Monday, October 3, 2016

Washing of the Distelfink Statue

The Distelfink statue (spelled on the plaque using the Dutchified English spelling of "Distlefink") is a popular target of visitors' cameras at the Berks County Heritage Center along the Tulpehocken Creek. It is also the site of the founding of Distelfink Sippschaft, so it is sort of our mascot. 

Over the years, the paint on the statue has become worn. We reached out to the Heritage Center a few years ago, but it is in this year that solid efforts have begun to restore the beauty to this representation of the symbol of the very soul of the Deitsch folk.

I'd heard a rumor (that turned out to be true) that hex sign craftsman, Eric Claypoole, and Deitsch artist, Rachel Yoder would be repainting the statue. Eric confirmed that there was a plan to do this, and provided me with the name of his contact at the Center, Cathy Wegener.

Cathy and I spoke at length about the statue. She and I share the same zeal for it, and she asked whether some of us would be willing to help the process by washing the old dirt off of the statue to prepare it for repainting. 

This was a great honor, and I accepted the offer eagerly. Many Urglaawer, both in Pennsylvania and in the Diaspora, offered to help in one way or another.

On the day of the washing (Sunday, October 2), the weather was dreary and dismal, which, along with the need to go into work, prevented several of our folks from making the trip to the park. Among the group were Jeni Jumper and her awesome daughters, Bea and Celia. 

However, a few of us did get there, and we had a great time washing the statue (of course, I soaked myself during the rinsing phase). We also had opportunities to talk to patrons of the concurrent Berks County Heritage Festival, which also, unfortunately, had a lower attendance rate than usual due to the weather.

The rain, though, held out for us until we were done with the washing and the placement of offerings. Bea and I planted twelve chrysanthemum plants around the Distelfink. The plants were funded, in large part, by donations from Urglaawer in the Diaspora. These flowers were wonderful gifts.

Celia and Bea chose some gourds, squash, and pumpkins to go onto the statue as offerings, and Bea placed a sprig of chrysanthemum on the Distelfink's beak so it could "build a nest." 

The Distelfink is now ready for repainting, and we had a wonderful experience as a group.

Hail the Distelfink!

Wednesday, September 28, 2016

Hail Zisa by Jennifer Milby

Protectress of the People
Thank you for watching over your children and calling us to you.

Illuminate the tangles before us that we may learn from our mistakes and take steps to correct them.

Great Goddess of Regeneration
We honor you today with a great feast and fellowship in the presence of our kindred and community.

Guide our paths that we may stumble upon the truth without tripping over our own feet.

Lady of Continuity
We hail you as our Ancestors once did and as our descendants will one day.

Hail Zisa!
Hail Zisa!

Tuesday, June 14, 2016

An Urglaawe Ritual Response to the Pulse Massacre

The question has arisen on the main Urglaawe group about how to honor those murdered in the Pulse Massacre. I am thinking this is a time to make use of our color associations. Perhaps six candles:

Red: Representing the blood spilled, calling to Ziu for justice and to Dunner for courage and strength.

Orange: A request to the deities, to the ancestors (our own and those of the victims), to each other, and to ourselves to attain the energy needed to surmount the polarization and hatred that is consuming this world.

Yellow: Our response needs to be appropriately angered, but our love of humanity must be victorious over these hateful actions.

Green: For the growth and expansion of messaging and ideas that toward putting an end to this sort of terror.

Blue: A call for peace and consolation to those who loved the victims.

Violet: Appeal to the sacred and to the things that connect us because, as much as our humanity is what got us into this world plight, it will be our humanity that gets us out.

Per Urglaawe funerary rites, one may also want to get some seeds or something to represent the victims, then wrap the seeds up in four pieces of paper or cloth of different colors. Say the name of a victim while adding each seed.

The first would be red. Set each seed onto a red sheet. The color and action represents the loss of life and blood and the journey to death. Draw a Raidho rune on the red paper pack with the seeds inside.

Then take the red pack and wrap it in yellow-green. Draw the Yaahr/Jera rune on the now yellow-green pack. This represents the commending of the bodies back to nature.

Then take the pack and wrap it in black. Draw the Kenaz rune on it. This represents the Higher Self's journey through The Mill.

Take the pack and wrap it in white. Draw Ingwaz on the pack. This represents the rebirth of those lost into new soul constructs. 

Respectfully place the pack into a sacred fire, asking for Holle to bless the lost.

After that, perhaps add an uncounted number of seeds to a pack formed from purple cloth or paper. Draw the Mannaz rune on that pack, and add it to the fire along with pleads to Ziu, Zisa, and Dunner to aid the victims' loved ones.

I am going to work this into our Dingsege on Saturday. Perhaps if everyone performed the same -- or a related -- ritual at the same time (say, 2:30 PM EDT locally), we can strengthen our cause. 

Feel free to make this idea viral. Perhaps this virus can combat the virus of hate, destruction, and despair that is becoming an epidemic throughout the world.

