Wednesday, August 19, 2015


The next major observance on the Urglaawe calendar is Erntfescht (Harvest Festival or Harvest Home in English), which is associated also with the Autumn Equinox.

Erntfescht, also called Erntdankfescht, is the original Deitsch (Pennsylvania Dutch or Pennsylvania German) day of thanksgiving. It is an age-old Germanic celebration of the harvest. 

Families and/or communities would come together to ensure that their loved ones and neighbors had ample food to carry them through the winter. The community took care of its own, which is a concept that is all too seldom practiced these days. Also, this event helped farmers specialize. One farmer may be particularly adept at working with wheat while another may have the perfect soil for growing broccoli. At this time, they would swap their specialized crop for items that were others' specialties.

One important element to note was that the provision of ample food for loved ones was a community effort, but we're not talking about people taking from others in an abusive manner. Folks were expected to be self-reliant when possible. However, there were many circumstances that left a family or part of the community vulnerable: the occasional crop failure; an illness; the advanced age of a person who gave to the community for many years, etc.

Within a community of participation by volition, there is no shame in taking when needed while giving when possible. The generosity of the local community helps to build frith and expand grith. In many ways, this an organic expression of the concepts of welfare and Social Security, which are tainted by their compulsory aspects, mismanagement, and the allowance of widespread abuses by people who cheat the system.

In its organic state, though, this is a beautiful expression of community and tribe. The concept of a harvest home comes from the pre-conversion era in Europe and continued to the present era.

Distelfink Sippschaft observes the harvest and the autumn equinox through food drives, seed swaps, and food exchanges. We also conduct a food drive at this time of year, and we encourage others to do the same to the best of their ability.

Typically honored on this day are Dunner (Thor), Siwwa (Sif), Idunna, and, increasingly, the Matronae.

Dunner, seen in thunder, lightning, and heavy rain, is also identified with crops, particularly as He wards the farmlands and the cattle. Siwwa (name backformed; unknown in Deitsch lore), Dunner's consort or wife, is said in Norse lore to have golden hair, which we may see reflected in the fields of wheat and grain that are so abundant at this time of the year. Lightning helps in the process of atmospheric nitrogen fixation, and the nitrogen oxides are dissolved into rain and brought to the earth as nitrates, which helps to make the soil more fertile. Here we can see Dunner's relationship to Siwwa, and Siwwa brings forth the grain crops that nourish us (and the cattle!). Thus, Urglaawe views Siwwa as a gentle goddess of nutrition and strength.

Tying in with the other deities at this time of year is the goddess Idunna or Idunn (also unknown by name in our lore, though some apple lore does play into our stories). Idunna is the keeper of the apples (usually seen as golden apples) that empower our deities. Without these apples, our deities begin to wither and age. Scandinavian lore (Skáldskaparmál) provides us with a story of how important these apples were to the deities. Apples, of course, are high in antioxidants, which can indeed help slow signs of aging. Add to it that most apples can be stored throughout the winter without rotting, and we can see how our ancestors viewed the importance of the fruit in their presence. As the apple harvest time sets in, we celebrate the deities' harvest of their important staple.

As we enter the latter portion of summer, and while we reap the rewards of our hard work and celebrate the gifts we have before us, let us also prepare for the coming winter. Let us look back over the year and see how far we have come with any resolutions or plans for the year. Let us ensure that our loved ones are secure and safe. Today we hail the deities, the wights, and certainly our ancestors, and we thank them for our successes and for seeing to our future.

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