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Devils' museum and witches' hill

Devils' museum and witches' hill

How collection of horned creatures turned into museum

Devils' Museum in Kaunas, Lithuania, is included in the list of the most unique museums in the world. Three floors have horned creatures from around the world coming in different shapes, sizes, colors and made from different materials. The devils are mischievously smiling, peeking out of the dark corner, showing the evil menace grin or a scree giggle. Some of them can be distinguished from ordinary humans only if you see horns or a tail protruding from the shaggy hair.

PanARMENIAN.Net - The collection was started by artist Antanas Žmuidzinavičius (1876–1966), and a memorial museum was established in his house after his death. In 1966, the devil collection consisted of 260 sculptures but visitors began to leave their own devils as gifts to the museum. In 1982, a three-story extension was built to house the expanding collection and, as of 2009, the museum's holdings had grown to 3,000 items.

The first floor of the museum belongs to the Lithuanian devils, most of which are the real works of art: painted on silk or canvas, carved in wood, made of ceramic or stone, also depicted not only with traditional horns, but tales and mops on their heads. A big part of devils came from household utensils and everyday life – they gleefully smiling at you from plates, vases, salt and pepper dishes, whistles, nuts or pipe clamps. The entire first floor exhibition is protected by the biblical devil. According to the legend, once a guardian angel, he was banished from heaven due to his envy for the God. The other creatures in the museum also have their stories.

On the second floor, the visitors are greeted by a huge wooden devil donated to the museum by people with bad luck. They believed it was the devil sending them the hardships, so no longer wanted to keep him in their house. This floor is full of jokes and strangeness of all sorts. Exhibits include twigs, pebbles and even a polished and coated stump, which look like devils. Besides, witches are hanging around.

The third floor is reigned by foreign demons, the number of which is constantly growing. The museum has a long-standing tradition: any foreign visitor can bring a native devil art to add to the collection.

One of the stranger pieces featured in the museum is a sculpture of Hitler and Stalin skipping around an area littered with human bones. There is also a devil, whose tail is made of cannabis.

The fee to enter “the hell” is about $3.

Those, who want to see more evil, can visit Witches Hill in Juodkrante, a little island village off the coast of Lithuania. Located on a long, narrow island called Curonian Spit, it is made up of beautiful sand dunes and pine forests. It was considered a holy place for Curonian and Sambian tribes, which populated the area in the ancient times. After the arrival of the Crusaders in 1255 the worship of their gods became forbidden, but this place remained sacred to the followers of the pagan cults. The Holy Inquisition did not have much power in the lands under Prussian influence, so the hill was the meeting point of witches from all over Europe, where they could practice pagan rituals and black magic without any real threat. The hill was situated on a small island, and accessing it was not easy – the shallow waters around the island made it impossible for sailing, so no one could really monitor if there was any “ungodly” activity going on in the place.

In the 19th and early 20th century, the inhabitants of Lithuania Minor would gather on the hill to celebrate Rasos or Jonines (the Dew holiday). The musicians and singers would come in by boats via the Curonian lagoon, the people would rejoice, tell tales, dance until the sunset, jump over bonfires, search for the magic fern that blossoms at midnight, roll barrels with burning tar down the mountain, and wash their faces with a morning dew.

The celebrations on the mountain stopped with the begining of World War I. In 1979, the wood carving masters of Lithuania decided to populate the hill with sculptures of the mythical creatures, demons and witches in memory of all the blasphemous acts that were happening on the Hill of Witches. By now there are about 80 sculptures along the trail – the guardian goddess Neringa, which created the Curonian Spit, people turned into ravens, Lucifer, the Gates of Hell, snakes, dragons and more. Nowadays, the Dew holiday is being celebrated on the hill once again – every June 24 people gather here to celebrate the festival, although now it is called Saint Jonas' holiday.

Lusine Mkrtumova / PanARMENIAN.Net
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