Saturday, April 13, 2013

Twelve Nights of the Wonnedanz


Every now and again, I come across short references that help to fill in some gaps in the understanding of our traditional practices.

One such gap is the time between Walpurgisnacht and the arrival of the Reifries (Frost Giants) thirteen days later. I think we finally have an answer.

On our current calendar, Walpurgisnacht falls on the night of April 30. However, since Urglaawe days begin at sundown, that night is actually 1. Wonnet (May 1) on the Urglaawe calendar. Deitsch tradition is that the Witches' Dances (Urglaawe: "die Wonnedanz," which translates to the "the dances of joy") take place at a variety of locations across the Deitscherei. Primary among these sites is Hexenkopf, which is located in Williams Township in Northampton County, but there are other sites as well.

In Germany, similar traditions relate to the Brocken, also known as Blocksberg, in the Harz Mountains. While I cannot speak to the exact meaning of the traditions at the Brocken, the impetus for the celebration in Deitsch culture is the return of Holle to the Hatzholz (also known as Mannheim, Midgard, or the physical realm). Hexenkopf is said to be Her home in this land. Her return brings order to the land and begins the growing season.

Tradition also holds that the Frost Giants become aware of Holle's return and attempt to destroy the order by freezing the land. Different Braucherei guilds have variations of this story, but the most cohesive version states that the first Frost Giant, Dreizehdax, arrives on the night of May 12 into May 13, which is actually 13. Wonnet on the Urglaawe calendar. Dreizehdax's efforts are thwarted by Dunner, and the Frost Giant is forced to retreat.

On the next night (May 13 into May 14), another Frost Giant, Vatzehvedder, makes his attempt. On that night, Dunner provides instruction to all of the Butzemenner (activated scarecrows) across the countryside in how to stop the Frost Giant. Vatzehvedder is also forced to retreat. On the third night (May 14 into May 15), Fuffzehfux makes his attempt and is beaten back by the combined efforts of the Butzemenner. After the pass of Fuffzehfux, it is considered safe to plant all crops outdoors.

I have often wondered about a few things regarding the variations of this story. For starters, there are so many locations where Witches' Dances and Wonnedanz were said to take place. Also, I wondered about the gap between the celebration of 1. Wonnet and the battle with Dreizehdax on 13. Wonnet.

Both situations can be explained by a small reference on p. 1619 of Volume IV of Grimm's Teutonic Mythology: "The Witches' Excursion takes place on the first night in May"... "They ride up Blocksberg on the first of May, and in 12 days must dance the snow away; then Spring begins."

This implies that the Wonnedanz is a multiple night occasion, perhaps symbolically beginning in the lowlands and working its way up the hills into the mountains. In our case, it would begin in places like Hexefeld near Riemeschteddel in the lowlands, up through Hexebaerrick in Berks County, and ending at Hexenkopf.

Although many Urglaawer have already been observing the Wonnedanz for several days after Walpurgisnacht, the reference in Teutonic Mythology provides some insight as to the likely cause of the delay between the restoration of order to the land and the Frost Giants' efforts to undo Holle's work. Henceforth, Distelfink Sippschaft will recognize the Wonnedanz will be a twelve-night celebration in a manner similar to the Yuulzeit.

Macht's immer besser!

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Editor's note: The term "Wonnetdanz" has also been used in the past, which implied the "dance of the month of joy." However, the term "Wonnedanz" has emerged as the more popular of the two.

1 comment:

Patricia Niedrich said...

This is a VERY important piece of information that you pieced together, and it's important for those of us in Horticulture and Agriculture. Folks don't want to acknowledge this, but I SURE DO! (running the Garden Centers!) It's a good thing that you had noticed that these things are not 1 day or overnighter events, but things lasting a few days. We in modern times like to pinpoint 1 small area, but our ancestors were more likely to want to focus on REGIONS. This makes SENSE!! Thanks Rob!!