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Thursday, April 1, 2021
Wednesday, March 17, 2021
FROUWASEGE/GRUMBIEREDAAG; also called KATZENACHT
17. Lenzing, 2021
Honoring: die Frouwa
Features: Sacred nature of cats, Datsch flatbread, planting of potatoes, planting of spring onions and some beans, garden ritual.
Ritual is open via videoconference at 17:00/5:00 PM EDT on Wednesday March 17, 2021.
Event Page: https://fb.me/e/d1bYNhvIO
By Urglaawe lunar reckoning, the feast day of the goddess Frouwa begins at sunset on March 16 (which begins the date of 17. Lenzing) and ends at sunset on March 18.
Who is the Frouwa?
The Frouwa (“the Lady”) is widely known among the Germanic peoples. The Netherlands Dutch know Her as Vrouwa; in English, She is called Freya, and in Norse, She is called Freyja. Each culture perceives Her differently, but there are some common elements throughout Her lore. What is cited below is the lore from the Pennsylvania Dutch/Urglaawe perspective, which, due to the ins and outs of the forced conversion to Christianity brings some unique perspectives to the understanding of one of the most vibrant and readily accessible deities in the Germanic pantheon.
die Frouwa vun de Wane:
She is a goddess of the Wane/Vanir tribe, though her understood lineage from Norse lore does not fully match ours, it is quite possible that the Norse lore clarifies a few points that just might make Her lineage clearer.
It is fairly widely accepted in Norse lore that the parents of Freya and Her twin brother Frey (known to us as Fro or Froh) are Njörðr (commonly called Njord) and His unnamed sister, who many believe to be the earlier-attested Nerthus. Now, here come some dot-connecting and unproven theories, but there are some similarities of folklore that should be researched more.
Although most Urglaawer and other German Heathens perceive Nerthus and the goddesses Holle and Erda as different deities, there are similarities that can lead to some theories. Linguistically, the connections are closer between Nerthus and Erda.
Nerthus and Erda (and some also say Holle) are each said to be offended by the presences of iron forged in any form, but especially iron forged as tools that cut the ground. I can readily understand the possibility that Nerthus and Erda are the same goddess known from different perspectives.
The Norse identify Jörð in their lore as the mother of Dunner. Jörð is neither of the Ase or the Wane, but Dunner is counted among the Ase due to Odin being His father.
Deitsch lore reflects this. Wudan is Dunner's father, and his mother is Erda. However, Erda is said to be of the Wane in our lore, which would make Dunner half-Wane and half-Ase. There is a lack of clarity here.
There is a potential connection, albeit slight, between Njord and our Holler (Ewicher Yeeger) in the form of connections to fishing, the wealth of rivers and streams However, the connections between Holler and Ullr are stronger. It is also possible that Njord, Holler, and Ullr are discrete, unique deities whose lore should not be taken automatically as being more than matters of circumstances.
One can see why more research is needed.
But let's look at what we currently have anyway (and hope for more information to emerge hence):
Njord + Nerthus = parents of Freya and Frey (generally accepted)
If Njord and Holler are the same deity:
Holler + z = parents of Frouwa and Fro
Let's try Erda first:
Holler + Erda = fully Wane Frouwa and Fro who would be half-siblings to Dunner
How about Holle?
Holler + Holle = fully Wane Frouwa and Fro. Holler and Holle are widely believed to be consorts, whether sibling or marriage.
The latter makes more sense to me, yet it still leaves a lot of open questions. And the research goes on.
Other Attributes of Frouwa:
She is the Matron of all cats. She is associated with love, lust, beauty, sex, fecundity, sowing and reaping the bounty of the land. She is also shrewd, wise, and, so oral tradition has indicated, has a business acumen like no other.
Many of Her attributes (except for the carnal ones and business acumen) were grafted by the Catholic Church onto St. Gertrude of Nivelles, who was sainted for her work in the German lands. Gertrude was born in Landen, which would indicate Flemish ancestry, circa the year 628. She died on March 17, 659, hence the timing of her feast day. The Church was busily engaging in forced conversion and was eliminating adversaries during this time (for contrast, St. Funnyface... err... Boniface was born in 675), so this is happening right in the middle of the Catholic terrorism of the adherents of the Heathen religions.
