Hertha Lake

A Legend from Northern Germany

translated by

D. L. Ashliman

© 1996-2010

In the part of the Island of Rügen named Jasmund, not far from Stubbenkammer, one can still see remnants--especially the outer wall--of Hertha Castle, which has stood there for many centuries, ever since the days of heathenism. In this castle the heathens of Rügen worshipped an idol that they called Hertha, whom they perceived to be Mother Earth.

Not far from Hertha Castle there is a deep, black lake, surrounded by woods and hills. The goddess bathed there several times each year. She rode there in a carriage covered with a mysterious veil and drawn by two cows. Only her consecrated priest was allowed to accompany her. Slaves were also brought along to lead the draft animals, but they were drowned in the lake immediately upon completing their task, because any unconsecrated person who caught sight of the goddess would have to die. For this reason nothing more is known about the worship of this goddess.

There are all kinds of stories about uncanny happenings near this lake. Some believe that these are caused by the devil, who, in the form of the goddess Hertha, was worshipped by the heathens and who therefore still lays claim to the lake. Others believe that these happenings are caused by an ancient queen or princess who had been banished to this place.

Especially when the moon is shining brightly, a beautiful woman is often seen emerging from the woods adjacent to Hertha Castle. She proceeds to the lake, where she bathes herself. She is surrounded by many female servants, who accompany her into the water. Then they all disappear, but they can be heard splashing about. After a while they all appear again, and they can be seen returning to the woods dressed in long white veils.

It is very dangerous for a wanderer to observe this, for he will be drawn by force into the lake where the white woman is bathing, and as soon as he touches the water, he will be powerless; the water will swallow him up. They say that the woman has to lure one human into the water every year.

No one is allowed to use boats or nets on this lake. Some time ago some people dared to bring a boat to the lake. They left it afloat overnight, and when they returned the next morning, it had disappeared. After a long search, they found it atop a beech tree on the bank. It was spirits of the lake that had put it up there during the night, for when the people were getting it back down, they heard a spiteful voice calling to them from beneath the lake, saying: "My brother Nickel and I did it!"

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Revised June 26, 2010.