Sir James George Frazer > The Golden Bough > Page 561
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Sir James George Frazer (1854–1941).  The Golden Bough.  1922.

Page 561
 
rue. On May Day, when the evening bell has rung and the twilight is falling, the ceremony of “Burning out the Witches” begins. Men and boys make a racket with whips, bells, pots, and pans; the women carry censers; the dogs are unchained and run barking and yelping about. As soon as the church bells begin to ring, the bundles of twigs, fastened on poles, are set on fire and the incense is ignited. Then all the house-bells and dinner-bells are rung, pots and pans are clashed, dogs bark, every one must make a noise. And amid this hubbub all scream at the pitch of their voices:

Witch flee, flee from here, or it will go ili with thee.
 
Then they run seven times round the houses, the yards, and the village. So the witches are smoked out of their lurking-places and driven away. The custom of expelling the witches on Walpurgis Night is still, or was down to recent years, observed in many parts of Bavaria and among the Germans of Bohemia. Thus in the Böhmer-wald Mountains all the young fellows of the village assemble after sunset on some height, especially at a cross-road, and crack whips for a while in unison with all their strength. This drives away the witches; for so far as the sound of the whips is heard, these maleficent beings can do no harm. In some places, while the young men are cracking their whips, the herdsmen wind their horns, and the long-drawn notes, heard far off in the silence of night, are very effectual for banning the witches.
  Another witching time is the period of twelve days between Christmas and Epiphany. Hence in some parts of Silesia the people burn pine-resin all night long between Christmas and the New Year in order that the pungent smoke may drive witches and evil spirits far away from house and homestead; and on Christmas Eve and New Year’s Eve they fire shots over fields and meadows, into shrubs and trees, and wrap straw round the fruit-trees, to prevent the spirits from doing them harm. On New Year’s Eve, which is Saint Sylvester’s Day, Bohemian lads, armed with guns, form themselves into circles and fire thrice into the air. This is called “Shooting the Witches” and is supposed to frighten the witches away. The last of the mystic twelve days is Epiphany or Twelfth Night, and it has been selected as a proper season for the expulsion of the powers of evil in various parts of Europe. Thus at Brunnen, on the Lake of Lucerne, boys go about in procession on Twelfth Night carrying torches and making a great noise with horns, bells, whips, and so forth to frighten away two female spirits of the wood, Strudeli and Strätteli. The people think that if they do not make enough noise, there will be little fruit that year. Again, in Labruguière, a canton of Southern France, on the eve of Twelfth Day the people run through the streets, jangling bells, clattering kettles, and doing everything to make a discordant noise. Then by the light of torches and blazing faggots they set up a prodigious hue and cry, an ear-splitting uproar, hoping thereby to chase all the wandering ghosts and devils from the town.

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