Having spent a considerable amount of time there, we weren’t surprised to learn the Anaga Mountains are saturated with tales of witchcraft. With their moss-covered trees, scant sunlight and twisting paths overhung by gnarled branches, these forests are straight from the imaginations of the Brothers Grimm. It would’ve been shocking if there wasn’t a belief in witches here.
We don’t believe in witches… do we?
We lived on the border of the park, and would frequently visit after work, for a quick late afternoon hike. Once, we ended up in a clearing at the bottom of a sharp slope, not too far from the road. The hike had been longer than expected, and it was getting dark fast, especially in the sheltered grove where we found ourselves. There was strangely little vegetation here, just the crooked roots of a big tree, upon which I sat, allowing my eyes to adjust to the growing darkness. If there were witches in Anaga, this would be a wonderful spot for them to practice their dark rites. Jürgen was also aware of a palpable sense of menace, and we hightailed it out, as soon as he was done with his photos.
This isn’t to say that there were (or are) witches in Anaga, but that I can totally understand why superstitious folk might easily have believed it. The Guanches practiced pagan rites in the open air, in places of perceived natural power — dances for the rain, and even sacrifices. Not witchcraft, surely, but what was the god-fearing Catholic man to think, when he stumbles upon a group of natives, dancing around a fire and gabbling in some unknown tongue? Of course, he’d run home and alert the village. Of course, rumors of witchcraft would flourish.
Fact or Fiction? History or Legend?
So what do the legends say about the witches of Anaga? Oh, the usual — they danced around bonfires, wore black robes, and bathed naked in the sea. Also, they’re believed to have been vampire-witches, who would steal into homes and train their bloodlust upon defenseless babies. The town of Bailadero, in the middle of Anaga, is probably named for the spot in which the pagan guanches once danced.
The stories are fun and easy to dismiss… until you find yourself trapped in the woods of Anaga at dusk, every rustling noise cause for alarm, every curving shadow cast by a tree potentially a blood-hungry witch sizing you up. I don’t believe in monsters, but… but, come on Jürgen, it’s time to finish up taking pictures, isn’t it? Let’s go!
-Our First Anaga Hike Video