Merry Christmas! Frohe Weihnachten! Joyeux Noël !

Disa had some digestion problems after she ate 6 fat balls for wild birds. To make it worse, she visited the neighbours in their garden, left her droppings and barked at the people. So me and Lisa (Disa’s human grandma) went to Canossa, errr the neighbours, and apologised for our beloved ball of love (and fat). Ball of love is some kind of French term of endearment for pets. So yesterday we went to a new vet. Very disappointing. We miss Rozenn our Norman vet. Vets should always move with their clients. But even though the new vet tried to drill a new anus into Disa with a thermometer, the digestion problems are already better today and Disa gets a Christmas meal of rice and chicken, cooked with love, electricity and water.

No animals were harmed in the making of this picture!

No animals were harmed in the making of this picture!

Happy Easter! Frohe Ostern! Joyeuses Pâques ! 2013

en: Schlafmütz demonstrates the real Easter spirit. And I sing very embarrassingly to accompany her performance. Then I found out she rolls even without my chant. But the very meekest cannot rest in quiet, unless it suits with his ill neighbor’s humor or rather curiosity.

de: Schlafmütz demonstriert den echten Ostergeist, auch wenn es kalt ist, das Leben genießen. Ich versuchte sie durch “Hundelieder” anzuspornen. Stellte dann aber fest, sie rollt auch ohne das. Aber es kann sich die Frömmste nicht in Frieden rollen, wenn es den frechen Nachbarn nicht gefällt.

en: Schlafmütz has laid golden eggs. Hurray! de:Schlafmütz hat goldene Eier gelegt, oder vielleicht war es Rudi? Own photo, licence: CC by-SA/ Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported

en:Easterphex is hatching. de: Osterphex brütet. Own photo, licence: CC by-SA/ Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported

en: Easterbach is worried. He has laid eggs for the first time. It was a bit scary. If those eggs were edible at least. But they are golden. *sigh* de: Osterbach hat Eier gelegt. Das hat ihn ein wenig erschreckt. Wenn die Eier wenigstens essbar wären, aber es sind goldene Eier. *seufz* Own photo, licence: CC by-SA/ Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported

Happy New Year! Frohes Neues Jahr!

Me, Brad and the rest of the tribe wish you a Happy New Year 2013!
Die Viechlein und ich wünschen euch ein Gutes Neues Jahr 2013!
Je vous souhaite une bonne et heureuse année 2013 !

In Brittany and in this area people believe, that it brings luck to embrace under a mistletoe on New Year’s Day. In der Bretagne und hier ist es Brauch, eine Mistel zu Neujahr im Haus aufzuhängen. Es bringt Glück, sich unter einem Mistelzweig zu umarmen.

My New Year's mistletoe, meine Neujahrsmistel 2012/2013. Eigenes Foto/own photo, licence/Lizenz: CC by-SA/ Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License/ CC by-SA

My New Year’s mistletoe, meine Neujahrsmistel 2012/2013. Eigenes Foto/own photo, licence/Lizenz: CC by-SA/ Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License/ CC by-SA

On Sunday is Remembrance Day also called Armistice Day, a day to remember the soldiers who have died in World War I. The armistice between the Allies and Germany went into effect on November 11, 1918. Germany was defeated, but that doesn’t matter for this day. All the soldiers suffered, no matter for which country they fought. In Germany this Remembrance Day is called Volkstrauertag and not celebrated on November 11 but two Sundays before the first Sunday in the Advent time. In 2012 that’s on November 18. The German carnival time begins on November 11 11h11, which is celebrated in some parts of Germany with lots of noise.

Tourism Oxford. Click "New Blog Home" in menu for our new website

remembrance

His face looks back at me from an almost 100 year old photo. It’s a regiment photo, shot before they left Ontario. His complexion is fair;  his hair is light; he looks about 20. His military papers say he was a dark haired 30 year old man. I guess you can’t trust documentation. He died at the Battle of Somme it says. That’s almost certain. He was a laborer in Norwich it also says, but enlisted at Woodstock.  He was only in Canada 5 years and he left very little here; his trail is faint. He seems vague and  mysterious to me. No family here – a father in England.

