This month: fairy tales from ancient Egypt!

Sunday, February 21, 2010

The Legend of Saint Meinrad and his Ravens


‘Tis destiny unshunnable, like death. (Othello)

In this legend from Switzerland, a saint acquires the gift of second sight through prayer and meditation.

In ancient times, when St. Gall, St. Columba and St. Fridolin roamed the earth, they eventually arrived in Switzerland, where they found the Helvetii, the first inhabitants of Switzerland. There are many stories about these saints, but the miracles they performed were often only witnessed by the stone cliffs, ancient trees, babbling streams or wild animals they encountered. Still they toiled on, leaving behind many chapels, churches and cloisters. A long time ago, a God-fearing hermit took up residence in one of the saints’ abandoned abodes he found in ruins on Etzelberg Mountain. This is where the Alps begin and where the Helvetii built their pole-dwellings. The hermit’s name was Meinrad and he was of Hollenzollern lineage.

One day he sat in his small chapel reading a book. Deep in thought he turned his gaze to the blue lake lying below him. He looked out over the valley; the numerous fruit trees surrounding the cloister had burst into bloom and a large hawk circled high above the nearby Santis Mountain.

Now Meinrad loved his solitary life on snow-capped Etzelberg Mountain. But soon the people living in the valley below heard of his piety. More and more began making the journey up the steep path to his dwelling, but this disturbed the hermit’s meditations.

One day, when people once again had climbed the arduous path they no longer found the recluse. He had departed beyond the wild Sihlbach forest stream and had penetrated deep, deep inside the wilderness, where only wild animals lived. But he was not afraid. On his way he found a fir tree with a nest. The mother bird flew round 'bout his head, but he took the baby birds from the nest, placed one on each shoulder and continued on his way. He walked until he came to a spring, with bubbling water as fresh and cold as the ice around him. Here he built a hut and a chapel. He stayed at this lonely and desolate spot and now lived once more in complete isolation in the wilderness.

Day and night he lay prostrate on the floor of his hut in deep prayer and meditation, while the two raven babies played and frolicked outside his dwelling. At night when the fog enveloped the mountain side, creaking noises could be heard coming from the forest, the voice of bear and wolf sometimes penetrated the walls and often frightful spooks could be heard raging around the chapel at night. But he was not afraid, because the angels always came and helped him and comforted him.

After many years of living in the wilderness, pilgrims once again began to come to him, drawn by stories of his holy life. Finally two robbers crept in secretly toward St. Meinrad’s chapel. They thought they might find valuables in his hut and relieve the Saint of such articles that were of no use to him. But the Saint saw the thieves coming toward him in a vision and so he prepared a meal for them.

When they finally arrived, he extended a warm welcome and gave them as much food and drink as they wished. But falling into a rage in the face of such meekness, the thieves overcame him. They beat him with their clubs until he was dead. The two large ravens of St. Meinrad descended on the thieves, flattering about and scratching them with their talons; they soon became frightened for their lives. Thinking it best to light a candle near the Saint’s feet, they stooped over to find one already lit.

Now they were even more afraid. They realized they had murdered a saint and fled through the dark forest. But the ravens followed high over head, just above the tops of the fir trees. Finally the robbers came to the city of Zurich and hoped for protection there. Here they entered a tavern and wanted to laugh out in relief. But the raven pair flew through the open window, fell upon the two robbers and caused the other guests to take notice. It dawned on the other guests that these ravens were no other than the ravens of St. Meinrad, who lived in the dark wood high up on the mountain. The murderers realized that fleeing was of no use, they admitted their deed and were put to death. The villagers ascended the mountain and buried St. Meinrad in the wilderness where later Cloister Maria Einsiedeln was built. The ravens took up watch on a nearby fir tree, where they still reside today.


More fairy tales can be found at:


Translation Copyright FairyTaleChannel.com


Fairy tales about prognostication and the future:

http://www.fairytalechannel.com/2010/03/reading-grimms-fairy-tale-crystal-ball.html


Or about a pagan religious tradition transformed into a Christian rite:

http://www.fairytalechannel.com/2008/08/fairy-tale-for-august-15-assumption-of.html

Or about Saint Dionysisus and King Dagobert:

http://www.fairytalechannel.com/2010/04/king-dagoberts-soul-sails-seas.html

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