En Neii Deitschi Faahne

The design of the flag is included with this post, and quality versions are already available for download and for free use (with no revision or edition) on social media. The physical flags are available for purchase, and we are still sampling larger flag options. Rachel Yoder and I are holding onto the intellectual and physical rights to the flag for a period of three years, by which time the meaning and the purpose of the flag will hopefully be well enough known within our communities. After that time, we will allow the flag to go to the public domain. We have begun discussions of Pennsylvania Dutch history over on the Deitscherei Facebook group, and, since I don't want that group to compete with this one, I invite Kolby Howell to work with me on the development of Pennsylvania Dutch history awareness projects and products. Our history helps to explain why we are still a distinct ethnic group even after our culture's demise was predicted hundreds of years ago.
Thank you! Robert Lüsch-Schreiwer

This new Pennsylvania Dutch flag is the result of interactions with three focus groups, the largest being on Facebook. The Facebook focus group included a diverse cross-section of the Pennsylvania Dutch community. People of different religious identities, political affiliations, sexual orientations, and gender identities were included in this group. Additionally, it was important to include potentially dissenting perspectives, so this group, in particular, included interested parties who had expressed concern about the idea of the development of this flag. The purposes of the focus groups included the need for more inclusivity in our ethnic symbols and the desire to simplify the presentation of the symbolism on our ethnic banner. This was a grassroots effort triggered initially by an idea and creative concept expressed by Robert Lüsch-Schreiwer and put into digital artwork by Deitsch Folk Artist and designer, Rachel Yoder. Rachel did this work pro bono for the love of our Deitsch community. Of the six designs presented in Draft Round 1, the majority of all of the focus groups voted for Flag #1, which was amended based on member feedback, and the current flag (commonly referred to as the Rosette Flag) was the winner. The challenger (the Tulip Flag) is being held in reserve for future use in a different capacity.
We understand that the grassroots effort might not be recognized by everyone and that people feel an attachment to the first flag. This is understandable, and, since there is no Pennsylvania Dutch government to make binding decisions, there will be variations in the levels of acceptance of this new flag. We do, though, request that this flag be given due consideration, and we encourage those who have an allegiance to the first flag to consider keeping it present as a reminder of the labor that went into its development while accepting the new flag for the features that are described later in this statement.
Additionally, the development of this new flag has inspired ideas to advance awareness of our own history within our communities. We invite academic institutions to participate in this effort, though we also recognize that school curricula can be very rigid. Over time, many of those polled in our focus groups have recognized the need for advocacy groups that can work to create more opportunities for the advancement of our language and culture. Thanks go to all who participated in this effort. We hope that everyone will continue the efforts to reinvigorate our Pennsylvania Dutch heritage!
One of the things that can be simultaneously challenging and liberating about being a culture with no central authority is that there can be many streams of influence on cultural identity and production of cultural materials. This is the case with the Pennsylvania Dutch culture, and it might be one of the reasons that we are called a "persistent minority." Predictions of the demise of our culture and language have been proven invalid time and time again since the Early Republic era. There are more speakers of the Deitsch language today than there were in 1980, and interest in the cultural values and history has spurred many people in the current generations to explore and to embrace their heritage zealously, but events of the early 20th century led to purposeful efforts to weaken the Pennsylvania Dutch culture (see Notes at the bottom for more information about the ending date of the Great Migration and anti-German hysteria prior to World War I). Despite all of the predictions and the shifts and challenges that all Americans have experienced over the last 100 years, we are still here!
Our ancestors' early arrival during the Colonial Era put them on the frontier and resulted in engagement with the Susquehannock that was starkly different from the way the English interacted with them. The same applied to interactions with the Lenape after William Penn's death in 1718. The end result was essentially the establishment of a Pennsylvania Dutch homeland after the Susquehannock fled (due in large part to the Paxton Boys incident) and the Lenape were forced out of Pennsylvania as punishment for being on the losing side of the French and Indian War (which would not have happened had the colonial government not swindled them on multiple occasions). This homeland, or Heemet is a large, non-contiguous region even today, and many parts of it are shared with our fellow Americans of many ethnic and cultural backgrounds.
