One of my goals for 2015 is to celebrate all of the Urglaawe holidays throughout the year. I chose to start with Berchtaslaaf because it’s a time of reflecting upon your life and creating goals for yourself. Since I had time to plan ahead for this occasion, I took a serious inventory of my life and looked for areas that were important to me to improve.
This blog itself is an extension of two of my major goals, learning the Deitsch language and learning, through practice, about the Urglaawe path.
Berchta is a goddess who deals with this kind of reflection, limits, and boundaries. As a goddess concerned with spinning, the Wild Hunt, and protecting the souls of unborn children, She shares many traits with Frau Holle. Some people see Her as another face of Holle, or as Her sister. I personally favor the later view. While I was searching for information on Berchta, I came across a related link on Perchta that has some good information. I also found a nice little invocation, along with some historic information and some “UPG”** associations.
For my celebration of Berchtaslaaf, I went with the traditional feast of herring and oats. According to surviving lore on Berchta, she prescribes a meal of herring and gruel or oats to be eaten on this day. Varying accounts state that either those who fail to partake, or those who dare to add other foods to the menu, will be torn open by Berchta and filled with rocks and straw. A spiritual interpretation of this could indicate bad luck or misfortune in the coming year.
After days of searching, I was finally able to get my hands on a jar of herring bits in wine sauce. (The first store I found it at had a refrigerator malfunction, and their herring was warm; I won’t serve the gods something I wouldn’t be willing to eat!) Using a recipe from a New Nordic Diet cookbook I got (part of one of my resolutions!), I prepared simple Smørrebrød for us with the herring. Then I cooked some old fashioned oatmeal and gave it a good helping of butter and maple syrup.
I’ll be honest, I was dreading taking part in the feast! You’ll notice in the pictures that Berchta’s Smørrebrød has a much more generous helping of herring than mine! I had heard terrible things about the herring, and its presentation in the jar was none too appetizing. Much to my relief, when it came time to share in the prescribed meal, I found the herring to be, if not exactly an instant favorite, certainly nowhere near as bad as I had feared. The texture is firm and springy, not too dissimilar to eating sushi (which I happen to love). The flavor is not fishy at all, but rather like an exceptionally tangy pickled beet, and not as sweet as the beet would be. (Pickled beets and eggs were a traditional holiday food in my family while I was growing up, so I had at least a point of reference for it.)
The pictures show my altar setup for the occasion of this ritual. The runes selected from my bag are ones that I chanted at the beginning of the ritual as part of hallowing the space and focusing myself. My rune set is made from holly wood, a plant that’s special to me because we had two holly bushes outside my home when I was a kid that I spent a lot of time playing around and communing with. Holly is also sacred to Frau Holle.
I personally felt no feast would be complete without mead. The mead I used is a mango flavored one that I think is particularly delicious (even if it doesn’t exactly mesh well with the flavors of maple syrup and pickled herring). I blessed the mead and used it for additional offerings. This was also the first official use of my newly blessed personal stein.
It was great to start off the new year with an official means of setting my goals into motion. I felt that it was important to start with Bercthaslaaf, rather than waiting until Grundsaudaag, because the latter deals with goals that you have already planned and decided upon for yourself. As the Deitsch day actually begins at dusk the night before, I wanted to begin my “year of Urglaawe holidays” during this “darker” time of transition.
**NOTE: UPG stands for “Unverified Personal Gnosis. I personally hate this term for a variety of reasons, including how it is used to trivialize personal spiritual experiences, and the fact that “gnosis” is inherently personal and can’t be verified, so the term is redundant in the extreme. However, it’s still the label that’s most widely understood for “something religious that isn’t historically attested to”, so I suppose for now it will have to do.