The Mystical Wanderer (1870-1877)
The many trips that List was obliged to make for business purposes afforded him the opportunity to indulge himself in his passion for hiking and mountaineering. This activity seems to have provided a matrix for his early mysticism.
Although descriptions of List's early pilgrimages into nature exist, it is unclear what underlying mystical tradition he was familiar with at the time. Two things are obvious, however: he was possessed of the idea of the sacredness of his native land, and he has an "All-Mother." The interest in his native soil was probably spurred by his early passion for Germanic myth and lore.
At one point, one of his mountain adventures almost claimed List's life. As he was climbing a mountain on 8 May 1871 , a mass of ice gave way under his feet and he fell some distance. He was apparently saved only by the fact that he had landed on a soft surface covered by a recent snowfall. In memory of his good luck List had a track equipped with a chain put up. This was opened on 21 June 1871 and was named after him: the Guido-List-Steig.
Apparently List recorded his mystical wanderings in nature in verbal descriptions as well as in sketches. In 1871, his writing talents were given vent as he became a correspondent of the New German Alpine Newspaper, later called the Salonblatt. He also began to edit the yearbook of the (Austrian Alpine Association, whose secretary he had become that year.
List often went in the company of others on his journeys into the mountains, which were taken on foot, by wagon, horse, or rowboat; but he would usually strike out on his own at some point to seek the solitude of nature.
Besides gaining general mystical impressions in these outings, List also engaged in active celebratory ritual work. He would perform various rituals that sometimes seemed quite impromptu. The most famous depiction of such an event is his celebration of the summer solstice on 24 June 1875 at the ruins of the Roman City of Carnuntum. For this - as for so much else - we are dependent on List's own somewhat fictionalized account, first published in Vienna in 1881. Basically, the ritual elements of this outing included the arduous task of gaining access to the so-called "Heathen Gate") of the city (which List mystically identified as the gate from which a German army set out to conquer Rome in 375 C.E.), the drinking of ritual toasts to the memory of the local spirit ( genius loci ) and the heroes of the past, the lighting of a solstice fire, and the laying of eight wine bottles in the shape of the "fyrfos" (Swastika) in the glowing embers of the fire. List and his company then awaited the dawn.
These early experiences were sometimes later more completely fictionalized, as, for example, in his visionary tale A Night of Magic. In this account, the persona (List) succeeds in invoking from the great mound a divine seeress ( Hechsa ) who reveals to him that he is not to be the liberator of the Germans - but that despite this "the German folk has need of the skald."