Friday, September 22, 2017

Halliches Erntfescht

(or Erntdankfescht!)

The autumn equinox and surrounding days served as the time of the original Deitsch (and German, for that matter) Thanksgiving. We Urglaawer observe the equinox and celebrate the harvest as a community as close to the equinox as possible. The Schwenkfelders observe the thanksgiving on September 24, other localities hold it on different days, also often based on the equinox.

In Heathen times, communities pitched in to help to finish harvests, to trade different crops, and to tend to kin and neighbor so that everyone had a variety of foods to store for the winter. This is the root of the Harvest Home tradition, which continues in many churches today.

The establishment of a national Thanksgiving holiday was actually met with some resistance in Deitsch communities because we already had a thanksgiving observance that was placed at the time of the completion of the harvest. The end of November seemed to be an odd time to many people. The traditional harvests were well over by then, it was typically very cold, and, prior to the rise of modern transportation and grocery, people would be more likely conserving their food stores, outside of game, to ensure a supply to carry them through if Spring came late.

The Harvest Home church traditions nowadays take place all throughout September, but they are a legacy of the thanksgiving festival. Urglaawe groups hold thanksgiving festivals as close to the equinox as possible. All of these observances focus on spreading the wealth of the harvest around, most typically in the form of canned food donations to food shelters.

Over time, the national holiday in November has meshed well with traditional Pennsylvania Dutch foods and has become part of our lives. However, it is good to keep our cultural traditions alive, too.

Most of us who were born after World War II are so accustomed to supermarkets having everything we could want all throughout the year that it is difficult to fathom the reliance on root cellars, springhouses, and cooperative efforts among neighbors. Jump back a few generations, when most food was grown locally, and it becomes easier to see why there would be a formal expression of gratitude for a successful harvest. We can capture a bit of the experience of our forebears by appreciating events like the end of the harvest.

Besides, it never hurts to have another day where we are a little more deliberate in our gratitude for the food that nourishes us. So, sometime this week, you may want to incorporate an extra expression of gratitude in the religious or philosophical context that resonates with you to the plants and the animals that feed us, to the farmers who produce the food, and to the transportation and outlets that make it available to us.

Let's make Erntfescht/Erntdankfescht a thing again in our communities!

Tuesday, August 1, 2017

Elderberry Bumper Crop

Perhaps it is the wet weather, but the Elder (pdc: Hollerbeer; tax: Sambucus nigra) bushes are producing an abundance of plump berries this year!

It is now Aernet (also known as Aagscht), the month of the harvest, so it is appropriate to continue to collect the berries and to prepare them for their various uses.

Hail to the Elder Mother! Hail to Holle!

This is one big bunch of elderberries!


Sunday, July 23, 2017

Mugwort in Traditional Deitsch Use

Robert L. Schreiwer
Mugwort Harvesting and Smudge Stick Making Workshop

Oak Haven Farm, Cedarbrook, NJ
July 23, 2017

Mugwort is known as Aldi Fraa (Old Lady) in Deitsch (Pennsylvania German or Pennsylvania Dutch), and it is strongly associated with the goddess Holle. 

It is the premiere herb used in Braucherei, Hexerei, and Urglaawe for smudging (pdc: die Rauchreiniching), ritual washing, journeying, and the healing of many ailments and conditions. It is the most common herb used in Braucherei house blessings. It is also commonly used to bundle other herbs together for ritual use.

Fresh Mugwort smudge stick
Susan Hess, our (Michelle Jones' and Robert L. Schreiwer's) herbalism instructor and mentor, captured the importance of Mugwort to the Deitsch in one simple statement: “Think of how important white sage is to most Native Americans; that is how Mugwort is to the Deitsch.”

Disclaimer: This information is for educational and discussion purposes only. Nothing in these posts is intended to constitute, or should be considered, medical advice or to serve as a substitute for the advice of a physician or other qualified health care provider. Feverfew may thin the blood, so people on blood thinners should be careful with its use. Also, as the herb is used in inducing menstruation, pregnant women should avoid using this herb. As always, your health is your responsibility. Consult with a doctor before using any herbal remedy or preventative.

Footbaths of Mugwort are used among Hexerei midwives to increase the likelihood of pregnancy. Its uses in Braucherei include weak teas to increase appetite, ease digestion, to increase the absorption of nutrients from food, and to encourage menstruation. Poultices are used to prevent backache or dull aches in other parts of the body. Please note that Mugwort is contraindicated for pregnancy and its use should be avoided by women who are pregnant or who are seeking to become pregnant.

Deitsch author William Woys Weaver (218) describes Mugwort as “one of the key herbs in Pennsylvania German folk medicine,” stating that it is “an herb devoted to the reprieve of womankind, but, since the early Middle Ages, it was also used in cookery, especially with game.” Goose, which is also associated strongly with Holle, is also traditionally seasoned with Mugwort. 

