Tuesday, April 7, 2020

Lenzbutzerei and Preparation for Wonnenacht

Although the cosmos are not beholden to our calendar, observances are important, and calendars help us to keep attuned to the cycles of the world we live in. The Lenzbutzerei, or Spring Cleaning, begins with Entschtanning on February 2, runs through Oschdret, and ends on Wonnenacht, which starts at sunset on April 30.

Lenzbutzerei begins at Entschtanning on February 2
and ends on Wonnenacht, April 30

Wonnenacht is the observance of Holle's return to this realm, of the end of the Wild Hunt, and the beginning of the Bright Half of the year. As Wonnenacht draws nearer, this question was posted to the main Urglaawe Facebook group:

So, we are cleaning and organizing, for Holle’s return; my question is; is here specifications she looks for, or is “cleaner that it was” acceptable to her?The items listed below are not exhaustive (other buildings on the property, including barns, would be included) but were drawn from many responses in interviews with Braucherei and Hexerei practitioners. Having had a jam-packed house myself for many years, the matter of Spring Cleaning was always somewhat stressful for me. The issue is that our folklore states that the Wild Hunt passes through the homes on the final leg of its journey, and there must be unimpeded passage from one end of the house to the other. Cleanliness is of particular note. Clutter to be set aside to make room for the parade of spirits to come through, but the presence of the clutter is secondary to the effort to put clutter in order.

Rule of thumb: If you think you have a clutter problem, then you probably do. It does not need to be resolved all at once or even in one season, but any problem that one has that is known yet not addressed can become a burden over time. It took me a few years to resolve the clutter issues in my home to the point where I am comfortable having people come in, and that effort was initiated as part of Lenzbutzerei. Much of this process is about intention and effort.

So, here's what our list consists of:

- Floors are to be swept free of dirt and debris.

- Paths through the house are to be free of obstacles. The path could have books and magazines stacked, narrowing the walkway, but, as long as none of those books or magazines is actually in the walking area, it meets the letter of the law.

- Items that can easily fall or be knocked over should be moved to a safer space.

- Items need to be donated or removed that you have known for three years (some say six, which I support, because six has some “sacred disposal aspects to it) are no longer useful yet you hold into thinking, but I might need this someday.”

- All dishes, pots, pans, etc., cleaned and put away.

- Oven cleaned. This would include microwaves, toasters, toaster ovens, etc.

- Clean other appliances, including refrigerators; check dishwasher, washer and dryer. This would also include the outside of the appliances

- Windows cleaned (safety is a factor to consider) and opened with signs welcoming Holle.

- Clean the bathroom. 

- Dust furniture. Urglaawer should dust their altars.

- Porches swept. This is tied to April 29 on solar calendar but for us would be by sunset on April 30.

- You do not need to do everything in the house, but try to do a bit more than you think you can.

Align disposal with the Lenzbutzerei season that begins at Entschtanning and ends at Wonnenacht.  This means almost three months to work on getting things into minimum order. This time is principally about cleaning up the physical environment, but the physical, emotional, mental, and spiritual are all related.

At the opposite end of the calendar in October is Allelieweziel, where there is another major observance related to disposal, thought that tends to focus on the final removal of poor habits and items or events that weigh us down.

As each season approaches, make the cleaning an expression of your spirituality. It may take a few years to finish it, but, as you see the changes, you might find yourself feeling empowered.

Sunday, March 29, 2020

Der Ziegdaag


Because we are unable to gather in  in person, we hold this event as a videoconference on Wednesday, April 1, 2020 at 18:00 (6:00 PM), and we'll change the time to 6:00 PM so that remote workers might be off the clock by that time. We will be videoconferencing again.

In fact, the significance of -- and the lessons learned from -- Ziegdaag are exactly the sort of thing we need to work through as we go through this unprecedented time of change and uncertainty.

Videoconferencing will provide folks an opportunity to engage with the community during this while physically distancing ourselves. One Ziewer (Rob) will be running the ritual, and the other Ziewers (Larry, Victoria, Michelle) may moderate the videoconference (who speaks in what order, etc.).

The program for this event will be posted to this site prior to the event's start.

Please join us at 6:00 PM on Wednesday, April 1, 2020, by clicking this link:



Ziegdaag is an Urglaawe observance derived from the old Deitsch Moving Day, which typically fell on April 1. 