In 1989, the first Pennsylvania Dutch flag was developed by Peter V. Fritsch at the behest of the Groundhog Lodges. It was a momentous development. The flag featured some of the contributions of the Pennsylvania Dutch to wider American society and also featured things that are associated with the Pennsylvania Dutch culture. I do not want to disrespect that flag because time, creativity, and love went into that effort. However, times do change, and cultures do evolve. Some of the symbols set the context of the flag in one religious context, which is admittedly an important component of life for the majority of Pennsylvania Dutch people. However, it automatically excludes those who are of a different belief system. The white background led to the flag appearing dirty very quickly when being flown outdoors, and many people polled in our focus group found the inclusion of so many features to cause the flag to be too busy. Additionally, the general feeling was that the flag was for the Heemet, and opinions from the Diaspora indeed suggested that they did not feel that the flag represented them.
As a persistent minority, we Pennsylvania Dutch share many cultural markers regardless of religion or location (communities turn up in many states and provinces as well as in Mexico and in several countries in South America). The attempts to suppress the culture impacted those in Diaspora more easily than it did those in the Heemet. The Diaspora is often left out of the discussions of the future, yet the thirst for connection to the culture is just as strong in those areas. The term "Deitscherei" was coined (full disclosure: by me) in 1986 to distinguish Pennsylvania Dutch Country from Germany. Prior to the introduction of this new term, most people were using "Deitschland" for both or they were using English to talk about our region here. The word Deitscherei has taken root and is even being used increasingly in video games that involve fictional war and mapping scenarios. This term is important to the significance of the new flag and is featured directly on it.
“Mir sinn die Deitscherei” (“We are [Pennsylvania] Dutch Country”). Where this flag is flown is Deitscherei because we carry it with us wherever we go. The Diaspora is as much of the Deitscherei as Lebanon County is, and we must recognize that our migrations and historical circumstances have led to diversity within us. There are people who are culturally Pennsylvania Dutch who might not have any ancestry from our original lands. Shared values and experiences are features of the evolution of our culture, and they have forged a bond among us. This flag is the flag of anyone who shares that bond.
I have purposely omitted an English translation from the design because I believe that Deitsch must be afforded space in which it stands on its own. Part of the flag’s purpose is to provide opportunities to teach the slogan and to explain other aspects of our cultural heritage and of our living, vibrant culture.
The double-headed Distelfink is still of one body, and the two heads can represent different things to different people. It is important to note that questions or concerns had arisen in the main focus group about whether it might have been rooted in the double-eagles of the Byzantines, Habsburgs, or Freemasons. The answer is no. This symbol was chosen because it can represent all of us; the meanings are open to interpretation by the viewer. Some examples of the interpretations of the meaning of the two heads are the following (this list is not exhaustive):
  • Plain and Fancy
  • Heemet and Diaspora
  • Christianity and Urglaawe
  • Spiritual and Agnostic
  • Urban and Rural
  • Past and Future, with the Heart being the Present
This the symbol does turn up in Plain sectarian works such as quilts. Two proposed version of the flag had the symbol surrounded by a circle. This made it appear more like a hex sign, which might result in some discomfort among the Plain members of the community, thereby impacting the symbol's ability to represent all of us in some way. Many Plain sectarians do not take on an identity with a flag or symbol, but it was important to the focus group that we took their beliefs and values into consideration so that the flag is inclusive to any who might take interest in it.
The use of purple in Deitsch art often calls to the sacred, the mysteries of existence, and to the totality of the self or the soul. The totality is of particular importance, I think, because we are looking to represent the totality of the Deitsch nation, which includes people of all sorts of backgrounds, religious identities, ethnicities, etc. That which brings us together is sacred. That which brings us together also ties us to those great mysteries. Purple is not a color that appears on many flags that represent a people, and, speaking personally, that is another attraction to me. Plus, the contrast make the colors in the symbol really pop.