Christopher Sauer, who was a Deitsch herbalist and who also wrote the first book of botanic healing in the US, described (Weaver 218) various traditional uses for the herb, including the feeding of dry or fresh leaves combined with salt to ease the cough of cattle. 

Sauer continues to cite uses, such as using the juice of Mugwort to aid people who have been injured by bullets. He also describes the use of the herb in footbaths, but he focuses more on post-natal conditions, such as healing from wounds incurred during birth. 

Interestingly, Sauer (Weaver 41) also provides a recipe for breaking injuries caused by witchcraft:

"It has been discovered through everyday use that angelica provides a particularly good remedy for injuries brought about by witchcraft. When a person is a victim of such unnatural afflictions, the following potion has proved especially effective. Take half a handful each of the leaves of angelica, devil's bit, the topmost sprigs of Saint-John's-wort, periwinkle, Venus's goldilocks, and mugwort. These herbs should be chopped fine and put into a large pewter flask with two quarts of fresh springwater and a quart of white wine. Bring this to a boil in a kettle of hot water. Once the infusion has boiled up, let it cool. When cold, open the flask, but not before, lest the properties of the herbs disperse into the air. Strain this through a cloth and administer it warm to the victim, six loths per dose, morning and evening."

Note: A Loth or Lood is an old Deitsch measurement equal to approximately 16 grams.



Devil's Bit (en): pdc: die Schpellekisseblumm, der Deiwelbiss, tax: Scabiosa succisa

St. John's Wort: pdc: es Hexegraut, es Geesgraut, es Hannesgraut, tax: Hypericum perforatum

Periwinkle: pdc: die Sinnebledder, tax: Vinca minor

Venus's Goldilocks: pdc: es Goldlockichmoos, tax: Polytrichum juniperum

Mugwort: pdc: Aldi Fraa, tax: Artemisia vulgaris

For as commonly used as Mugwort is among the Deitsch, it is not listed in the Nine Sacred Herbs of Braucherei and Hexerei. The reason that is usually cited for this omission is that Mugwort is frequently a stand-in for the physically unrelated (but very much so spiritually related) Elder. Because there is a Verbot (taboo, ban) in place regarding the burning of Elder (except for the flowers), Mugwort is the herb that is burned in its stead. 

The spirit of Mugwort is what one might expect from an old Braucherin or Hex: approachable and eager to help those in need but not intolerant of nonsense, disorder, or deceit. Mugwort is an ally to those who are deserving of its time and effort. The spirit of the plant seeks to establish order within chaos, which is said to be one reason it grows so avidly in disturbed soil.

Mugwort is appropriate at any and all Urglaawe rites and rituals, Braucherei or Hexerei workings, etc. 

This is one of our most powerful herbs. Enjoy making your smudge sticks and learning how to use them. Then prepare for a possible wild ride in your sleep!

_____________________

Weaver, William Woys. "Sauer's Herbal Cures: America's First Book of Botanic Healing." New York: Routledge, 2001.

Monday, July 17, 2017

Birch Water

Birch water (es Baerkewasser; die Baerkesaft) is now an industry for some Eastern and Northern European countries (I found some from Ukraine yesterday), but it is also something that has been drawn here in the Deitscherei since arrival.

Commercial birch water from Ukraine
Sweet Birch (Betula lenta) is usually tapped for birch water in late February or early March, and the birch water is collected via a tube into a bucket, pretty much like maple sap. Unlike maple sap, though, birch comes out like water and may be consumed directly as is.

Most of the birch water collected is directed toward the production of birch beer, which is in itself a Deitsch beverage, but birch water is still consumed and turns up at some farmers markets.

It can easily fulfill your daily intake needs of Manganese.

Tapping birch and extracting birch water for direct consumption or for processing as birch beer or birch syrup is not particularly difficult. I suggest that reader check out the article from Joybillee Farm on how to extract and to process birch sap. 

Birch water, birch beer, and birch syrup are Deitsch traditions, and we in the current generation can invigorate them by learning how they are done and by making our local products more readily available.


Sunday, May 21, 2017

Verbot on Iron Use with Vervain

Regarding VERVAIN of all types, and I'd extend this to LEMON VERBENA: Please note that, in this growing season, there is a Verbot on digging the roots of all Vervains using any iron tool. The interesting thing about this Verbot is that the general name for Vervain in Deitsch is "Eisegraut," which means "Iron Herb."

Young Verbena hastata (Blue Vervain; Blohes Eisegraut)

Deitsch lore holds the use of iron with Vervain as an affront to the plant's spirit, which holds a similar sense to the bans on iron in the presence of Erda or Nerthus.

