Saturday, November 27, 2021

Voryuul/Parade of Spirits: Why The Buggy?

We often hear the phrase, "The Turning of the Wheel," bandied about in many Heathen and Pagan traditions. This often refers to the changeover from one year to the next. For some, that turning is emphasized at the end of October. For others, it is observed at Yule, and, even among those who observe it at those times, most of us still recognize the fact that the wheel is in constant motion through the linear time to which the physical plane is (mostly) relegated to adhere.

One will sometimes also hear phrases to the effect of, "The Wheel of the Year it tilted." Sometimes these comments are referring to the Earth's axial tilt or to the global seasonal differences that result from said tilt. In Urglaawe, though, the Yaahrsraad ("Year Wheel") is not perceived to function on a tilt as much at is is on a multi-layered spiral. Trying to identify a beginning and an end point is not always easy, particularly since the life-death-rebirth cycle is ongoing. There are a few points that could be considered the completion of a wheel rotation and, thus, the start of a new cycle.

Buggy Pull
Trenton Avenue, Bristol, PA
Behind Bristol Borough Jr.-Sr. High School

Among the easiest to point toward is January 1. This is the nearly globally accepted beginning of the new calendar year, but, for many religious and spiritual systems that observe cycles, it does not align with anything in their actual lore. Here, though, Urglaawe does have a relevant point because sunset on December 31 begin Zwelfdi Nacht (Twelfth Night of Yule) and Berchtaslaaf, or the Progression of the goddess Berchta. Many of Berchta's characteristics as a liminal goddess reflect the passing of linear time, and, in some significant ways, one could argue that She represents "Mother Time." She has the only required meal that I know of on any Heathen calendar, and it is a meal of scarcity, likely a reflection of time starving away and the literal death of that calendar year. 

The wheel completes a rotation at sunset the next morning. January 1, is Zwelfder Daag, or Twelfth Day, and a new calendar year awakens. This is Frofescht or Luulfescht, the Feast of Fro or the Feast of Luul. The meal has gone from scarcity to, indeed, a full on feast. Pork and sauerkraut (each of which likely have an origin in being sacred to the god Fro, with pork taking the place of the boar and sauerkraut representing prosperity) is the traditional meal for all Pennsylvania Dutch on this day, though most Deitsch people will cite the reason for the pork being that pigs root forward. The snout, like the wheel, keeps moving forward in linear time.

Another, huge turning of the wheel takes place in February with the creation of the Butzemann, or the activated scarecrow, during the Entschtanning observance. The wheel turns (in a rather "woo" sense) when the remnants of the prior year's crops are used to build the Butzemann, and then the ancestors of those plants are called to awaken the dormant souls inside the plant materials. The wheel turns when the Butzemann is awakened and takes his post to watch over the coming season's crops.

The next wheel turning point takes on a different form. On March 17, a large segment of the Protestant Pennsylvania Dutch community observes a very Heathen-based St. Gertrude's Day. While some of the Protestants might, alongside the Catholics, actually be honoring Gertrude of Nivelles as a saint, most Protestants generally shy way from honoring saints while still keeping the traditions alive. These traditions could hardly be much more Heathen than they actually are, and I will refer to other things written about Urglaawe Grumbieredaag ("Potatoes Day") and the grafting of the goddess Frouwa onto St. Gertrude. However, one key factor in this day is the purpose behind the name: Potatoes, and the Spring Onions that go along with them. A particularly type of bread called a "Datsch" is baked for this day, and among its key ingredients are potatoes and spring onions. The Datsch is offered in the garden, and the first plantings of potatoes is part of the ritual. The wheel turns as the last of the prior year's potatoes is used to create the offering toward the success of the incoming year's crop. 

Oschdre, or the Spring Equinox, is another point that many consider to be the starting point of a new wheel rotation. Indeed, this is the one that I personally consider to be the birth (and rebirth) of new life, and, hence, a new rotation. 

Yet the new rotations keep happening. At Wonnenacht, the Sisters Holle and Berchta meet, embracing in a dance that spins winter away. The wheel turns during the spinning. At Hoietfescht in July/August, the wheel turns as the last of the grains from last year make the breads that celebrate the incoming grain crops. At Allelieweziel, we observe the death phases of existence; the wheel turns as the souls move on toward their next phase of being.

This brings us to Voryuul (Fore-Yule) and to Yuul (Yule). At Yuul, you will see us light up our Flaming, Spinning, Yuletide Sunwheel, which is, quite literally the turning of the wheel. For Urglaawer, this represents the creation of the new soul construct there after the souls of the dead pass through Holle's figurative Mill. We se this actually referred to in our Wonnezeit myth in May, so the implication is that this is an ongoing turning of the wheel. The death arc of the wheel is always in motion, which means the whole of the wheel is also in motion. The wheel of the Mill is always turning, whether Holle is actively on the Hunt or not.

