Tuesday, December 31, 2019

Berchtaslaaf: Herring, Lentils, Coins

Berchtaslaaf begins at sunset tonight.

In addition to the required herring and gruel meal, we have a couple of other things to consider.

- Three coins set out on the windowsill. There is an echo of the Lutzelfraa's begging during Voryuul in this custom.

- Lentils (uncooked and not to eat) scattered. Lentils are not part of the required meal, but there is an association in some circles between Berchta and legumes, and our oral lore specifically names lentils.

The lentils are scattered in a manner similar to the three-bean offerings that we are to do when we disturb the soil for gardening or planting. Lentils are good nitrogen fixers, which could be also a link between Berchta's concerns with rebirth and renewal and Luul's concern with keeping young greens safe and strong through the winter.

Many Urglaawer have come to know Berchta better in 2019. I am among those who have. Now with Twelfth Night fast approaching, I have come to understand the beating that She gave me during Voryuul with my musings. All of this turmoil actually has paid off. I got Her message (with a bit of help from Frouwa for extra clarity). I have worked through and understood some of the things that made me uncomfortable, and I can base some New Year's Resolutions on changing my reactions to some of these inputs.

This will be an extra special Berchtaslaaf because it will be the first time that we carry Her statuary through the town. I expect this to become a growing and evolving tradition over the next few years.

Hail Berchta!

Thursday, December 19, 2019

VORYUUL - Night 12

VORYUUL - Night 12

So, the light is low, even though the solstice is not until Saturday, Yuul begins tomorrow at sunset by Urglaawe reckoning. Also, the sunrise time is 07:17 and sunset time tonight and tomorrow are both 16:36 in Bristol, so this is about as short as the days get.

The second stag has relinquished his light. The altar is plunged into darkness. Outside, the frigid temperatures mirror the coldness of the resting stags. Voryuul is drawing to a close.

Tonight's musing has my head in a spin. Hearkening back to Night 3's hope (which I later described as an "absurd hope" and a "useless hope" because not all things can be fixed, what happens when that hope suddenly seems to be within reach again without one's own instigation?

This is classic shadow side for me. I know better. I know when something is broken and can't be fixed, yet I am a fixer. I am that insipid peacemaker, Libra-seeking-balance-at-all-costs wistful dreamer. The opportunity to correct mistakes of the past is more alluring to me than the One Ring is to Gollum. And so the utopian visions commence of everyone holding hands and finding peace and joy (or at least contentment) in one another's presence. A big part of me is sounding alarms more furiously than my hand on the cowbell during the Parade of Spirits.

Yet... When an opportunity presents itself and there is a chance to repair something that you were partially responsible for breaking, should it be ignored because it is the shadow side doing the thinking? One side of the scales says to cut losses because things will never change. The other side says that "never" is a very long time, and it is always worth the effort to try to make amends. The actual solution is likely somewhere in a continuum of options between the balance and the counterbalance, yet it rips my mind apart trying to figure out the right answer.

Sometimes the biggest hex one can receive is the fulfillment of a wish or the reigniting of a hope. Or it can be the biggest blessing. Berchta is either rewarding me or kicking my ass again. What to do? 

I spent enough time on my shadow side during these twelve nights to recognize what is going on. I know what the shadows are doing to me. I know the fix-it drive. I know the approval-seeking and the desire to take advantage of an opportunity. Those are not the best reasons to take a chance. However, I also do believe in allowing for change, learning from past mistakes while still being compassionate, and that caring for myself also means looking at all sides of an issue to strike the balance between what I want and what is really in my best interests. I am such a freaking Libra... lol

Thus, I will proceed cautiously, respectfully, and with an eye toward balance. Ultimately, all of this mental masturbation over the past twelve nights has resulted in illumination for me... Some of it is positive; some of it is negative, but I have  some resolutions to consider in the New Year.

Tomorrow Yuul officially begins, and I can begin to celebrate the rebirth and the things in my life that bring me joy. 

Thank you all for being on this bizarre ride through my mind. I hope that some of my explorations and musings have helped you to get to know yourself and your motivations better. 

