Friday, November 1, 2019

Birch Tea Rite / Baerketeeiwwergangsgebrauch

A very meaningful rite comes into Urglaawe directly from Braucherei. It is widely accepted within most Braucherei communities to be ultimately of heathen-era origin, particularly due to the close association of birch with the goddesses Berchta, Holle, and Freid.

Birch represents renewal. It is easily killed by fire, yet it is also one of the first trees to sprout again after a forest fire, and this fact is what oral tradition relates to the origin of the Birch Tree Rite.

Death leaves a stain of strong reactive energy on those whom it touches. The process of grieving, the energy put into coping with loss, the strain of planning for funerals and tending to the deceased's affairs all place a burden on the survivors. Typically this means the closest friends and relatives of the person who passed.

Additionally, the soul -- or parts of it -- of the deceased can linger around others, particularly those who were closest at the time of death. This is usually of little benefit to either party, and it is usually better to break that link in order to release the spirit to the Hunt and to allow the grieving person to heal from the loss.

This is where the Birch Tea Rite comes in. The tea breaks the unhealthy connections and removes the energies of death from the living. It is actually very simple and elegant. This tea is usually made by a person who is less affected by the passing because those affected may inadvertently imbue the tea with energies based in sorrow. However, in my experience, this spirit of Birch is powerful enough to neutralize those energies. 

Birch bark, twigs, and/or wood are placed into a pot of water and decocted from a cold temperature to a hard boil. The boil is then turned down to a simmer and the tea is to steep on the heat for at least one hour (thicker branches are often decocted for several hours). After that time, the heat is turned up once again to a hard boil, and then the heat is turned off. The birch stays in the water and continues to steep until cool. Some people keep the birch in the water overnight, but it is fine to strain the tea and to place it in glass jars once it is cool.

Although prayers and blessings may be uttered into the tea at any time throughout the process, it is really the straining that lends itself best to the application of intention. I find myself sympathetically mirroring the action of straining out the tea with straining out the thick energy of death from the body. The straining can be done by pouring or by using a ladle or other tool. I typically use a ladle through cheesecloth or fine mesh, and I find that it is very easy to slip into a meditative state during that process.

Part of Urglaawe funerary practices is a time to anoint the foreheads of the living with the tea. Often this uses a birch twig, but it is just as often done with the hand of the ritual leader or with flowers or branches. Some people do drink of the tea ritually in a manner similar to Urglaawe Sammel. Please note, though, that wintergreen  oil can be toxic. Most teas do not contain the oil at a dangerous level, but this is a strong decoction. If anyone chooses to ingest the tea, it should be at minimal levels. Pregnant women should not ingest the tea and may want to avoid pouring over the body.

Those who are hardest hit by the loss are to take an ample amount of the tea, and, during bathing, they are to rinse their bodies with the birch tea. Traditionally, a trusted friend, spouse, or partner is to be present to gently pour the tea over the grieving person. This may sound odd to our modern ear, and not everyone has such a person to take on this role, but it can be a beautiful expression of support and caring during a time of loss.

The birch tea is to stay on the body for a few minutes and then may be washed away, taking with it the unwanted energies of death. It is not intended to end the grieving process, but it can have a palliative effect. In fact, the process of boiling the birch releases volatile oils into the air, and the methyl salicylate smells like wintergreen. The oil and the aroma can actually aid in the coping process.

This is a rite of passage, particularly in the case of those who are most closely affected by the loss. It represents the physical separation from the deceased and the beginning of life without a particularly significant loved one.


Wednesday, October 30, 2019

Halliches Allelieweziel!

Tonight the past is ablaze in bright candlelight. 

I ponder humanity’s march through time. Those who have gone before have blazed the trail. Sometimes that trail is clear and easy to follow. Other times that trail is grown over and hard to walk. All too often, the twists and turns on that trail have taken us farther from the destination of the perfected human, and the wrongs and atrocities have slowed our progress to a near standstill. 

We can do better. 

We can learn from the wiser of the forebears and work to fix the follies and injustices of the past. Our society is the product of the combined actions of the forebears. They are us, and we are they. Let’s do our best to make this world, or at the very least, our communities a better way place for those who are with us and for those who follow.

Halliches Allelieweziel!

Wednesday, October 16, 2019

Der Letscht Sege / Last Rite (Urglaawe)

Meeg dir die Rees blatt sei.  (Roon Reit)
Meeg fer dich es Schtromwasser waarem sei  (Loch)
Meeg dir der Laaf darrich der Busch sicher sei (Baerk)
Un meege der Holle ihre Hend dich darrich die Miehl voraafiehre. (Yaahr)
Meeg dei Warick dir en guder Urleeg baue (Engel)
Meeg dei Naame lang gschproche warre (Gewwe)
Mit gudem Lob un mit Liewe.  (Winsch)
Meeg dich die Vorgenger aalache. (Ochdem)
Weil du des Lewe verlosscht (Haagel)
Weess as du dei Abdruck hinterlosse hoscht. (Eis)
Vorwaerts noch die Miehl! (Reit)
Vorwaerts noch Endlosichkeet! (Yaahr)
Heele zum Reeser / zur Reesern  (Fackel)
Mach's immer besser! (Engel)
Mach's immer so! (Mann)

May your journey be smooth and even,  (Reit rune)
May the stream waters be warm for you. (Loch)
May the walk through the wilderness be safe (Baerk)
And may the hands of Holle guide you to the Mill.  (Yaahr)
May your actions build you a good Urleeg (Engel)
May your name long be spoken (Gewwe)
With a good reputation and with love. (Winsch)
May the forebears smile upon you. (Ochdem)
As you leave this life, (Haagel)
Know that you have left behind your imprint. (Eis)
Forward toward the Mill! (Reit)
Forward toward infinity! (Yaahr)
Hail to the traveler! (Fackel)
Make it always better! (Engel)
Make it always so!  (Mann)

Robert L. Schreiwer, 13. Gehling 2019

To be used as a final rite when someone is nearing death.

