Tuesday, October 29, 2013

The Legend of Delbel the Butzemann

A retelling of a Deitsch folk tale
by Robert L. Schreiwer

Harr Meyer was a pleasant man and a diligent farmer. Unfortunately, he had experienced a farm injury as a young man, and, now as an old man, he walked with a pronounced limp on his right leg. With each passing year, Harr Meyer encountered more and more trouble keeping up with his crops and felt less and less confident in his ability to care for them.

One year, as the snows of winter roared, Harr Meyer finally decided he needed help with the protection of his crops. His bones were aching, and his old injury was throbbing from the icy humidity. In order to seek some relief from his pains, Harr Meyer visited his village Braucherin1, who was renowned for her herbal wisdom, healing touch, and keen insights.

The Braucherin greeted Harr Meyer as usual, and, throughout the course of their conversation, Harr Meyer asked for the Braucherin's advice regarding his plight with his crops. The Braucherin immediately replied that Harr Meyer should construct a Lumbemann2 from crop remnants in the fields and bring him to her for activation on Grundsaudaag3

Harr Meyer did not understand what activation was, but, upon leaving the Braucherin's cottage, he did as she had instructed and built his scarecrow. Thinking that he and the scarecrow together made a whole unit, he constructed the scarecrow with weaker materials in his left leg. "His left limp will match mine," thought Harr Meyer.

On February 2, he returned to the Braucherin, bringing his scarecrow with him. The Braucherin took the  Lumbemann and whispered some incantations over his head. When the Braucherin asked Harr Meyer what he'd like to name this scarecrow, he thought of the limp, and answered, "Delbel4." She continued her incantations, this time also drawing symbols over the scarecrows head. She then took a deep breath and exhaled it over the mouth of the scarecrow.

"Daer do iss dei Butzemann, Delbel der Nei5," she announced, holding the newly activated scarecrow up to a bewildered Harr Meyer. She then provided Harr Meyer with additional instructions for his scarecrow, stating that, if he followed them carefully, this "Butzemann"6 would patrol his land and help to protect his crops.

"Most important, though," said she, "is that you set him afire no later than Allelieweziel7, when Holle8 calls for him. Otherwise, trouble will beset everyone and everything around you." Harr Meyer shrugged and returned home.

Harr Meyer observed the Braucherin's instructions faithfully throughout the spring. He showed Delbel his turf, provided him with clothes and a perch, and he lavished offerings of molasses and milk upon the Butzemann. In turn, Delbel grew stronger. The plant spirit within him grew bolder. At night, Delbel would emerge as a spirt from the scarecrow shell. Despite his limp, he learned to fight the Frost Giants and to keep troublesome land spirits at bay.

By Midsummer9, Harr Meyer's land was bursting with bounty. Delbel was very happy on his perch by day and in the fields by night. Harr Meyer continued to reap the richness of the land and to share his wealth with Delbel throughout the Hoiet10.

One day, Delbel noticed that Harr Meyer was not out working in the fields. He continued his own work in the fields, scaring away birds and dangerous spirits alike. Two more days passed, and Harr Meyer had not returned to the fields.

Delbel became concerned when he noticed a large group of people, dressed mostly in black, carrying a large wooden box down the lane from the house. As the group came closer, Delbel could see his master, stretched out inside of the box. Although Delbel was not highly experienced with the world of humans, he knew that what he was seeing was not pleasant.

Delbel resumed his work. Week after week passed, and the crops became overgrown and began to wither. Then the day temperatures turned cooler, and the Frost Giants began to attack at night. Delbel watched the leaves on the trees change color. When he noticed that the crops were beginning to fade, Delbel also began to feel an unexplained pull towards the ground. 

This sensation grew stronger with each passing day, and the source of this pull felt closer and closer to the surface of the ground beneath him. He felt more and more drawn to it. He wanted to be with it, even though he was unsure what it was. 

One day, Delbel noticed an odd little man loafing around the edge of his turf. His back appeared to be buckled and crooked, and Delbel felt very uneasy about his presence. At night, the little man suddenly shifted in his shape. He maintained his crooked back, but Delbel now sensed that this was a dangerous spirit.

Each day, Buckliches Mannli11, as Delbel called him would approach the edge of Delbel's turf, but he would not cross the line. He did not seem interested in the crops, though; instead, he seemed most interested in observing Delbel's actions.

And, each day, the pull became stronger, until the source was almost within Delbel's reach. He felt a dazzling energy coming from the land below him. Delbel now realized that it was time for him to leave his turf. Delbel yearned to be with the source of this energy, but he was disturbed by Buckliches Mannli's persistent interest.

Finally, one crisp autumn night, Delbel felt the energy arise from beneath him. A beautiful White Lady emerged from the ground, enveloping him and pulling his spirit upward from the shell of the scarecrow.  She arose above him, filling all of the night sky with ethereal light and warmth. Delbel felt himself beginning to depart from his body, and he was elated by the glory of all he was witnessing.

