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.
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
- THE LENGMOOS WITCHES from Tales and Legends of the Tyrol by countess Marie A. Günther
- Fotograf: Stefan Kuhn – File:RittnerErdpyramiden.jpg From Wikimedia Commons – CC BY-SA 3.0