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Westphalia, the sole seat of the Vehme," extended somewhat further south than the province which now bears that name, and embraced also a large portion, if not the whole, of Friesland and Oldenburg — forming, in fact, the bulk of the great Duchy of Lower Saxony, under Henry the Lion. This prince was, as we all know, attainted and deprived of both his duchies (Saxony and Bavaria) by the Emperor Barbarossa in 1181, Westphalia being divided between the Archbishop of Cologne, a member of the Anhalt family, and a great number of petty feudal chiefs. The consequence of this was that the whole district fell into a state of anarchy and confusion, every man's hand was against his neighbour, the land was devastated by rapine and deluged with blood.
It was under these circumstances that the inhabitants combined together to protect their lives and properties against the freebooters, Bockreiter, and other vagabonds; and no single authority being found strong enough for the purpose, the secret organization of the Vehme was resorted to—which multiplied the agents without exposing individuals to danger.
But although the organization was secret, it is a mistake to suppose that the procedure was also the same. With the exception of offenders taken red-handed, who were summarily executed—as was the practice in Hungary in proclaimed districts up to the year 1848—all others who were denounced to the Vehme were cited to appear and answer for themselves at open courts, held usually on Tuesday mornings, in daylight, in towns like Dortmund, Paderborn, &c. It was only when the citation was disregarded that the secret procedure took place, the court meeting at some place known only to the initiated, and the sentence, if pronounced, being carried out, without any further ceremony, when and wherever the doomed man could be laid hold on. And almost every respectable member of society being a Wissender—that is, initiated—it was no easy matter for a criminal to escape.
The Haberfeld Treiben, like the Vehme, is, and always has been, confined to one particular district in Upper Bavaria, bounded on the south by the Tyrolese frontier, on the west by the Isar, and on the east by the Chiemsee and the rivers which flow into and out of it. How far that association developed itself in a northerly direction is more difficult to determine, and appears to have varied at different times, but for a long series of years it has never acted north of the line. Wasserburg, Munich, Tölz, Holzkirchen, Miesbacch, Tegernsee, Aibling, Rosenheim, and Priem, have been of late years frequently the scenes of the exploits of this society, and the country surrounding these towns may be looked upon as the genuino Haberfeld district.
It is nearly certain that, like its Westphalian counterpart, this Bavarian society must have been originally organized for the purpose of eradicating, or at least counteracting, an evil for which no other remedy could be found, and against which no recognized authority could be brought to bear. But it is impossible now to ascertain how and when this first took place. We shall see presently that there are striking resemblances between the Vehme and the Haberfeld Treiben; but whilst the Vehme attacked all branches of the common criminal law, and in process of time extended its operations even to civil cases and disputes about property, the Haberfeld Treiben applied itself almost exclusively to the preservation of female purity and the punishment of incontinence—especially that of unmarried girls. The Vehme exempted from its jurisdiction all ecclesiastics, and also excluded them from initiation; women and children were also exempted ; and, further, Jews, Heathens,* as being too low, and, finally, the higher nobles, for the opposite reason. The Haberfeld Treiben, on the contrary, left male peccadilloes untouched, except in so far as the exposure of the female sinner necessarily led to that of her male accomplice; and there is, as I shall presently show, good reason to believe that ecclesiastics were not wholly excluded from membership; whilst it is quite certain that the amours of the Roman Catholic clergy were exposed with equal freedom as those of the laity.
* In Anne of Geirstein Sir W. Scott transplants the Vehme into a part of Germany where it never existed.
I cannot pretend to offer as simple and satisfactory an explanation of the causes which led immediately to the organization of this very singular institution, as I have been enabled to do with respect to the Vehme, where the motives were very patent; nevertheless, as they must have arisen out of the peculiar circumstances of the population itself and its geographical position, some light may be thrown on the subject by an inquiry into these particulars.
