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Saturday, December 20, 2008

Three Legends of the Virgin Mary: The Singing Fir Tree

The Singing Fir Tree

Copyright of Translation FairyTaleChannel.com
(Please read, enjoy, link to or pass this story on to friends. Please do not plagiarize, copy or pilfer. Thanks!)

In Switzerland, a story is told about a man named Hans Kreutz, who lived with his wife on Thun Lake in Ralligen. In the year 1555, a thick black fog descended on the village and it would not dissipate. The alarmed villagers retreated to their homes, closed doors and sealed the windows tightly. But a light blue vapor crept under the window sill and the wife breathed in this vapor and in the evening she lay in bed motionless. Hans looked into her eyes and saw no reflection there and in the morning she was dead. 

Many villagers died that year and the survivors buried their loved ones in the church yard at the outskirts of town, where the mountain and forest swept down abruptly into the valley. While the bells in the church tower were ringing, Hans buried his wife and returned home. For days he did not leave his house. He neither ate nor slept but could not forget the vacant stare of his beloved wife and the sound of the church bells as he lowered her into the grave.

One evening when Hans sat by the fire, he heard the church bells ring out the Ave and they rang and rang and he lost track of the time. He raised his head, for he thought he heard wonderful and sweet singing up high in the Hohlbach Forest near the tree line. But when the church bells stopped ringing, he heard it no more. The next day he sat with longing and waited for the evening church bells to ring out the Ave. At first he heard only the faintest sound of distant singing, but then the melody grew stronger until there could be no mistake. A woman’s voice sang a mysterious and beautiful song, the words of which he could not quite decipher.

Hans spread word among the townspeople of the mysterious singing. At night the entire village listened while the church bells rang and soon everyone heard the wonderful melody. The sound was soothing and the villagers listened at the edge of the village until the snow began to fall and then they returned to their homes. 

All but Hans, who wanted to know where the singing came from. The next night when the church bells were ringing, the villagers assembled in the church yard. Hans lit a torch and climbed the mountainside, following the mysterious melody. He did this every evening until one night he finally found a giant fir tree, and its voice was sweet and clear. He shyly gazed upon the tree and in amazement listened to its gentle song.But Hans could find no rest. The singing fir tree occupied his waking and sleeping hours and he wanted to be in the presence of its song always. In secret he climbed up the mountain during the day and spent long hours near the tree. 

Some time passed and Hans was called away to visit his family in the next valley.While he was away, a wood carver from among the villagers, who had seen the beautiful fir tree, decided he needed it to make a wood carving. Because the tree was so magnificent, tall and straight, with perfectly formed branches and trunk, he had it felled and brought down to the valley. From the wood, he selected an enormous block of the trunk that had no scars or branches. From this piece of wood he began to carve an image of the Virgin Mary. 

He worked day and night on this carving and saw nothing more beautiful than the image of the Virgin taking shape out of the wood. And after some time, the villagers came to his workshop and marveled at the beauty of the image, its heavenly countenance and mild authority.When Hans returned to the village after some months, he climbed the mountain and went directly to where the singing fir tree had stood. In its place was only a stump and Hans was gripped by such melancholy, that a loud moan issued from his lips. It was like the howling of a wounded wolf or the shriek of an eagle flying overhead. The loud cries filled the valley, echoing off the cliffs and rocks. 

When the villagers heard the loud cries from above, they gathered below near the church. And soon in the distance they heard the beautiful, long-missed song. They turned and saw the woodcarver, carrying his statue and saw that it was singing. He placed the statue in the church, where it stands today. And some say, they have heard it singing when a loved one dies. The place where the tree once stood is now called Marienstein. There is a smaller rock nearby, where Hans once gazed upon the fir tree. It is said that in his grief, Hans turned to stone and the place is now called the Kreutzantisch.

Read more fairy tales of the Virgin Mary:

http://www.fairytalechannel.com/2008/12/image-of-mercy-in-larch-branch-at.html

http://www.fairytalechannel.com/2008/12/christmas-reading-series-legends-of.html

FairyTaleChannel.com

Sunday, December 14, 2008

Christmas Reading Series: Three Legends of Mary

The Place Called Maria Stein

Copyright FairyTaleChannel.com
(Please read, enjoy, link to or pass this story on to friends. 

Please do not plagiarize, copy or pilfer. Thanks!)

In the Swiss canton of Basel high above the village of Ettlingen there once stood mighty castle called Fuerstenstein. One of the most upright and decent men to ever live there was the Knight Hans von Rothberg. He was known throughout the land for his good and noble deeds.

One day the knight rode out to the city of Basel to visit friends. Before he left, he said a prayer and commended his wife and children to the protection of God.

Because it was a beautiful day, the lady of the castle left the peace and quietude of the fortress and took her little daughter for a walk around the deep walls. Wandering a bit with the child on the green meadow, the two had a good view of the mountains surrounding them and the valley below. When the mother found a bit of shade under tall trees, she sat down amongst some ferns, a bit tired and sleepy from the thousand different aromas emanating from the woods and fields. With tired eyes she gazed upon the zig-zagging flight of the butterflies. The humming of bees and chirping of crickets had a calming effect and the lady found herself nodding off from time to time. Her drowsy bliss was punctuated by the laughter of the girl when she came running with a basket full of alpine flowers to show her mother. In her search for the most beautiful flowers, the girl was drawn farther and farther away. Soon she was climbing into some brush that stood at the end of the precipice.

