The Feast of the Holy Innocents yesterday reminded me of this ancient Vosges legend.
The legend of the Baptism of the Angels, as told by Monique Marie François, was relayed to me by my cousin, Françoise Cordier and is woven into the backbone of the novel, FROM THE DROP OF HEAVEN.
The Legend of the Baptism of the Angels
“When the land of Salm was not yet called Salm, Good Stones of Bethlehem gave a wonderful gift to a virgin named Mary. She could not find a room and was about to give birth. The Good Stones opened as only they could and formed a cave where the child was born.
The Savage King of the country heard the news and feared this child of God wished to become king in his place. He called his soldiers and ordered them to kill all the little boys in the country.
Poor Mary thought only to save her baby. She was lost and came round Vipucelle, which was not yet called Vipucelle. The beautiful forests of the Vosges frightened her and at the same time reassured her. What soldier would come looking for her here in the dense forest? During this period, the great empire did not even know this country existed. Thanking the Good Stones, she decided to live there.
Then she heard music in the distance. The music was nice, but she knew it often announced a lord on the move, soldiers threatening all sorts of things that frightened her. The music of the horns redoubled in intensity, getting closer and closer, accompanied by barking dogs. It was the hunting party of the Savage King, and she knew very well what he hunted. Her baby, Jesus.
The poor woman ran as fast as she could, despite the hills and brush, but she was not as fast as men on horses and dogs who constantly gained on her. The chase led her to the edge of Grandfontaine. The Cornerstones still speak of it today, especially the one called Marie Roche Bois, or the Rock of Mary of the Woods.
‘Sit down a moment,’ said the Good Stone of the Lake as it transformed itself into a small stone seat.
After she had rested, Mary escaped her pursuers, but the soldiers killed all the other baby boys in the area, some without having received Baptism.
The abbot, meaner than the soldiers of the Savage King, decided these babies could not go to Heaven. No Baptism, No Salvation! He did not care that innocent children would be punished, never to be in the presence of God. No exception of the law was possible as only Baptized children could go to heaven.
Of course, the High Stones would not tolerate such injustice and met to deliberate the issue at the Lake de la Maix. The Elder of the Stones decided to allow the innocent children to lie on top of them at night so they could receive the Baptism of the Angels, and the stones of the Lake de la Maix became a place of respite.
In the deep of the night, the Virgin Mother casts her gaze on the Lake de la Maix, and if she sees a baby lying there in its deathly slumber, she kisses the child on the forehead. The baby immediately opens its eyes and smiles at the lovely lady. The angels then baptize it with water from the lake and carry it’s soul to heaven.”
Excerpt: FROM THE DROP OF HEAVEN
Reference: LES DEMONS DU PAYS DE SALM by Françoise Cordier