My soldier is memorialized at Vimy, which means the body was never found. Did someone see him die? Internet accounts describe soldiers walking on the numerous dead – the Somme was bad. It lasted 5 months.

71st Regiment

Photo Source: Woodstock Museum…

View original post 345 more words

a lamb on mother’s day

There: worming and so on I wrote nonsense. Stirnlöckchen wasn’t the one with a birth accident. She acted so strangely because she is at least 12 years old and was pregnant. Maybe Wollköpfchen had that accident, who knows… Stirnlöckchen gave birth to a big healthy boy today. Ewe and lamb are fine and stay in the stable on the meadow. The lamb is just as big as Zwerg was after a month. Looks like the ram has needed some attempts to get her pregnant, the birth happened a bit late in the year. It’s mother’s day in France today.

origins of Walpurgis night

Walpurgis night is a traditional european Feast, celebrated on April 30 (or rather in the night of April 30 to May 1). Today it is still celebrated as “Dancing into May”-events, an opportunity to dance, drink and have fun with lots of other people.

Freudenfeuer in der Nacht zum ersten Mai auf Calton Hill 2008, von Roger Griffith, Public Domain

Walpurgis night bonfire on Calton Hill 2008, by Roger Griffith, Public Domain

Beltane

Many pre-Christian religions celebrated the return of springtime at this date. The Celts called this feast “Beltane” or “Beltaine” and it was celebrated in the first night of full moon between the spring equinox and summer solstice.

Beltane was a cheerful feast. Bonfires were ignited and the cattle was driven between two fires to “clean” and bless it. Houses and barns were decorated with fresh greenery.

Johannes Praetorius: Blockes-Berges Verrichtung, Leipzig 1668, Lizenz:Public Domain

Johannes Praetorius: Blockes-Berges Verrichtung, Leipzig 1668, licence:Public Domain

the Blocksberg

In the Harz mountains, where I grew up, the people say, that the witches meet in the Walpurgis night on the “Blocksberg”. In the Harz mountains this “Blocksberg” was the “Brocken”. Different regions of Germany had different “Blocksbergs”, the Blocksberg is generally the name for the “dance floor” of the witches and not the name of a real existing mountain.

A booklet from 1863 about Sankt Andreasberg explains this with the flight of the Saxons from Charlemagne. They were fleeing into the impassable areas of the mountains and the Brocken was their holy mountain that was consecrated to Wodan.

An Old Saxon prayer mentions Charlemagne and human sacrifices on a mountain in the Harz that was devoted to Wodan:

“Hilli kroti Woudana! ilp osk un osken Pana Uuittekin ok kelta of ten aiskena Carlevi, ten Slaktenera! ick kif ti in our un tou scapa und tat rofe. ik slakte ti all fanka up tinen iliken Artesberka.”
“Holy great Wodan! help us and our commander Widukind and the captains against the ugly Charlemagne the butcher. I give you an Aurochs, two sheep and the booty. I slaughter all captives for you on your holy Harzmountain.”

Ancient Romuva, by the Prussian historian Christophorus Hartknoch (1644-1687), 1684, Public Domain

Ancient Romuva, by the Prussian historian Christophorus Hartknoch, 1684, Public Domain

Maypole

The Germanic peoples had sacred groves, in which single trees were consecrated to gods. Loranthus Europaeus was a holy plant and used to decorate sanctuaries. In Jütland was a sacred grove of Thor, with a tree that was consecrated to Thor. The tree was cut 1441.

The Balts had a sacred oak in in Romuva. They made sacred necklaces from the small branches and leaves of the oak. Those necklaces were said to help against illnesses. The tree was consecrated to Perkwunos, Picollus and Patrimpas.