We are currently in an unprecedented transition time on a global level. Everyone is impacted, and some of the adjustments are difficult to make, and, as the COVID-19 virus continues to spread, things might continue to get more difficult to cope with.

Enter Ziegdaag. Ziegdaag was (and in some places still is) the “moving day” when tenant farmers and other business operators who rented their shops packed up to move to a new location. It was a very big deal as many families would be moving at the same time, leading to crowded roads, families helping each other, and a genera; fast pace to get things accomplished before sunset. The traditional date is April 1, so Ziegdaag for Urglaawe begins at sunset on March 31.

Der Ziegdaag is about change or transformation in all aspects: the need for change, the fear of change, the agents of change, those who think outside of the box, the trickster figures, the sagacious figures who solve problems, escape from traps, or change the world. This its about change in all forms, from the weather to the way in which one views oneself. This year, I would like to strongly advise participants to consider the changes that are emerging with the shutdowns, quarantines, and curfews. What will life be like on the other side of this crisis? Thinking about it actually makes me a little frightened, to be honest, but there are realities that we as individuals, as part of communities, as nations, and as inhabitants of Earth will have to go through as part of the recovery from this disruption in our daily lives.

Now is the time to use emerging information and to attempt to plan for the worst while striving for the best. All of this, of course, sounds great on paper; it’s not. For many of us, this time is going to really suck.It is important that we all prepare ourselves as much as possible for the trauma. It is normal and ok to feel scared, angry, lost, and depressed. Give yourself the time to recognize the harm that this disruption is doing to you as an individual. Some might find themselves having to grieve the life that they used to know. Go through the process; let it out. Then, over a few days, begin to remind yourself that what you are feeling is normal but that those emotions must begin to take a back seat to recovery efforts. The coping mechanisms will be different for different people, but, perhaps readers can share ideas about how they are coping with the crisis.

Otherwise, observance pairs nicely with April Fool’s Day and the unpredictable weather of this particular time of year. In terms of the Lewesraad, or the wheel of the year, this represents the time of transition from childhood into adolescence, when change is difficult and awkward, yet it is a part of life that we must go through.

Another adjustment is that this observance and ritual will need to be done via videoconference due to the realities of this time.


Unlike the Norse lore with Loki, Germanic lore does not have one particularly prominent agent of change. Instead, our folklore is riddled with innumerable characters, some of whom may be rooted in real people, others who have their origins in Heathen lore, and yet others who are entities whose lore we are still picking apart. This year, we will focus mostly on the Mountain Giant known as Riewezaahl, but we will look at a few others as well.


Schadde (sometimes appears as Schaade) is a trickster figure in a broken Deitsch story in which he manipulates Schlumm, a deity or giant associated with sleep, into blowing darts that put starcrossed lovers Sunna and/or Muun to sleep, thus allowing for Schadde to place them into the sky so they will never be able to consummate their love. He does this out of jealousy, yet this action sets the tides that allow for life on Earth to thrive. Sunna and Muun meet at eclipses, and they are able to use light and reflection to have children on the Earth in the form of dandelions. There appears to be a
reckoning that results in Schadde having to restrict his own movement, but this part is unclear. This story is, unfortunately, missing some other pieces, too, and we have not finished putting what we do have in order as a result.

However, Schadde appears in at least two other fragments of tales, both of which appear to involve cunning and/or setting things straight for the betterment of all involved parties.


Perhaps based in an actual human, the stories of Till are widely known in the German, Dutch, and Flemish cultures. Till isba true trickster in many ways. He thinks outside the box, engages periodically in buffoonery, and has a knack for overturning conventional wisdom. His name reflects the latter; “Eileschpiggel” translates to “owl mirror,” with the owl representing wisdom, and the mirror symbolizing the reflection or the opposite of that wisdom. In some sense, Till is an anti-hero, but, at this time of year, it is worthy to consider the wit and out-of-the-box thinking that are the inspirations for
this character.


NOTE: Do not address him directly as Riewezaahl, Riebzaahl, Rübezahl, or anything similar. The term of respect is Der Bariyeharr or the Mountain Lord, but he calls himself Rips when in human form. 

