translated and/or edited by
D. L. Ashliman
Johann Faustus was born in Roda in the province of Weimar, of God-fearing parents.
Although he often lacked common sense and understanding, at an early age he proved himself a scholar, mastering not only the Holy Scriptures, but also the sciences of medicine, mathematics, astrology, sorcery, prophesy, and necromancy.
These pursuits aroused in him a desire to commune with the Devil, so--having made the necessary evil preparations--he repaired one night to a crossroads in the Spesser Forest near Wittenberg. Between nine and ten o'clock he described certain circles with his staff and thus conjured up the Devil.
Feigning anger at having been summoned against his will, the Devil arrived in the midst of a great storm. After the winds and lightning had subsided the Devil asked Dr. Faustus to reveal his will, to which the scholar replied that he was willing to enter into a pact. The Devil, for his part, would agree:
The Devil agreed to these particulars, on the condition that Dr. Faustus would promise:
Having reached an agreement, the pact was drawn up, and Dr. Faustus formalized it with his own blood.
Henceforth Dr. Faustus' life was filled with comfort and luxury, but marked by excess and perversion. Everything was within his grasp: elegant clothing, fine wines, sumptuous food, beautiful women--even Helen of Troy and the concubines from the Turkish sultan's harem. He became the most famous astrologer in the land, for his horoscopes never failed. No longer limited by earthly constraints, he traveled from the depths of hell to the most distant stars. He amazed his students and fellow scholars with his knowledge of heaven and earth.
However, for all his fame and fortune, Dr. Faustus could not revoke the twenty-four year limit to the Devil's indenture. Finally recognizing the folly of his ways, he grew ever more melancholy. He bequeathed his worldly goods to his young apprentice, a student named Christoph Wagner from the University of Wittenberg .
Shortly after midnight on the last day of the twenty-fourth year, the students who had assembled at the home of the ailing Dr. Faustus heard a great commotion. First came the sound of a ferocious storm and then the shouts--first terrifyingly loud then ever weaker--from their mentor.
At daybreak they ventured into his room. Bloodstains were everywhere. Bits of brain clung to the walls. Here they discovered an eye, and there a few teeth. Outside they found the corpse, its members still twitching, lying on a manure pile.
His horrible death thus taught them the lesson that had escaped their master during his lifetime: to hold fast to the ways of God, and to reject the Devil and all his temptations.
Long after his death he could often be seen in a thicket on the lake shore sitting at a table with a number of people and playing cards. That is where he continues to practice his art.
When Dr. Faust was in Heilbronn, performing his troublesome arts throughout the region, he often went to Boxberg Castle, where he was always courteously received.
Once he was there on a cold winter's day, strolling with the lords and ladies of the palace along the garden paths on the east side of the castle. The ladies complained about the frost, and he immediately caused the sun to shine warmly, the snow-covered ground to turn green, and a mass of violets and beautiful flowers of every kind to spring forth. Then at his command the trees blossomed, and -- following the desires of the group -- apples, plums, peaches, and other good fruit ripened on the branches. Finally he caused grape vines to grow and bear grapes. He then invited each of his companions to cut off a grape, but not before he gave the signal to do so. When all of them were ready to cut away he removed the deception from their eyes, and each one saw that he was holding a knife against the nose of the person next to him. The part of the garden where this took place has ever since been called "the violet garden."
Another time Faust left Boxberg Castle at a quarter past eleven in order to be at a banquet in Heilbronn at the last strike of twelve o'clock. He got into his carriage hitched to four black horses and drove away like the wind, and he did indeed arrive in Heilbronn punctually at the strike of twelve.
A man working in a field saw how horned spirits paved the way before the carriage, while others pulled up the paving stones from behind and carried them away, thus destroying every trace of the pavement.
At one time the renowned Dr. Faust sojourned in Erfurt. He lived in Michelsgasse next to the great Collegium.
As a learned professor and with the permission of the academic senate he lectured in the large auditorium of the Collegium Building about Greek poets. Indeed, he explained Homer to his audience, the students, describing the heroic figures of the Iliad and the Odyssey so realistically that the students expressed their desire to see them with their own eyes. He made this possible, conjuring them up from the underworld, but when the students saw the powerful giant Polyphemus, they all became terrified and wanted to see or hear nothing more from him.
He drove through the narrowest street in Erfurt with a double-span load of hay, for which reason this street has ever since been called "Dr. Faust's Street."
Once he came riding a horse that ate and ate and could never be satisfied.
Another time he tapped all kinds of wine from a wooden table and made the drunken drinking companions think that they saw grapes. They wanted to cut them from the vines, but when he caused the deceptive image to disappear, each one had another one's nose in his fingers instead of wine grapes.
