Wild Women by Albany Poyntz

No age has been exempt from popular delusions; but there are certain prejudices peculiar to certain localities. One of the characteristic superstitions of Germany subsisted so lately as the middle of the last century, as may be seen by a tradition of the date of 1753.

“At that time,” said the peasants of Grödich, “it was not uncommon to see wild women issue from the Wunderburg, and approach the youths and maidens attending their herds near the cavern of Glanegg, whom they asked for bread. Sometimes, they would come out to glean in the fields; leaving the mountain betimes, and at nightfall returning to their haunts without even sharing the meals of their fellow-gleaners.

One day, a little boy mounted upon a cart-horse, approached the Wunderburg, when the wild women rushed forward, and would have carried him off. The father, however, ran up and protected him. Unaware of the mysteries connected with that awful mountain, he demanded what they meant by attempting to carry off his son; to which the savages replied: ‘that among them he would be better taken care of, and that no harm should happen to him in their abode.’ But the father held fast his child, and the women went weeping away.”

Another time these wild women entered Kügelstadt, a village beautifully situated upon the same mountain, and carried off a boy watching a herd. At the end of a year he returned, dressed in green, and sat on the trunk of a tree at the foot of the mountain. The woodsmen and his parents went the next day in search of him, but in vain; nor was the youth ever beheld again. A wild woman from the mountain went towards the village of Anif, about half a league from Wunderburg, where she hollowed out a place of shelter in the earth.

Her hair was of great length and beauty falling to her feet, and proved highly attractive to a peasant who chanced to encounter her, and who at length ventured to make an avowal of his passion. The wild woman inquired whether he were married; and the peasant not daring to own the truth, answered in the negative.

Shortly afterwards, his wife, terrified by his absence from home, came in search of him; but instead of upbraiding him with his infidelity, fled in dismay at the sight of the lady of the beautiful locks. The mysterious woman now upbraided him with his want of veracity; assuring him that had his wife testified the smallest jealousy, she would have killed him on the spot. Bidding him be more faithful in future to the marriage tie, she bestowed a bag of money upon him, and was never again seen in the neighbourhood of Grölich.

This story was treated as a jest by several French writers of the last century. Yet the age, so severe upon the credulity of the simple peasants of Wunderburg, believed in the devices of Cagliostro and the miracles of Mesmer! The extremes of science and ignorance may consequently be said to meet in the bewildering mazes of superstition.