Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Grimm's Saga No. 260: Ghost as Married Woman

Grimm's Saga No. 260

In the time when Johann Casimir was Duke of Coburg*, his Master of the Stables was named G. P. von Z. This master of the stables first resided in the street called Spitalgasse, afterward in a dwelling subsequently inhabited by D. Frommann and then in a large villa outside town, which was called Rosenau. Finally he took up residence in the castle where he also acted as captain of arms. A ghost forced him to these frequent moves. In appearance this spirit looked exactly like his living wife, so much so, that each time when he entered a new dwelling and sat at his table he often doubted whether he was in the presence of his true wife. For the spirit followed him out of each house and everywhere. When his wife once again suggested moving into new living quarters to avoid the ghost, the apparition began to cry out in a loud voice: “Go where you will. I will follow you, even to the ends of the earth!” This was not an idle threat for when the Master of the Stables moved out, the doors of the houses he left behind slammed shut with ferocious force. From then on the spirit was never seen in the abandoned house but only in the new residence.

Every day when the true wife dressed herself, the ghost appeared in the same clothing regardless of whether it was a fancy dress or an every-day dress and the colour of the fabric didn’t matter. This is why the wife never went about her household tasks alone, but was always accompanied by a servant. The spirit often appeared between eleven and twelve o’clock. If a priest or man of the cloth was present, the ghost did not appear. Once  when Johann Pruescher the Father Confessor had been invited and the noble man and his wife and sister accompanied him down the stairs, the spirit began to climb the stairs from below at the same time. Through the wooden rail it gripped the young maid’s apron and disappeared when she began to scream. Once the spirit lay on it’s side over the threshold to the kitchen. When the cook asked “What do you want?” the spirit responded “I shall have your mistress.” But the mistress of the house never experienced any harm. Things did not go as well for the young maid, the sister of the nobleman. One time the spirit hit the girl so hard on the face that her cheek swelled up and the girl had to return to her father’s house. Finally the spirit retreated and it became peaceful in the house once more.

John Casimir (German: Johann Kasimir) of Saxe-Coburg (Gotha, 12 June 1564 – Coburg, 16 July 1633) was the Duke of Saxe-Coburg. He was the descendant of the Ernestine branch of the House of Wettin. / Wikipedia

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Friday, October 23, 2009

In this tale for hallow e'en, a hand lurches through the darkness at the church of dead souls.

Three Tales for Halloween: Beware of the Hand in the Dark

Tale 3: The Lurching Hand

This strange story happened in the year 1517 in the St. Lorentia Church and adjacent graveyard. Early in the morning of All Souls’ Eve, a pious old lady left her home to attend the Angels' Mass at church. But when she stood before the gate to the cemetery she found it was midnight instead of morning. She heard a dull murmur coming from within and so she entered. There she saw an old priest whom she did not know standing before an immense congregation. As she walked down the aisle to take her accustomed seat, she felt a hand on her shoulder pulling her gently back. Struggling free, she once more attempted to take her customary place. This time she saw an iridescent hand floating toward her through the darkness. When it gripped her shoulder, she felt a chill seize her body and she could not walk any further. Then she noticed persons sitting on her right and left side, some without heads or without arms or legs. Many of these persons she had known in her lifetime. She sat down in the nearest pew trembling with fear. Because she only recognized dead people, those she knew or did not know in her lifetime, she believed she was in the presence of departed souls. Terrified she did not know whether to remain in the church or leave or what she should do. Finally she saw her sister-in-law, who had died just three weeks before. Because she knew her sister-in-law had been a kindly, angelic woman while she lived, she approached the spirit and asked “Dear sister-in-law, God save us, how do we get out of here?” The sister-in-law replied “When the priest turns to pronounce the blessing, then make haste and leave the church. Do not turn back but flee!” She watched and when the priest began to turn and say his blessing, she hurried from the church. Behind her a great tumult rose up as if the entire congregation were rushing out and following her into the cemetery. She felt the hand once more ripping at her shoulder and grasping for her coat. She could not move past the gate until she slipped out of the coat and left it lying near a tombstone. Hastening home, the church bell rang out three hours past midnight. The next day the townspeople found lying next to each tombstone one small piece of torn fabric from the woman’s coat.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Three Tales for Halloween: Vampire Empire

Tale 2: Vampire Empire

In Livland the following story is told: on All Soul’s Eve a young boy can often be seen limping about in the streets at dusk. He calls all those who follow Darkness, whose numbers are too numerous to be counted, to come with him. They cannot resist and soon a large throng forms. At midnight another larger man can be seen walking beside the boy, with whip in hand made from plaited strands of iron wire he herds the multitude. He brings down this utensil on the vampires and werewolves running before him and drives them toward the castle on the hill. Their curses and groans reverberate off the steep cliff wall and can be heard in the next village.