A house in Schössergasse is said to still have an opening in the roof that can never be closed with roofing tiles because Faust used it for his cloak rides.
He is said to have created a magnificent winter garden and provided delicious meals for numerous noble guests, thus achieving a high reputation.
Soon everyone in Erfurt was talking of nothing but Dr. Faust, and it was feared that a great many people would be led astray through his devilish arts.
Thus a learned monk by the name of Dr. Klinge was sent to convert him. But Faust did not want to be converted. In response to the masses and prayers directed at tearing him away from the devil, Dr. Faust said, "No, my good Dr. Klinge, it would be disreputable for me to break the contract that I signed with my blood. That would be dishonest. The devil has honestly upheld his promises, and I will also keep my word with him."
"Then go to the devil, you cursed piece of devil's meat and member of the devil's band!" cried the monk angrily. "Go to the eternal fires that have been prepared for the devil and his angels!" And the monk ran to Rector Magnificus and reported to him that Dr. Faustus was a totally unrepentant sinner.
Then Faust was banished from the city of Erfurt, and never again has a sorcerer been accepted there.
It is not true, as some claimed as early as the middle of the sixteenth century, that Dr. Faust grew up in Wittenberg and earned a doctorate of theology there, that he lived near the outer gate and had a house and garden in a street named Schneegasse (which never existed), and that he was strangled by the devil in the village of Kimlich, a half mile from Wittenberg, in the presence of several scholars and students. However, he did spend time in Wittenberg and was tolerated there for a while, until he became so crude that they tried to imprison him, and then fled to another place.
While in Wittenberg he approached Philipp Melanchton, who read the book to him, scolding him and warning him that if he did not immediately desist from his evil ways he would come to an evil end, which did indeed happen. He did not repent.
Now one day at ten o'clock in the morning Master Philipp was leaving his study on his way downstairs to eat when Faust, who was with him at that time, and whom he had vigorously scolded, said to him: "Master Philipp, you always approach me with rough words. Someday, when you are about to sit down to a meal, I am going to cause all the pots in the kitchen to fly up the chimney, so that you and your guests will have nothing to eat."
Thereupon Philipp answered him: "Desist from such talk! I ---- on your art!" And he did desist.
Another old God-fearing man also tried to convert him. To show his thanks, Faust sent a devil to the man's bedroom to frighten him as he was going to bed. The devil walked about in the room, grunting like a sow. The man, however, was not afraid. Armed with his faith, he ridiculed the devil: "What a fine voice you have! You are singing like an angel who was not allowed to remain in heaven because he wanted to be God's equal and was thus thrust out for his pride and now wanders through people's houses in the form of a sow!" With that the spirit, not wanting to be in a place where he was ridiculed because of his apostasy and his wickedness, returned to Faust and complained to him how he had been received there.
Dr. Faust, however, did lead a student astray. Dr. Lercheimer himself knew one of his friends well into an advanced age. This man had a crooked mouth. Whenever he wanted a hare, he would go out into the woods, make his hocus-pocus, and a hare would run right into his hands.
One winter the renowned Doctor Faustus came to the Count of Anhalt. Seeing that the count's wife was pregnant, Doctor Faustus asked her if she did not desire something special to eat, as is often the case with expectant mothers. He said that with the help of his magic powers he could get her anything she wanted. The countess graciously accepted his friendly offer and told him that a great desire of hers would be satisfied if she could have some fresh fruit such as grapes, cherries, and peaches, instead of the dried confection and nuts that she currently had. But she thought that neither he nor any other magician could get such things in the middle of a harsh winter.
Doctor Faustus took three silver platters, set them in front of the dining room window, muttered a magic formula, then soon returned with fresh fruit. The first platter was filled with apples, pears, and peaches; the second with cherries, apricots, and plums; and the third filled with red and green grapes. He invited the countess to partake of the fruit, which she did with great pleasure.
When it came time for Doctor Faustus to take leave of Anhalt, he requested the count and the countess to accompany him on a walk, for he wanted to show them something new. This they did, accompanied by the count's entourage. Approaching the castle gate, they saw a newly constructed palace on the hill called Rombühl. Water birds were swimming in its broad moats. The palace had five towers. As the party came closer, they found that two of the towers and the outer yard were alive with a menagerie of rare animals which were walking a jumping about inside, without injuring one another. There were apes, monkeys, bears, chamois, ostriches, as well as other animals.
An elaborate breakfast awaited them in one of the halls. Doctor Faust's familiar, Christoph Wagner, served as waiter, and music was sounding from an unseen source. The food and wine were such that everyone ate and drank with great pleasure until they were full.
