"Gudi Rutsch!"

This is a New Year's phrase not-so-commonly heard in Deitsch but very commonly heard with relevant cognates in German. It's meaning literally is, "Good slide!"

Wishing one a good "Rutsch" has multiple meanings in Deitsch, though... Some are quite insulting (someone, usually in a sexist structure but may be directed at anyone, with loose morals), some area a little funny (a squirmy kid), and then there is the intended meaning (slide).

Thus: Gudi Rutsch ins Nei Yaahr... A good slide into the New Year!

(This would have a very different meaning from "Gudi Rutsch im Neie Yaahr," which would be wishing one a good physical sliding board, squirmy child, or person with loose morals in the New Year).

It is also worth noting that "Rutsch" is grammatically feminine (die) in Deitsch but grammatically masculine (der) in German.

Grammar matters!  :)


PARADE OF SPIRITS! (Krampuslauf Philadelphia)

This is the annual grassroots Parade of Spirits through the streets of Northern Liberties. Participants are highly encouraged to dress in appropriate "Dark Half of the Year" costumes.

This is a participatory event more than a spectator event. Interested folks are encouraged to come in costumes that reflect the Dark Half of the year, the scary characters of traditional lore of various cultures, or the shadow side of the self.

Gathering time starts at around 3:30 PM. Some folks put their costumes on in in the park; others arrive in costume. Parade kicks off at dusk.

The Heathen Contingent has a Facebook group: https://www.facebook.com/groups/729157620446604/


Socks are one of the most requested items at homeless shelters, but they are also one of the least-donated items.

From December 9, 2017 (Parade of Spirits) through January 1, 2017, Distelfink Sippschaft will be collecting new, unworn socks for folks in need.

We need all sizes, from baby to adult male. Practical socks, fun socks, fuzzy socks, holiday socks, argyle socks are all needed!

Stock up stacks of socks and stockings and help to bring warmth to the feet of those in need this Yuletide!

Contact Robert L. Schreiwer (schreiwer@urglaawe.org) for collection sites.

The first location will be at Parade of Spirits/Krampuslauf in Liberty Lands Park.

Donations will be directed to homeless shelters in the Delaware Valley.


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!


Frick's Lock

Today several of us went on a tour of the "ghost town" of Frick's Lock, which was abandoned due to the construction of the Limerick Nuclear Power Plant. When I was in private school, I could see the towers of the plant being built from one of the windows in my dormitory. The town itself is not known for being "haunted," and it does not have that sort of feel to it at all. It does. however contain elements Deitsch history from the construction of the first home by a Swiss immigrant in 1757 into the modern era. That first house was built with Swiss banked architecture and was constructed right on a spring of the Schuylkill River so that water was attainable simply by stepping outside.

1757 House constructed by Grumbacher -
note that vandals broke the downstairs window.

The town eventually developed into a port on the Schuylkill Canal, which was a major economic artery for the transmission of coal from the north to Philadelphia and of food goods throughout the region. Echoes of the various canals, particularly the Schuylkill, are heard throughout the Deitscherei even into today. The town had a store right along the canal that operated 24/7. The tour operator called it "the Wawa of its day." It also had a very busy barn where mules and horses and other portions of the canal operations were housed.

The Wawa of its day

The barn is said to have a lot of "German" (very likely actually Deitsch) "graffiti" on the walls. This aspect has piqued my interest as other barns, mills, etc., are where runic symbols and other things of interest to Urglaawe have turned up in the past. Unfortunately, the current owner, Exelon (the major electricity supplier in the Delaware Valley) does not permit anyone to enter the barn building, so it is out of bounds for us. I am hoping that this ban may someday be reversed.

The Barn
The railroad eventually came to nearby Parkerford, thus beginning the end of the canal era, but Frick's Lock was still part of the region's fabric until the power plant was constructed and most of the town fell into its exclusionary zone. It seems a few of the houses that remain and that are outside of the exclusionary zone may eventually be rehabilitated into a visitors center or put to use for other purposes.

That which killed Frick's Lock


Deitsch Eclipse Lore

There are two types of stories related to eclipses. One is sort of "pro" eclipse and the other is rather "con" eclipse. 

An eclipse is called a "Finschderniss" (grammatically feminine, so it takes the article "die"), and an eclipse specifically of the sun is called "Sunnefinschderniss." "Finschderniss" is related to "finschder," means "murky" or "dark." The "pro" story is that Sunna and Muun were lovers (some say married) but that the jealous trickster Schadde had gotten between them (this is where the versions of the stories get confusing, which is why they still have not been published), but he somehow manages to persuade the god associated with sleep, Schlumm, to cast sleep spells on each of them. While they are asleep, Schadde sets them into the sky so that he is between them. 

Sunna and Muun do a dance through the skies, trying to be together, and , when a solar eclipse happens, it means they have achieved that goal, with Muun tossing Schadde behind him. An echo of the noise-making appears in this context with some respondents saying that they tap drinking glasses at this time, which is reminiscent of what people do at weddings when they want the bride and groom to kiss. The reason this is only "sort of" pro is that the way Schadde persuades Schlumm to set them to sleep has something to do with imbalance in Mannheem, and Sunna and Muun being together too long would have catastrophic results. Someday I will get that story's versions harmonized.

The other stories are akin to the Norse and other cultural stories: an animal (usually a fox or a wolf) is chasing the sun and catching it, and banging of pots and pans is performed to scare the animal away.

The first story reminds me a bit of this song...

Lady Sunshine und Mister Moon
können gar nichts dagegen tun,
daß sie am Himmel sich niemals trafen,
denn wenn er aufsteht, dann geht sie schlafen.

Lady Sunshine und Mister Moon
können gar nichts dagegen tun,
wenn sie auch träumen von einem Märchen,
ein Pärchen werden sie nie.

Da sind wir beide besser dran, viel besser dran,
weil mich dein Mund so oft ich will am Tage küssen kann.
Hier unten ist das Leben schön für dich und mich,
dein Mund sagt mir so oft ich will: 'Mein Schatz, ich liebe dich!'

Doch Lady, Lady Sunshine und Mister Moon
können gar nichts dagegen tun,
wenn sie auch träumen von einem Märchen,
ein Pärchen werden sie nie.

Lady Sunshine und Mister Moon
würden gern was dagegen tun,
dass sie so einsam dort oben wandern,
dass sie noch träumen, verliebt vom Andern.

Lady Sunshine und Mister Moon
können gar nichts dagegen tun,
wenn sie auch träumen von einem Märchen,
ein Pärchen werden sie nie. Nie! Nie!