German lore backs up the Verbot but does not give a reason for it. The following is taken from Deitsch sources (Brendle and Lick, Plant Names and Plant Lore Among the Pennsylvania Germans, p. 92 and the original is at: https://books.google.com/books…:

"Aber nicht genug damit. Es muss ausserdem nun liegen bleiben, bis Morgentau darauf fällt, und der glückliche Besitzer muss selber dabei bleiben un darf es arst vor Sonnenaufgang aufheben. Mit Eisen darf er während des ganzen Hergangs beileibe nicht in Berührung kommen, sonst ist all sein Werk vergebens. So gewonnen, erwirbt das Kraut aber nicht nur Frauenhuld, es schützt auch gegen die Pest, fallende Sucht, Kopfweh, Kropf, Besprechung, Schlaflosigkeit, Gespenster, wendet nach Ansicht des Tirolers Müdigkeit ab, wenn man es in die Schuhe legt, und gibt endlich - hört! hört! - Kindern Verstand und Lust zum Lernen. Eisenkraut sollte in keinem Garten fehlen!"

Another piece of Deitsch lore tells the preferred alternative (a variant of which appears in Brendle & Lick):

Eisegraut helft dir sehr, as die Weiwer henn's gholt;
doch brauch keh Eise, graab's mit Gold.

Vervain helps you a lot, as the women have fetched it;
But use no Iron, dig with Gold.

Most of us do not have trowels or shovels of gold, but tin, copper, bronze, or the hands are options.

From the Urglaawe perspective, this Verbot is associated with Erda, thereby making Vervain sacred to Her, though that results from connecting the dots of the Verbot and is, therefore, an newer connection.

Friday, May 12, 2017

And Here They Come...

Although it does not appear that we'll be dealing with freezing temperatures in the Deitscherei over the next three nights, we still observe the end of the Wonnezeit and keep an eye out for the first attack of the Reifries (Frost Giants).

There are at least two full variants of this story exist along with several additional tidbits and remnants turning up in other areas. The versions of the story that make a complete tale are those of the  Oley Freindschaft and the Harrity-Palmerton Freindschaft guilds of Braucherei, and their versions complement each other, with the Harrity-Palmerton version containing many details that the Oley version lacked. There are some clashing points between the versions, such as one stating that each Butzemann defends only his own property and the other referring to the Butzemann army taking the battle with the Frost Giants into the north.

This is the first, raw, harmonized version, which includes features of both principal complete versions as well as aspects of the remnants of others. The final version will be published in the near future.

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Der Reifkeenich (King Frost) heard that the Wild Hunt had returned to Mannheem (the home of humanity) and that his armies were in retreat from Hexefeld as the Wonnedanz revitalized the land. He first ordered Dreizehdax ("Thirteen-Badger") to go to Mannheem to reclaim his lost holdings. The next day, he dispatched Vatzehvedder (or Vatzehfedder, which may be a dialectic reference to "Fourteen-Porcupine"), and on the third day, he sent Fuffzehfux ("Fifteen-Fox"). Each took with him an army of Giants and allies.

Dreizehdax and his soldiers journeyed twelve nights from the Naddbledder ("Northern Leaves" of the World Tree). As they arrived in Mannheem, they brought the temperature down so much tender plants that could not withstand the cold. Dreizehdax and his soldiers feasted upon the spirits of the dying plants. Dreizehdax led his army down from the north, eventually arriving in the farmlands. 

Suddenly, he caught the gaze of a large, powerful, reddish-haired man, and he immediately recognized Him as Dunner. Dunner stood between Dreizehdax and the farmland, which Dreizehdax greedily wished to devour.

The Butzemann (spiritually activated scarecrow) on each farm prepared to fight to protect their children, though they were young and were not sure that they could defeat Dreizehdax and his powerful soldiers. As the Frost Giants stepped forward, Dunner lifted his mighty Hammer and slew one soldier after another, leaving only Dreizehdax, who fled in terror back to the north.

Dunner spoke to the Butzemenner (plural), telling them that He would teach them how to fight the Frost Giants. 

The next night, Vatzehvedder and his armies arrived in Mannheem. His army drenched the mountains in freezing rain, which stung the tenders, and the soldiers devoured the spirits of the dying plants. As the army approached the farmlands, Dunner raised His Hammer and commanded the rain to stop. He told all of the Butzemenner to come out of their shells to fight alongside Him. 

The spirit of each Butzemann stepped forth. Dunner fought the soldiers of Vatzehvedder with His hands, using His breath to warm the air and exerting His Megge (main, megin, life force energy) upon them, which caused them to melt. The Butzemenner followed suit, using the power of their Megge to surround the army so Dunner could destroy it. Vatzehvedder realized that his army was doomed, and he retreated to the north, joining Dreizehdax.