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Sunday, October 11, 2009

Three Tales for Halloween: The Cat in the Willow Tree

Three Tales for Halloween Tale 1, Grimm’s Saga 250: The Cat in the Willow Tree
There once lived a farm boy in Strassleben who told the following story: In his village there was a certain maid, who had lost her wits to dancing mania. Often no one knew where her dancing took her, she seemed to lose her senses completely and then vanish. She would only return home after some time had lapsed. Once, this same farm boy and other workers decided to follow the maid. When once again on Sunday the girl began to dance and amuse herself in the company of the workers, she suddenly departed. But they all crept after her in stealth. She left the inn and went out into the field and ran off without looking around, straight to a hollow willow tree, in which she hid herself. The workers followed, curious to see whether she would remain some time in the willow. They waited at a place where they could stand well-hidden. After a short time they noticed that a cat jumped out of the willow and crossed the field back to Langendorf. Now the fieldhands approached the willow; there they saw the maid, or better said her body, leaning against the tree completely rigid. They could not bring her back to life however fiercely they shook her body. They were overcome with terrible dread; they left her body standing and returned home. After some time they could see the cat creeping back through the field and then it slipped silently into the willow and vanished. Some moments later the maid emerged from the willow and returned to the village.

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Wednesday, October 7, 2009

A German Fairy Tale about the Problem with Bread Shoes

(Another saga about Bread Sin. However gloomy these tales might appear to the modern reader, they do reflect a deep reverance for the food we eat. Perhaps these tales are most fitting to read in the autumn as we approach Thanksgiving, All Souls' Day and Halloween. It is also interesting to read this fairy tale alongside The Shroud, see link at right.)

Grimms’ Saga No. 238: Bread Shoes

A woman from a respectable family had a child who was the apple of her eye. When it died, she did not know how she could express the love and tenderness she felt before the babe was lowered into the earth and she would see it nevermore. And as she washed and dressed the child and placed it in its coffin, it struck her that its little shoes were not fine enough. She took the whitest flour that she had and made a dough and from this she baked soft bread shoes. The child was buried in these shoes. But the child would not give the mother any rest or peace but instead appeared looking mournful until its coffin was dug up again and the little shoes of bread were taken from its feet and replaced with proper shoes. From then on, the child was quiet and returned no more.

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Saturday, October 3, 2009

God is Bread in this German Legend

Although a rather bleak tale, this German legend illustrates the notion of a deity residing within the bread and thus its sacred nature. This belief caused quite a controversy during the Reformation but can actually be traced back to pre-Christian notions about the sanctity of grain. Read this alongside A Walk Through the Forest: a Recipe for Resilience  to explore how food is depicted in the Fairy Tale.

Grimms’ Legend No. 5: God’s Food

There once were two sisters; one of them was childless and rich, the other had five children and was a widow. The widow was so poor that she no longer had bread to feed herself or her children. In her dire need she approached her sister and said “My children and I suffer from the harshest hunger. You are rich, give me some bread.”

But the woman who was stone-rich spoke “But even I have nothing in my house!” And she drove the poor woman away with her evil words. After some time the husband of the rich sister came home and wanted to cut a piece of bread. But when he cut the first slice from the loaf, red blood flowed from within. When the woman saw this, she was terrified and told her husband what had happened. He rushed to the poor sister and wanted to help. But when he entered the chamber of the poor widow, he found her praying. She held the two youngest children in her arms. The three oldest lay on the floor and were dead. He offered her food but she replied “We no longer long for earthly food; God has already satisfied three. He will also hear our pleas.”

The widow had hardly spoken these words, when the two little ones took their last breath. This broke the woman’s heart and she sank to floor dead.

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