English translation of Interview with Museum Director on the Pied Piper
Original German transcript on the site "The Pied Piper of Coppenbrügge"
A short excerpt from this interview is shown on Youtube at: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3JTNxQ6SbFc
Related sites and downloads at:
http://www.julian-scutts.de Go to DOWNLOADS and on pages 1 and 5 (currently) you will find a video clip and an observation on Augustin von Mörsperg's picture of the Pied Piper
May I introduce myself? I am Norbert Truckenbrot. You are the director of the Museum of Coppenbrügge and its affiliated Society, and I would like to ask you some questions. Our subject is the legend of the Pied Piper. We have gathered that you have also delved into this subject. What is the connection between the legend of the Pied Piper and Coppenbrügge.?
Let me say to begin with. Originally I myself had no particular interest in the legend of the Pied Piper when I began working at this museum. However, after receiving evidence from our former supervisor of forests, Herr Hamelung, I discovered these sculptured figures in the Ith (hill range), these figures in stone, and then my interest was greatly aroused when the museum archives revealed some further evidence on the subject, namely a theory proposed by an expert in folklore, Waltraut Wöller, who had presented a dissertation in 1957 in which she cited Coppenbrügge as an integral part of her interpretation of the legend of the Pied Piper.
Might it then be the case that the phrase “lost by the Koppen” means “lost in the vicinity of Coppenbrügge”?
That was her initial idea. Following the lead prompted by “Koppen“, she inquired where such a place name was to be found immediately east of Hamelin. Naturally her search led to the location of Coppenbrügge. She subsequently held a conversation with the town mayor, then Herr Beckmann, who dispatched her up to the so called “Teufelsküche” (“the Devil’s Kitchen”) and supplied her with faulty etymological data that were later scrutinized and rejected, so the whole inquiry in effect fizzled out, and it was only when I myself discovered that we long been in possession an official deed from the year 1013 referring to the “Koppanberg” that it dawned on me that there was more to the theory than had previously been supposed.
Then this “ Koppanberg” might be so named because carved figures of heads are represented there?
That’s the main point of contention. The discovery of these figures in rock – these rock sculptures –as I venture to name them without reservation – was for me the true reason why I launched into researching ever further into the legend of the Pied Piper, and then another factor I had to consider was the role played in this matter by the Counts of Spiegelberg, that is to say the lords of the same castle manor in which this museum is housed. Local gossip has always associated these men with the story surrounding “the Devil’s Kitchen”. As this story goes, many people were “done in” because the counts made strenuous efforts to eradicate certain heathen rituals that were still being practised “up there” in those times. In effect the supposition behind the legend is that the youth of Hamelin together with a ”Piper”, a musician, left this place in order to indulge in heathen practices.
Is it possible that this area around the Fahnenstein was once a kind of mountain dancing platform? We noticed when making records of the scene yesterday that one can recognize apparent traces of a series of steps?
There are several aspects to consider here that clearly point to the fact that what today is called the Oberberg on the map is identical with the Koppanberg of earlier days, and this was a high hill and scene of heathen cultic practices, in other words a “Wallfahrtsberg“ (mount of pilgrimage“) in German. When viewed from a certain vantage point, it recalls events on the so called Blocksberg [in the Harz mountains where witches are said to perform occult rites (editor)] . The Ith poses exactly the same case. We may trace in these places long approach lanes for marchers, the extensions of which spiral round the dome at the summit There are also records and pictures showing this activity on the Blocksberg when devotees form long queues around the dome of the summit to celebrate Walpurgis night, for instance.
There are also some kind of long-drawn ditches or depressions to be found on the Ith. Could these signify that dance rituals and celebrations marking turning points in the solar calendar have taken place there?
We assume that beneath the Fahnenstein and the Devil’s Kitchen there is a wide open surface, a flat ridge, in which such celebrations, dances to be precise, took place. However, what was celebrated in pagan times on the Koppan represents something quite different, as this upward spiraling procession leading to the highest apex is inextricably bound up with the fact that the mount and its summit served as a way of imitating the apparent course of the sun, its ascent and then its descent through the annual cycle. All this can only be described as part of a natural religion.
The date of the exodus of the children of Hamelin gives us cause to ponder. It happened in mid-summer and at this time in the Middle Ages it was customary to marry so that the children would be born in spring. Could this also have something to do with the exodus of the children of Hamelin and such dance festivities?
