Goat Riders of 18th century Limburg

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The legend of the Bokkenrijders (‘Goat riders’) from Limburg knows many forms. Crossroads Magazine poured one of them in an essay in 2008, contrasting the popular form quoted below with the opinion that the Goat Riders were a precursor to the enlightenment.

In the 18th century, while most of Europe was shaking off centuries of superstition and beginning to prepare for the age of reason, the lands which now form the Dutch and Belgian regions of Limburg were terrorised by hordes of flying devil worshippers.

These mysterious robber bands met in caves or at isolated roadside chapels. Riding through the nightly sky on the backs of big black goats, they plundered farms and churches. The Goat Rider owned the night throughout most of the 18th century, until they were finally brought to justice by brave and god-fearing officers of the law. This is a story that practically everyone in Limburg knows to this very day.

And:

If one thing is clear about the Goat Rider, it is the fact that a great number of people must have met violent, degrading deaths while being completely innocent of any crime. Indeed it is quite likely that the Goat Rider’s bands as such never even existed outside of the human imagination.

Via Metafilter. I cannot believe I’ve never blogged about the goat riders before.

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