The Maiden from Wilberg or The Best Treasure

Wild flowers Centaurea cyanus: credit Wikimedia commons

A peasant from Wehren near Höxter (town in NordRhine-Westphalia) went to the Amelungs mill to grind corn from his field. On the way back he wanted to take little rest near a cool pond. He was lying on the green grass when he saw a young lady coming towards him from Wilberg that lies opposite to Godelheim. Coming closer she requested, “Please bring me two buckets of water from the peak of the Willberg; you can expect a good reward for this.” He went to the peak of Wilberg and carried the water from there as she asked. She said, “Please come back at this hour tomorrow morning with a bunch of flowers from the bushes which shepherds from Osterberge wear on their hats.”

The next day the man visited a shepherd in Osterberg to get a bunch of flowers from him. The shepherd gave him one nice bunch, but only after many ardent requests. Glad receiving what he wanted, the peasant went back to the Willberg valley. He saw the young lady standing there. This time she led him to an iron door saying, “keep the flower-bunch in front of the castle-door.” He did what she said. And as soon as he did, the door opened. Both entered the hill-castle through the door.

There was a small cave inside which sat a little man at a table. His beard had grown so long that it touched the floor across the stone table. He was facing a large pile of treasure in front of the table looking like a mound. The elated shepherd kept his flowers on the table in without wasting time and began filling his pockets with gold coins from the pile.

The young lady was watching him silently. Now she said, “Do not forget the best!” The man looked around. He thought that the best meant a large and heavy chandelier studded with gemstones. But as he stepped towards that, a hand came out from under the table all on a sudden and slapped him on the face. The young lady was heard speaking again, “Do not forget the best!” However the man had nothing but the treasures in mind. He forgot the bunch of flowers by then.

Filling his pockets with as much of gold and gemstones as he could, he thought of leaving the space. The moment he stepped out of the iron-gate, it crashed terribly against him. Scared, he tried to unload everything he collected in the pockets. What did he see? All the treasures he picked up with so much of effort turned into pieces of papers. Now he remembered the bunch of wild flowers he left carelessly on the table. Finally he realized which best treasure he should have kept with him.

Saddened seeing the consequence of own foolish thought the man stepped towards his home downhill.

The Drowned Child

The story was first published in German National Newspaper 1796

They have lot many a tale to tell about water; also about the lakes, rivers and seas to which an innocent child has to be sacrificed each year. But the water-bodies did not turn any of those children into a corpse but threw them to the shore instantly, or a little late. True the bodies came out late at times, but even the last bone emerged floating after it sank till the innermost depth of the sea.

We have a story of a mother who had drowned her child in a lake. She kept on praying to the god and all the saints to return her at least the bones intact for the child’s funeral; and she waited in good faith in her pure heart.

The next storm brought the skull back to the shore and the following one, the body. After all the body parts reached the shore, the mother collected all the hands and feet and everything is a piece of cloth, tied them up and carried the bundle to the church. What a wonder! With her each stride, the bundle was becoming heavier.  

Finally as she reached the foot of the Alter, her child inside the pack began crying. She laid the bundle on the steps of the Alter; the child – safe and sound, showed up removing the cloth surprising everyone. Only one little finger of his tiny fingers was missing.

The mother went back to the shore later and searched carefully for the tiny finger-bone. Needless to say she found it there. The bone was preserved in the church among other relics.

The sailors and fishermen of Cüstin in the Neumark (Brandenburg) also spoke of an unknown force controlling the river Oder which claimed one innocent life every year as a sacrifice. Death came to the people for whom it was destined; rest came out of the turmoil alive. The city Halloren in Salle was especially afraid of Johannestag, the birthday of Saint John the Baptist. Sacrifice of an innocent life was predictable on this day.

Luckenwalde in Brandenburg. Die Stadtkirche St. Johannis am Markt . Credti:Wikimedia commons

What is the story of Saint John the Baptist? He was born of elderly parents; hence is associated to growth, health and fertility. If we consider the season of his birth, it is around the day of summer solstice which is regarded significant by local farmers for their livestock and crops. Local belief adopted a small, star-shaped yellow flower that blooms during this period as St. John’s word. Following an ancient Pagan tradition, large bonfires are lighted in the villages on the previous night to ward off the evil spirits who are responsible for carrying contagious diseases. These bonfires are usually arranged at the highest peak of the hill in the village. Farmers spread the ash in their fields with a belief that it would enhance the fertility of the soil. We don’t have a record of human sacrifice during this occasion here but similar kind of sacrifice was prevalent in many ancient cultures.

