Monday, November 8, 2010

Where the witches dance

Every morning here in Germany I head into the forest behind my parents' home and take a brisk walk. I love being alone in the woods, inhaling the scent of decaying fall foliage, (as opposed to the car exhausts on the streets and Autobahn) . As I walk/jog along, I pass several old bomb craters from WW2 and remains of old bunkers, a reminder of the many battles fought along the German-French border.

There are lots of different paths in these woods, but they all lead to a clearing called the "Hexentanzplatz" (where the witches dance), which also features an old stone monument from the time of the Romans. I' m amazed at all the history I'm surrounded by -- every piece of ground here has been inhabited, and probably fought over, for thousands of years.
An American who lives here told me this story: A German was telling her about a building that was very old, bragging "This is older than your country!". She jokingly retorted something along the line of "What if I don't care?". The German responded with "See, that right there is the problem with you Americans!"

Well, I am in awe of all the history that surrounds me here in Germany -- but I can also see how history/tradition/religion/culture can be used as an excuse for not changing, for hanging on to old prejudices. When I recently spoke with a cousin who is rather unconventional, she quibbed "During the Middle Ages they would have burned me as a witch!" I thought that was a strange thing to say, not something that I give much thought to in my daily life. On a tour of a nearby town the next day she pointed out a basket suspended above the river that was used to dunk witches or other dissenters until they drowned (if they survived it was considered proof of sorcery, and if they didn't, o well!).

No comments: