Thursday, January 31, 2008

The Serpent: Symbol of Knowledge and Sexuality

Fairy Tale Factum

Snake images appear in the mythology of ancient cultures across pre-Christian Europe. Serpent symbols have been found carved on Pictish stones in Scotland and in ancient Rome, girls took gifts of barley cake to the sacred serpent to assure their own reproductive powers and the fertility of the earth. In some ancient cultures snakes were worshipped (See 2. Kings 18.4 King Hezekiah breaking the bronze serpent of Moses). In others, myths speak of a snake maiden having the power to confer sovereignty on the king (early Arthurian Romance). Since early myths were first oral traditions and written down much later, often by persons critiquing rather explaining the cult, a precise understanding of the snake’s significance is difficult to fully reconstruct. Recurrent themes seem to suggest that the serpent represented both esoteric knowledge and a divine sexual power. To counter these pagan beliefs, the Bible makes it perfectly clear that it was a snake that led to the downfall of man, linking the serpent forever with Satan and evil. Clement of Alexandria (2nd – 3rd century A.D.) described the snake that tempted Eve as having a female head. Thus, it was a temptress that brought sin and misery into the world and the snake has had a bad reputation ever since.
The Snake Maiden told below has the pagan element of a kindly attitude toward the serpent; snake veneration may even be at its core. But the Christian notion of the need to redeem sinful and pagan practices of the past is evident in this story. The maiden must be freed from the curse of her hideous condition, resulting in physical transformation and spiritual redemption. But perhaps respect for the snake and old traditions had its merits. Fear and loathing of snakes is not necessarily a good thing.

Sunday, January 27, 2008

Grimm's Saga 13. The Snake Maiden

Translation: Copyright
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Around the year 1520 near Basel, Switzerland a man lived by the name of Leonhard, also known as Lienimann, a tailor’s son. He was a foolish and simple man, and words fell heavily over his lips for he stammered. Once this man Leonhard was once walking along the deep gorge called the Schlaufgewoelbe, or the underground corridor, which ran from Augst to Basel and he was able to go much further than it had ever been possible for a man to go. He told of both strange and horrifying things. For he told the story, and there are still people today who have heard from his own mouth, how he took with him a consecrated wax candle and lit it, and entered the cave squint-eyed, with the candle flickering before him. First, he came through an iron gate and then he entered an enormous vault, from which he reached an even larger arched chamber. Finally he walked through endlessly beautiful and cheerfully verdant gardens. But at the center stood a wonderful and sturdily constructed castle, or perhaps it was the hunting lodge of a prince. Inside there was a beautiful maiden with human form down to her navel. On her head she wore a crown of gold and her hair hung loosely over her shoulders. But instead of legs, she had the form of an ugly snake. The same maiden led the lad by the hand to an iron box, on which sat two black dogs barking, so that no one could approach the box. But the maiden quieted the dogs and bridled them so he could approach without any hindrance. Then, she removed a ring of keys, which she wore round her neck, opened the box and removed several pieces of silver and other brightly shining coins. From among these coins the maiden, with her peculiar gentleness, took not a few of these treasures and presented them to the young man. These he brought with him out of the gorge. Many years later he showed these treasures to all who asked. The maiden swore she sprang from a royal line and race, but had been cursed and transformed into a monster. Nothing could save her except being kissed three times by a youth, whose chastity was certain and spirit undefiled; then she could regain her prior shape and form. She would relinquish to her savior the entire treasure, which had been kept hidden at that place for so many years. The youth told how he had already kissed the maiden twice, but both times she had made such a frightful grimace, probably from the immense joy of unexpected redemption, that he became fearful and thought otherwise. She would surely tear to him to shreds and so he did not dare kiss her a third time but hastened away from that place. Afterward, it happened that he was taken away by persons of ill repute and spent his entire life in a whorehouse. Besmirched and imbruted, he could never again find the entrance to the Schlaufhoehle. And this often brought him to tears.