Hail to the Voryuul! May it go quietly and not turn back. :D

Wednesday, December 18, 2019

VORYUUL - Night 11

"Imposter Syndrome"

"Imposter syndrome can be defined as a collection of feelings of inadequacy that persist despite evident success. 'Imposters' suffer from chronic self-doubt and a sense of intellectual fraudulence that override any feelings of success or external proof of their competence." (Harvard Business Review, May 7, 2008)

One may wonder how Imposter Syndrome is a shadow side problem. Well, a lot of it has to do with that self-doubt and the sense of intellectual fraudulence. That level of insecurity can rob an individual of the rewards of their own successes, and it may even prevent them from sharing their skills. 

Keeping in mind that the shadow side is not necessarily bad, elements of that insecurity can certainly keep one's ego in check. It can also compel one to work harder at being better and more confident in the skills in question. It is when it crosses that line of undermining self-worth that it becomes a real problem.

I used to have a real problem with Imposter Syndrome, even with things that I knew very well. I always felt like there was always a better expert on whatever the issue was, and it caused me a lot of stress in my former jobs. The same thing happened in my studies. I learned early on in school with subjects that did not interest me that I could get a lot of traction by guiding my teachers or professors to have low expectations on my reports. They'd expect something that they'd have to bury in the back yard, but, then I'd turn in a decent report, and they'd be so relieved that they'd give me a better grade. At least that is what I thought.

Looking back on some of those things now, I realize that a lot of my reports were more than decent. They were good and solid, particularly for an area that was of little interest to me. To this end, the shadow of low expectations served me pretty well... Yet it took me until my mid-40's to recognize that I had more talent in some areas than I'd ever anticipated.

Public speaking used to be a horror show. I was always nervous about everything from my accent to my stammering to my inability to stand still (though I did stand still for 30 seconds after the Parade of Spirits, so that is progress), etc. Urglaawe cured me of that for subjects that are of interest to me. I don't mind standing up and sharing the results of the research or the theories behind our practices, etc. 

Being Steer of The Troth also thickened my skin a bit. I love that organization, but it is often like a bucking bronco, which did have the positive effect of making me less sensitive to criticism.

In my professional career currently, the only time I really deal with Imposter Syndrome is when it comes to some of the intricacies of IEPs and that sort of thing. When I was student teaching, it was a problem all the time, but, now that I know my students and my population, I am far more comfortable. If I were ever to end up with a classroom (as opposed to being an itinerant teacher), it may reappear because it has been so long since I have had to manage a classroom. I am better at dealing with the complicated cases in a traveling setting.

For the most part, Imposter Syndrome is not too much of an issue for my professional and spiritual careers. It is still an element in personal relationships at some levels. After discussing this topic with a coworker, we realized just how much Imposter Syndrome can play a role in interpersonal relationships. Dating was a topic of concern to my coworker, and the images that people project on dating apps may not match what the person senses of him-/her-/themself... Instead, Imposter Syndrome may actually lead them to become actual imposters and to live a lie because the lie is more interesting than the actual self. 

The same can happen on social media, where many (most?) people have a tendency to project the best image of themselves. Ironically, this is one of the reasons I am writing about this topic. These public musings on the shadow sides during Voryuul are showing sides of myself that I generally do not reveal until someone knows me pretty well in person. However, my normal Facebook postings are very much me, too. I am, overall, actually a pretty happy, hyper, content man with a wry, dry sense of humor. Yet there are those moments of self-doubt and feelings of being adrift that drag me down. Neither projection is actually an imposter; it is simply the recognition of the totality of me... but within that self-doubt is the occasional questioning of whether my thoughts and opinions are of any value and whether anything that I do actually makes a difference in this world. I am quite sure I am not alone in any of that. The annoying part is that I have no easy solution to those pangs of Imposter Syndrome outside of communication among community members, deliberate and conscious living, and finding joy in belonging (all of which will probably become topics during Yule).

Interestingly, I am about to head into the city to drop off socks from the Yuletide Sock Drive. The temperature is entering Code Blue ranges, and snow squalls are in the forecast. I have done this a few times this week, yet I still found myself yesterday questioning what good I do in the world. Weird stuff, eh? The logical mind may "know" something, but it requires the emotional self to accept that knowledge in order to achieve balance and contentment.

Fun stuff.

Tomorrow is the final musing for Voryuul and the night the second stag's light goes out. 

Hail to the shadow side... For good or for bad, it is a part of each of us.

Tuesday, December 17, 2019

VORYUUL - Night 10

"All alone in a crowd."

