Wednesday, March 20, 2024


Further on the theme of Goats & Bérets: Buckriders.

Buckriders are a part of Southern Dutch and North-Eastern Belgian folklore. They were witches, who rode through the sky on the back of flying bucks provided to them by the Devil to rob and murder common people and church possessions.

Throughout the 18th century, groups of thieves and other criminals adopted the belief to frighten the inhabitants of southern Limburg, a province in the southern part of the Netherlands and in parts of what has become since eastern Belgium. Using the name "Bokkenrijders" (buckriders), these criminal bands launched raids across a region that included Limburg, and parts of modern-day Germany. In response to the robberies towns in Limburg started to build defences like moats around them and farms started to develop a closed square building style.

The trials against the buckriders differed from 'ordinary' criminal proceedings because in many cases a so-called 'ungodly oath' was involved ("I renounce God and swear submission to the Devil"). Once a year, they would visit their master, the Devil, on the 'Mook Heath.

The buckriders were feared and despised by the common people because of their ruthlessness and violence. The belief existed that the buckriders could travel fast and vast distances through the skies to rob in a widespread area. Commonly, the buckriders raided small communities, parsonages, churches and more remote farms. Hundreds of buckriders were convicted and sentenced to death.

Because of the link to the occult and witchcraft, authorities accused many potentially innocent men of being buckriders and the majority of suspects were tortured and subsequently convicted of crimes they initially denied having committed.

The buckriders were considered both criminals and witches that made a pact with the devil. The witch trials and robbery trials cannot be seen separately in that sense: the accusations always included both robbery and witchcraft.

It is estimated that between 425 and 468 men were executed between 1743 and 1796 on the conviction of being a Buckrider.

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