Saturday, December 31, 2011

Zwelfdi Nacht, Berchta, New Year, Frey... In Short, A LOT!

Tonight (December 31 into January 1) is the Twelfth Night of Yule (remember that Heathen (and therefore Urglaawe) days begin at sunset on the prior day. Thus, "Sunday" actually begins at sundown on Saturday.

This is also the night of the progression of Berchta, a powerful goddess known to the Continental and Pennsylvania Germans. She may actually be Holle known by a different name, or She may be a Vanic relative of Holle. However, historical treatment of Her has portrayed Her as much harsher than Holle and as having one foot significantly larger than the other. The difference may actually be a splay that resulted from Her endless spinning. Interestingly, this splay and the subsequent odd appearance of Her foot may be the origins of Mother Goose. ;)

The owl is the sacred animal to Berchta. I find it interesting that Her progression happened in different areas at different times in December, and much of December of the Deitsch Yaahrsraad (zodiac) falls under the sign of the Eil, or the owl. I have not found reason to draw any firm conclusions as to a relationship between them.

Also, apparently Berchta has a favorite dish. It consists of herring and oats or oatmeal. Folklore holds that She gets upset when people eat items other than those sacred foods on Her day. I confess that I am not sure I am ready to have that be my only meal today, so hopefully She will not be offended!

I want to wish you all a successful and prosperous 2012. May you have much luck in the new year!

Much of this information can be found in Jakob Grimm's Teutonic Mythology, volume I, particularly pp. 272-282. Berchta was/is often depicted with an owl beside Her or in Her arms.

Other items, such as the Deitsch Yaahrsraad, come from oral interviews with 80+ Brauchers by the Three Sisters Center and are the property of the Oley Freindschaft (Guild) of Braucherei. Graphic depictions of the Deitsch zodiac are the property of Susan Hess, who may be contacted at the Farm at Coventry in PA.

Additional aspects of this information come from the living traditions of the Deitsch folk as practiced in Urglaawe.

Saturday, November 26, 2011

Black Friday Mayhem

The news reports from yesterday and from this morning have most certainly triggered in many of you the same reaction that they did in me: revulsion.

Just skirting the headlines, we see a shooting, a pepper spraying incident, another trampling, and a mass looting.

From Braucherei, Urglaawer learn that the intentions behind a gift, which would also include the process of obtaining the gift, are imprinted energetically upon the gift. When a procurement of a gift is the result of theft, violence, or subterfuge, the gift becomes toxic to the recipient. While the Wurt (Wyrd) of the perpetrator will deservedly be impacted by the actual inhumane act, unfortunately, so will the Wurt of the recipient be negatively affected.

Our society has been reduced, somehow, to going below the lowest common denominator; we are in fractions of fractions at this point. The consumer culture hyperbolizes the Black Friday sales, thus whipping up a fervor among those who willingly buy into the frenzy. The mayhem is abetted by a media that are always looking for ways simultaneously to condemn and to glorify social drama.

On the large, social scale, this annual disorder will not change. However, among the various Heathen paths, we can strive to ensure that our holiday observances do not become overtaken by meaningless consumerism.

Surely there are many reasons to purchase and to give gifts to one another. In fact, the gift exchange is a hallmark of Heathenry. However, we must be conscious of the intentions behind our gifts and of the state of mind we are in when packing and presenting them. To do otherwise is to behave irresponsibly with ourselves and our communities.

As we progress towards Yule, let us reject the chaos that has beset our nation. Instead, let us attune ourselves to the best interests of our communities and our collective and individual Wurt.

Friday, April 22, 2011

Der Ewich Yeeger

My first encounter with Der Ewich Yeeger (The Eternal Hunter) that I can remember was when I was about four or five years old. I was at some event being held by my mother's extended family. It was a pleasant afternoon. Suddenly, a brief burst of noise erupted all around us. It did not last long, but it was a surprising din of barking sounds. One of my older relatives said to me, "Don't worry. It is just Ewicher Yeeger scaring up the ghosts on the mountain." She said that Ewicher Yeeger helped to feed the early settlers and that we owe our survival to him.

Many years later, I began to seek more information on the entity who dwells on the Kitatinny Ridge (more commonly known as the Blue Mountain Ridge). I found this reference to his story in a book called American Folklore and Legend (pp. 28-29; Readers Digest Association, 1978):

One summer when some early settlers were struggling to maintain a colony, there was a terrible drought. The crops failed, streams were waterless, and all the wildlife left the vicinity. The settlers were in dire circumstances, and as venison was their only source of meat, one of the old men decided to use his dogs to hunt and chase back the deer. Before taking off for the wilderness, he promised his people that he would hunt forever, even through the sky if necessary, to save the settlement from starvation. After he had been gone for a few days, the deer began to appear in the valley, but the old man never returned. Ever since then, on certain nights during the hunting season, people still hear the barking of a pack of hounds off in the sky. "The Eternal Hunter," they mutter.

Over the years, I have asked quite a few folks from Pine Forge to Bowmanstown about their knowledge of the tale. Some knew it; others did not. Those who knew the tale seemed to believe that Ewicher Yeeger was never actually a man but was instead a spiritual entity.

A few years ago, after hearing the phenomenon again, I continued looking into other sources for the stories. I found some in ghost story books, including one tale that made Ewicher Yeeger sound like a criminal. This version was so far out of sync with the tales I had heard and the other stories I had found; thus, I do not give that version much weight.