Sunday, May 8, 2016

Wonnenacht and the Wonnezeit

This myth is a product of the Folklore Research Project and represents tales and fragments of tales related principally by folks who identified themselves as practitioners of Hexerei and Braucherei. Some segments of the story were also known to individuals outside of the practices. The term Wonnenacht ("Night of Joy") has been seldom used historically, but it has become the principal term for Walpurgisnacht in Urglaawe. The term Wonnedanz ("Dance of Joy") was related by a Hex from Montour County, PA, and is a replacement for Hexedanz (Witches' Dance), and Wonnezeit ("Time of Joy") describes the twelve-day observance.

Wonnenacht represents the transition from the Dunkelheft (Dark Half of the Year) to the Brechtheft (Bright Half), and the observance welcomes Holle upon Her return from the Wild Hunt.


As Sunna's kiss brought increasing warmth and light to the Hatzholz (Heartwood; the physical realm), Holle sent for her ever-loyal servant, Gedreier Eckhart, whose job it was to walk ahead of the Parade of Spirits to warn the living of the fury behind him. Eckhart's love for Holle is as great in death as it was in life, so he flew into the midst of the Host, finding the goddess dressed in white and seated in a wagon being pulled by the souls of nine bulls. The wagon rolled on three great spinning wheels. From each wheel spun a multicolored thread that wove with the the thread from the others, forming a sack of infinite size named Immerraum ("always-room"). The thunderous voices of many found spirits within the sack resounded across the realms.

"I have filled the sack that cannot be filled, and it is time to bring them home," Holle said. "Go forth to Mannheem (the home of humanity within the Hatzholz) and tell the living that they may welcome the Host and that they should be prepared for the visit. Those who remembered and honored my word will be rewarded. After the visit, they are to light two fires and to pass between them. Through that action, they will be renewed. Then you are to go to the Mannheem field, where you will find a lone linden tree under which you may rest until I arrive.”

As Eckhart began his journey into the Hatzholz, announcing the return of the Great Lady, Holle took her mighty Sichel (Sickle) and cut the three threads each, using the end of the strands to tie the sack shut.

The Host crossed from the Oschtbledder (Eastern Leaves) into the Hatzholz. Throngs of people, though scared at first, came out to welcome the parade, honoring the arrival of the wondrous Lady. The clamor of spirits filled the high skies as Holle entered Mannheem. The bulls pulled Her wagon through open windows and doors, seeking those who welcomed Her. The orderly homes served as a sign that Her command was obeyed. She filled the homes with bright light that brought such joy to the residents that they broke out in song and dance.

Presently the wagon approached the Mannheem field called Hexefeld, where Holle found Eckhart sleeping within the bark of a linden tree. She sent the southwest wind, Riffel,1 to awaken him. She instructed Eckhart to lead the Host to Hexefeld and, upon arrival, to cut loose the spirits in the sack. "It is time to meet my sister," she stated.

Eckhart did as he was told. As the Host of the cosmic spirits approached the field, Eckhart saw another parade descending from the clouds, emerging from the forests, and coming from the soil. Ahead of this parade was a brilliant gray light radiating from a beautiful elderly woman who was also dressed in white. Eckhart approached the woman, recognizing Her as Berchta, and he bowed before Her. He then took the lead through the countryside as the two parades merged together and drew closer to the linden tree where Holle awaited them.

A hush fell upon the Host as the two sisters greeted one another. They embraced, and they began to spin in a dance. The dance spun gentle whirlwinds that touched the Host, bringing warmth and joy to the spirits of the Host, and they, too, began to dance. Some gathered strands and dust from the sack, streaming the strands around trees and scattering the dust on the ground.

The Sisters continued to dance with the Host dancing behind them, moving from the field and over the rivers and lakes. Every being in the water began to dance for joy. The whirlwinds spawned gentle rains that awakened the spirits in the sleeping plants, and they, too, began to dance for joy.

The Dance moved to the foothills, where the Frost Giants had taken refuge from Sunna's breath. As the Host approached, the winter vanished, forcing the Frost Giants to retreat.

On the twelfth day, Holle instructed Eckhart to sleep in a rock at the base of a mountain pillar while the dance continued up a ridge called Hexenkopf. The entourage eventually stopped by a marshy wellspring near the top. The two sisters took rest by the wellspring, and the spirits began to feel drawn to its depths.2

Holle and Berchta commanded the Host to continue their journey to its end by Holle's home.

Holle led one half of the parade to an elder bush, the roots of which reached beyond the Hatzholz and into the dark realms, taking nourishment from three creeks named Schprudlendi, Gwellendi, and Fliessendi.3 Berchta led the other half to the depths of the wellspring, which emptied into the same creeks.


The spirits followed the goddesses into these creeks and surfaced in the Holle's meadow, named Bollwies (Flax Meadow), in the Dunkelgegend.4 The spirits followed the goddesses through some woods, passing Holle's home, Es Heisli. They soon entered an open field called Weiwerfeld and soon approached Her Mill.

