With Goethe At The Mountains Of Madness

The honorable H.P. Lovecraft had not seen these erratic blocks but Johann Wolfgang von Goethe was here. It was in the fairytale atmosphere of the Harz Mountains in the middle of Germany the famous writer found inspiration for his masterpiece Faust. What brought a sociable man like Goethe into this remote region?

One of the reasons why Goethe visited these mysterious millions of years old mountains was that he was an explorer. Goethe pursued many geological, botanical and other science studies.

The guides first refused to lead Goethe to the Brocken-Mountain or Blocksberg. In his great play the “Walpurgisnacht” takes place on the Blocksberg. The gathering of witches and demons there isn’t Goethe’s invention. A German scholar, Johannes Pretorius, mentions the mountain in connection with the witches-sabbat 1668. Before that several mountains were named “Blocksberg” when there were rumors about witches and forbidden pagan ceremonies. Lonely regions with mountains and large impenetrable forests weren’t safe regions in the dark ages. Superstition was pretty alive and the mysterious atmosphere triggered men’s imagination. They were the mountains of madness. Thus, one might say that the “Blocksberg” myth, as expressed in Goethe’s play, is a modernized and simplified vision of a phenomenon which was widespread in Europe and not only to be localized in one spot.

So, it’s all pure fiction, isn’t it? Maybe we shouldn’t take things too literal. There are other possibilities and theses possibilities aren’t less dangerous. The “Walpurgisnacht” myth as the witches-sabbat might stem from the metaphorical imaginary of medieval times. The origin however could be a much longer tradition and it tells us of fundamental human experience and indeed some secret cults and pagan worshipping. Out there in these lonely mountain caps surrounded by the dark forest is lurking something unspeakable, something beyond the Christian imagination. Remember our investigation of the matter in the “Dark Place, Holy Place” article. Maybe it was important for the Christian writers to blame the witches because then it would become something they could better deal with.

When Goethe visited the mountains the region wasn’t any longer a wilderness. However even today you can find good inspiration when you leave the most popular paths crowded with tourists in the summer. Goethe worked for 36 years on the first part of his Faust play, which is about the biggest questions of mankind.  And somehow this seems related to his long lasting journeys into these mysterious mountains.

There are places which can transform you and they provide important information for your work as I know from the development of the Forest Dark.  But better not to linger too long in the mountains of madness. The atmosphere of a certain place can get a grip on your mind and will leave you changed forever. It was Goethe who warned us that we will not walk under palm trees scot-free. Having visited many very special areas I know what I am talking about. The interesting question remains how the course of our actions, the countries we visit, makes us or our work usable to unseen forces and the object of their interventions. Who is really in charge? Is it really us? However it is on the other side necessary to visit those places and hear their melodies to find any answer.