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Sunday, November 24, 2013

Ewicher Yeeger

An old Deitsch myth from all across the Blobarrick

By 1732, the Deitsch colonists had entered the area now known as Lynn Township (Lehigh County), Pennsylvania and begun a rapid process of settlement. The settlers cleared huge tracts of land of all trees and brush, and they built farms along the Blobarrick, or the Blue Mountain, and went about their business.

Unfortunately, it did not take long for them to discover that the soil in this particular area was not as fertile as in adjacent areas, and the settlers experienced first a major drought. When the rain did come, it washed away the dry soil, including many of the seeds and the few seedlings that managed to take root. The drought was thus followed by a crop failure. This was a disaster to the folks, who had dubbed the name of their land Allemaengel (also Allemangel or Allemängel), which means "all deficiencies."

The drought and the crop failure were particularly disastrous because much of the wildlife that had lived in the previously forested area had fled to areas still wooded on the other side of the Blobarrick. The situation became more dire as early autumn snowstorms made it impossible to leave the Allemaengel. The colonists became increasingly desperate and began to pray and to set out meager offerings of hay and cloth.

Just as sickness and starvation began to set in, the cold, mid-autumn night's serenity was shattered by a booming voice and an overwhelming sound of barking hounds. The noise seemed to come from nowhere yet from all directions at the same time. The sound appeared intermittently throughout the black of night while the colonists remained in their shelters, frightened by the enormity of the noise.

As dawn approached, the settlers emerged from their homes. They looked out onto the barren fields and saw that the wildlife had been driven back into the Allemaengel. With deer and rabbit suddenly plentiful, the farmers took to hunting and to preserving the meat for the winter.

Throughout that winter, the sound of the hunting pack could be heard across the Blobarrick. The magnitude of the sound never waned, and the folk knew that Ewicher Yeeger (Eternal Hunter) had rescued them from certain starvation. 

To this day in parts of the Blue Mountain from Palmerton to Pine Grove and beyond, when the roaring barks and howls of Ewicher Yeeger's pack are heard, the Deitsch folk know that Ewicher Yeeger continues His errands, keeping the hunting lands of the northwest Deitscherei bountiful.

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Some comments regarding this myth:

Some versions of this tale attribute the importance of scrapple originating in the rabbits being driven over the ridge to save the colonists. The Deitsch word for scrapple is "Pannhaas," which translates to "pan (fried) rabbit."

There are many versions of this tale. In most versions, Ewicher Yeeger is an entity -- or, in Urglaawe, a deity -- of the Earth or the Air. In some other versions, Ewicher Yeeger was originally human but had an unfulfilled oath that kept him at his hunting work.

A well-known depiction of Ewicher Yeeger is J. Allen Pawling's painting, The Eternal Hunter, as seen here in Graeff and Meiser's Echoes of Scholla-Illustrated. Although this depiction does not show antlers or horns, Ewicher Yeeger is often seen as a horned god.

J. Allen Pawling's "The Eternal Hunter"
Despite early attempts to connect Ewicher Yeeger with Wudan via the concept of the Wild Hunt (Fogel 13), most reports of Ewicher Yeeger present an earth-borne feel to this powerful deity. In both Braucherei and Urglaawe, Ewicher Yeeger and Wudan are considered to be two very different gods. In Urglaawe, Ewicher Yeeger is considered to be of the Wane and is believed to be the consort of Holle. Additionally, the Wild Hunt takes place in the skies and in the ethereal space among the realms, and the targets of that hunt are the souls of the departed. Ewicher Yeeger's hunt is bound to the physical world.

Ewicher Yeeger is, though, on errands that exceed our understanding, and it would be easy for one to find oneself beneath the hooves of His horse or captured by His hounds. He is considered in Urglaawe to be a very old deity and is believed to be the god Holler (akin to Norse Ullr (maybe ?) or perhaps is even the Tuisto referred to in Tacitus' Germania) in the context of a regional understanding. Holler traditionally is viewed as a god of death, disease, and destruction, which would seem counterintuitive to the story that such a god would save the colonists from the elements for which He is best known. 

