Urglaawe is a very young expression of a very old tradition. For much of its history, Deitsch lore has been oral, and very local, so it can be hard to find your way in. Fortunately, there are lots of resources to help you on your journey! In this article, I’m going to look at four of the best: books that anyone with an interest in Urglaawe will get value from. Along the way I’ll be pointing out some free online resources as well. Happy reading!
Best Books on Pennsylvania Dutch Folklore:
Don’t let the slim volume or the word “dictionary in the title fool you: this is the single most comprehensive book on Urglaawe available, authored by two co-founders of the tradition. In this book you’re going to find the deities, holidays, customs, theology, and cosmology that you need to understand and practice Urglaawe. You’ll also be able to translate all of those specialized religious terms between Deitsch and English, and take a stab at speaking Deitsch words in some of your own rites with a handy pronunciation guide. As a newbie to Urglaawe, you might have some trouble getting everything out of this densely packed little resource without reading it through several times. In particular, you might find it helpful to lay out your own calendar of holidays and look up all the related entries in order, to get a better idea of how it all comes together. But this guide is absolutely indispensable, and in and of itself is enough to get you up and practicing Urglaawe.
As the Eddas and sagas are to Icelandic-inspired Heathenry, so are the folk tales of the Deitsch to Urglaawe. (Although we lean on both of those sources too!) This long-standing oral tradition shares the Gods and Goddesses, magic, and values of Deitsch culture. The stories in this book were assembled via interviews the author (once again, Urglaawe founder Rob Schreiwer) conducted of old-timers in the Deitscherei. Assembling these retellings of tales, Schreiwer compared and contrasted versions against one another, tracing variations that have important implications for the reconstruction of Urglaawe. This fascinating little book will add depth and color to your Urglaawe practice, and help you get to know some of the deities unique to this tradition, including Holle and Ewicher Yeeger, and spirits such as the Hexenwolf and the Butzemann. Selections from this book can even be included in your rites. Essential reading!
We know that the Pennsylvania Dutch farmers of the 18th century didn’t identify as Heathens or Pagans. So how is it that we get a Germanic polytheist tradition from an ostensibly Christian people? There are lots of hints in the culture, such as the art, songs, folk tales, and even the food. But by far the most abundant information comes to us from the folk magic and healing practice known as Braucherei. Take the grimoires of the medieval Christian magicians, put them through the filter of the pagan folk customs of the countryside, and bring them across the ocean to the new world with the German settlers who became the Pennsylvania Dutch. Add a generous helping of Lenape herbalism and lunar lore, and you’ve got Braucherei. This book traces Braucherei and related traditions as they developed in America. While the book has a more academic, informative aim, rather than being a hands-on guide, you will find lots of useful information for the practice of Braucherei. This is not a book written specifically about Urglaawe–there are precious few of those!–so you will have to do some connecting the dots for yourself as you read. A particular highlight is an extensive chapter on perhaps the most famous practitioner of Braucherei, Lee Gandee. Gandee’s autobiography, “Strange Experience”, is out of print and very expensive, so this book gives you your money’s worth just by providing some first hand information on the man and his practice. You’ll also get a lot of insight into the mindsets of folk magic practitioners, which I find particularly important for understanding the information in context. It’s one thing to read a book of folk charms, but it’s another thing to understand the worldview of the person using those charms. That understanding is crucial for any kind of reconstruction-derived faith.
I could have put any Don Yoder title in this spot and it would have made sense. Yoder was the foremost scholar on the Pennsylvania Dutch. He actually coined the term “folklife” and founded the “Pennsylvania Folklife” magazine–itself a vital resource for Urglaawe. You’ll find a small but growing selection of back issues for free download at this link. Yoder’s works are academic, and once again you’re going to have to draw connections that could inspire your Urglaawe practice. This book in particular is a collection of essays that give you an overview of some of the diverse areas that Yoder researched. The essays will give you a foundation for further research of your own, while also covering a lot of really useful information for Urglaawer. Topics of particular interest include Braucherei or Pow-Wow, Deitsch folk medicine, magical charms, the almanac, the Deitsch (and Urglaawe!) holiday of Harvest Home, and Mountain Mary, the Deitsch folk saint with strong ties to the Urglaawe Goddess Weiskeppichi Fraa. There’s an illustrated discussion of religious costume, and of course, when you talk about the Deitsch you have to include food! Yoder’s extensive bibliographies for each essay are also really valuable resources. You can’t go wrong with Yoder’s other books either–it’s almost guaranteed that you’ll find something in every single one that will inform your Urglaawe practice.
Looking to learn about Urglaawe right now, without waiting for a physical book? No problem! Check out the official Urglaawe resources page for tons of free material to get you started. Have questions? Want to learn more? Drop in on the Urglaawe Facebook group and say hi!
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