The development of this flag took a significant amount of time, and the end result is something that will build recognition over time. It is not limited just to display on cloth; there are several important formats in which we would like to set the flag for wider accessibility. We need protected time for some of these, and we also want to be sure that the meaning of the flag becomes known as the flag itself becomes accessible. As such, we need to contain the right of production for profit to a few outlets until we are able to create the flag in the formats desired. At the end of three years after the date of this statement, we will relinquish all copyrights and allow the flag to be developed freely as part of our national expression. As of now, the image may be shared -- but not altered -- on social media as long as there is no use of it for profit by unauthorized parties.
The next step is going to be having samples created by a few different outlets, including established flag-makers in or near the Deitscherei. We will post when the flags become available. Please note that the flag is oriented in a portrait, as opposed to a landscape setting. This was the result of the splitting of the slogan into two segments. It is serving as an assertion that we Deitsche follow our own ways, but we will also work toward creating a landscape version. Because the slogan being split was among the most-cited suggestions, we will need to do some investigation on balancing the size and quality of the symbol in a landscape setting. For now, the flag is oriented in portrait.
The ending date of the Great Migration is debatable. The onset of the Napoleonic Wars in 1803 disrupted (but did not halt) the migration flow from all of the German-speaking lands. The Holy Roman Empire of the German Nation was dissolved in 1806, leaving behind turmoil that likely spurred even more people to want to leave. The successor, the German Confederation, was not established until 1815. Although the German Confederation was a strong alliance, it became, perhaps, as much of a political mess as was the Holy Roman Empire due to the problems in its very structure. The German Confederation experienced revolutions and changes that attempted to bring about the creation of a nation-state but fell short of that goal. It is widely accepted that the establishment of a German nation-state did not happen until 1871. This means that the Pennsylvania Dutch left before there was a German nation-state. Many of our forebears came from other lands that have never been part of Germany (Switzerland being a prime example). By 1915, we had long been a distinct ethnic group, and loyalties were to home and community, which were primarily established in the United States and Canada. From the time of the sinking of the Lusitania (May 7, 1915), the United States had seen a rise in anti-German sentiment, and this spilled over onto the Pennsylvania Dutch. Most of our forebears had no connection to the German Empire, and the family lore of many -- if not most -- Pennsylvania Dutch clans paints a very unpleasant picture of life prior to the migration. Indeed, we were the first people to come en masse to the Colonies as refugees. Many were fleeing the decaying feudalism and religious persecutions that were hallmarks of the era. The ravages of the Thirty Years' War (which is still one of the most destructive conflicts in human history, resulting in a loss of 20% of the European population, with some areas seeing up to 60% loss). The destruction made life unbearable, so the forebears heeded William Penn's call to the make the dangerous journey to his Colony. In some cases, entire villages quit the land that they had lived on for centuries because there was no other hope left for them. Some had suffered as Redemptioners in order to find a better life. In other words, there was no basis for loyalty to the Kaiser, so (as is usually the case in these situations) the anti-German rhetoric was targeting innocent people.
The ramifications of this hysteria cannot be understated. It resulted in efforts to dismantle the culture. German could not be taught in schools (a great many educational institutions in Pennsylvania were founded by Pennsylvania Dutch people). Outright oppression often results in backlash, so the efforts undertaken were the use of the legal system and the news outlets to frame traditional practices in contexts that would be subject to Blue Laws. The messaging in schools was that the traditional ways were backward, thereby reinforcing the stereotype of the Dumb Dutchman. The generation born in the interwar period felt a pressure to abandon the language and to take on an "American" rather than a "Pennsylvania Dutch" identity (the two do not have to be mutually exclusive, but historical facts should never be allowed to interfere with a good fear campaign). Even when I was boy in the 1970's, we were told that the accent would be a hinderance to our success in life. This process began to reverse itself in the 1980's, and now the demand for Deitsch classes exceeds the number of classes available.
There are prices to pay for not learning the lessons of history. Colonial history is very poorly taught in the United States. The Pennsylvania Dutch played key roles in many events during that period and through the Civil War, and we always followed our own ways. Since our history is not given proper coverage in most schools, it is up to our communities to produce resources. If you have never heard of the Germantown Anti-Slavery Protest, Cresap's War (also called the Conojocular War), or Fries's Rebellion, you might find Pennsylvania Dutch history to be far more interesting than the stories of simply getting off of a boat and immediately farming land and living happily ever after!


