South Mountain Magic Madeleine Vinton Dahlgren

” We willingly leave this particular one [serpent] to speed its deadening circles down into Dante's Inferno, where it will doubtless find its proper place, only asking that it may never again inhabit South Mountain. “

- Madeleine Vinton Dahlgren1

South Mountain, Maryland is an extension of the Blue Ridge Mountains spanning more than seventy miles in length and having multiple summits, with the adjacent foothills and valleys being home to over a thousand residents. Established by early German settlers, South Mountain may be compared to Sleepy Hollow, New York or Bhangarh, Rajasthan as a locale deeply entrenched in a definite bit of superstition. Stories about apparitions, magic, monsters and mysterious lights known as "the Saxon's fire" flourish in the region. The legend of the snallygaster, by far, is one best understood given the local color of this charming, folk country.

The most reputable source on South Mountain lore comes by way of a 1882 book entitled: South-Mountain Magic, by Madeleine Vinton Dahlgren. The manuscript consists of an all-embracing look into the folk beliefs of the inhabitants. Mrs. Dahlgren was a noted socialite and author who lived on the mountain for a period of years. In her book, Dahlgren makes no small mention on the use of magic by locals.2 The correlation between the enchantments of South Mountain residents and practices endorsed to fend off snallygasters is of particular interest. Both make prominent use of sacred numbers. In respect to the snallygaster seven is the value of particular significance. Not only are seven-pointed stars used to ward off snallygasters, but it is by no matter of chance that author Michael Poynder in his work, The Lost Magic of Christianity: Celtic Essene Connections, testifies: 3

“ The heptalpha [seven-pointed star] signifies the seven gifts of the spirit, the seven seals or chakras, the seven days of the week, the seven sacred planets, the octave of music. It also signifies the incarnation of the spirit (3 -- the Trinity) into matter (4 -- the Elements). 7 is the number of the Earth revivified by divine Current of Life. ”

Commenting on the volume’s supernatural rather than mystical tone. Dahlgren goes on to relate a number of apparitions that are supposed to haunt South Mountain, among them The Black Dog, The White Woman and The Headless Man.

The Unusual Suspects

The Black Dog
A ghostly canine said to frequent the trails of South Mountain. The ghostly brute is wholly intangiable often vanishing without a trace.
The Black Dog
Known as the Sykesville Monster, this brute first made his deput in 1972 near Carroll County, MY.
The Black Dog
An apparition of the banshee variety. A frightening, but well meaning spirit whose appearance is always marked as an omen for the dearly departed.
The Black Dog
Half man and half wild beast, the goat man has appeared in many modern urban legends. His origins are a point of debate. Some say he is an ancient specter while others declare him to be the result of forbidden, genetic tests.
The Black Dog
A foreboding spectre forever cursed to roam the earth causing dread and panic in its wake.
The Black Dog
A hairy, biped, canine-like creature. The Dwayyo has been sighted throughout the centuries and has been describe in various ways. Most reports conclude the beasts is something of a modern-day werewolf.

Further establishing Maryland7rsquo;s mystique for being host to not one, but a whole hodgepodge of fantastic characters the Sykesville Monster, Dwayo and Goatman have been added to this list. However sightings of at least some of these remarkable beasties would not reach prominence until some decades later.

1. Madeleine Vinton Dahlgren, South-Mountain Magic: A Narrative (Boston: James R. Osgood, 1882), 202.
2. Dahlgren, 145-177.
3. Michael Poynder, The Lost Magic of Christianity: Celtic Essene Connections (Glastonbury: Green Magic Publishers, 1999).
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