Indeed there is evidence to this effect in a rhyming prayer in Latin, the so called “Passionale Sanctorum“. It was in the Münster Church, this „“Passionale“ and the rhyming prayer recounts that in this year of 1284 members of “both sexes”, or “sexus uterque”, became faint. This points to acts of sexual abandonment and these are referred to again in another text – but superabundant details would probably take us too far from the subject. In short, we have evidence that in this case we are dealing with licentious behavior.
Back again to the subject of this “Devil’s Kitchen”. It is somehow an eerie place. Is it possible that a land slide or rock fall was caused by human intervention?
Well I am not inclined to believe that such an earth fall could have been caused by human action, but I can well imagine that there was a small cave entrance there, a small one which could have been covered by debris caused deliberately by smashing rocks. I think that is quite likely as a possibility..
Is the region up there in geological terms a fault line or prone to earth slides?
At any rate the way it is represented on geological maps of the area reveals that a fault line does run exactly through this area and extends as far as the Devil’s Kitchen. Then again there is an area below this upper rock segment where Friedensruh is situated. …..
Herrn Hüsam, are you likely to continue your research in this field? It is worth your while to carry on doing so?
My possibilities for doing research really have no solid basis as I have neither the geological nor the archaeological qualifications for the task. What I can try to do is essentially to shed further light on this topic with the help of documents handed down from earlier times. It is for others to work on everything apart from that.
What is the significance of the concept “hill of Calvary” in relation to the legend of the Pied Piper?
Yes, I can say something on this question straight away. The first thing to mention is the well-known inscription on a wall of the Rattenfängerhaus (House of the Rat-catcher/ Pied Piper) in Hamelin / Hameln. We find the word “Calvary” where the sentence ends: “to Calvarie bi den Koppen verloren” (“lost at Calvary at the Koppen”). The phrase “to Calvarie bezogen” (drawn to Calvarie”) appears in various other sources and then is occasionally referred to as “the hill of Calvary”. An important piece of knowledge is that Calvary should really be translated as skull or skull cover, and so we arrive at the semantic borderline with “head” , which is what “Koppen” means; thus many researchers have established a link between Calvary and a name for a place of execution and particularly for Golgotha, where Jesus was crucified. People like Hans Dobbertin then conflated the concepts of Koppenberg, the hill of Calvary and Golgotha as though they all meant the same, but that can never have been the case. There were always substantial differences between them, as in the Middle Ages itself the concept of Calvary referred exclusively to the head or skull surmounting the jaws of Hell, otherwise referred to as the lion’s or dragon’s mouth, that swallows sinners while little demons spare no effort to push poor wretches into this mouth with their tridents or other implements. This was the typically medieval image of the journey to Hell or the entry into the jaws of Hell up to the era of the Crusades, when a Minister General of the Franciscan order interpreted the Bible in such a way that the hill of Calvary, the skull, became synonymous with Golgotha, a concept which later included an association with any place of execution, and thus Calvary acquired a new significance. In the course of the Crusades the hill of Calvary also became identified with what is called a “Wallfahrtsberg” in German, which means a pilgrimage centre situated on a mountain or pinnacle. Mont Saint Michel is such a location. In Austria there are various centres of pilgrimage of this kind, most eminently near Graz, and 14 stations of the Passion lie on the path leading up to a chapel or the site of three crosses. At this so called mount Calvary the faithful complete their pilgrimage in a process described in German by the verb ”wallfahren“. Such a version of the “mount of Calvary” emerged later in the course of history but the original meaning of the word in the Middle Ages, which is the only one pertinent to the story of the Pied Piper, signifies the mouth, the jaws, of Hell.
And there the children of Hamelin may possibly have disappeared?
Yes, at least I strongly suspect that the children were led to a cave in the heights of the Ith and entered it with the Pied Piper, as this accords with the notion of a journey to Hell, and in this case it was a literal journey, as they never emerged from ithat cave again, and that is what makes this event so woeful in the minds of people in the Middle Ages, woeful because the young people entered Hell and had no chance of ever finding the Kingdom of God. That’s all I have to say on the subject of Calvary.
Is it at all possible that such rites relating to the solar cycle still take place?
I have indeed experienced such an occasion myself at the Wackelstein (a boulder that rocks or wobbles, not being firmly fixed to its pivotal base). I went up there on midsummer’s night, the 21st of June, in fact while it was still twilight and almost dark. When I reached the Wackelstein, what should I see but tea-light candles adorned with flowers on this dish-shaped stone. They were still burning, mark you. There in the middle lay the severed neck of a swan, a remarkable sight, and then there was a rock at the side and this also had niches in it and even here tealight candles had been placed. I think I must have arrived at the spot immediately after the celebration of an occult rite.