At that moment, however, Delbel felt a tremor in his physical shell. "Buckliches Mannli!" he exclaimed, "He's taking my body!" Delbel fought to keep the strange spirit from overtaking his shell. The scarecrow fell to the ground, breaking the plant stems that made up Delbel's weak left leg. The impact of the fall pushed Delbel's spirit from the shell. Delbel was saddened to have lost his body to Buckliches Mannli, but he was now free to join the White Lady Holle on her journey through the skies.

As Delbel joined a parade of souls behind the goddess, his joy was suddenly interrupted by the realization that part of his soul was missing. Although he was loath to leave the parade, he decided to search for the part of him that was missing.

Upon returning to his turf, he observed his limping shell, which Buckliches Mannli had stolen creating all sorts of mayhem. The fields were aflame. The neighboring cattle had been let loose, and the neighborhood children were quaking with fear. 

Delbel panicked. He had lost his turf, and the whole community was in chaos. He sought help from the neighbors, but, without his shell, no one noticed he was there.

Delbel began to move about the land, following in reverese the path that Harr Meyer had walked when he brought Delbel home from the Braucherin. Delbel eventually came upon the cottage in which he was born. He peered through a window, and he saw the Braucherin sitting and meditating at her altar.

Delbel walked through the walls, and immediately the Braucherin stirred. "Delbel der Nei," she whispered. "What brings you here?"

Delbel had never spoken a word aloud before, so he was not sure that the Braucherin would hear him. "I am in need of help."

The Braucherin replied, "I hear you. Tell me what is amiss."

Delbel narrated the story to the Braucherin, who quickly arose from her seat. She uttered some incantations and drew some symbols over Delbel's soul. She then grabbed a bag, emptied its contents, which were some branches, into a large pot, and set them ablaze.

She returned to her seat and continued her incantations in a whispered voice, and all Delbel could make out were the names of Hasselheck12 and Hollerbeier13

The Braucherin stood up. "The leg of your soul calls out to the smoke in the bowl," she said. "Let us take the pot and follow the smoke of the burning branches."

The Braucherin and Delbel hastily trailed the smoke into the dark night. The smoke led them to a neighboring farm's chicken coop, where Delbel saw his limping shell breaking the eggs beneath sitting hens. When Buckliches Mannli saw Delbel, he attempted to run, but his left leg gave out under him.

The Braucherin grabbed the shell, drew symbols upon its head, and uttered some incantations. She then pushed the shell into the pot with the burning branches, setting it on fire. Buckliches Mannli jumped out along with the left leg of Delbel's spirit. Although the two parts were not connected, Delbel was still able to use his left leg to kick Buckliches Mannli down to ground, and the Braucherin banished the troublesome spirit from the physical realm.

Delbel absorbed his leg back into his soul. He was pleased to be intact, but he was saddened that he was no longer in the parade of souls. 

"Fret not," said the Braucherin. "The burning branches can lead you to your destination, too." She blew the smoke from the pot onto Delbel, and Delbel felt the energy once again around him. 

He fell into what seemed like a deep sleep, and, when he awakened, he was in a blooming meadow that surrounded a large mill. Delbel's last words were a request to the goddess for blessings to be bestowed on the Braucherin, who helped him to save the community.

The Braucherin returned to her cottage and went to sleep. She awoke the next morning to the sound of knocking on her door. She opened to door and was handed a message that informed her that she was the heir of the late Harr Meyer's farm. 

Each year since then, the Braucherin has remained in her cottage but tended to Harr Meyer's land. For the remainder of her life, she continued the tradition of building a Butzemann of Delbel's lineage each year. 

Braucherin: A wise woman trained in the Deitsch healing tradition of Braucherei.

Lumbemann: A scarecrow.

Grundsaudaag: Groundhog Day, February 2

Delbel: Awkward person

"Daer do iss dei Butzemann, Delbel der Nei": "This here is your activated scarecrow, Delbel the New." The naming of scarecrows follows the old Deitsch convention. For more information on that convention, please see 

Butzemann: A spiritually activated scarecrow.

Allelieweziel: October 31

Holle: Goddess of land fertility who leads the Wild Hunt of souls through the realms starting on Allelieweziel

Midsummer: Summer Solstice

10 Hoiet: Haymaking time; month of July on the Urglaawe calendar

11 Buckliches Mannli: Also known as 'S Bucklich Mannli or Butz. Bogeyman. A mischievous and dangerous field- or house-spirit. Akin to a puck or a pucca. 

12 Hasselheck: Hazel bush

13 Hollerbeer: Elder, only parts of which can be burned in matters relating to Holle.

When citing this article, please use the following information:

Schreiwer, Robert Lusch. The Legend of Delbel the Butzemann. October 29, 2013. Bristol, PA:, 2013.

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