This Giant, whose nickname means “turnips count,” is known in the lore of both Germanic and Slavic cultures. During an interview with a Hexerei practitioner, the topic of the Frost Giants' Wonnetzeit attack came up, and the elderly women asked me if I knew much of Riewezaahl ("turnips count”; using this name because she used it to ask the question.). I had not heard of this being prior to this conversation, and she told me she remembered from her youth her mother talking about Riewezaahl. She said that her mother described Riewezaahl as a irritable Mountain Giant who has a strong ability to bring about unstable weather and would occasionally simply cause trouble because "that is what Giants do." Since that time, I have come across a few other references to him, including him causing squalls and sudden windstorms, earthquakes, and more.

Rips appears in many Silesian legends, and there is a strong historical Silesian presence among the Deitsch in the particular area in which I was doing interviews. Although some of the information I am coming across treats him like a god, but even more information indicates that he is not a pleasant spirit and has more attributes that would place him among the Giants, specifically a Mountain Giant.
The lore emanates mostly from the Germans and Slavs of Silesia and Bohemia. Grimm (Volume II, p. 480) refers to him as a wood-sprite and has some notes regarding him that may link him to Knecht Ruprecht, but there is not an ample description there.

There are tales in which Rips is a helpful trickster and a shapeshifter (the theme of transforming turnips into people or vice-versa comes up occasionally in Germanic lore). Folks may be interested in checking out this article:

Further readings into Silesian lore turn up a very complex Giant who is capable of meting out his own forms of justice. In the book, Silesian Folk Tales (The Book of Rübezahl), by James Lee, M.D., and James T. Carey, A.M., we see the following:

- He is a Mountain Giant with trickster and shapeshifter characteristics.

- His stories frequently involve people in motion, people moving, people in need of change, etc., and he captures the spirit of the Ziegdaag "moving day" features in many ways.

- He appears as many different types of beings, including men, women, etc.
- He aids people who try to improve themselves or to help others.

- He is not to be messed around with, or one will find oneself being beaten to death and hanging from a tree or being rooted firmly into the ground in the middle of a busy marketplace.

- His stories feature a lot of common tasks, including herb collecting, spinning, etc.

- Blue cornflower, already connected to some long life and other magical concepts in Deitsch lore, turns up in at least one of his myths.

- Dreams and dream states turn up in quite a few of these stories, which reminds me more than a bit of Schlumm.

- He plays a prank on an abusive husband that changes the domestic situation in the house (although I think the husband deserved more punishment than he got).

So, in the context of the Ziegdaag observance, focus on this trickster figure’s ability to bring about change through appearing as common folk but performing uncommon tasks. One may also want to consider that he can be capricious; he starts off disliking some people he encounters but a curious aspect to a that person may cause him to give that person a chance. If you irritate him, it is at your own risk.

Tuesday, March 17, 2020

Frouwasege un Grumbieredaag

Ebbes Griene, Ebbes Schwatze

Ebbes Weisse fer Ihre Katze.

Backt mer Datsch am Frouwesdaag,
Strae die Grimmle wu Sie mag,

Vum Eck zum Eck am Gaarderanft,

So wachse die Greider uff ‘s Land

Something Green, Something Black

Something white for Her cats,

One bakes Datsch on Frouwe’s Day,*

Scatter the crumbs where She wishes.

From corner to corner along the garden’s edge,

So the plants grow on the land.

Frouwasege/Grumbierdaag altar with Datsch bread

Hallicher Grumbieredaag!
Happy Potato Day!

Hallicher Frouwasege! 
Happy Frouwa/Freya Sege/Blót!

Aspects of the goddess Frouwa (cognate of Freya) are believed to have been retained (accidentally) in the lore of the Church in the form of St. Gertrude of Nivelles and "Fraa Trudi," who shares some similar attributes of Frouwa. 

Ironically, it was Protestant and Plain sectarian churches that kept the lore most active upon arrival here in Pennsylvania. Today opens the planting season for hardy items, such as potatoes, cabbage, and spring onions. 

Urglaawe observes this day in the context of Frouwa rather than St. Gertrude. In either case, though, this is a distinctly Deitsch/Pennsylvania Dutch observance in form and function.

Frouwasege is also an observance of the sacredness of cats. Give your cats treats (tradition is something white in color, but any will do) and to leave some for Frouwa's cats and strays. Indeed, the barn cat plays a significant role in the success of the farm by controlling the population of the vermin that can destroy or consume the crops.

