Brennende Spoken: de Hel up Aerde / Burning Ghosts: Hell on Earth

Sassisk

“Vrouger het ter es n doomnee west dij aan de zoep was. Jannever haar hom gladweg te pakken, zodat e haildal te gronde gong. Deur de drank kwam e ook tòt aander verkeerde dingen.

“Op n duur wos e der gain road meer mit; hai is aan loop goan, aal mor wieder, en dou e bie Òlle IJ van Termunten kwam, het de aarme kerel zok verdronken.

“Mìnsken dij zo aibals maal aan heur ìnne komen, lopen der voak weer. t Duurde ook nait laank, òf ze zaggen hom weer achter t òlle kerkhòf, doar e in zien ielìnne in t woater lopen was. n Visker gong net noa diek tou; dij het hom zain mit zien steek op en mit zien togoa aan. Op n aander keer zag n aarbaider hom; dij stook òl man n stòk tou. Zo wied as doomnee hand had haar, haar stòk swaart west. As de zun opkomt, is doomnee iederbòd weer verdwenen.”

E.J. Huizenga-Onnekes, Groninger Volksverhalen (1981), s. 195

Tja, wat givt et hyr eyglyks? Et givt en spook van en dominy, dee humsülv uut tyd brocht har. Syn spook krigt en stük holt to pakken. Vöär uns, lüde in disse tyd, höyrt en spook kold to weasen. Dår eyn spook döär uns hin glidt, krygen wy uns rillingen et lyv oaver. Of dit döär de kolde kümt of döär gruwelikheyd is villicht neet düdlik, mor hebben sik wenig med heitte to doon. Dow was ik my doch vorbåsd, dår ik in enkle volksvortellingen spoken vündt, dee höär såken in de fik setten künnen.

Now givt et villicht en enkle vorklåring, dee wy uns ouk en andre mål seen haren. En spook is en geyst, dee sik geyn rüst vinden kin in et leaven nå de doud. In et katholiske wearldbild gån disse seelen når et Wågevüer to. Et is stuv heit in Vågevüer, en döär höär link med disse heitte, en dår see dår vurd kümt, kinnen dissen spoken höär bodel in de fik setten.

Dow ik my dee blog um de glöynige skreav, gav et dår ouk wårlik wat bewys vöär. Dee vortelling kwam ouk wårlik uut en katholiske umråd. Dat givt de vråg: kummen disse vortellingen, dår en spook wat vorbranden kin, ouk uut katholiske umråden?

Dit undersök was originaal eyn lüddik deyl, meynt vöär en konferens um vorgykende mythology. Disse konferens is dowdestyds neet holden umreaden korona. In weatenskaplik undersök is et gewoan, jün dataset to limitearen. Ik heb my limiteard, to kyken når nourd-sassiske bornen. Dat maakt dit swår interessant: disse umråden binnen meynstens protestantsk. En protestanten binnen höär wat nüver: see hebben geyn glööv in et Vågevüer, in al val neet doktrinär. Düs: kummen disse vortellingen villicht van katholiske lüde, uut katholiske enklaven in en protestantske wearld?

Et givt veer vortellingen um spoken dee höär wat branden låten kinnen. De vortelling an de anfang van disse blog geit um Termunten in Grönn, dat nowdestyds protestantsk is, en al vöär en bült eywen sou. How is dat met de drey andre vortellingen?

Twey vortellingen kummen uut Ostfriesland. Eyrste vortelling stelt dat eyn, dee döär en geyst anrörd wurdt, blind wurdt, en up et lyv kummen brandwunden. Disse vortelling kümt uut de umråd van Backemoor en Breinermoor, en protestantske umråd.

