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Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Walpurgisnacht

Walpurgisnacht: in Germanic countries, the night of April 30 to May 1st. On this night witches fly from all directions on broomsticks to dance, drive away the last remnants of snow and herald the beginning of spring. According to folk tradition, the devil presides at the witches’ Sabbath until the May Queen appears at midnight, signifying the end of winter. The witches must report all their misdeeds of the past year at this gathering. Those who have not done their fair share receive a beating as punishment. By all accounts, it is a night of boisterous obscenity and indecency.

In times past, farmers were advised to bore three holes over the door of their cowshed and place special roots and herbs in these cavities on Walpurgisnacht. The time and manner for digging up the roots was precisely defined for it was believed that such herbs had power over witches and could prevent them from entering the cowshed and doing harm to the cattle. The name Walpurgisnacht is taken from St. Walpurga, who was the daughter of Richard of England. According to tradition, her bones were taken to the Eichstatt Church on May 1, 870 and the church used her feast day in an attempt to Christianize these pagan practices.


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Monday, April 28, 2008

Ideas of Good and Evil in Jorinda and Joringel


The old woman in Jorinda and Joringel (full text provided by clicking here) is no ordinary sorceress. In fact she is a magician of the highest order, an arch-sorceress or Erzzauberin. She has gruesome physical characteristics and other unusual attributes, including red eyes and yellow skin, the ability to spit poison and bile and the power to transform herself and others into birds. She is also able to cast spells, which transfix people. Clearly she is aligned with a malignant force. But curiously she is also aligned with Zachiel, who has the power to break her spells and does so at her request. Zachiel in this fairy tale is probably a reference to the archangel Zadkiel, the Biblical angel of mercy (alternative spellings: Zachiel, Zadkiel or Zachariel). Zadkiel is the Patron Angel of all who forgive and according to Judaic tradition, it was Zadkiel who prevented Abraham from sacrificing Isaac.

The relationship between arch-sorceress and archangel is an interesting one. The witch seems to have authority over the archangel Zadkiel for it is at her request that Zadkiel releases Joringel from the spell. It seems they are working together in some capacity. Or, are they merely representatives of the two forces acting in creation, light and darkness or good and evil? In the Middle Ages these powers were frequently described as angelic or demonic beings. The Biblical portrayal in the New Testament (Pauline Epistles, Colossians, Romans and Corinthians) emphasizes that God has created these powers and they are under his dominion. Some religions claim that there is no omnipotent good power, but rather good and evil are equal forces acting in the world and the human being and creation itself are seen as their battleground.

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Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Ideas of Good and Evil / Vorstellungen von Gut und Boese

An die (deutschsprachige) Leserschaft des Fairy Tale Channels:


Willkommen! Ihre Meinung ist uns wichtig. Bitte ihren Kommentar unter Comments eintragen. Leserbriefe auf Deutsch oder Englisch sind erwuenscht.
Vielen Dank fuer Ihre Bemuehungen! Besonders interessant waeren Ihre Vorstellungen von Gut und Boese bezueglich des Maerchens Jorinde und Joringel. (Siehe unten fuer vollen Text)

Sunday, April 13, 2008

Grimm's Fairy Tale No. 69: Jorinda and Joringel




As Walpurgisnacht is approaching (evening of April 30th to May 1st), it might be appropriate to read a fairy tale about a witch. This tale is remarkable for many reasons, also because it contains both archangel and arch-witch, personifications of ultimate mercy and ultimate evil. The link between the two is especially interesting in this tale.





There was once an old castle in a deep and impenetrable forest. An old woman lived alone there and she was an arch-sorceress. During the day she took the shape of cat or night owl, but at night she took the form of an ordinary human. She would lure wild animals and birds into her snare and when she caught one, it was cooked or roasted. The wanderer who came within one-hundred feet of the castle was brought under the sorceress’s spell. With feet frozen to the ground, the person could not move from the spot until the enchantress released him. When a chaste maiden entered the castle perimeter, the old witch turned the girl into a bird, which she immediately snatched up and locked in a basket. She carried the basket to a chamber deep inside the castle. The sorceress probably had seven-thousand baskets containing such rare birds in her castle.

