It is well-known in Steirmark (and in fact much of Germany) that a tree with a hole in it is very magical, and often possesses a healing power. These mystical boughs are called Zweiselbaume, and are created by lightning, perhaps guided by the faeries of the wood. A person afflicted with a sickness must crawl through the hole, once, twice, or preferably three times, and they must also be nude. Like any magical tradition in healing, it is an inexact art, and it seems that the more a Zweiselbaum is used the less likely it is to be successful in removing the affliction. For this reason, undiscovered Zweiselbaum are very sacred indeed!
This tradition is especially popular for babies and young children, and if a suitable tree cannot be found, snowdrifts, holes in the earth, or even tangles of vines may suffice. No specific ritual is universal - what works for one person may not for the next, and those maladies caused by a particularly heinous sin may prove too strong to be dispelled by a passing-through ritual. Birch, Elm, Linden, Willow, and Apple Trees are almost always those chosen in Germany for these rituals.
The presence of ancient weathered stones arranged in geometric patterns is well-founded with the infamous Stonehenge, near Salisbury, England. However, other such dolmens exist in Germany. In the Duchy of Steirrmark (of the Grand Duchy of Austria), such stones are called Withershins, meaning 'holed stone', and are characterized by a roughly circular hole in their center. The covenant of Rabenstein has discovered one such collection of stones not far from the town of Bruck-an-der-Mür, on the slopes of the Zoberhohle. The stones are 9 in number and stand on a hill of lush green grass, each ancient and weathered, forming a rough ring.
Although they seem to mark a site important to the magical realm, or perhaps even a connection to Arcadia, no one knows who constructed them or what purpose they now serve.
Local superstition claims they are useful to climb through for healing (completely naked of course), or to insure the good health of newborn babes (see the summary of 'passing-through rituals'). The captain of Rabenstein's turb allowed his young son to be passed through one of these stones in 1206, and in the third pass the child vanished altogether. Despite attempts to locate or perhaps pursue the child, the Withershins have not given up this prize. It is not known what became of the child, and further, it is not known if other such 'Withershins' exist in Europe.
This page last modified 4/1/97.
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