Depictions of witches’ sabbaths in art….

Depictions of witches’ sabbaths in art.

Witches’ Sabbath, 1797-98. Francisco Goya.

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“Musically, the supposed ritual has been used as inspiration for such works as Night on Bald Mountain by Modest Mussorgsky and the fifth movement of Hector Berlioz’s Symphonie Fantastique.
Depictions in painting include the following:
Witches’ Sabbath by Francisco Goya (1798) Museum of Lázaro Galdiano
Witches’ Sabbath or The Great He-Goat by Francisco Goya (1823) Museo del Prado
Witches’ Flight by Francisco Goya (1798) Museo del Prado
Muse of the Night (Witches’ Sabbath) by Luis Ricardo Falero (1880)
Witches’ Sabbath in Roman Ruins by Jacob van Swanenburgh (1608)
The Vision of Faust by Luis Ricardo Falero (1878)
Witches’ Sabbath by Frans Francken (1606)”

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Witches’ Sabbath – Woodcut (1510)

Hans Baldung ‘Grien’, Witches’ Sabbath woodcut (1510).

This German woodcut produced in the time of the witch hunts depicts witches tending their brew. Smoke and fumes flow from the pot as one witch lifts the cover. A fifth witch rides a goat backward in the sky.


Hans Baldung ‘Grien’, Witches’ Sabbath woodcut. 1510.

The Witches’ Sabbath
From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia:

“There is no agreement among authors concerning the dates on which the Sabbats were to be celebrated. Some hypothosized they would take place during the night of the Sunday before the time the Christian mass was celebrated, some authors disagreed telling that Satan was less powerful on holy days.

Some commonly mentioned dates were February 1 (to some February 2), May 1 (Great Sabbat, Walpurgis Night), August 1 (Lammas), November 1 (Halloween, commencing on October 30’s eve), Easter, and Christmas. Other less frequently mentioned dates were Good Friday, January 1 (day of Jesus’ Crucifixion), June 23 (St. John‘s Day), December 21 (St. Thomas), and Corpus Christi. and others.”

From <>.

Vision of Faust by Luis Ricardo Falero

Faust dreams while Mephistopheles attends him. In his vision beautiful naked women writhe and cavort in the air around him. Mephistopheles sits over him as if in attendance or concentrating on the vision of Faust. Here are aroused and seducing sexual witches, more than just Faust’s fantasy.

Falero was a Spanish painter who relocated to Paris and London. His work was known and popular. His subject matters were often beautiful, naked and nubile young women, his work sometimes on the edge between art and and prurience. Or is it the viewer?

See and for a more extensive and revealing bibliography,

Vision of Faust (Faust’s Dream) 1880 painting by Luis Ricardo Falero (1851 – December 7, 1896).

Goethe’s Faust – Walpurgis Night – One Scene Which Will

Goethe’s Faust – Walpurgis Night – One Scene Which Will Seem Out of Tune.

Faust goes to a party while his love, Margaret, suffers in prison. Why?

The German Classics of The Nineteenth and Twentieth Centuries, Volume I. Masterpieces of German Literature Translated into English. In Twenty Volumes. (1913). Francke, Kuno

Professor of Germanic Languages and Literatures, Columbia University

‘The atmosphere of the love-tragedy is entirely different from that of the Faust-legend. Mephistopheles as the abettor of Faust’s amorous passion has no need of magic. The role of Faust—that of a man pulled irresistibly by sexual passion, yet constantly tormented by his conscience—is repulsive, but very human. As he stands before the prison gate he says that “the whole sorrow of mankind” holds him in its grip. But this is a part of what he wished for. He wished for universal experience—to feel in his own soul all the weal and all the woe of humankind. At the end of the First Part he has drained the cup of sin and suffering.

Imbedded in the love-tragedy is one scene which will seem out of tune with what has just been said—the Walpurgis Night. Here we are back again in the atmosphere of the legend, with its magic, its witchcraft, its gross sensuality. We hardly recognize our friend Faust when we find him dancing with naked witches and singing lewd songs on the Brocken. The scene was written in 1800 when Goethe had become a little cynical with respect to the artistic coherence of Faust and looked on it as a “monstrosity.”

