Myth Perchta

Perchta punishes laziness and incorrect conduct regarding fairs. These punishments can range from simple nightmares to outright disembowelment. The victim's stomach is often filled with stones and drowned in a well. Additionally Perchta's breath is lethal and can blind.

On the other hand she rewards hard work and accommodating deeds. Aside from reels, golden strands, and bunches of flax for weavers she also gifts coins that maids find in buckets (most likely in wells). She is also supposed to be responsible for the growth of grain. Wells and ponds are the places where Perchta watches over unborn souls. In this sense, she is perceived as a guardian of unborn children and those who die before baptism.

Perchta is also depicted as an elderly woman under the name of Butzebercht, whose foot is either crippled, unnaturally bloated by weaving, goose- or duck-like in shape.

Perchta is seen most likely during the Rauhnächte, a time between midwinter and the 6th of January. Her favorite day is the 6th of January (Epiphany, Twelfth Day or Alemannic Hochneujahr). During this period she is supposed to soar the sky with the Wild Hunt and her flock of children.

The traditional Perchtenläufe in Austria primarily embody two groups, the „good“ Schönperchten and the „evil“ Schiechperchten (schiech, pronounced schiach with emphasis on i: ugly, bad). Important tools for the Perchts are the bell or old iron chains, which they use according to popular interpretation for expelling winter – or the evil spirits of winter (Winteraustreiben or expelling of the old year).

Ignaz Vinzenz Zingerle
Berchta-Sagen in Tirol
Zeitschrift für Volkskunde, 1. Jahrgang, S. 260–262. 1889. Leipzig