Frederick the Great is reported to have once said that “ Bavaria was a paradise inhabited by human beasts," and, as regards general beauty of scenery, the saying is correct enough; but the Bavarians proper,although certainly very different in many respects from all the other inhabitants of Germany, and usually very rough in their manners, at times very excitable, nay, almost ferocious, and given to roies de fait,
-do not deserve so harsh a sentence. Some thirty years ago learned books were written to prove that the Bavarians proper are not a Teutonic race, but Celts. At a somewhat later period, in 1848, when the great German movement was inaugurated, this theory was scouted, and its having ever been started attributed to a marotte of old King Louis I., who had meanwhile fallen into a certain degree of unpopularity. Still one must acknowledge that there is something very Celtic both in the external appearance and in the proclivities of these Bavarians, especially in the Haberfeld country ; and of late years very remarkable and extensive remains of ancient “Pfahlbauten,” or dwellings built on piles, generally attributed to the Celts, have been discovered in this district, especially in
* In those days the Prussians were heathens.
the Chiemsee. A modern philologist, too, Wilhelm Obermüller, has shown that a great number of local names in this very district, and other parts of Southern Germany, are more easily derivable from Celtic roots than those of any other language.
But it may be asked, " What has all this to do with the Haberfield Treiben?” Simply this: we find the inhabitants of a certain small district adopting a very curious mode of preventing the admixture and contamination of their race, and of ensuring its perpetuation; for in fact the exposure and punishment of incontinence, in the manner described, is scarcely traceable to any other motive; and it naturally suggests itself that this was a distinct race—in fact it is so to the present day in many respects.
But it may seem strange that precautions against admixture of race should have been found necessary or desirable in so remote and apparently secluded a corner of Europe as Upper Bavaria. The topography of the Haberfeld district will, I think, throw some light on this point. One of the great lines of communication between Rome and its colonies on the Rhine was up the valley of the Adige, over the Brenner, down the Inn to Rosenheim, and thence precisely through the heart of the district in question to Augsburg (Augusta), and so forth; the remains of the old Roman road are still visible, and indeed partially in use on the line Aibling-Helfendorf and up to the Isar above Munich. Of course I do not mean to say that the Haberfeld Treiben dates from the Roman period, but before the discovery of the passage round the Cape a great deal of the trade with the East followed precisely this same route on its way from Venice to Augsburg, which was a great commercial place and the emporium of the oriental trade in Southern Germany. This must necessarily have brought a great number of strangers of various nationalities into contact with the local population; and it is not difficult to conceive a tribe jealous of the honour of its women, and struggling for its own existence on the great highway of the world, taking measures for the preservation of both; and perhaps for the want of a better explanation of the origin of this very peculiar secret society, we may accept the one offered here. Certain it is that the Haberfeld Treiben has been practised from time immemorial precisely along this line of route and to a short distance to the right and left of it, and nowhere else.
But it is time to descend to particulars and inform the reader as to the constitution and mode of operation adopted by this singular body, which projects as it were from the Middle Ages into our own utilitarian times. Of course nothing authentic in the way of documentary evidence can be expected as to the laws and rules of a secret society ; but having conversed with many inhabitants of the district, some of them either actually or at some former period members, I can offer a certain amount of reliable detail.
The members of the Haberfeld body have been always selected from one particular class, married men mostly, the richest and most respectable
peasants of their respective districts, together with a certain proportion of “ Bürger”—that is, townspeople, without whose aid it would have been impossible to get at the intelligence required or carry out the proceedings, There seem to have been local chiefs, and a general committee of direction with a president at its head; but there is no reliable information on this point. Unlike the practice of the Vehme, no public meetings were ever held, nor were written or oral citations to appear before the tribunal issued. The Haberfeld society acted always secretly, as the Vehme did when its citations or decrees had been disregarded. Throughout the summer certain fairs and public markets were taken advantage of for the purpose of bringing the local members together in the public houses and other places of entertainment; and in these resorts, whilst sitting over their beer, all the information required was collected and imparted to the leading men in quiet little knots without attracting observation. Of course all the members were known to each other, either personally or by means of secret signs.
