Witches Who Eat Stars and Sally Ride

By Jheri St. James

Map of AndorraLandlocked principality Andorra is one of the smallest states in Europe, nestled high in the Pyrenees Mountains between France and Spain.As well as being a wealthy international commercial center (because of banking, low taxes and lack of customs duties), approximately 10 million tourists visit each year for winter sports and summer climate. Andorra has started taxing foreign investments and implementing stricter economic policies recently. Andorra enjoys a special relationship with the European Union, and uses the Euro as national currency, even though not a member.


Andorra la Vella is the highest capital city in Europe. Andorra is headed by two Co-Princes—the Spanish/Roman Catholic Bishop of Urgell and the President of France. The people of Andorra have the third highest life expectancy at birth in the world at 84 years on average.

Don’t think that being high above the world prevents wartime conflicts for this tiny nation, however. From fighting the Moors in 988; through 1095 when its rulership was taken over by the Lord of Caboet and the Bishop of Urgell; to 1278 when its sovereignty was shared between the County of Foix and the Bishop of Urgell; and 1607-1812 when its rulership was again divided between that Bishop of Urgell and King Henry IV of France. Then in World War I, Andorra declared war on Imperial Germany, but did not take part in the fighting. Sources called the country in “an official state of belligerency” until 1939. Given its relative isolation, Andorra has existed outside the mainstream of European history with few ties to countries other than France, Spain and Portugal. In 1993 it became a member of the United Nations and the Council of Europe. (Topographical map below)

Topographical Map of Andorra

Today, the Andorran army consists of a very small body of volunteers willing to undertake ceremonial duties. Uniforms are handed down from generation to generation within families and communities. Despite not being involved in any fighting, Andorra was technically the longest combatant in the First World War, as the country was left out of the Versailles Peace Conference and technically remained at war with Germany from 1914 until 1939. Twelve men comprise a ceremonial unit, which remains the only permanent section of the Andorran Army, but all able-bodied men remain technically available for military service with a requirement for each family to have access to a firearm. The army has not fought for more than 700 years.


A lady named Debi was to travel from San Clemente, California to Lourdes, France in 2006 and filled out a volunteer form to stop in Andorra and pick up some soil, which never materialized. Gary wrote to DHL to inquire about drop off sites other than the airport.

Later, in 2007, he wrote to the Family Office in Andorra, requesting help in garnering a sample of this lofty soil, with no response.

In 2008, he wrote to Josie Shumake, Counselor for Public Affairs, U.S. Embassy, Spain: “I have been fortunate to have had many US Embassies assist in the collection process. They are listed on the web site along with the Journal entry. I am down to the last 20 countries, one of which is Andorra. Would you know of someone that could assist in the Andorra collection?” No reply is in the file. Another query letter went out that year.

Collecting Soil in AndorraFinally, magically, on May 29, 2009, Alfons Codina Pujot, who lives in Andorra came through with a volunteer information form and an offer to collect the soil from the Engolasters Lake in Llac D’Engolasters, altitude 1,504 meters (4,934 ft., approx.). When asked to write the signifance of the site to him, he provided the ethnology of the word “Engolasters”—“witches that eat stars . . . There’s a legend that says: In ancient times a lot of witches went to this lake to dance and swim without dresses. The young guys of the neighborhood went also to spy [on] them. If the witches saw one of these guys, they converted them in black cats. The day after, the witches had disappeared and the guys didn’t remember nothing.”

In 1983, way before the Common Ground 191 project even began, a lady named Sally Ride became the first American woman in space. I wonder if she was seeing the colors of the D’Engolasters Lake when she wrote this:

“Day to night and back again during a single orbit—hurtling into darkness, then bursting into daylight . . . I saw the blackness of space and then the bright blue Earth. And then it looked as if someone had taken a royal blue crayon and traced along Earth’s horizon. And then I realized that that blue line, that really thin blue line, was Earth’s atmosphere, and that was all there was of it. And it’s so clear from that perspective how fragile our existence is.”

Andorra is at the tip of the European portion of Earth’s fragile existence. A singular country perched at the edge of the royal blue atmosphere, between heaven and earth. The wonder of mankind’s existence on our big blue marble may very well be that science, astronomy, space flight, overwhelmingly beautiful nature and beliefs in witches’ powers to change men into cats can all coexist. Perhaps the influences of time will change men into peacemakers and ceremonial beings rather than warriors, as they have been even in the heights of Andorra. Thank you, Alfons Codina Pujol, for accomplishing this important collection.


(Another collection photo of the D’Engolasters Lake site)

* * *


Top | Back

All images and text © Copyright 2018 Common Ground 191 - All rights reserved