Does that square with the account given by our senior forest supervisory officer, who once came across chickens’ bones amid flowers and candles ?
Very much so.
Do pilgrimages still continue?
I am inclined to think that the pilgrimage does in fact still take place, but not on the hill itself but rather in the guise of a pilgrimage to Marienau (a chapel in a hamlet at the foot of the Ith). It is celebrated as the annual festival of dedication. It is really the last vestige of the many previous pilgrimages to the so called holy mountain spring which formed an appendage of the sanctuary in Marienau. If one takes a closer look at the concept of “Wallahrt”, one will discover that it is related etymologically to “Wallküre” (female spirit attending heroes in the afterlife),”Wallstatt”, “Wallraub” and “Walhalle” (Valhalle), that is to say, in every case words making a reference to death in some way. Well then, “Wallfahrt” basically means a journey to the dead. It follows that people in the distant past made their way to the burial places of their ancestors, and that is what came to be called a “Wallfahrt”, and this involved not only paying reverence to the departed but also providing for the need to propagate new life, or, to call a spade a spade, freely engaging in sexual activities of the kind I have referred to. The time for all this was in the summer. So much for the concept of “Wallfahrt”.
Is it possible that these figures in stone or large sculptures called Adam and Eve are connected with ancient cults? Tradition has it that couples held engagement ceremonies there in earlier times.
That is correct. I myself have heard from the elderly inhabitants of Bessingen that newly engaged couples used to take a walk up to Adam and Eve. There on one of the larger and thicker rocks was a book placed in a metal box and in this they could write an entry as newly engaged couples below Adam and Eve, and we can be sure, incidentally, that both these figures were revered in pre-Christian times. I have a feeling that the female figure, which for some strange reason has always been called Adam, may in fact have been the representation of a pagan goddess, say Freya (cf. Friday).
That is to say the goddess of fertility?
As a possible example, yes: there is a source which I consider to be very significant, a water colour dating from 1592. . (Editor: to see this, click;
http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/Image:Pied_piper.jpg ). This water colour was copied by an artist from observing glass doors in the houses of burghers of Hamelin. I have undertaken an interpretation of this picture in accordance with the pictorial symbolism of the medieval period, and observed some interesting things in the process. Consider, for example, how the picture is divided into significant areas. Looming very large on the left side is the Piper. He reaches the top and bottom of the scene. For the left side in this case, read dangerous, evil and seductive. The right still means in German the right and the good, and on the right side of the picture, we see standing on the other bank of the Weser a figure called a “Petrifischer” in German, and anyone with a good knowledge of the Bible will understand the connection between this figure and Saint Peter. His purpose is to save souls. A saviour of souls, cutting a small figure to the right, stands holding his fishing rod, and an observer of this picture could figure out the direction in which the Weser flowed from the slant of the fishing line. The medieval observer was able to read the picture just like a book. And thus people who have a lot of brainpower are called „gebildet“ (well educated, based on the root “bild” meaning picture or image”). The words “Bild” and “Bildung” (education at a high cultural level) are inextricably connected and the basic lesson in this entire story is that the centre of a picture in the medieval period conveyed the corresponding central message it was to convey. The centre of this picture, though nobody has paid great heed to this point before now, is occupied by three stags in front of three trees.
Does this have anything to do with the place where we now are?
Just so. The three stags are to be interpreted in the light of their actions. One of them is browsing, another has just lain down and the third one is apparently eating too, and if you look closely you will see the third one is quite small and with no antlers, just little horns, so it must be very young while the other two are fully grown and mature. There were at the time when the legend of the Pied Piper originated three counts, brothers, who resided in this castle and took the stag as the emblem shown on their coat of arms. They were Nikolaus von Spiegelberg, his brother Moritz and the junior Hermann. He was so young that he didn’t even have permission to employ a seal, and a legal document from those times, together with its seals, is on display in the museum. The three fell under suspicion of terminating the ongoing heathen practices by some kind of “measure”
Perhaps the foundation of the abbey in Marienau shortly after this event is not unrelated to that measure (with the implication that it was not only generosity that motivated this munificent gesture).