The way to interpret the lessons from this story emerge from Braucherei and Urglaawe philosophy.  The lore on Holler is scant, and much of the negativity associated with Him could be the result of demonization of Teutonic deities, much as Berchta was highly maligned in post-conversion Germanic lore. However, there are clues in most versions of this story that are passed among Braucherei and Hexerei practitioners that can help to explain Holler's role in this myth. 

Allemaengel has a longstanding association with "sorcery" (Smith 2), which is actually a reference to  Braucherei and/or Hexerei, so it is possible that the concept of the Zusaagpflicht was known to some of the people in that area. Many versions of this story make it clear that the settlers did not clear the land responsibly or check the soil prior to building their farms. There are no direct statements regarding to whom the prayers or the offerings were directed. Theories include the self-evident Christian deity, but other theories suggest that the offerings may have been to the land itself or, due to the strong presence of Hexerei practitioners, perhaps even to Teutonic deities. 

The residents of Allemaengel had violated the Zusaagpflicht (Tobin, Sacred Promise, 14, 16) by not caring for the land in which they were settling. The removal of all brush made the land prone to erosion, and the lack of food for the wildlife drove the game away. The resulting death, disease, and destruction were of the colonists' own making. However, the given offerings and uplifted prayers (regardless of to whom they were presented)  showed remorse and a recognition for the settlers' misdeeds. The offering of hay, in particular, can be viewed as a Schild payment to the land for the abuse thereof.

Thus, from the Urglaawe perspective, the colonists had made amends for their misdeeds and appealed for help from the divine. In this case, Holler, a god of wild game, came to their aid. The lesson of the Zusaagpflicht and the interdependence of all living things on Earth is a core Braucherei philosophy that has been in place much longer than the current era's "green movement." Stewardship is a core Urglaawe virtue that ties into the Zusaagpflicht. 

Regarding the sound of Ewicher Yeeger's pack: much like Heathens do not see Dunner (Thor) as the personification of thunder, we also do not see the reverberating sound that is associated with Ewicher Yeeger as being the Eternal Hunter Himself. Instead, we perceive His power in the sound and in the memory of the successful settlement of the region. Thus, much like the natural phenomenon of thunder is explainable by science, so may Ewicher Yeeger's sound be attributed scientifically to a wind of warm air on the cold mountains or to flocks of migrating geese (Gehman 52). However, because the deity does not emanate from the phenomenon and vice versa, there is no conflict between the sensation of the deity's presence and the scientific understanding of the world around us.

Although some similarities have been drawn between Herne the Hunter and Ewicher Yeeger, I have only found one other reference to Ewicher Yeeger in European lore, and it was an obscure Swiss German reference that I have not been able to find again (perhaps our cousins and friends in Europe can direct us to additional sources). The large number of stories in Pennsylvania related to Him, though, indicate that He has been well known in much of the Deitscherei well into present times.

The myth of Ewicher Yeeger brings to mind sections from a particular passage in Dennis Boyer's Once Upon a Hex (23-25) relating to the comments of a retired history professor in Mannheim, Germany:
"You Pennsilfaawnisch Deitsch took something with you. Something that both haunts and protects you. And you left us poorer for it. This has been a troubled land. When our German tribes displaced the Celts, the celtic spirits rested uneasily at first. But the celtic widows and orphans were absorbed into our tribes and brought some of the ancient magic into our midst.'
'When the Romans came, the bloodshed stirred up the old spirits and added fresh souls to the porridge. Confrontation, then absorption into the mercenary machine, and the end of our tribal identity.'

'Next, Christianity with God's message of peace and man's brutal distortions. A time of forced conversions and mass executions. Still, the old spirits stirred and welcomed the new energy into the mournful pool.'

'Then the push and pull of the so-called Dark Ages. There were tranquil periods when new gods of progress faded from the backwaters and left the people to the old rhythms of the land. So in between the temper tantrums of bishops and the greedy predations of feudal lords, the old spirits dwelt among the peasants. Those spirits infused the old wise ones with healing energy and food for the soul.'