Thursday, January 24, 2008

Grimm's Saga 268: More than a fashion faux pas: white dress and black gloves

268. Mistress Berta or the Woman in White
A woman in white appears in castles of many royal families, especially at Neuhaus in Bohemia, Berlin, Darmstadt and Karlsruhe, wherever the blood of an ancient family has mingled with her own race through marriage. She is gentle, harming no one and when encountered, she bows her head and says nothing. Her visit portends the imminent death of a loved one but may also foretell a happy event: as long as she is not wearing black gloves. She carries a ring of keys and wears a bonnet with white veil. Some folk say her name was Perchta von Rosenberg and she lived in Neuhaus in Bohemia. She was married to Johann von Lichtenstein, a mean, mulish man. After her husband’s death she lived as a widow in Neuhaus and began to build a castle to the great distress of her subjects, who had to work like slaves. While they were working, she called to them and urged them to work diligently: “When the castle is finished I shall give you and yours a sweet porridge,” for this is how old folk spoke when they invited someone as guest to dinner. In the autumn after the building was complete, she not only kept her word, but also established the custom that throughout the ages the Rosenbergs would always give their people such a meal. And this tradition continued. If there was a lapse, she would appear with a stern countenance. It was said that sometimes at night she would visit the nursery of a princely house, while the nursemaid slept. She rocked the children in their cradle or carefully carried them to and fro. Once an unknowing maid woke up alarmed and asked “What are you doing with that child?” and scolded her severely. Mistress Berta replied “I am not a stranger in this house like you are, I belong to this house. This child has sprung from my own blood, from my children’s children. But because you have not shown the honor due me, I will never more return here.”

Fairy Tale Factum:

According to Jakob Grimm, Perchta (Berchta or Berta) is mentioned in Old High German in the 10th century as a white-clad Germanic goddess. She is known in the upper regions of Germany from Alsace to Austria and is associated with ancient hunting cultures and with spinning and weaving. She thus shares many similarities with Frau Holle (see Christmas Tales). In Christian traditions she is often associated with St. Lucia and her festival day is January 6. Her name means the Shining One. Wise folk in fairy tales do not provoke the wrath of Mistress Berta and make sure they eat the traditional meal of porridge on her feast day.

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Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Sparks of Light on a Halberd Foretell Discord

Fairy Tale Factum:
This story mentions two types of shafted weapons that were used primarily in the Middle Ages. The German Hellebarde (English: Halberd)) and the Partisan, a subsequent form of the halberd. Early forms of the halberd were a combination of spear for military purposes and farm implement for work in the fields. The farmer in the story is carrying this type of combination tool, referred to first as a hay- or pitchfork and then as a partisan. The Swiss Guard, the oldest army in the world, still uses the Hellebarde to guard the Vatican.

Grimm's Saga 280:

The following story is told about the ancient Castle Lichtenberg in Hanau, perched on a tall cliff in Lower Elsass, an hour’s journey from Ingweiler:
When a storm or violent weather advances, one can see many small blue lights on the rooftops and spires of the castle, even on the tips of halberds. The lights have been seen for many years and according to some folk, this is how the old castle comes by its name.

Two farmers went out walking from the village Langenstein (close to Kirchhain in Upper Hesse) and walked toward Embsdorf with their pitchforks on their shoulders. On the way, one of the farmers saw a little light on the partisan of his comrade, who removed it from his shoulder and laughing, swept the eery glow away with his fingers so that it disappeared. After they had walked another hundred steps, the little light was once more at the prior spot and was brushed away again. But a few moments later it returned. The other farmer pushed it away with several harsh words, wiping it roughly once more and then it did not return. Eight days later at the same spot where the one farmer had brushed away the light for the third time, these two farmers met again. Normally they were old friends, but they became irritated with each other and their angry words led to blows. The one farmer stabbed the other to death.

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Friday, January 18, 2008

Foreseeing the Coming Calamity: Das Wafeln

Grimm's Saga 281: The Phantom Ship

People who live on the Baltic Sea believe they can often foresee a shipwreck or stranding because the ship appears as a phantom several days or weeks before it sinks, at the very spot of its future demise. In the dark of night all parts of the ship, hull, rigging, mast and sail appear enveloped in fire. This they call wafeln. Men who will drown wafle as do houses that will burn and cities that will fall . On Sundays you can often hear the bells of sunken cities ringing, as they lie beneath the waves.

Fairytale Factum:
Wafeln probably comes from the Anglo-Saxon word wafian or the Old Norse vafra. It means to move unsteadily or flicker. Wafeln describes a swaying motion similar to undulating waves; the object seen is often enveloped in an eery light. According to folk tradition, Wafeln portends coming calamity to those who can perceive it. Waffle, waver and waft probably derive from this word.

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

A farmer ignores a wee wife’s gift of second sight.

