Monday, March 17, 2014

Happy St Gertrude's Day

Yesterday I went to the Pennsylvania German Cultural Heritage Center for their first annual St Gertrude's Blessing of the Soil in their new kitchen garden. William Woys Weaver spoke first about the history of St Gertrude and soil blessing in the Pennsylvania German tradition. St. Gertrude was probably a pagan goddess of fertility and is called upon to help the garden grow.  While she is the patron saint of gardens she is also the patron saint of cats, for their help in chasing rats and mice out of the garden.

Then we went out to the kitchen garden where Patrick Donmoyer, site director of the Pennsylvania German Cultural Heritage Center, blessed the soil with crumbs of "datsch" while reciting a traditional blessing.  I wish I had written the blessing down, but it had a lot to do with thanking the heavens for giving to the earth.  Datsch is a traditional yeast, potato bread made with spelt and barley flour, with additions to represent things you want to do well in your garden like green onions (for green things), poppy seeds (a representation of black was important to symbolize death), caraway seeds, flax seeds (as the growing of flax for linen was very important) and honey (for the bees of course.)  Crumbs of this bread would be sprinkled in the four corners of the garden, beggining in the east corner while invoking the "little people" and asking for help from the heavens.  It was also important to keep flowers growing in the corners for the little people (Hmmm, maybe there is a link to Celtic traditions.)

The above photo is from the Reading Eagle's article on the event yesterday.

So on March 17th, a Pennsylvania German gardener would bake a datsch and ask for St. Gertrude's assistance in the garden for the coming gardening season.  We were given pieces of datsch to take home so I didn't have to bake, but I did go out today and say a small blessing to the four corners of my garden.  The chickens served as an interested audience.

With the garden blessed, I planted spinach, lettuce, chard, kale, mustard and pak choi in the greenhouse.  Hopefully, St. Gertrude will send her assistance to my garden this year.  Now, can she help with chiggers and walnut tree juglone?


  1. Very nice. Should remind Ally it's time for garden blessings. The unseasonal cold has screwed things up in regards to planting.

  2. Thanks, you had better get to work, you're ahead of us! Although you have had more snow lately than we have!