After spending more than an hour in this place, the party left the beautiful palace. As they were approaching Anhalt Castle they looked back at the new palace and saw and heard it go up in flames, with the sound of rifles and canons. Faustus and Wagner had disappeared, and they all were suddenly as hungry as lions. They had to have breakfast once again, for everything that they had eaten had been merely an illusion.
Furthermore, the servant was carefully to close all shutters and windows, such that not even the smallest crack remained open. The tub was to be placed behind the stove, which was to be heated glowing hot for three days.
The servant was strictly commanded not to enter the room until the three days had passed. He followed these orders. On the third day the smell was so strong that he could no longer stand it, and he looked into the room. Doctor Faust's head and breast emerged from the tub, and he waved to the servant. A moment later he climbed out the the tub, whole and hearty.
Faust had commanded the building of the castle not only to provide himself with a magnificent residence, but also in an attempt to give the devil a task that he would be unable to fulfill, thus voiding the pact that ultimately would end with Faust's damnation. However, the devil proved equal to this task.
In another attempt to frustrate the devil, Faust requested a bowling alley in the middle of the Danube River. This too was accomplished, and Faust miraculously was able to play at bowls on the surface of the water.
Whenever Faust wanted to cross over to the town of Aschach, he had the devil build a bridge across the river. The bridge was constructed immediately before Faust's galloping horses, and dismantled behind him as he passed over. Similarly, as reportedly also occurred elsewhere in Germany, in only a few minutes he had a paved road built for himself as far as Neuhaus, and then torn up when no longer needed.
These miracles not only satisfied Faust's great ego; they were also intended to give the devil a task that he would not be able to fulfill. But in this Faust failed. On midnight at the end of the twenty-fourth year a great commotion was heard from within the castle. The devil was seen flying through the air with Faust, and, reaching the height of the nearby mountains, he ripped him to pieces. Since then neither has been seen near the Faustschlössl.
A hole remained where the two left the castle, and to this day it cannot be plastered over.
After a succession of noble occupants, in 1966 the Faustschlössl was remodeled as a hotel and restaurant. The hotel management claims that the famous "Devil's Hole" still cannot be plastered over, and they offer to show it to their guests.
On September 18, 2008, I found myself in Aschach waiting for a bus to take me to the city of Linz. I asked the bus driver about the legend of Faust and the devil at the castle across the river.
"It's true," he assured me. "My father is a plasterer, and he has tried to repair that hole, but the plaster keeps falling out."
One day the devil came to him and said: "My dear friend Faust, your labors are all in vain. You should take me into your service. I will be your servant for seven years and give you everything that your heart desires."
"Very good," said Faust. "I have been seeking something like that for a long time."
The devil responded: "If that is what you want, then first you must give me a pact written by hand with your blood."
Faust did this at once, and pact was finalized.
From that moment on there was nothing of beauty in the world that Faust did not desire. Everything had to come from Amsterdam and Paris. In the middle of winter he demanded lovely grapes, in the middle of summer snow and ice. In the courtyard a large hortensia blossomed continuously, and the garden was always filled with the most costly flowers.
Faust did not stop there. The devil also had to get him a carriage with four horses that never tired. In the shortest time he could be in Constantinople, and come back just as fast.
If he wanted to go to Bommel [Zaltbommel], he would just say: "Jost, I want a bridge over the Waal River immediately, and then break it down again at once!"
The bridge appeared, and then vanished as soon as he had crossed over it.
At that time the streets in Bommel were badly paved, but Faust had only to shout out: "Jost, run ahead of the horses and smooth everything out, but then put it back in its previous state, because I don't like the people of Bommel."
Once Faust rode out of the door of a tavern mounted on a keg of the best Thielschen beer. Many guests saw this happen.
Faust kept Jost busy the whole day. If Jost thought that he could could rest at the end of a day's hard work, then in the evening Faust would scatter a bushel of grain far and wide into the thorn hedges, and Jost had to gather everything up again during the night. Or he would throw a large amount of flour into the castle's moat, and Jost had to bring it all back, completely clean and unspoiled.
Jost endured this for four years, but with all his labors he became so thin that he was pathetic to look at.
At last his patience broke, and he said to Faust: "I am willing to have served you for four years in vain. I now beg you to dismiss me, because I cannot stand it any longer."
Doctor Faustus laughed and said: "So you are tired? But I am not."
Jost had to serve him for the remaining three years. However, when these three years had passed, promptly at twelve midnight Jost grabbed the doctor by his hair and pulled him to a large window in the castle tower, and from there to hell. The tower window still can be seen today.
Jost pulled Faust through the bars of the window such that his bright red blood stuck to the window and splashed against the wall. People have often tried to clean the stains, but no rain, no snow, and no human hands can do that. The stains will remain there as long as the castle and the tower stand.