Dee andre vortelling uut Ostfriesland is deyls up et sassisk, düs ik sel my der wat van citearen:

“In der Umgegend von Arle kam einst eine arme Frau auf einen großen Marschof. Sie bat: ‘Geevt mi en Nappke vul Karnmelk, dat ik mi en
Spierke Görtbree kaken kann!’ Aber die Bauernfrau sagte, die Buttermilch wäre für die Schweine bestimmt, davon könnte sie ihr nichts abgeben … Der großen Magd, die das … angehört hatte, blutete das Herz ob solcher Hartherzigkeit. ‘Ik dür’t woll doon!’ dachte sie und gab ab und zu der Armen, wenn sie die Schweine fütterte, einen Napf voll Buttermilch.

“Die Bauernfrau starb. Als dann die Magd wieder einmal beim Schweinefüttern war, sah sie auf einmal die tote Frau neben sich stehen. Die sagte: ‘Ik hebb en grot Anliggen an di.’ Die Magd erschrak so sehr, daß sie die Eimer kaum noch halten konnte. ‘Wat wull ji dann van mi?’ fragte sie angstbebend. ‘Geef mi een van dien Gottlohns, de du van dat arme Minsch för de Karnmelk kregen hest!’ bat die Frau.

“’Ja, de kön ji kriegen!’ stammelte die Magd. ‘Geef mi de Hand drup!’ sagte die Tote. Aber die Magd reichte ihr nur den Schürzenzipfel. Am andern Morgen sah sie, daß die Schürze an der Stelle verbrannt war. Doch die Frau ließ sich niemals wieder sehen.”

Wilhelmine Siefkes, Ostfriesische Sagen (1963), s. 93

De büerin kümt torüch, dår see geyn rüst hev in doud. Villicht was höär leavent neet good west (lykas eyn seen kan, dår see arme lüde niks givt). Now, um töt rüst to kummen, moot see en vordeynste krygen. De deinstmågd is en good minsk, en van höär gode dåden, as see disse döärgivt an de büerin, kin de büerin töt rüst kummen. Dit is en heyl katholisk idea, dår eyn bidden kin, um en ander minder lang ik et Vågevüer to vorblyven låten. Mor ouk disse vortelling, uut Arle, kümt uut en protestantske umråd.

De twey andre vortellingen kummen beident uut Grönn. Eyn geet oaver en geyst by Steendam. De ryke man starvt, en hee wül gaern, dat syn wyv neet hertrouwen geit. Uutendlik düt see dit doch, en sünt dee tyd spookt et up de börg Et Schildhuus. De dominy kin disse geyst van de olde ryke man vurd krygen. Dominy nimt en witte stok. Spook gript der um to, en dow würdt stok swart. Spook wurdt når et Schildmeer tobracht, en meer in de nähe, en kin pas weader tohuus kummen, dår hee et heyle Schildmeer dröygskepped har. Ouk ditmål kümt vortelling höär uut en protestantske umråd.

Lesten vortelling geit um en ryk wicht en höär man. Nådat see uut tyd kümt, wil see dat büerdery torüchgeit når höär eygen family. Höär man düt dat neet, en givt büerdery an syn family en blivt der sülv wonen. Up en tyd, by et voderen van de skwynen (glyk as in dee vortelling uut Ostfriesland) kümt see weader torüch, en vrågd höär man, et weader good to maken. Man holdt dominy derby, en as see weader kümt, fangt er dit an:

“‘Geef mie de haand,’ zee ze, ‘en beloof mie, da’s toe het weer goud moaken zelt.’ Mor [domie] het bezzem grepen en het heur stoal toulangd en net, woar ze hom aanpakt, braandt stok middendeur.”

E.J. Huizenga-Onnekes, Heksen en Duivelsverhalen in Groningerland (1992), s. 216-217

En ouk in dit val, med disse vortelling uut Weiwerd, is et vannys en vortelling uut en protestantske umråd.

