Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 24.djvu/247

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VINOUS SUPERSTITIONS.

235

nature which are all the time at work to produce prosperity and success or destruction.

In Alsace, the eye of the traveler is gladdened by the view of the picturesque vine-lands which stretch in almost unbroken succession along the slopes of the Vosges and Jura Mountains, heavy with handsome clusters of grapes. We can hardly wonder that the country people, feeling a similar delight, but one modified according to their different habit of thought, should attribute the prosperity of their vine-crops to higher powers; and it is easily explainable that in their childish fancies they, half in earnest, half in humor, allow these genii of old to continue to live and do their beneficent work. Especially characteristic of these children of Bacchus, to which a variety of most pleasant legends are attached, are prophecies respecting the success or failure of the next vintage, predictions that make themselves known by visible or audible signs.

Thus, in the spring, when the air is scented with the fragrance of the blossoms, and everything points to an abundant vintage, the people believe they can hear in the hill at Brunstatt the "Wigigerle" fiddling lustily to the accompaniment of ringing glasses and dancing. If, however, the vintner's prospects for the year are dull, the smell of the blossoms is only faint, and the attentive listener can only occasionally hear the sound of the strings, while the hill seems empty and desolate.

A pendant to the jolly "Wigigerle" (wine-fiddler) is the "White Lady of Paulinus Castle" who haunts the region of Weissenburg. She is believed to wander at night through the vines, and occasionally to make her appearance in the day-time. In case the year is to be unprosperous, she shows herself rarely, closely veiled, bearing a bunch of hidden keys, wearing a sad face, and weeping much; but, if the vintage is to be rich, she greets the vine-dressers cheerily, and rattles her keys gayly as she passes through the gardens.

The Alsatians also regard as an infallible wine-oracle the cellar of Arnsberg Castle, which belongs to the family of the Fesslers, a race of sturdy drinkers who became extinct in the seventeenth century, and is popularly called the Devil's Castle. The immense stocks of wine supposed to lie in the deep and spacious caverns have not been touched for centuries; for the most industrious search has failed to discover a door or any way by which an entrance to them can be forced. In good seasons, a sweet odor of wine arises from the ground at the time of the blooming of the vines, and diffuses itself around.

St. Hunna, formerly one of the richest ladies of Alsace, is honored as the patron of the poor, thirsty topers of the town of Hunnasweihen, in bad years. This pious woman, who was a friend and comforter of the poor in the seventh century, sometimes condescended so far as to wash the clothes of her maids, whence she got the name of the saintly laundress. A copious spring, flowing through four outlets, has been