Geyn beynen / No Legs

Wat is et an geysten, monsters, heksen, en andre süpernatüürlike weasens, dat höär grüwelk måkt? Villicht is et dat sey beident bekind en onbekind weasen in höär kenmarkens. Neamen wy witte wyven eys ter vöärbeald. Witte wyven, ouk bekind as witte jüvvers of dame blance in Frankryk, binnen vrauwlü, mor neet somor vrauwlü. Der is wat vrümds med, nåmelk dat sey sweaven oaver grond hin, binnen süms döärsiktig, en doon eyglyks ouk gruwelk. Oftewel: witte wyven binnen vrauwlü, mor neet heyldaal. En dår geit et no um. Eyn bekind prinsype in religy is et misken van verskydene kategourys med enkander. Boyer beskryvt dit proses in syn book The Naturalness of Religious Ideas: a Cognitive Theory of Religion (1994). Dårin beskrivt hey vyv kategourys of natüürlike sourten, nåmelk mensk, bist, plant, natüürlik vöärwarp, en produseard vöärwarp. Süpernatüürlike weasens binnen so bysünder, umreaden sey behöären töt eyn van disse kategourys, mor breaken med sümmige fundamenteale kenmarkens. Kyk vannys når dee witte wyven: et binnen vrauwlü, dus behöären töt de kategoury mensk. Up etsülvde momint doon sey sümmige såken anders as andre gewoane meansken: sey sweaven byvöärbeald. Bedink mor dat ju et ouk grüwelk vinden sel as eyn inplots sweaven sol, so du kinst begrypen wårum disse witte wyven so grüwelk binnen. En ouk heyl aantrekkelk vansülv.

Gewounelk dinken wy by geysten, en dus by witte wyven, dat sey sweaven. En Grönnegske sage givt us en beater beald hyrup. Disse sage is upteykend döär E.J. Huizenga-Onnekes in 1932 in Thesinge (up et Grönnegsk: Taisn):

Gruine loan

Taisner loan is n òlle gruine loan, dij vrouger bruukt wer deur kloosterlingen van Taisn noar Haimerd. Ik ben es op n oavend bie regenachteg weer doar drij widde wieven tegenkommen. t Is staarmwoar! Ain haar n swaarde douk om kop. Ze sweefden der over, bainen zag je nait

E.J. Huizenga-Onnekes, Heksen en Duivelsverhalen in Groningerland (1992), p. 199

Witte wyven sel ik up en later momint uutgebreyder bepråten: et binnen nåmelk weasens, dee sik våker in Sassiske sagen vöärdoon. Vöär no sel ik twey elementen perbaiern to verklåren. Alderearst: witte wyven kommen våker med höär dreyen vöär, lykas in Sint-Annen (E.J. Huizenga-Onnekes, Groninger Volksverhalen (1981), p. 19). Tweydens: dee swarte dook düükt ouk våker up. E.J. Huizenga-Onnekes het en verklåren vöar beide kenmarkens dee teruggeit up de ole Nornen of skikgoadinnen, wårvan middelste ouk en swarte dook up kop het (E.J. Huizenga-Onnekes, Het Menschelijk Leven in’t Groninger Land (1939), p. 96). Skane, mor dit is geyn idea det teruggeit up watvöär Oldgermaanske religy din ouk, en skynt en mear Romantysk idea to weasen. Wat et meskeens når gript, is en swarte jüvver, ouk sükkereywyvke nömd. Dit binnen grealske wikter in höäl swart. Perbleam is, dat disse jüvvers heyldaal in swart binnen, underwyl disse witte jüvvers allenig eyn swarte dook um kop hebben.

Mogt et neet dudelk weasen: witte wyven sweaven en sey hebben geyn beynen. Dit moutyv is ouk ånweasig in en andere sage uut desülvde reagiou, mor den um en paerd:

Peerd zunder bainen

Bie Achter-Taisn liggen n poar stukken pasterijlaand van Ten Boer. ‘De Lonten’ nuimen zai heur. En doar spoukt n peerd zunder bainen rond. Geert Mulder kwam ais van Lutjewòl noar Taisn en dou e bie Pesman zien ploats kwam zag e n peerd zunder bainen. ‘Wat bliksem’ zee hai, ‘doar heie werachteg dat peerd zunder bainen!’ t Was n roar gezicht. t Sweefde over de grond, mor Geert smeerde hom.

E.J. Huizenga-Onnekes, Heksen en Duivelsverhalen in Groningerland (1992), p. 246

Good, wat düdelk wordt uut disse sagen is dat ter beyde getugen öär wat vrümds seyn. Mor wat hyr et vrümde is, is meskeens aans den wy aans dinken sellen. Vöär meysten van us binnen geysten, lykas witte wyven, döärsichtig: ju kinnen döär höär hin seyn. Dat is hyr neet et vrümde ån de witte wyven en et paerd. Dat binnen nåmelk twey andre kenmarkens: sey sweaven, en sey hebben geyn beynen. Dit is eyglyks heydaal neet vrümd, umreaden et kümt oavereyn med ho of lü teagensworig geysten seyn van bekinden dee uut tyd kommen binnen. Disse lu binnen earstens heyl gewoan: sey pråten up normåle wyse, en doon neet vöäl vrümds. Det kümt pas as geysten verswinden sellen: ineynen geit sey döär müren hin, of binnen inplots vot. Oftewel: doo geyst en mensk med mekander an et pråten wassen, was der niks vrümds, en geyst was ouk neet döärsiktig.

Döärsiktig werden geysten in geskydnis pas låter, in 18e eyw (Susan Owens, The Ghost: A Cultural History (2017)). Vöär et publyk hyr is döärsichtigheid ouk neet et wichtigste, as ter mor wat vrümds is. En dårum hebben disse geysten geyn beynen.