Et gvit ouk noch en vortelling uut Sleeswyk-Holstein, mor uut et nourd-freeske deyl. Dår et düs geyn sassiske vortelling is düt e eyglyks neet volwårdig med. By Kairem (Keitum), up et eiland Sylt, spoken de gongers of weadergangers. As eyn disse weadergangers en hand givt, din sol disse hand swart branden en deraf valen (Gundula Hubrich-Messow, Sagen und Märchen aus Nordfriesland (1988), s. 16). Mor ouk ditmål is disse umråd protestantsk, düs disse vortelling breakt neet med et munster dastu hyrboaven seet.

As lesten givt et noch en vortelling uut Grönn, dår lüde höär et spook neet anrören duren. See bruuken en witte sküddeldook um geyst wat to oaverhandigen. Hyr seen wy echter nikswat an brand (E.J. Huizenga-Onnekes, Heksen en Duivelsverhalen in Groningerland (1992), s. 211-212), düs past et neet wårlik in disse category.

Düs: geyn vortelling med dit katholiske tema is ouk wårlik van en katholiske enklave. Et kin altyd weasen, dat disse vortellingen doch leavden under katholiske minderhydslüde, mor dår is geyn bewys to. Ouk is et neet de eynigste neet-katholiske umråd, dår vortellingen um dit ard spoken vöärkummen. Et givt ouk et manuskript London BL Sloane MS 3853 uut et leste deyl van 16. eyw. Dit is en book med magiske teksten: ritualen um geysten en demonen med an to roupen. Neet to lange torüch, in 1534, is de Engelske Kerk upkoamen, dee sik et Vågevüer uutband hebben. Doch givt et in disse tekst noch en referens når brandende geysten:

“And then thou shalt take a wande of hasill, and salt and water to gethere and myngyll them to gethere, and wete the hasyll wandes ende, and take the ende wyt to the spryt. But beware say these wordes that followe: ‘Here the same treuth that this spryt the same tyme that he was man alive on erthe here walkynge flesshelye and bodelye. Here the same treuthe he assueryd to me by his lyff tyme, the same treuthe and crystondome I take to this wonde of hasill.” And geve hym the wet ende and as sone as he handelythe yt let it goo for yt wyll begyn to burne.”

London BL MS Sloane 3852, f. 214v-215r, myn transkriptsioon; en editsioon würdt vöärbereided döär Sándor Chardonnens

In dit rituaal würdt en geyst anrouped, dee vlut dervöär uut tyd kummen is. In katholiske dogma sel der dårum noch et tyd in et Vågevüer blyven, en ouk dårum sel e holt vorbranden kinnen. Ouk al is England dowdestyds neet länger katholisk, dit idea leavde dowdestyds immer noch under de lüde. Mor good, dit is allennig mor enkle jåren når de religiöse wending, en unse sassiske teksten kummen altomål uut de 20. eyw, dår men al vöär eywen haer et katholicismus achter höär låten har. Düs: wat hebben wy hyr now eyglyks? Is et idea van en spook, dee såken branden låten kin, en wårlik oldmouds idea, noch uut de tyd vöär de Reformatsioon? Of is de funktsioon van et Vågevüer now up de Hel plakked? Vorblyven disse geysten now in de Hel, en, dår et ouk gruwlik heit is in Hel, kinnen de geysten höär dårdöär holt in de fik setten? Tja, Düvel sülv mag et weyten.

English

“In the past there once was a church minister who was a drunkard. He was simply caught by gin, and it brought him to ruin. Because of liquor, he got into a lot of other trouble as well.

“After a while he was at wit’s end; he went walking, on and on, and when he arrived at the old IJ near Termunten, the poor fellow drowned himself.

“People who meet their end in such an unfortunate fashion often return after death. It didn’t take a long time before they saw the minister behind the old churchyard, at the place where he walked into the water out of suffering. A fisherman was just on his way to the levee when he saw the minister, wearing his hat and toga. At another time a worker saw him, lending the old man a stick. As soon as the minister held onto it, the stick had turned black. Every time, as soon as the sun rises, the minister has disappeared.”