It was a part of the early plan that Faust should add to the burden of his soul by frivolously deserting Margaret in the shame of her approaching motherhood and spending some time in gross pleasures. The visit to the Witches’ Sabbath on the Brocken was afterward invented to carry out this idea. In itself the idea was a good one; for if Faust was to drain the cup of sorrow, the ingredient of self-contempt could not be left out of the bitter chalice. A sorrow’s crown of sorrow is not so much remembering happier things as remembering that the happy state came to an end by one’s own wrongdoing. Still, most modern readers will think that Goethe, in elaborating the Brocken scene as an interesting study of the uncanny and the vile, let his hero sink needlessly far into the mire.

At the beginning of the Second Part Goethe does not reopen the book of crime and remorse with which the First Part closes. He needs a new Faust for whom that is all past—past, not in the sense of being lightly forgotten, but built into his character and remembered, say, as one remembers the ecstasy and the pain of twenty years ago. So he ushers him directly into the new life over a bridge of symbolism. The restoring process which in real life takes many years he concentrates into a single night and represents it as the work of kindly nocturnal fairies and the glorious Alpine sunrise. Faust awakens healed and reinvigorated, and the majesty of Nature inspires in him a resolve to “strive ever onward toward the highest existence.”‘

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Simplicissimus and the Witches’ Dance….

Simplicissimus and the Witches’ Dance.

Hans Jakob Christoffel von Grimmelshausen (1621 – August 17, 1676) wrote a very popular “picaresque” novel Simplicius Simplicissimus in 1669. A picaresque is a story following the adventures of a low caste heroic rogue or trickster who uses his wits to survive precarious times among a corrupt society.

Following is an excerpt in which Simplicissimus stumbles upon a witches’ dance while robbing a farmer’s larder:

During these my wanderings there met me once and again in the woods different country-folk, who at all times fled from me. I know not if the cause was that they were by reason of the war turned so timid and were so hunted, and never left in peace in one place, or whether the highwaymen had spread abroad in the land the adventure they had had with me, so that all which saw me thereafter believed the evil one was of a truth prowling about in that part. But for this reason I must needs fear lest my provisions should fail and so I be brought to the uttermost misery; for then must I begin again to eat roots and herbs, to which I was no longer accustomed. As I pondered on this I heard two men cutting of wood, which rejoiced me mightily. So I followed the sound of the blows, and when I came in sight of the men I took a handful of ducats out of my pouch and, creeping nearer to them, shewed them the alluring gold and cried, “My masters, if ye will but wait for me I will give you this handful of gold.” But as soon as they saw me and my gold, at once they took to their heels, and left their mallets and wedges together with their bag of bread and cheese; with this I filled my knapsack, and so betook myself back to the wood, doubting if in my life I should ever come to the company of men again. So after long pondering thereupon, I thought, “Who knoweth what may chance to thee? Thou hast money, and if thou comest in safety with it to honest folk, thou canst live on it a long while.” So it came into my head to sew it up; and to that end I made, out of my asses’ ears which made the folk so fly from me, two armlets, and companying my Hanau ducats with those of the banditti, I packed all together into these armlets and bound them on mine arms above the elbow. And now, as I had thus secured my treasure, I attacked the farms again, and got from them what I needed and what I could snap up. And though I was but simple, yet I was sly enough never to come a second time to a place where I had stolen anything; and therefore was I very lucky in my thefts and was never caught pilfering.

