Today at HotFireDoor, specialists in fireplace doors, we tell you the story of the “espantabrujas” in the chimneys of Aragon. Discover a curious and interesting story and legend at the same time.
What are “espantabrujas” in chimneys?
“Espantabrujas”, also known as “guardabrujas” or “salvabrujas”, are decorative and protective architectural elements that are found in chimneys in the Aragon region. These structures have a long history and date back to the Middle Ages, although their use and popularity peaked during the 17th and 18th centuries.
“Espantabrujas” are usually stones with geometric shapes, such as spheres, cones, or pyramids, that are placed on the top of chimneys. Their main purpose is to protect the house from the entry of witches, evil spirits, and other supernatural beings. It is believed that these structures confused and disoriented witches, preventing them from entering houses through the chimneys.
The story of the witches that flew through the skies in the villages of Upper Aragon
Popular legends spoke of witches who flew on their broomsticks at night and entered houses to cause mischief. Obviously, they didn’t do it through the door, since it was well locked, but there was always a space that was open in a house: the chimney. To prevent this, “espantabrujas” began to be placed.
The belief in witches and their negative influence on everyday life was quite common at the time, and “espantabrujas” were a way to protect oneself from their presence. In the historical and cultural context of Aragon, “espantabrujas” also symbolized the protection of the house’s inhabitants and the prosperity of their homes.
Nowadays, scarecrow chimneys are considered architectural and cultural elements of interest in the Aragon region. Although their ability to protect against witches and evil spirits is no longer believed, these unique structures continue to be a symbol of Aragonese identity and tradition.
What traditional scarecrow chimneys are like
The first of these traps were simple stones shaped like a cross or human figure with a hole made in them to make them whistle in the wind. Some people talk about a mystical meaning in placing a cross on top of the chimney, although the truth is that it is an ugly doll with its arms open, like scarecrows placed in fields, with the idea that “witches” cannot enter the house.
In some places, clay pitchers were placed, partly to collect water, a symbol of purification.
Other elements traditionally used
To increase the effect and prevent bolder witches from entering, once the fire was out, the tongs were left open or a cross was made on the ashes. A handmade clay doll was also placed as a defender at the entrance.
Where can you see authentic scarecrow chimneys?
Today, the tradition of topping off the smoke outlet with scarecrow chimneys is still very present in many towns in Huesca. Some houses have been renovated and the shapes have changed, while others are completely new. If you want to see real examples, it is best to visit abandoned villages that maintain the original essence and tradition, as the houses have not been touched. They can also be found in towns such as Sabiñánigo, Ipés, or Panticosa, with different shapes. In Panticosa, they place upside-down jugs, while in Jaca, they are placed the other way around.
In Pirenarium, a theme park dedicated to the Pyrenees, open in Sabiñanigo, 4 replicas of classic scarecrow chimneys have been built. They are not the original ones, but it is a way to see what they are like, in addition to enjoying a collection of miniatures and models, among other things.
Chimneys and legends, always together
It may be the effect of fire and the idea that it has something magical, or the habit of telling scary stories by a bonfire. The fact is that many legends have a chimney as an element. This case is one of many, although it must be recognized that it is quite curious and picturesque.