E.J. Huizenga-Onnekes, Groninger Volksverhalen (1981), p. 195

So yeah, what is actually happening here? There is a ghost of a minister, who committed suicide. His ghost gains hold over a piece of wood. For us, people from this day and age, a ghost is supposed to be cold. Whenever a ghost glides through us, we shiver over our whole body. Whether this is actually because of the cold or just out of fright is not clear, but these shivers have little to do with heat. Therefore I was quite surprised to find several folk tales in which ghosts could set things on fire.

Well, perhaps there is a simple explanation, which we have seen at some other time as well. A ghost is a spirit, which cannot find peace after death. In the Catholic cosmology, these souls go to Purgatory. It’s pretty hot in Purgatory, and, due to their link with this heat (since the ghosts come from it), these spirits can set things on fire.

While I was writing that blog post about the Glowing One, I found actual proof for that phenomenon. That story derived from a true Catholic area. The question arises: are these stories, in which ghosts can set things on fire, also from Catholic areas?

This research was originally a small part, the whole of which was meant for a conference on comparative mythology. This conference was postponed due to Corona. In scientific research it si common to limit the amount of data you consult. I limited myself by only looking at North Saxon sources. That really makes this case fascinating: these areas are mostly Protestant. And Protestants are a tad weird: they don’t believe in Purgatory, at least not according to doctrine. So: do these stories derive from Catholics, from Catholic enclaves, in a Protestant world?

There are four stories about ghosts who can set something ablaze. The story at the start of this blog post is about Termunten in the Groningen area, which nowadays is Protestant, and has been for a couple of centuries. What about the other three stories?

Two stories are from Ostfriesland. The first story states that someone, after being touched by a ghost, turns blind, and burn marks appear on his body. This story comes from the Backemoor-Breinermoor area, which is Protestant.

The other story from Ostfriesland is partly written in Saxon, so I will cite some of it:

“Once upon a time in the Arle area, a poor woman came to a big farm. She asked: ‘Please give me a cup of buttermilk, so that I can make a bit of ground slurry!’ The mistress of the farm, however, said that the buttermilk is meant for the pigs, so she couldn’t spare any … the maidservant, listening to it all, took pity on the poor woman because of the heartlessness of the mistress of the farm. ‘I’ll dare to do it!’ she thought and regularly gave a cup of buttermilk to the poor woman when she fed the pigs.

“The mistress of the farm died. As the maidservant once again was feeding the pigs, she saw the dead woman standing next to her. She said ‘I have an issue with you.’ The maidservant was so terrified that she was hardly able to keep a hold on the bucket. ‘What do you want from me, then?’ she asked shuddering. ‘Provide me with your merit, which you got from that pitiful woman for the buttermilk!’ the woman asked.

“Yes, you can have it!’ the maidservant stuttered. ‘Let’s shake on it!’ said the dead mistress. But the maidservant only gave her the tip of her apron. The next morning she saw that the tip of the apron was scourged. The dead mistress, however, never showed up again.”

Wilhelmine Siefkes, Ostfriesische Sagen (1963), p. 93

The mistress of the farm returns because she cannot find peace in the afterlife. Perhaps she hasn’t been good while she was alive (as one can see, since she did not give anything to poor people). Now, in order to find peace, she needs merit. The maidservant is a good person, and by the merit of her good deeds, if she passes that merit on to the mistress of the far, the mistress can find peace. This is a very Catholic idea, for one can pray to make sure that another person’s time in Purgatory is shortened. But even this story, from Arle, is from a Protestant community.

The two final stories are from the Groningen area. One is about a ghost near Steendam. A rich man dies, and he would like his wife to not remarry. In the end she does remarry, and since that time the bourgh Et Schildhuus is haunted. The vicar is able to get rid of the ghost of the old rich man. He takes a white stick. The ghost gets a hold on it, and the stick turns black. The ghost is brought to the nearby lake Schildmeer, and can only return home once he drained the whole lake. This story also stems from a Protestant area.

