The Rootlessness of "Amish Mafia"

If you are watching "Amish Mafia" on right now, please do yourself a favor and turn off the television.


I watched it once and got sick to my stomach... 

Most folks' understanding of the Amish is based on a romanticized, tourism-driven surreality. In many ways, the Amish benefit from it but are equally victimized by it. There are certain aspects of Amish culture, particularly the "tribal" aspects that result in far more community interaction than reliance on the government, that I very much admire. However, those same aspects are visible in Old Order Mennonite and numerous other Plain sects culture but with far less complication by Rumschpringe, shunning, and other sectarian aspects that have resulted in a national obsession that ranges from "Amish" semi-pornographic romance novels to shows like "Amish Mafia."

I most definitely believe that the Amish community near Nickel Mines changed after the shooting in their school in 2006. I can understand the community feeling defenseless and victimized and, perhaps, seeking protection from anyone who appears to care for them. However, I do not trust any "reality" television show to serve a positive purpose for any community, and the Amish around Nickel Mines are now being victimized by commercial television. 

My family was talking about all of this over the holidays, and I suggested to them that, instead of watching television to see others' realities become blurry or shattered, they would be far better served by making their own realities and the lives of those around them better through actually working to build the communities that the romanticized visions portray. Even if it is technically impossible, it is not a bad thing to strive always to make things better... hence the Urglaawe slogan of "Macht's immer besser!" ("Make it always better!") superseding the traditional "Macht's gut" ("Make it good.").

What is the purpose of shows like this? I am guessing that it is to profiteer off of the deconstruction of the romanticized notion of the Amish. Thus, instead of showing them as human beings with dreams, desires, needs, etc., they are shown either as paragons of Deitsch culture or are used to perpetuate the stereotypes of the Dumb Dutch, etc. Television shows like this are rootless and are among the forces of chaos. They discourage introspection and encourage ignorance.

Hollerbeer Haven, Fall 2012

The .PDF version of the Fall 2012 edition of Hollerbeer Haven is now available for free download. This is a fairly large file, so please be patient during the download.

This is the first of a series of important articles regarding the practice of Braucherei within the Urglaawe context. We also take a look at the little spilanthes plant, which is an odd-looking but awesome plant for one's herbal medicine cabinet!

The Winter 2012 issue will discuss some of Urglaawe's philosophies and other significant aspects of the Urglaawe faith. 

Macht's immer besser!


Hollerbeer Haven, Spring 2012

The .PDF version of the Summer 2012 edition of Hollerbeer Haven is now available for free download. This is a fairly large file, so please be patient during the download.

This issue covers topics such as our folks' experiences at Trothmoot 2012 and our Hoietfescht and Freyfaxi event/ The plant of the quarter is Monarda Punctata/ 

Mach's immer besser!


A Dictionary of Urglaawe Terminology

The first widely accessible Urglaawe book is now available on Lulu.com.

This book is a repository of the terms, concepts, symbols and mythological references used in the Heathen path of Urglaawe. The entries include the cultural values, spiritual awareness, and wisdom carried through the centuries in the oral lore of the Elder healing practice of Braucherei, which is also known as Pow Wow. Included in the entries are traditions and customs that are part of the living Deitsch, -- Pennsylvania German or Pennsylvania Dutch -- folk culture. Adherents to Heathen paths, including Ásatrú, Irminenschaft, Theodism, Forn Sidr, Odinism, and other traditions, will find these entries useful as they provide another voice to the totality of the Teutonic folk experience.


Hollerbeer Haven

Hollerbeer Haven, formerly Hollerbeier Haven, the journal of the Three Sisters Center for the Healing Arts, is now a quarterly publication of Distelfink Sippschaft! 

We are making Hollerbeer Haven 14 - Volume 5, Issue 1 - Spring 2012 available in .PDF format at no cost. Former active subscribers to the Three Sisters Center guild will receive printed copies of the first three issues.

We hope you find it enjoyable!


Underscoring the Suppression

Last month, our fellow Freindschaft member and Braucherei practitioner, Patrick Donmoyer, was approached by the Reading Eagle as research for an article regarding some documents that had been found in the Historical Society of Berks County. The documents had been at the Society since June 1946.