It fell out at the end of May, as I sought to replenish my store by my customary yet forbidden tricks, and to that end had crept into a farmyard, that I found my way into the kitchen, but soon perceived that there were people still awake (and here note that where dogs were I wisely stayed away); so I set the kitchen door, which opened into the yard, ajar, that if any danger threatened I could at once escape, and stayed still as a mouse till I might expect the people would go to bed. But meanwhile I took note of a crack that was in the kitchen-hatch that led to the living-room; thither I crept to see if the folk would not soon go to rest; but my hopes were deceived, for they had but now put on their clothes, and in place of a light there stood a sulphurous blue flame on a bench, by the light of which they anointed sticks, brooms, pitchforks, chairs, and benches, and on these flew out of the window one after another. At this I was horribly amazed, and felt great terror; yet, as being accustomed to greater horrors, and, moreover, in my whole life having never heard nor read of witches, I thought not much of this, and that chiefly because ’twas all so done in such stillness; but when all were gone I betook myself also to the living-room, and devising what I could take with me and where to find it, in such meditation sat me down straddle-wise upon a bench; whereon I had hardly sat down when I and the bench together flew straight out of the window, and left my gun and knapsack, which I had laid aside, as pay for that magical ointment. Now my sitting down, my departure, and my descent were all in one moment, for I came, methought, in a trice to a great crowd of people; but it may be that from fear I took no count how long I took for this long journey. These folk were dancing of a wondrous dance, the like of which I saw never in my life, for they had taken hands and formed many rings within one another, with their backs turned to each other like the pictures of the Three Graces, so that all faced outwards. The inmost ring was of some seven or eight persons; the second of as many again: the third contained more than the first two put together, and so on, so that in the outermost ring there were over two hundred persons; and because one ring danced towards the right and the next towards the left, I could not see how many rings they formed, nor what was in the midst around which they danced. Yet all looked monstrous strange, because all the heads wound in and out so comically. My bench that brought me alighted beside the minstrels which stood outside the rings all round the dancers, of which minstrels some had, instead of flutes, clarinets and shawms, nothing but adders, vipers and blind-worms, on which they blew right merrily: some had cats into whose breech they blew and fingered on the tail; which sounded like to bagpiper: others fiddled on horses’ skulls as on the finest violins, and others played the harp upon a cow’s skeleton such as lie in the slaughter-house yards: one was there, too, that had a bitch under his arm, on whose tail he fiddled and fingered on the teats; and throughout all the devils trumpeted with their noses till the whole wood resounded therewith: and when the dance was at an end, that whole hellish crew began to rave, to scream, to rage, to howl, to rant, to ramp, and to roar as they were all mad and lunatic. And now can any man think into what terror and fear I fell.

In this tumult there came to me a fellow that had under his arm a monstrous toad, full as big as a kettledrum, whose guts were dragged out through its breech and stuffed into its mouth, which looked so filthy that I was fit to vomit at it. “Lookye, Simplicissimus,” says he, “I know thou beest a good lute-player: let us hear a tune from thee.” But I was so terrified (because the rogue called me by name) that I fell flat: and with that terror I grew dumb, and fancied I lay in an evil dream, and earnestly I prayed in my heart I might awake from it. Now the fellow with the toad, whom I stared at all the time, went on thrusting his nose out and in like a turkey-cock, till at last it hit me on the breast, so that I was near choked. Then in a wink ’twas all pitch-dark, and I so dismayed at the heart that I fell on the ground and crossed myself a good hundred times or more.

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See also:

Zaubereÿ – Sorcery….

Zaubereÿ – Sorcery. Etching, Nuremberg 1626

“Matthäus Merian der Ältere (or “Matthew”, “the Elder”, or “Sr.”; 22 September 1593 – 19 June 1650) was a Swiss-born engraver who worked in Frankfurt for most of his career, where he also ran a publishing house.”

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Following is his engraving of a witches’ dance.

Also a full res size:

Goethe’s Faust – Walpurgis Night while Gretchen suffers….

Goethe’s Faust – Walpurgis Night while Gretchen suffers.

“Walpurgis Night represents the powers of ennui and indifference in full flight, a restless activity of petty sins, a superficiality and cynicism concerning human affairs that is amusing but corrosive. The world is shown as Vanity Fair: and Faust as a selfish observer while Gretchen is elsewhere suffering.”

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