My Interest in Urglaawe Grows

Groundhog Day is coming up, and while most Americans think it’s quite silly, it’s a major holiday in Urglaawe, and as you can see from my several posts last February, has become one for me as well. Urglaawe seems more and more appealing to me the more research I do on it. It seems like that branch of Heathenry is more compatible with my temperament and lifestyle than Viking-based Asatru.

Viking Raiders vs. Pennsylvania Dutch Farmers

The biggest issue I’ve had with Asatru from the very beginning has been the huge emphasis on warriors. Now, I don’t mean to disparage people who are actually in the military. My husband was in the Air Force, my dad was in the Navy, and my grandfather fought in World War II. A lot of my students are veterans, and they are usually my best students. But since I’ve never been in the military and never will be, I’ve never been able to relate to the whole warrior experience, and am not going to pretend to. So it’s hard to me to relate to Asatru as a “warrior religion” as if that’s all there is to life. The main gods in Viking-based Asatru are Odin and Thor in their most warlike aspects, since they get their stories from the Norse Eddas and Sagas. There is much less information in the Eddas on the goddesses or the Vanir gods.

Urglaawe, however, is the religion of an agricultural people, so they have a bigger emphasis on the more “peaceful” deities. Frau Holle, a motherly goddess, is their chief deity. Even Odin and Thor have slightly different “personalities” to them in Urglaawe. I worship Odin as a magical and intellectual god, and hardly ever interact with his warrior side. Thor is primarily a weather deity who brings life-giving thunderstorms to my often drought-stricken area, and he’s also the defender of those weaker than himself. From what I’ve read of Urglaawe, that’s close to how they see Wudan and Dunner.

I’ve also been wondering if I find Urglaawe more comfortable simply because the Pennsylvania Dutch are closer to me in space and in time than the Vikings. The Vikings lived far away in Scandinavia over a thousand years ago. I know them through that show on the History Channel and movies like The 13th Warrior. The Pennsylvania Dutch immigrated to the United States just a little over 200 years ago, and there are still lots of them around today. They also had a big impact on American culture. Many of our holiday traditions come from them, as well as a lot of traditional American foods. Scandinavian traditions and foods are much different and just seem a bit more “foreign” to me.

Also, once they got here, they changed and adapted to the local environment, becoming a truly “New World” version of Heathenry, which I think is great. To me, so many Heathens seem to be trying to play Viking rather than adapting Heathenry to the time and place. Deitsch tradition continued to evolve, even after they converted to Christianity and moved to North America. It just doesn’t seem like it would be as much of a stretch to adapt Urglaawe to the present day than trying to recreate a religion from over 1,000 years ago in 21st century Texas.

Cycles of Nature

One of the things that first attracted me to Wicca was its calendar based on natural cycles, instead of human things like birthdays of important leaders and anniversaries of historical events. I disagree that being in tune with the turn of the season is irrelevant to modern life. Even if some pagans are disconnected from the seasons, I am not! It’s a big part of my spiritual practice. It probably helps that I live out in the country with two vegetable gardens, a small orchard, and lots of parks and greenspaces around. I most certainly notice the changes in the seasons and celebrate them. Wicca’s holidays are taken from English folk tradition, which is a blend of Celtic and Germanic influences. Urglaawe’s holidays are quite similar to Wicca’s because of the common Germanic influence, and like I mentioned above, they influenced a lot of American secular holiday traditions as well. Celebrating them just seems to fit so much better into my life than celebrating the sorts of things like Vikings did, like the start of the raiding season.

Die Blanzeheilkunscht and Nature Spirits

I’ve always been interested in plant lore, and Urglaawe has this long history of herbalism utilizing both Old World and New World species of plants. I also love that they talk about the plant spirits. I’m an animist, and the idea that plants possess powerful spirits has a long history in many polytheistic cultures, but it seems to not come up in Asatru much. I haven’t found as much about animal lore in Urglaawe yet, but I’m sure there must be some. Asatruar often say that the nature spirits were more important to ordinary people than the gods, but they don’t seem to talk about them much. The likely explanation is that Heathens are just as disconnected from nature as any other modern people, but I don’t think that’s a good thing.

Potential Pitfalls

I’m not Pennsylvania Dutch. Then again, I’m not Scandinavian either. Like I said, my mom was born in Germany, which is at least closer to where the Pennsylvania Dutch came from. I also live in an area that had a lot of German immigrants, but they were a completely different wave of immigration from the Pennsylvania Dutch. As far as I know the Texas Germans didn’t preserve a lot of Heathen ways, though I could be wrong. My mother-in-law is of Pennsylvania Dutch descent, but she’s not really a part of the community herself. All in all, I’m probably culturally closer to the Pennsylvania Dutch than I am to the Scandinavians, but maybe not by much.

