A German historian once said that witchcraft is as German as the Hitler phenomenon. Germany was the centre of witchcraft between 16th and 17th century.
Harz is a mountain range in North Germany. Its massive boulders and spooky rock formations, its treacherous cliffs and deep valleys lend themselves to the myths of witches, goblins and ghouls. The two highest mountains in this range are the Hexantanzplatz and the Brocken (Rossitrappe), separated by the Bode valley which is 250 meters deep. They loom over a town called Thale.
From Thale we took a cable car to Hexantanzplatz. We climbed the last stretch to the top of the mountain, which is flat and is alleged to have been the dancing floor of witches. This ‘circle of evil’ is encircled by white boulders. In pre-Christian times the Celts and later the Germanic tribes, believed that witches from all over Harz would congregate on this mountain top on Walpurgi night (April 30th/May 1st) for a time of dancing and revelry. In October, they would gather here once again for a special ceremony called ‘the long night of the witches’ after which they would take off on their broomsticks to Brocken, for their winter hibernation.
In 1996, a local sculptor called Jochen Muller added to the spookiness of the place by installing large sculptures in black stone on the periphery of the dance floor. Urian the devil now presides over Hexantanzplatz with his friends the pig, the rodent and the dragon. On another large rock, a witch with a pointed nose and hypnotic eyes bends over, displaying her shapely buxom butt on which her beauty spot a spider is visible.
The Walpurgi night is still celebrated on April 30th, when thousands of revelers gather here for a night of fun. On this peak there is also an open air theatre built like a Greek amphitheatre, where operas, concerts and dramas are held during the tourist season. The Walpurgi Hall and the Convent Wendhusen are other attractions on this peak.
The Harzhexen, a miniature witch puppet on a broomstick is a good souvenir to carry home. On April 30th she might just wake you up with a blood curdling cackle or berate you with a Hexanschuss (curse.)
By Eva Bell