In order for stability to take hold in conquered areas, the Church often resorted to taking the attributes of locally known deities and adding them to the lore of saints. For a good (I'd almost say "authoritative" description of the the Catholic Church had to do to get the conversion to succeed, see The Germanization of Early Medieval Christianity: A Sociohistorical Approach to Religious Transformation by James C. Russell; beware that it is not an easy read).
So attributes of the Frouwa were spun into an acceptable Christian context that became attached to St. Gertrude, and the lore of St. Gertrude was applied to the date of her death, March 17. It is interesting that St. Gertrude’s Day observances were retained by the overwhelmingly Protestant and Anabaptist Pennsylvania Dutch — not so much as a religious icon but as a cultural market and tradition.
Urglaawer generally accept that the retention of this lore is relevant to our worship of the Frouwa, again calling to the Lady of the Wane. Although it is virtually certain that the Church did not intend to keep parts of the story of the Frouwa alive, we Urglaawe still tip the hat to St. Gertrude for serving as the vehicle that has provided us with a method to rebuild the severed relationship with the Frouwa. As such, we keep the feast day of March 17 (but set it to the lunar calendar as 17. Lenzing, and the feast day begins on the solar calendar date of March 16 at sunset and ends on March 17 at sunset.
Because St. Gertrude of Nivelles was created by appropriating many traits of the Frouwa, one could argue that a syncretic honoring of the Frouwa has (wittingly or unwittingly) been going on since the 7th century. We Urglaawer will watch as our use of the ritual, absent its Christian overlay, evolves to meet Frouwa's needs.
Oh, did I mention that the lore of St. Gertrude's Day features other entities and practices that come straight out of Heathen cosmology and are certainly not Church approved? One such creature is der Waldmops, whose name literally means "forest goblin," who is considered to be the Lord of the Beasts and is said to be he who colors the southeast wind green to ensure bounty.
Der Waldmops is said to wear a coat woven of willow leaves, spleenwort, and moss. He wears a magical hat fashioned from ivy, wintergreen, and yew twigs or mistletoe. He is said to be the father of Ringelros (Calendulis officinalis), which is the official flower of the Deitsch people. The spirit of calendula can be invited into the kitchen to protect the storage of processing and food storage (See Dutch Treats by William Woys Weaver, page xix).
One feature of the observance is the baking of a flatbread called a "Datsch." There is a specific type used in the Frouwasege and for St. Gertrude's Day. The first year that I made one, I eyeballed everything, and the Datsch came out pretty good. Last year I measured everything, and it came out too wet.
Pieces of Datsch are also to be scattered about for die gleene Leit (the wee folk). Please see Dutch Treats by William Woys Weaver, pp. 103-105.
My guess is that tubers were replaced by potatoes after settlement in Pennsylvania, but that is just a hypothesis.
Also, please be sure to have something white to present to Her cats. Many of us use white albacore tuna. Oh, and while this is shared UPG and there is no long history behind it, I have heard a few folks in interviews recently come up with similar ideas on what the cats' names might be. If the Frouwa were on Her chariot that is being pulled by two large cats, the one on the left has been given the moniker of "der Meisfeind" (mice-foe) and the one on the right has been called "die Rosefreindn" (roses-friend).
(Syllables and stress: ALL CAPS represents primary stress on the syllable. A syllable that has only the Initial Letter capitalized bears secondary stress, and a syllable with no capital letters is unstressed. For example, take the English word "secondary": SEC-un-Dair-ee)
der Meisfeind: dah MICE-find
(Pronounce those two words as you would in English except make the "c" sound in "Meis" sound like hard, sharp s and the "d" in "find" is more like a soft t.
die Rosefreindn: dee ROSE-eh-Freind'n
(This one can be a pistol. The ROSE is actually pronounced more like ROWSS, but the initial R in this particular case has two possible pronunciations. The more common by far is a couple of flaps of the tongue before heading into the vowel. The other is extremely rare in Deitsch but does show up for this word in some variants: the uvular R, which is when you are almost gargling when you say it.)
These names, both of current vintage, do reflect why many people keep cats around their gardens. They keep the mouse population in check, which leads to the destruction of fewer plants, such as roses. If you use this information anywhere, please be sure to attach to it that these names are unverifiable communal gnosis (UCG) coming from the current era.
