A spirit which haunted the town of Hamme, near Dendermonde in Belgium. The spirit was apparently beneficial to good Christians but punished the wicked and forced many into the path of righteousness.
On one occasion it appeared to a young man who went out courting first as an enormous horse, then like a huge dog, then as a rabbit springing backwards and forwards before his path; and finally like a gigantic ass, with fiery eyes as large as plates. It does not appear that Oschaert ever received travellers on his back; but he used sometimes to leap on theirs, and cling on with outspread claws, till the poor victim came either to a cross-road or to an image of the Virgin, when his burden would fall off. On those who were troubled in conscience Oschaert used to press very heavily, striking his claws deep into their flesh, and scorching their necks with his breath.
His usual abode was a place where the chapel of Twee Bruggen now stands. If any one towards midnight were foolhardy to cry out, or even mutter the rhymes, it would clamber on his shoulder:
A pious priest, concerned about the misery inflicted by the spirit on his flock, resolved to drive him away by exorcism. The spirit was banished for ninety-nine years to the sea-shore.
Oschaert and the Yorkshire Barguest (barghest) seem nearly identical. A barghest named the Picktree Brag, whose usual form was that of a little galloway, came upon a farmer at night as he was going home. The farmer got upon it and the horse rode very quietly until it came to a great pond, to which it ran and threw the farmer in, and went laughing away.1
- Henderson, W. (1879). Notes on the folk-lore of the northern countries of England and the borders. Covent Garden: W. Satchell, Peyton and Co., p. 273.
- Thorpe, Benjamin. (1852). Northern Mythology, Vol. 3. London: Edward Lumley, pp. 195-196.
This article incorporates text from Notes on the folk-lore of the northern countries of England and the borders (1879) by William Henderson, which is in the public domain.