The Witches in Wilster

In Wilster there used to live many witches and evil people, but this was a long time ago. The great grandmother of my grandmother told it to her as a child, and the story always started like this: “This was all long before my time.”

There was a young man in Wilster, a Sunday Child1), who was able to clearly see and recognize the witches. One day he stood on a space in the city where a lot of lumber was stored in front of an old house and railed into the direction of the gable window: “Why are you sitting there again and spinning, you old accursed witch?” Then the witch shouted down: “Sonny, sonny, leave me alone and let me spin my thread!” and immediately the young man was lying beneath the lumber, and others had to extract him with great difficulty.

In one night the same young man was woken up from his sleep by a terrible noise. He immediately had to jump out of his bed and then he saw a very long procession of women riding on broomsticks and slag forks2). They banged on empty cauldrons with fire tongs and moved onward, and he was compelled to follow them. When they came to the crossroads, they held a great dance, and he had to dance in a circle with all of them. Furthermore they had a large silver cup. This cup went from hand to hand and they cheered the young man while holding it and danced in a circle around him. But just as he received the cup the clock struck one o’clock. All the witches vanished and he was left behind alone with the cup in his hand. When he had recovered his wits and examined the cup, he found the names of all the witches engraved in it, and at the top there was the mayor’s wife. The next morning he went to the mayor and reported him everything about the depraved activities in the city, as well as that his own wife was a witch. Then the mayor gave him a lot of money so that he wouldn’t talk about it further.

At this time the city wasn’t located where it is now, but was further north near one branch of the Wilsterau river called the “Alte Wilster”3). The people did everything to wipe out the witches and get rid of them. But when they attempted to drive the most powerful and important one among them, the whole city suddenly sank beneath the ground on a Sunday morning during mass so that only the uppermost tip of the church tower remained visible. Fifty years ago it was still possible to see that tip, and at night at twelve o’clock people could see the witches dancing on top of it and hear them exult in their victory they had won over their enemies.

Source: Müllenhoff, K; Mensing, O. Sagen, Märchen und Lieder der Herzogthümer Schleswig, Holstein und Lauenburg. 1845, p. 217.

Notes & commentary: That Sinking Feeling - More Sunken Cities

People born on Sundays were generally held to have Second Sight.
Instruments for retrieving the slag from ovens after the melting process.
Possibly where this branch meets the Dückerstieg road.