We in Distelfink Sippschaft had recently been talking about observances of the concepts of change, transformation, and even the trickster beings, etc., and had been discussing maybe setting up observances in April toward that idea. April is a good time since the weather is improving but still unpredictable.
At about the same time, someone in a Deitsch online forum recently asked about the "moving day," when Deitsch tenant farmers would move the whole family from one farm to another. The date of this typically was indeed April 1 (not always, though, as if the farmer had any cattle, then cattle driving superstitions would apply and shift the date in certain years, and I am sure many Christian farmers would not move on a Sunday).
This moving day is known as der Ziegdaag (“dah TSEEK-dawg”), and the actual move itself is known, is least in the community I grew up in, as es Geflitze (“ehs k'FLEE-tseh”) or, in English, the Flitting. This was a big deal in the not-too-distant past as many families we doing this move simultaneously. We have first-hand reports of what it was like. There could be scores or even hundreds of families moving along the same roads. Farms changed hands, but it was not even limited to just farmers. Other industries also were involved in the move. Mechanics, hotelkeepers, and other businesses with leases that were not renewed would be flitting at the same time.
Image retrieved from http://explorepahistory.com/displayimage.php?imgId=1-2-108 (Courtesy of the Schwenkfelder Library and Heritage Center, Pennsburg, PA)
Indeed, this practice was not limited to the Deitscherei. Similar movements took place in Boston and New York, but at different times of the year. For the Deitsch, April 1 was the standard day, and that is very likely due to planting. While April has unstable weather, it is a bit more reliable than March for having to deal with snow. More importantly, though, farmers needed to complete their move with enough preparation time prior to planting. Some significant crops go into the ground in April, so April 1 is in the narrow window between the harshness of March weather and the time for these crops to be planted.
It was customary for one wagon, the Offewagge, to carry the oven and to be the first to arrive. That way, the oven could be assembled so that the first meal could be prepared. Neighbors would pitch in to help, so it was a community event, even with the sorrow of ending friendships and the chaos of multiple moves taking place at once.
So, how does this day fit into Urglaawe practice?
We have an established Deitsch event of change taking place at a time when we are looking to observe the need or the desire for change and out-of-the-box thinking. We are taking this holiday and reframing it from the change of physical location to change around and within ourselves.
Within our context, der Ziegdaag is about change or transformation in all aspects: the need for change, the fear of change, the agents of change, the trickster figures, the sagacious figures, who solve problems, escape from traps, or change the world. This observance pairs nicely with April Fool’s Day and the unpredictable weather of this particular time of year.
In terms of the Lewesraad, or the wheel of the year, this represents the time of transition from childhood into adolescence, when change is difficult and awkward, yet it is a part of life that we must go through.
I have heard it said that Loki is the only trickster-type of figure in Germanic lore, but local legends from different regions of Germany and/or the Deitscherei have afforded us several such entities whom we acknowledge on Ziegdaag.
Unlike the Norse lore with Loki, Urglaawe lore does not have one particularly prominent agent of change. Instead, our folklore is riddled with innumerable characters, some of whom may be rooted in real people, others who have their origins in Heathen lore, and yet others who are entities whose lore we are still picking apart. This year, we will focus mostly on the Mountain Giant known as Riewezaahl, but we will look at a few others as well.
Schadde (sometimes appears as Schaade) is a trickster figure in a broken Deitsch story in which he manipulates Schlumm, a deity or giant associated with sleep, into blowing darts that put starcrossed lovers Sunna and/or Muun to sleep, thus allowing for Schadde to place them into the sky so they will never be able to consummate their love. He does this out of jealousy, yet this action sets the tides that allow for life on Earth to thrive. Sunna and Muun meet at eclipses, and they are able to use light and reflection to have children on the Earth in the form of dandelions. There appears to be a reckoning that results in Schadde having to restrict his own movement, but this part is unclear. This story is, unfortunately, missing some other pieces, too, and we have not finished putting what we do have in order as a result. However, Schadde appears in at least two other fragments of tales, both of which appear to involve cunning and/or setting things straight for the betterment of all involved parties.
Perhaps based in an actual human, the stories of Till are widely known in the German, Dutch, and Flemish cultures. Till is a true trickster in many ways. He thinks outside the box, engages periodically in buffoonery, and has a knack for overturning conventional wisdom. His name reflects the latter; “Eileschpiggel” translates to “owl mirror,” with the owl representing wisdom, and the mirror symbolizing the reflection or the opposite of that wisdom. In some sense, Till is an anti-hero, but, at this time of year, it is worthy to consider the wit and out-of-the-box thinking that are the inspirations for this character.
