The Story of the Wicked Maiden and the Archangel Michael.
IN OLDEN times, when the men were not yet so wicked and bad, there was no hell, for the good God saw that it would remain empty, as there would be no one to go there. The people were happy and grateful, and satisfied with whatever God gave them. It did not enter their minds to complain of God's wisdom and love. After a time the people multiplied so much that they could no longer have enough of anything. So they began to quarrel with one another. Those who had nothing, without knowing that they were doing anything wrong, began to demand whatever they wanted from the wealthy ones. They did not know that it was forbidden to take another man's property. For up till then no one knew what sin was. The Allmerciful God, who sees and knows everything, noting that strife and quarrels increased more and more among men, sent his trusty servant, the archangel Michael, to awaken mankind to the sense of sin, and to train them to good deeds. The archangel went among the people, enlightened their minds, and told them all about sin and wrong-doing, and what they had to do in order to avoid sin. That was just the knowledge that the people were lacking; but no sooner did they know what evil was, than, curiously enough, they took to wrong-doing. Jealousy, greed, strife, and murder were born among them. When God saw the obstinacy and perverseness of mankind, he let them go their own way to do whatever they liked, even if they acted against his wishes. In order to punish them, however, he decided not to allow them to get into Paradise. At the edge of the garden he made a deep well; so deep that it was very dark, almost black. He then took a fiery morning star, and cast him into the depth of the well, thus filling it with burning coals. And then he turned every wicked man into that fire so that he might repent. He called that place Hell: and so it has remained to this day. In order that men should know that God knows how to reward them, he at times left the gate of Paradise open, so that everyone, if he liked, could enter into it and see how beautiful it was. He also opened the gates of Hell, so that they might also see the tortures and hear the cries of the wicked.
Many people went and looked, and when they looked into Paradise, their hearts swelled with joy; but when they went and looked into Hell, their hearts got as small as a flea on account of the great fright they got, when they saw how severely God punished the sinner. They all repented of their evil ways, all of them, great and small, except one single person, who on no account would repent. This one was a girl as beautiful as an angel, and clever beyond comparison. She was strong, with a fine body, round and sleek as no other, and she had a head so beautiful that you might believe it was a picture. Her long black hair, soft like silk, shone like the feathers of a raven. Her eyes were black and sparkling--she could almost burn you up with her look--her mouth had lips as red as the berries of the field--her cheeks were white and smooth as snow lit up with two blood-red roses. I do not know--by God I do not--where there is anyone who would not have fallen in love with her. God sent the archangel Michael to take her out of this world and put her in Hell, there to repent of her sins of obstinacy and perversity. He went, but when he looked at her, he could not utter a single word. He felt as though he had a knot in his throat when he was to tell her that she must prepare for the journey. For he knew how terrible it is in Hell. So he returned to Heaven without taking the girl with him to throw her into the abysmal depths. When God saw him so sad, he asked him what was the cause of it.
"O Lord," said the archangel, "I have fulfilled all thy commands except one, which I could not fulfil; I had pity on the beauty of that girl. She is so beautiful that you cannot help feeling full of pity, and to feel a sweet shiver passing through you when you behold her. If it be possible, O Lord, let her live on for a while, perchance she will repent."
"O my son Michael, thou dost not know that thy pity will cause me much trouble and worry. Just look down and see. Since thou hast left her, she has increased the number of the wicked and sinful. For whoever looks at her is seized with lust. Everyone thinks only of her eyes and her face. When I sent thee, she was the only one left who was wicked, for she alone was possessed of pride, obstinacy and perverseness. Now the number has grown."
"O, Lord, if it be only possible, do not uproot that example of womankind, for she is beautiful, and it is not likely that another like her will ever be born."
"Very well, then, I will let her live on, perchance she will repent and get better; but if she does not grow better at the end of one year, I will send thee again, and then thou wilt throw her down into the depths of Hell."
"Well, let thy will be done."
And with these words they separated, God going to mend the hinges of the world, and the archangel to teach and to enlighten the mortals. So, going through many countries, walking on foot or riding in a car, when a year had past he came at last again to the house of the beautiful maiden. There was a vast multitude assembled before her house. He pushed his way among the people to see at what they were looking. The beautiful maiden was enticing the people to follow only pleasure and pride.
"It is not good," so she spoke, "to believe only in what God and his counsellors tell us. We must do what we think best, for no evil will happen to us."
When the archangel Michael heard these words, he grew very furious, and, with a mighty effort, he got near her, so as to seize her and hurl her into the fire of Hell.
"Do not carry her to Hell," said the voice of God; "for she might start fresh mischief and wickedness there also, and engender strife: she had better be changed into some insignificant insect."
When the archangel heard the command, he got hold of her by the hair of her head, and he whirled her round so many times that she became as small as a speck; and then, throwing her away, she turned into a small red insect with black points on her wings, which was called Bubureaza (Coccinella septempundata). To this very day, when you put her on your finger, she will show you the way you are to go, but it is better for men to do the reverse and go in the opposite direction; for she leads one only to evil.