This article was written by our kinsman, Daniel Riegel, in December of 2010. Dan passed away in 2011. The loss was painful and devastating, but his contributions to the Urglaawe community became central to the philosophies of the faith, and the community grew stronger through the grieving process.
Dan's words here are particularly relevant as we enter the holiday season. He was always advocating the shunning of the Consumer Culture (as much as possible), and Dan's remarks on the stress that the Consumer Culture has instilled into the holiday season resound loudly today. In fact, this aspect of the chaos of the Consumer Culture has actually worsened since 2010. I am sure most Heathens of all denominations are dismayed by the fact that Black Friday has evolved into a holiday in its own right and that Thanksgiving is rapidly turning into "Black Friday Eve."
We Urglaawer - and all of our fellow Heathens - have the power not to allow ourselves to miss the treasures of life that occur in the Dunkelheft (Dark Half of the year) by getting caught up in the mayhem that Madison Avenue purposely creates in November and December.
Hail to the Dunkelheft, and Hail to our brother, Dan!
Embracing the Dark Half of the Year
It is brought home to me this time of year a feeling and state of mind that only comes with the darkening of our world upon the entering of the dark-half of the year. As Germanic lore passed down to us through Braucherei relates, Holle relinquishes her hold on the Year-Wheel and turns it over to Wodan and upon the doorstep of Allelieweziel/Halloween we recognize the Death of the Spiritual Year and the birth of a certain darkness….of both the physical world and the spiritual world.
As the days rapidly shorten and the weather grows colder, people retreat to the comfort of their homes just as all of our ancestors did. It is during this time of year that I find myself both gifted and vexed by a deep chance of thought, a shift in the way that I look at the world and myself. The more I come to learn about how our ancestors dealt with this time of year the more that I come to better embrace and welcome this change in spirit and in mood and outlook.
As was a custom for Germanic and perhaps many other Indo-European groups throughout history; the coming of Allelieweziel meant the culling of livestock herds; die Schlachtzeit or slaughter time. In preparation for the lean times ahead those animals that were not required for milking, shearing or breeding next spring were slaughtered and most of their meat salted or smoked for storage. On a personal level we are reminded too to sacrifice and get rid of that we don’t need for the winter ahead; mental and spiritual burdens that we have collected and built up through the year before. With the death of the Spiritual Year comes a chance for the purging of our hearts and lives of that which is unnecessary to hold us over until the next year. We now have a chance to relinquish those distractions and troubles that demand our attention and energy.
As the fields relinquished their last harvests and folks spent more times indoors the pace of life changed. Though chores were always plentiful no matter what time of year the shortening days meant less time for that which had to be done outdoors, travel became increasingly difficult with the cold and the focus of mind, heart and hands turned inwards to hearth and home.
Around the life-sustaining glow of the hearth, fire or woodstove the rhythm of life carried forward at a slower, softer pace. Clothes were sewn and patched, shoes oiled and mended, crafts and objects knitted and carved. Songs were written or sung, stories told and gossip traded. With the growth of literacy in the last 500 years of Western Culture, journals were filled with thoughts and insights that had no time for the busier months of the year. The usual business and work that were at the forefront of existence during the warm months slowed down and the focus of life turned in on itself. While, no doubt the ring of the anvil resounded with usual vigor and the carpenter’s hatchet worked just as much and the overall trades carried on throughout the day there was much more down time.
Today for most at least I see that this time of year means far more for so many other people. The warm glow of the hearth and candle light has been replaced by the cold, sterile glow of the television and computer screens filling minds with an endless assault of commercials touting the merits of materialism and greed. The traditional anticipation of the warmth and Celebration of Christmas and Yule has become supplanted by an atmosphere of anxiety over the “Holiday Season”. Rather than staying home and preparing a few meaningful gifts for loved ones they rush to giant box stores and gripe over traffic and credit-card debt in hopes to maintain that ever important material status-quo.
Combining this artificial stress of the so-called “Holiday Season” with the very natural stress of reduced sunlight and hormone change resulting from the shortened days and one can put together an accurate picture of what this time of year means to so many people. It is unfortunate that more do not appreciate this time for the spiritual gifts it brings.
Our ability to be introspective and perhaps a little more detached and secure from the outside world are gifts that are free to be cultivated from our own hearts if we so choose and cost us nothing but a little effort. While the earth gives little to harvest, our minds and hearts have much to offer if only we let ourselves look inside.
Today’s world, or at least the social landscape is one that is always trying to draw our thoughts and focus outwards to all that is constantly happening throughout the world. News once spread by word of mouth and later by printed paper has now multiplied into several forms of fast-paced, constantly available media that uses sensationalism and urgency to catch our attention. As perhaps as blasphemous as it sounds, there are very real drawbacks to this glut of information we so freely enjoy. One’s mind space is increasingly crowded by information, so much of it not at all relevant to one’s immediate existence or well-being. This information competes for space against rational, spiritual sobriety that is sovereign to every one of us as living beings. The more we allow our mindspace to be filled with the sensationalism of advertising and media, the less we allow ourselves to contemplate our own existence and the depth of our hearts and minds.
This time of year the cold evenings and the early sunsets remind me that time has come to turn at least one ear away from the noise of the world and listen to that which is in our spirit; of all we were, all we are and all we one day become. As our ancestors simply had more time to contemplate life, know silence and introspection as the days waned and the nights waxed so do we need to take the time to do so. This time of year we should mend our minds from the turbulence that is modern world outside.
So with the cold of winter that is knocking on nature’s door, comes not a time of remorse for the light that is lost, but a sense of quiet celebration for what should be a quieting of the world and a quieting of one’s spirit and hearts and the insight and wisdom we may discover in our hearts. The time has come to embrace the darkness of the world and the darkness and mystery of our own selves.
- Daniel R. Riegel
December 13, 2010