The Elwetritsch (aka Elwedritsch, Ilwedritsch and so on), plural Elwetritsche or Elwetritschen, in (pseudoscientific) Latin bestia palatinensis) is a birdlike mythical creature which is reported to be found in southwest Germany, especially in the Palatinate. The Elwetritsch can be seen as a local equivalent to mythical creatures of other regions (i.e., the Bavarian Wolpertinger or the Thuringian Rasselbock).
The Elwedritschen had been forgotten for a while, until a gentleman named Espenschied "rediscovered" them. He began to organize "hunting parties" which were actually harmless pranks. One of the Bavarian Kings was once served roasted, small birds for dinner, which were declared to be Elwetritsche (actually quail).
Appearance, Origin and Descendants
The Elwedritsch is a cryptid or mythical creature that supposedly inhabits the Palatinate of Germany. It is described as being a chicken-like creature with antlers. It also has scales instead of feathers. However, it is said that their wings are of little use. That is why they live mainly in underbrush and under vines. Sometimes Elwetritschen are depicted with antlers of a stag and their beaks often appear to be very long. In the second half of the 20th century, artists increasingly portrayed Elwetritschen as female by adding breasts. Elwetritschen supposedly originate from crossbreeding chickens, ducks, and geese with mythical wood creatures such as goblins and elves. Being a fowl, they naturally lay eggs, which as a result of descending from forest spirits, grow during breeding season. Eggs in various sizes are artistically depicted at the “Elwetritschenbrunnen” in Neustadt an der Weinstraße.
The area in which tales of the Elwetritsch are spread expands from the Palatinate Forest in the west of Germany towards the east across the Upper Rhine Plain to the southern parts of the Odenwald. The mythical creature also appears in the north of Baden-Württemberg. In the Main-Tauber-Kreis, where they are known as “Ilwedridsche”, the children are told that at night the creatures sleep in the crowns of the willow trees standing next to the river Tauber. In Neustadt an der Weinstraße, which is said to be the “capital” of the Elwetritsches, there is an Elwetritsche-fountain, created by Gernot Rumpf. Other sources consider Dahn in the southwestern Palatinate, which also has an Elwetritsche-fountain, Erfweiler or other villages as secret capitals of these creatures. The Pennsylvania Dutch are convinced that Palatinate people—their biggest group of ancestors—all of whom emigrated to America, had taken some “Elbedritschlicher” with them “so ass sie kenn Heemweh grigge deede” (so that they wouldn’t become homesick). Tales of the Elwetritschen are also documented in Amish communities.
The process is very similar to the "snipe hunt." The Elwetritsch is supposedly very shy, but also very curious. A hunting party consists of a "Fänger" (catcher), equipped with a big potato sack and a lantern, and the "Treiber" (beaters). The catcher is led into the woods where the Elwetritsch is supposed to live, instructed to wait in a clearing with his sack and lantern, while the beaters will supposedly roust the Elwetritsch. The light of the lantern is said to be attractive to the curious creature, so it will come to investigate and will then be caught by the catcher. While he waits, everyone heads back to the Gasthaus or wherever the party had previously assembled, to wait for the patsy to realize he has been fooled.
Like the jackalope, the Elwetritsch is thought to have been inspired by sightings of wild rabbits infected with the Shope papilloma virus, which causes the growth of antler-like tumors in various places, including on the head.
There are clubs in several Palatinate cities which promote the myth of the Elwetritschen. The Elwetrittche-Club in Landau, formed in 1982, is the oldest club. A square dancing club from the same city calls its annual 'Dance-Special' the „Landauer Elwetrittsche-Jagd“ (Landauian Elwetrittche-Hunt). There is also an Elwetritsche Academy in Pirmasens, a college for „Tritschology“ in Dahn and an exhibition with figures of the mythical creatures in the Landauian zoo as well as in the zoo in Kaiserslautern.
Memorials for the Elwetritsch
Many memorials can be found in the Palatinate:
- Elwetritsche lecture trail
- Elwetritsche hiking trail
- Elwetritsche memorial in municipal park
- local Carnival club uses Elwetritsche as mascot
- Neustadt an der Weinstraße:
- Elwetritschefountain (see pic)
- local brewery Bischoff uses Elwetritsche as mascot
Ollivia Moore: Elwetritsche im Speckhemdchen in Verborgene Wesen 2 (German Edition), Twilightline-Verlag Wasungen (2012).