Myths and legends in the Aosta Valley

The protagonists of the fantastic traditions of the Aosta Valley

Myths and legends are tales from popular traditions where the protagonists approach creatures of incredible dimensions — gods, heroes, witches, ghosts, demons or saints. At times, the tales talk about fantastic origins or environmental morphology or historic events transformed by fantasy; the truth in these tales are open to interpretation, faced with a world of magic and fairy tale, however this veil of spirituality supports the ritual phases in which myths and legends form the foundations of popular festivals, with the important function of strengthening the origins of communities.

There are different collections, even of literary value, of Valdostane myths and legends and it would be difficult to consider all the tales, often with multiple forms. Certain are based on the fantastic birth and transformation of the mountains, lakes, plants and flowers; others talk of “diabolic” actions – with the frequent appearance of the devil in local tradition.

Some stories cover religious themes. Saints are celebrated for their intercession with God, leading to small miracles. The most frequent of the many saints's names include St. Martin, St. Orso,  St. Anselm and St. Bernard (the last two are still significant in today's culture).

Witches are also often present in tales; their stories lapse between fantasy and reality, in a region in which past historians have long since denied the presence of the Inquisition. Only in recent years has investigations into the issue been attributed to  members of the Order of Friars Minor or the tax prosecutor (ecclesiastical figure). It is worth noting that women investigated for witchcraft were often guaranteed the right to a defence, through a legal expert: a form of guarantee not always applied in parallel contexts.

Ghosts appear in tales and in more modern forms of popular word of mouth: “dark” magazines,blogs and websites. Here are a few quotes (with a hint of fantasy and the benefit of invention): tales of the ”presence” of an armiger from 17th century in Saint Marcel Castle; of a woman who died for a crime she didn't commit, in the 16th century, in Quart Castle; and the spirit of Countess Bianca Maria of Challant in Issogne Castle, her residence from 1522 to 1525. Bianca Maria was just twenty when she was sent to trial and condemned to decapitation for a crime she didn't commit. It is said that a ghost appears in summer, near the octagonal fountain in the castle courtyard.

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Miracle at Machaby

Legends  -  Arnad

A short distance from Arnad Castle, close to the Machaby sanctuary, there is a cave where an evil witch and a devil with seven heads kept their victims destined to the witches’ sabbath. The las…

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Il Lago Blu (The Blue Lake)

Legends  -  Breuil-Cervinia

A short distance away from Giomein, a few hours from Valtournenche, in a green valley, amongst peaks covered with heather and rhododendrons, between fir trees, a small mountain lake lays out. It i…

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Pont de Massoere – Borna du diable – Bois du Dot

Legends  -  Brusson

PONT DE MASSOERE: legend has it that when a bridal procession crossed this bridge the groom had to carry the bride on his shoulders or else she would fall victim to the curses of the fairies tha…

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The passage of Napoleon

Legends  -  Brusson

Legend has it that in May 1800 Napoleon casually met with the Austrian commander, De-Breux, to negotiate the passage of the French troops from Fort Bard. Napoleon shrewdly entertained the Austria…

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The treasure and castellans of Graines

Legends  -  Brusson

THE TREASURE – a treasure is buried underneath the castle of Graines; nobody has ever been able to find it, even if many have tried and amongst them a herdsman. In a dream a voice indicated to hi…

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The calf on the treasure

Legends  -  Challand-Saint-Anselme

In Challand-Saint-Anselme, a short distance from the houses of Orbeillaz, where the Arbaz river, crossing the forest, flows into a spectacular waterfall, lies a fantastic treasure under a dar…

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The waterfall of Croix d'Arlaz

Legends  -  Challand-Saint-Victor

Legends narrates the story of a door cut into the rock and overlapped by a round hole that gave way to a cave containing a golden calf. Only at midnight on Christmas night you could enter this place;...

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The Sé-Frid

Legends  -  Champdepraz

The great rock that bears the name of Frid is tied to the memory of a young shepherd from Champdepraz that loved and was loved by a fairy. Every day they would meet near that rock. The other fairies,...

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The last bear of the Valle d'Ayas

Legends  -  Champoluc/Ayas/Antagnod

It was winter 1782. One evening, while the snow was falling, a strong mountain dweller from Champoluc, Matteo Brunod, known as “lo rey” (the king) for his Herculean strength, was heading toward…

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Il Dente del Gigante (Giant's Tooth)

Legends  -  Courmayeur

The giant, obviously, is Gargantua that, after having distributed various parts of his body after his death, left a tooth to Valle d’Aosta: to fix amongst the glaciers of the Monte Bianco. The shar…

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Aosta
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Mont Blanc

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Great Saint Bernard

Aosta and surroundings

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Central Valley

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