The Witch Ride

Once there was a wealthy peasant, whose wife -- the people said -- was a witch. This was repeated so often that the peasant himself finally heard the rumor. He wanted to get to the bottom of the matter, and thus one day before May Night he went out and got some turf from the grave of a child who had died without being baptized. He secretly hid the turf then went to bed with his wife. He closed his eyes and pretended to be asleep, although he remained awake and attentive.

At the strike of twelve his wife did indeed get up and sneak out the bedroom door. The peasant, taking turf with him, followed her outside the house door, where she suddenly disappeared. He saw nothing but a troop of black horses. But the peasant did not allow himself to be deceived. Quickly placing the turf on his head, he saw -- instead of the black horses -- women and girls of his acquaintance. In their midst was his wife. He also heard them discussing their trip to Block Mountain. He recognized them, because anyone beneath the earth can see witches and spirits in their true form.

Angered, the peasant jumped at his wife and swung himself onto her, just as one would climb onto an ordinary horse's back. He also knew witches' magic words and called out:

Horse of black, horse so fleet,
Do you duty with quick feet.

Then she rose up and carried him into the air. She did not tire from the mighty ride, nor did the peasant grow tired. Again and again he called out:

Horse of black, horse so fleet,
Do you duty with quick feet.

But that was his misfortune, because before he knew it, May Night was over. Morning broke across the mountains, and his wife was no longer a black horse. She let out a pitiful scream, and together they fell from high in the air, horribly smashing themselves to pieces.

From that time forth they have made this same ride every night, and they will have no rest until the day of judgement.

* Source: Adalbert Kuhn, " Der Hexenritt," Sagen, Gebräuche und Märchen aus Westfalen und einigen andern, besonders den angrenzenden Gegenden Norddeutschlands (Leipzig: F. A. Brockhaus, 1859), vol. 1, no. 419, pp. 373-374.

* Translated by D. L. Ashliman.

* Kuhn's source: written correspondence from Dr. Boegekamp, a secondary school teacher in Berlin.

* Block Mountain (Blocksberg) is another name for the Brocken, the highest summit (elevation 3747 feet) in the Harz Mountains of central Germany. Witches are said to assemble there for their yearly "Sabbath" on Walpurgis Night, the eve of May 1st.

Ridden by a Witch

A miner was always making fun of people who claimed that witches ride to the Brocken on Walpurgis Night. He often said, "If such an old creature ever crosses my path, I will throw her down. What chance would such an old skeleton of a hag made up of nothing but skin and bones have against the likes of me?"

"Now, now," an old neighbor woman who lived nearby would say. "It wouldn't be all that easy to throw down such a rider. You should be careful what you say!"

"Tomfoolery! Tomfoolery!" he said. "I'd make her forget about riding." To that the old woman said nothing.

Walpurgis Night arrived. There was shooting everywhere, as though the enemy were attacking. They were shooting off firecrackers, flintlocks, rifles, and pistols. On that evening everyone was firing his shooting iron, and the louder the noise, the better everyone liked it.

About nine o'clock the miner learned that something had gone wrong in the shaft, and he was called upon to report for duty. He got as far as Bremen Hill when he was approached by a swarm of old hags flying through the air. There was such commotion and uproar as though all the devils were on the loose.

One of the hags came down, turned the miner over, whether he wanted to or not, and mounted him. Then away they went through the air, following the others to the Brocken. He could barely breathe, and the old hag was so heavy that she nearly broke his bones.

She finally climbed off him, and he fell to the ground half dead. The other witches then surrounded him and danced around him, and the devil himself was there with them. Finally they picked him up and asked him if he could remain silent, or if he would like to be boiled in oil. Now no one wants to be boiled in oil, so he said that he would never say anything about the witches. Then the devil said to him that he would be a child of death if he ever uttered a single word. And then the witches did unspeakable things up there on the mountain.

As midnight approached, they all gathered together, and one of the witches again took our miner and mounted him, and they swarmed through the air until they reached Bremen Hill near Claustal. They released him at the same spot where the witch had captured him. He lay there for a few hours recovering his strength; then he slowly crept homeward. When he arrived home, his wife was already up and was preparing to go into the woods for a load of wood.

"Wife," he said, "stay here. I have had a bad night. Go into the kitchen and put a little wood into the stove. I have been sweating, and I need to change my clothes." She did what he said. He then told the stove what had happened. His wife overheard it all, but said nothing.

A half hour later the old neighbor woman came by and said that it was a good thing he had spoken to the stove and not to a person, or he would see how things would go with him.

And thus they knew that she was a witch. The wife reported her, and the wicked witch was burned to death, just as she deserved.

* Source: August Ey, Harzmärchenbuch; oder, Sagen und Märchen aus dem Oberharze (Stade, 1862), pp. 46-48.

* The Brocken is the highest summit (elevation 3747 feet) in the Harz Mountains of central Germany. Witches are said to assemble there for their yearly "Sabbath" on Walpurgis Night, the eve of May 1st.

The Trip to the Brocken

Once upon a time there was a young man who was engaged to marry a pretty girl. After a while the bridegroom-to-be became suspicious of his fiancée and her mother. You see, they were both witches.

The day came when witches go the Brocken, and the two women climbed into the hayloft, took a small glass, drank from it, and suddenly disappeared. The bridegroom-to-be, who had sneaked after them and observed them, was tempted to take a swallow from the glass. He picked it up and sipped a little from it, and suddenly he was on the Brocken, where he saw how his fiancée and her mother were carrying on with the witches, who were dancing around the devil, who was standing in their midst.

After the dance was ended, the devil commanded everyone to take her glass and drink, and immediately afterward they all flew off in the four directions of the wind. The bridegroom-to-be, however, stood there all soul alone on the Brocken, and freezing, for it was a cold night. He hadn't brought a glass with him, so he had to return on foot.

After a long, difficult hike he finally came to his fiancée's. However, she was very angry, and her mother scolded him as well, for having drunk from the glass. Mother and daughter finally agreed to turn the bridegroom-to-be into a donkey, and that is what happened.

The poor bridegroom-to-be was now a donkey, and he plodded unhappily from one house to the next, crying a sad "ee-ah, ee-ah." A man felt sorry for the donkey, took him into his stall, and gave him some hay. But understandably the donkey did not want to eat, and was driven from the stall with blows.

After wandering about for a long time, long-ears finally came back to the house of his fiancée, the witch, and he cried out pitifully. The fiancée saw her former bridegroom-to-be, standing there before her door as a donkey with bowed head and ears hanging down.

She regretted what she had done and said to the donkey, "I will help you, but you must do what I tell you. At a child's baptism, place yourself before the church door and let the baptismal water be poured over your back, and then you will be transformed back into a human."

The donkey followed his fiancée's advice. The next Sunday, a child was baptized, and the donkey placed himself before the church door. When the baptismal service was over, the sexton wanted to pour out the baptismal water, but the donkey was standing in his way.

"Go on, you old donkey!" said the sexton, but the donkey did not yield. Then the sexton became angry and poured the water over the animal's back.

Now the donkey was redeemed and was transformed back into a man. He hurried to his fiancee, married her, and lived happily with her from that time forth.

* Source: Projekt Gutenberg, Die Bibliothek der Märchen, Sagensammlung, Harz.