We also have rituals associated with specific land spirits today. The ritual program is available here on www.urglaawe.net.

If you plant today, be sure to honor the soil before using the shovel. Next year, we will put this rite into the program in a more pronounced way.

Heele zu der Frouwa!

* In the original poem by Amanda Baer Stoudt, the spelling of some words was different. For the Urglaawe context, we have replaced references to Trudisdaag and St. Gertrude with references to Frouwa.

Sunday, March 15, 2020

Grumbieredaag un Frouwasege 2020

The program for Grumbieredaag un Frouwasege has been posted!


This is the traditional Deitsch holiday of St. Gertrude's Day, known also by the name we use in Urglaawe of Grumbieredaag (Potato Day), which is the day we will honor the Frouwa. This is one tradition that the Christians have inadvertently kept alive, and we benefit from it. The Christian expression has been edited to reflect the needs of the Urglaawe tradition and to return aspects this observance to their older roots.

Since the Deitsch population overwhelmingly identifies as Protestant or Anabaptist, the survival of this Catholic observance within the wider culture is interesting in its own right, even if it had been diminishing over time. Even many Christians acknowledge the heathen roots of the observance. While there are other connections that come up (particularly to Holle and to Freid/Frigg), Grimm (305) makes a connection between Gertrude and Frowa/Frouwa, and this is generally accepted by the Urglaawe community.

Potatoes have become a staple crop for the Deitsch since arrival, and tradition is that March 17 is the day to put potatoes in the ground. There are rituals to feed the Heinzelmenner or other Kowwold (kobolds) and to bring fertility to the garden. Specific foods include Datsch (a type of almost granola-like potato bread) and spring onions.

One thing I find important in this observance is the completion of the potato cycle. Potato bread from last year's harvest is consumed and offered to the land at the time that this year's crop is being planted.

Der Waldmops and some of the spirit entities were carried in the popular lore. Der Waldmops is an interesting character. He is described as a Zwarich (Dwarf) by many, and, indeed, the word Mops does mean Dwarf in Deitsch, so Waldmops would be the “Woods Dwarf.” However, others describe him as an Erdgeischt (Gnome), and still others see him as a Dwarf with Green Man characteristics. I fall into this last camp. As the Lord of Beasts, he awakens the animal kingdom from its winter slumber. He stirs the trees of the forest to shoot forth their greens, and he and his people cultivate the fertility of the land. We are most definitely in a symbiotic relationship with our land spirits, and they should be honored often.


Due to the Coronavirus, we are encouraging folks who can to do this ritual at home in their own gardens. However, I will be doing this ritual for a small group in Bristol with safety precautions in place. The Datsch that I bake will not be consumed by the participants; only commercially-baked potato rolls will be present, and we will take food-handling precautions with those. The libation (will only be non-alcoholic for this ritual) will not be consumed directly from the stein. Everyone may bring their own vessel or use a cup from here.

PLEASE: If anyone has a cough, fever, or other signs of any sickness, we ask you to tend to your health needs so you are feeling fit for when the pandemic's shutdown is over.

Please note: THERE IS NO MEAL AT THIS RITUAL. This is our simplest ritual (outside of the baking of the Datsch), and most people would be doing this in their own gardens. The recipes for the Antler Cookies and the Datsch have been posted to the Urglaawe Culinary Guild on Facebook. If you are not a member of it, please feel free to submit to join.  :)

IF YOU CANNOT BAKE A DATSCH OR ANTLER COOKIES THIS YEAR, feel free to replace them with potato bread and sugar cookies - for this year. The Datsch is an important devotional aspect of this observance and its baking should be part of the process in the future. The same applies, with less intensity, to the Antler Cookies.

We encourage folks to get hold of a copy of William Woys Weaver's Dutch Treats, wherein both of these recipes appear. 

Saturday, February 15, 2020

Next Observance: Grumbieredaag (17 Lenzing / March 17)

This is one of those instances of reconstruction in which the Catholic Church likely retained information about a goddess and imprinted it on one of their saints. In this case, we believe the goddess to be Frouwa and the saint is St. Gertrude of Nivelles.

