"Shaman of Oberstdorf " tells the fascinating story of a
sixteenth-century mountain village caught in a panic of its own
making. Four hundred years ago the Bavarian alpine town of
Oberstdorf, surrounded by the towering peaks of the Vorarlberg, was
awash in legends and rumors of prophets and healers, of spirits and
specters, of witches and soothsayers. The book focuses on the life
of a horse wrangler named Chonrad Stoeckhlin 1549-1587], whose
extraordinary visions of the afterlife and enthusiastic practice of
the occult eventually led to his death--and to the death of a
number of village women--for crimes of witchcraft.
In addition to recounting Stoeckhlin's tale, this book examines
the larger world of alpine myths concerning ghosts and other
spirits of the night, documenting how these myths have been abused
by German political movements over the years. As an introduction to
modern German witchcraft research, as a study of the local impact
of the Counter Reformation, and as a historical investigation into
popular culture, Behringer's book has the advantage of telling a
compelling individual story amidst larger discussions of peasant
raptures, magical healing, and unfamiliar alpine notions such as
the "furious army," the "wild hunt," popular bonfire festivals, and
eerie echoes of pagan Wotan.
Wolfgang Behringer is one of the premier historians of German
witchcraft, not only because of his mastery of the subject at the
regional level, but because he also writes movingly, forcefully,
and with an eye for the telling anecdote. Reminiscent of such
classics as "The Cheese and the Worms" and "The Return of Martin
Guerre," "Shaman of Oberstdorf" is an unforgettable look at early
modern German folklore and culture.
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