If you visit Luegde, a little village in the Teutoburger Wald, TeutoForest in the week before Easter, you may wonder why big wooden 8 spoked wheels are floating in the waters of the river Emmer.
A closer look lets us detect the wishes, carved into the wheels: joy, good harvests, health, peace…whatever wishes are appropriate for the prospering of the rural community.
On Saturday before Easter Sunday the heavy wheels are taken off the river and rolled up the hills. Here men are waiting to prepare the wheels for their fiery run down the hill. Fresh hazel twigs are wrapped around bundles of dry straw. The big bundles are stuffed between the spokes of the well watered wheels.
When the setting sun’s red golden rays touch the old beeches’ treetops, which crown the hills, more and more people assemble on the ridgeway. Some are carrying torches. Others carry bottles with mead or beer.
When night has spread her cloak above forests and villages the performance of the fiery wheels starts.
The wheels, heavy from water and the bundles of straw now stand upright on the ridge. Now the men carefully light with their torches the bundles of straw, one by one. When all the straw bundles are burning, they are brought into movement. It is a wonderful, impressive and majestic sight to see these giant fiery wheels rolling down the hill, leaving a flaming trail of light behind them in the green.
The run of the fiery wheels on the Saturday before Easter has become part of the non- material UNESCO world heritage and attracts a lot of tourists every year.
History puts the beginning of the fiery wheels’ run into the era after Christianisation, which may be true for the present location. Luegde is a Saxon settlement, which has it’s roots in the 1rst century AD. I dare to have the justified presumption of the origin of the run of the fiery wheels in the pre-christian era.
If we take a look on the rites and customs around welcoming spring in the rural communities in our region – Ostwestfalen-Lippe , short OWL, water and fire play an important role in them.
We know about the practice of women silently scooping water from one of the many healing wells at Easter or spring equinox. The water was scooped with a vessel, which had a rounded bottom. It had to be hung on a hook, hanging down for the cottage’s ceiling, as the holy water would have lost it’s healing power, if the vessel had touched the floor.
Several hills in the region have names like “Bonstapel”, (= mount of bonfires). Greeting spring with bonfires on hilltops is well documented. Nowadays this custom has survived and is still practiced in the “Osterfeuer” events, parties organised by the community on Easter Saturday.
The run of the fiery wheels down the Osterberg echoes forth the memories of once important acts of sympathetic magic: the wishes carved into the wheel – first presented to the river goddess, whose floods distribute the wish as a blessing allowed the land, wherever the waters of the Emmer bring their watery blessing of life to fields.
The fiery wheels, symbols of renewing life, blessing the land with good wishes as far as their shining flames are seen. Once it was said, that the farmer had the most lucky year, whose wheel had rolled the longest way before tumbling and falling.
Now the run of the fiery wheels and the “Osterfeuer” are absolutely secular events.
Ostara, the Goddess of Spring, you may meet during a silent walk in her lovely forests, just awakening….
When the hand of spring touches the treetops of the old beeches and oaks, colouring green hills and meadows, don’t hesitate to follow the call of renewing life. Enter the magic forest, listen to the messengers of spring, blackbird and robin, greeting spring with their lovely songs; smell the breath of spring – fresh green, breaking through the heavy soil. You even may taste spring in the fresh herbs, which are the ingredients of the green soup, part of the population’s spring diet in the past, when people where dependant on the food the soil of the land, on which they lived.
The herbs of spring and folklore related to them will be part of another article in goddesworldblog.
Text: all rights reserved by Hamsadevi Claudia
Photo: Wikipedia , Feuerraeder Lügde