My Witch Girlfriend Took Me For A Ride!

In honor of Walpurgis Night, I will once more share tales of witches and their gatherings. These tales are free and public, and Patreon supporters will not be charged for this post.

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Walpurgis Night

1. A woman in Lüthorst[1] had a relationship with a dragoon who was quartered in her home,[2] and she pampered him greatly. Since she always had a lot of money, the dragoon asked her one day where she had gotten all that wealth. She told him that, if he were to accompany her during Walpurgis Night, he would also receive so much money that he would never lack it for all his life. He agreed to this. On Walpurgis Night, she woke him up at eleven o’clock, and showed him a rather skinny calf on which he had to sit. As soon as he had climbed up, she wrapped her legs around a broom, and rode ahead in a gallop, the calf always following her. After a short time, they reached a crossroad, where there was a great congregation of women. Some rode there on billy goats, some on goslings, others on chicken, flax breaks,[3] and so forth. When the clock struck twelve, everything was over. The two returned in the same way as they had traveled there. But the dragoon had ridden himself so sore on the calf that he was unable to sit on his horse for eight days. He now didn’t want anything to do with this, and thus did not receive any money.

2. A young woman, who was a witch, had a groom. He was curious to see for once what the witches were doing on Brocken mountain,[4] and thus asked his bride to take him with her when she rode there during Walpurgis Night. She promised to him to do this, and told him that he should just sit on her horse. However, he mustn’t speak a word, for otherwise he couldn’t come with her and would be left behind. On Walpurgis Night, the young woman went into the stables with him where there was a small calf. She climbed up on it, and he sat down behind her. Then she spoke several worlds, and immediately the calf ran off towards the Brocken at the greatest speed. There were many great fires burning on the Brocken, but the witches danced, ate, and were merry. When they wanted to leave, the farmhand sat down on the calf again along with his bride, and it immediately raced off. On the way, they came to a great lake,[5] but the calf jumped across it in one go. Now the farmhand forgot the warning of his bride, and said: “This is a mighty jump for such a small calf.” As soon as he had said that, he fell off the calf’s back. The young woman rode on, but he had to return home on foot.

3. A smith had a wife who was widely believed by others to be a witch. The man had frequently been told that his wife was a witch, but he didn’t want to believe it. Finally, he decided to determine the facts of this matter. When the last day of April had arrived, and Walpurgis Night was imminent, he told his wife that he had to complete a certain job the next night, and that she must help him. She refused, and said that she had worked herself to exhaustion during the day, but he did not let up, and thus she had to work the bellows despite her wishes. In this manner, they worked until eleven o’clock. The woman then declared that she was unable to work any further, but the man did not let himself get distracted. When the clock struck twelve, the woman fell asleep. Now the man slapped her in the face, but behold! It was a bundle of straw.[6]

4. A farmer from Wulften[7] inherited a harrow[8] from his father. On Walpurgis Night, he took it and went to the “Wôrt”,[9] put it on a crossroad, and crawled beneath it. During the night, at eleven o’clock, the witches traveled past. One of them, who rode on a broomstick and held a hatchet in her hand, said while riding past: “There is a tree stump, and there I will stick my hatchet.” With these words, she stuck her hatchet into his loins and rode away. The man went home, but was unable to rip the hatchet out. No physician was able to accomplish this, either. During next year’s Walpurgis Night, the man went to the same place. The same witch passed by and said: “The tree stump is still standing there. I shall remove my hatchet, but the next time the stump will no longer be there.”

Source: Schambach, G. and Müller, W. Niedersächsische Sagen und Märchen. 1855, p. 177f.

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[1] Lüthorst is now part of the town of Dassel.

[2] It was by no means unusual for dragoons to lodge with ordinary citizens, spread out through their lords’ territory. As soldiers who traveled on horseback yet fought on foot, their mobility was their greatest asset, and this (in theory) allowed them to react quickly to incursions or other unexpected developments.

[3] Flax breaks are devices for breaking up flax for further processing. This website explains the process.

[4] The Brocken is the highest mountain in the Harz range, and traditionally believed to be the gathering place of witches.

[5] The German phrase was “großes Wasser” (“great water”), which might also have indicated a large river instead of a lake.

[6] A “Strohwisch” in German - a bundle of straw tied to a stick that was stuck into a field or a meadow. This indicated to itinerant shepherds that they were not allowed to let their herds graze there. It was also used to indicate impassable roads, or houses suffering from the plague.

[7] Most likely Wulften am Harz, since the other tales also seem to take place in the Harz mountain range.

[8] A harrow is a tool for breaking up and smoothing the soil of a field.

[9] I was unable to identify this location. Presumably, it was a nearby field or forest region.

Commentary: While modern depictions of witches primarily portray them as broomstick riders, we can see here that these are far from the only option. Calves, goslings, chicken, even assorted farming tools are all an option. The second tale implies that this flight towards the witches’s sabbath is not directly controllable - instead, it is part of a spell that transports the witches (and their hangers-on) to the Brocken mountain, and if that spell is broken somehow, the person who breaks it is immediately left behind.

The “simulacrum double” trick shown in the third fragment resembles what the Dull of Hohenwiesen told us of how she fooled her husband. That the smith’s wife managed to substitute this double without the smith noticing is noteworthy, implying that she did not have to say any incantation aloud that might have attracted his attention.

The fourth fragment is very similar to one of the “standard tales” told about the Wild Hunt, but this time substituting a witch for one of the huntsmen. As usual, German folklore hates to let a good narrative trope get unused.

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