Urglaawe: Pennsylvania Deitsch Heathenry

October 13, 2014 at 2:11 am 6 comments

Years ago, I started out my interest in Paganism with, rather embarrassingly Silver Ravenwolf’s Teen Witch and To Ride a Silver Broomstick. I remember one thing she mentioned that perked my interest was that she is a practitioner of Pennsylvania Dutch pow-wow magic and discussed some of the customs related to that tradition. I’d been told by relatives that I had PA Dutch roots on both sides of my family, but for a long time I’ve focused on my Irish and Scottish background, while ignoring the German.  But after living in Minnesota for so long, land of Germans and Scandinavians, my interest drifted back in that direction, though I still have not yet had the chance to trace my German ancestors. My partner Daniel’s heritage is also mostly German and Norwegian, with some British Isles thrown in for good measure, and his ancestors are mine now as well.

Truly American folk traditions can be hard to find- likely this is a reason why interest in Appalachian folk magic has arisen among Pagans, and I have a fellow Heathen/ADF Druid blogger who enjoys drawing on Ozark mountain folklore. “Pennsylvania Dutch” is in fact a misnomer, thanks to their English neighbors “Deutsch” German for German was confused with Dutch. And in their dialect, the name for themselves and their language is “Deitsch”. Most of the immigrants came from what is now south-western Germany, the Rhineland-Palatinate and Baden-Wurtemberg (two states within modern Germany, as well as Switzerland, and the German-speaking Alsace-Lorraine region of France. Until World War II, over a third of the state spoke Pennsylvania German, since then due to the stigma of the Nazism, the dialect has greatly declined outside of the Plain sects- Old Order Amish and Mennonites.

The Deitsch brought their unique folk healing and magical traditions of Braucherei and Hexerei to the New World, a combination of German pre-Christian and mystical Christian beliefs and practices. Frau Holle, Wodan, Dunner and other deities were honored as helpful spirits. The term pow-wow- meaning “spiritual leader, or gathering of spiritual leaders” from the indigenous Narragansett people somehow became applied to Braucherei.

Along with the revival of Heathenry in the United States came a renewed interest in the Heathen aspects of Braucherei, and the name Urglaawe meaning primal faith was coined. Distelfink Sippschaft is the only specifically Urglaawe organization that I’m aware of, based in PA of course. They seem like lovely people and are very committed to respectfully collecting oral traditions, working with both Heathen and Christian Braucherei practitioners, other PA German cultural groups, and are also involved with Heathens Against Hate.

Magical Texts:

Pow Wows- or the Long Lost Friend by John George Hoffman 1820 text of PA German folk magic

The Sixth & Seventh Books of Moses- 18th-19th c. magical text, used by both German-Americans, as well as African-Americans in Hoodoo (another syncretic magical tradition)

American Folk Magick (earlier title- Hexcraft: Dutch Country Magick) by Silver Ravenwolf (I have heard mixed reviews about these books- some say they are good source of info, others say she puts too much of a Wiccan spin on it)

Urglaawe Resources:

Distelfink Sippschaft

Urglaawe Blog

Deitsch Mythology Blog

(each has plenty more links- check them out!)

Entry filed under: Heathenry, Urglaawe. Tags: , , , , , , .

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6 Comments Add your own

  • 1. Catriona McDonald  |  October 13, 2014 at 5:10 am

    My family is also PA German (Dunkards if you want to get technical). Thank you literature and link roundups. I’m looking forward to delving into these a bit more.

    • 2. caelesti  |  October 13, 2014 at 6:13 am

      It seems one part of figuring out family history is just sorting out who belonged to what religious sect- Dunkards- there’s another one I’ve haven’t heard of! The German* part of my Dad’s side is Catholic, and I’ve gotten the impression that most of the PA Germans were Protestant (well *German-speakers, I don’t know if they actually came from Germany) At any rate, regardless of my own family history, I’m generally interested in Urglaawe because it’s an American folk tradition, and I’m a little sick of feeling like I’m pretending to be European!

  • 3. Renata  |  October 24, 2014 at 5:55 am

    very very interesting and informative article.

  • 4. Robert Schreiwer  |  December 4, 2014 at 7:16 am

    Thank you for this article. We welcome folks who are curious to learn to check out our Facebook groups, too. Also, we have other sites that your readers may find to be of interest.

    Braucherei: http://www.braucherei.org
    Blanzeheilkunscht: http://www.blanzeheilkunscht.com

    Thank you again!

    Robert L. Schreiwer
    Distelfink Sippschaft

  • 5. Pagan Blog Project Archive Post | The Lefthander's Path  |  January 4, 2015 at 10:20 am

    […] – Urglaawe: Pennsylvania Deitsch Heathenry Oct […]

  • 6. Diasporan Polytheism | The Lefthander's Path  |  January 13, 2016 at 2:41 am

    […] Typically these have survived more strongly in rural areas, the Ozarks, Appalachia, Nova Scotia and Deitsch areas being good […]


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