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Saksische Tradities * Dominick ten Holt (2011)

Apparently there are people in my country interested in and working with the prechristian religion of our area of whom I never heard. Somehow I ran into an announcement of a newly erected Irminsul (or if you cannot read Dutch, try this Google translation). I am not entirely sure what to think of this project, but when I started to look for more information about the people behind this project, I found a book called “Saksische Tradities”, five years old and I never heard of it.

The title page says that there are German and English versions of the book. I did find the German one, but not an English version. If there is somebody who can point me to this English edition, please do.

Dominick ten Holt stepped into his father’s footstep2 by investigating the traditions of the area where both grew up, the Achterhoek, an area in the Province of Gelderland of the Netherlands. The reasoning is that Saxons lived there and the Saxon area was, of course, much larger. In the Western part is the area where the author is from. To the North it reached the coastal area of the Frisians, then going all the way up to Denmark, the Hartz-area in Germany as the farthest East and the Southernmost part is as South as Köln/Cologne. And of course the Saxons crossed the North Sea to the British Isles.

Ten Holt set out to investigate the religion, folklore, customs, etc. of the entire Saxon area thus showing where elements that can be found in Great Britain came from. The chapters sometimes seem especially written for the book, sometimes they are articles that have been published before. They span a variety of subjects spanning from seasonal feasting customs, etymology, expressions of art, folklore, reports of visits of Saxon sites and areas and of course history. The author is fairly fierce towards Christianisation, particularly the role of Charle’magne’ which he dubbed Charles the Butcher (some call him the Saxon-slayer).

Inspite of the focus on Saxon history, the author (actually authors, since there are also texts of Jan ten Holt), there is quite a bit of use of Icelandic sources, sometimes a bit too easily too perhaps. This is, of course, inevitable, but I wonder if an uninformed reader will always be able to tell the source of the information.

However I laude the effort to give extra attention to the tradition of the particular area and even more so because it is placed in a larger context, but I do not find the book particularly good or convincing. It is mostly gathered information that I already ran into in other places and nothing is specific enough for ‘Achterhoek aha moments’. The book may only be a step up to a larger and better worked out project, but I have not heard of any follow ups of it.

A positive side is that the book mentions visit-worthy sites that I was so far unaware of. Some ‘neo’, like the authors own runestone and a stonecircle of a group called Athanor, but there is also information about interesting remains in areas that I sometimes visit, but was unaware of.

It looks like the first printing is starting to run out, but the book is not too hard to find second hand. Neither is it very expensive and it is nicely printed and comes in a hardcover with photos and about 270 pages of content.

A nice surprise.

2011 Uitgeverij Van de Berg, isbn 9789055123582

The First Book of Urglaawe Myths * Robert Schreiwer (2014)

Not too long ago there was a buzz going around in ‘the heathen world’, something new… On American and Dutch fora I read about “Urglaawe”. Now what would that be? Some sort of þheodism perhaps?

Then I ran into this little book with “Urglaawe myths”, subtitled “Old Deitsch Tales for the Current Era”. Another new term “Deitsch”. I knew that the “Pensylvania Dutch” are not really of Dutch descent, but rather German. Descendents from those Germans are now called “Deitsch” as is the area they inhabit. These emigrants/immigrants apparently kept some of their language and folklore and the author has set out to write down some of those tales before they die out.

This book is full of German-sounding, but not quote German, words and sentences. “Braucherei” and “Hexerei” are forms of the old ways, a “Lumbemann” is a scarecrow, a “Butzemann” a “spiritually activated scarecrow”, a “Wassernix” a “watersprite”. A short sentenced that is used in this book appears to be some sort of Bavarian (from Bavaria in Southern Germany).

The 60 pages are mostly filled with retellings of tales which can be about the “Ewicher Yeeger” (‘eternal hunter’), friendly beavers or Til Eileschpiggel. Small stories about man interacting with nature and its spirits.

This little book makes a nice read of about an hour, but will not teach you much about this contemporary Urlaawe that the internet seems to be full of nowadays.

2014, isbn 9781500790226

Midwinterse Tradities * Aat van Gilst (2014)

Just before the winter solstice I wondered if I indeed heard that Aat van Gilst had recently published a book about Midwinter traditions. He did indeed and I finished it before the end of the period that this book is about (“From St. Lucia until Epiphany” as the subtitle goes).

Like other books of Van Gilst, this latest work is mostly ‘collective’, as in: tons of information, anecdotes and quotes crammed together in a book. Therefor the book again reads a bit like an encyclopedia. Still, Van Gilst proved himself an antiquarian gathering his information from the weirdest places and putting them together between two covers so that us readers do not have to find everything ourselves. The bibliography is exactly 100 titles.