Der Voryuul

 Heele zu de Grenzeziewe… Die, vun de dunkle Ort, vun unner der Schwell, un die datt im Draamzuschtand… Losset uns alldiweil darrich der Voryuul vun de lanne.

Hail to the liminal deities… They, of the dark places, from under the threshold of consciousness, and those in the dream state. Let us learn from them at this time of Voryuul.


The 337th Anniversary

July 6 marks the anniversary of a major event in Deitsch history, and, as such I'd like to hail the Netherlands Dutch and their forebears and ancestors.

The flag of the Netherlands
On this date in 1683, the first ship, the Concord departed from Rotterdam in the Netherlands. On this ship the first "official" settlers who would begin the story of the Pennsylvania Dutch nation.

Thus, on this date (it is July 6 in Rotterdam now), the Great Migration of the Germans to Pennsylvania began.

We Pennsylvania Dutch are ultimately mostly Germans speaking a German dialect and bringing together customs from many German lands. We have evolved as a unique "tribe" or "nation." The moniker of "Pennsylvania Dutch" confuses many people, and much of that confusion is due to a change of the meaning of the word "Dutch" in English, which once had a wider meaning than it does today.

Additionally, we call ourselves "Deitsch," which sounds a bit like "Dutch," and, as was the case with the Concord, many of our early forebears arrived on ships that departed Europe from ports in the Netherlands. The Concord's departure was an indelible moment in the settlers lives that lives on in the presence of the ship on the Deitsch flag today.

The Deitsch flag with the Concord in the center.
Our migration included many people from the Netherlands as well. Although the first arrivals on the Concord were German speakers from Krefeld, some of their surnames were decidedly Dutch.

In many ways, your ancestors were heroes. They got my ancestors out of the wreckage that was the Palatinate after all of the ravaging wars. So, on behalf of my ancestors who I know traveled through Rotterdam, I thank the forebears and the Dutch of the current era.

The Dutch and the Pennsylvania Dutch, though we have separate identities, share strong historical and cultural bonds that are only increasing as the gods and goddesses bring us closer together.

Hail to Holle!

Hail to Nehalennia!

Hail to the Netherlands and to the Dutch people!

May your light always shine brightly!


Der Ziegdaag

Ziegdaag is an Urglaawe observance derived from the old Deitsch Moving Day, which typically fell on April 1. 

We are currently in an unprecedented transition time on a global level. Everyone is impacted, and some of the adjustments are difficult to make, and, as the COVID-19 virus continues to spread, things might continue to get more difficult to cope with.

Enter Ziegdaag. Ziegdaag was (and in some places still is) the “moving day” when tenant farmers and other business operators who rented their shops packed up to move to a new location. It was a very big deal as many families would be moving at the same time, leading to crowded roads, families helping each other, and a genera; fast pace to get things accomplished before sunset. The traditional date is April 1, so Ziegdaag for Urglaawe begins at sunset on March 31.

Der Ziegdaag is about change or transformation in all aspects: the need for change, the fear of change, the agents of change, those who think outside of the box, the trickster figures, the sagacious figures who solve problems, escape from traps, or change the world. This its about change in all forms, from the weather to the way in which one views oneself. This year, I would like to strongly advise participants to consider the changes that are emerging with the shutdowns, quarantines, and curfews. What will life be like on the other side of this crisis? Thinking about it actually makes me a little frightened, to be honest, but there are realities that we as individuals, as part of communities, as nations, and as inhabitants of Earth will have to go through as part of the recovery from this disruption in our daily lives.

