Monday 27 August 2007

A.D. 1344 according to Neplach

I recently posted the famous tale of the shepherd from Blov as it appeared in the Kronika Neplachova, but there is another well-known case of a revenant referred to in the same chronicle under the year 1344:

"A. d. MCCCXLIV Quedam mulier in Lewin mortua fuit et sepulta. Post sepulturam autem surgebat et multos iugulabat et post quemlibet saltabat. Et cum fuisset transfixa, fluebat sanguis sicud de animali vivo et devoraverat slogerium proprium plus quam medium, et cum extraheretur, totum fuit in sanguine. Et cum deberet cremari, non poterant ligna aliqualiter accendi nisi de tegulis ecclesie ad informacionem aliquarum vetularum. Postquam autem fuisset transfixa, adhuc semper surgebat; sed cum fuisset cremata, tunc totum malum conquievit."

In my translation this goes something like:

A.D. 1344 a certain woman died in Lewin and was buried. But after her burial she rose, killed many and ran after whomever she pleased. And when she was impaled, blood flowed as from a living animal. She had devoured more than half of her veil, and when it was pulled out, it was full of blood. When she was to be cremated, the wood could not be set afire unless it according to the belief of some old women was made of thatch from the church. But after she had been impaled, she once again rose at all times; but when she was cremated, then all evil ceased.

Like the story of the shepherd from Blov, the tale of of the woman from Lewin was retold by Wenceslaus Hagecius in his 16th century Böhmische Chronica with many interesting details somehow added (and again he also added a year to the date, see e.g. Claude Lecouteux: Die Geschichte der Vampire, p. 96-8). This version has been retold by various other authors, e.g. as here quoted by Dudley Wright in his Vampires and Vampirism (first published 1914):

"Again, in 1345, in the town of Lewin, a potter's wife, who was reputed to be a witch, died and owing to suspicions of her pact with Satan, was refused burial in consecrated ground and dumped into a ditch like a dog. The after-events proved that she was not a good Christian, for, instead of remaining quietly in her grave, such as it was, she roamed about in the form of divers unclean beasts, causing much terror and slaying sundry persons. Thereupon her body was exhumed, and it was found that she had chewed and swallowed one-half of her face-cloth, which on being pulled out of her throat showed stains of blood. A stake was driven through her breast, but this only seemed to make matters worse. She now walked abroad with the stake in her hand and killed quite a number of people with this formidable weapon. Her body was then taken up a second time and burned, whereupon she ceased from troubling. The efficacy of this post-mortem auto-da-fé was accepted as conclusive proof that her neighbours had neglected to perform their whole religious duty in not having burned her when she was alive, and they had been thus punished for their remissness." (p. 167-8)

I have unfortunately not had the opportunity to read Ernst Boehlich's 1928 paper on Die Hexe von Lewin, but I can mention that Karen Lambrecht in her 1994 paper on revenants and vampires identifies Lewin as Lewin Kłodzki which is situated in Southwestern Poland. I find this a bit surprising, as Lewin is otherwise referred to as being in Bohemia, and there is in fact a Lewin (Levin) in that part of the Czech Republic. Furthermore, if you read about Levin in the German Wikipedia, it is mentioned that it was well-known for its pottery in the 14th and 15th centuries, and in this connection the potter's wife who became a "vampire" is mentioned:

"Die Einwohner lebten von der Landwirtschaft und dem Handwerk. Besondere traditionen hatte die Lewiner Töpferei, deren erste Zunftprivilegien aus dem Jahre 1402 stammen sollen und deren Produkte als Lewiner Geschirr weit verbreitet waren. Von einer Töpfersfrau, die in der Mitte des 14. Jahrhunderts gelebt und bösen Zauber ausgeübt haben soll und zur Strafe zu einem Vampir wurde, berichtet eine alte Sage." (The inhabitants supported themselves by farming and craftmanship. The Lewin Pottery had particular traditions, which are supposed to originate from their first guild privileges from the year 1402, and there products where widely distributed as Lewin tableware. An old legend tells of a potter's wife, who lived in the middle of the 14th century and is claimed to have practised evil sorcery and as a punishment became a vampire.)

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