Tuesday, February 17, 2015

Faas and the Faschingkluck

Although Shrove Tuesday (today) is a Christian observance, it is widely suspected (or known) that some traditions associated with this day are pre-Christian in origin. In Urglaawe, those traditions are tied to the Entschtanning observance that begins on Groundhog Day. I have recently had a change of heart regarding one tradition, particularly as more input arose from the community. Thus, I figured I would share this here. The post originates in the Urglaawe Customs Guild.

Urglaawe Customs Guild Topic 13: Faas and the Faschingkluck

Recently I have made references to a bizarre tradition related to Shrove Tuesday but that very likely has pre-Christian roots. I have also said that it is, perhaps, the sole tradition that may be better off vanishing.

However, since first writing about it in 2012 (see below), I have engaged in several speculative discussions that are making me think about possible origins of this custom. Thus, I need to strip away my reaction to the schoolhouse setting in which this custom was described by Alfred Shoemaker in "Eastertide in Pennsylvania."

John B. Stoudt observed in "Folklore of the Pennsylvania Germans," the religious and spiritual practices of elder generations often end up reflected only in children's games and songs in later generations. That is an important point to keep in mind when reading and considering the schoolhouse game.

Additionally, since 2012, I have had people comment to me that the schoolhouse was not the original location of this game but instead ended up becoming the location only after the rise of organized education provided a readily accessible location, so things that might have been done in a community setting easily transferred to the schools.

So here is a portion of the Faas traditions from "A Dictionary or Urglaawe Terminology," including the bizarre Faschingkluck game, followed by some speculations based on later discussions.

In the Deitscherei, another aspect of the Fasching is that the last person in the household to arise in the morning is deemed "the Faschtnacht," "der Faas," "der Faschingkluck," or myriad names. When I was growing up, within our household, the last child to arise in the morning of the Fasching had to do one extra chore by the end of the day. Customarily, in many Deitsch households, the last child has to tolerate teasing by his siblings all day long.

The same applies to the last child to arrive at school on Shrove Tuesday.

In the past, there were some rather elaborate teasing rituals involving the clucking sound of chickens in school. As the children arrived, the girls would cluck like hens and the boys would crow like roosters. As another child would arrive, he/she would receive instructions that he could not cluck or crow like the others until yet another child arrived. Instead, the last child would have to call out, "Hallo Faas!" to the next arriving child (Shoemaker 1-5).

If a child erred and clucked or crowed, there were penalties involved, particularly having to give a kiss to a member of the opposite gender. Girls, in particular, were encouraged to kiss any boy who caught their fancy.

The clucking, crowing, and kissing sound like they were originally part of some sort of fertility-related ritual. Teachers in the post- modern era would very likely be more than a little bit disquieted by their students engaging in this behavior. However, the tradition was clearly in effect well into the 20th century, and aspects of it may well live on in parts of the Deitscherei even now.


I really do not know how old this game is or how widespread it once was. However, people have since told me that children's animal imitation on a family or community level is something that they recall as innocent games that involved you "becoming" the animal of honor. For instance, engaging in a cow's behavior on a driving day could help to make the drive go more smoothly.

Bearing Stoudt's observance on children's games retaining a portion of prior generations' spirituality, I am wondering whether the ultimate root of this game is in shamanic animal spirit engagement (which is not unknown in Hexerei anyway) that might have been ritual for adults in order to encourage fertility of their animals.

Heck, the Groundhog myths and Butzemann rituals have shamanic elements, and plant spirit work is common, so my personal take (after years of being uncomfortable with the details of this game) is that it is not a big leap to find remnants of another shamanic practice living on in a peculiar children's game.

Thus, my earlier statements about allowing this tradition to die out were too hasty.

Perhaps it is better to reframe it so that the possible origins of it are the focus.


I have recently learned that there are even more bizarre traditions in Flanders that go back to the Middle Ages and involve students engaging pre-Lenten cockfighting. This violent tradition almost certainly shares the same root (though not necessarily the same practice or function) as our current tradition. Our tradition sounds increasingly agreeable to me.

All this investigating provides me with another theory to flesh out by next Groundhog Day. I see from now a few sources that the pre-Lenten (and apparently pre-Christian) practices included various forms of gambling, including the cockfighting, and various games of chance. While our living tradition is rooted in fertility rites and potential life (certainly an aspect of the Entschtanning period), there is an element of mystery, prediction, that which is not yet manifest, and a lot of what is included in folks' interpretation of the Perthro rune. Many people (myself included) connect Perthro to Frigg, whom we also honor during Entschtanning... thus, in my theory, bringing together the fertility and chance aspects of this. If anyone has other thoughts, please share. :)

Friday, February 6, 2015


The video that accompanied the January 25, 2015, newspaper article is available without a subscription on the Bucks County Courier Times website. Please note that the word "Urglaawe" is not pronounced correctly on the video. 

We will begin to put more videos out that include the pronunciation of relevant words, though many videos on our YouTube channel also include the pronunciation of quite a few terms.