Sunday, October 6, 2019

Harvest of the Grain Goddess

“‘Siss net alle Daag Ernt”

So goes the old proverb

Indeed, every day is not the harvest.

The harvest is special;

It empowers us
Feeds us
And carries us forth.

Like the Grain Goddess
Yet Her name so elusive

Through the rocky course of history.

Yet we know 
She exists;

We feel Her pull, 

And we yearn to meet Her.

She feeds us as Her own

For we are kernels nestled together

Protected by Her husk.

Her silky hair surrounds us

As we grow as siblings
Her name reflects the strength of kin

As She reveals Herself to us at last:

Siwwa, Sibba, Sippa, Sif

Hail to the Grain Goddess!

Hail to the Lady of Kinship!

In Thy hall every day is the harvest.

And the grains fall to us in Mannheem.

We plant them 

And nourish our bodies

And our souls.

-- Robert L. Schreiwer, 2019

The Apples of Idunn

All hail the Apple

Perennial fruit of health!

That which keeps the doctor away.

Medium of tests,

Such as the shaking of Holle´s tree.

Medium of schemes,

Such as the poisoned ones of tales.

This Apple

Is a mighty fruit!

Often not given its due

In this modern age

Of widespread transport

Bringing fruit from all places

To a store near each of us.

Yet the Apple holds a higher place

As the Guardian of the Gods

Keeping Age and Death at bay

And thwarting even Time.

Who is worthy to carry them,

These incarnations of Life Force?

It is the graceful Idunn,

Goddess of Rejuvenation,

Who bears the miraculous fruit.

Science has proven

What the ancients knew from experience.

That which Idunn brings

Bestows health and wellness

Upon those who partake of it.

So hail to the Apple,

Hail to the Great Goddess Idunn!

Hail also to the community

That She sustains! 

--  Robert L. Schreiwer, 2019

Tuesday, September 17, 2019

Es Erntfescht

The "Yankee" Thanksgiving was originally widely rejected by the Deitsch, since we have our own observances of thanksgiving that fall around the autumn equinox. Erntfescht (Urglaawe use), Erntedankfescht, and Harvest Home are expressions of these observances, which are rooted in ancient practices and sustained into the current era.

This weekend, Urglaawe communities will conduct in their annual food drives, seed and crop swaps, and celebrations of the bounty of this wonderful land.

Of course, this does not negate the celebration of Thanksgiving in November; having two observances of gratefulness is a wonderful thing. It is, however, culturally and physically relevant to our location on the globe to keep our traditions alive. :)

Given the state of the environment these days, we cannot overstate how important the gratitude for the harvest is. Erntfescht features seed swaps, meaning that you bring seeds from your gardens or from your favorite foods that others can take to begin to grow the same plants in their gardens; you may take what interests you. Those of us who have gardens can bring what we grow for others to partake of. The altar features our harvested plants, so bring some with you, if you grow any. We also collect food for local pantries at this time, but only give if you are able and to the point at which you are able; no one is keeping track of donors. This is about community, community helping community, and us reaching outside of our closest circle to help to strengthen the wider community.

Hail to the Harvest! 

Sunday, September 8, 2019

Upcoming Distelfink Events

Below is a list of Distelfink events for the remainder of 2019. Other Urglaawe Sippschaft and Freibesitze may follow similar ritual schedules.

September 21: Erntfescht

September 26: Montly Heathen Pubmoot / Stammtisch (Newportville)

September 28: York Pagan Pride (actual Zisasege feast day)

Presentation at York Pagan Pride: Urglaawe and the Goddess Zisa

The Heathen tradition of Urglaawe arises from surviving Heathen-era folklore, “superstitions,” herbalism, and customs in the Deitsch (Pennsylvania Dutch or Pennsylvania German culture). Some of these elements are clear while others require reconstruction from Germanic lore or “dot connecting between our lore and information from other sources. The goddess Zisa falls into the latter category. Known as a goddess of the Suevi, Her feast day falls on September 28. She is believed to be the consort of Ziu (Tyr), and many Urglaawer and other Heathens honor Her as a central figure in their personal practice. In this workshop, we will discuss Urglaawe basics, share more about Zisa’s expanding lore in the current era, and honor this goddess justice on Her feast day.

October 5: South Jersey Pagan Pride Day - Running main ritual

October 6: 336th anniversary of the official beginning of the Great Deitsch Migration

October 19 AM: Pocono Witch Festival and Ball (Urglaawe/Braucherei presentation in the AM)

October 19 PM: Oak Haven Farm Haunted House

October 24: Monthly Heathen Pubmoot/Stammtisch (note date change to 10/24 due to Halloween)

October 26: Allelieweziel observance at Birch House

October 30 (sunset): Allelieweziel begins.

November 9: Ewicher Yeeger observance at the cemetery

November 11: Allelieweziel ends

November 21: Monthly Heathen Pubmoot / Stammtisch (note date changed to 11/21 due to Thanksgiving)

December 8: Onset of Voryuul

December 13: Lutzelfraaslaaf at Distelfink Gaarde Bristol

December 14: Parade of Spirits, Philadelphia

December 20 (sunset): Yuul begins

December 21: Yuulsege at Oak Haven Farm

December 26: Monthly Heathen Pubmoot / Stammtisch (Newportville)

December 31 (sunset): Berchtaslaaf begins

January 1 (daytime): Luulfescht (Feast of Frey)

January 1 (sunset): Yuul ends and Berchtoldsdaag begin