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Thursday, March 8, 2018

A Tale of der Muunkall (The Man in the Moon)

A man once went hunting in the woods of Yellow Mountain (Berks County) during the last quarter of the moon. When he loaded his gun to shoot at a deer he saw, he hung his powder horn on a horn of the moon, not thinking it odd to be able to do so. 

After he shot the deer, the moon had risen so high that he could not reach his horn anymore. He piled wood to stand on, but the moon kept rising out of his reach until his horn was gone. 

As he came home, he told his neighbors and family about what happened, and they told him that his horn had been stolen by the Man in the Moon and suggested he talk to an elderly woman who lived in the woods. 

The next day, he visited the old woman, who was adept in the magic of Hexerei. She advised him to return to that same spot on the night the new moon. He did so, and he found his powder horn next to the pile of wood he had stood on.

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Note: Several variants of this story have emerged from oral reports (numbering a total of 27) in Berks County (where Yellow Mountain was the most common setting) and Lehigh County (where most reports did not give a specific setting and two gave Allemengel as the location). 

In a few reports, the moon was in the last waxing quarter and the horn dropped when the moon was full.

The Man in the Moon was named in most of the reports. In a few others, it was merely the action of the moon rising that caused the hunter not to be able to reach his powder horn. In one report, it was the placement of a horn (powder) onto a horn (moon) that caused the moon to get angry with the hunter and to keep the horn.

In seven of the reports, the hunter was not an honorable man, and the loss of the powder horn could be seen as a punishment.

Monday, January 8, 2018

Gedreier Eckhart: Germanic Psychopomp?

Gedreier Eckhart is one of the more interesting characters in our folklore. For me personally, this is partially because Eckhart is a family surname and also because, somehow, much of my family was aware of the connection between Eckhart and Holle while I somehow did not make the connection until I fully identified as Urglaawer. Weird.

Eckhart [Source: WikiMedia Commons]

There is not a huge volume of oral lore on him from Deitsch lore, but what we do have makes him an important player in the Urglaawe view of the Wild Hunt. Our lore is consistent with much of the lore of other German lands as well.

Eckhart’s roots run deep in Germanic lore. He is of the war band of Dietrich of Bern. He appears as Eckewart the Margrave in the Nibelungenlied, and in a Heldenbuch appendix, he is said to stand before the entrance to Holle’s realm to warn or to frighten away anyone who wished to enter. He also appears in the Middle Ages tale of the Tannhãuser, and Grimm (936) postulates that he was perhaps functioning as a Heathen priest. In our lore, he may have been an incarnation of die Weisskeppich Fraa  (but that sense appears to be an outlier).

Eckhart is a loyal character throughout the heroic legends, but, in Deitsch lore anyway, his title of Gedreier (“Loyal”) comes from his dedication and service to Holle. He appears with a white beard and a white staff. He is deceased, yet he continues to serve the goddess in death just as he did in life. Our lore places him as sleeping in a linden tree or in a rock until Holle has need of him. In Germanic lore, including that of the Deitsch, he precedes the Geischderschtrutz, or the Parade of Spirits (read: the Wild Hunt), warning the living to get out of the way of the impending fury and also advising the living to be prepared for Holle’s inspection.

As the Parade continues and, as Deitsch lore says, meets up with Berchta and the souls of those who have passed since the Hunt began, Eckhart guides the souls of the Parade to Holle’s Mill, where they are crushed into separate parts and reconstituted into new soul constructs. 

In this sense, it appears that Eckhart is very much functioning as a psychopomp, guiding the souls of the deceased to the end of their journey. 

I have been playing the role of Eckhart in Philadelphia’s Parade of Spirits for several years, and I have been reflecting that psychopomp role without giving it due consideration. This year, I intend to make that role more pronounced.