Thursday, 11 July 2013

The Witch of The Hex River Valley

The Witch of The Hex River Valley ~ 

The Hex Valley is surrounded by high mountains. The highest peak is Matroosberg, where, on the lower crags a lovely young woman makes her appearance on certain moonlit nights, crying and wringing her hands. But she has been dead for many long years.

She was Eliza Meiring, daughter of a farmer whose homestead was not far from the foothills where Matroosberg rises from the vineyards. She lived in the middle years of the 19th century. She had many suitors because she was very beautiful. But she was also a bit spoilt and self-centred. She fell in love with a young man (some say his name was Frans but no more is known about him). To satisfy her pride she demanded that, to marry her, Frans must first go and pick her a red disa in the kloofs of the Matroosberg. The disa is a beautiful flower, but unfortunately it grows only in the most inaccessible places: against steep, mossy cliffs in shady ravines and gorges. So to pick a disa is an almost impossible task without mountaineering equipment, which did not exist in those days.

Frans promised to bring her a red disa, for he loved Elixa with all his heart too. He went into the Groothoek kloof alone, saw the disas where they glowed in their beauty against a wet and mossy cliff, and tried to reach it. But as he reached for a precious flower he slipped and fell to his death.

When they brought Eliza the news that her lover had fallen to his death with a disa in his hand, she was beside herself with grief and remorse. In fact, she was so overcome because she had caused the death of her only love with her demand that she became mentally ill, and her parents kept her locked in her bedroom to watch over her. She scratched her name on the wooden windowsill: "Eliza. 1868".

But one moonlit night she broke out and escaped. Wearing only her long white nightgown, she went into the foothills and then up the trail Frans had taken. There, somewhere on a rocky outcrop, she sat down and sobbed. But the outcrop crumbled beneath her and she, too, fell to her death.

Now Eliza still wanders the crags of the Matroosberg when the moon is full: a pale ghost in her long white dress. She is known in Afrikaans as the "Heks van Hexrivier" (witch of the Hex River). A few decades ago the old farmstead was demolished. Eliza's name and the date were still on one of the windowsills.

Feb 2017 update: Please note: Melanie Esterhuyse posted a comment below, telling us that the old farmstead was not in fact demolished. It has been renovated and is now occupied. Thank you, Melanie!

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