The Wild Huntsman

Grimm's Saga 47
The Wee Mossy Wife

In 1635 a farmer by the name of Hans Krepel lived near Saalfeld. One day in the afternoon he went out to the heath to cut wood, where he met a wee mossy wife. She spoke to him: “Father, when you stop chopping wood for the day, carve three crosses in the trunk of the last tree you fell. Luck will be with you.” After these words, the mossy wife went on her way. The farmer, a coarse and crude fellow, thought to himself “What good is such blabber to me and what do I care about such bogies?” He refrained from carving the three crosses and instead went home that night. The next day just when he was about to go back to the wood to continue chopping, the wee mossy wife returned and spoke: “Ach you man! Didn’t you carve the three crosses yesterday? That would have helped both you and me, for this afternoon the wild huntsman shall chase us and at night we shall have no rest and he will kill us in a gruesome fashion. We shan’t have any peace from him if we cannot sit on such carved tree trunks. He can’t do anything to us when we sit there, then we are safe.” The farmer answered: “Haha, what good would the crosses be? I’m not going to carve any just to please you.” The wee mossy wife was seized by such a rage that she assailed the farmer and pressed him fiercely, a man otherwise strong of nature, until he became quite ill and wretched. Since that time he carefully follows the advice he receives. He has never ceased carving crosses in wood and has never again encountered anything so frightful.

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Friday, January 11, 2008

The Wee Mossy Folk: Excerpt Grimm's Saga 48

Wee folk dwell on the heath, in the woods in dark places but also in underground holes. They make a soft bed on lichens and their clothing is green moss bound round about their bodies. This is so well known that wood carvers have made many images of them. This mossy folk are pursued by the wild huntsman, who often hunts on the heath. Many inhabitants have been heard to say: “The wild huntsman was on the chase again last night. Oh how it rumbled and rustled, creaked and groaned!” (Excerpt No. 48)

The Zeitel Moss

There is a deep wood on the Fichtel Mountain between Wunsiedel and Weissenstadt. It is called Zeitel Moss and there is a large pool in that place. Many dwarves and mountain ghosts live there. Once a man rode out in the evening through the woods and saw two children sitting close together. He warned them to go home and not to linger as night approached. But these two began to laugh quite loudly. The man rode on, and when he had gone some distance he met these same children, who were laughing again. (No. 46)

In this saga, a wee wife foretells war or peace.War and Peace
In the year 1644, on the 18th of August, the Prince Elector Johann Georg I moved his army past the city of Chemnitz. There, his men captured a wild little wife in the thicket of the area. She was only one ell high but otherwise had a human shape. Her face, hands and feet were smooth, but the rest of her body was rough. The wee wife began to speak: “I prophesy and bring peace to all the land.” The Prince Elector ordered that the wee wife be released, because twenty-five years earlier a wee husband had been found with the same shape. He foreboded unrest and war for all the land.

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Tuesday, January 8, 2008

Carefully aimed bolts of lightning determine fate and a ghostly woman in white haunts the castle.

Ghost of Boyne Castle, Part II
See Part I below.

In 1592 a young prince went out riding with a hunting party in pursuit of a stag. In the heat of the chase he became separated from his knights and after riding many hours alone, arrived at Boyne Castle, tired and hungry. It was early afternoon and he stood in the shade of a tall linden tree. As he rested, he gazed at the lonely castle. Would anyone be living there,” he thought. A bright ray of sun shone on the castle wall and he followed the sunbeam with his gaze upward to the top-most window. There he could see the figure of a woman dressed in white. He waved to the woman and hoped some refreshment would be offered.

He circled the castle looking for entrance. When he crossed the bridge and entered the castle yard, he found a table spread with the finest foods imaginable. At the head of the table sat the beautiful lady of the house, dressed in a radiant white gown.

“Thank you gentle woman for this refreshment. I am in sore need of sustenance,” he said. And she motioned silently with her hand that he should take what he required. He ate eagerly and his speech was merry. Soon he was in very good spirits indeed.

While the young man was eating he thought how mild and lovely the maiden looked. Her properties were vast, her table rich. Surely she would make a wonderful bride. The thought no sooner entered his mind than the maid’s countenance became dark and sad. A servant came to clear the table and the young prince said to him: “I will return with my hunting party three days hence and then I will ask for your mistress’s hand.” The servant looked at him sadly and said. “You shall never marry though your heart be true.”

Without giving a reply the young prince jumped to his horse, bade a hasty farewell and called over his shoulder “Three days hence, look for me, I shall stand under the linden tree.”

