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.