Now there was once a maid called Jorinda; she was more beautiful than all other maidens. She had promised herself to a handsome young man by the name of Joringel. Each took enormous pleasure in the company of the other for they were still celebrating their engagement. They loved to walk by themselves and whisper softly to each other so that no one else heard while they spoke. And so it was that one day they took a walk in the forest. “Be careful,” Joringel warned “that you don’t come too close to the castle.” It was a beautiful evening and the sun shone between the tall trunks of the majestic trees and the bright yellow light pierced the shadows of the deep green wood. Overhead a turtledove sang a mournful song among the last May buds of the beech tree.

Before long Jorinda began to cry, sat down in the sunshine and was inconsolable; Joringel did the same. They were deeply distressed and cried like one going to die. They looked around and were lost and did not know the way home. The sun could still be seen illuminating half the mountain, but the other half was already in shadow. When Joringel peered through some underbrush, he saw the old wall of the castle and became deathly afraid. Jorinda began to sing:

“My little bird, with ring so red
Sing of sorrow sorrow sorrow:
For the dove sings of her death
On the morrow morrow morrow – zickuth, zickuth, zickuth.”

Joringel turned to Jorinda but Jorinda had been turned into a nightingale who sang Zickuth, Zickuth, Zickuth. Suddenly an enormous owl with glowing eyes swooped out of the bush. It circled her three times and cried out three times “Schu, hu, hu, hu.” Joringel could not speak: he stood as still as stone, he could not cry out, he could not talk, he could not move hand or foot. Now the sun was sinking: the owl flew into the bush and an old and crooked woman, yellow and lean emerged. She had enormous red eyes and a crooked nose that extended to the tip of her chin. She murmured and caught the nightingale and carried it away in her hand. Joringel could say nothing and could not move from the spot; the nightingale was gone. Finally, the old woman appeared again and spoke in a muffled tone “Greetings to you Zachiel, when the moon shines in the basket then unbind, Zachiel, in good time.” Joringel was released from the spell and fell to his knees before the old woman. He pled for the return of his Jorinda, but in vain. The sorceress replied that he would never ever see her again and walked away. He called, he cried, he lamented but all for naught. “Uu, what shall happen to me?” he cried.

Joringel walked until he arrived in a strange village: there he took on the job of sheep herder for many years. Often, he walked around the castle but never came too close. Finally he dreamt one night that he found a blood-red flower and in the center was a beautiful large pearl. He broke the flower, and walked toward the castle. Everything that he touched with the flower was released from the spell. He also dreamt that Jorinda returned to him in this way. In the morning when he awoke, he began to search hill and dale for the flower. He searched and searched until the ninth day, when he found the blood-red flower in the early morning. In the center was a large dewdrop, as large as the most beautiful pearl. He carried this flower day and night until he arrived at the castle. As he came within one-hundred steps of the castle, he did not become frozen fast in his tracks as last time but instead could continue walking to the castle door. Joringel was overjoyed, touched the gate with the flower and it fell open. He went inside, through the courtyard and listened for the warbling of many birds. Finally he heard the trilling sound. He followed it and found the hall and the enchantress feeding birds in seven-thousand baskets. When she saw Joringel she became very angry, so angry that she scolded and spat poison and bile at him, but she could not come within two feet of him. He did not turn back at the sight of the sorceress but walked around, peering into each basket with a bird. But there where many hundreds of nightingales, how could he find his Jorinda again? As he looked he noticed that the old woman secretly took away a basket with a bird and was walking to the door. Quickly he jumped toward her, touched the basket with the flower and also brushed against the old woman. Now the sorceress could no longer cast spells and in the same moment Jorinda stood before him, her arms fell round his neck, and she was as she had always been. Joringel now returned all the other birds to their prior maidenly form. He then returned home with his Jorinda where they lived happily together for many years.