Now is the time to use emerging information and to attempt to plan for the worst while striving for the best. All of this, of course, sounds great on paper; it’s not. For many of us, this time is going to really suck.It is important that we all prepare ourselves as much as possible for the trauma. It is normal and ok to feel scared, angry, lost, and depressed. Give yourself the time to recognize the harm that this disruption is doing to you as an individual. Some might find themselves having to grieve the life that they used to know. Go through the process; let it out. Then, over a few days, begin to remind yourself that what you are feeling is normal but that those emotions must begin to take a back seat to recovery efforts. The coping mechanisms will be different for different people, but, perhaps readers can share ideas about how they are coping with the crisis.

Otherwise, observance pairs nicely with April Fool’s Day and the unpredictable weather of this particular time of year. In terms of the Lewesraad, or the wheel of the year, this represents the time of transition from childhood into adolescence, when change is difficult and awkward, yet it is a part of life that we must go through.

Another adjustment is that this observance and ritual will need to be done via videoconference due to the realities of this time.


Unlike the Norse lore with Loki, Germanic lore does not have one particularly prominent agent of change. Instead, our folklore is riddled with innumerable characters, some of whom may be rooted in real people, others who have their origins in Heathen lore, and yet others who are entities whose lore we are still picking apart. This year, we will focus mostly on the Mountain Giant known as Riewezaahl, but we will look at a few others as well.


Schadde (sometimes appears as Schaade) is a trickster figure in a broken Deitsch story in which he manipulates Schlumm, a deity or giant associated with sleep, into blowing darts that put starcrossed lovers Sunna and/or Muun to sleep, thus allowing for Schadde to place them into the sky so they will never be able to consummate their love. He does this out of jealousy, yet this action sets the tides that allow for life on Earth to thrive. Sunna and Muun meet at eclipses, and they are able to use light and reflection to have children on the Earth in the form of dandelions. There appears to be a
reckoning that results in Schadde having to restrict his own movement, but this part is unclear. This story is, unfortunately, missing some other pieces, too, and we have not finished putting what we do have in order as a result.

However, Schadde appears in at least two other fragments of tales, both of which appear to involve cunning and/or setting things straight for the betterment of all involved parties.


Perhaps based in an actual human, the stories of Till are widely known in the German, Dutch, and Flemish cultures. Till isba true trickster in many ways. He thinks outside the box, engages periodically in buffoonery, and has a knack for overturning conventional wisdom. His name reflects the latter; “Eileschpiggel” translates to “owl mirror,” with the owl representing wisdom, and the mirror symbolizing the reflection or the opposite of that wisdom. In some sense, Till is an anti-hero, but, at this time of year, it is worthy to consider the wit and out-of-the-box thinking that are the inspirations for
this character.


NOTE: Do not address him directly as Riewezaahl, Riebzaahl, Rübezahl, or anything similar. The term of respect is Der Bariyeharr or the Mountain Lord, but he calls himself Rips when in human form. 

This Giant, whose nickname means “turnips count,” is known in the lore of both Germanic and Slavic cultures. During an interview with a Hexerei practitioner, the topic of the Frost Giants' Wonnetzeit attack came up, and the elderly women asked me if I knew much of Riewezaahl ("turnips count”; using this name because she used it to ask the question.). I had not heard of this being prior to this conversation, and she told me she remembered from her youth her mother talking about Riewezaahl. She said that her mother described Riewezaahl as a irritable Mountain Giant who has a strong ability to bring about unstable weather and would occasionally simply cause trouble because "that is what Giants do." Since that time, I have come across a few other references to him, including him causing squalls and sudden windstorms, earthquakes, and more.

Rips appears in many Silesian legends, and there is a strong historical Silesian presence among the Deitsch in the particular area in which I was doing interviews. Although some of the information I am coming across treats him like a god, but even more information indicates that he is not a pleasant spirit and has more attributes that would place him among the Giants, specifically a Mountain Giant.
The lore emanates mostly from the Germans and Slavs of Silesia and Bohemia. Grimm (Volume II, p. 480) refers to him as a wood-sprite and has some notes regarding him that may link him to Knecht Ruprecht, but there is not an ample description there.

