The flying charm: To cologne in the wine cellar. On the history of a scholarly legend

Pp. 9-28

  • Willem de Blécourt
Keywords: migratory legends, witches’ flight, charm, satire


The charm Over Hedges and Bushes (Dutch: Over heg en haag; English: Over Thick and Over Thin; German: Oben aus und nirgend an) primarily occurs within the legend Following the Witch. It is impossible to study the one without the other. The crux of the legend consists of the pendant charm Through Thick and Through Thin and equivalents, which ridicules the original charm. In this contribution, both the modern European distribution of the legend and its earlier history are investigated from a Dutch perspective. It is argued that the pendant charm is the modern version of calling on God during a witches’ flight or a witches’ banquet. This change made the legend, previously used to underline the reality of the witches’ flight, into a joke. It transfigured the deadly fall from the air, which earlier was a warning against conversing with demons, into a hazardous undertaking which affected bodily apparel. It questioned the actions of men who tried to follow the superstitions of women. Yet the legend will not have been understood everywhere in the same way.

Author Biography

Willem de Blécourt

Willem de Blécourt is a historical anthropologist specialized in the study of witchcraft, werewolves and fairy tales in Europe from the Late Middle Ages to the twentieth century. An Honorary Research Fellow at the Meertens Institute (Amsterdam), his books include Tales of Magic, Tales in Print. On the Gealogy of Fairy Tales and the Brothers Grimm (2012), and the edited Werewolf Histories (2015). He is currently putting the last hand on: The Cat and the Cauldron. A Cultural History of Witchcraft in the Low Countries.