I must say a word about this picture. It shows the motif of the town of Hamelin and the Weser as well as Peter the Fisherman. They all compose a pictorial unity. There the affair of the rats comes to the fore. This topic has previously never entered any discussion about the Pied Piper’s origins. It has always been assumed that the legend about a rat-catcher got appended to the original legend at some time around the year 1550 – by way of an additional explanation of what had once happened. No, I am firmly convinced that the theme of the rat-catcher formed a part of the legend from the very start but has to be understood in a new and unconventional way., namely in line with pictorial symbolism. In medieval times the rat – or the mouse to be precise – symbolizes the soul. It is essential to recognize this. What is the role of rats and mice with regard to the picture? The soul is represented by the image of the mouse or rat simply because they appear to come out of the earth and it was earlier the widely held belief that in the earth or under it lay the domain of the souls of the dead and in this context everything represented by rat scares and catching mice is nothing other than a way of treating the subject of the human soul. This is confirmed by the presence of Peter as the fisherman of souls, who wants to go fishing and save souls, but any observer can see that the fishing line cannot catch even a single mouse or rat because they are all being driven away from the river in another direction. None of them stands a chance as the fisherman is positioned much too far from the boat in the middle of the river where the ferryman is sitting and gesticuling wildly to prevent any rat from boarding the boat. On the other bank the Piper is sitting and constantly blowing his pipe so that the rats all wander into the Weser, and this is very clearly a symbol based on the doctrine on souls and the migration of the souls of the dead across the river to the hereafter, the other realm. The ferryman is a feature of all this. The scene presents a typical soul-related motif but no one has grasped this fact for some unknown reason. It all has to do with medieval teaching on the nature and fate of souls. That’s all on this picture.
Herr Hüsam, thank you very much for this interview.
A Critique of Massimo Polidoro's rejection of Gernot Hüsam's main arguments as laid out above
It is interesting to note that Massimo Polidoro, in an article of his on the site Skeptical Inquirer ( found at: http://findarticles.com/p/articles/mi_m2843/is_1_32/ai_n24264069 ), takes issue with Herr Hüsam's basic contentions as laid out in this interview and his articles on the subject of the Pied Piper. Polidoro finds insufficient evidence in Herr Hüsam's interpretations of the water colour mentioned above to support the view that the von Spiegelberg brothers perpetrated the massacre of young people possibly alluded to in the legend of the Pied Piper. However, as we note from the above interview, the evidence supplied by the picture serves only to corroborate weighty evidence drawn from other sources.
Surely the most compelling evidence in this regard is an item of proof established by Herr Hüsam himself, namely that the area now called the Oberberg was known as the Koppanberg as early as in the eleventh century. Can there be any reasonable doubt that the reference to Koppen in the original versions of the Pied Piper story points to the Oberberg near Coppenbrüggen, quite apart from the fact that the town's very name suggests a very similar connection?
Polidoro himself sets considerable store by the possible significance of place names when this suits his argument, for he favours the theory proposed by Jurgen Udolph that such a name as Hamelspringe denoting a site in east Germany indicates that the legend originated in some popular migration from Hamelin to settlements in the east. The legend may perfectly well conflate memories of a number of separate events affecting Hamelin. Indeed, Nicholas von Spiegelberg reportedly perished in a shipwreck off the Baltic coast together with a retinue of young people from Hamelin just after the 26th of June 1284.
Polidoro, for his part, seems to be attracted by the notion of some sinister cover-up or conspiracy when suggesting that the true date of the Piper's appearance in Hamelin (according to some lost original document, apparently) was deliberately predated by a hundred years in subsequent records so as expunge any association between the story of the Piper and the Plague. or some other unsavory event. But why would the earliest surviving records of the connive at such jiggery-pokery? Why indeed, when later date changes can be readily explained in terms of parallel developments in most folktales and legends? These stories inevitably undergo changes reflecting the authors' respective contemporary situation. Indeed, these very changes or deviations reveal a certain consistency within recognizable parameters.
While the original date ascribed to the Piper's arrival in Hamelin is the 26th of June in 1284, the "Day of Saint Paul and Saint John" Verstegan, Robert Browning's source, and others record the date as being the 22nd of July, a holy day dedicated to Mary Magdalene. Prosper Merimee in a historical novel entitled Chronique du regne de Charles IX associates the story with the gruesome events on Saint Bartholomew's Eve in 1572. The dates clearly differ, but they still evince a line of continuity, for all the dates in question fall on a day commemorating one or more of the saints. Merimee also seems to have intuited that the theme of the legend had to do with the massacre of those who defied othodox religious beliefs, granted that one construes the original events giving rise to the legend in such a light.
Sceptics, perhaps no less than religious fundamentalists, sometimes find it hard to maintain an openminded attitude to an object of investigation if their ideological commitment predisposes them to accept or reject evidence in accordance with deepseated hopes and expectations..