This month: fairy tales from ancient Egypt!

Monday, July 7, 2008

Grimm's Saga No. 181: Saint Wilfried or the Holy Saint Boniface

St. Boniface's Chapel

When Saint Winfried (called Boniface) wanted to convert the Hessians, he came to a mountain where a pagan temple stood. He had the building torn down and built the first Christian church. Since that time the mountain is called Christenberg (four hours distant from Marburg). Two-hundred paces from the church, people still point to a footprint in stone, which is attributed to Boniface when he stamped the ground in holy zeal. He said “As sure as my foot presses into this stone, so surely shall I convert the pagans.” The pagans called the mountain Castorberg. Boniface wanted to retain the C of this word by naming the place Christenberg. In the area around Christenberg people still speak of Boniface’s Way, the path he took through the forest when he came and went. Farmer’s fields abutting against this path are still free from Zent law but all other land is still encumbered. A harsher penalty must be paid for any misdeeds occurring there. When farmers from the surrounding villages die, their bodies are still carried with enormous effort up the steep path and buried in the graveyard enveloping Christenberg Church. When Boniface came to Thuringia, he had a church built at Grossvargula, which he wanted to consecrate himself. He struck his staff into the earth, entered the church and read the mass; after the service was over his staff sprouted green shoots.


Grimm's Saga No. 182 The Huelfenberg of St. Boniface
(Or: The Mountain from Whence Help Comes)

Huelfenberg lies an hour away from Wanfried at the oak-field boundary. St. Boniface ordered a chapel built on this mountain. During construction, a man often came by and asked about the ongoing work. What kind of building was it going to be? The carpenters always answered: “Oh, it will be a barn when we are finished.” The man went on his way. But finally, with the church almost finished and the altar erected, the cross was happily mounted. When the Evil Foe returned and viewed it all, he shuddered in rage and flew out through the gable roof. The hole that he made there can still be seen today and can never be repaired. He also went inside the mountain and tried to destroy the church from there. But it was all in vain. Supposedly an oak tree sacred to the pagan deity was bricked in under the chapel. The hole, into which he vanished, is called the Stuffenlock (as the entire mountain today is also called the Stuffensberg). At times, steam and fog supposedly can be seen rising from the mountain. Another story is told of the chapel, that it was dedicated to a Saint. If a sick person touched the saint’s garment, that person was restored to good health within the very hour. This saint had once been a beautiful princess, but her father had fallen in love with her. In her dire distress she called upon God in heaven. Thereupon she grew a beard and her earthly beauty found an end.

Fairy Tale Factum
When Saint Boniface began his missionary work in Germany (~ 723 A.D.), he struggled to establish a Christianity that was free of pagan custom. According to tradition, he was able to demonstrate to the heathen population how utterly powerless their gods were by felling the the sacred oak of Jupiter (most probably this tree was sacred to Woton), at Geismar, near Fritzlar. From the wood he had a chapel built. When the pagans saw that their god was powerless to avert this assault on their religion, great numbers were allegedly converted. It is interesting to read these accounts of St. Boniface's missionary work in conjunction with Reading the Pied Piper of Hamelin and Tannhauser, where the struggle between pagan and Christian elements is also of central importance for understanding the story. The Huelfenberg saga is another example of a pagan deity being first flummoxed by the rise of Christianity and then being transformed into a demon in the narrative.


To read a fairy tale about another saint, St. Joseph in the forest, click on the link:

http://www.fairytalechannel.com/2009/12/nose-is-nose-is-nose-christmas-legend.html

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