The Witches' dance on the Gerlos Pass

from "Sagenwelt im Oberpinzgau" by Volkmar Zobl


Many years ago, a hunter from Krimml went into the Wildgerlos Valley to hunt chamois, a kind of goat-antelope native to the mountains. Because he always returned back via the pastures, he was out late and only reached the pass after dark. There are still three huts there.

It was already pitch black. So he found a hayloft and fell asleep. Suddenly, he was frightened out of his sleep as he heard a clarinet playing nearby, quite clearly coming from the neighbouring hut. He got up, opened the barn door carefully, and crept over to the window of the nearby hut. As he peered through the small window, he saw a brightly lit room. There was a massive black cat sitting on the potbelly stove, holding its long tail in its mouth, playing like a clarinet.

The room was crowded with people: rich farmers, herders, and dairy folk from all over the region. They were dancing with wild abandon and passion. The faster the black cat played, the wilder the goings-on in the room. As he watched this spectacle, he knew that this must be the witches' dance!

He didn't want anything to do with this witchcraft, so he crept back to his hayloft, but he could no longer fall asleep. Again and again his conscience told him, "Go over there and put an end to this sinful activity!"

So he jumped up, took his rifle, crept back to the mountain hut, put the rifle against the glass, got the devilish cat in his crosshairs, and squeezed the trigger. At that very moment, there was a terrible noise arose as the cat fell off the stove, and the women sat down on the stove shovel, howling, "Now we're going away and never coming back!"

They rose into the air and flew through the air, seated on the stove shovel. Full of horror, the hunter went back to the barn and fainted. It wasn't until the next day when he finally awoke and returned home to Krimml, still swooning. From this time on, the hunter, who had always been known for being full of life and strength, was crushed and found his eternal rest in the grave only half a year later.