© Photo: Oberösterreich Tourismus/Röbl: Blueprint tradition in the Mühlviertel
Blueprint tradition in the Mühlviertel

The twelve "Rauhnächte"

The Rauhnächte come from the word "Rauchnächte" (Rauch = smoke in German, therefore "smoke nights"), because in many cultures intensive incense smoking took place around this time. In the course of time however, the "ch" from "Rauch" has become lost.

The twelve Rauhnächte falls between winter solstice on 21 December, which was celebrated by the Celts as the Day of Light, and Epiphany on 6 January. The four Sundays and holidays are excepted. The night of the winter solstice, Holy Night and the night before Epiphany are the big Rauhnächte.

Meaning of Räuchern (smoking out)

In the last days of the year, people want to drive out bad energy and evil spirits, and let in new energy as well as good fortune and wealth. The way to do this is using smoke as often as possible to purify rooms and places and to introduce strong and healing powers. So for example stables or living rooms used to be smoked with incense in order to achieve good fortune and a rich harvest for the coming year. Sick rooms would be smoked with junipers in order to reduce the risk of infection.

Purification and protection

In order to purify, one must walk around the room/the building three times anti-clockwise with the incense. Be grateful and let things that are no longer needed go peacefully. In order to create energetic protection, one then has to walk three times clockwise, filling the rooms with light and love.

The four most important Rauhnächte

In this four nights, the house and yard are smoked and blessings are prayed for for all who live there. 

  • 21 December – St Thomas' Night
    The old custom of "spinning through" in this longest night hints at the idea that the fates could be spun anew. One can throw off all burdens, purifying oneself and preparing for the new.
  • 24 December – Christmas
    the sun is at its lowest point in the annual cycle, and then starts to rise again with the appearance of the Virgo zodiac sign. This night represents hope, return and redemption. Time to be grateful for all that is good.
  • 31 December – Silvester
    The old year is seen out with noise (New Year fireworks) and the new year is welcomed with fresh resolutions. The custom of lead pouring is well-known form of oracle at New Year.
  • 5 January - night before Epiphany
    This night is for correction any situations that might not have gone so well in the last twelve nights. Being open to your own feelings and reconcile yourself with them, so that good can be created.

"May all that is dark now leave us and the house be filled with golden blessings."
May this heavenly blessing protect us, guide us and carry us throughout the year."

Text: Josef Mandl

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