This one may sting for a lot of us.

Loneliness is difficult... Perhaps one of the most difficult feelings for humans, as social creatures, to process. Loneliness in a crowd adds insult to injury, especially if everyone else seems to belong. Belonging is typically not automatic; people have to find belonging, often even within their own families. Many of us who do not meet the traditional social paradigms find ourselves feeling on the outs for much of our lives. This feeling can be a major cause of, or contributor to, the force of chaos we call rootlessness (Enwatzeling, Entwatzeling, or Watzellosichkeet). Rootlessness is not the same as independence or individualism. It is the utter lack of connection to others that can lead to a general lack of concern for others' welfare or the state of society. Rootlessness is actually one of the things that most denominations of Heathenry, including Urglaawe, aim to address.

Loneliness, rootlessness, and other feelings of being adrift are among the most difficult things for the individual to address. Depression is often a factor, as are the wounds from prior damaged relationships, traumatic experiences, lack of safety and security, etc.

None of these feelings hits me particularly often. I am particularly wary of rootlessness, and I am fortunate to have access to my family, kindred, and ethnic community, which help to keep the roots fresh. Also, though, one of my life's purposes is to fight rootlessness and to build opportunities for communities to develop.

Yet I sometimes feel alone in a crowd. It makes no logical sense, but insecurity is often not logical. I know my triggers for this sense, and many of them are things that I tried to expel from myself in my 30's (see Night 9's musing). Yet they are still on the shadow side, and it occasionally only takes some sort of rejection or loss for the feeling to emerge. Then comes that lack of a sense of belonging; logically, I know better, but there it is.

True shadow expressions can result in expressions of ill will based in jealousy. This I have under control pretty well and it rarely happens. Instead, when this happens, I retreat into myself and feel like I am unworthy of love. It's such a waste of time, yet it happens, and I am quite sure it happens to many people. What's even worse is that, at those moments, there's usually a bunch of friends and family upon whom I could rely for the love and acceptance that I feel is lacking, but I am instead lost in the misery of disconnection.

Disconnection sucks. It is one thing to take time too oneself. It is another thing not to even have the option of being connected. Seeing the world going on around oneself at those times is painful. Seeing people having fun, going places, or connected while you are feeling lonely and disconnected can deepen the feelings, develop rancor, etc. The cycle feeds upon itself and can express itself in attempts for approval at any costs, doing whatever is necessary to fit in, and making bad decisions for the appearance of being accepted. Next thing I know, all the crap that I described in the prior nights' musings are at the fore, and I am distracted from the beneficial work I have to do and from my life's purpose. This is why rootlessness is a force of chaos. It is important to keep that fact in the conscious mind and not to fall victim to traps of one's own making.

The remaining stag's light is getting dimmer. The darkest nights are upon us. The shadows are at their strongest; the liminal beings are on the move. Still, these pondering, whether my own or those that others are sharing with me, are empowering. I have learned a lot over the past ten nights. I have confessed to myself and, occasionally, to others the things I have learned.

Tomorrow's meditation will likely be on imposter syndrome.

In the meantime, I will tonight be happy for the community I have, the things I have built, the compassion and love that flows among my friends and me, and the connections that I have in my daily life. Although I may feel like it sometimes, I am most certainly not alone in a crowd.

Monday, December 16, 2019

VORYUUL - Night 9


Here's one that has cost me some relationships in the past. Compartmentalization can be a very useful tool, actually, so why is this turning up as part of a meditation on the shadow side?

Well, that is what I am hoping to find out by being honest with myself about it (this is, after all, a Voryuul musing). Compartmentalization is not uncommon among people born under the Baer moon, much like it is fairly common among Libras. The dictionary defines it as "the division of something into sections or categories," which sounds innocuous enough, but let's dig deeper... right into the shadows.

It is actually the assignment of people, tasks, emotions, hobbies, everything into an individual box within the mind. Whether any of those boxes are ever opened at the same time or not becomes a really laborious task of the mind to process. The what-ifs and the risks are almost always given a higher priority than the benefits. Keeping things in their separate compartments in the mind and in the physical world is safer. It makes it a lot easier not to hold grudges (which I typically do not, but see Night 3's meditation for the sucky side of that). It leads to the ability to separate love and sex (which is a rabbit hole until itself until the compartments accidentally get opened at the same time), and it allows me to see all sides of all issues within the context of their own compartments (definitely a Libra thing). It allows for a separation between work and home, which is positive because I rarely bring my work troubles through my threshold, but it also has historically had a minimizing effect of not allowing work friends to become too familiar with my life outside of work. This continues to this day, though the paradigm has begun to shift.