Riewezaahl – Der Bariyeharr - Rips
NOTE: Do not address him directly as Riewezaahl, Riebzaahl, Rübezahl, or anything similar. The term of respect is Der Bariyeharr or the Mountain Lord, but he calls himself Rips when in human form.
This Giant, whose nickname means “turnips count,” is known in the lore of both Germanic and Slavic cultures. During an interview with a Hexerei practitioner, the topic of the Frost Giants' Wonnetzeit attack came up, and the elderly women asked me if I knew much of Riewezaahl ("turnips count"). I had not heard of this being prior to this conversation, and she told me she remembered from her youth her mother talking about Riewezaahl. She said that her mother described Riewezaahl as a irritable Mountain Giant who has a strong ability to bring about unstable weather and would occasionally simply cause trouble because "that is what Giants do." Since that time, I have come across a few other references to him, including him causing squalls and sudden windstorms, earthquakes, and more.
Rübezahl appears in many Silesian legends, and there is a strong historical Silesian presence among the Deitsch in the particular area in which I was doing interviews. Although some of the information I am coming across treats him like a woodsprite, gnome, or god, even more information indicates that he is not a pleasant spirit and has more attributes that would place him among the Giants, specifically a Mountain Giant.
The lore emanates mostly from the Germans and Slavs of Silesia and Bohemia. Grimm (Volume II, p. 480) refers to him as a wood-sprite and has some notes regarding him that may link him to Knecht Ruprecht, but there is not an ample description there. Silesia has a very troubled history and had been a major point of contention among many states and cultures for centuries, ultimately resulting in the expulsion of its German population after WWII. We need to keep this observance focused on the things that relate to our spiritual context, but it is worth noting that Silesian migration did contribute to the Deitsch population, particularly among those who identify as Schwenkfelder.
The Schwenkfelder faith (Christian) arose in Silesia but experienced persecution, thus resulting in the migration. Some Urglaawer have Schwenkfelder ancestry, and the Schwenkfelders today play a very active role in historical preservation and the sharing of Deitsch lore and tradition. It is also worth noting that Polish and Czech folklore also tell of Rübezahl in that same region, so this is a good time to focus on common human experiences, and, as stanza 6 of the German song, Hohe Tannen, reads:
6. Höre, Rübezahl, laß dir sagen,
Volk und Heimat sind nimmermehr frei.
Schwing die Keule wie in alten Tagen,
Schlage Hader und Zwietracht entzwei.
6. Listen, Rübezahl, let me tell you
People and homeland are nevermore free.
Swing the club like in the old days,
Beat the strife and discord in half.
The region is much more free today than it has been in the past. Perhaps the Mountain Lord has swung his club and found a way to make peace among the people of Silesia.
In that spirit, we also take Polish and Czech lore into consideration. Rübezahl is known to the Czechs as Krkonoš, and he is said to have given sourdough bread to humankind. He is also credited with being the source of a traditional sour soup called kyselo. Love mushrooms? Check out the recipe: https://en.wikibooks.org/wiki/Cookbook:Kyselo
There are tales in which Riewezaahl is a helpful trickster and a shapeshifter (the theme of transforming turnips into people or vice-versa comes up occasionally in Germanic lore). Folks may be interested in checking out this article: http://www.heathenhof.com/rubezahl
Further readings into German Silesian lore turn up a very complex Giant who is capable of meting out his own forms of justice. In the book, Silesian Folk Tales (The Book of Rübezahl), by James Lee, M.D., and James T. Carey, A.M., we see the following:
- He is a Mountain Giant with trickster and shapeshifter characteristics. - His stories frequently involve people in motion, people moving, people in need of change, etc., and he captures the spirit of the Ziegdaag "moving day" features in many ways.
- He appears as many different types of beings, including men, women, etc.
- He aids people who try to improve themselves or to help others.
- He is not to be messed around with, or one will find oneself being beaten to death and hanging from a tree or being rooted firmly into the ground in the middle of a busy marketplace.
- His stories feature a lot of common tasks, including herb collecting, spinning, etc.
- Blue cornflower, already connected to some long life and other magical concepts in Deitsch lore, turns up in at least one of his myths.
- Dreams and dream states turn up in quite a few of these stories, which reminds me more than a bit of the Urglaawe Schlumm, who is either a Giant or a deity who has an association with sleep.
