The witches of Vila Vella

One of the most popular legends of Tossa is the one called the Witches of the Old Town.

Once upon a time there was a fisherman who had a beautiful rowboat docked at the Codolar cove, just behind the Old Town. He was a happy man with his life and used to go fishing every day to earn his daily bread.

But one day he found his rowboat all untidy and crooked, the oars in a mess… and he thought:

What’s happened here? Maybe the children have been playing around… I‘ll let it be for this time…

But this went on for two or three more weeks and during this time, every Saturday morning he found his boat in a different position than how he had left it.

At dusk of the following weekend, this tiny man decided to hide in the cupboard of the boat’s prow, where he remained very still and quiet.

When the clock of the Clock Tower struck midnight, he heard three women jumping into the boat, grabbing the oars, and one of them saying:

– Row for one! Row for two! Row for three!

But the boat didn’t move, so the eldest one asked:

– Is anyone of you expecting a child?

And the others, much younger, answered:

– Not that we know.

Just in case she tried again adding one more:

– Row for one! Row for two! Row for three! Row for four!

And then the boat splashed while it went right into the water!

With each rowing stroke they moved a mile forward until they arrived to a beach with plenty of palm trees that must have been America. Those women jumped off the boat and turned into three black cats.

The fisherman remained hidden, and some hours later, the three black cats came back and jumped into the boat turning again into women. Then, the eldest one said:

– Row for one! Row for two! Row for three! Row for four! And the boat splashed again while it went right into the water!

At dawn they were back in Tossa. When the women jumped off the boat they left everything behind in a mess.

The fisherman waited quietly until they left, and after a while he came out of his hiding place and headed for the rectory to explain the priest all that had happened.

The priest said to him:

– Don’t worry! We will sort this

And both men went to the beach carrying an aspergillum, some holy water and the Book. The priest said some blessings, sprinkled some holy water on the boat, and from that day on the witches couldn‘t use the boat anymore so they never came back again.

At last the fisherman got his rowboat in order forever.

This text has been partially extracted and translated from the book Llegendes i tradicions de Tossa contades per Vicenç Esteban Darder, by Eva Pinyol Llésera and David Moré Aquirre.

Xixanet and the half-cane

Not long ago, the legend of Xixanet was well-known by all the children in town, as their grandfathers had told them. For the locals, it seemed to them that it was such a real story, that when they passed by the Socors street, they even indicated to the little ones which was the house of naughty Xixanet. Tradition points out to a house quite close to the chapel, on the left hand side. Every time a child did some mischief, they yelled him:

– You are like Xixanet!

Nowadays a lot of people know nothing about this since traditions, customs, oral town history and the heritage of so many generations are gradually moving towards the silence of oblivion.

Even though we have heard the legend in two versions, the one told by Julita Farnés and the other one by Vicenç Esteban Darder, we offer you the one told by Julita Farnés Pagès. Both are the most complete and genuine of those that have been published so far and, in the original Catalan version, they maintain the freshness of the popular salty language (tongue) of our town.

Julita Farnés tells:

“Xixanet was a very small boy but very smart. Once, his mother, who was a very poor widow, told him:

– Here you are, take the oil bottle and go to the shop to refill it but don’t stop playing marbles at the square because the children will break it and we don’t have any more money left.

Xixanet took the oil bottle and the money, and left. He didn’t stop at the square as he was going to the shop, even when his friends called him, but on his way back, when he already had the oil bottle full, he just couldn’t avoid it. So he left it on the floor and started playing marbles.

While he was playing, a marble hit against the oil bottle and broke it.

As he arrived home, his mother saw his empty hands and she yelled him out:

– May the devil take you away!

As soon as the devil heard it, he run to them and took Xixanet forcibly away. When his mother realised what she had caused, she run into the nearby chapel, grabbed the skirt of the virgin statue and implored her:

– Our Lady of Bon Secours, hurry up and help me! The devil is taking my son away!

As soon as the virgin heard it, she got down the altar so fast that she still found the devil running away down the street. With the cane she was holding in her hands, she started hitting the devil repeatedly until she broke his horns. As the boy was happily set free, the devil run away as fast as he could and didn’t stop until he reached hell.

When the other little devils saw him arrive completely injured and without horns they asked:

– Where are you coming from?

And the devil answered ashamed:

– From Tossa!”

This text has been extracted and translated from the book Una devoció mariana: La Mare de Déu del Socors a Tossa (segles XVI-XX), by Mario Zucchitello, from the Quaderns d’Estudis Tossencs collection number 3.