There are tales in which Rips is a helpful trickster and a shapeshifter (the theme of transforming turnips into people or vice-versa comes up occasionally in Germanic lore). Folks may be interested in checking out this article:

Further readings into Silesian lore turn up a very complex Giant who is capable of meting out his own forms of justice. In the book, Silesian Folk Tales (The Book of Rübezahl), by James Lee, M.D., and James T. Carey, A.M., we see the following:

- He is a Mountain Giant with trickster and shapeshifter characteristics.

- His stories frequently involve people in motion, people moving, people in need of change, etc., and he captures the spirit of the Ziegdaag "moving day" features in many ways.

- He appears as many different types of beings, including men, women, etc.
- He aids people who try to improve themselves or to help others.

- He is not to be messed around with, or one will find oneself being beaten to death and hanging from a tree or being rooted firmly into the ground in the middle of a busy marketplace.

- His stories feature a lot of common tasks, including herb collecting, spinning, etc.

- Blue cornflower, already connected to some long life and other magical concepts in Deitsch lore, turns up in at least one of his myths.

- Dreams and dream states turn up in quite a few of these stories, which reminds me more than a bit of Schlumm.

- He plays a prank on an abusive husband that changes the domestic situation in the house (although I think the husband deserved more punishment than he got).

So, in the context of the Ziegdaag observance, focus on this trickster figure’s ability to bring about change through appearing as common folk but performing uncommon tasks. One may also want to consider that he can be capricious; he starts off disliking some people he encounters but a curious aspect to a that person may cause him to give that person a chance. If you irritate him, it is at your own risk.


Entschtanning 12: Es Lichderfescht

(Note: Entschtanning 2-11 are posted on www.urglaawe.net).

Tonight at sunset we begin the closing of the Entschtanning observance, although the Entschtanning “season” actually runs up until the Spring Equinox observance next month. 

Tonight is what we Urglaawer call “es Lichtfescht” or, more correctly in Deitsch, es Lichderfescht, which is our festival of lights. On Night 3, we discussed the cleaning of the hearth and of other fire-bearing vessels, including candleholders. This echoes pre-Christian customs that ended up featured as part of Christian Candlemas practice (Yoder 49-50). 

As the interviews and collecting of stories from across the Deitscherei progressed, some interesting interpretations of the use of light during this time emerged. Some of these were “superstitions” and involved sympathetic magic; others were more philosophical.

The superstition that turned up most frequently was an idea that we sometimes hear of at Yule: adding light to the night will help to strengthen the Sun. One elderly man likened the ritual practice of lighting candles from Groundhog Day onward to a parent pushing and guiding a learning child’s bike and then releasing hold when the child had acquired ample balance to move alone. 

The philosophical interpretations are more far-reaching. The whole of this observance is about enlightenment, conscious and conscientious living. At this time, we strive to finish the preparations for the ideas that we developed for the New Year at Yule. We are to be ready to put those ideas into effect by Oschdre in March. 

This brings us to the mind shift (Umdenk) that we often speak about when one converts from monotheism (particularly Christianity) to Heathenry. Within the Urglaawe community, this shift was first expressed by my kinsman, Daniel Riegel, prior to his passing in 2011. He described the mind shift in the context of embracing the dark half of the year, which was consistent with many others’ experiences of recognizing the totality of the self, shadow and all. This recognition of our whole being is not the same as accepting ourselves “as is” and not striving to be better. Instead, it is using the totality of ourselves in order to become the best we can be.

There is a tendency in our society to pretend the shadowy sides of ourselves do not exist. We bury them deeply, and we are ashamed of them. This attitude is pervasive in some Plain sectarian communities, and it is rooted in Christian orthodoxy. Shadow sides are generally viewed as being “evil” or profane. Orthodoxy, meaning that one is required to believe a certain way, trumps orthopraxy, meaning that one is required only to practice the same way within a group. Orthodoxy leads to dogma, and dogma leads to suppression of variant ideas. 

One of the more common beliefs within Urglaawe is that the deities want for us to be at the end of this cosmic cycle where they were at the beginning of it. To achieve this, we have to grow as a race of beings. Such growth, particularly an evolution of consciousness, is very difficult when the largest religions in the world actively attempt to limit questioning and independent thought. 

