Nestled in the foothills of
the Moncayo range in the Spanish region of Aragon resides a tiny Spanish village. But it's the shadow of a powerful curse that's more dominating than the mountainous peaks. Once
a wealthy and prosperous community of 10,000 in the 15th century, their numbers have dwindled drastically, and only 62 remain. Though small, the residents embrace their magical legacy, which makes for quite a memorable stop on a trip through Spain.
The village of Trasmoz consists of houses built up the slope of a small hill with a castle perched at the top. In the 13th century, castle occupants started using the structure as a base to illegally forge fake coins. To keep curious passersby's from getting suspicious of the hammering and scraping, they started a rumor that witches and sorcerers were responsible for the unusual noises emanating from the building.
Eventually these rumors spread to the pious ears of those living at the nearby monastery of Veruela. At the time, Trasmoz was considered lay territory, which meant it wasn’t obligated to pay taxes or contribute to the financial well-being of the Church. This was a sore spot for the abbot so when he caught wind of the witchcraft, he decided to capitalize on the opportunity. In a move that caused years of political tension, he went to the archbishop of Tarazona and asked that the entire village be excommunicated. The mix of Jews, Arabs and Christians living in the area felt no need to repent and as a result, the situation went south fast. Things finally came to a head in 1511 when Pope Julius II gave orders to cast a curse on the entire village, which still remains today.
The Curse Today
What started off as a clever ruse changed the entire course of history for Trasmoz. Fascinated by the possibility of the mystical and mysterious, even though Trasmoz has no shops and a solitary bar, thousands of tourists visit the tiny village every year. Castle Trasmoz, which was built in the 12th century, sits half-ruined on the top of the hill but is still able to be explored. An additional delight to the drafty castle is the witchcraft museum in the basement.
The biggest draw to Trasmoz by far, however, is Feria de Brujeria, a festival of witchcraft. It takes place every June and plays a large role in the preservation of their traditions. At the one day event, you'll find costumed characters, medieval exhibitions of falconry and sword fighting, and live theater performances concerning past witch hunts. Vendors selling strange herbs and lotions obtained from the nearby mountains line the packed streets and a parade through the village takes off from the front entrance at noon. During the celebrations, one fortunate (or unfortunate) woman is hailed "Witch of the Year" based on her exemplary contributions to Trasmoz.
How To Do It
Incorporate your visit to Trasmoz with part of a bigger day trip to Zaragoza, the capital of Aragon, or Tarazona, a less well-known, but lovely town made all the more charming by its narrow cobblestone streets. Three to four hours northeast of Madrid, you can get from either place to Trasmoz by a combination of bus, taxi, train and/or car. Taxis tend to be expensive and the bus doesn’t run regularly enough to be convenient so trains appear to be your best option (and run several times a day) if you don't have a rental car. Train tickets from Zaragoza range from $43-$62 and rental cars start around $50.