I wear my emotions on my sleeve. I was told that in almost every job I ever held. It is true in one sense. Within that work compartment, the emotions I am feeling are generally apparent (this has changed as I have matured). However, the background to the emotion may be merely a projection -- a convenient screen -- for tumult that is taking place in a different compartment. However, I cannot be open about that compartment because it exposes me to potential danger. 

During my recent migraine spates, several compartments that should have stayed isolated opened simultaneously, and their contents merged. The disruption from the migraines themselves and from the adverse reaction to the meds led to some lapses in judgment that really shook up my conscious self. During this meditative time, I am wondering whether I would have benefited from being more open across the compartments when I was in full control of my faculties, but some of that is spilt milk at this point. The troubles from those compartments consumed by consciousness throughout all of November, with the migraines pulsing through my head and the desire to escape from them pulling me in all sorts of directions... sigh... Even after the migraines subsided and I recognized the reaction to the meds, the chaos from those compartments continued. I am still feeling reverberations now, though the lack of migraine symptoms is making it easier to make wiser choices. 

It was ultimately the onset of Voryuul that began to bring order back to my mind. These meditations have helped, but getting back out and living with purpose have helped me even more. There's that Urglaawe mind shift lighting the way again.

However, some of those compartments are still open and their contents damaged. Some need to be closed permanently; others need to be placed into larger boxes alongside the contents of other compartments. Still others need to be shaken up and their contents transmuted into something more beneficial for myself and for others.

I know this is all cryptic; heck, that is the nature of shadow side compartmentalization. I do not foresee myself ever being free of compartmentalization. It keeps me organized within my seeming disorganization. It keeps me focused on multiple tasks at the same time. It helps me with compassion and the ability to see others' perspectives.

But it also can leave me teetering from one sentiment to another. It can lead to indecision and imbalance in interpersonal relationships, which, in turn, can bring a lot of hurt to people who do not compartmentalize the same way. 

And it can lead to me feeling alone in a crowd. It can leave me feeling like I am adrift even while people who love me are being my anchors. This is the environment in which  rootlessness thrives, and rootlessness as one of the Big Agents of Chaos, leads to all sorts of other troubles. 

Fortunately, I am not usually stuck in those types of compartments, but, when I am, it is pretty apparent that something is amiss, it is just a question of which compartment it is really in. This is solid shadow side bullshit, and I need to get past some of it.

I think the "alone in a crowd" will be the theme for tomorrow night.

Thank you all who are with me during these Voryuul shadow-side confrontations. Hail.

Sunday, December 15, 2019

VORYUUL - Night 8

So, after spending a few tough nights earlier in the season and having my ass kicked by the goddess Berchta, things are on the upswing. Although I know myself pretty well, I really did have to confront some things about myself that have caused me troubles in the past, and I feel a bit enlightened. It's not that I am fully in the clear, though. The wishful thinking aspect is still posing some challenges. That is what leads me to tonight's meditation.

How can I leverage the shadowy aspects of myself? What positive things do useless hopes and wishful thinking bring to me? 

Well, that crazy, almost utopian desire to construct peace and harmony actually has translated pretty well in many ways when in my conscious mind and set into positive action. I would wager that the bright aspects of that hope and approval-seeking lead to diplomacy, conflict resolution, and even to successes I have had in teaching students with severe behavioral challenges. 

The shadow sides can lead to creativity and outside-of-the-box solutions. I used to write poetry (and occasionally still do) in order to express the shadowy thoughts in a safe form. Aging, maturing, and shifting my mind made the shadow sides less disruptive; it takes certain triggers to bring them to the fore... some of which include the disruption from migraines, but if I feel I have been wronged or that an injustice is happening somewhere around me, the shadow sides can become problematic for me. 

That mind shift really did help when I took on the Urglaawe identity. The acceptance of the totality of myself was liberating... at least as far as accepting myself goes. I am still not always forthright with aspects of myself to the whole world. Part of that may be a general Baer sign (shared by many Libras) to compartmentalize segments of one's life from other segments. That has its benefits and it has its drawbacks, and that may be a meditation for tomorrow. 

