Wild Women by
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.