Ironically, Gertrudsdaag (also Trudisdaag, St. Gertrude's Day, Potato Day, Grumbieredaag, March 17) has always been a thing among the Deitsch even though the Catholic population is small compared to the much larger Lutheran and Reformed bodies. The rise of commercial St. Patrick's Day impacted the breadth of the St. Gertrude observance, but, over the last few years, we've been seeing an increase in discussion about the Deitsch traditions associated with it. Much of the growth in interest seems to be coming from the Protestants, which may surprise some people; however, this is not the only feast day of a saint that is observed in some way by Protestants or even Anabaptists. The Amish shut down on October 11 for St. Michael's Day, even though they would never pray to the saint himself.

As is the case with many observances, many Christians will acknowledge the likely Heathen roots of this observance, which we in Urglaawe call by the Grumbieredaag (Potato Day) name. Potatoes have become a staple crop for the Deitsch since arrival, and tradition is that March 17 is the day to put potatoes in the ground. This is first official planting of the season. 

Echoing Heathen roots even more are rituals to feed the Heinzelmenner or other Kowwold (kobolds) and to bring fertility to the garden. The Waldmops, the Lord of the Beasts, is also honored with offerings on this day. Specific foods include Datsch (a type of almost granola-like potato bread) and spring onions.

One thing I find important in this observance is the completion of the potato cycle. Potato bread from last year's harvest is consumed and offered to the land at the time that this year's crop is being planted.

While there are other connections that come up to other goddesses (particularly to Holle and to Freid/Frigg), Grimm (305) makes a connection between Gertrude and Frowa/Frouwa, and this is generally accepted by the Urglaawe community. 

Frouwa's name did not come up often in our interviews, but one of my earliest interviews was with a Hexerei practitioner who identified as a devotee of Frouwa. Presented were some of the attributes that our Norse-oriented siblings would recognize in Freya: sex, beauty, fertility, fecundity... and, of course, the cats. Like Frouwa and Freya, St. Gertrude is the guardian of cats. 

The ritual is simple, and I will post the program I follow as the time draws nearer. However, you may want to begin to gather items now, particularly if you are interested in William Woys Weaver's "Dutch Treats."

Most of us do this observance in our own yards, but it is also fine to gather a group together.

Items Needed

Potatoes, spring onions (scallions), and/or cabbage seeds, if planting

Bread (Datsch is preferred but not required; see Dutch Treats by William Woys Weaver, pp. 103-105 for traditional recipe; also posted in the Urglaawe Culinary Guild group on Facebook)

Beans (at least three but more is better)

Offerings to Butzemann (if applicable)

Treats to be set out for Frouwa's cats and strays (if applicable; preferably something white, such as fish, white meat chicken, or dried catnip flowers)

Frouwa statuary (optional; Freya statuary is also appropriate)

Decorations (optional; flowers, etc.)


This is a simple fertility ritual that serves in Urglaawe as a devotional to Frouwa. Set up your devotional area (outdoors preferred) however works for you.

First, sow or plant potatoes, cabbage, or spring onions.

I usually intone runes at the beginning of rituals, and, if there is a group, we state our purpose for gathering, and then call to Frouwa to join us as an honored guest. 

at the rear door of your house. If you do not have a rear door, the front door is fine. While standing by the door, say the following chant:

Ebbes Griene, Ebbes Schwatze
Ebbes Weisse fer Ihre Katze.
Backt mer Datsch am Frouwasdaag,
Schtrae die Grimmle wu Sie mag,
Vum Eck zum Eck am Gaarderanft,
So wachse die Greider uff ‘s Land

Something Green, Something Black
Something white for her cats,
One bakes Datsch on Frouwa’s Day,
Scatter the crumbs where She wishes.
From corner to corner along the garden’s edge,
So the plants grow on the land.

Walk to the corner of your garden (if no garden, then to the corner of your property) closest to the door where you began. walk in a clockwise manner the perimeter of the garden or property, and, at the first corner or hard turn, scatter a few large crumbs of bread. While scattering, say the following blessing:

Es fiehrt die Frouwa die Kieh zum Graut,
die Biene zum Fluck,
un die Pferd zum Zuck.

The Frouwa leads the cows to fodder,
the bees to flight,
and the horses to pull.

Then take three beans and cast them into the interior of the yard (note, if you only have three beans, reserve them for the final corner or turn instead of casting them now). 