Note the final "n" on Rosefreindn. That is an ending that changes a grammatically masculine noun into a grammatically feminine noun. In this case, I am sure that the people who related this idea to me (who are members of one of the Plain Anabaptist sects) were setting this up so that one cat would be female and the other male.
Otherwise, we'd have a near-rhyme. In Deitsch, the word for friend (der Freind - dah FRYND) and foe (der FEIND - dah FYND (I spelled it as English "find" earlier because it is easier to read) rhyme...
Freind adder Feind?
(Friend or Foe)... although I think Friend or Fiend would serve the narrative better.
Distelfink Sippschaft's Frouwasege will be at 17:00/5:00 PM EDT on Wednesday, March 17. The event is open to anyone via videoconference. Event Page: https://fb.me/e/d1bYNhvIO
Oh, we're also toying with the idea of "Frouwa's Kubb," which would feature cats being involved in the play. Stay tuned on that.
Russell, James C. The Germanization of Early Medieval Christianity: A Sociohistorical Approach to Religious Transformation
Weaver, William Woys. Dutch Treats: Heirloom Recipes form Farmhouse Kitchens. Pittsburgh: St. Lynn's Press, 2016.
Saturday, February 6, 2021
Monday, February 1, 2021
This was originally (last night... lol) as part of a Pennsylvania Dutch History lesson for student study as the Entschtanning begins at sunset tonight (1. Hanning, 2021), but it is a good introduction to the origins or Groundhog Day and this most complicated of Urglaawe observances gets underway.
Entschtanning: The Emergence from Winter's Grasp
Entschtanning is a Pennsylvania Dutch word that means "emergence." It is also the name of a major Urglaawe observance that brings together several Pennsylvania Dutch (Deitsch) cultural events and practices over a twelve-night/day period. The observance begins at sunset on February 1 with Grundsaudaag, better known in wider American culture as Groundhog Day.
Today's lesson consists of a bit of history about Groundhog Day, which today many people view as silly, but, 1,000 years ago, the technology of analyzing weather patterns did not exist, and cultures around the world relied on the natural world around them to provide clues about the future weather.
Many Predictors in Nature
Among the Germanic tribes, weather was often predicted based on when trees would bud in the spring, when they would yellow in the fall, and quite a few other aspects of plants' color and health.
They did not limit their weather forecasting to just plants, though. Animal behavior or appearance, including that of insects, was also considered to be a way of finding clues about the near future's conditions. Some of these traditions with insects are still commonly found in Pennsylvania, particularly with the woolly bear caterpillar (which eventually becomes the Isabella tiger moth) actually has a pretty good track record (over 80% accuracy, according to one scientific study) of weather prediction that comes from the stripe in the middle of its body.
Woolly bears have thirteen segments on their bodies. Each section can appear in either a rusty color or in black. Often it is black at both ends and rusty in the middle. The more rusty a woolly bear appears, the milder the winter will be, or so the saying goes. The more black on a woolly bear, the harsher the winter will be. The winter of 2020-2021 was predicted in the fall by many people to be mild in the beginning and harsh in the middle. So far, that is playing out.
And then along comes the Groundhog
The groundhog holds a special place in American folklore that actually stems from serious practices of the Pennsylvania Dutch. These "superstitions" are rooted in ancient Heathen belief from the time before Christianity took over as the dominant faith of Europe. Ironically, though, in Europe, the animal that was being tracked for this specific weather-predicting function was not a groundhog. It was a European badger (and prior to that, it was a bear).
The German belief was that, if a badger were to awaken on February 2 and were to see its shadow, it would return to its den, thus meaning six more weeks of winter. This is the same lore that came along with the settlers from Germany who became the Pennsylvania Dutch. However, when the settlers arrived here, they found no badgers. Instead, they quickly observed that around this time of year, groundhogs do begin to emerge from their dens. Therefore, it was easy to transfer the folklore from the badger to the groundhog.
That all sounds sort of simple, correct? Well, yes and no. There is a major missing piece of the puzzle of how this holiday survived the move from Germany to Pennsylvania, and that is the piece that is deeply rooted in the ancient Germanic religion.