The Celts had sacred trees too. Sometimes an altar was carved into the tree. This custom is conserved in Normandy until today. In front of many churches are huge yew trees. Sometimes an altar is carved into them, like in Saint Pierre des Ifs. In the town of pilgrimage “Saint Benoist des Ombres” it is custom to get a sacred yewbranch, which is said to keep cattle and house safe from the evil eye.

Die Heilige Walburga um um 1535/40, vom Meister von Messkirch, Public Domain

Saint Walpurga around 1535/40, by Meister von Messkirch, Public Domain

Saint Walpurga

It is said, that the name of the Walpurgis night derives from Saint Walpurga. Walpurga was abbess in Heidenheim in Franconia. She was born in England around 710 and died on the 25th February 779 (or 790) in Heidenheim. Her bones lie in Eichstätt. Catholics liked to carry bones of Saints here and there and worshipped them.

In popular belief Walpurga did a lot of miracles. Her tomb slab detaches drops that are called “Walpurgisoil”. The Walpurgisoil gets sold to believers that credit the oil with healing powers.

“Walpurgiskraut” is another name for St. Johnswort. In popular belief it helps to save milk from the evil eye and makes cattle fertile.

Walpurga died on 25 February 779 and that day still carries her name in the Catholic calendar. On the last Sunday in April Catholics celebrate the anniversary of her canonization. That day is not always on April 30 but nevertheless Walpurgis night was named after her. There is no direct connection between her and the date. So why the heck was it named after her?

Walpurgis was a very famous and idolized Saint, after all it’s possible that chosing her as patron for this feast might have been just to be able to continue to celebrate the pagan feast.

“Walpurga” is a Germanic name, “wal” meant “massacre, battlefield, dead soldier” it is part of the term “Valkyrie” too. The Valkyries chose the dead soldiers that would be brought to Wodan. Valkyrie wasn’t the name of a special entity, there were 3 valkyries with different names.

“Purg” means “castle, city”. Thus “Walpurga” means something like “castle of the battlefield or castle of the dead” and means that she is giving shelter to the souls of the dead. Walpurga and the valkyries are not related. The only thing they have in common is the root “wal” (or val) in their names.

In the Vogtland people were putting sods on the doorstep in the Walpurgis night, because popular belief said this custom was guarding against the witches. Sods on a grave bring dead people peace… That’s because the witches automatically start to count the blades of grass. It is possible that the witches of Walpurgis night are somehow deformed valkyries. Sadly it’s not possible to ask pre-Christian Pagans. 😉 Anyway, there were lots of similar customs about guarding cattle and houses during the Walpurgis night from the witches.

Sources:
Walpurgisnacht – Hintergründe und Ursprung (Walpurgis night background and origin)

Der Kurort St. Andreasberg, 1863, Seite 62 (the Spa town St. Andreasberg)

Ausgewählte historische Schriften von Heinrich Zschokke, 1830, Seite 94f (selected historical writings)

Handwörterbuch der Mythologie der deutschen, verwandten, benachbarten und nordischen Völker von Christian August Vulpius, 1826, Seite 163-166 (concise dictionary of the German, related, neighbour- and Nordic peoples)

SAINT BENOIST DES OMBRES

SAINT PIERRE DES IFS

Walburga (Saint Walpurga)

Johanniskraut (Hypericum perforatum)

Der böse Blick und Verwandtes von Siegfried Seligmann, Seiten 64, 78, 91, 113, 218, 238 (the evil eye and related things)

Creative Commons License
This work is in the Public Domain.

Reflections on Easter in Germany (and elsewhere)

What is Easter?

Easter is a Christian holiday, celebrating the resurrection of Jesus Christ. According to the New Testament Jesus died on Good Friday (also called Holy Friday, Black Friday, or Great Friday) and was resurrected three days later.

Auferstehung Christi von Meister von Meßkirch um 1535/40, Lizenz:Public Domain

Resurrection of Jesus Christ by Meister von Meßkirch around 1535/40, licence:Public Domain

Origins of Easter

Spring Equinox was already celebrated in pre-Christian time. Equinox means that the tilt of the Earth’s axis is inclined neither away from nor towards the Sun, the Sun being vertically above a point on the Equator. The name “equinox” is derived from the Latin aequus (equal) and nox (night), because around the equinox, the night and day are equally long. Spring equinox happens around 19th to 21st March every year.

