Urglaawe: Pennsylvania Deitsch Heathenry
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.
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)
(each has plenty more links- check them out!)