Included with the documents was a note describing that the documents had been found nailed to a barn wall in New Jerusalem, PA, which is in Berks County's Rockland Township. The documents were not the only charms found at the barn. Over the course of time, some charred bones and other protective charms or amulets had been discovered there.

Patrick confirmed that the four charms among the documents were written around the year 1900 by Braucher Joseph Hagemen of Reading. Although Hagemen was a well known and widely trusted Braucher among the Deitsch, he was also a target of what later became a systematic effort to undermine all aspects of the Deitsch culture, including the language, the folk unity, and, especially Braucherei. This effort, known as die Unnerdricking ("the Suppression") consisted of an alliance, though perhaps not a conscious one, between the state government, scholastic institutions, medical associations, and non-Deitsch church establishments. What common threads might bring these disparate groups together?

The Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, for starters, had always had to contend with the huge tract of land in which the Deitsch were in the majority. Some Deitsch anecdotes imply that, as late as 1920, one could drive from Germantown to the outskirts of Pittsburgh without ever needing to speak English. Now, while such an anecdote may require a rather circuitous route in order to be true, the underlying fact is that a huge chunk of Pennsylvania remained "unassimilated."

Around the year 1900, the European political stage was becoming tense with the rise of one Germanic power in Prussia and the slow decay of another Germanic power in Austria. Anti-German sentiment was on the rise in the United States long before our entry into World War I. This sentiment, enhanced by the sinking of the Lusitania in 1915 and American entry into the war in 1917, brought about a widespread fear of the German-speaking "foreigners" within our own homeland.

Despite the fact that the Deitsch remained loyal (Fries' Rebellion notwithstanding) and fought in the Revolution, the War of 1812, the Mexican-American War, the Civil War, the Spanish-American War, and in any number of more localized conflicts, our ancestors were still viewed as foreigners, and, at the onset of the war, a fifth column for the Kaiser. The state perceived the Deitsch as a threat, and, therefore, had reasons to assert itself into the folk evolution. Series of harassments and work camp check-ins (a topic for another blog posting) continued throughout the war.

One might think that World War I served as a lesson of the loyalty of the Deitsch, but the same, perhaps more aggravated, anti-German sentiment lived on between the wars and became more pronounced during World War II. Even after World War II, many Deitsch felt stigmatized and victimized by anti-German sentiment. Language suppression continued well into the 1960's, and, in some places, into the 1970's, even while other languages were asserting their right to be spoken everywhere.

What of the medical associations? The rise of modern medicine is, on the one hand, an good thing. Most Brauchers will not tell anyone not to see a certified medical doctor. Antibiotics are, when used responsibly, a good thing, too. However, with the rise in modern medicine came a rise in power, money, and influence. Where there is money, there is corruption. Not all aspects of modern medicine are so good. We take all sorts of toxic medications, many of which have natural -- and safer -- alternatives. Those alternatives, though, are often much cheaper than the toxins that pollute our environment now.

Medical practitioners often arrogantly disparage any form of traditional healing. In many ways, this behavior is absurd. After all, whence come the earliest medicines but from the herbs and plants around us? One need not look much further than willow bark or meadowsweet to see the origins of aspirin. It is also interesting how post-modern scientific review is now lending credence to some of the practices once held in disdain by science.

The state, of course, found ways to utilize the rising medical establishment as a tool for the suppression. Sometimes, outright persecution of a practice results in a defiant adherence to it. It is much more effective to mock it and make it look stupid and backward, which is exactly what the medical establishment did. This same tactic, by the way, was employed by the Soviet Union to undermine the folk doctors and shamans of the Siberian tribes, thus bringing their people in line with Moscow's vision of the New Soviet Man. Of course, the New Soviet Man did not speak a Mordvin language or have the appearance of a Chukchi. Likewise, the New American Man did not speak Deitsch or have the appearance of a Lenape.

What of scholastic institutions? What role did they play? Initially, the Deitsch were in the process of creating their own higher education establishments, which is where institutions like Kutztown University originate. Otherwise, particularly as it applies to primary and secondary education, the schools form the apparatus of the state, which used them to perpetuate the stereotype of the Dumb Dutchman and to belittle and to weaken our heritage and cultural identity. The 1911 ban on the instruction of German in schools formed the basis for a program of the dissolution of the Deitsch culture, so much so that by the time I was in school in the late 1960's, we were told that the Deitsch language, accent, and other cultural indicators were a detriment to our success in life. Imagine educators expressing such opinions today!

