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Tuesday, May 6, 2014

Sommer Entdeckung - My Family's First Walburgisnacht

   The evening of this past April 30th my family celebrated our first German-oriented May Day. It has been an interesting experience so far shifting focus with the children; their questions are pushing me to clarify and have an understanding of what I am doing that I probably wouldn't worry about otherwise. 
    We dedicated our celebration to Frau Holda and to welcoming back the summer. We invited in our ancestors, the friendly Huldufolk, and Frau Holda. We sang "Winter out, summer in" and I told the children about how we were at a turning point in the year, shifting from winter to summer. The children were curious about the ideas of summer and winter fighting each other and expressed hope that now our weather would finally turn. I pointed out that our local signs of spring/summer finally arriving included the forsythia and azaleas blooming.  We also talked about some of the history of the holiday and its association with witches. We made offerings of cedar to the landspirits, burning them on our altar, and offered bread to our ancestors. For Holda we offered flax seed, because its said that she brought flax to people. Finally we prepared a slice of oatmeal bread with butter and honey as an offering for the Windhund* and left it outside. 
    I had planned to include two things that we ended up not doing because of a cold steady rain: making a May Bush and ritually "drowning" winter. The first is actually a tradition shared by the Irish and one that the children and I have done before - it's always fun. We take a branch from a tree and set it up by the door and then decorate it with yellow ribbons and flowers. The second I read about in Grimm and I loved the symbolism; an effigy of Death, representing winter, is created and then ceremonially drowned in a lake or other body of water. My oldest daughter made a paper figure representing winter and we planned to drowned it in the swamp behind our house. After death/winter is banished we would have sung:
"Wir haben den Tod hinausgetrieben,
den lieben Sommer bringen wir wieder,
den Summer und den Meien
mit blümlein mancherleien"

 (We have driven out Death
  brought back the dear summer
  the summer and the May
  with little flowers of many kinds)
   All of this had to be saved for another day, probably next weekend, which will put it close to the end of the 12 day Wonnetdanz of Urgalaawe. I suppose that's fitting enough.  
  After the children went to bed I did a small personal rite to Holda on my own, committing to one year of honoring her and studying German Heathenry. It seemed fitting to do from one May Day to another. 
Duncan Royale Frau Holda statue

*the Windhund is a hound of the Wild Hunt left behind during the summer who may bring luck, prosperity, and protect from bad weather

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