The author speaks about the traditional ‘twelve nights’ that not everywhere and in every time span the same period. Usually we are talking about the winter solstice until Epiphany, but our Dutch Sinterklaas is in some way a start for the midwinter celebrations and we celebrate it at December 5th. Van Gilst teaches us a thing or two about death and fertility celebrations that have become a range of ‘Christian’ feasts for saints, but in which a lot of prechristian elements survive. Also noteworthy are the history of the ‘Christmas tree’ (which is different from the romantic view of many contemporary heathens), Christmas songs and of course a gigantic number of folkloristic traditions that we see and saw in the darkest period of the year.

Much lacking is an index and the images have too little contrast, but for the rest this is a wonderfull book to draw inspiration from for your traditional solstice information and celebrations.

2014 Uitgeverij Aspekt, isbn 9789461535269

Folk Metaphysics * Charles Upton (2008)

What a wonderfull little book of the American Traditionalist Charles Upton! I thought it was time to read something from the Traditionalist corner and when browsing through the Amazon website, I ran into this Traditionalistic book about “mystical meanings in traditional folk songs & spirituals” and decided to try it. Upton proves to be a poet (student of a beat poet) and however Wikipedia lists him as a Sufi, I have the idea that he is very Christian. The author starts with a very nice introduction into his world of thought and this makes a nice introduction into Traditionalism. Also, the authors that I mostly read from that ‘school’ are much more formal and theoretical in their approaches, while Upton is very nicely ‘practical’ and personal, sometimes reminding a bit of Mircea Eliade. Upton does not write about Traditionalism, but he writes ‘Traditionalistically’. The book mentions a lot of contemporary songs and poems, some might go back to the older songs the he usually reconstructs before he gives his view on them. These views can be relatively short, or extremely lengthy, such as in the case of the Dilly Song in which Upton finds the 10 commandments that he delves into in (too) great depth. Upton has a Traditionalistic view upon folklore and the prechristian religion that some of it goes back to. On the one hand, he says that remnants remain, but on the other hand the tradition is broken and the real work can only be done through orthodox religions. In his introduction to ‘three ballads of fall and redemption’ he writes “a word on, and to, the neo-pagans”, who “certainly include the Nordic romantics of the “Goth” culture – the people who, when they think of Hyperborea, do not see the eternal spring of the Earthly Paradise, but sorcerers blasting people with magic wands and warriors cleaving skulls with battle-axes – as well as softer Celtic romanticism which has produced River Dance and Celtic Women and a lot of blurry, elvish elevator music.” I guess that goes for a large part! “I maintain that some of the Neo-Pagans seem to have missed several important points, both about the spiritual life in general and about what Paganism originally was”. Agreed!
Folk Metaphysics is filled with thought-provoking and insightfull explanations of old and contemporary poetry and song. I do not always agree with the author and his ideas about for example heathenry, but the book is a very nice read. Practical Traditionalism so to say.
1998 Sophia Perennis, isbn 9781597310772
Some quotes from this book can be found here

Wende 5

Wende 5With some delay Wende 5 (the midsummer edition) of the Flemish “Odalist” “Werkgroep Hagal” is available. About 60 pages in an A5 booklet with a nice variety of subjects. An introduction to “Odalism”, early 19th century decoration on a roof tile that the author found on his roof, a text by Jan de Vries, European martial arts, an interview with formerTraditie chairman Stefaan and much more. Wende always makes a nice read (but where is the “ethnobotanic corner”?) with a different angle of approach than my own. Click on the cover to go to the website of Werkgroep Hagal for more information.

Volksgebruik en Zinnebeeld * Karl Theodor Weigel (1943 / 2006 werkgroep Hagal)

Werkgroep Hagal is a Flemish Asatru organisation that here publishes its first book. “folkpractice and symbolism” is a collection of five articles published in the periodical Hamer (“hammer”) in the year 1943. Like other books that I reviewed, this little work is about how folk practices and symbols relate to the ancient Germanic faith. Weigel takes the reader on a tour through the year and has some nice information and images that I hadn’t yet seen. The text is translated in Dutch, but there are also German publications of the man. If you like similar works of Farwerck, Logghe or Wirth, the few euros that have to be spent on this publications are worth it. <30/3/07><4>

Die Symbolhistorische Methode & Allmuter * Herman Wirth Roeper (2004 die goden)

However the republisher has Die Symbolhistorische Methode as “Band 2” of the Schriftenreihe: aus Forschung und Erfahrung, I advise to read Allmutter first. I haven’t been able to find out when these booklets were first published, but Herman Wirth lived from 1885 to 1981. Recently a Dutch book was published about the man who was born in the Netherlands, but who moved to Germany. Since Wirth met Himmler and became head of the Ahnenerbe, he is one of those ‘forbidden’ writers. I only heard about the man, read the article in Tyr volume 2 and then I noticed that the German mailorder Nordwelt Versand has these two small booklets. The symbolhistoric method is a 22 page guide through Wirth’s ideas on symbolism and the “Ur”-culture from which the Western cultures sprang. He explains symbolism that he found in rock-carvings, painted animal skins, etc. compares them and points out a line of how he came to his conclusions. However I don’t always follow the man, it is nice to read his theories on the evolution of symbols and the explanations he gives to them. Other ‘symbologists’ such as Farwerck or Logghe surely got some light from this Dutch/German writer. Allmother has about 75 pages with much more symbols and this time also a lot of photos and images. The booklets are very cheap, so a nice introduction into an interesting thinker.

