and Die Hexenacht
Sunset April 30 – Sunset May 12
Many Urglaawe WONNEZEIT observances will fall on the closest weekend, even though the actual holiday does not begin until sunset on Sunday, April 30, 2023, on the societal calendar (but is the beginning of 1. Wonnet on the Urglaawe calendar).
This is most “hexich” of Urglaawe observances, with the possible exception of Berchtaslaaf at the end of December. Urglaawer do not use the name “Walpurgisnacht” because St. Walburga was a saint who had features of the goddess Holle grafted onto her identity. We use our native Deitsch terms: “die Hexenacht” (“Night of the Hexe”) and “die Wonnezeit” (“Time of Joy” because the Hexe, led by Holle and Berchta, dance winter away and reawaken the land).
This is the observance of Holle’s return to Mannheem and the end of the Wild Hunt! It is the spiritual touchpoint of the beginning and end of the life cycle.
die Hexenacht, part of die Wonnezeit
Hexenacht begins at sunset on April 30, which is 1. Wonnet on the Urglaawe calendar.
Appropriate Offerings/Altar Decorations
Dried plums or other dried fruit from last year’s harvests, branches or flowers of sacred trees, libations made from last year’s harvests, seasonal flowers (especially those that can be transplanted).
WONNEZEIT TREES, SHRUBS, PLANT BLESSINGS
Wonnezeit is an observance of the fertility and fecundity of the land. We tend to focus on particular annual milestones , such as Wonnenacht and the Frost Giants’ attack, that mark the beginning of the season and reference points in lore. We focus on the Gwetschebaam (roughly a Maypole) and on the general awakening of the land but, within these overarching themes are smaller, more localized events and observances that form the building blocks of the celebration.
For instance, why do we call our cognate of a Maypole a Gwetschebaam? A Gwetschebaam is literally a plum tree. Plum trees bloom in winter and are among the earliest trees to bear fruit here in Pennsylvania, and very likely the situation is the same in the lands whence our forebears had come. Rituals of honoring and blessing of fruiting trees have been conducted by Germanic tribes since times immemorial. The legacy of these practices includes common Apple Blossom and Cherry Blossom festivals, but they are en echo of the rituals of the past. Other traditions survive in May Day customs; for Deitsch folks, this comes down to the ritual honoring of the plum tree (Gwetschebaam) as a focal point of Wonnefescht on the first day of May.
Here is a starter list that was derived from the input of quite a few sources. Not every region has all of these items, and there are many other plants and trees local to all of us (regardless of where you are located on this great planet) whose forms and spirits must be honored.
These dates are general because they are derived from a temperate climate which can result in wide variations of the appearance of blooms and blossoms from year to year. To make these rituals more meaningful in function and purpose, they should be adjusted to meet local trees and plants blossoming, blooming, and harvesting dates.
These dates are general because they are derived from a temperate climate which can result in wide variations of the appearance of blooms and blossoms from year to year. Other trees might be honored by different growers and orchards based on the stage they are at during Wonnezeit.
The Urglaawe community is still pulling things from notes and from research, but the blessings of fruit-bearing trees is actually an ongoing cycle, perhaps with its beginning point being, depending on the year, between September and November for trees for which it is advantageous to be in the ground six weeks before the first signs of hard frost. it is hard to predict a moving target six weeks in advance, so this brings us back to the old topic of using animal behavior for prognostication. In the Fall, it is more the fox that is looked to for an idea of when the first hard frost will strike. The thickness of the fox’s fur is used to predict whether that frost will hit in October, November, or December, and then the depth of the den and the distance from water are factors that observers use to predict the date of the frost. Unfortunately, this facet of lore has not been as well preserved as Groundhog Day, so we are still doing some research on this.
Trees are again honored at Yuul in December and end with the harvests the following autumn. Conifers are honored in December and January. Birch in February, and Oak in March.
The more practical (and somewhat common) ways to honor fruit-bearing trees includes straw in the following manners: 1. tying straw around its trunk; 2. strewing straw among is branches (which I think is a contributor to tree garlands); 3. tapping the trunk of the tree, particularly toward the base, with wisps of straw. I have used option 3 during Wonnezeit in the past.
One of the most common means of honoring orchard trees, even today, is New Year’s shot into the each. I am not personally a fan of this practice, but it is common and an established tradition. It is our cognate of wassailing, and people do greet their trees with New Year’s wishes. Bows and arrows would also work.
Hanging iron or stone from tree branches is believed to increase the bearing of fruit. This is likely a contributor to the modern Yule/Christmas tree ornament. The same also applies to the egg tees that are uniquely Deitsch and that we see at Oschdre and Easter.
This old tradition one is a little macabre: A lamb (or kid) that has dropped dead or died while very young is hung up in a tree with thorns, though any fruit-bearing tree will do. This hearkens back to older traditions of hanging animal skins in tree.
As the Urglaawe community strives to produce a ritual format (and it will be simple) for the honoring of trees in their bud, blossom, bloom and fruit stages, I’d suggest option 3 of the straw wisps for Wonnezeit.
Below is a starter suggestion list for dates to honor particular trees, shrubs, or plants if you have them. Plums on May 1 are fixed as the Deitsch cognate of the Maypole is the Gwetschebaam, which is literally a plum tree. Linden has been moved from May 12 to May 5 as a tip of the hat to Gedreier Eckhart, who sleeps inside the bark of a linden tree as the Parade of Spirits heads toward Hexenkopf. The linden tree is said to be on Hexefeld in Lancaster County, which occurs in the earlier part of Wonnezeit. This means that Urglaawe date of May 4 is more suitable for linden blessings.
The reckoning below pairs the solar and lunar calendar. The first date should be read as “sunset on May # is Urglaawe May #.” For example, in the first entry, sunset on April 30 is Urglaawe May 1.
April 30-May 1: Plum Blessing and Harvest
May 1-2: Dogwood Harvest – Since today is May 2, let’s also note that Dogwood is a medicinal tree that is one of the Nine Sacred Herbs of Braucherei, hence also of Urglaawe.
May 2-3: Pawpaw Bloom and Blessing
May 3-4: Linden Bloom and Blessing [observing Gedreier Eckhart at Hexefeld]
May 4-5; Crabapple and Apple Blossom / Apple Tree Blessings
May 5-6: Hawthorn Bloom and Blessing
May 6-7: Magnolia Bloom and Blessing
May 7-8: American Chestnut; also Blueberry and Huckleberry Pruning and Honoring (second-year plants have all budding flowers cut back.
May 8-9: Blueberry and Huckleberry Blossom – all remaining blueberry and huckleberry bushes are blessed [Observing the Hexedanz at Hexebarrick]
May 9-10: Cherry Bloom and Blessing
May 10-11: Serviceberry Bloom and Blessing
May 11-12: Strawberry Bloom and Blessing; Asparagus Harvest Festivals
SUNSET MAY 12 (beginning of 13. Wonnet) IS THE FIRST ATTACK OF THE REIFRIES (Frost Giants).