On the third night, Fuffzehfux and his army arrived in Mannheem. He and his soldiers froze the mist in the air, which dropped deadly dew onto the leaves and stems of the tender plants. The dew tortured the tender plants and harmed even many hardier plants. The Frost Giants began to eat the spirits of the damaged plants. 

Suddenly, the Butzemenner emerged from their shells and rose up from the farmlands, coming into the north and destroying the soldiers while they feasted. As the Butzemenner stepped forward the frozen dew turned to a warm mist, and the plants rejoiced.

Fuffzehfux soon found himself standing alone facing the Butzemann army, and he retreated to the north, joining Dreizehdax and Vatzehvedder. The three returned to the Naddbledder to bring the unhappy news of their defeat to King Frost.

As each Butzemann returned home to defend his own land, Dunner appeared before them to congratulate them on their victory. "Your children may now safely take root in the soil of Mannheem."

This is why the tender plants may be brought out after sunrise on May 15.


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Contributing work:

Tobin, Jesse. Der Braucherei Weg (course). Kempton, PA: Three Sisters Center for the Healing Arts, 2007.

Robert L. Schreiwer and Ammerili Eckhart, original research, 2009, 2011, 2012, 2013.

Saturday, April 22, 2017

Hundsholz - Dogwood

In full bloom right now are the beautiful Dogwood trees (Deitsch: es Hundsholz or die Kornelkasch; tax: Cornus spp.). The most commonly encountered dogwood species in the Deitscherei is Cornus florida. Most people think that the four large yellowish bracts (Deitsch: Draagbledder) are the flowers, but the true Dogwood flowers (Deitsch: Hundsblumme) are the small yellow-green clusters in the center of the bracts. 



Dogwood is one of the Nine Sacred Herbs of Braucherei. It is one of the Three of Wood, though its medicinal and spiritual uses are not limited to the woody parts of the tree.

Medicinally, the primary uses have been to use the bark of the tree as a remedy for fever (Deitsch: Fiewer, Hitz), malaria (es Kaltfiewer), scarlet fever (Schallach) and typhus and typhoid fever. Brendle & Unger (89) describe that,
"No distinction was made between typhoid and typhus. Two forms of this type of fever were, however, recognized: typhoid of the head and typhoid of the body. The former was sometimes referred to as Haernfiewer,  which is to be distinguished from cerebral meningitis and mastoiditis which are haernentzinding" (Haernentzinding is "brain fever").
They continue:
Beesfiewer, apparently, is quite definitely restricted to typhoid types. Naervefiewer... means neurosis, nervous fever. The term, however, was more generally used for typhoid fever. 
Other terms that cover typhus or typhoid are Hitzichgrankheet ("hot sickness") and Schleichfiewer ("sneaking fever" or walking typhoid).

Each of these fevers is believed, even today, to have a "breaking day," and they are days with uneven numbers, particularly three, five, seven, and nine.

Regarding the use of Dogwood decoctions, Brendle & Unger write (91):
"Among the English it is customary in case of fever to receive from the doctor powdered china, or, in English, Jesuits' bark, and it proves beneficial in many cases.

'This powder they, likewise, recommend to their German neighbors and its benefits many, but it is very expensive because it is brought from China. In Pennsylvania, it can be gotten gratis for it is the bark of the root of the tree called ironwood or dogwood, the English name Dackwood. It is good for use the whole year through, but in spring with the sap ascends it is most easily peeled off and is most powerful.'"
Disclaimer: This information is for educational and discussion purposes only. Nothing in these posts is intended to constitute, or should be considered, medical advice or to serve as a substitute for the advice of a physician or other qualified health care provider. Feverfew may thin the blood, so people on blood thinners should be careful with its use. Also, as the herb is used in inducing menstruation, pregnant women should avoid using this herb. As always, your health is your responsibility. Consult with a doctor before using any herbal remedy or preventative.

Decoctions of the bark (Hundsrinn) are said to aid with hemorrhoids. Tinctures of leaf or bark applied to the skin can reduce eczema and other skin conditions. Decoctions of Dogwood leaves are said to kill ringworm, and the fruit added into teas can aid with diarrhea. Poultice of the bark can aid with external ulcers or sores. Hundsbeere (dogberries) also have some antimicrobial, and liver-protecting properties, and the herb can be used as a natural emetic.

Spiritually speaking, shavings or cuttings of the bark may be worn in any form or carried as amulets, and the bark, bracts, or the flowers may be burned to break hexes.

Note: There is a Verbot or taboo on the cutting of Dogwood for decorative purposes. The sacredness of this plant requires that it be available to those in need in as much quantity as is needed. Dogwood may be cut as offerings to deity but not to ancestor or land spirit; it is better to leave the tree intact in the latter cases.

Resource

Brendle, Thomas R. and Claude W. Unger. Folk Medicine of the Pennsylvania GermansProceedings of the Pennsylvania German Society 45. Norristown, PA, 1935.