The twelve “Rauhnächte”, an old tradition in Germany, Austria, Switzerland and Tirol, which depending on the local custom either start on the Winter Solstice (21.12.) or on Christmas Eve, have been surrounded by mystery and wonder for thousands of years. The exact origin of these twelve nights “between” the years is not completely clear but they probably date back to the time when our Calendar transitioned from the Moon Year (354 days) to the Sun Year (365 days), which resulted in an extra 11 days and 12 nights. This monumental change happened during the reign of Julius Caesar (100 – 44 BC). Others argue that the origin of this sacred and spiritual time lies back much further, but there is no exact documentation to prove either.
The name “Rauhnacht” is believed to come from the custom of smudging/smoking during this time (Rauch = Smoke) with various herbs and ingredients to drive away dark spirits and energies, protect the home and clear the path for the new year. Another root of the word “Rauhnächte” might come from the old German word “rûch” meaning hairy/furry in relation to the appearance of the demons that needed to be driven away. In ancient Germanic and Celtic wisdom, it’s believed that the doors open up to the “Otherworld” in these 12 “extra” nights, connecting us to our ancestors, higher energies and the divine, but also making us more vulnerable to darker energies, which is where rest, self-care and protection come in.
Across many parts of Germany (and other countries such as Switzerland and Austria) the “Rauhnächte” traditionally were a time for contemplation, celebration, intention setting, clearing and preparing for the new year. There are so many beautiful practices, all closely connected to the natural cycles and the spiritual interconnectedness of everything.
In recent times there seems to be a movement and desire to re-connect with elements of this spiritual tradition and there are many wonderful customs associated with the “Rauhnächte” that can easily be integrated into our modern lives today.
On a basic level, the 12 nights stand for the 12 months of the coming year. Every “Rauhnacht” stands for one overall theme, these are not written in stone but can be chosen individually in a way that is meaningful, for example:
25.12.: January, looking back and letting go with gratitude
26.12.: February, returning to stillness, feeling our roots, grounding
27.12.: March, opening up to our inner being
28.12.: April, trusting ourselves
29.12.: May, practising self-care and self-love
30.12.: June, contemplating on forgiveness, healing relationships
31.12.: July, becoming aware of own emotions met with self-compassion
01.01.: August: connecting to higher energies, our spirituality, the divine, our part in “the bigger picture”
02.01.: September, setting intentions, making decisions for the new year
03.01.: October, contemplating on previous night impulses, self-care
04.01.: November, mindfulness of the present
05.01.: December, gratitude
A traditional practice of the “Rauhnächte” is to write down 13 individual intentions expressed in the present tense (ie. I am hopeful, I honour my body, I am capable, I am successful, I am healthy, I am worthy, I forgive, I am forgiven, I am confident etc.) Every night, without knowing which intention it is, one of the notes is burnt with the knowledge that they will be supported throughout the year. The last intention is left for us to deal with ourselves, our personal project so to speak ;-).
These twelve days are also a wonderful opportunity to tie up loose strings, resolve conflicts and have a clear-out to make room for the new year (either external “stuff”, physical excess or a mental/emotional “cleanse”). There are many beautiful and powerful practices and activities that can support us with this:
“Rauhnacht” rituals and practices:
- A cleansing detox program
- Grounding exercises
- Regular Nature Connection
- Decluttering a room
- Smudging rooms with herbs such as juniper, mint, sage, lavender, spruce, mistletoe, angelica or mugwort
- Clearing the energy in rooms with singing bowls, chimes or crystals
- Mindful eating
- Meaningful rituals such as a rite of passage to consciously enter the new year
- Choosing an area we are not happy/content with and brainstorming ways to make positive changes with a vision board
- Mindfully bringing attention to unresolved situations
- Cold water practices such as a cold shower, barefoot walking in wet grass, stream, sea, wild water swimming
- Drinking plenty of water to support flushing out toxins
- Simple daily brush massage to support clearing our lymphatic system
- Taking time to become still
- Screen/social media detox
Everybody is different so it’s important to choose what’s meaningful and supportive to you!
The importance of our spirituality for physical and mental health is also an important module in our upcoming Mindfulness Rooted Ecotherapy Training (MRE) for health and education professionals. You can learn more here.
Sending you all the good blessings and energies for this transformative time and a wonderful, healthy and happy new year!!
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