Petrification Myths: The Witch Dancer of Lengmoos


Fotograf: Stefan Kuhn – CC BY-SA 3.0

Petrification myths and legends are found all around the world.  Sometimes someone is turned to stone as and act of divine retribution when they upset the gods and sometimes legends are attached to natural geological features of the landscape.  The following is a rewrite of  a folktale called The Witches of Lengmoos from Tales and Legends of the Tyrol, by Countess Marie A. Günther and tells how an arrogant young man offended God and was punished for his offense by being  turned to stone.

The Witches of Lengmoos

In Lengstein, there was once the son of a rich peasant who traveled to many foreign places.  He met many people and saw many strange and wonderful things and came across many new ideas.  When he returned home he would mock all of the good and faithful peasants who would faithfully say the rosary every evening.  His mother became increasingly worried and concerned as she heard him mocking and belittling the holy church calling it nothing but the ridiculous joke of priests.

Thursday Nights

Every Thursday he was often found drinking with his friends in the local inn.  As the ale flowed so did the stories.  Many stories were told and each one was exaggerated a bit further than the last.   On one such evening one of his friends told how every Thursday night a coven of witches would meet and carry out rituals and dance on the Birchboden mountain nearby.   They would arrive on the wings of the wind coming from all directions and all areas of the country and there they would hold their dark Sabbat.

As soon as he heard this the young man boasted that he would join them in their dance that night.  His friends strongly advised him not to but despite their warning he would not listen and set off that very evening.   Reluctantly, his friends followed him, pleading with him not to go through with it, but he would not listen. They followed him to the Mittelberg where the Kebebelschmeide rises and the mountain stream called the Finsterbach rushes through a gully, but they would go no further that night.  The bold young man laughed at them calling them foolish and ran through the forest alone singing happy songs to a place where stood many pyramids of porphyry  twenty to thirty feet high.

The Witches Sabbat

On arriving he saw many, many witches all dancing wildly around in circles, leaping and performing somersaults and other acrobatics and tricks. The young man was delighted with what he saw and ran to join them in their wild dancing and antics.  There he stayed joining in with all of their dancing but as the church bells of Lengmoos struck midnight all of the pyramids of porphyry shuddered violently and the Finsterbach foamed up wildly.

The Witch Dancer

His friends watching from a safe distance saw all of this and then when a wild black storm hit the mountain in fury they ran to a nearby hut for shelter.  There they stayed until morning until the storm abated as quickly as it had started. They waited until the bell of the morning Angelus had rang when they knew the power of the witches would also abate and then went out to find their friend.   To their abject horror they found him transformed into solid stone with his legs up to his knees firmly embedded in the ground. He remains there to this day and no moss or lichen will grow upon his petrified form. No bird will perch on, or fly over his body and no man or woman will go near this place for fear of the divine retribution wreaked upon the “witch-dancer” of the Lengmoos who dared to  mock the Lord.

© 16/10/2018 zteve t evans

References, Attributions and Further Reading

Copyright October 16th, 2018 zteve t evans


13 thoughts on “Petrification Myths: The Witch Dancer of Lengmoos

  1. Scary but cool story! Those kind of tales have always held a deep fascination for me. Witch-dancing, supernatural powers wreaking havoc, magic at its peak etc. It would be intersting if you wrote a post on Walpurgis Night on the Harz Mountains. I’n thinking of writing a short story about that.

  2. Cool story, Zteve. Gotta keep those heathens (like myself) in their place! Seriously, I can see how this was a very effective means of keeping peoples dedicated to the church via coercion and psychological means; actually seems pretty sophisticated. Have you ever looked into the darker side of folk tales–maybe this would be better for your folk realm studies and/or other academic pursuits of yours–by that, I mean, how fairy tales, folk tales, legends, and so on could be used for ill means (or perhaps I am imposing my “modern” morality on peoples that I shouldn’t be; to me, I want to let people be free to choose their religion as they want, even if it means no religion [and so long as they are not harming innocent people], but I would not quibble with the morals of other fairy and folk tales’ or fables’ such as being kind and loving, being mentally nimble not enough to be convinced to ride on the wolf’s/fox’s back, and so on). Well, I’m rambling now, as I usually do after morning caffeine, Zteve. You don’t have to answer any of this, but I’ll just close with, once again, thank you for sharing these stories (many, if not most, I’ve never read or heard before); they force me to think and I love it. Have a brilliant weekend, Z!

    • P.S. I’ll make this one short(er). This story is a wee bit like the so-called Brown Mountain Lights from my neck of the woods, North Carolina, on the East Coast of the U.S. You might be interested to look into that legend and its purported connection the paranormal, as it is the Hallowe’en time of year…and this post makes a great seasonal one in that respect, too.

    • Hi Leigh, Lovely to hear from you! Yes fairy tales and folktales have been used for coercion and propaganda purposes in the past. There is an idea that after the Russian revolution some of the tales were rewritten to deliberately put the Tsar in a bad light. Many legends and tales were also used to try justify the claims of Kings to rule. The Arthurian tales, the prophecies of Merlin and Brutus of Troy were all used by British royalty to further their claims to the throne. Some of these tales were the media of the day and transmitted information and ideas about many things. Quite often there are hidden religious and esoteric information hidden in the stories and imagery and I have looked at some of these on my sites. Any way thanks for reading and commenting, appreciated!

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