The King Of The World * René Guénon (2004)

le roi du monde 1927

This is one of the earlier books by Guénon and a thin one too. Only just over 100 pages and I read it in not even two hours. This may be due to the fact that I read an unpublished Dutch translation, but also it seems to me that this book is written in a much easier style than for example The Reign Of Quanity & The Sign Of Times. This book may be a good first title to read of this famous French “traditionalist”. Guéon starts with mentioning books by Ferdinand Ossendowski and Saint-Yves d’Alveydre which speak about the subterranean kingdom called Agarttha and the ‘king of the world’ ruling it. This is the starting point of 12 chapters with comparative symbology about for example “Shekinah and Metatron”, the Grail, “Melki-Tsedeq”, Luz, “The Omphalos and Sacred Stones”, to work towards “names and symbolic representations of spiritual centers” and “location of spiritual centers”. The King Of The World doesn’t have the negative tone of other of Guénon’s works, but also not the frequent and clear referrals to ‘the crisis of the modern world’ and the ‘sophia perennis’, but of course, these are also present. So in my opinion with this short book you will get a nice idea (and maybe even a ‘light version’) of what the writings of Guénon are about. Informative, written from a very distinct starting point and with information from a wide variety of religions and traditions.
(14/4/06 -4-)
Read quotes of Guénon here.
2004 sophia perennis * isbn 0900588543

Liederen En Dansen Uit De Kempen * Harrie Franken (1978 / 2003 stichting brabants heem)

I saw this book in the local bookshop. As the title says, it contains “songs and dances from the Kempen”. The Kempen is the area in the Netherlands (and Belgium) that I am from. It is a massive 600+ book and comes with a cd. It is quite expensive and I have been in doubt whether or not to buy it. Today I ran into a second hand copy. This turns out to be the second printing of 1978 (first printing is from the same year) and the book has been reprinted with cd in 2003. I am curious about the cd, so maybe I will get the new printing after all. Not that I am much of a singer or a dancer, but I do like the fact that old songs and dances are compiled and saved for the future. I have learned some of them in my youth, others are quite universal. The songs are simple folksongs, childrens songs, but also devotional songs and interestingly enough, there are a lot of so-called “murder songs” in the book. The best part is, is that the book contains both the texts and the music, so people interested in singing traditional songs will have plenty if they buy this book (of course they are in Dutch or sometimes in the local dialect). This book perfectly fits into my motto, investigate your local history and learn to understand and appreciate it. <25/11/06><4>
I got the fourth printing from the library and this one contains the cd. Indeed there are recordings by Franken from the 1980’ies, one take, including mistakes, talking and laughter. Some songs are funny, other are a bit boring. Three songs have been replayed by Franken’s music group “Ut Muziek”. <17/12/06>

Verborgen Wijsheid Van Het Sprookje + Verborgen Wijsheid Van Oude Rijmen * Mellie Uyldert

Mellie Uyldert was born in 1908 and she is still alive. Uyldert is regarded as the Netherlands’ first serious astrologer and the grandmother of the New Age. I didn’t know that when I bought these two booklets separately from eachother. Both are about “the hidden knowledge” of fairytales (first) and ancient rhymes (second). Uyldert gives a few well-known tales in the first book and explains them at length. The same she does with mostly children’s plays in the other book. Uyldert obviously has a spiritual view and she explains the original (sometimes cultic) meanings of the tales and rhymes. Herefor she uses psychology and she goes back to Northern European mythology and folklore and modern Theosophical-like (maybe Antroposophical) spirituality. This results in original and nice-to-read explanations of texts I have known since childhood, giving them a much deeper meaning and understanding. I do not always agree with the writer, sometimes she is a bit too ‘fluffy’, but especially the Nordic background of the tales and games and the natural elements (solstices, seasons, day and night, etc.) are very interesting. Some books of Uyldert are still in print, others you will have to get second hand. Besides books like this, Uyldert has written many books about astrology, herbs, spirituality, etc., etc. In some circles she is controversial for her ideas (race-theories and such), but a book like these two are not about all that.