Proceed to continue to walk the perimeter, stopping at each corner or hard turn and repeating the scattering and the blessing. The beans are an offering to the land and to the land spirits, including the Waldmops (and you should say his name aloud), and you may hail them as you scatter the beans. I will provide more information about the Waldmops when the program is completed.

Once you have returned to your starting point, say your personal thanks to Frouwa, and drop any outdoor offerings to Her cats. Then close the rite.

If you have a Butzemann, make an offering to him as well.

This ritual creates the bridge between the end of the Entschtanning season and the beginning of the Oschdret. 

I encourage Urglaawer to take part in this rite. If you have the ability to bake, I'd also suggest baking the Datsch a day or two before as part of the ritual process. 

Grimm, Jacob, James Stallybrass, trans. Teutonic Mythology (4 vols).  New York: Dover Publications, 1966.

Weaver, William Woys. Dutch Treats: Heirloom Recipes from Farmhouse Kitchens. Pittsburgh: St. Lynn's Press, 2016.

Wednesday, February 12, 2020

Entschtanning 12: Es Lichderfescht

Tonight at sunset we begin the closing of the Entschtanning observance, although the Entschtanning “season” actually runs up until the Spring Equinox observance next month. 

Tonight is what we Urglaawer call “es Lichtfescht” or, more correctly in Deitsch, "es Lichderfescht," which is our festival of lights. On Night 3, we discussed the cleaning of the hearth and of other fire-bearing vessels, including candleholders. This echoes pre-Christian customs that ended up featured as part of Christian Candlemas practice (Yoder 49-50). 

As the interviews and collecting of stories from across the Deitscherei progressed, some interesting interpretations of the use of light during this time emerged. Some of these were “superstitions” and involved sympathetic magic; others were more philosophical.

The superstition that turned up most frequently was an idea that we sometimes hear of at Yule: adding light to the night will help to strengthen the Sun. One elderly man likened the ritual practice of lighting candles from Groundhog Day onward to a parent pushing and guiding a learning child’s bike and then releasing hold when the child had acquired ample balance to move alone. 

The philosophical interpretations are more far-reaching. The whole of this observance is about enlightenment, conscious and conscientious living. At this time, we strive to finish the preparations for the ideas that we developed for the New Year at Yule. We are to be ready to put those ideas into effect by Oschdre in March. 

This brings us to the mind shift (Umdenk) that we often speak about when one converts from monotheism (particularly Christianity) to Heathenry. Within the Urglaawe community, this shift was first expressed by my kinsman, Daniel Riegel, prior to his passing in 2011. He described the mind shift in the context of embracing the dark half of the year, which was consistent with many others’ experiences of recognizing the totality of the self, shadow and all. This recognition of our whole being is not the same as accepting ourselves “as is” and not striving to be better. Instead, it is using the totality of ourselves in order to become the best we can be.

There is a tendency in our society to pretend the shadowy sides of ourselves do not exist. We bury them deeply, and we are ashamed of them. This attitude is pervasive in some Plain sectarian communities, and it is rooted in Christian orthodoxy. Shadow sides are generally viewed as being “evil” or profane. Orthodoxy, meaning that one is required to believe a certain way, trumps orthopraxy, meaning that one is required only to practice the same way within a group. Orthodoxy leads to dogma, and dogma leads to suppression of variant ideas. 

One of the more common beliefs within Urglaawe is that the deities want for us to be at the end of this cosmic cycle where they were at the beginning of it. To achieve this, we have to grow as a race of beings. Such growth, particularly an evolution of consciousness, is very difficult when the largest religions in the world actively attempt to limit questioning and independent thought. 

Maintaining perspectives from Christianity while practicing Heathenry can result in confusion. Our relationships to the deities and to our ancestors differ from that of the Christian understanding. Our relationship to the world around us differs (see Night 6). It is difficult to wrap one’s head around the idea that there may be multiple “truths” or that our deities have individual personalities that may lead them even into conflict with each other. 

And, at the risk of offending some readers of this post, the “lore” is not Gospel, and to treat the myths as such can lead one to become, for want of a better phrase, a “Christian dry drunk.” The baggage of orthodoxy remains even though the trappings of the religion have changed. Germanic Heathenry has never (at least within the period in which history has been written down) been monolithic. Different tribes knew different deities in different ways… and that is wonderful!