Off he rode and was as good as his promise. In three days time, the hunting horn was heard in the valley announcing the arrival of a large procession of knights. It was afternoon and a mighty storm threatened. Thunder could be heard coming closer and closer, and heavy black clouds filled the sky. The prince searched for the linden tree but the landscape looked different now. The castle seemed dark and abandoned. At last he found a dead tree, where the linden had been three days before. The prince stood below, gazing up at the castle wall and the top-most window. He saw a faint figure at the window and he called up “Three days hence and look at me, as I stand under the linden tree.”
His knights urged him to leave the desolate place, as a fierce storm was moving in. Lightning struck on all sides and the spot where the prince stood was bare and exposed. The knights ran to seek cover as a loud clap of thunder was heard. As they turned back to look at the prince they saw the lightning strike him and he was dead.

Saturday, January 5, 2008

Carefully aimed bolts of lightning determine fate and a ghostly woman in white haunts the castle.

Grimm's Saga No. 10 The Ghost of Boyne Castle

In olden times, three sisters lived together at Boyne Castle. One night the youngest dreamt it was God’s will that one of the three should be killed in a storm. In the morning, she told her sisters about the dream and when it was mid-day clouds filled the heavens, looming larger and blacker. By evening a mighty thunderstorm darkened the sky. Soon it was completely black. Thunder could be heard coming closer and closer. Lightning struck from all sides like fire and the oldest sister said: “I shall follow God’s will, for I am the one for whom death was foretold.” She carried a stool outside and sat there a day and a night waiting for lightning to strike her. But it didn’t. On the second day, the second sister went outside and said “I shall follow God’s will, for I am the one for whom death was foretold.” She sat all the second day and second night, but the lightning did not harm her either. But the weather also did not improve. Then the third sister spoke on the third day: “Now I see it is God’s will that I should be the one to die.” She called the priest, who administered the Blessed Sacrament, she wrote out her last will and testament and ordered that on the day of her death the entire community should be given a hearty meal with wine. After she had done all this, she went out reconciled. She sat down and after a few moments, lightning struck her down and she was dead.

Some time later, when the castle had been abandoned, she often appeared as a benevolent ghost. Once a poor shepherd had lost all of his possessions. The next day his very last possession was to be seized. This shepherd was grazing his animals by Boyne Castle. He saw in the bright sunshine a snow-white woman standing at the castle door. She had spread out a white cloth and in it lay clumps, which sparkled in the sunlight. The shepherd was amazed to find a maiden in such a lonely place. He walked toward her and said “Oh, what beautiful things are lying there!” He took a few in his hand, gazed at them and put them back on the cloth. She looked at him kindly but with sadness in her smile and said nothing. The shepherd became frightened and withdrew without looking back, driving his herd away with him. But a few of the clumps had fallen into his shoes when he stood there. On the way home, they pressed him so that he sat down, took off his shoes and wanted to shake them out . Five or six gold pieces fell into his hand. The shepherd hurried back to Boyne Castle, but the woman in white had vanished with all of the clumps. But with these gold pieces he was able to clear all of his debts and set up his household again.

Many treasures lie hidden in the castle. One man was lucky and found a compartment within the wall; he pulled it out and found it was full of gold. Once a widow had only one cow and goat and because bright nettles grew there, she went to cut some for her cattle. But when she had picked a bouquet, she slipped and fell down a deep crevasse. She screamed and called for help but there was no one in such a remote place. That evening, her children who were frightened came searching for her and they heard her voice. Lowering a rope, they pulled her up and she told them how she had fallen down below onto a metal screen but behind the screen she had seen a table loaded full of riches and silver.

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Thursday, January 3, 2008

St. Mary of Egypt and the Legend of the Virgin Mary

The theme of penance and Mary of Egypt....
The legend of the Virgin Mary shares themes associated with Mary of Egypt, patron saint of repentant sinners. Mary of Egypt was a penitent living in the wilderness and was widely venerated during the Middle Ages. Miraculously she was able to nourish herself on plants, nuts and berries. After a harsh life in the wilderness had destroyed her clothing, the only protection from the elements was her long golden hair. The solitude of the desert was the only place she could properly atone for her sins.

War or Peace Predicted by the Wee Wife

ln Saga 169, those who have the power to portend good and evil live among us.

Grimm's Saga 169. War and Peace
In the year 1644, on the 18th of August, the Prince Elector Johann Georg I moved his army past the city of Chemnitz. There, his men captured a wild little wife in the thicket of the area. She was only one ell high but otherwise had a human shape. Her face, hands and feet were smooth, but the rest of her body was rough. The wee wife began to speak: “I prophesy and bring peace to all the land.” The Prince Elector ordered that the wee wife be released, because twenty-five years earlier a wee husband had been found with the same shape. He foreboded unrest and war for all the land.

