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The Brocken, also called the Blocksberg, was the most famous meeting place for witches in Europe. An old-fashioned poet, Matthison, wrote of it with gruesome awe.
The horn of Satan grimly sounds;
On Blocksberg’s flanks strange din resounds,
And specters crowd its summit high.
One wild story even claimed that here on Walpurgis Night (30th April or May Eve), was held the Grand Coven of all the witch-leaders
Because in Germany the activities of the witch-hunters, both Catholic and Protestant, reached a degree of frightfulness which exceeded that of anywhere else in Europe, the name of the Brocken as an alleged site of witches’ Sabbats became notorious.
In later years Goethe brought the tradition of the Brocken into his famous work, Faust, describing a fantastic Sabbat upon its haunted heights.
In the eighteenth century, German map-makers usually added to any map of the Hartz Mountains, of which the Brocken is the highest
peak, a few witches flying on broomsticks towards its summit.
One of these old maps, drawn by L. S. Bestehorn and published at N Nuremberg in 1 751, is particularly interesting.
This map also contains a short description of the Brocken, which states that at the summit of the mountain is the famous ‘Witches’ Ground’, where the Sabbats take place, and close to it is an altar, which was formerly consecrated to a pagan god.
There was also a spring of water here, and both the spring and the altar were used in the witches’ ceremonies.
This explains why the Brocken was so famous as a witches’ meeting ground.
It is evidently an old sacred mountain, on the summit of which pre-Christian rites took place.
The scenery in the Hartz Mountains is among the wildest and most beautiful in Germany.
Hence the Brocken’s remoteness added to its aura of mystery and terror.
The famous ‘Spectre of the Brocken’, though a natural phenomenon, was frightening enough to deter a lonely traveler.
When the atmospheric conditions are right, the ‘Spectre’ will appear, as a huge shadowy giant, looming up before one.
Actually, it is caused by the climber’s own shadow being projected by the sun’s rays upon a bank of mist.
On paper, this explanation sounds very matter-of-fact and reassuring; but to be confronted, in the silence of some lonely mountain, with this gigantic apparition, can still send a shiver down one’s spine.
A curious episode took place on the Brocken in June 1932, when the late Harry Price staged a reconstruction of an alleged black magic ritual there.
Accounts of what, if anything, happened are hazy and contradictory.
Apparently, a goat was involved, which was supposed to turn into a human being at midnight, but failed to do so.
This was certainly one of the oddest phrases in the controversial career of this famous psychical researcher.
The Brocken in the Hartz Mountains was not the only witches’ meeting-place which was known as the Blocksberg. Other hills and mountains which bore a similar reputation, also acquired the same name.
In Pomerania, there were several high places known as the Blocksberg; and the Swedish witches called their meeting-place Blocula.