Ditching the mindset of Christianity is critical. We are not “fallen.” We do not need an intercessor to remove the stain of sin. We have the ability and responsibility to improve ourselves, yes, but we do so to create a better future for ourselves and for our descendants, not because we have a bill to pay from the past. 

During Lichderfescht, we embrace this ability and this duty to bring enlightenment into ourselves, our communities, and our world. 

This ends the musings of the Entschtanning season. The next Urglaawe observance is Grumbieredaag (“Potato Day”) on March 17, which is the first planting of the season.

Hail to those who have gone before and the wisdom they left us!

Hail to those yet to come. May we be worthy of their honor!
Yoder, Don. Groundhog Day. Mechanicsburg, PA: Stackpole Books, 2003. ISBN: 0-8117-0029-1.

Tuesday, February 11, 2020

Entschtanning 11: Fettkuche, Embers, Greasing of the Tools

If you live in the Deitscherei or in any Deitsch colony, there's a very good chance that you have come across the Fastnachtskuche (usually called just Fastnacht) on Shrove (Fat) Tuesday. This is a widespread tradition that continues vibrantly into the current era.

If you ask the average consumers what the purpose of these deep-fried, lard and potato doughnuts is, they will likely tell you that they are made to consume the fat in the house before Lent begins. However, there are elements of the Fastnachtskuche story that reveal connections to older practices.

In Beliefs and Superstitions of the Pennsylvania Germans, Deitsch historian Edwin Miller Fogel, Ph.D., cites quite a few living Deitsch traditions and links them to pre-Christian practices or to the old German deities. Many of these include traditional cattle-driving and wedding days (Tuesday (Ziu) and Thursday (Dunner) still observed among many Plain sectarians, ironically, although the sectarians almost certainly are unaware of the origin of the custom (11)), and also sacrificial practices. 

Fogel cites (15) the tradition of taking embers from a central fire to which everyone in a community has contributed something. This is connected to the Haerdbutzerei that we discussed on Night 3. Embers from the fire are taken out to the orchards and made to smoke in order to bless the trees. Herds were driven through the cooled embers of the main fire, and charcoal from the fire was fed to the pigs. Some of what Fogel cites are actually practiced at Wonnenacht (Walpurgisnacht), namely people walking among embers, too. However, despite some discrepancies found between Fogel's text and the reports of practitioners from our ongoing interviews, Fogel's information is valuable.

Fogel describes Shrove Tuesday as taking over some of the festivals that honor Dunner and refers specifically (12-13) to "Easter cakes" in honor of Ostara (whom we know as Oschdra). This presents a discrepancy in terms of the timing and the significance of the Fettkuche, but the premise of the cakes being of pre-Christian origin fits with the beliefs of numerous Hexerei and Braucherei practitioners. Most tied the Fettkuche more to Groundhog Day and Fasching than to the Spring Equinox or Easter. The Hearth Lady or Hearth Goddess (Freid) was the "helpful entity" with whom the Fettkuche were associated, and they were said to represent pregnancy and the emergence or manifestation of new life. This is the context in which Urglaawe utilizes these cakes. Typically, but not restrictively, we consume them on the last Friday of Entschtanning.

Fettkuche are typically dipped and eaten nowadays in molasses or Turkey Syrup, but trees that run sap in February also have traditionally provided some flavor to the doughnut.

There is one additional aspect to the Fettkuche that shows a possible link to Charming of the Plow traditions elsewhere in Europe. Even today in the Deitscherei, the grease from the preparation of Fettkuche is collected and used on tools in a ritual we call the Waerkzeichfettung (Greasing of the Tools). Any tools may be ritually greased to ensure prosperity, but it is specifically gardening and plowing tools that are featured in our folklore. For Urglaawer, this once again brings Freid to mind. 

There are many recipes under search terms Fettkuche and Fastnacht. Some folks within our community make the doughnuts as part of their offerings to Freid prior to our group Entschtanning ritual. Many supermarkets throughout the Deitscherei and even well into the Philadelphia suburbs have the doughnuts available beginning early in February. 

Hail to Freid!
May the coming Spring bring prosperity!


Fogel, Edwin Miller, Ph.D. Beliefs and Superstitions of the Pennsylvania Germans. Millersville, PA: Center for Pennsylvania German Studies, 1995.