bottles again for the jury.

He had to walk to the castle once again, but there was no stair or cellar to be found. Suddenly he began receiving invisible blows. He was shocked. The unseen attackers threw him half-dead on the ground. He had been lying on the previous basement, far away inside the depth for long, when he saw the three men were sitting there again. They were writing on the board silently with  chalks as if they had an important account to close; a bright lamp was lit before them on the table. At last they wiped out all the digits and drew a cross over them. They pushed the table aside afterwards. One got up and opened three locks on an iron door. The injured man could hear coins clinking. Then this old man came to the citizen lying on the ground through another staircase and kept 30 coins in his hat without making sound whatsoever. The face disappeared after that. The man heard the city clock of Salurn striking eleven. He got up and crawled out through the gap of the walls. On the heights he saw a funeral procession with flashing lights passing by, indicating his death soon.

Slowly he walked down to the country road and waited for people to arrive. Passersby carried him home. After his injuries healed, he stated the whole story to the council. The 30 outdated coins he showed demonstrated that those were not given to him by any mortal hand.

Following day, eight brave persons were sent to explore the location. Nevertheless they did not find the slightest trace of the wine barrels or anything related to the wonderful wine, except two earthen bottles in a corner of the rubble. They brought those to the town hall. Patzeber died ten days later and had to pay the wine with his life; the large cross placed on his grave indicated the number of ten days.

The Alter in Seefeld

Picture from Wikimedia commons: 15th century wall paintings of church Saint Oswald in Seefeld, Tyrol (Austria)

Orally transferred story from Vienna region about a famous miracle sign with the altar in Seefeld between fourteenth and seventeenth century

Not far from Innsbruck in Tirol lies Seefeld, an old castle where a proud and imprudent knight named Oswald Müller lived in fourteenth century. He went so arrogant that on the Green Thursday of 1384 at the presence of villagers and his servants in the church, instead of selecting the consecrated bread available, he ordered a large one like those the priests use for himself from the Chaplain.  

No sooner had he receive it, than the stone-hard base in front of the altar raised higher to cause the ground shake under his feet. The scared man tried to hold on to the iron handrail before the Alter with both hands, but it gave in as if made of wax. The joints of his fist pressed directly into the iron bar. The knight broke down.

But before he completely drowned, remorse took hold of him. The priest took the bread out of his mouth. As the bread touched the sinner’s tongue, it was covered with blood. Under stronf remorse, he donated for a monastery in the same site and submitted himself to be laity soon afterwards.

The iron handle on the can still be seen today near the Alter and there is a painting of the whole story.

As his wife found out from the people returning home what had happened in the church, did not believe it. Instead she said, “The story is as true as roses blooming from the dry and rotten cane.” Then God showed a sign of his omnipotence. The dry stick instantly turned green and beautiful snow white roses, bloomed on that. The sinner tore off the roses and threw them on the ground. At the same moment she was seized by insanity and she began running up and down the mountains till the next day. What happened next day? He dead body was found on the earth.

Green Thursday: associated with Catholic faith, this is also called Maundy Thursday. IN some places this is the day of new commandment. The etymology of “Green” it little confusing. While popular belief associates the day with green colour, green vegetables, especially spinach is eaten on this day. But the religious view tells that the “green” here is related to forty days of penance. Who takes the penance comes out as fresh and innocent as green