She was, without a doubt, the most terrible witch in the whole valley of Aramaio. And don't think we're talking about an imaginary character from the dawn of time. Juanakala was, so to speak, a witch of today, of flesh and bone. In the middle of the last century we still remember an old, very old, inveterate drunkard and living on begging.
When Juanakala needed money for her main vice, and certainly the only one, which was none other than drinking, she posted herself in front of the first peasant she met, threatening him thus:
"Surely you don't want to see your favorite cow sick?" not true ? Just like, I'm sure you don't want to have an accident in the mountains? not true ? Nor be a widower before his time? not true ?
Of course sometimes some resisted the persuasive sentences of the witch but it was always a useless relentlessness. Because, then, Juanakala reviewed the last disgraces which had taken place in the valley: death of a livestock, calamities, epidemics, crimes, diseases, adulteries, disappearances, bad weather and even wars so that one changes notice.
So Juanakala always got some change to go to Poliko's tavern and satisfy his insatiable need for Rioja wine, and good stuff. If she didn't have enough money, as she sometimes did, she would go so far as to threaten Poliko, the innkeeper himself suggesting things like:
- Eh ! that you wouldn't like to see your wine turn into vinegar?
And Poliko, like everyone else, fearing old Juanakala even more than a toothache, served her Franco's wine, exclaiming, in spite of himself:
– Bois dear old woman, today is the tour of the house!
So one afternoon, the Juanakala was well, in the tavern, her favorite place in this world, buying wine when, seeing her, a rather reckless young man found nothing better than to joke with her, asking boastfully:
- What ? juanakala, are we going to akelarre tonight? (literally: goat moor)
She looked at him with penetrating, twinkling and very mischievous eyes, and questioned him in turn:
“Perhaps you would be able to do what you tell me?
The young boy looked around him wounded in his pride and, realizing that there were several parishioners who had heard the question of the witch, wounded in his pride, answered without thinking the slightest thing:
– Capable as he who can, what did you think?
And without giving him time to change his mind, old Juanakala added with a perverse smile:
– In that case, go at midnight sharp to the intersection of such and such a place and wait for me at the top of the beech there is over there!.
Saying this, the old woman was about to leave the tavern with a look of defiance, and the young man could add nothing to these words. But he realized he had just done something stupid and gave up his boasting, drank the wine from the glass he was holding and hurried out of the tavern. Unlike the witch who took the road to the mountain as witnessed it, he, the now frightened mockingbird, took the direction of the church.
There, the young man confessed to the priest telling him the episode of the tavern and the latter, after having absolved him, blessed and gave him a blessed rosary and a pile of small medals, prints and lots of blessed things too, recommended him :
– I know what your fear is, but now you must not fail. So, go to this crossroads and wait for his coming on the tree, protected with all this!.
The young man, still fearful and unsteady, left the church to go to the place in question, looking out of the corner of his eye at the priest praying and making the signs of the cross in his direction. Climbed the tree, our youngster waited, waited until the church bells began to ring announcing midnight.
Just at the last blow, the twelfth, arrived at the tree where there was a herd of enormous and very fat pigs, a herd, which, in an interminable file passed under the tree during long minutes. Where hours??? Until finally, bringing up the rear, a sow of extraordinary size, planted herself at the foot of the beech tree, opened her huge throat and launched acerbically towards the frightened youngster:
– You were right to wear sacred things, it's ingenious because otherwise cursed you would have been!
With that, the sow disappeared like the rest of the herd into the darkness of the night and the young fell from the tree, in fear as he could never have imagined.
Admittedly, he returned home by his own means, on foot, safe and sound. Certainly, thinking of the fall on this tree, he had no injury to any part of the body. Certainly, his pride suffered, and it was a lot, he did not reach any stage of madness, depression or angry in any way. But, of course, the young man in this adventure fell very seriously ill without the doctors, pharmacists or healers finding any logical physical causes and he was never the same again.
Finally, he never again began to mock, challenge, or say a word to the famous and terrible Juanakala. He was no longer able to cross her path. For that, when he saw her outside, turned around and walked away from her like a demon.