To read more about this fairy tale, click on the link:

http://www.fairytalechannel.com/2008/04/ideas-of-good-and-evil-in-jorinda-and.html


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Tuesday, April 8, 2008

Reading and Understanding Folk Tales & Fairy Tales



Fairy Tale Factum:

Hooting Ursula is a wonderful illustration of elements commonly encountered in German folk tales. At first glance, the narrative offers a confusing combination of Christian images and pagan beliefs. Despite a complex story line and a rather dark sub-text, the tale remains witty and fun.
What we modern readers take from the story is probably quite different from what the earliest audience would have understood. If we accept the premise that such tales, based on an oral tradition, reflect values and attitudes of a time long past, we come a step closer toward deciphering the original meaning.
In 12th century Europe pagan sentiments still persisted: demons and other malevolent spirits took nightly flights through the woods. In some traditions, these apparitions were said to be the wild huntsman led by a hooting owl; in others, an entire army of ghosts and spirits assembled and rampaged through the forest. Frouwa was the Norse goddess of war, love and magic. She had numerous powers including the ability to change into a hawk or owl and the cat was her sacred animal. As patroness of witches, it was likely Frouwa who initiated the annual assembly on Walpurgisnacht, the night of April 30 to May 1st. On this night witches flew from all directions on broomsticks to dance, drive away the last remnants of snow and herald the beginning of spring.
This story starts with the ancient pagan notion of witches and devils taking flight through the air but gives it a Christian explanation: Hooting Ursula was originally a nun gone bad. In fact it was the church that exorcised and banished such spirits and in the end it is the Christian God that is shown to have power over life, demons and creation.


More fairy tale factum:

http://www.fairytalechannel.com/2008/03/vernal-equinox.html

http://www.fairytalechannel.com/2008/03/fairy-grotto-and-palm-sunday-fairy.html

http://www.fairytalechannel.com/2008/03/saga-123-woman-in-white.html

http://www.fairytalechannel.com/2008/02/fairy-tale-factum_22.html

http://www.fairytalechannel.com/2008/01/more-than-fashion-faux-pas-white-dress.html

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Sunday, April 6, 2008

Grimm's Saga 312. Hooting Ursula

At midnight in storm and rain the Hackelnberg Huntsman races through the Thuringia Wood. His wagon, horse and hounds make a crackling and creaking noise as he breaks through the brush of his favorite haunt: the Hackel Forest. A night owl flies ahead of him and folk call it Hooting Ursula. Wanderers who happen to meet this terrible pair fall down flat on their stomachs and let the wild huntsman pass by. Soon they hear the barking of hounds and the call: Uh-hu!

Many years ago in a remote cloister in Thuringia there lived a nun named Ursula. During her lifetime she always disturbed the choir with her shriek-like singing. For that reason they called her Hooting Ursula. But things only got worse after her death. Each night starting at eleven o’clock she stuck her head through a hole in the church tower and hooted wretchedly. Every morning at four she came uncalled and sang with the sisters. They could endure it for only a few days; on the third morning one nun said softly and full of terror to the nun singing next to her “That is most certainly Ursula!” Suddenly everyone fell silent, their hair stood on end and the nuns ran screaming from the church crying: “Hooting Ursula, Hooting Ursula!” No punishment would induce the nuns to enter the church again until a famous exorcist was called from a Capuchin monastery on the Danube. He banished Hooting Ursula in the form of an owl to the Dummburg region of the Harz Mountains. It was there that Ursula met the Huntsman Hackelnberg. She became charmed by his Uh-hu and he in turn was charmed with her Uh-hu! And now they both go out together, flying through the air on the wild hunt.


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