Other Heathen Customs: Urglaawe

It should be no surprise to anyone at this point that what I write about is filtered through my Nordic focus. After all, I’m Swedish-American and that informs much of my interest and focus. I plan to balance this a little bit by doing occasional articles about other forms of Heathen faith as a means of introducing people to something they might not know much about. In this mind I want to start by looking at a very interesting form of American born custom: Urglaawe.

What is Urglaawe?
According to Distelfink, Urglaawe is focused on the pre-Christian religious and cultural traditions that still survive in Pennsylvanian German culture, language, and tradition. They are very direct and honest about the fact that Pennsylvania Germans did not exist as a distinct ethnic group during the pre-Christian era. Instead, they focus on the Heathen customs that survived and the distinct cultural identity that developed in America.

From Distelfink’s website: “Our purpose is to weave the cultural experiences of the Pennsylvania Germans into the Heathen tapestry. Practices such as Braucherei and Hexerei as well as folklore and folk medicine will shed more light on the way our ancestors practiced the original faith.”

About the Pennsylvania German people
Pennsylvania German, or Pennsylvania Dutch, refers to immigrants and their descendants from Alsace, southwestern Germany and Switzerland who settled in Pennsylvania in the 17th and 18th centuries. Historically they have spoken the dialect of German known as Deitsch.

The term ‘Pennsylvania Dutch’ is often taken to refer to the Old Order Amish and related groups exclusively, the term should not imply a connection to any particular religious group. The Amish and Mennonites originally made up only a small percentage of the Pennsylvania German population.

About the Deitsch language
From Wikipedia: The Pennsylvania German language (usually referred to as Pennsylvania Dutch language, or simply as Dutch, in American English; usually referred to in Pennsylvania German as Deitsch, Pennsylvania Deitsch or Pennsilfaanisch Deitsch) is a variety of West Central German possibly spoken by more than 250,000 people in North America.

About the Distelfink
A distelfink is a stylized goldfinch, probably based on the European variety. It frequently appears in Pennsylvania Dutch folk art. They represent happiness and good fortune and the Pennsylvania German nation, and they are a common theme in hex signs and in fraktur. The word ‘distelfink’ (literally ‘thistle-finch’) is the German name for the European goldfinch.


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