Do you like witchy stories? I will tell you a few. Besides, they are not simply stories. They were inspired by the place with the mysterious name. We drive past that place regularly, and its name never failed to ignite my interest. It is not a common name for a locality in Latvia. So, it’s no wonder there are a few legends about how the place got it.
So, the place’s name is… Witch (Latvian: Ragana).
It is a village located near Sigulda. Do you remember that place with three castles at a cannon-shooting distance from each other? If not, click here to check it out.
So, the stories about how Witch got its name.
One version claims that the most seductively gorgeous woman is to blame. Isn’t it always cherchez la femme? The story goes as follows.
Once, on the main road that led straight to the capital Riga there stood a tavern. It was a usual tavern a traveller could stop at to rest from the exhausting journey. And in those times – a couple of centuries ago – every journey was exhausting. Imagine jumping up and down on a bumpy – the roads weren’t asphalted back then – road for hours. If you weren’t an aristocrat, the seat probably wasn’t really comfortable and one had to put up with bobbing up and down in a wooden box for hours.
The roadside tavern on the crossroads between Sigulda and Riga didn’t serve the best food, and its beer wasn’t of the highest sort. Still, every man who lived in the vicinity spent all their hard-earned money in this place. Were they all hopeless drunks? Of course, not. The reason why male villagers flew to the tavern as bees to honey was the tavern’s owner. She was so beautiful, local men couldn’t resist. For that, their wives called her a witch.
There’s also another tale that makes an attempt to explain the place’s connection with the paranormal. It says that once a fiend himself visited the roadside tavern. He hid his identity, having worn a hat over his horns and placed his tail in the wide trousers. Only the tavern’s owner recognised the devil. Still, the woman knew better than to voice her suspicions at once. People in the past didn’t watch tv shows, thus, they didn’t have an illusion that any school kid with a stake can kill any paranormal beast.
The woman served the visitor as if he was a usual visitor. Moreover, she didn’t ask him to pay for food and drink.
The fiend used the chance and lost any sense of measure. He got drunk, and that’s when the tavern’s owner pulled off the hat from his head. Now everyone in the tavern could see who the visitor really was!
Men started beating him, and the devil ran away, having smashed down the door on his way out. Do you think that people appreciated the tavern owner’s vigilance? Those were the dark times, so they didn’t. Instead of thanking her, they started calling her a witch.
Nowadays, Ragana is a quiet village and it is most known for its roadside café called “Witch’s Kitchen”. It’s a great place to stop on the way to Sigulda, Cēsis (with its well-preserved castle), and to the regional centre, the city of Valmiera. A visit to the bathroom can be a bit disconcerting, though (look at the main photo to this post and you’ll see why).
In my newest book release, “Finding You Way”, the village that makes the main character doubt her dream to live in the capital, is inspired by Witch.
“…a novel about choices…” says Goodreads review for “Finding Your Way”.
Zanda is fascinated by the capital, where she lives. She isn’t happy with her parents’ home being too far from everything exciting and glamorous. There aren’t any Art-Nouveau buildings in her distant neighbourhood. But the centre of Riga and its medieval Old Town with its museums, theatres, elegantly-dressed people and never-ending activity excites her. Still, will she become a real city girl? There is another place she loves with all her heart. It’s Witch’s Pond, where her grandmother lives and where Zanda spends her summers.
Here is the excerpt from “Finding Your Way”
“Witch’s Pond. Who would have thought to give such a name to a village? Since Zanda was little, when she visited her grandmother, she asked herself – and others – this question every time.
The village boasted picturesque low hills, a lake amidst the lush forest, a river with slow, friendly waters, but it didn’t have anything extraordinary – old manor’s ruins or a castle mound – to attract tourists or money for tourism infrastructure.”
In Witch’s Pond, during sultry summer nights, Zanda discovers the connection to her ancestors’ pagan beliefs. And making a choice between the capital and the countryside becomes even more difficult.
“Finding Your Way” is a contemporary young adult novel set in Latvia in 2008. There is a slight touch of magical realism in the book that conveys a deep connection many Latvians still have with ancient pagan roots and traditions.
The book is available on Amazon worldwide, and it’s free to read for Kindle Unlimited subscribers.
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