Step backward twelve nights from Yuul, and this leaves us with Voryuul and the purpose of the Buggy, both in the Buggy Pull and in the Parade of Spirits. The descriptions we have of Holle on the Wild Hunt include a buggy or a wagon that looks different from ours. It is said to be three-wheeled and that, as it rolls, each wheel spins thread that joins with the other wheels' threads to create a giant cosmic sack names "Immerraum" ("Always Room") in which the captured lost souls are placed in order to bring them to the Mill. 

We're not quite at the point yet where we can construct the three-wheeled wagon, yet our Buggy is certainly steeped in cultural representation. At the Buggy Pull and in the Parade of Spirits, it is representing the forging forth through linear time - the perpetual motion of the turning wheel. It is to serve as a reminder of just how precious time and life are. Although most Urglaawer believe in rebirth, the rebirth takes place in a new soul construct, which means that the person you are now, due to the restraints of linear time in the physical plane, exists singularly during this lifetime. You are, therefore, unique and precious, and your life and time in this world are to be valued while being invaluable. Even the more convoluted discussions of non-linear time would recognize this sacredness of life.

The debut of the Buggy onto the public scene at the Parade of Spirits might be limited to the sidewalk area of the park in this first year. It will be a curiosity, and most people will likely find it to be really cool. Attaching the significance of the constant turning of the wheel to the Buggy will, over time, add to the lore and to the appreciation of time and of life that are central themes behind the Parade of Spirits.

When you see the Buggy pass, do as Gedreier Eckhart suggests as he quotes the Mighty Dead, and say, "Hail to Life!"

Monday, November 22, 2021

What is the Parade of Spirits?

The Parade of Spirits ("Der Geischderschtrutz" in Pennsylvania Dutch) is a grassroots, family-friendly, community-based, participatory parade that takes place in the Northern Liberties neighborhood of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Originally founded as Krampuslauf Philadelphia in 2011, the event has expanded its focus to include more folkloric features.

Traditionally, the time in mid-December prior to the winter solstice (Yule) was when the Pennsylvania Dutch held spooky parades and when children donned costumes and went "belsnickeling," or trick-or-treating. The Parade of Spirits is a modern expression of that old tradition. 

The Parade serves as a depiction of the Wild Hunt from Germanic mythology, and features liminal and shadow-side entities, such as Belsnickel, Krampus, and the souls of the recently departed.

At the fore of the "Schtrutz" is the Germanic psychopomp, Gedreier Eckhart, who is a hero in German folklore and who serves the goddess Holle in death just as he did in life. Pennsylvania Dutch myth places him ahead of the Wild Hunt, warning the living of the impending fury as Holle travels the realms of the multiverse, seeking out the lost souls of the recently departed and capturing them to bring them back into the human evolutionary process.

Although the basic functions of the Parade are based in German and Pennsylvania Dutch myth and folklore, this is a secular event. All shadowy-side, shady-side, and dark-side traditions from all cultural backgrounds are welcomed and encouraged (please just keep in mind this is a family-friendly event, and please be careful not to engage in cultural appropriation from historically oppressed or marginalized cultures). This is an inclusive event and welcomes participants of all backgrounds; no bigotry tolerated.

While some costumes may be commercially produced (particularly Krampus, Perchten, or other traditional Alpine costumes), most are handmade, from the simple to the complex. Simply putting green or gray makeup on your face and participating as a ghoul on the Wild Hunt is fantastic!


Arrive at Liberty Lands Park (913 N 3rd St, Philadelphia, PA 19123) at around 4:00 to enjoy the costumes and to talk with old friends and to make new ones. 

Just prior to sunset (16:36/4:36 PM EST), the Parade will begin with opening remarks, and then the organizers will step off from the park onto the streets. Follow Gedreier Eckhart's "Boomba" (a Pennsylvania Dutch percussion instrument that is  played primarily through bouncing) and enjoy yourself as we strut the streets of Northern Liberties.

In 2021, we will debut the Buggy in some form. We need to assess the speed at which it can be moved to see if we can have it on the street, but the Parade marchers will stay on the sidewalks.

After the Parade returns to Liberty Lands Park, please tarry around the bonfire for some fellowship (please have a face mask on hand and follow Philadelphia's covid-19 guidelines on outdoor interaction) until the performance begins.

In 2021, we are delighted to present a fire performance by bellydancer, Lorenda, and her partner, Aly Louise!

There is no cost for this event, but it is PARTICIPATORY, so... make yourself look dead and come out to the 'Schtrutz!