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As the days march closer to Oct 31, many of our communities are readying themselves for Samhain rituals and Halloween parties. But there are also some lesser known holidays being observed at this time. These holidays are equally as integral to the religious traditions of members of the Pagan, Heathen and Polytheist worlds. One of these is Allelieweziel – a twelve day festival celebrated by the Urglaawe community.
“As Germanic lore passed down to us through Braucherei relates, Holle relinquishes her hold on the Year-Wheel and turns it over to [Wudan] and upon the doorstep of Allelieweziel/Halloween we recognize the Death of the Spiritual Year and the birth of a certain darkness….of both the physical world and the spiritual world.” – Daniel Riegel, 2010Urglaawe is a Heathen tradition that honors the “Teutonic pantheon in the context of the Deitsch (Pennsylvania German) culture.” In modern American society, this is often mistakenly described as the Pennsylvania Dutch, due partly to the English pronunciation of the word Deitsch. However, the region’s cultural development, and subsequently the Urglaawe tradition, find its roots in Germanic traditions. Over time, this unique community of people evolved its own distinct culture, language, and religious practice.
Part of this tradition was the magical and healing practices of Braucherei and Hexerei. The practitioners of which maintained an oral tradition that was handed-down through subsequent generations and has become the very heart of the modern Urglaawe tradition.
Allelieweziel is a fall harvest celebration on the Urglaawe spiritual calendar. Similar to Samhain, it marks the end of the year and beginning of the dark times. The holiday is based on both on the oral folklore traditions and continued cultural research. In the Urglaawe religion, festivals begin at sundown. As such, Allelieweziel begins the evening of Oct 30 and continues for 12 days. The final day, called Ewicher Yeeger Sege, is Nov 11.
Die Urglaawisch Sippschaft vum Distelfink, a Urglaawe Kindred based in Pennsylvania, brings its members together around this time to celebrate and observe this traditional festival. And, this year was no different. For practical reasons, Distelfink kindred met on Oct 25 in Fleetwood, Pennsylvania to begin their seasonal celebration. Robert L. Schreiwer said, “We had a lively discussion about the reality of death, the appreciation for the life we have, recognition of the uniqueness of each individual, and the advancement of human consciousness from lifetime to lifetime.”Schreiwer is a trained practitioner of the Pennsylvania German healing tradition of Braucherei. He is one of the founders of the Heathen denomination of Urglaawe, the Ziewer (godsman) of Distelfink Sippschaft, assistant Steer for the Troth and manager of Heathens Against Hate. Schreiwer said, “We also talked about Gemietlichkeet that reflects a soul-satisfying joy emerging from a sense of belonging, and the honoring of those who have gone before.”
On the first day of Allelieweziel the transition begins from light to dark, with the twelve day festival occurring within a liminal space. According to the lore, as explained in numerous Urglawee publications, this is the time that the Goddess Holle takes her leave on The Wild Hunt. And, after she is gone, the figure of Ewicher Yeeger, sometimes associated with Holler or Herne the Hunter, protects the people and holds back King Frost.
But that’s a very condensed version of the rich and detailed mythology that has given way to s deep, modern spiritual practice. One of the features of Sunday’s Allelieweziel observance was the “Butzemann,” which is translated as “scarecrow.” Schreiwer explained that the Butzemann, ritually created in February, “is stuffed with the remnants of the previous years crop, and is “born” to be the father of the coming year’s crop.” Through the year, the Butzemann stands guard over the land and protects the harvest. Then, during Allelieweziel, he is released from all duties and transforms into the embodiment of sacrifice for both family and land.
Schreiwer said, “The Butzemann also becomes a messenger. He is told (or is given papers upon which is written) the things we want or need to banish from our lives. We then show him the seeds that will create the coming year’s crops.” During the Allelieweziel ritual, the Butzemann is burned; his ashes are spread on the land and his spirit is free to “depart on the Wild Hunt.” Schreiwer added that the old lore also suggests that there are serious spiritual punishments for not burning the Butzemann or for stealing his clothes.The unique mythology of this region runs deep, and the Distelfink kindred, which became a 501c3 in 2011, is keeping the spirit of these old ways alive. There are now Urlgawe kindreds across the U.S. and two in Canada. There are also Facebook groups devoted to specific traditional practices once found in the old Pennsylvania Deitsch culture. As noted by Schreiwer, this includes the “Fiber Arts, Artisans, Culinary Arts, Herbalism, Musicians, Language, and Customs.”
During this year’s celebration and observance, the Distelfink kindred honored both Wudan and Holle. The ritual, which was partly spoken in the Pennsylvania Deitsch language, began with an “Intonation of the Runes” and then proceeded through “The Hallowing,” a statement of purpose, offerings, oaths, blessings and, finally, the burning of the Butzemann. Schreiwer noted that the “heart hex sign [above the altar] reflects the ‘goal of all love’ … in the context of the holiday.” But laughing Schreiwer added that this heart was only used because their customary hex sign got lost by FedEx on its way back from the Parliament of the World’s Religions in Utah.
Although many Pagans and Heathens must schedule group holiday celebrations around modern schedules, the actual marked calendar days may still bring private observances for individual practitioners. With that in mind, there is still time to burn a Butzemann and make the appropriate offerings. Like Samhain, Allelieweziel arrives this weekend and, for the followers of Urglawe, it marks the end of one year and beginning of another.