As in the Inquisition and the Vehme, secret denunciation is the leading feature of the organization. The members being distributed in all directions and in every locality; nothing escaped their observation, and things that were done in secret places were in due time denounced and proclaimed publicly. In autumn a general meeting of the chiefs seems to have been regularly held at a particular fair or market, and it is said that a secret conclave was arranged at an inn in the town on a certain day each year, and on this occasion the whole plan of operation for the “ season”-that is for the months of November and Decemberwas matured. The whole of these proceedings were, however, conducted with so much caution and cleverness, that although they have been very frequently investigated judicially and with great care, no positive clue could ever be discovered.
Of course, all the members were sworn to secrecy, and no instance is known of the oath having been broken ; nevertheless, when the harvest wind began to blow chill over the stubble, that is, at the end of October or beginning of November, a vague rumour would arise that such and such a place was threatened with a Haberfeld Treiben : people would talk about it for a day or so, and then forget it again, till all of a sudden it took place either in the village named, or perhaps a neighbouring one, false alarms being sometimes resorted to in order to distract attention and perplex the authorities.
A potter-a married man, formerly himself a member—with whom I was well acquainted, told me he would some fine morning find in his workshop, either written on paper or chalked on a board, an order to supply a certain number of the gigantic earthenware trumpets used by the Treiber, * and an indication of the place where they were to be deposited at night in secresy. These hiding-places were usually some miles from his resi
• Made in the shape of an English hunting-horn, but five or six feet long or more.
dence. Subsequently he would find money in payment for these wonderful instruments somewhere on his premises or in his pocket. Naturally, these and similar business orders of the confraternity would get wind occasionally.
At length the great day, or rather night, arrived,—for the Haberfeld Treiben is essentially nightwork,—and about eleven o'clock P.M., when all the inhabitants are snugly rolled up in their feather-beds and blankets, a frightful yell, accompanied by an irregular discharge of fire-arms, and a dire clang of the aforesaid trumpets of pottery, old kettles, and such like musical instruments, announces the fact, and makes many a male and female sinner's cheeks turn pale.
But what has this to do with Oatfield Driving, or how came this name to be adopted ? It is not easy to find a satisfactory answer to the latter part of this question. It is asserted that in former times the delinquent females were punished by being forced to run barefooted, and with no other garment than their chemise, over the oat-stubble of the village, whilst they were pursued by the “ drivers," armed with birch or hazel rods, which were applied very freely. But there is no evidence that so barbarous a punishment was ever inflicted—and nothing of the sort has ever been attempted within the last hundred years certainly. I think it quite possible--nay, highly probable—that the initial letters (H. F. T.) of the three words Haber Feld Treiben, form simply a nucleus to which the remaining ones were superadded merely to veil the true designation from the uninitiated ; and I would suggest that this might have been Heiliger-Fehm-Ting or Ding, one of the names by which that other secret tribunal was known. This, however, I offer merely as a conjecture.
But to return to the Haberfeld Treiben. At about half-past ten or eleven o'clock at night the members of the society may be seen making their way swiftly but silently across the fields and through the woods, by twos and threes, which, as they approach the scene of execution, increase gradually into groups of tens and twenties, each man carrying a loaded gun, pistol, or some other arm, in addition to the trumpets, &c., as also materials for constructing a temporary platform, and torches. The whole body is evidently previously told off in the most regular and methodical manner for the various duties to be performed, as the town or village is immediately surrounded by a double chain of vedettes, with regular supports, one set fronting the surrounding country, and preventing effectually all ingress except to the initiated ; whilst the second fronts the place itself, and prevents any person from leaving to give the alarm. This done, wellarmed guards, all having their faces blackened or otherwise disguised, march silently to the houses of the magistrates and other authorities, as also to the barracks of the gendarmes, if there be such in the place, and effectually prevent their action. The church tower and belfry is also at once secured, and the bell-ropes cut off. The secret connivance of the clergy has been occasionally proved by its having transpired that the