What is it about ghosts, monster, witches, and other supernatural creatures, that makes them horrible? Perhaps it is because these creatures are both familiar and estranged in their characteristics. Let’s take ‘white ladies’ as an example. White ladies (witte wyven or witte juvvers), also known as dame blance in France, are women, but not just women. In a sense they are strange, because they float over the ground, are sometimes transparent, and act in a terrifying manner. This means that white ladies are women, but do not completely coincide with that category. And that’s what it’s all about. A known principle found in religions is the blending of different categories with each other. Boyer describes this process in his book The Naturalness of Religious Ideas: a Cognitive Theory of Religion (1994). In this book, he describes five natural categories, namely human, animal, plant, natural object, and artifact (created by humans). Supernatural beings are so special, because they belong to one of these natural categories, but break with some fundamental characteristics. Let us look again to those white ladies: they are women, so they belong to the category human. At the same time they do things differently from other, regular, humans, like floating. Just imagine how terrified you will be if someone just starts floating, and then you can understand why these white ladies are so terrifying. And also appealing of course.

Normally we would consider ghosts, and by extension white ladies, to float. A story from the Groningen area of the Netherlands gives us a more complete picture. This story is recorded by E.J. Huizenga-Onnekes in 1932 in Thesinge:

Green lane

Thesinger lane is an old green lane, which was used in the past by monks and nuns who walked from Thesinge to Nieuwolda. Once upon a rainy evening, I met three white women there. I swear upon my grave that it is true! One had a black cloth on her head. They floated over the lane, and no legs were to be seen

E.J. Huizenga-Onnekes, Heksen en Duivelsverhalen in Groningerland (1992), p. 199

I will come to talk about white ladies more extensively at some later time: they are oft-recurring creatures within Saxon folklore. For now I want to elucidate two features. First of all, white ladies often appear in groups of three, as can also be seen at Sint-Annen (E.J. Huizenga-Onnekes, Groninger Volksverhalen (1981), p. 19). Secondly, that black cloth appears more often. E.J. Huizenga-Onnekes has an explanation for both characteristics, which goes back to the old Norns or goddesses of fate, of whom the one in the middle also dons a black cloth on her head (E.J. Huizenga-Onnekes, Het Menschelijk Leven in’t Groninger Land (1939), p. 96). Unfortunately this is not an idea which goes back to any Old Germanic religion, and is a rather Romantic-flavoured idea. What it perhaps pertains to is a ‘black lady’, also called sükkereywyvke. These are horrible women, fully covered in black. The problem is that these women are fully black, while these white ladies only have a black cloth on the head.

In case it is not clear: white ladies float, and they have no legs. This motif is also present in another story found in the same region. One difference: now it is about a horse:

Horse without legs

Near Hinter-Thesinge there are some pieces of pastoral land belonging to Ten Boer, which are called ‘The Lonten’. And a horse without legs is haunting the area. Geert Mulder once travelled from Lutjewolde to Thesinge and, once he passed by Pesman’s property, he saw a horse without legs. ‘Well I’ll be damned’ he said, ‘that there is truly that horse without legs!’ It was a strange sight. It floated over the ground, but Geert fled from the sight.

E.J. Huizenga-Onnekes, Heksen en Duivelsverhalen in Groningerland (1992), p. 246

Alright, what becomes clear in these stories is that both witnesses see something peculiar. However, what is peculiar in these cases is perhaps different than what we would think normally. Most among us see ghosts, like white ladies, as transparent beings: you can see through them. But that is not the case here with the white ladies and the horse. Here, the strange this is twofold: they float and they do not have legs. This is actually not that odd at all, because it coincides with the experiences of people who encounter familiar ghosts of those who passed away. These ghosts are seemingly very ordinary: they talk in a normal manner, and do not act out of the ordinary. Strangeness enters the picture once the ghosts will disappear: all of a sudden they move through a wall, or just disappear in thin air. In short: when the ghost and the living person were talking to each other, nothing strange was going on, and the ghost was not transparent either.

Only in the 18th century did ghosts become transparent (Susan Owens, The Ghost: A Cultural History (2017)). For the audience, transparency is not the most important thing, as long as there is something else amiss. And that is why these ghosts do not have legs.

Paerd sünder beynen / Horse without legs
(Model: Dizzy)


Um et måken van de foto

To woanen in eyn lüddek dörpke is neet slim. En bekentnis van my het eyn skyr paerd, sy heyt Dizzy. Myn nåber is lid van kerkkommissy, dus et was maklek to reageln en wy gingen te kerkhof van olde kerk up eyn winderge sotterdag. In et begün måkten wy fotos med et paerd en bås, en dernå måkten wy fotos sünder paerd vanof sülvde stea. So kon ik låter et paerd döärsichtig måken en beynen vot doon in komputer med myn foto-bewarkings-pergram. In de vortelling is der heydaal geyn kerkhof, mor good, vöär en ekstra ofgrüwelk effekt was et kerkhof et best vansülv!

Spooky spectral speculations

About creating the picture

Living in a small village has its perks. A acquaintance of mine owns this beautiful horse, named Dizzy. My neighbour is a member of the local church committee. So arrangements were easily made and on a windy Saturday we went to the cemetery of the 13th-century church. First we made photos with the horse and her owner, and after that we cleared the area to make pictures without the horse from the same viewing point. This is how I was able to make the horse transparent and make the leg disappear afterwards in my photo editing program. In the story there is no mentioning of a cemetery, but for the horrific effect of it the cemetery was the best, of course!

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