I don’t feel like I really have much of a cultural heritage at all, alas. So I’ll probably continue being just a “generic Heathen”, though I would like to adopt more Urglaawe-like things into my personal practice. Would that be cultural appropriation?

One of the main things I like about Urglaawe is being close to the land and plant and animal spirits and seasons, but I don’t live in Pennsylvania, I live in Texas. It’s closer than Scandinavia, but still a pretty different climate and ecosystem.

Since the Pennsylvania Dutch adapted their Heathen traditions to the New World when they came from Germany, would it be OK to further adapt their Heathenry to Texas? Can I add Prickly Pear and Mescal Bean to the list of important plant spirits? Can I substitute a local animal for the groundhog? After Dunner is done driving the Frost Giants out of the North, does he come down to Texas to bring thunderstorms and fight with tornadoes?

Here’s where I’m getting my information from:


3 thoughts on “My Interest in Urglaawe Grows

  1. As someone who identifies with and works with a lot of different aspects of Odin, I fully agree with your assertion that a lot of folks are playing at being Vikings. I would add they are also playing at machismo. Thor, too, has a good deal of wisdom and intelligence, some of that hard-won too. I think of Him matching wits with Alviss, and the latter losing.

    As I am not from inside Pennsylvanian Dutch culture, I couldn’t say for sure whether it was cultural appropriation or not. I’m not sure what their view of appropriation is from inside the culture. Best guess I could give is ‘probably’. Without nipping wholesale parts of their culture, though, it seems to me like you’re doing the work of developing your religious and spiritual life to a more agrarian, down-home understanding and worship of the Gods, as opposed to a more warrior side.

    I think that any list of ‘important spirits’ or even Gods one reveres depends on where one is, and what one is doing. I worship Odin because He came and claimed me; a lot of the work He has me do is get down into people’s stuff with them while still being able to say ‘one of the ways out is thisaway.’ I also worship Freyr, especially as the asparagus is an obvious reminder to me of Him for the obvious reason, and also because it originally grew wild before my folks planted it in the back where it has taken off like wildfire.

    I think it is important we, as modern people in this religion, develop our own understandings of our Gods, Ancestors, and vaettir. That we develop our own understanding, stories, myths, and legends about our Gods. It is vital, to my mind, because it place Them here, not some elsewhere. We may even find new holy places to Them; who knows?

    • The impression I get from Thor is not that he’s stupid, he’s just a lot more straightforward than his father. He doesn’t like to make things more complicated than they need to be.

      “A Brief Introduction to Urglaawe” says that you don’t have to be Pennsylvania Dutch to practice it, but still, it seems right to me that you’d have to at least immerse yourself in their culture to truly call yourself Urglaawe. However, part of the point I was trying to make is that I see American Heathens who seem to be “appropriating” Scandinavian culture just as much when they’re pretending to be Vikings. Sure, there are some American Heathens who have strong cultural ties to Scandinavia, but a lot of them don’t, and are just going off of a Hollywood version of what they think it’s like.

      Urglaawe seems to be a good model for how adapting Heathenry to a new land can be done, but you’re right that merely copying them wholesale would be kind of missing the point.

      For example, after I read about Good King Henry on the Blanzeheilkunscht site, I ordered some seeds for it to try growing in my garden. Then I started reading up more on how to grow it (something I should have done before I ordered the seeds) and found out it probably won’t be happy at all in my climate, since it likes cool weather and a lot of water. I ended up donating the seeds to a charity to be re-homed somewhere where they’ll grow well.

      This year I ordered seeds for a plant called Huauzontle that is in the same family as Good King Henry, but native to Mexico. The catalog says it loves heat, but I imagine its plant spirit probably has a Mexican accent.

      • I have not had a lot of time to follow the links, I apologize. I’ll read them soon.

        If Pennsylvanian Dutch folks are okay with people looking to their religion/culture for ideas and for integrating them into your life, well, they’d be the arbiters of it. I get though, where you’re coming from in the appropriating you mention above. I guess my question is this: if I am called by Gods from a country I have never been to, should I avoid Them? My own religious life is answer to this question, but that is how I have had to parse it. I follow.

        Interesting in regards to Good King Henry and Huazontle. We have to adapt to where we are, and likewise so must our practices. There are Peruvian shamans where I live, in Michigan, and as we do not have mountains where the Apu live, they have come to see Great Lakes as our Apu, holy mountains, only in reverse given their depth.

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