The whole approval-seeking thing is not so much of a problem as it used to be, but it does rear its ugly head. When I was younger, my father took some time to talk to me about some things related to approval-seeking, and he always encouraged me not to give in but instead to take on an "I'll show them" attitude. Good advice for the conscious mind, actually, and it has paid off once I had that mindset... but, for my shadow side, that "showing them" still required approval to be slaked. 

My own view of myself is still ambivalent. I know I try hard to live deliberately and to do the right thing whenever I can. I know I am intelligent and that I have some skills that not everyone possesses. Those have served me well over the decades. However, my mind's view of my physical self has required a lot of work over the years. I still view myself as a short, skinny kid who is clumsy and not good with eye-hand coordination. Despite being one of the fastest kids in school, setting running records and being on the state's cross-country team, I always had a discomfort with my physical abilities. The lack of a dominant hands is something I joke about now, but, when I was a teenager, it really was a problem for me. I bore a lot of that dislike for my physical self through my 20's.

My 30's brought an end to that insecurity on the conscious level. I recognized that I could work out every day of my life and never be muscular. I get thinner and more defined. I became more comfortable with myself in general, but that insecurity just dove down to the shadow side. 

It pops up at weird times. It actually brings up imposter syndrome, which is something that I know a lot of my friends deal with. However, despite all of that and some of the occasional shadow attacks on myself, I generally have come to accept that I am a pretty nice guy who really is trying to make the world a better place. The creativity has gone from angst-ridden poetry to writing rambling musings on the shadow side during Voryuul, but I am ok with sharing this stuff. I think it actually is part of the effort to help others.

Somehow I have taken this meditation into a spiral... but the Voryuul musings will continue tomorrow.

Saturday, December 14, 2019

VORYUUL - Night 7

Today was the Parade of Spirits in Philadelphia, which affords a rare opportunity to share elements of Urglaawe and Deitsch culture with the wider community. The Parade of Spirits always lifts my mood up (even if I am already feeling great), and this year was no exception. Between last night's Lutzelfraaslaaf and today's Parade, I feel like the rough ride of the first nights of Voryuul are memories, and I am reintegrating to be ready for Yuul.

Lutzelfraa and Gedreier Eckhart
Tonight I am considering what happens when one accepts circumstances that are not ideal. How do we find the balance and contentment between what we want and what is available? Moving forward from loss or sorrow is not easy, but, once we accept reality and place finally put the useless hope (Night 3) and the desperation (Night 5) behind us, it becomes much easier to focus on the things that we can grow with.

I am fortunate to have multiple communities in which I can take an active part. I have my family, Distelfink Sippschaft, the wider Pagan community, great coworkers who double as friends, and the Deitsch community. These are all blessings that cannot be overestimated.

Not everyone is as fortunate, and this is one of the reasons that I am sharing some of these Voryuul experiences. Social media, for as fraught as it is with drama, echo chambers, bigotry, and divisiveness can be a great tool for finding and building communities. The Urglaawe (and most Heathen communities, really) community would not be as widespread were it not for social media. In the absence of a local community, Facebook can be very helpful toward reintegration.

Part of this integration began this evening with the first of the socks from the Yuletide Sock Drive being dropped off at a couple of locations within Philadelphia. The recipients appreciative of the socks, with one man asking me to pass along to the donor his thanks.

On the way home, it hit me even harder just how much of a difference we can make in our own little corners of the world. Every day we have a chance to make a difference in the lives of others, which, in turn, affects us ourselves.

Thank you all for being a part of my life. :)

Friday, December 13, 2019

VORYUUL - Night 6

Tonight is the traditional night of the appearance of the Lutzelfraa ("lantern lady"), who appears as a beggar seeking aid in the form of food or clothing. Those who do not have the means to assist Her but engage Her respectfully are rewarded with luck in the New Year. Those who have the means and help Her are equally rewarded. Those who have the means but do not provide aid or show compassion are punished with a slit to the belly (probably a metaphor for illness or bad luck). This action reveals the link between the Lutzelfraa and Berchta, who is indeed roaming Mannheem at this time of year. 

