Folktale: The Nixie Who Haunted a Farm in the Shape of a Horse and a Goat with a Candle Between its Horns

For this folktale we’re meeting a nixie in the municipality of Lichtervelde in the province of West-Flanders, although it’s not a creature you would have liked to encountered in the flesh. The story goes that many moons ago there was a ditch that was feared and avoided by the locals who often woke up in the middle of the night listening to the horrid cries of unfortunate travellers who weren’t aware of the danger that lurked in the water. More often than not, a nixie in the shape of a horse would appear and throw people into the ditch accompanied with an icy ear-splitting scream. That wasn’t the only thing the water sprite did to strike terror into people’s hearts. The nixie was also said to visit a nearby barn at midnight where the being started to thresh grain while producing a sound that could only have come from hell. What really surprised the farmers was that the barn always looked as tidy, or untidy, as it had been the day before. It was as if the nixie had never even been there at all, but they all knew there was only one creature who could screech like that.

Art by one of my favourite people in this world and the land of the fae, the very talented digital artist Hecaterine who you can follow on Twitter here and whose beautiful website is worth more than one visit.

One day, not a blissful one, the nixie didn’t get back to the ditch before dawn and was still galloping over the fields when the farmers dared to leave their houses again. During the hours light touches the earth the nixie was powerless and nothing more but a horse. A servant who worked on the farm thought that the nixie might as well do something useful. He pulled at the horses’ manes, forced it go with him, and harnessed the poor animal. For the entire day the helpless nixie had to work, work, work. Not only that, the servant treated the creature brutally and would beat the horse whenever it became rebellious.

When nightfall came the nixie regained its powers and flew furiously into the air surrounded by flames. The farmers and the servant thought this fiery spectacle would be the end of the story but they were very wrong.

At midnight something banged forcefully at the windows of the farm. Bang. Bang. They knew it wasn’t a friendly bang. Seized with fear the inhabitants hid themselves, but they all heard the nixie shouting: farmer, farmer, farmer, I have thrown your harrow into the water.

When they dared to venture outside again they found the harrow the horse had been forced to pull floating in the water. That was the last time the nixie shapeshifted into a horse. From now on the creature was only seen again as a black goat with a burning candle between its horns. The nixie continued to haunt the farm and throw unwary travellers into the ditch until the farm was demolished. Some say the water spirit perished with the building while others claim our nixie resumed their favourite pastimes elsewhere.

Another interesting tale from one of Lichtervelde’s neighbouring villages tells of a doctor who wanted to find out if the area was really haunted by a nixie or if it was just one of those stories people told when they had had a beer too many in the local café. One night the doctor shouted at the ditch: nixie, come out! Almost immediately the water started to make an eerie, whispering sound and the doctor was sure that something had jumped out of the ditch. What it was we’ll never know since he was less brave than he fancied himself to be and ran for the hills.

Other tales from the same area mention that non-shapeshifting horses shuddered with fear and refused to go past some of these ditches. There are also reports of misty white horse-like figures who could be seen flying through the sky.

white sketch pad beside cup of coffee


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