Urglaawe is the heathen tradition of the Pennsylvania Deitsch (or, Dutch). Before I read this book, I had already read one of the stories collected in it, “The Legend of Delbel the Butzemann.” In fact, I edited the anthology in which that story first appeared in English: No Horn On These Helmets. Delbel’s tale is a folk tale with magical content, but very few overtly pagan references. I was expecting more of the same from this volume, and although there are several folk tales that don’t deal much with heathen gods, this book surprised me with quite a lot of very Heathen content.
The first chapter is about the founding of the Deitsch nation. This story attributes the journey of the Deitsch people to settle the Deitscherei and Germantown, Pennsylvania to the goddess Holle. The myth says Holle selected the most peaceful of the Germans because she and the other gods were sad about the Thirty Years’ War. She chose peasant farmers because they kept the old ways more than any other class of society. She continues to watch over the Deitsch from her mountain, Hexekopp.
The chapter on the Hexewolf rounds up all the extant lore about this cryptid. The Hexewolf is not a werewolf, but a magical wolf who hunts another cryptid, the shallygaster. There is an illustration of a Hexewolf walking on two legs like a werewolf, but there is no lore linking the Hexewolf to humanity like a werewolf. Hexewolf encounters can bring bad luck according to the stories. The chapter includes information on where the Hexewolf lives, speculation about its origin, and all known stories about it.
There is also a chapter on Holle’s Mill, the device that separates the soul-parts of a dead person for re-use. Frau Holle is the goddess who rides the Wild Hunt (sometimes with Odin) to retrieve lost souls and recycle them back into the cycle of life. The Higher Self part of the soul is reincarnated, and is working toward being better in each successive life. This chapter is not a story, but a collection of lore, theory, and explanation about what Holle’s Mill is, what it does, and why.
The chapter on Ewicher Yeeger, the Eternal Hunter, tells one of the versions of this folktale, and then mentions other versions. After that, the author interprets the story, and goes into other lore about the Eternal Hunter figure. Schreiwer speculates about the Hunter’s possible indentity. That is, the author explores the question of whether the Hunter is Ullr, or Wotan, or another Deity.
There are several folk tales in this book. One of them is about a fisherman who is saved from a people-eating water being called a Wassernix by beavers, and the author prefaces the tale with some natural history of the beaver. There is a story featuring dwarves and the common folk tale plot of tricking an enemy. Another story uses the fairy tale motif of a bargain with the fairies. Each story has elements similar to other folk tales and fairy tales from other cultures, but each one has its own flavor seasoned with the experiences, landscape, and culture of the Deitsch.
This book is a short, but valuable source of material on this little-known branch of Heathenry. I recommend it for Heathens, pagans with an interest in Heathen material, and students of folk tales, fairy tales, and myths.
[Erin Lale is the author of Asatru For Beginners and other books. She has been a gythia since 1989, published Berserkrgangr Magazine, is a godspouse of Odin and his brothers, and currently manages the Asatru Facebook Forum and writes the Pagansquare blog Gnosis Diary: Life as a Heathen. She lives with her mom and her black cat in Henderson, Nevada, where she ran for public office in 2010 and 2013, and is active in her local dance, arts, and pagan communities.]