The story of drowning child in the water-bodies makes me remember Mahabharata story where incarnated river-goddess Ganga drowns her seven new-born babies in the river to release them from the curse of living a mortal life. We also know of the medieval era tradition of drowning new-born babies in Gangasagar. Difficult to determine if people in medieval era learnt superstitious beliefs from each other or many of the communities followed similar practices independently.

The Shepherd Boy met a Tiny Animal

An interesting story which mentions even the year!

Image credit: Wikimedia Commons

In the year 1664, a young boy from Dresden took care of the herd of the village. One morning when he was taking his sheep for grazing, he spotted an unusual stone on the roadside. It was of moderate size, but it was jumping on the ground by itself. The curious boy stepped closer and looked at the stone. After sometime, he picked it up from the ground. As soon as he lifted the stone, a young meerkat hopped surprising him; then stood in front of the shepherd boy looking straight at him. Then it said in a human voice, “I was deported deep inside the ground, now you have brought me back to life. I will be happy to serve you now. Give me some work. I have to keep myself engaged. “

The flabbergasted boy somehow replied, “Well, you should help me to look after my sheep then.” Following his order, the tiny manlike animal guarded the flock like an expert shepherd till the evening.

In the evening, the boy was preparing to take the flock to the village. The meerkat said, “I want to go with you wherever you go.”

The boy replied without more ado, “I cannot take you to my house. I have a stepfather and several siblings. My father would beat me badly if I get another mouth to feed with me. Our home is too small to accommodate another person.”

“But you have accepted me once”, protested the ghostly creature, “if you do not want me for yourself, you have to keep me with someone else elsewhere.”

So the boy directed him to his childless neighbour’s house. The meerkat found a proper home there forever thereafter.  

The Den of the Dragon

Image credit: Wikimedia commons

The story comes from Switzerland but it has another version in Austria

In the canton of Bern, a cave near the city of Burgdorf, which is famous for its castle is called Drachenloch, in English – Dragon-cave. They say two giant dragons were found here long back before the castle was built.

According to the local legend, in the year 712, two brothers named Syntram and Beltram, whom others called Guntram and Waltram were the dukes of Lensburg. They came to this area to hunt and discovered the deserted forest on the top of the hills. In a cave there, lied a monstrous dragon which had desolated the entire area till far. It was probably starving as there was no other animal left in the forest. As soon as it noticed the humans, it jumped at them and instantly devoured Bertram, his younger brother, alive. Syntram however was able to defend himself. He charged at the dragon with indomitable courage. After a long fight, he finally defeated the wild creature. The giant’s big stomach was split – Beltram was still alive inside.

The two brothers now had a reason to immortalize their victory. They decided to build a castle here and constructed a chapel dedicated to Holy Margaretha on the spot where the dragon was killed. The story of their encounter with the dragon was inscribed on its wall.

The Village at the Sea-side

A Story from Holstein

A holy man walked to the shore, looked at the sky and went on praying. As it was the Sunday afternoon, all the villagers came to celebrate there well dressed – mostly in shining silks, with their sweethearts in their arms. They began jeering at the saint’s devoutness. He did not pay attention to their words. What’s more – he prayed to God not to attribute that sin of mocking at a saint to them.

But God has his own will. Two oxen entered the village next morning. They walked straight towards the sand-dune close to the village and began rummaging it with their long crooked horns. They continued doing so till the nightfall, till the time they went invisible in the darkness. The night came with a strong stormy wind that blew the entire loose mountain of sand over the village. Whole village including agricultural fields and water bodies were soon buried under the layer of sand. Nothing that could breathe survived.

Again in next morning, people from nearby village gathered to measure the loss and dig up the buried land. They worked all day, but at night came the storm to cover everything again. For many days they toiled hard during daytime to remove the sand while a sandstorm buried everything again at night. Finally people gave up. And the village looks like a desert even today.

German Warden Sea – Schlesswig Holstein : picture from Wikimedia commons

Summoning the Mountain Dwarfs

From where did the great wisdom and the amazing secrets of the world emerge?

We have a story from Nürnberg. Paul Creuz was an inhabitant here who knew an amazing magic. To fulfill some of his wishes, he used his miraculous magic spell. He placed a new table in his garden, covered that with a white cloth, placed two milk-bowls on it, and also two honey-bowls, two plates, and nine knives. Then he took a black hen and shredded it on a pan in which cabbage was being cooked. The blood dripped into the boiling food. An unimaginable dish was prepared.

Next morning he took one part of it left it on the table. In the evening he kept the rest of the cabbage on the table and began chanting a spell. Finishing the incantation, he ran towards a green tree and hid himself behind that. He saw two small mountain people emerging from the earth. They sat at the table, and ate the precious smoky dish that was left there.