According to legend, there is a book, named Dr. Faust's Hell-Master, which teaches the art of controling spirits, even of making the devil subservient to oneself. It is said to be buried beneath a thorn bush behind the Chemnitz Castle, on the road to the Küch Forest. Many advocates of the black art have unsuccessfully attempted to find this book.
Thus they awaited the hour of midnight. Soon the devil stormed in to take away his victim. He raged and howled for an hour. Finally the clock struck twelve, and the devil had to retreat, but not before he had pulled out a tuft of the peasant's hair.
Now nothing was to be done but to have recourse to many prayers, whereby the devil's cunning was turned to naught; but it was long impossible to close up the hole in the wall so effectually that it was not immediately found open again.
Doctor Faustus was a good man,
He whipt his scholars now and then;
When he whipp'd them he made them dance
Out of Scotland into France,
Out of France into Spain,
And then he whipp'd them back again!
Doctor Faustus was a good man,
He beat his children now and "tan,"
When he did, he led them a dance,
Out of England into France,
Out of France into Spain,
And then he whipp'd them back again.
It appears that in former days, when the Evil One used to visit the earth in bodily form and enter into contracts with mortals, giving them material prosperity now in exchange for the soul at a future time, a tailor of Clitheroe entered into some such agreement with him. At the expiration of the term, however, the tailor having failed to receive any benefit at all from the agreement, asked from his Satanic Majesty the boon of "one wish more."
It was granted. A dun horse was grazing hard by, and the ready-witted tailor, pointing to the animal, wished that the devil might ride straight to his own quarters upon it and never come back to earth to plague mortal. Instantly the horse was bestridden by the Evil One, who speedily rode out of sight never to return in a bodily shape.
People came from far and near to see the man who had outwitted the devil, and soon it occurred to the tailor to set up an alehouse for the entertainment of his visitors, taking for a sign the devil riding a dun horse, or as the neighbours called it for brevity "the Dule upon Dun."
For this they received power to do almost everything man could conceive -- to control the elements, to send disease on man or beast, to make crops unfruitful, to destroy them by wind or rain, to amass as much wealth as they wished to spend upon their evil passions -- in short, to do what wicked work they set their minds to. A wild wanton life did such lead, often with the appearance of unbounded wealth and happiness far beyond the reach of most men. Their whole time seemed one round of success and joy.
The time fixed by the contract might be prolonged, but, if the contract was not renewed, go they must at the hour appointed.
A man had made such a contract. He had, to all appearance, lived a life of comfort and success. The time for him to go drew very near. When he began to think of his doom, horror took hold of him. He told his terrible secret to some of his friends. They did what they could to cheer him, and make him forget it. On the last night they met with him, and kept him surrounded, persuading him and themselves that, if it should come to the worst, they would be able to defend him. Hour after hour passed, and they began to think that the devil had forgotten.
The appointed hour came. Next moment a knock was heard at the door. All eyes were turned to it. It opened, and in stalked the devil. There was no delay. He rushed upon his thrall, and both disappeared in fire, leaving behind them nothing but smoke and stench.
There is an incredible tradition connected with this place, Ffinant, Trefeglwys. It is said that an old barn stands on the right-hand side of the highway.
One Sunday morning, as the master was starting to church, he told one of the servants to keep the crows from a field that had been sown with wheat, in which field the old barn stood. The servant, through some means, collected all the crows into the barn, and shut the door on them. He then followed his master to the church, who, when he saw the servant there, began to reprove him sharply. But the master, when he heard the strange news, turned his steps homewards, and found to his amazement that the tale was true, and it is said that the barn was filled with crows. This barn ever afterwards was called Crow-Barn, a name it still retains.
It is said that the servant's name was Dafydd Hiraddug, and that he had sold himself to the devil, and that consequently, he was able to perform feats, which in this age are considered incredible.
However, it is said that Dafydd was on this occasion more subtle than the old serpent, even according to the agreement which was between them. The contract was, that the devil was to have complete possession of Dafydd if his corpse were taken over the side of the bed, or through a door, or if buried in a churchyard, or inside a church. Dafydd had commanded, that on his death, the liver and lights were to be taken out of his body and thrown on the dunghill, and notice was to be taken whether a raven or a dove got possession of them; if a raven, then his body was to be taken away by the foot, and not by the side of the bed, and through the wall, and not through the door, and he was to be buried, not in the churchyard nor in the church but under the church walls. And the devil, when he saw that by these arrangements he had been duped cried, saying:
Dafydd Hiraddug, badly bred,
False when living, and false when dead.
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Revised February 10, 2021.