The last story is about a rich woman and her husband. After she has passed away she wants that her farm returns to her family. Her husband neglects this wish, and gives the farm to his family, and stays living on it himself. Once upon a time, when he is feeding the pigs (like the story from Ostfriesland), she returns, and asks her husband to set things right. Her husband gets the vicar, and this transpires when she returns:

“’Lend me your hand,’ she said, ‘and promise me that you’ll make it right.’ But [the preacher] took a broom and lent her the stick, and it burned through right at the place where she grabbed onto it.”

E.J. Huizenga-Onnekes, Heksen en Duivelsverhalen in Groningerland (1992), p. 216-217

And also in this case, a story from Weiwerd, it stems from a Protestant area.

There is one more story from Schleswig-Holstein, but from the North Frisian linguistic area. Since it is not a story written in Saxon it falls outside of my research proper. At Kairem (Keitum), on the island Sylt, is haunted by gongers or spirits returning after death. If one were to shake a hand of these returners, then this hand would be scorched black and fall off (Gundula Hubrich-Messow, Sagen und Märchen aus Nordfriesland (1988), s. 16). But this time, too, the story stems from a Protestant area, and this story does not break with the pattern observed above.

Finally there is one more story from the Groningen area in which people do not dare to touch a ghost. They use a white dish towel in order to hand over something to the spirit. However, in this story, no fire or scorching is to be seen (E.J. Huizenga-Onnekes, Heksen en Duivelsverhalen in Groningerland (1992), p. 211-212), so it does not truly fit the same category.

So: no story with this rather Catholic theme is actually from a Catholic enclave. It is possible that these stories circulated among the Catholic minority, but there is no proof for that. At the same time, it is not the only non-Catholic area where these kind of stories are found. There is the manuscript London BL Sloane MS 3853 from the end of the 16th century. This is a book with magic texts: rituals which can summon spirits and demons. Not that long ago, in 1534, the Anglican Church was established, which banished the idea of Purgatory. Still, this text makes references to burning spirits:

“And then you shall take a hasil wand, and salt, and water, and mix them together, and wet the end of the hasil wand, and bring the end to the spirit. But be wary and speak the following words: ‘Here [is] the same truth that this spirit [received] at the same time when he was a living man on earth, walking in the flesh with a body. Here [is] the same truth [that] he assured to me during his lifetime, [and] that same truth and Christianity I bring to this hasil wand.’ And give to him the wet end and let go of it as soon as he takes a hold of it, because the wand will begin to burn.”

London BL MS Sloane 3852, f. 214v-215r, my transcription; an edition is being prepared by Sándor Chardonnens

In this ritual a spirit is summoned of someone who died shortly before that. In Catholic dogma, this would indicate that the spirit would reside in Purgatory, and therefore can burn wood. Even though England is no longer Catholic at that time, this idea was still alive among its population. But still, this text stems only from a couple of years after the religious change, and our Saxon texts are all from the 20th century, during which the population hasn’t been Catholic for centuries. So: what do we end up with here? Is the idea of a ghost which can burn stuff a truly antiquated idea, stemming from Reformation times? Or is the function of Purgatory now delegated to Hell? Are these spirits residing in Hell now and, since Hell is hot like Hell, they are able to burn stuff because of that? Well, Hell if I know!

“…. Jannever haar hom gladweg te pakken, …, en dou e bie Òlle IJ van Termunten kwam, het de aarme kerel zok verdronken…”
“… He was simply caught by gin…, and when he arrived at the old IJ near Termunten, the poor fellow drowned himself…”

Spookplåtkepråt

Spooky Spectral Speculations

Um et maken van de foto

Up sündag

Bin ik når Termunten gån

Med myn fles gin

Dee har ik dow up foto setted

An et end van et land

Dår of et wotter anfangt

About creating the picture

On sunday

I went to Termunten

with my bottle of gin

And I took a picture of it

At the end of the land

Where the water starts

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