Most trips we undertake are planned, at least to some degree, but ocassionally we are taken by someone on an excursion without knowing what to expect. On a recent trip to Germany Dawn, my daughter, and her husband Pat took me and a few of their friends to a Christmas market at a castle near Regensberg. I expected to just see the traditional tables laden with merchandise, food, and drinks. She did not tell me much more than it was really nice, so I was not expecting a great deal, other than a different setting for the Christmas market. By time we arrived late in the afternoon, and we walked about a quarter mile to the castle, which stood on top of a sheer faced hill about five hundred feet above the valley. Night was settling on the land.
By time we arrived at the top of the hill string lights strung in the trees and along the little shacks for merchants provided a dreamy and festive atmosphere. Crowds of visitors strolled along cheerfully talking, sipping mulled wine, snacking on pastries, and exmaining the displayed wares. Slowly I was caught up by the sense of wonder settling over the little village on top of the hill.
Later I learned the castle's history dated back to the Medival Days, when Christianity and paganism struggled against each other. When myth and magic still gripped the minds of the people. Slowly I felt as if I were walking in a magical world. Two knights in chain-link armor, wearing dark blue woolen cloaks, were strolling among the crowds of modern visitors. Then under a tree four people raised the long Swiss Alp horns to their lips and began playing beautful mealodies; a little further and a man was instructing youngsters in archery, as if preparing them to defend the castle against attack; a blacksmith was instructing a youngster to shape orange glowing metal on an anvil. Then a traditional German Santa Claus, dressed in a red robe with white trimming, moved among the crowds giving candy to the children.
As we strolled along with milling mass of people, we came to a group of people being handed torches, and suddenly Dawn and I were each given one. We became part of a torchlight parade wandering through the castle courtyard, our torches casting dancing light as we snaked through the night. Eventually the parade formed a large oblong circle outlined with little containers of flame on the ground. We laid our torches on the ground at out feet, and on the far end of the circle were a couple with the appearance of a pagan priest and priestess. Shortly the priest strutted aroud the circle with a little stick of flame and began blowing fire into the night air. Then the priestess stepped forward and began dancing around with circles of flames spinning around her body and over her head. Music blared through the night air as the two danced and lit the dark with the fire they controlled. The mass of people surrounding the two fire dancers soon were captivated by the dancing couple, and then suddenly the music and fire died out; leaving the watching crowd to slowly return to the reality of the night, and the present.
As we left the castle I began wondering if we had really been captured by a magic moment, or was it just an appearance of magic. Was the fire priest and priestess real or just some performers putting on a show; does magic still appear, and take us captive for a while? I wonder.