All at once the mother sat up abruptly. A terrible cry came from the direction of the brush. The lady rushed toward the sound and fell to her knees. Not a trace of her daughter was seen. She must have fallen through the brush and down the cliff. The mother, terrified, called her child’s name a hundred times. But it was all for naught, there was no reply.

She hurried as fast her feet could carry her to the path leading into the valley. Breathless and with her hair flowing wildly around her shoulders, she arrived below.

But abruptly she stopped dead in her tracks. There she saw her child, whom she believed had been smashed to bits from the fall. The girl ran toward her beaming and her little basket was full of strawberries. She called “Mother, Mother, here I am!” But the mother was speechless. With her heart beating wildly, she pressed the child to her breast. She looked up at the jagged rock and could not believe that her daughter had survived the horrible fall. She tried to regain her composure as the child told her what had happened. As the mother slept, she ventured out too far because she could not see through the brush and how precarious the spot was. All at once the ground vanished under her feet and she fell. Suddenly a beautiful woman appeared, took her in her arms and gently brought her to the valley below. Afterward they picked the strawberries that were now in her basket, which they would now bring to father.

Now the mother knew that it was the Virgin Mary who had saved her daughter. They went home and the grateful mother anxiously described what what had happened that afternoon. The father was so moved by this miracle that he had a chapel built at the site. Later they built the convent Maria Stein.


Read more fairy tales about the Blessed Virgin Mary:

http://www.fairytalechannel.com/2008/12/three-legends-of-virgin-mary-singing.html

http://www.fairytalechannel.com/2008/12/image-of-mercy-in-larch-branch-at.html

Or about Saint Boniface/Wilfried:

http://www.fairytalechannel.com/2008/07/grimms-saga-no-181-saint-wilfried-or.html

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Image of Mercy in the Larch Branch at Waldrast

Grimm's Saga No. 349

Christmas Goddesses and Saints Revealed to the Faithful

Copyright FairyTaleChannel.com
(Please read, enjoy, link to or pass this story on to friends. 

Please do not plagiarize, copy or pilfer. Thanks!)

In 1392 Our Lady in Heaven sent an angel to Tirol, at the place called Waldrast on Serlesberg. The angel stepped before a hollow larch tree and spoke to it in the name of God’s Mother: You, branch, shall bear fruit of the image of our Lady in Heaven!” 

The image grew into the branch and two pious shepherd boys, Hänsle and Peterle from Mizens village, first gazed upon it in the year 1407. In wonder, they ran down to the farmers in the valley below and told them: “Go up to the mountain, a wonderful image is revealed in the hollow wood. We hardly trust ourselves to touch it.” 

The holy image was now recognized and cut out of the branch with a saw and brought to the village of Matrey. There it stood until a separate church could be built for it at Waldrast. Our Lady entrusted the work to a poor woodcutter who lived near Matrey. 

One Pentecost when he was lying in his bed at night and slept, a voice came to him. It spoke three times and said: “Are you sleeping or are you awake?” And the third time he woke up and asked: “Who are you and what do you want?” The voice spoke: “You shall build a chapel to honor Our Lady at Waldrast.” The woodcutter replied: “I don’t want to do that.” But the voice returned the next Pentecost Eve and spoke to him in the same way as before. He replied “I am too poor to do it.” The voice returned on the Third Eve of Pentecost as he lay in his bed and spoke as before. For three nights he could not sleep for worry and so he finally answered the voice: “What do you mean that you will not leave me alone?” The voice replied “You shall do it!” He answered “I shall not do it!” It grabbed him and raised him in the air and said: “You shall do it and it would be good for you to reconsider!” 

He thought to himself: I am a poor man, how can I do the right thing? Finally he consented and said he would do it, if he only knew the correct site. The voice spoke “In the forest there is a green spot in the moss. Lay down and rest and the correct site will be revealed to you.” The woodcutter went out and lay down on the moss and rested (that is why the place is called the Resting Place in the Wood, or Waldrast). 

When he lay asleep, he heard two bells in his sleep. He awoke and looked up at the spot where the church now stands. A woman in white robes stood and had a babe on her arm but he saw only a glimpse. He thought to himself: Almighty God, this is certainly the right place! And he went to the spot where he had seen the picture and marked off where he meant to build Her church. The bells rang until he had finished marking the spot and then he did not hear them any more. 

He spoke: “Dear God, how can I accomplish this? I am poor and have no money to spend on such a building.” The voice spoke again: “Go to pious people; they will give you as much as you need. And when the time comes to bless the church, it will stand in peace for 36 years. After this, great signs will be revealed for all eternity.” And so, when he began construction of the chapel he went to his confessor and told him his intentions. The priest sent him to the Bishop of Brixen. He visited the Bishop in Brixen five times before he was allowed to start building the chapel. The bishop did this on the Tuesday before St. Pankratius in the year 1409. (St. Pankratius is a so-called Ice Saint and his feast day is May 12. Other Ice Saints include St. Servatius, St. Bonifatius (Boniface) and St. Sophie).