Maintaining perspectives from Christianity while practicing Heathenry can result in confusion. Our relationships to the deities and to our ancestors differ from that of the Christian understanding. Our relationship to the world around us differs (see Night 6). It is difficult to wrap one’s head around the idea that there may be multiple “truths” or that our deities have individual personalities that may lead them even into conflict with each other. 

And, at the risk of offending some readers of this post, the “lore” is not Gospel, and to treat the myths as such can lead one to become, for want of a better phrase, a “Christian dry drunk.” The baggage of orthodoxy remains even though the trappings of the religion have changed. Germanic Heathenry has never (at least within the period in which history has been written down) been monolithic. Different tribes knew different deities in different ways… and that is wonderful!

Ditching the mindset of Christianity is critical. We are not “fallen.” We do not need an intercessor to remove the stain of sin. We have the ability and responsibility to improve ourselves, yes, but we do so to create a better future for ourselves and for our descendants, not because we have a bill to pay from the past. 

During Lichderfescht, we embrace this ability and this duty to bring enlightenment into ourselves, our communities, and our world. 

This ends the musings of the Entschtanning season. The next Urglaawe observance is Grumbieredaag (“Potato Day”) on March 17, which is the first planting of the season.

Hail to those who have gone before and the wisdom they left us!

Hail to those yet to come. May we be worthy of their honor!

Yoder, Don. Groundhog Day. Mechanicsburg, PA: Stackpole Books, 2003. ISBN: 0-8117-0029-1.


Entschtanning 1: What's the Deal with the Groundhog?

The Groundhog (Deitsch: Grundsau, actually a "ground sow") bears some similarities to Ratatosk, the squirrel that runs up and down the World Tree, Yggdrasil, bringing news of the nine worlds. 

While we have a Tree of Life (Lewesbaam) in Deitsch culture and in Urglaawe, our forebears saw similar imagery in other contexts as well, including the very land which they farmed. Groundhog burrows are often complex, with different rooms and multiple openings, all of which are used as allegories to the other realms of existence. The forebears thus set an analogy between the burrow and the Nine Worlds. 

Thus, the Groundhog is the otherworldly messenger. The Groundhog brings news and prognostication from all of the visited realms. For an agricultural people, the short-term weather is naturally something that the people would like to know, which is probably why that particular feature was passed on to the wider American culture.

Within the Deitsch culture, the Groundhog Lodges often present other prognostications, sometimes presented in humorous contexts. Some farmers and some Hexerei practitioners observe the behavior of groundhogs and other animals at this time to make other determinations as well. 

I am not so well versed in some of those, but one practitioner told me that the depth of, and the slope to, the first room in a groundhog burrow can serve as an indicator of wet or dry weather. If the first room is fairly close to the surface or is of a fairly steep slope, then the weather will be mostly dry. If the slope is not steep or if the room is higher than its entrance from the burrow, then one should expect wet weather. There are other behaviors that are examined as well. 

Most historians will grant that Groundhog Day has its roots in heathen-era German practices, but the origins stretch back likely even further. Predicting weather or other things that can impact crops is a practice that transcends cultures, and observing the behavior of animals is an important tool in the forebears' kit. It was certainly not the only tool; lunar phases, historic weather patterns, river depths, etc., all were (and are) considered as well.

Remember that the events in Punxsutawney are not organic. We're not watching the behavior of a groundhog in the wild. Thus, what may seem to be a silly observance with frequent inaccuracies is not the whole of the story. The annual events in Punxsutawney (and other places) certainly helped to keep the essence of the lore alive, but the true significance of Groundhog Day is masked by the commercial pomp and circumstance of the day.

Groundhog Day is actually a visceral observance. It comes from a time when people had few reliable means of knowing when they could plant, and they relied upon their relationship with nature and with the animals to make determinations about the consumption of remaining food stores and to plan for the planting. 

Thus, this weekend we shall honor the Groundhog and remember our interdependence on the animal kingdom around us.