Holle unhitched the bulls from Her wagon and yoked them to a giant millstone named Seelbrecher ("Soul Crusher"). Behind Berchta, the spirits lined up and entered the Mill, where they would be split apart, never to return in their present form. Holle returned to the joyous Mannheem, taking Her seat upon the Hexenkopf pillar while Eckhart sleeps in a rock.5


On the other end of the mill, the kernel of the selves of each soul emerged behind Berchta, who then led them up the world tree to the Unnergegend. There they take full form and await their return to the living realms.6

Thus, the Bright Half of the Year began and order was restored to Mannheem. King Frost, fearful of losing his grip on the valuable realm, sent his armies to attack.7

1 In this story, the wind is coming from the southwest; in another myth, the wind directions are known by their destination rather than their origin. Thus, it is possible that the southwest wind in this myth is known by the name of the northeast wind in the other myth.

2 Magnetite was/is common at Hexenkopf and was eventually mined. The most familiar ponds at Hexenkopf currently are ore holes resulting from the mines, but there are also marshy water holes naturally on the mountain that may serve as the reference to the wellspring.

3 The names of the wells translate to Brimming, Bubbling, and Flowing.

4 The Dark Realm

5 There are reports of a White Lady approaching walkers, carriages, and cars along the top of the pillar, particularly around Walpurgisnacht.

6 There is more to this segment to appear in the next version.

7 This is a connection to the Butzemann traditions and the myth of Dunner and the three Frost Giants, Dreizehdax, Vatzehvedder, and Fuffzehfux. At least two versions story have been described frequently under separate cover but will be harmonized either in the next version of this myth or in a separate myth.

Sunday, May 1, 2016

Hexenkopf Pilgrimage 2016

Hexenkopf is a strange and sacred place located in Williams Township, Northampton County, Pennsylvania. Long associated with activity on Walpurgisnacht or Wonnenacht, this is Holle's home on this continent. For generations, people have reported seeing a White Lady on the mountain pillar or along the road, especially on the night of April 30. This is where the Wild Hunt ends and the Bright Half of the year begins.

The awesome sign at the barn of the owners greets visitors. We always arrange our visits in advance. The site is on private property, and visitors should always plan to be off of the grounds by dusk.

Young Mugwort plants announce the correct entrance into the woods. After a few more weeks, the growth will be thick.

Magnetite had been mined here, and there are said to be odd magnetic patterns here at times. Other oddities are the common sight of uprooted, upside down trees in locations where they could not simply have fallen. Some are at the very top of the pillar, clearly not having anywhere higher to fall from.

Photo credit: Bob Headley
There are four ponds or pools at the site, some of which have a history of being considered curative. That being said, though, two of them I avoid as they have radon (a common gas in Pennsylvania), one is a former magnetite ore hole that has no radon, and the last is a natural pool that is said to provide water sacred to Holle. This holy water is used at Distelfink's rituals throughout the year. 

The site is challenging because of the huge boulders and the rough brush. Indeed, the name "Hexenkopf" means "Witch's Head" because the rock formation appears like the head of a stereotypical witch depiction in the conical hat. None of us got a good pic of the "hat," but there are several large boulder deposits throughout the site.

Photo credit: Bob Headley

There are all sorts of nooks and outcroppings, including one which is a natural sanctuary, where Distelfink holds its rituals.

Photo credit: Bob Headley

In the middle of the sanctuary is a natural altar.

Photo credit: Michelle Jones
Poison Ivy does abound at the site... Fortunately, so does one of our best plant allies: Jewelweed. It came in handy several times for folks who brushed up against the Poison Ivy. 

This is a wondrous site that ties into the Hexerei myth of the Wonnenacht (Night of Joy) and the Wonnedanz (Dance of Joy, also known as the Witches' Dance).

Photo credit: Michelle Jones
Could this be the rock that the soul of Gedreier Eckhart slept in per the instructions of Holle? Hexenkopf sets one's imagination ablaze.

Our crew:

Photo credit: Michelle Jones

Hail Distelfink!

Saturday, April 9, 2016

From the Grundsau Burrow

Response to Irish-American Witchcraft: Dressing Old Gods in a New World is an excellent article by the Urglaawe representative in Western PA, Stevie Miller. The tendency to talk about the Deitsch culture, with the exception of the Amish, in the past tense really is something that does not serve us very well. The Deitsch culture, certainly including Urglaawe, is very much alive and expanding.

While you're visiting her site, do check out the other articles, too! :)

Friday, March 18, 2016

Stealing a Quote

Stealing a great quote by Amy Kincheloe, our Urglaawe contact in Kentucky:

"Looking at Paganism and trying to find your path is like looking at a tree. Urglaawe, for me, is looking at the roots, finding where all those leaves came from, the base, the down and dirty part that gives nutrients to the entire thing."