Nordic Magic Healing:
runes, charms, incantations, and galdr

On Jakob


Taken from: Otto Freiher von Reinsberg-Düringsfeld, "Aberglaube-Sitten-Feste Germanischer Völker, das festliche Jahr", Reprint-Verlag-Leipzig (reprint of the original 1898).

The apostle Jacob, called the Elder, because of Jacob the Younger, whose feast falls on the 1st of May, was the son of Zebedee, Saint John the Evangelist's brother, and the first apostle to receive martyrdom. The church venerated him at first as the other apostles, until the 19th century where it fixed the 25th of July as his own feast. It falls at harvest time, thus it has been often called "Jacob's day of the cut" or "of the harvest". The varied uses and interpretations given to this feast lead us to suppose that in pre-Christian times it had a higher meaning.

If it rains on Jacob's day, then the acorn will die out. If the sun shines with white clouds in the sky, it is then said that the snow is ripening for the next winter. If the cauliflower is not hoed in time for the Saint Jacob, then it will have few heads; when the women of Gießen on the Rabenau gather the first vegetable for the Saint Jacob, they take a large cabbage and strike it on the head saying :

Jacob! Thickheaded!
You are headier than my head!
You are folder than my folds!
You are stalk as my leg!

Jakob! Dickkopf!
Häupter wie mein Kopf!
Blätter wie mein Scherze!
Strünke wie mein Bein!

In Turingia, black berries named "Joksbeeren" are gathered on this day. These berries are efficient against all kinds of sicknesses.

In Swabia, the white flowered endives are very carefully cut, their roots are said to be very healthy.

In Ellwangen in the Hohenberg, Saint Jacob is revered as the saint patron of the church, and on his feast's day, the people take note of the height of the water in a well found in the church yard wall. If the waters are low, then the year will be dear. If the waters are high and the well full, then it is possible to catch some water in the hand, and let it flow through the fingers. This means that the harvest will be good and that everything will be inexpensive. Likewise, when all the bread that was cooked for the feast is not sold out, and some is left, this also means that the year will be inexpensive. In Swabia, on Saint Jacob’s day, the service time of the maids starts and on this day, they move in such a way that the day is spent in dances and music in the guest houses.

In the Egerland, only the male and female cowherds celebrate St. Jacob, it follows that the maids and servants have to take care of the cattle. In the Lungau, Saint Jacob is the biggest summer feast, impatiently looked for by the female cowherds. As soon as winter gives way in the Alpine heights and the glaciers' lap [sic], the female cowherd takes her place in her hut, a kind of wooden blockhouse, that uses the door as window and chimney as well. In this place, she sleeps and lives, using it also as a kitchen. Completely lonely in those heights, she sings and jodels when milking the cows, or when she gathers fodder at her life's peril from slopes too steep for the cattle to graze on. Only in the evening, while the work is finished, will several of them gather from the nearby huts around a cross or a pious picture, in order to pray together. But on Jacob's or Anna's day, the hut becomes busy. Boys wearing their feast clothes climb up the highest fields, in order to visit the she-cowherds, who will welcome them richly, and even the worse weather is not able to make them stop this habit they call Jaggosen (Jakobsen).



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