In my home state of Bavaria, we have some remnants of our ancient heritage left, expressed in traditions and customs, some that are more
than 2 000 years old or older. One of these customs is the Rauhnächte.
The Rauhnächte stems from the middle high german word rûch, and refers to “rough” and “smoke/incense”, as during these nights, which are sacred in our traditions, lots of incense was burned in order to banish away the winter spirits.
The Rauhnächte take place during the darkest time of the year. It is Wotans Wilde Jagd.
Wotans Wild Hunt and his Army of Spirits along with Frau Holle that roam the landscape and the homes of every family, the woods, the rural landscape.
Frau Holle is a well known German entity, in Bavaria she is known under a different name as Berchta, the Bright. She is no one other than the norse Hel and trances back to the early Stone Age. She is far older than the Viking Age. She is the Mother-Archetype that can be found in many other cultures around the world such as Maha Kali, for example, in Hindu-Mythology. Animistic cultures have similar myths all across the continents. They are connected as those cultures possibly originate from Proto-Indo-European-Cultures and have spread all across Europe, Asia and even North America, as Native Americans can trace their heritage back to Siberian and Altai tribes. The belief that nature is the mother, the womb and the tomb, the source and the origin, is one thing that unites us. Frau Holle, Holda, Berchta, is such an ancient Archetype – and her influence on Alpine traditions, fairy tales, folklore and customs is deeper than we might assume at first sight.
As the Sun descends and the days become colder, and shorter, and darkness sets in, the wintery spirits settle in. Berchta is a polar deity, she is both the bright and the dark. life and death. (Schön-und Schiachpercht).
During the Rauhnächte the veil to the Underworld of Death and Darkness is thin, however, it is also the time of the year where the Sun and Fertility sparks a new light even in the darkest of nights. It is a time to connect, to meditate and to burn incense, to ask our Ancestors for guidance. And to connect to the cycle of life and nature. The 12 nights of the Rauhnächte that last from somewhere from the 21th of December to the 6th of January is the time of Wotan’s Army of Spirits, with Berchta on his side.
Berchta is our Mother Goddess, the Urgeist of life and nature. The Rauhnächte is our meeting-point in order to connect.
By practicing the Perchtenläufe, the people of the Alps wanted to banish the winter spirits and welcome the spark of new life and fertility. She is the winter that holds new light, and she is death that holds a new beginning. It’s two sides of the same coin. It’s about balance! As I said, this has got nothing to do with demons. This is about an animistic heritage. The true foundation of the pagan worldview. We are part of nature, part of the seasons, the forces of the cosmos. And we are part of that unity, the cosmic dance of forces, power, of life and death. Berchta is that Archetype. She’s the Mother. She’s the womb, the Underworld. She’s life itself.