Our Yuletide Sock (and Underwear) Drive continues, with the first direct donations being planned for tonight in Philadelphia after the Parade of Spirits. These donations from the Urglaawe (and others) community reflect that need to be responsible to the welfare of those not in the position to help themselves. This topic led to a good debate among Distelfink about charitable donations (providing needed resources vs. enabling), and the community was in general agreement that we are responsible to do our duty and to allow others to exercise their free will. What someone "might" do with a donation does not absolve us of our requirement to ease the suffering within our own communities.

Again, there is a mirror between the actions of the community and the cycle of life, death, and rebirth. During Voryuul, we are observing and pondering the time prior to [re-]birth, after the soul has gone through the Mill and is split apart. The Lutzelfraa's appearance promises new light and integration of the self within a new soul construct. In a sense, that is what the Lutzelfraa demands of Her people: be the bringers of light and aid and help to reintegrate community. 

I have found the first five nights of Voryuul to be tough with the recognition of shadow side motives and actions, and tonight posed its own challenges as well. However, Night 6 bridges that time between the shattering of the old self and the beginnings of integration. 

Hail to the Lutzelfraa!

Thursday, December 12, 2019

VORYUUL - Night 5

Those of you who know me know I am, by far, more of a conflict-avoidant peacemaker than anything, but tonight's shadow side discussion relates to a side of me I really do not like and that I have worked hard over the past two decades to keep in check. However, it does appear from time to time, particularly when I feel unjustly accused of something or when people misread my motives, and it results in conflict. This one is a difficult topic for me, but, since it is Voryuul and I am working to be as honest with myself and with my community as possible, here goes.

Tonight's meditation has actually been in my head all day today. It started with the question, "What do you do when you win the battle but lose the war?" By "battle" here I do not mean literal battle (though that could certainly apply here as well). Instead, I mean the struggles that we encounter with unstable friendships/relationships or the strains of improving one's career or whatever it is that we find ourselves vying to attain.

My mind may tell me to cut my losses and move forward, but my shadow side (redoubted by my thymus gland) tells me that I should not acquiesce that which I have gained in the battle that I won... This is a horrible state of affairs because it leads to inner conflict, ambivalence, and an abject distraction from determining what right action is in the particular circumstance.

From there, my meditation leads me to Pyrrhic victories. Those are the wars you win but at such high cost to yourself that you probably would have been better off losing to begin with.

The two have a lot in common. They are both "in for a penny, in for a pound" situations. Once I've set off on the attempt to protect the figurative battle victory by continuing to fight a war I have already lost, all that remains is collapse and disaster.

The Pyrrhic scenario is no better; it is almost worse, really. Whatever the battle was, it likely caused an upheaval not only within myself but within the others involved. They are harmed, and for what? So I can watch as my victory is not blessed by the gods or by the forebears? Was the conflict even worth the fight? That is where clarity (or lack thereof) of right action plays a critical role. Some wars are worth fighting. Some are not.

But, when the war is over and I have already lost so much (even if victorious), can I just stop? Usually, yes. Actually, I usually avoid conflict to begin with, but, if I experience even the slightest feeling of injustice at the result, then the twin of that absurd hope (Night 3) will appear unless I am able to keep it contained.

The hope I described the other night is problematic, but it really is based in a desire to heal rifts. Its twin, though... not so much. Actually, not at all. This is where that hope begins to take on aspects of desperation. I have to prove that I am right or that I did no wrong. Protecting or recovering that victory takes on an exaggerated importance to the point where it governs my waking thoughts and speaks to me in my dreams. This is one reason I am so careful with my Hexerei because I could, all too easily, inflict harm. 

Frankly, I am suspecting that improper handling of this sort of thing is a major contributor to the recent escalation in the intensity of my migraines. I do not think it is the cause, but it almost certainly contributed to them. Of course, the adverse reaction to the medicine did not help either. 

The migraines are gone at this time, but the shadowy impulses are still lurking in the depths of my psyche. There are conflicts that I need to let go of; in the grand scheme of things, they are senseless and not particularly important. They could become important, though, if I don't turn my mind's eye away from them and focus on the things that are actually worth pursuing. Yet that need to protect the minor victory remains. 

Fortunately, I am not weighed down by this sort of thing often,  but it is important for me to examine the function of this behavior. 

I am a bit shocked at how much clarity has come to me during this particular meditation time. There is no need to worry about me; this post is simply me being honest with myself during the Voryuul period of introspection. 