After they finished, Paul came to them and asked some questions. They answered. His wish was fulfilled.

Paul Creuz practiced the same repeatedly. The little men became so familiar that they too visited him in the house quite often. But he needed to give them time to finish the food first. If he did not wait, they either did not show up or disappeared soon. He finally got their king to support him. One day after hearing his sincere chant, the little king of the dwarfs came alone in a red scarlet cloak, under which he had a book. After finishing dinner, he threw the book on the table and allowed the host to read it as long as he wanted.

Eventually humans earned knowledge of all valuable secrets and great wisdom from that host of dwarfs.

The Weighing Scale of Bamberg

Curving the image of justice on the tomb of a king is an ancient practice. Also on the tomb of the Kaiser Heinrich in Bamberg, the idol of justice is carved with a weighing scale in hand. But the tongue of the scale is not on the middle; instead it leans a little in one side. The reason hides in an old belief – it was told that having both tips of a weighing scale at same level would bring the world to destruction.

Tomb of Kaiser Heinrich in Bamberg

Who wants to destroy the world only by maintaining balance in justice’ scale?

The Story of Arendsee

This story came from the region around Arendsee in the Altmark in Saxony-Anhalt. Arendsee is the name of a lake. Also an adjacent municipality is known by the same name.

Once upon a time, there was a large castle in place of the lake and the land. The castle sank under the ground all on a sudden; but reappeared soon as man and wife.  As they stepped forward, the wife noticed the swift change that took place in the location meanwhile. Her husband’s name was Arend. The lady uttered in sheer surprise, “Arend see, Arend see!” And that was reason people started calling the town as Arendsee that was built beside the lake.

Finest whitest particles of sand glittered in this lake, and when the sun shined bright, all the walls and buildings of the submerged castle were seen clearly like it is seen in Brok Sea near Ossenberg. Some people once thought of measuring the depth of the sea here. They threw a long rope into the sea to fathom it. As they pulled the rope, they saw a note pasted at the other end of the rope. What was written in it? “Do not be too curious. Engage yourself with your own business; otherwise your place will be devastated same way what you are seeing here.”

Arensea on Google map

People did not dare measuring the sea again.

The Story of Saint Andrew’s Day

We believe that a girl can invite her future sweetheart on Saint Andrew’s Day, Saint Thomas’ Night, Christmas Night, or New Year Night and see him. What’s more, a small trick would help her to gain her lover forever.

She will have to arrange a table for two but should not place forks on the table. Then she should carefully preserve whatever her lover leaves on the table at the time of leaving. Why carefully? Because the man, being the owner of the item may be intensely possessive of the item. He may madly search for it. If not found, he may not be able to forget it for life.

However eager the man is, the girl has to ensure that the item should never be found out by him. Reason is, the discovery may make him recall the torment he had to undergo that night under some supernatural force. He would be aware of the magic which might have brought him bad luck after his favourite item went missing.

One story tales us how the discovery of such an item turned fatal once. A beautiful girl in Austria sought to see her future beloved in the middle of one such night. She followed all the conditions she was supposed to follow. A cobbler showed up there with his dagger, threw the dagger at her and quickly disappeared. She instantly caught the dagger and locked it in a chest. The cobbler came back soon to ask her hand for marriage.

Many years after her marriage – it was a Sunday when the snacks in her kitchen was finished – and she needed to open the chest to get some from there. She wanted to carry that for lunch next day. As soon as she opened the chest, her husband arrived there. He wanted to check the chest himself. She tried to resist, but who can prevent an arrogant man from looking into his wife’s chest? And the accident was bound to happen. While looking for snacks, he saw the dagger.

Grabbing it immediately he asked his wife how she got access to the dagger that he lost years back, at a particular tormenting time of his life.

In sheer confusion and anxiety, she could not reflect on a proper excuse, but narrated honesty that it was the same dagger he left before her on the night when she first desired to see him. Her honest confession infuriated the man. He shouted a terrifying curse, “Bloody hell! So you are the whore who scared me so terribly that night?” and pushed the dagger right through her heart with all his force.

The union with the desired man thus ended in a tragedy. This is a story popular in many regions in Europe. Sometimes characters are different. E.g. in one version a hunter leaves his deer-catcher behind on the first night of meeting the girl. After her first childbirth, the wife sends him to her chest to get some household linen. She did not know that the deer-catcher was a magic device, which would kill him if separated from him for long and later rediscovered. She lost her husband, just due to her carelessness.

Der Liebeszauber (Sorcery for love), Gemälde des Meisters vom Niederrhein, 1470–80