In the footsteps of witches and fairies
Olett-Evol Intangible Heritage
(Refuge of the Molina)
In the footsteps of witches and fairies, bruixas and encantades.
The valley is full of memories of witches
« Born in 1918, I have always lived in Evol. I can well remember the tears of my little brother at full moon, when the village bruixa flew off to la Molina, on Mount Coronat, to the place called la Cadira de les bruixes (the witches chair)…we couldn’t console him.. and my grandfather was born in 1850, and the old priest said that our house was embruixada (bewitched).”
« The bruixa used to put spells on the animals which made them die, for instance she would stroke a pig or a sheep in a certain way while saying « que és bonic…que és guapo” (isn’t he fine, isn’t he beautiful) the next day the animal would be dead; sometimes the whole herd would swell up and die, the bruixa had been there.
When we were sitting up one evening, we heard somebody say that a farmer’s son had been in the stable, and seeing a bird perched on one of the cows, he had struck it with a stick and cut its wing. The next day he saw his mother with a broken shoulder. It was she, she was the bruixa who could turn herself into an animal.”
The Gorg Negre conceals fairytales
A legend tells of a hungry shepherd who unleashed a terrible storm when he fished one of the golden trout out of the lake, when a bruixa demanded that he should go and steal the fairies’ golden beater. The whole of this story can be found here: QR Code (see below).
In 1897, Jaume Masso I Torrents wrote a lyrical drama inspired by a legend which a shepherd had told him, not far from the lake. Set to music by Enric Morera, the opera showcases the encantades, the son of the lord of Paracolls and the daughter of the lord of Evol.
The Golden Trout (an extract from « Histoires de plumes et de poils, légends d’ici).
Anton was a shepherd at Evol, long ago.
That year, the canton had been plagued with famine. One fine day, he set of into the mountains intending to steal the golden trout or the white linens (which brought fortune to whoever possessed them) from the encantades, the water nymphs!
At the Gorg Negre , he leaned over to look into the water. A flash of gold dazzled him, then another!
Anton reached in and grabbed a dripping golden fish. What was he going to do with it? Eat it, of course, to draw out all its magical powers. So he went home. He prepared a good fire, and put his frying pan right on top. He pulled the still wriggling fish out of his basket. Instantly she turned into a fairy, and flew up the chimney! Anton wanted to rush after her.
The whole village was assembled in front of his door, barring his passage. At their head was the Viscount of Evol, his great sword in his hand: « Anton, you have provoked the fairies! I’ll lock you up until we decide your fate!”
When Anton was thrown into the dungeon, a terrible storm broke out, devastating everything in its path. For seven hours, seven minutes and seven seconds nobody dared to move. The winds blew, the rain drummed down and the thunder rumbled. Then the anger of the fairies died down. The fate of Anton was then decided.
He would be chained up above the Gorg Negre until the bruixes, the witches, dragged him down to the bottom of the lake. For seven days and seven nights, he bore his torment without complaint. But hunger and thirst got the better of him. He ended up begging for help. At the end of his strength, he murmured, « Forgive me! Help me! I wanted to change my destiny, not die a thousand deaths! I’ll never steal again!”
Golden trouts came near him and spat cool water in his face. But they fled at the thunderous approach of a huge bruixa from Mount Coronat whose eyes spat black lightning. « Are you quite sure you don’t want to steal any more, you miserable little thing?”
« If you let me go, I’ll do whatever you want, Witch” replied Anton reluctantly.
« You’re going to go and find the encantades and bring me back their golden beater” she demanded. Anton was released, and he set off to find the nymphs.
He walked around the lake. Just behind a rock, he came upon the most beautiful sight he could ever imagine. Two singing creatures, their magnificent bodies completely naked, were dipping great white sheets into the water. When they had thoroughly soaped the linen, they beat it with a beater which shone like the sun, and then golden trout took the sheets and drew them gently to the bottom to rinse them in the purest water.
Anton was enthralled. He stepped out before the encadades, determined to confess everything to them.
« We wondered when you were going to turn up; our sister told us about your misfortunes ever since she flew up your chimney. So what have you come to ask of us, little shepherd?”
Anton explained everything: the trout, the bruixa, the village people.
« You see, little shepherd, when one of us gets near a bruixa, we turn into a fish, like our sister whom you wanted to devour. The golden beater is our protection against the bruixes. There are only two of us. Help us to free our sisters, and you fortune will be made.”
Anton went off with the magic beater, and found the witch. She snatched it from him, laughing. Her laughter turned to bleating, her hair turned into goat’s hair and her hands turned into hooves; the witch had turned into a goat! And the encantades were free!
When Anton returned to find them, they were a multitude, luminous in the dark waters of the lake. The youngest one came up to him:
« You remember me, Anton. I visited your house, your frying pan and your chimney. To thank you for liberating us all, I give you my tunic which will bring you luck and prosperity.”
The encantada removed her shirt. Anton hid it under his own tunic and returned home.
It is said that his family never lacked for anything after that. It is also said that one of his descendants, recently, went to find the fairies at the Gorg Negre. He had come to return the shirt to its owner, and he put it on her himself!
But that’s another story….