Book Review: Pennsylvania Dutch Virtues

Pennsylvania Dutch Virtues“Pennslvania Dutch Virtues” by Gerry Kershner is a charming little volume of life advice extracted from Pennsylvania Dutch proverbs, sayings, and stories. It’s a light read that nevertheless has meaningful ideas in it, accompanied by quotes, anecdotes, and line drawings in the distinctive Deitsch folk art style.

Heathen readers will immediately notice the parallels between the Pennsylvania Dutch virtues and models such as the Nine Noble Virtues. Some of the quotes even appear to come directly out of the Havamal! For example, under “Hard Work (Hattschaffichkeit)”, the author quotes children’s frakturs:

“Whoever can do something is worth much.
Nobody wants an unskilled person.
(Werewwer eppes duh kann iss viel Waert.
Niemand will en ungschickter Mench.)”

Compare this to one translation of a passage in the Havamal, which reads:

“The lame man rides a horse,
the one-armed man drives the herd,
the deaf man fights and is useful;
it is better to be blind than burnt:
no one is helped by a corpse.”

Even though there is a similarity in meaning, if not exact words, to Heathen lore, Heathen readers will notice right away that this book is actually written by a Christian author, and from a Christian perspective. Nowhere is this more clear than in the chapter on “Humility  (Demut)”, where Biblical passages are quoted extensively, extolling the joys of humble living, and at one point even stating simply “Self-praise stinks.” The author urges readers to use the Bible as a foundation for good Christian living and a return to simpler times. Some quotes in the book are also sexist (“I would rather stay single than give the pants to a wife,” among others).

Despite these differences, if you’re practicing Urglaawe, you’ll find a lot of value in this book. There are thoughtful reflections on traditional Deitsch values, and practical suggestions for incorporating them into your life. There’s also a collection of quotes from folklore that support the survival of these values so similar to those in ancient times. It’s a slim volume, so it’s inexpensive and a quick read, but you’ll likely find reasons to return to it whenever you’re examining the role of Deitsch values in your own life.


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