Then there are the non-Deitsch religious institutions. Granted, not all "Deitsch" religious groups embrace Braucherei. However, while many sects will not accept the totality of Braucherei due to its Heathen core, most will recognize facets of it, such as the "laying on of the hands," that are consistent with their particular denomination's beliefs.

The larger churches, particularly the Lutherans, Reformed, and Catholics, viewed Braucherei as part of the folk culture and folk religion. Thus, they generally did not view the practice as a problem. It was an innate part of their heritage, just as it was for Heathen practitioners as well as for many smaller religious denominations. While that is not to say that there were never any issues with the established churches in the Deitscherei, there were not, on the whole, a great number of problems. The troubles began primarily with the exposure of the Deitsch folkways to the evangelical churches of other ethnicities. These troubles began prior to 1830 with the Anglo-American evangelical attempts to order American social life and to keep it in line with the church (see Foreigners in Their Own Land, by Steven M. Nolt, chapter 5). 

As time went on, some of the churches, particularly those that were obsessed with legislating morality and who feared a demon behind every elm tree, began to denounce Braucherei as sorcery, Satanism, evil, etc. These fearful individuals have a tendency, even now, to spread hysteria and concern about everyone (usually, of course, neglecting to notice the holes in their own lives). Thus, the state and they became each other's tools. In their minds, they were saving the souls of everyone touched by the millennia-old practice. In the state's mind, it was saving the Commonwealth from the threat of the unassimilated Deitsch.

Such nonsense.

Fortunately, cooler heads prevail these days in the Deitscherei, and we are witnessing a resurgence in the practice and knowledge of Braucherei in all contexts. With a bit more of a struggle, we are also seeing an increase in the number of Deitsch speakers. However, the literacy rate and the mastery of grammar among those speakers is questionable, so we must work harder at standardizing the language. 

While strides with the language are being taken in the Urglaawe community with its summer language Vorschul, the wider community is still sitting mostly idle, waiting for someone else to take action.

It is only with effort and the sharing of resources and goals that we will be able to render the Suppression a total failure.


Old Dutchified English Humor

A solid Dutchman was standing at a certain place on last election day, inquiring for "de reglar Democratic dicket," when a shrewd fellow instantly stepped up and supplied him with the genuine thing.

"Vell, now," says Hans, "vot now vil I do mit 'im?"

"Put it in that box," exclaimed several people, pointing at the ballot box. But the cunning chap who had accommodated Hans with the "dicket" whispered in his ear:

"Don't let them fool you. Don't put it in the box. Keep it; put it in your pocket. It's yours; don't let them cheat you out of your vote."

And so Hans did, ramming the ticket away down to the bottom of a deep pocket in his overcoat and walking off as mad as he could be at the rogues who wanted to cheat him out of his vote by putting it in the ballot box.

-- edited from an entry in the Pottsville Miners' Journal of February 18, 1860


500 New Fairy Tales (Folk Tales?) Found in Germany

The discovery of a cache of fairy tales -- hopefully also folk tales -- has been discovered in Germany. These tales were the collection of Franz Xaver von Schönwerth, and they had been locked away in a Regensburg archive for over 150 years. 


Given the area in which the research was conducted, I am hoping that some of these tales may be versions of tales that are known in varied forms among the Deitsch.

I am also hoping that many of the tales contained therein are folk tales as opposed to fairy tales. Ruth Bottigheimer (SUNY Stony Brook) differentiates between the two in “Fairy Tales: A New History.” I do not personally agree with everything she writes in the book, though. My primary objections to her theories is that she seems to treats any folk tale or fairy tale that was passed among the upper classes of German society with a sense that they are not as valid as those passed among the lower classes. Personally, I disagree with that notion.

Many of Grimm’s fairy tales are actually folk tales, involving no “supernatural” beings. The folk tales often transmit more data about the culture and beliefs than do the fairy tales, which can provide us with insight into the different types of beings seen in the cosmology of the Heathen, syncretic, and post-conversion eras. Bottigheimer’s delineations are more complex that that simple distinction, but that is one of the more clear differences.

