This one is an observance that finally began to find its roots last year, even though some of us have actually been doing elements of it throughout our lives. There are some fading traditions here that are in need of revival, and that revival is what we are aiming to begin this year. There are also some newer practices, so, here we go.
The Geischderschtrutz (Parade of Spirits, Wild Hunt) is well under way, and it is Berchta's and Wudan's time in this realm. The character of Belsnickel may well have some roots in Wudan, though centuries of Christian dominance have resulted in numerous influences on Belsnickel's character. That being said, though, within Belsnickel we can see things that resonate with our understandings of Wudan. As a Seeker, he goes from house to house asking riddles. He rewards correct answers with candy or with nuts (in particular, a horse chestnut that may be left out on a plate as a token for Santa Claus to exchange for gifts). Those who fail to answer correctly may need to vie for a horse chestnut by scrambling to get one as Belsnickel tosses some out of his pocket. As they vie for the horse chestnuts, he taps at their hands (in reality, this is a very gentle matter) with his hickory switch. Typically, every child ends up with what is needed to get their rewards, but, historically, Belsnickel was the one to tend to the naughty children. It is, though, that wisdom-seeking that is part of the process.
Krampus is not unknown in our lore, either, though Belsnickel by far dominates. There is some conflation of Krampus with Ewicher Yeeger in Lebanon County, with the role played being like that of Belsnickel.
Historically, Deitsch tricks-or-treats took place during December. In some areas, it was tied to St. Nicholas Day. In others, it was (and still is, feebly) around the middle of the month, and in others, it was on December 26. This trick-or-treating is called "Belsnickeling," and children dress up like ghoulish figures and go from door to door "begging" for treats.
Then there is the shadowy Lutezelfraa or Fraa Lutz, who appears during this time (specifically December 13) as a beggar with a lantern or candle asking for food. If She is given food, great luck will ensue in the coming year. If She is denied food or other assistance, She slits the denier's belly open and removes its contents. This obviously is reminiscent of Berchta and is likely a metaphor for illness or ill luck. We see ties to the Christian St. Lucy in the lore, and depictions imply that Lutzelfraa may appear at the home of those who aid Her with candles on Her head, thus bringing light in the darkest times.
Belsnickeling and Lutzelfraa's lore clearly involve hospitality and tending to other's needs in difficult times.
On the cycle of life, death, and rebirth, Voryuul is the time between death and rebirth. It is the time we do not remember, the mystical time when our divinity is awaiting the formation of a new soul construct before being reborn. The light from the last life is fading, and the darkest of times is yet to come.
Voryuul really pretty much starts when Allelieweziel ends, but, as a discrete observance, we begin on the night of December 8 (which is December 9 by Urglaawe lunar reckoning). That night, we light twelve candles, and then snuff out one. Last year, I spent a moment each time I snuffed out a candle meditating on different things. In particularly, I actually began to think about what to remove or change in the coming year.
On the second night, we light eleven candles, and then blow out one. Each night through the 19th, we light one fewer candle and blow out one more. This brings us up to the night of the 20th, which is the beginning of Yule and the rebirth.
There's a lot going on here, but we are seeing our liminal deities at work in this realm during Voryuul.
Philadelphia's Parade of Spirits has always had a connection to these traditions, but, as it continues to evolve, it is becoming one of the loudest echoes of the Belsnickeling tradition. It is important that we mirror the hospitality to the host of the Hunt. We will bolster our Yuletide Sock (and Underwear) Drive and we encourage Urglaawer who are close enough to each other to revive Belsnickeling around the night of December 12 (which, again is December 13 on our calendar).
This observance will definitely evolve, and I will post the program for Voryuul as soon as it is written.