The Anglo-Saxon monk and Doctor of the Church Bede (672/673– 26. May 735), wrote that the word “Easter” derives from a Germanic goddess named “Eostra”. He wrote also that the April was dedicated to that goddess and called “ôstarmânôt” (in “De temporum ratione”), because celebrations in her honour were held in that month. It’s strange that the celebrations are held in April while Equinox is in March.

The name “ôstarmânôt” for April was formalized by Karl dem Grossen, (english: Charlemagne, * 2. April 747 or 748, † 28. January 814) after 781 because “Easter is celebrated in April”.

Einhard (775 – 14 March 840) wrote 830 in his “Vita Karoli Magni” of the Codex Vindobonensis 795, chap. 29, that Charlemagne was very interested in his mother tongue, the Franconian dialect of Proto-Germanic. Einhard wrote, that Charlemagne was translating the Latin names of the wind directions and the Latin names of the months into Franconian. He called e.g. the January “Wintermonth” (Wintarmanoth), the May “Pasturemonth” (Wunnimanoth) and the December “Holymonth” (Heilagmanoth). The new Franconian names of the months reflected happenings in the year, common activities and weather.

The Latin names of the months have been brought to the Germanic tribes with the Christianization. The Roman calendar called Julian calendar was formalized by Julius Caesar in 46 BC. The Saxons have been defeated by Charlemagne and Christianized around 800.

Jacob Grimm (1785 –1863), a German mythologist, came across Bede’s works and liked his explanation of the word “Easter”. He Germanized the name “Eostra” to “Ostara”. Bede is the only source for the existence of a goddess called Eostra and there is no source at all for a goddess called Ostara. That’s why it’s rather likely, that the word “Easter” derives from the wind direction “east”, (German: Osten, Proto-Germanic: ostan). The sun rises in the east.

The Anglo-Saxon tribes that went to England to annoy the Celtic tribes there, have been Germanic. That explains the similarity of the names of Easter in English and German.

I have been reading on Neo-paganistic webpages, that the existence of the prefix “east” in front of the name of some communes is a proof of the existence of the goddess Eostra. Sounds funny? Shouldn’t there be a goddess Southra, Westra and Nordra too? Well… there are no goddesses like that but there are some dwarves. Norðri, Suðri, Austri and Vestri are the dwarves that hold up the sky. They are mentioned in the Völuspá (chap. 11) and they symbolize the wind directions. One reason why Bede might have mixed things up was, that April was dedicated to Aphrodite (we’ll meet her again later) and he didn’t wanted the month to be named after any strange pagan god, he wanted it to be the month of Pascha, the “correct” name of Easter. It is likely, that April was dedicated to Aphrodite (though it was a Greek goddess, but Venus already had a day, Dies Veneris, Friday).

The goddess is a dwarf, romantic depiction from the 19th century, licence: Public Domain

The goddess is a dwarf, romantic depiction from the 19th century, licence: Public Domain

The Easter of the Eastern Orthodox Church and in all countries that celebrate it but don’t speak German or English is called “Pascha” (or something derived from this word). Pascha does not mean “east” it is the Latinized version of “Pesah” (Passover) and Pesah means “to pass by” and it’s the Jewish and Samaritan holiday commemorating the Hebrews escape from enslavement in Egypt. It takes a week and get’s celebrated in 2009 from the 9th – 16th April gefeiert.
According to the New Testament Jesus was crucified on Friday of the week of Passover.
Some elements of Passover are still included in some Christian Easterrites, especially the Easter Vigil (e.g. Eastercandle and Easterlamb).

