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The Legend Of Paracelsus

Source: Folk-lore And Legends: German

It once happened that Paracelsus was walking through a forest, when he
heard a voice calling to him by name. He looked around, and at length
discovered that it proceeded from a fir-tree, in the trunk of which
there was a spirit enclosed by a small stopper, sealed with three

The spirit begged of Paracelsus to set him free. This he readily
promised, on condition that the spirit should bestow upon him a
medicine capable of healing all diseases, and a tincture which would
turn everything it touched to gold. The spirit acceded to his request,
whereupon Paracelsus took his penknife, and succeeded, after some
trouble, in getting out the stopper. A loathsome black spider crept
forth, which ran down the trunk of the tree. Scarcely had it reached
the ground before it was changed, and became, as if rising from the
earth, a tall haggard man, with squinting red eyes, wrapped in a
scarlet mantle.

He led Paracelsus to a high, overhanging, craggy mount, and with a
hazel twig, which he had broken off by the way, he smote the rock,
which, splitting with a crash at the blow, divided itself in twain,
and the spirit disappeared within it. He, however, soon returned with
two small phials, which he handed to Paracelsus--a yellow one,
containing the tincture which turned all it touched to gold, and a
white one, holding the medicine which healed all diseases. He then
smote the rock a second time, and thereupon it instantly closed again.

Both now set forth on their return, the spirit directing his course
towards Innsprueck, to seize upon the magician who had banished him
from that city. Now Paracelsus trembled for the consequences which his
releasing the Evil One would entail upon him who had conjured him into
the tree, and bethought how he might rescue him. When they arrived
once more at the fir-tree, he asked the spirit if he could possibly
transform himself again into a spider, and let him see him creep into
the hole. The spirit said that it was not only possible, but that he
would be most happy to make such a display of his art for the
gratification of his deliverer.

Accordingly he once more assumed the form of a spider, and crept again
into the well-known crevice. When he had done so, Paracelsus, who had
kept the stopper all ready in his hand for the purpose, clapped it as
quick as lightning into the hole, hammered it in firmly with a stone,
and with his knife made three fresh crosses upon it. The spirit, mad
with rage, shook the fir-tree as though with a whirlwind, that he
might drive out the stopper which Paracelsus had thrust in, but his
fury was of no avail. It held fast, and left him there with little
hope of escape, for, on account of the great drifts of snow from the
mountains, the forest will never be cut down, and, although he should
call night and day, nobody in that neighbourhood ever ventures near
the spot.

Paracelsus, however, found that the phials were such as he had
demanded, and it was by their means that he afterwards became such a
celebrated and distinguished man.

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