The Guilds of Practitioners

This blog is written and maintained by members of the Oley Freindschaft Guild of Braucherei Practitioners and of the Guild of Urglaawe Braucherei and Hexerei Practitioners.

The Oley Freindschaft recognizes the totality of the practice of Braucherei, which includes the contexts of Christianity and of Urglaawe.

The Guild of Urglaawe Braucherei and Hexerei Practitioners is dedicated to the advancement of these traditions within the Urglaawe context.

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!

Sunday, February 26, 2017

Hailstones, Haagel Rune

The first hailstorm of the year is first transformational and the protective and definitely associated with Holle. The hailstorm heralds impending changes or shifts (good, bad, even neutral), and the saved hailstones bring Holle's protection and banishment of harm through the changes and through the year. 

Historically, refrigeration would have been problematic, so the stones would melt (also symbolic of the spring thaw in most cases, unless there was no hail until late int he year), and people would either drink the water from the fallen stones or they would save the water to pour to the growing garden or field plants when spring had set in. When refrigeration became more available, people began to save the stone throughout the year. There is no set removal time for saved stones, but I've never kept them past the Yuletide of the same year in which they were taken, and I generally put them out in the spring in the garden.

Aspects of this tradition appear to be echoes of the Haagel rune, which in Deitsch use has meanings akin to Hagalaz and Anglo-Saxan Hagal. The structure of the Deitsch rune looks more like that of the Younger Futhark than of the Elder Futhark; however, it is just as frequently depicted standing on two of its legs as it is on one. 

Haagel on its end
The same circumstance applies to the common six-point rosette symbols on hex signs, and many people believe that the rune and the rosette are related. Indeed, the meaning of the rosette in hex signs is similar to that of the Haagel rune: banishment and protection. 

Haagel as rosette on two legs
Haagel is a rune of proactive elemental Spirit, which places it useful in dealing with issues associated with reactive Spirit (depression, grief, death) and with elemental Earth issues (often digestive disorders), particularly of the reactive type (diarrhea, food poisoning, parasitic infections, etc., but, of course, always see a doctor, too!).

The rune may also be used in the general application of protection and also for transformation of the mind, of understanding, and in interpersonal relationships. It may applied for good or for ill, for terminations to allow new beginnings, for bringing about or confronting radical change, for inciting change in the self or others, for the expulsion unwanted baggage on the mind and the soul, and for dealing with the shadow of the self and the shadow sides of others. There is no rune in Deitsch practice more associated with both the application and the blocking or deflection of hexes, and indeed, skilled practitioners can use Haagel to transform hexes into blessings that draw energy from the sender. It is also the most commonly used rune in Urglaawe house blessings.

Along with Loch (Laguz), Haagel is a rune of mirrors, which brings in aspects associated with Berchta as well. While Loch is the reactive side of the mirror (that which looks back at the view), proactive Haagel is the eye seeking answers in the mirror. It is the seeker of wisdom, insight, and truth, and it is that which causes the active deflection of harm. 

Haagel, in both physical and runic form, has longstanding traditions within the Deitsch culture, and its lore and applications will continue to grow as Urglaawe evolves.