Osterkerzen aus Holland 2008, von WaxArtStudio, Lizenz: Public Domain

Eastercandles from the Netherlands 2008, by WaxArtStudio, licence: Public Domain

Though the Germanic tribes lived also in Scandinavian countries Easter is called “Påske” in Denmark and Norway and “Påsk” in Sweden, which is derived from the word “Pascha” and not from “east”.

pagan rites?

Osterfeuer in Gröben Brandenburg, Foto von Lienhard Schulz, Lizenz:CC by SA

Easterfire in Gröben in Brandenburg, Germany, photo by Lienhard Schulz, licence:CC by SA

Some of the German Easterrites remind of pagan solstice celebrations. For example the Easterfire, that is ignited many regions of Germany on Eastersaturday. And the Easterwheel, that rolls burning down the hills in northern Germany, the Harz mountains and in the Austrian Alps. The Easterwheel symbolizes the disc of the sun. In the German town Lügde the rite of the Easterwheel is documented since 784AD.

rollendes Osterrad in Lüdge, Foto von Nifoto, Lizenz: Public Domain

rollendes Easterwheel in Lüdge, photo by Nifoto, licence: Public Domain

Pysanky are Ukrainian Eastereggs that were already crafted long before the Ukrainians were Christianized in 988. The traditional ornaments were partly changed, partly interpreted differently after the Christianization. In pre-Christian time the Pysanky were considered as magical instruments to ban evil spirits, to get a good harvest and to bring good luck.

Common ornaments on Pysanky are geometrical shapes, triangles that symbolized the elements and now the Trinity, diamonds that represent knowledge, and spirals that symbolize the mystery of life and death and immortality.
Dots symbolize stars and cuckoo’s eggs, which represent the spring.

Pysanka Museum in Kolomiya, Ukraine. Foto von L Petrusha, Lizenz: CC by SA

Pysanka Museum in Kolomiya, Ukraine. photo by L Petrusha, licence: CC by SA

In the 12th century eggs were blessed in the Eastermass (“benedictio ovorum”). They were meant to remind of Jesus resurrection. 1553 the first red eggs are documented on a Eastermess.
Eggs were not allowed during the period of fasting, they were watched upon as “liquid meat”. That’s why they were cooked, to preserve them. After the period of fasting people had lots of cooked eggs.

In the Old Testament psalm 104,18 of standardized german bible translation, the first translations mentioned “hares” because the Hebrew “šafan” (rock hyrax) was translated “lepusculus” (small hare), because there are no rock hyraxes north of the Mediterranean Sea.
The interpretion of this psalm saw the hare as a symbol of the weak man, who finds his shelter in the rock Jesus. It is mysterious though, how this would have led to the Easter Bunny.

It’s possibly indirectly Martin Luther’s (1483 – 1546) fault again. The Protestant urban bourgeoisie developped around 1700 the custom of the search for Easter eggs. That might have been related to the backlog of eggs due to the period of fasting of the Catholics. The Protestants ate the eggs and didn’t wanted to tell their children about Catholic rites, thus they invented the Easter hare who brings cooked eggs.

One of the animals connected with Aphrodite, the greek goddes of love, sex, and beauty, is the hare. Aphrodite was in the beginning a goddess of fertility, but that meaning changed. And the hare was not a symbol for fertility but for sex, just like the rabbit nowadays.

The origin of the Easter bunny is still a mystery. Should it have been an Easter rock hyrax? Should we mate on Easter like rabbits (I nearly said “hump”)? It’s indeed just as possible that the Protestants invented the Easter hare.

Hase nach der Eiablage, Foto von Gerbil, Lizenz:Gnu freie Dokumentation

hare after egg deposition, photo by Gerbil, licence:Gnu free documentation

Sources:
Osterräder in Lügde

What is Passover?

German Wikipedia about Ostara

Monat im kirchlichen Festjahr

Bede on Wikipedia

Alte Datums- und Zeitangaben / Monatsnamen

Monatsnamen, page 2 des pdf

Völuspa

The high mountains belong to the wild goats; the crags are a refuge for the coneys.

traditional pysanky

a History of the months