May Ziu bring wisdom and clarity to all of us as we confront the hard realities of ourselves, and may Berchta ease up on kicking my ass for just a bit. It's a bit sore now. :)

Wednesday, December 11, 2019

VORYUUL - Night 4

This evening, I am going a little bit meta and thinking about the past few nights' meditations, particularly the aspects of confronting the shadow side of myself and developing a better understanding of the totality of myself. 

What are my motivators? What are the causes of my actions?

All behavior can be boiled down to four functions: attention, avoidance, sensory stimulation, and access to tangibles. What impels some of the shadowy behaviors? Without going into too much personal detail, I sometimes see attention as a primary motivator, even more so than avoidance, which would have been a major player when I was younger. Of course, all of us shift from function to function throughout our lives, but it is the nagging, troublesome shadowy behaviors that I am looking at within myself. 

Did you ever notice certain patterns in your life, particularly those that result in detriment to yourself? Are there things that you keep noticing are causing problems with relationships, jobs, self-fulfillment? The old saying is, "Do what you always do and get what you always get." Sometimes we need introspection (Selbschtreiguck) to move toward self-improvement (Selbschtverbessering). Tracking those things back to the behavioral function that they serve may help with some enlightenment and some positive change... Or, at the very least, understanding why we do the things we do can lead to more deliberate choices, even on the shadow side.

Voryuul is indeed the time for introspection, and confronting the shadow side is just about as introspective as one can get!

Tuesday, December 10, 2019

VORYUUL - Night 3

Tonight I am meditating upon one of the most painful aspects of human existence: acceptance of loss of relationships: friends, lovers, spouses, etc. I am fortunate in many ways when it comes to a strong, stable home life, but the echoes of lost or damaged relationships have a tendency to resound from the past into the present, and the reverberations shake me up periodically.  Trying to find the positive aspects about lost relationships is very difficult, particularly for people like me who always hold a hope somewhere deep in the psyche that everything can be worked out if everyone just were able to speak rationally to each other.

Expecting rationality in all circumstances is, of course, irrational. Some things cannot be repaired, and some things are not even worthy of the attempt. Yet that hope remains, and the dissonance created by utopian aspirations against the hard realities used to plunge me into states of melancholy that the Germans call Weltschmerz. As I have gotten older and somewhat wiser, I do not fall into that trap as frequently. I know I am an odd duck because I still believe in humanity and still aspire to people treating one another kindly.

However, defining “kindly” is difficult. One person’s meat is another’s poison. Not all conflict is bad; it often results in growth and learning. 

This glimmer of hope on the surface would seem like a bright or enlightened feature. The reality is, though, that the continual (or continuous) dashing of that hope activates many shadow side traits that end up holding back the growth that is needed. It was not until I shifted my mindset to Urglaawe that I really began to understand that, yes, sometimes my niceness really IS weakness. 

There are things for which I need to dispel that useless hope so I may more boldly continue onward in my journey with lessons learned and wisdom attained. That does not mean I will not continue to be nice; it just means I need to be more conscious of whether my niceness is coming from rationality and strength or from irrational hopes and weakness.

Dealing with these inner conflicts forces us all to face the shadow sides of ourselves, and this is one of the purposes of the Voryuul period.  Tonight I feel like I struck a nerve within myself, and that pain is part of the process of being figuratively reborn.

Monday, December 9, 2019

VORYUUL - Night 2

The Voryuul time bridges the observances related to death, endings, loss, ultimate transformations, etc., and the observances related to birth, rebirth, and new beginnings. Voryuul is a time of contemplation and acceptance about the hard realities of life as we enter the darkest days of the year. 

Life is precious because it is short. Even when considering non-linear time concepts, the life each of us is living right now as the person we each are at this point of existence is unique. Whether one’s life is comfortable or strained, it provides opportunities to make a difference in the lives of others and to set the Urleeg for future generations. 

What is happening with the soul prior to birth or rebirth? What does the divine portion experience while in Berchta’s care after passing through the Mill? Religions all around the world attempt to understand and to interpret the “afterlife.” While there are some people said to be able to remember parts of their souls’ journeys, the reality is that it is that no one really knows, so we look to the forbears for history and insight. 

Tonight I am contemplating things that changed in my life since last Voryuul. There have been losses, and, as painful the grief has been, it reflects the importance that those people had on me. There have also been many joyous moments as well, and it is worthy to remember and to celebrate them.