'But the growing institutions of church and state needed to feed their appetites for control. So we came out of the Dark Ages and into the darkness. The endless wars, the plagues, the religious hysteria, and "witch" killings, and the peasant revolts and the slaughter at Münster, the quests for territorial dominion under the cover of Catholic-Protestant strife, and the persecution of the anabaptists.'

'It was the time when the old rhythms started to unravel. It was the time when the old spirits cried out at the murder of the old wise ones. It was the time when the stage was set for your people's departure.'
'In pockets along he Rhine, in Alsace, and in Switzerland, some of the old ways and old spirits hung on, biding their time. When the New World was opened to the people of the Rhineland, the impulse of these spirits made it inevitable that the humans in touch with them would burst out of their confinement.'

'I believe there is a spirit essence within a people. It is forged out of their diverse predecessors and out of their common suffering. It is not a ghost that haunts them. It is their way of haunting others.'

'It was that protective capacity the emigrants took with them. They took our best spirits, our ghosts of laughter, and our healing presences. And the last century makes it obvious that we were left more vulnerable when we lost these things.'

'We had stone quarry spirits and woodsmen spirits, spirits of the rye and barley fields, ghosts of grist mills and blacksmith forges, and even a turnip spirit. They all went to Pennsylvania...'

'But we are getting close to a new time. Many of the old German things seem to want to come back to us. Maybe you can help us find these old ghosts. If you want to find them, go back to the beginning of the Pennsylvania experience. They traveled with the emigrants in tool boxes, dowry chests, crocks, and seed packets."
Perhaps Ewicher Yeeger is one of these old "ghosts" - a deity whose new time is nigh. Current Urglaawe theory draws connections to the god Holler (perhaps also the Scandinavian Ullr), and that relationship will be explored in later posts.

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REFERENCES

Adams, Charles J., III. Haunted Berks County. Reading, PA: Exeter House Books, 2005.

Boyer, Dennis. Once Upon a Hex. Oregon, Wisconsin: Badger Books, 2004.

Fogel, Edwin Miller, Ph.D. Beliefs and Superstitions of the Pennsylvania Germans. Millersville, PA: Center for Pennsylvania German Studies, 1995.

Gehman, Henry S. "Ghost Stories and Old Superstitions of Lancaster County." Pennsylvania Folklife vol. 19, no. 4, pp. 48-53. Lancaster, PA: Pennsylvania Folklife Society, Summer 1970.

Graeff, Arthur D. and George M. Meiser, IX. Echoes of Scholla—Illustrated. Kutztown, PA: The Berksiana Foundation, 1976.

Polley, Jane, ed. "Homely and Earthy Talk: Pennsylvanians from Germany." American Folklore and Legend, pp. 28-29. Pleasantville, NY: Reader's Digest Association, 1978.

Smith, Norman A. "Der Alt Hexa Zehner." The Pennsylvania Dutchman, vol. 1, no. 17, p. 2. Lancaster, PA: The Pennsylvania Dutch Folklore Center, August 25, 1949.

Tacitus, Pubilius Cornelius, translated by Herbert W. Benario. "Germany." Agricola, Germany, and Dialogue on Orators, pp. 63-88. Indianapolis: Hackett Publishing Company, Inc. 2006.

Tobin, Jesse. Der Braucherei Weg [CD; 12-month course]. Kempton, PA: The Three Sisters Center for the Healing Arts, 2008.

Tobin, Jesse. "The Sacred Promise at Erntedankfescht." Hollerbeier Haven: Newsletter for Herbal and Healing Arts, v. 1 no. 2, pp. 14, 16. Kempton, PA: Three Sisters Center for the Healing Arts, August 2007.

Wentz, Richard E. Pennsylvania Dutch Folk Spirituality, pp. 300-302. New York: Paulist Press, 1993.

Yoder, Don, ed. "A Legend of Alle-Maengel." The Pennsylvania Dutchman, vol. 1, no. 12, p. 5. Lancaster, PA: Pennsylvania Dutch Folklore Center, July 21, 1949.

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Please use the following information when citing this article:

Schreiwer, Robert Lusch. Ewicher Yeeger. deitschmythology.blogspot.com, November 24, 2013. Bristol, PA: Deitscherei.com, 2013.

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