To read more legends of the virgin Mary:

http://www.fairytalechannel.com/2008/12/three-legends-of-virgin-mary-singing.html

http://www.fairytalechannel.com/2008/12/christmas-reading-series-legends-of.html

Friday, December 5, 2008

The Christmas Wolf

Copyright FairyTaleChannel.com 
(Fairy tales can be accessed by clicking on the link above.  Please read, enjoy, link to or pass this story on to friends. Please do not plagiarize, copy or pilfer. Thanks!)

According to a folk belief widely circulated in Europe, certain persons were capable of transforming themselves into wolves on Christmas Eve. The night itself was filled with innumerable magical possibilities: water became wine; the mandrake root of legendary fame bloomed and apple trees simultaneously bore blossoms and fruit. At this time of year Frau Holda appeared with True Eckart, leading an unruly procession. An encounter with this Christmas goddess and her companion was both terrifying and rewarding. An unsuspecting mortal who unwittingly crossed path with Frau Holda’s procession received that most illusive Christmas gift of all, one that kept on giving. If you were lucky enough to be holding a beer stein when you met up with her, your glass would always be filled with tasty beer. That is, until you unwittingly disclosed the source of your secret brew.

The night was also good for augering the future. On Christmas Eve the curious hollowed out 12 onions and filled them with salt. Placing them strategically around the room, each onion was designated as a month of the year. On Christmas morning the onions would be carefully examined and the future predicted according to the shape of each onion. A shriveled January onion could only mean a month of meagerness. Likewise a bloated bulb could only portend a fat and prosperous 30 days. As in most things, it appears that much was left to the imagination of the beholder.

But back to the Christmas wolf. The wolf was originally significant as companion to Woton (Southern Germanic tribes) or Odin (Northern Germanic tribes). Two wolves reputedly were always by his side and they behaved more or less like hunting dogs. Because of this connection, the wolf became forever associated with heathen or pagan beliefs. An unbaptised child was referred to as heidenwolf (heathen wolf). There were certain methods one could employ to become a wolf: rubbing your body with magical salve or fastening your buckle in the 9th hole of your belt were popular methods. But remarkably, it was on Christmas Eve when pagan powers were especially potent. Persons with such inclinations could transform themselves into wolves quite easily on this night. Why someone would want to become a wolf is anyone’s guess. The night itself was considered to be imbued with supernatural powers.

A wolf in December is a ravenous beast. The all-devouring creature in Little Red Riding Hood is juxtaposed with the life-giving nourishment of wine and cake the maid brings her grandmother. In Europe, there is a traditional cake associated with Christmas and the month of December, with many different regional variations. In Germany, this cake is celebrated for its richness and is called Christmas stollen. Other countries also eat a sweet cake, often filled with raisins, nuts or other fruits. Folk tradition stipulates that eating this cake is absolutely necessary, for its richness awards strength and much needed poundage to survive the long winter months. To ward off the ravenous beast within, bake this Christmas stollen and enjoy. Substitute raisins for the dried cherries to bake a more traditional European stollen.

Recipe for Cross-Notched Stollen


Note:
An almond paste filling is optional in this stollen recipe but highly recommended! (Any nut paste can be used, be creative, but stick to one type of nut only!)
Dough: Sprinkle with 4 tablespoons dark rum:
1 cup dried cherries
1/4 cup cubed citron
1/4 cup candied orange peel
Cover and let soak at least 1 hour. (This will be added after the dough rises).
1 package instant yeast dissolved in
3/4 cup warm milk
Let stand 10 minutes until frothy
Add:1 1/2 cups all purpse flour
1/3 cup sugar
Mix until smooth
Let rise for about 1 1/2 hours or until double in size
Mix in to dough mixture:
2 beaten eggs
1 tablespoon vanilla
grated zest of lemon
1 teaspoon salt
Knead in by hand:
1 1/2 cups bread flour until smooth and elastic
Add while kneading:1 3/4 sticks soft butter, the dried fruit/rum mixture, 1/4 cup coarsely chopped and lightly toasted almonds.
Knead until all fruits and nuts are incorporated.
Let rise in buttered bowl 1 1/2 - 2 hours or until double in size.
Mix together (optional) filling:
8 ounces almond paste is mixed together with:
1/4 cup confectioners sugar
1/4 cup fresh bread crumbs2 tablespoons soft butter
Roll into log about 6 inches long and 1/2 inch in diameterRemove dough from bowl and lightly roll out to a 1-inch thick oval (roughly 14 x 9 inches).
Place nut log in center. Fold over and shape into loaf.
Brush loaf with 1 tablespoon melted butter. Place on greased cookie sheet.
Preheat oven to 350 F. Using sharp knife, cut 3 cross-shaped notches across top of loaf. Let rise until double in size. Bake stollen for about 50 minutes or when knife inserted in center comes out clean. Brush with 1 tablespoon melted butter. Top with powdered sugar.
Cool before serving.