However, I did discover through some aspects of the stories that Ewicher Yeeger moves in His own way in His own time. Although He is credited with saving the colonial settlements, He is also running His own errands, and it is possible for people to get swept up in the fray. A clear depiction of the scarier side of Der Ewich Yeeger comes from a painting done by Kutztown artist J. Allen Pawling. Alas, I am unsure as to where the original painting may be viewed. However, the black and white rendition below may be found on page V of Echoes of Scholla -- Illustrated by Arthur D. Graeff and George M. Meiser, IX (Kutztown, PA: Berksiana Foundation, 1976).

Urglaawer generally view Der Ewich Yeeger quite differently. He is usually seen as a Herne-like figure, and indeed, some Urglaawer call Him by the name of Hern (pronounced roughly like Hann). The picture even bears some resemblance to depictions of Herne the Hunter (lacking really only the horns).

The picture above brings in some features associated more with the god Holler, which is another valid possibility, particularly in relation to the presence of mountaintops sacred to Holle on adjacent ridges.

Either way, the Deitsch settlers on and north of the ridge owed their survival to Der Ewich Yeeger. Thus, it is fitting that we honor Him. Meat offerings are customary, but even flowers or other votives are acceptable. The ridge is long and wide, and the places for offerings are many.

The ridge draws closer and closer to the right of the picture above, but this particular location along the Lechau (Lehigh) served as a spiritual spot at which to share in ritual offering to Der Ewich Yeeger.

Although a typical Urglaawe times for ceremonial offering to Him would be in November, there is never an inappropriate time to honor the gods and goddesses (Ziewe) of our folk.


Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Der Grundsaudaag

Well folks, it’s that time of year again! Time for Punxsutawney Phil to stick his nose out (and hopefully not to get blasted by kinsman Rocky to become part of a Grundsaudaag Schmaus!). Unfortunately, the events in Punxsy are barely even a shadow of the various traditions on this observance, which is one of the largest Urglaawe holidays. Grundsaudaag is far beyond what most folks know Groundhog Day to be. In Urglaawe, there are (at least!) five major themes all coming together on that day.

1). The groundhog is similar to Ratatask, the squirrel that runs up and down Yggdrasil bringing news of the nine worlds. Thus, the groundhog is the otherworldly messenger. Anyone who is familiar with groundhog burrows knows that they are intricately designed with multiple openings. Our ancestors saw an analogy between the burrow and the Nine Worlds. The groundhog brings news and prognostication. For an agricultural people, the short-term weather is naturally something that the people would like to know, which is probably why that particular feature was passed on to the wider American culture.

2). The day of the celebration of feminine creative energies. Braucherei reports the day as being sacred to the “Hearth Goddess,” who naturally would be Frigg. The choice of this time for this observance is that we’re starting to see the first signs of the return of the fertility of the soil.

3). Akin to the second item is the creation of the Butzemann. The Butzemann is a scarecrow who is spiritually activated via a Braucherei ceremony called the Ceremony of the Corn. In Urglaawe, our ceremonies typically consist of Sege (blot), Schmaus (feast), and Sammel (sumble), but for Grundsaudaag, we add the Ceremony of the Corn in as well. Butzemenner are still widely used (beyond the typical scarecrow concept) in the Deitscherei (Pennsylvania Dutch Country). There are numerous superstitions surrounding the Butzemann, particularly that he must be burned by Allelieweziel (Halloween). It is considered the height of bad luck to leave a Butzemann after Allelieweziel. The results of doing so are the things that are used to frighten small children into staying in bed on Christmas Eve lest they be kidnapped by the Butzemann.

4). Also akin to Frigg is the cleaning of the hearth. On this day, we are to clean out our hearths, fireplaces, candleholders, or anything else that fire burns in (most particularly for heat, but since many folks don’t have fireplaces anymore, adjusting with candles keeps with the spirit of the tradition). The fire is to be rekindled with birch (also sacred to Frigg). The rune Berkano is featured in conjunction with the birch.

5). Tradition holds that the first travelers with Holle and Wodan on the Furious Host (Wild Hunt) begin to return to the land at this time, if the groundhog predicts an early end to winter. The belief in Braucherei is that this is the time in which the veil between the physical and spiritual realms is almost as thin as it is on Allelieweziel, so it’s considered an advantageous time to interact with ancestors and to help trapped or lost souls to cross over. Most Urglaawer believe in a life-death-rebirth cycle rather than the Valhalla lore to the north. My sense is that Braucherei, as an Elder tradition, brought forth the rebirth concepts from a time prior to the Valhalla/Folkvang/Ragnarok concepts development to the north (or perhaps the lore did not reach our ancestors in the south or our ancestors did not retain it). Also, as a primarily agricultural people, the life-death-rebirth cycle is so engrained in both the collective conscious and the collective unconscious that it is culturally relevant. While we do believe in the Doom of the Gods, most Urglaawer do not believe that the souls of those who died in battle go to Valhalla to await Ragnarok. Instead, the cosmic day and cosmic night cycles will run and the universe will end with the battle between the deities and their foes. Urglaawe is not centralized, so beliefs do vary from person to person, so your beliefs certainly may vary. Heck, none of us will know till we die anyway... Heh... Though my work using Braucherei’s journeying method (time-cord work) has supported the Urglaawe view, but I guess cultural context does matter and different practitioners using different methods can find results that support their path’s beliefs. There’s room for us all. :)

All this is jam-packed into one day...

Macht’s immer besser!