Monday, October 12, 2009
Die Brockenhexe or the Witch of Blocksberg
Growing up in Germany, I have been exposed to a multitude of folklore, sagas, fairy tales and pagan customs and traditions that are uncommon in the "new country." Since this is the season of witches and goblins, I thought some of you might find it interesting, or entertaining at best, to learn about the Brockenhexe, or the witch of the Brocken Mountain (Blocksberg.) DISCLAIMER: Don't worry, my Christian friends, I did not suddenly become demonized or superstitious. I am merely sharing some of my childhood experiences, since - after all - I grew up in Germany for 19 years. This is only for entertainment and educational purposes and in no way am I endorsing witchcraft or sorcery. As I started to say, the Brockenhexe is a fictional character in the Harz mountain range spanning the regions of Thueringen and Sachsen. Just as America is comprised of several states, Germany also has different regions that have their own customs, dialects, foods, music, folklore and traditions. A little trivia about me: I and the BMW (Bavarian Motor Works) come from the region of Bavaria. Everyone who was born and raised in Germany knows of the Brockenhexe, who is, by the way, a kindly spirit and not intimidating and scary to children, since everybody knows that witches generally love to eat young children, as in the case of Hansel and Gretel. In German folklore, the witches gather during Walpurgisnacht, or Walpurgis Night on the Brocken mountain (or Blocksberg) and hold revels with their gods..." Brocken is the highest of the Harz Mountains of north central Germany. It is noted for the phenomenon of the Brocken spectre and for witches' revels, which reputedly took place there on Walpurgis night, the night of April 30 (May Day's eve.) Walpurgis Night (Walpurgisnacht), the night before May Day, is similar to Halloween in that it has to do with supernatural spirits. And like Halloween, Walpurgisnacht is of pagan origin. The bonfires seen in today's celebration reflect those pagan origins and the human desire to drive away the winter cold and welcome spring. The first two days of November are Allerheiligen (Nov. 1) and Allerseelen (Nov. 2). Related to Halloween, these two holy days are devoted to all of the saints (known and unknown) and to all of the “faithful departed,” respectively. In medieval English, All Saints Day (Allerheiligen) was known as All Hallows. All Hallows Eve (Oct. 31) came to be called “Halloween.” Eastern Orthodox Christians celebrate All Saints Day on a different date, on the first Sunday after Whitsunday (Pfingsten). In Protestant areas of Germany, Totensonntag or Ewigkeitssonntag is a similar observance for the dearly departed. This Protestant version of All Soul's Day is observed in November on the Sunday prior to the first Advent Sunday. OK, and now that I have totally confused everyone with TMI, I wish you a wonderful holiday, no matter how you celebrate, as long as nobody gets hurt! If you're feeling particularly adventurous, then buy a ticket and take a ride: Let one of the Brockenhexen fly you over the Harz mountainrange and dance over the fire on Walpurgisnacht ....weeeeeeeee Kittens ride free!!! Happy Halloween, dearies!