I ordered the book on Amazon.de and am anxiously awaiting the arrival of these “new” fairy tales. :)



Today is Shrove Tuesday, known as the Fasching, the Faschtnacht (fasting night), the Entschtanning ("the coming into existence"), or the Uffdredde ("the emergence") which is observed all across Europe and around the world in many different ways. This is the culmination of Carnival in Brazil and Italy. It is Mardis Gras in Cajun Country. Similar costumed events take place in most of Europe. I remember from my time spent in the erstwhile Yugoslavia that Shrove Tuesdsay was the night for a type of tricks-or-treats among the Croatian children.

In the Deitscherei, this is the day upon which we eat some artery-clogging, yet delicious, deep-fried doughnuts called "Faschtnachtskuche," or simply "fastnachts" in English.

So what is the purpose of all these observances? In the Christian context, Fasching is the last celebration before the onset of Lent, which starts on Ash Wednesday tomorrow. The purposes of items like the fastnachts is to consume the remaining lard in the household so it is used rather than wasted during the fasting time. As far as I can tell, the consumption of Faschtnachtskuche, King cakes, pancakes, or similar foods is a tradition stemming from Christianity. It may have its ultimate origin in Judaism's removal of chametz prior to Passover. Deitsch tradition is that Faschtnachtskuche must not be consumed after the onset of Ash Wednesday.

It is virtually indisputable that the costume parades have their roots in Heathen traditions related to the Wild Hunt. In the pre-Christian era, the parades would likely have taken place at various times in early- to mid-February and would have been tethered to the observance that we now know as Groundhog Day.

As with other Wild Hunt depictions (Halloween, King Frost, Belsnickeling/Yule, Mummenschanz, April Fool (possibly), and May Day), the purposes of the parades are a complex weaving of honoring deities, ancestors and compassionate spirits, of placating baneful spirits, and of exerting efforts to hasten the arrival of the growing season. Certainly the Perchtenmaske, or the masks of Berchta, have their roots in Heathen lore; however, the gruesome characteristics may be a result of the condemnation of the cult of Berchta by Catholic authorities in the 15th century.

The Heathen practices were originally tied to lunar calendar observances but eventually became associated with February 2. The timing of Shrove Tuesday comes from the Christian calendar and moves in accordance with the Computus' determination of the timing of Christian Easter.

A hint of the connection between the Heathen events of Groundhog Day and modern Shrove Tuesday may be found in Croatia's creating of the "mesopust," which is a doll made to represent a man who is treated like a scapegoat. This sounds very much like a Butzemann, except the Butzemann is honored rather than burdened, and the Butzemann takes vanquished habits and negative energies with him in fire on Allelieweziel (Halloween). While the Butzemann is typically created for Groundhog Day, it is not uncommon to have his creation occur later in the month. It is quite possible that the traditions of the mesopust and the Butzemann stem from the same traditions.

In the Deitscherei, another aspect of the Fasching is that the last person in the household to arise in the morning is deemed "the Faschtnacht," "der Faas," "der Faschingkluck," or myriad names. When I was growing up, within our household, the last child to arise in the morning of the Fasching had to do one extra chore by the end of the day. Customarily, in many Deitsch households, the last child has to tolerate teasing by his siblings all day long.

The same applies to the last child to arrive at school on Shrove Tuesday.

In the past, there were some rather elaborate teasing rituals involving the clucking sound of chickens in school. As the children arrived, the girls would cluck like hens and the boys would crow like roosters. As another child would arrive, he/she would receive instructions that he could not cluck or crow like the others until yet another child arrived. Instead, the last child would have to call out, "Hallo Faas!" to the next arriving child (see Alfred L. Shoemaker's Eastertide in Pennsylvania, Stackpole Books, 2000, pp. 1-2).

If a child erred and clucked or crowed, there were penalties involved, particularly having to give a kiss to a member of the opposite gender. Girls, in particular, were encouraged to kiss any boy who caught their fancy.

The clucking, crowing, and kissing sound like they were originally part of some sort of fertility-related ritual. Speaking as a teacher in the post-modern era, I can say that I would be more than a little bit disquieted by my students engaging in this behavior. However, the tradition was clearly in effect well into the 20th century, and aspects of it may well live on in parts of the Deitscherei even now.

Enjoy your Faschtnachskuche, everyone!