The ghosts of the past year still haunt familiar places in Saga 167.
Saga 167. The Stone Table at Bingenheim
In olden times it was the Count of a region who meted out justice in a "Zent" or lower court. Here noblemen and landowners met three times each year and the count presided. In the Hessian town of Bingenheim near Wetterau the trials were held in front of the guildhall under the linden tree. This is because many fine noblemen had settled near the Fulda borderland. A stone table stood under the linden tree and it is said that the table had been brought down from the forest of the high mountain near Staden. The stone table of justice had been moved to this spot but it was a mystery how. Years before the Zent Court was held, the place was populated by wild people. You can still see their handprints in the stone. Three stone seats with deep impressions can be seen near the linden tree. In the summer of 1604 , three white figures were observed as they wandered through the town in bright daylight.

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Table of Content

This site contains translations for the following Brother Grimm Fairy Tales and Legends
If you cannot find via the label link, scroll down:

Fairy Tales for Christmas Tide
No. 5 Frau Holla is Stirring
No. 6 Frau Holla’s Bath
No. 7 Frau Holla and True Eckart
No. 314 True Eckart
No. 8 Frau Holla and the Farmer
No. 117 Christmas Eve


The Virgin Mary and Her Child

More Tales of the Virgin Mary, Christ Child, the Winter Season and Heaven

No. 200 The Golden Key
No. 7 The Cup of the Mother of God
No. 9 The Heavenly Wedding
No. 10 The Hazel Branch

Christmas Stories with Augury:
No. 116 The Lover Invited to Dinner

The Christmas Saints:
No. 180 Eve’s Unequal Children (December 24th Feast Day of Adam and Eve)
No. 3 The Virgin Mary and Her Child
Saint Joseph in the Forest

Tuesday, January 1, 2008

Happy New Year!

May 2008 bring joy to you all!




Designing your own New Year's celebration:

1. Ringing of bells to signify the ending of the New Year

2. Singing a song or reciting an appropriate verse

3. Opening the front door to let in the New Year (and close)

4. Toasting to commemorate events in the past year

5. Toasting to mark hopes for the New Year

6. New Year's resolutions

7. Opening the back door to let the old year out

8. Ringing of bells to celebrate the New Year

We must learn to trust the future…..
but for those who are curious about what the future has in store…

Augury for the 21st century (adapted by the editorial staff)

Weather augury to foresee the New Year’s weather patterns.
The weather on December 31st forecasts the trend for the entire month of January and so on, see table below:
December 31st : Weather for month of January
January 1st : Weather for month of February
January 2nd : Weather for month of March
January 3rd : Weather for month of April
January 4th : Weather for month of May
January 5th : Weather for month of June
January 6th : Weather for month of July
January 7th : Weather for month of August
January 8th :Weather for month of September
January 9th :Weather for month of October
January 10th : Weather for month of November
January 11th : Weather for month of December

Example: If the weather on December 31st is mild most of the day but a winter storm hits an hour before midnight: expect a January with wildly fluctuating weather, but the predominate theme for January weather is mild with surges of excess.

Coin toss to predict a year of failure or success.
(If you don’t like the first outcome, you can always take the average of several tosses).

Bread under the pillow to predict one’s future true love.
Buy a perfectly shaped roll, carve out an emblem or face with a knife, place under pillow and sleep on it New Year’s Eve. In the morning, try to determine whose face the roll most closely resembles. A perfectly smashed roll means there is little hope of marriage during the new year.

Customs to follow on January 1st and month of January:
Extend good wishes for the New Year to friends and family (a phone call, card, or personal greeting).
Make resolutions for the New Year, think about things you would like to change, self-improvement, goals, hopes or aspirations for the New Year. Think about your blessings and joys. Write all this down on a piece of paper and put it in a safe spot. (Read your list again Next New Year’s Eve.).

The custom of giving New Year’s gifts is outmoded but should be revived. This is a great time to give small tokens of appreciation, not fancy or expensive gifts. For example: a jar of home-made jam, honey from a local farmer, a loaf of freshly made bread, a small New Year’s wreath you have made yourself with fresh greens from the yard or a card you made especially for the person. If all this seems too involved, a simple E-mail message is also quite nice!

Translation Copyright

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