The Legend Of Paracelsus

: 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 h
m 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.