Many cultures around the world use a "World Tree" as a metaphor for the universe or for all of existence. In Norse/Viking lore (which is also Germanic),their metaphor included a squirrel named Ratatoskr, who would run up and down the tree, delivering news from one realm to the next.
While we have a Tree of Life (Lewesbaam) in the Pennsylvania Dutch culture and in Urglaawe, our forebears saw similar imagery in other contexts as well, including the very land which they farmed. Our rodent's story is not about running up and down the tree. Instead, the imagery relates to the ground.
Groundhog burrows are often complex, with different rooms and multiple openings, all of which are used as allegories to the other realms of existence. The forebears thus set an analogy between the burrow and the Nine Worlds.
Thus, the Groundhog is the otherworldly messenger. The Groundhog brings news and predictions from all of the visited realms. For an agricultural people, the short-term weather is naturally something that the people would like to know. The big question for ancient Germanic farmers was, "When can we plant?" which is probably why that particular feature was passed on to the wider American culture.
Cultural Importance to the Pennsylvania Dutch: Traditionalism vs. Commercialism
Within the Deitsch culture, Groundhog Day is still a big deal. There are 23 "Groundhog Lodges" that hold a dinner on February 2 every year. The use of the Pennsylvania Dutch language is a feature of that night, and use of English costs one dime for each English word used (this is actually not taken seriously; it is a way to raise money to keep the lodges going. Many predictions other than weather are also discussed, some are done in humor. Many songs, plays, and stories that are in Pennsylvania Dutch make their debut at these Groundhog Lodge dinners. Thus, Groundhog Day is also a day of the celebration of the Pennsylvania Dutch culture.
There is also a huge event on February 2 every year at a place called Gobbler's Knob in the town of Punxsutawney, Pennsylvania. This event is what most people think of when they think of Groundhog Day. A poor, captive (though well treated) groundhog named "Punxsutawney Phil" is put before cameras and flashing lights and becomes the "official" Groundhog Day event. While this big, commercial event is indeed featuring some of the Groundhog Day features, it is also losing some of the most important features of the day: the relationship between humans and animals and the close daily interaction with nature.
Some farmers and many people who hold to the old ways continue to observe the behavior of groundhogs and other animals at this time to make other determinations as well.
One traditional practitioner of the old ways told me that the depth of --and the slope to-- the first room in a groundhog burrow can serve as an indicator of wet or dry weather. If the first room is fairly close to the surface or is of a fairly steep slope, then the weather will be mostly dry. If the slope is not steep or if the room is higher than its entrance from the burrow, then one should expect wet weather. There are other behaviors that are examined as well.
Most historians will grant that Groundhog Day has its roots in Heathen-era German practices, but the origins stretch back likely even further. Predicting weather or other things that can impact crops is a practice that transcends cultures, and observing the behavior of animals is an important tool in the forebears’ kit. It was certainly not the only tool; lunar phases, historic weather patterns, river depths, etc., all were (and are) considered as well.
Again, All Superstition?
Actually, no, it is not all superstition, particularly when it comes to the behavior of the groundhogs when they first emerge from hibernation.
Remember that the events in Punxsutawney are not organic. We’re not watching the behavior of a groundhog in the wild. Thus, what may seem to be a silly observance with frequent inaccuracies is not the whole of the story. The annual events in Punxsutawney (and other places) certainly helped to keep the essence of the lore alive, but the true significance of Groundhog Day is masked by the commercial pomp and circumstance of the day. My personal experience is anecdotal, but it matches the experiences of many other people who observe groundhogs in the wild: the accuracy rate in the wild is far, far higher than in the staged media spectacle in Punxsutawney.
Groundhog Day is actually a visceral observance. It comes from a time when people had few reliable means of knowing when they could plant, and they relied upon their relationship with nature and with the animals to make determinations about the consumption of remaining food stores and to plan for the planting.
Thus, this week we Pennsylvania Dutch shall honor the Groundhog and remember our interdependence with the animal kingdom around us.
Saturday, January 2, 2021
Friday, January 1, 2021
The latest issue of Hollerbeer Hof is available here! You can also find links to the current issue and past issues in the side bar. In this issue we discuss star lore associated with Zisa and Ziu, The Great Conjunction of Jupiter and Saturn, and Introspection and the Core Values at Yuulzeit. Happy Reading!