Interesting note about Groundhog Day and Bears

Deitsch folklorist Don Yoder postulates that the song, "The Bear Went Over the Mountain," may have its origins in Germanic traditions similar to Grundsaudaag or Groundhog Day. Groundhog Day is known to have its roots in the behavior of badgers in Germany. In some German-speaking areas, however, the foxes or bears were seen as the weather prognosticators. When the behavior of the bear was considered, the belief was that the bear would come out of his lair to check whether he could see "over the mountain." If the weather were clear, the bear would return to his lair for six more weeks. If it rained or snowed, however, the bear would put an end to hibernation and demolish his lair (Yoder, Don (2003). Groundhog Day. Mechanicsburg, Pennsylvania: Stackpole Books, pp. 52-53).

The Bear Went Over the Mountain

The bear went over the mountain,
The bear went over the mountain,
The bear went over the mountain,
To see what he could see.

And all that he could see,
And all that he could see,
Was the other side of the mountain,
The other side of the mountain,
The other side of the mountain,
Was all that he could see.

The bear went over the river, 
To see what he could see.
And all that he could see,
Was the other side of the river,
The other side of the river, 
Was all that he could see.


Der Grundsaudaag

To read this post in Deitsch, please visit Deitscherei.org. :)

Groundhog Day is a multi-faceted observance, both in the Elder tradition of Braucherei and in Urglaawe. February 2 presents us with a thinner "veil" among the realms/worlds, and that the first of the land spirits/wights take this opportunity to return from the Wild Hunt. The groundhog represents the "otherworldly messenger," who (in a manner similar to Ratatask on Yggdrasil) runs through his burrow, which has openings in each of the nine worlds. Thus, the groundhog brings reports from the other worlds.

For an agricultural people, the upcoming weather would be of primary importance, which is perhaps the root of the reason that the groundhog and his weather prediction has lived on. However, this is typically only one small part of his message. Anyone who has ever been to a Grundsau Lodge on February 2 will know that the groundhog delivers numerous prognostications. Granted, in the Lodges, most of these are in jest, but journey-work done on February 2 or other, more esoteric works, are said to be more revealing.

Second is the tradition of February 2 celebrating the Hearth goddess, who would be Frigg, as well as feminine creative energies. Female ancestors are also celebrated on Feb. 2, which is consistent with some other Heathen groups' Disir blots at this time of year. As a result of these creative energies, the Butzemann (an activated scarecrow) is ceremonially given birth (more technically, he is given "rebirth" through the remnants of last year's crop). There are ceremonies that Urglaawe has inherited from Braucherei for his rebirth and appointment as protector of the land. He sticks around until he is burned sometime between the autumn equinox and Allelieweziel (Halloween). There are some great stories about what happens after Allelieweziel.

One other thing that is to happen on February 2 in relation to Frigg: we are to clean out our hearths, fireplaces, candlestick, or whatever place we use as our primary spot for fire. After the site or item is cleaned, we are to light a new fire using birch. If there is a central hearth through a community celebration, ember pots may be used to take the new flame from the central fire to the home hearth.

The cleaning of the Hearth is the beginning of the time of Spring Cleaning. We have from now until Walpurgisnacht (April 30) to get our homes in order in preparation for Holle's return. :)


Die Wetzerli Polka

Die Wetzerli Polka vum Tom Brusky, 1998. Ich hab der Beinaame "Wetzerli" uff AOL benutzt, un der Tom un ich hab bei AOL zammegschafft. Die Polka waar en Gschenk vum Tom zu mir. Ich bin dadarrich geehrt. :)


Meh Alde Dinger Uffgschpellt

Heit hawwich die alde Landkorde un die Lischt vun bekannte Deitsche Blatzneeme dohie gschtellt. Wann ihr en Deitscher Blatznaame wisst, bitte schickt ihn zu mir!  :)


Deitscherei.org bloggiert do!

Weil mer meh mit Deitscherei.org am Widderbaue iss, mer bloggiert do. :)

Leeder kammer net Deitsche Daademe un annere "gekennte" Taermin benutze, weil der Blogger hebt sie in Englisch fescht. Doch mer browiert, fer en Leesing dazu zu finne.

Mer henn eldere Bledder vun der Deitscherei.org, die mer uffschpelle kann. Mer beginnt mit der Technobabbel (dese Wadde warre yetz daeglich benutzt in der technische Handelschaft) un aa mit deel Witz!


15. Yenner/Hadding, 2012