Wednesday, February 1, 2017

Imbolc Blog Hop: Biakendai

Welcome to the 2017 Imbolc Tarot Blog Hop! Please navigate to the other wonderful blogs in the circle by using the directional links at the top or bottom of this page. Our wrangler is Arwen Lynch Poe from Tarot by Arwen, and the theme she chose for us all is posed in the form of a question: 

How can I best foster the energy of the Aces in my life?

In northern climates, the month of February is a liminal space. Winter still embraces the land, but the sun is becoming ever brighter, and stays longer in the skies each day. Though the ground is still frosty, spring is on the way, and there is a restless energy in the air: a readiness to dig in to the fields, to prepare the ships for sailing. There are many festivals to welcome in the spring, and most include fire in some capacity, as a dispeller of the cold and ice. 

One little-known February festival called Biakendai (Biikebrennen in German) is held on the island of Amrum each year on February 21st. Amrum is a small island in the North Sea, just off the coast of the borderlands between Denmark and Germany. It is part of the North Frisian islands, home to a branch of the Frisian ethnic minority, and speakers of the Frisian dialect Öömrang. It was on this island that my great-grandfather, Gerret, was born into a rich community of family and close friends, and it was from this island that he emigrated in order to establish a new life in New York City. He and his family would have celebrated Biakendai by lighting a massive fire near the sea, and by blackening their faces with the soot of its ashes. It is said that the intention of the bonfire has shifted over time - that long ago it was meant as an offering to the ancient gods and goddesses, and with the coming of Christianity its significance focused more specifically on the more secular celebration of winter's departure.

Here is a newscast about the festival. Even if you don't understand German, you may enjoy the images:

For families of immigrants, reconnecting to lineage and ancestry can be a deeply rewarding experience of becoming "rooted." There is profound Ace energy in that, and this is one way I have been fostering that energy in my life.

Ace of Fire: Biakendai is primarily a bonfire festival for dispelling winter (and any lurking bad spirits!) and inviting in the springtime. The festival is held on neighboring islands and in the adjacent south of Denmark, where it is called Pers Awten/Pers Aften (Gerret's wife, my great-grandmother, Emilie, was a Dane from the ancient South Jutland trading town of Ribe, and probably celebrated that). Islanders gather their combustible refuse (tree branches, cardboard, etc.) and contribute it all to a mountain that will be lit on the 21st. Effigies named "Peter" are thrown on the fire to symbolize the burning away of the dark (both literal and metaphorical), the flashpoint where winter dies and the spring is born. The bonfire festival also served as a time to see off sailors and whalers as they began dangerous ocean voyages. This will be the first year that I celebrate this holiday in honor of my ancestors, and so this is my Ace of Fire.

Ace of Earth: In the Tarot, the 10 of Pentacles is a beautiful symbol of traditions that are passed on from generation to generation. But when traditions are lost due to immigration, an effort must be made to reclaim them. Thus a seed of "new" tradition is planted. I hope that the honoring of this festival will become something that my children look forward to in coming years, and if nourished and sustained, that it may even pass on to their own children. This is my Ace of Earth.
Pagan Otherworlds Tarot - Uusi
Ace of Air: Radio Öömrang is a shortwave radio station on Amrum that holds a very special broadcast each year:

Radio Öömrang broadcasts once a year on the occasion of the Biakendai to the descendants of immigrants from the island of Amrum. Öömrang is a North Frisian dialect and is still spoken on Amrum. Biakendai is an annual celebration where a great bonfire is lit to dispel winter. (from the website)

They are reaching out over the airwaves on this traditional holiday in order to bridge the great space between Amrum and its diaspora. The broadcast lasts for one hour only: my Ace of Air. 

Ace of Water: Quite some time ago as I began to explore more in depth my Danish, North Frisian, and German heritage, I pulled a card about what the process would be like. It was the Ace of Cups. Indeed it has been like drinking from a hidden well, refreshing a parched aspect of my soul. Embracing my family history has been an act of love, not only for my ancestors, but for myself, and for my own children as well. This is my Ace of Water.
My great-grandfather Gerret (lower left) with family - Nebel, Amrum
Here is a festival song for Pers Aften. The video shows images of Biakendai/Biikebrennen/Pers Aften celebrations, including some from Amrum (look for the red/white lighthouse):

"And immediately about the fire were people in the crowd,
they danced and partied and went wild.
I asked a girl who approached me
'What are you doing, and what is it about?'
She smiled at me and she said:
'We celebrate the light, it's what we believe.
We sacrifice to Odin and Freya and Thor
and cry to heaven, where the gods live:
Weadke tar, Weadke tar,
Weadke tar, Weadke tar, Weadke tar,
Weadke tar, Weadke tar,
Weadke tar, Weadke tar, Weadke tar.'"

Thank you for reading, and Happy Hopping!


  1. A fascinating post, thank you for sharing. And another deck I don't know!

    1. Thanks, Alison. The Pagan Otherworlds Tarot is far and away my favorite deck - it's very well done!

  2. I love how international this Hop is becoming - I learn about so many new traditions and cultures :D

  3. This is wonderful. I love the idea of the Aces as putting down roots. Your personal interpretation of each of the Aces is inspiring! I loved the music too.

    1. Thanks so much, Joy! I discovered that song as I was preparing my post several weeks ago, and have enjoyed listening and relistening all month long :)

  4. Wondrous insights into family and symbolic life. I count on renewal of these connections from you. :) Great stuff.

  5. Awesome insight, Olivia, into local traditions that are part of your soul-makeup!
    It's really inspired me to look more into my heritage and ancestral practices, as I'm rather a melting pot, myself, of those different ancestral influences and genetic hand-me-downs from different continents!! :-D

    1. Thanks, Scott! I'm so glad that you are feeling inspired to dig into your family history!

  6. Lovely post and interesting to see your links between tens and aces.