- In the story of Mother Ilse, he plays a prank on an abusive husband that changes the domestic situation in the house (although I think the husband deserved more punishment than he got).
So, in the context of the Ziegdaag observance, focus on this trickster figure’s ability to bring about change through appearing as common folk but performing uncommon tasks. One may also want to consider that he can be capricious; he starts off disliking some people he encounters but a curious aspect to a that person may cause him to give that person a chance. If you irritate him, it is at your own risk.
How He Got His Name
He is also lovelorn. He knows the aching pain of unrequited love all too well. His nickname, Rübezahl, originates in a story about how he had taken the form of a peasant named Rips and had proven himself a fine worker. He worked as a farmer, but the landlord was a spendthrift. He worked as a shepherd, but his master was a miser. Then he worked as a constable under a corrupt judge. He enjoyed enforcing the law properly but refused to be a part of injustice, so he was thrown into jail himself. As a shapeshifter, he was able to escape prison by jumping through the keyhole. He returned to the summit of Riesengebirge (Giants’ Mountain) and wondered why nature was so kind to creatures like humans.
In a nearby kingdom, the king had a daughter named Emma. Rips set eyes upon her and fell in love, so he appeared as a prince from the East and asked the king for the princess’ hand. Unfortunately, the princess was already engaged to another prince. Here’s where Rips acts poorly: He creates a castle and transports Princess Emma to it. Here he held her prisoner until she agreed to marry him.
She became lonely, so he gave her a magic wand. With that wand, she would be able to turn turnips into anything she wanted. She used the wand to turn turnips into people, animals, and many other things. She took some comfort in this, but she had it in her mind to escape.
Rips kept a large field of turnips so that she always had a supply. One day, Emma agreed to marry Rips, so she asked him to count the number of plants that had sprouted so she would know how many people would come to their wedding. She said she needed an accurate number because even a small mistake would cause her to change her mind. Rips counted the number of sprouts twice, but the counts did not match. So he counted again, and the number was still off. While Rips was busy trying to figure out the number of turnips in the field, Emma used the wand to turn one into a horse, and she rode away. Since that time, Rips has yearned for her.
Thus, he earned his nickname because he was counting turnips while his unrequited love slipped away, using his own gift as a tool for her escape.
There are multiple lessons in this simple tale. Many of us have experienced unrequited love or have been the objects of love or infatuation that we did not share. Particularly in one’s youth, one may try to find ways to hold onto love that are inappropriate and damaging to both parties. Sometimes, though, even after one learns (hopefully) some lessons and finally accepts that the relationship was not meant to be, the sting of unrequited love remains. Such is the case with Rübezahl.
|(Image of Rübezahl from Märchenbrunnen im Volkspark Friedrichshain in Berlin, Wikimedia Commons)|
He appears at times to have learned the lesson and has let go of Emma, but, every time he is called by his nickname, the memory returns. He manages to overcome some of his pain and helps a human female, whom he initially disliked because of his experiences with Emma, to change the circumstances with her abusive husband. Throughout some of these stories, Rips shows the need for change, the fear of change, and the outcome of painful change.
Very much akin to the observance of Ziegdaag.
Known by many name variations, including Elwedritsch, this is a trickster figure in Deitsch (and European German) lore, most innocently as the target of snipe hunts. In journeywork, the Elbedritsch can mislead the worker or the client. In these circumstances, the being is considered to be a form of Elf (Elbe and Elwe both are names for elves). The name literally means “elf twitch.” Also, on the Muunraad, should a thirteenth new moon occur after Oschdre (the spring equinox), it is called the Haas (Hare) or the Elbedritsch moon. There are Braucherei and Hexerei practitioners who know the Elwedritsch to be a true entity that can lead one astray during journeywork, but, on the whole, the modern Deitsch culture has a tendency to view the Elwedritsch through the lens of cute old folklore.
In this first year of observing Ziegdaag from a spiritual angle, we Urglaawer are encouraged to spend a few moments in silence meditating on what change means to each of us. We may have experienced trauma that requires a mindshift in order to remove obstacles to our progress. We may be happy as we are and not need any particular change, but we may need to be aware when changes are taking place around us. The shiftier characters in our lore provide lessons and insight into our past and our present circumstances. Change is not always pleasant, nor is it always for the better. Applying our minds and our spirits to our lives, including the process of change, can help to mitigate unpleasantness, and considering the consequences of our actions is crucial.
Rest assured that, over the next few years, the information we already have on thee characters within Deitsch lore will be organized an interpreted, and we will continue our research.
Ziegdaag will continue to grow.