The Witch of Neuerburg

The Witch of Neuerburg

IMG_6217I spent this past weekend in a castle in Germany near the Germany/Luxembourg border where the Order of Bards Ovates and Druids held their annual International camp. About 100 members from all over Europe (plus an Australian and an American) gathered for ritual, celebration, music and community in a castle that can trace its story back to the 900s. It’s also on the Santiago de Compostella pilgrimage route having a little shell symbol on the castle noticeboard.

My concert on the Saturday night was held in the chapel. I’ve played at a few chapels and love the natural reverb in such buildings. The weekend and concert were amazing and I loved every minute, but it’s not those that I’d like to write about on this blog.

As I explored the castle’s history I found out that the city, and the castle, had a history within the European Witch trials. 57 women were tried for their involvement in Witchcraft and 56 of those were put to death. It began with the death of Mademoiselle de Leuchteraberg. She was the fiancée of the Count of Manderscheid, the Lord of the castle. She was found dead and it was suggested that her death was due to Witchcraft. A local woman, Magdelena Pirken was arrested and confessed on the rack. She named others and the hysteria then began in ernest. In total 56 women were executed for Witchcraft. It is suggested that the executioners were merciful as each woman was throttled before their bodies were burned. I guess it was merciful. They escaped the pain of death by fire, but still, 56 women, who were obviously innocent of the accused crimes, were murdered here.

I later found out that the chapel where I played had been the courtroom.

Now were these women Pagans? Witches? Herbalists? Midwives? I don’t know. But they were human and certainly not guilty of murder. That particular burden rests firmly on the shoulders of the accusers. In the lyrics of the song The Burning Times there is a line that says 9,000,000 European women they died. This song has fallen out of popularity with some Pagans because that number is way off. Even so, the Witch Trials did happen, and the stories are horrific, no matter how many deaths there were.

IMG_6230I then heard about a shrine that marks the story.

Just down from the castle in the woods is a place called the Hexentanzplatz – The Witches Dancing Place. So after the closing ritual me and a couple of other OBOD friends made our way down the hill and into the woods. About a kilometre from the castle we found the spot. A memorial to those killed, and a sign that told their story.

The church bells were ringing out in the valley. We held hands, touching the stone of the shrine. We thought about those who had died. They may not have been magical folk at all. They may have been just swept along in the hysteria. It didn’t matter. They had been accused and killed for something that we now practice quite openly in Europe as modern magical people, Pagans, Wiccans, Druids, whatever.

We gently sang the chorus of Green and Grey.

We shed tears.

We offered healing.

We remembered.

I later found out that the shrine was paid for my the city and the church some years ago.

As pages turn, let us learn, let us learn…

12 responses to “The Witch of Neuerburg”

  1. Very poignant and moving to share that experience with you Damh. Well spoken. It really touched me deeply when we stood at that memorial stone.

  2. This blog gave me chills. Blessed Be The Witches that paid in their blood and Blessed Be those who were harmed that were not even Witches.

  3. Beautiful words and I love what you all did there at this place, I did not know the whole story so it was very interesting to read through it,there is a saying that I love, “time heals all wounds,but who heals the time”….to do what you all did there ,is like a little healing touch into the wound of the past”….Times really have changed that such memorials are now possible and I am happy that those women are remembered there this way.

  4. Probably their only crime was being female. (Although men weren’t immune from prosecution for witchcraft.) It was just too easy to accuse someone and be believed. And I think I’d admit to anything on the rack. It’s good to know they are remembered.

  5. They may not have been witches. But many were killed in the Northern Crusades against Pagans.

  6. I normally avoid places like that, because they hurt too much, if they are serious, or they are just silly tourist traps. But in this case the hurt was offset by a feeling of humanity at work, of community looking back at something that was wrong and fessing up to it. So for all the sad story, the dance goes on!

  7. The relative sparcity of witch trials in Ireland is thought to be due to the lingering belief of land spirits / Sidhe as cause of misfortunes. Thankfully the residual old beliefs actually protected the otherwise vulnerable in society. Interesting history for modern druids, and a glimpse of a philosophy that did not endure everywhere. The most vulnerable in any society make the easiest scapegoats. Very interesting history Damh.

  8. Remembering all the women across the globe who were the nameless victims of this global atrocity.

    Forgotten Never Be.

  9. This touched such a deep chord within me, half forgotten but still reverberating through the years.
    Such injustices are very hard to heal on a personal level, it takes time and understanding before the hooks and barbs of pain and anguish can be removed.
    How much more difficult it must be for our human race to heal wounds carved so deep in our collective psyche; not only (although mainly) the physical and mental wounds of such injustice, but also those wounds caused by inflicting such torment.
    Your loving acknowledgement must echo through the years and in to every living heart, thank you x

  10. Ok, this comment is not really related to Dahm’s post, but I just had to put this on here. A US court has just decided that Chimps have the right to NOT be imprisoned or owned as property, ie kept as a slave or testing object. About time. Unfortunately, I think it will be a VERY long time before the concept crosses the Atlantic to here.

    The day humans decided that we were special, that we were god’s special creation and assumed the arrogance that went with it, we started to value life according to how similar or different it is from ourselves. In doing so, we provided the justification for slavery, rape, pedophilia, exploitation and all the other evils visited on anyone or anything that is different.

  11. One of the more depressing aspects of human history, how ready humans can be to demonise, persecute and kill one another. So much grief – and sometimes I wonder if we have learnt, for sometimes things seem to go backwards in some parts. Good of you to commemorate the slain; this was thoughtful of you.

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