There are demons and ghosts

Rauhnächte - time of ghosts and demons

The twelve Christian "holy nights" between Christmas Eve on December 24th and the night of Epiphany on January 6th have a pagan origin that goes back to the Slav period six centuries BC. BC goes back: The Rauhnächte. On the one hand they are a dark time full of ghosts and demons, on the other hand they also offer space for inner contemplation and reflection.

You are not allowed to wash your laundry between Christmas and New Year to prevent bad luck. Many know this statement. Some even fear the death of a family member if one does not adhere to it. But where does this popular belief actually come from? He twists around the rough nights. During this time you are not allowed to wash white laundry, previously it was sheets, and hang on the line to dry, otherwise they will become the shroud of their owners in the coming year. Other legends and stories about the Rauhnächte also have to do with evil spirits and death.

Rough fur and rough fellows

The Rauhnächte have their origins in a time when natural phenomena could not be explained by humans. There was no electric light against the darkness. During the short winter days in the evening, people sat together in the room and passed the time with stories that explained the gloom. There are two theories about where the word Rauhnacht comes from: This leads back to the Middle High German word rûch (= hairy) and refers to the hairy fur of wild demons. The second explanation refers to the fumigation of the cattle sheds with incense to keep away "devils, ghosts and sorcery". Some also refer to the rough nights as "dead days", ie "days outside of time", which result from the difference between lunar and solar years, which "practically do not exist". On these days the laws of nature are no longer in force, according to myths and legends. The Rauhnächte were a time when spirits were cast out or conjured up and the fortune-teller questioned. During these days the animals can speak in human language and predict the future especially at midnight. But anyone who hears the animals speak does not benefit from it for long, because it dies from them, so it was believed earlier.

Twelve nights, twelve months

Originally there were twelve rough nights, six before the winter solstice on December 21 and six after. They symbolized the twelve months in the following year. Every Rauhnacht predicts the respective events for the respective month. Therefore the rough nights are also called loose nights (loose = to predict). Others see the nights “between the years”, ie between Christmas and New Year, as particularly significant. Today, many only see four main mere nights: Thomas's night on December 21, Christmas Eve, New Year's Eve and the night before Epiphany. During this time the powers of winter give each other a stormy rendezvous until the "wild hunt" comes to an end on January 6th, according to popular belief.

The wild hunt is international

The wild hunt is known in many countries, in Scandinavia as "Odin's hunt", in Great Britain as "the Wild Hunt", in France as "chasse sauvage" and in Italy as "caccia morta". A train of ghosts rattles, screams, howls, moans, moans and moans in the sky through the air. The participants in the train are supposed to be the souls of people who died violently and “before their time” and who now come from the spirit realm. Those who watch the train can get carried away, so it is advisable to turn your head, to withdraw into the house and to pray, so the legend goes. In the Eifel and neighboring Belgium, it was long believed that people who were powerful in magic made a pact with the devil at this time and, as werewolves, frightened people and their cattle. At the end of the Rauhnächte, on the night of Dreikönig, the wild hunt finally goes to rest.

Rattling and noise helps against ghosts

Because noise and noise help against the ghosts, there are also many related customs and traditions: In Schleswig-Holstein there is noise on New Year's Eve with the "Rummelpott", in Austria the "Glöckler" drive away the winter and drive the Perchten runs in the Alps masked "Perchten" the evil spirits. The New Year's Eve also used to serve first to keep monsters away and only secondarily to usher in the New Year.

Superstition in the rough nights

There is also a lot of superstition about the Rauhnächte: A popular belief is, for example, that the weather during the twelve Rough Nights will determine the weather of the coming year. In regions such as Brittany, Wales or Scotland, where the Celts were previously predominant, according to tradition, young girls can see the figure of their future husbands in the rough nights. But they were not allowed to speak to him because otherwise they would die. What you dream in the rough nights will come true in the assigned month of the coming year. In the first hour of the New Year you should lock the front door, but leave the back door open so that happiness for the New Year comes in here.

Time for silence and contemplation

As much as the Rauhnächte used to be a time of fear and anxiety, on the other hand, contemplation, silence, fasting and prayer were indicated in order to begin the new year with humility and respect for the winter spirits. Even today, the time between Christmas and New Year or Epiphany is a good time to reflect and look inward, look back on the old year and then turn your gaze back to the new year. Many are on vacation and spend time with their families. Even if the majority of people no longer know the origin of our customs, rituals and traditions and the darkness has lost its horror, especially in the cities, because there “night is turned into day” with lighting, then the rough nights are suitable "Between the years" even in our modern times to withdraw and pause.