Sunday, December 8, 2019


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.

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

Sunday, July 28, 2019

To Erda at Hoietfescht

Grandmother Erda,

Show me the way.

Teach me to nourish the soil.

Guide my hand when planting.

Share with me the joys of a bountiful harvest.

Keep me grounded during the frozen winters.

I love the paintings you make on the land in wildflowers,

as well as the songs you write in the forests and the woodlands.

Guide my hands to do your work, so that I may revel in your work.

                                                           -- Rebecca Spille, Hoietfescht 2019

Wednesday, June 5, 2019

Today I build an altar...

Today I build an altar...
A simple altar
Built in honor of the Shining Ones.
To those who have seen their shrines destroyed.
And their followers persecuted or killed for their beliefs.
This altar stands for the victory of freedom over terror.
Freedom of religion.
Sovereignty of conscience.
Integrity of personal and communal property.
It is built in defiance of the zealots and the missionaries
Who brazenly trod upon the rights and will of others,
And who attempted to remove the influence, memory, and history of the many deities across the continents.

Today I light a fire in the memory of these deities...

May the light of this small fire drive away the shadows that the prophets of jealousy placed around our gods and goddesses.

May connections, knowledge, and wisdom be restored.

May the names of these hidden deities be spoken by the people again, and may freedom to determine our beliefs be in the hands of the people again.
Today I utter the names of these deities aloud, and my voice shall join a throng of others who are honoring and hailing the hidden deities of their cultures, traditions, and beliefs.


Come today and be our honored guests!


Tuesday, June 4, 2019

Observance of the Desecrated Shrines 2019

Urglaawe "days" begin at sunset of the night before, so tonight (June 4) at sunset marks the beginning of the Observance of the Desecrated Shrines. This observance is in honor of those deities whose shrines were destroyed, damaged, and disrespected through the actions of missionaries and zealots. The lore of many of these deities was lost in the persecution of those who held to the old ways, and there may be many more deities who are now completely unknown to us.

June 5 is the feast day of the Christian missionary Boniface, who destroyed the sacred oak of Dunner and desecrated the shrines of Jecha, Stuffo, and Lohra/Lare. We hold our observance on this day to renew our ties to our deities and to assert our sovereignty of conscience and our right to religious freedom.

This is a pan-Pagan observance, and people of all traditions and backgrounds are invited to take part in the observance, honoring their deities in the manner to which they are accustomed. 

The Urglaawe ritual format is shared for convenience, but, again, adherents of all traditions are welcomed to follow their own formats and to honor their own deities.

For the Urglaawe ritual, some potential altar items:

Jecha: a bow and/or arrow

Lohra: a book of some educational value

Stuffo: image from GardenStone's book (Gods of the Germanic Peoples 2, p. 484). The image is a bit  peculiar to our modern eyes, and the age of the dedication stone is unknown. It is important to keep in mind that deity portrayals in many cultures often appear strange at first blush, particularly when the context is unknown.

Biel: a branch from a tree

Reto: an empty (yet honored) space to be filled as He becomes better known

Hail the gods! Hail the goddesses!


GardenStone. Gods of the Germanic Peoples (two volumes). Norderstedt, Germany: Books on Demand, 2014.

Tuesday, May 28, 2019

Ziegdaag Reflection: The Troth's Spring 2019 (#119) Article

The Troth's quarterly journal, Idunna, is one of the oldest and most prestigious Heathen publications available. The Spring 2019 (#119) issue contains an article about Urglaawe's observance of Ziegdaag. Some seminal Urglaawe philosophy is contained in the article.


Tuesday, April 30, 2019

Wonnezeit Begins at Sundown

Tonight is Wonnenacht, more commonly known as Walpurgisnacht. It represents the end of the Wild Hunt, the end of the Dark Half of the year, and the return of Holle to this realm.

With some differences among faiths (Holle vs. Walburga, for example), Braucherei and Urglaawe traditions state that tonight the Hunt passes through the homes with Holle (syncretics and even some Christians identify this with Holle) doing Her inspections for order. As such hallways should be clear of debris. Spring cleaning should be completed. Signs welcoming Holle (or Walburga) are to be placed on the doors and windows of the house, and as many doors and windows are to be left open as is safe overnight (screens are fine).