As we in Bad Harzburg learned of the idea of a time capsule to celebrate the Anniversary of MANN+HUMMEL, we did not need long to decide which local speciality we would contribute. We agreed immediately: It could only be the Harz witch. As someone born and raised in Bad Harzburg I can hardly imagine that there are still people who do not know who or what the Harz Brocken witches are. Therefore, I’m pleased to explain.
The German city of Bad Harzburg lies on the border of Lower Saxony and Saxony-Anhalt, directly on the north-eastern outer reaches of the sub-alpine Harz mountain range. The highest mountain in the Harz is the Brocken at 1,141 meters (3,743 feet). But what does it have to do with witches? That is actually quite simple; popular belief understands the so-called Harz Brocken Witches as fictional figures who gathered in earlier times on the Brocken.
The Brocken was known in the 16th century as “Blocksberg”. Since the second half of the 17th century the mountain has been regarded as the main gathering point for witches from all over Germany. The largest gathering was on Walpurgis Night. The spread and popularisation of the Brocken as the “Witches’ Mountain” arose principally from Johannes Praetorius’ work “Blockberg’s performance” (1668). The idea of the witches’ dance on Walpurgis Night became part of national culture, thanks to none other than Goethe’s “Faust”. The cultural tourism created by Praetorius and Goethe has led to all-year festivals and the sale of countless souvenirs.
The Harz Brocken witches have good intentions and bring good fortune
And that is why the Harz Brocken witches are THE symbol of our region. If you happen to pay a visit to our site, you will not be able to avoid our witch. The witches come in all possible variations – from young to old, from frighteningly ugly to wonderfully pretty. Their clothing is often patched, and some witches wear spectacles, slippers, and often head scarves as well. In the stories of yore, witches are depicted as evil. However, in the 20th century the myth of gatherings of witches on the Blocksberg was given a friendly interpretation in children’s books.
A genuine Bad Harzburger organised the first Walpurgis Night festival on the Brocken. That was Rudolf Stolle, a book publisher, in 1896. The festival consisted of a celebration in the Brocken hotel and a procession to the Devil’s Pulpit at midnight. In 1903, the festival took place for the first time in larger format at the initiative of the Walpurgis Society of Bad Harzburg, that’s why 1903 is given as the founding date of the Walpurgis Society.
Every year on 30th April, some 100,000 participants celebrate the Walpurgis festival in and around the Harz region. The Brocken, as the witches’ gathering place, has thereby gained an importance beyond the immediate region. Wherever one looks, one sees witches or witch puppets – in the trees, on the roadside, or on hoardings. The witches are omnipresent and Walpurgis Night resembles a colourful people’s festival with a competitive aspect where the “most beautiful” witch is chosen.
The witch is the highest selling souvenir in the Harz region. Witches are today bringers of good fortune and protectors of the home. What would be more appropriate for MANN+HUMMEL, the largest employer in Bad Harzburg, to celebrate its 75th Anniversary? They shall bring the company good fortune! Because of the company Anniversary celebrations, items have been collected from all the MANN+HUMMEL locations across the globe. All of these fascinating items will be exhibited this summer in a specially prepared time capsule at the new technology centre in Ludwigsburg.