The Swabian language continues to surprise me again and again. Recently my wife and I repeatedly encountered the term “fei” (spelled something like “fy”). Fei is included in Swabian sentences to give them emphasis: “Des isch fei was wert. Do ka’sch fei was drauf geaba.” or similar. In the region called Allgäu where I come from they also had this term. But as a child I misunderstood it as being “frei”. I thought it came from the german word “freilich” which means “certainly”. Nowadays it is very easy to research such things. The richness of knowledge in the World Wide Web made it easy for us to find out. The term comes from the german word “feien” (see Duden online). Originally it was spelled “veien” (in Middle High German) and meant “protect something with fairy magic”.
So, if we strengthen our sentences with the word “fei”, our statements will be immune to any inconvenience. Well, that’s “fei” even more fun to pursue this local custom.
PS: This term is not only used in Swabian language. There are other dialects that also use it. E.g. Sandy acknowledged it for the Erz Mountains.
Some years ago we and some of our friends decided to hike along the Way of St. James in stages. It was not our goal to go on a pilgrimage to Santiago de Compostela, we simply like hiking. Now, such a thing as “the” Way of St. James doesn’t actually exist. If someone wanted to see the grave of St. James in the Middle Ages, he began his journey at the door of his home and ended near Santiago de Compostela. Today, a european nomenclature denotes only the last section (Puente la Reina to Santiago) in the north of Spain as Way of St. James, all others are now called “Ways of the pilgrims of St. James”. That said we took one “way of the pingrims of St. James” – even only a short part of it, between Christgarten and Neresheim. A really lovely church (St. Sola Church) can be found in Kösingen. The priest even showed us the rooms behind the altar, the sacristy, which at that time was not accessible for the public. On 08/21/2013 they had an article in the local press called SchwäPo. Unfortunately the article is only available for subscribers.
When hiking in europe, you can often find a stylized scallop by the side of the road. The icon (often in conjunction with a yellow arrow showing the direction) blazes the right trail. But why the scallop? Each pilgrim finishing his pilgrimage, was handed out such a sea shell. He pinned it onto his pilgrim’s hat, his pilgrim’s bag or his pilgrim’s pole. It acted as identification tag, so pilgrims and non-pilgrims knew, who took the cumbersome way to the grave of St. James.
Numerous statues and paintings of the Middle Ages  show St. James and pilgrims with wide-brimmed hats with these shells pinned onto. These hats were typically felted like nearly every medieval hat. The material (water, stale urine and sheeps’ wool) was cheap, there were no other resources needed for the production (contrary to other handcrafts) and even better the result was water proof and nearly fire proof.
In 2005, when my wife discovered felting, the most interesting felting objects were hats of the Middle Ages. It wasn’t a long time coming until she felted her first pilgrim’s hat. In the meantime she has created several handfelted pilgrim’s hats. I am really looking forward to see the film “Die Pilgerin” (The Female Pilgrim), where some of her hats will be seen. The film is currently in production. Here are some selected photos of her hats. Anyone who wants to go on a pilgrimage himself/herself and needs a pilgrim’s equipment, may find a handfelted hat to buy on her felting homepage Zauberreigen (magic round dance).
After my wife started felting felt hats, we determined that tablet weaved laces are quite expensive to buy. As there are many tutorials on the net, and you do not need too much material, I decided to try this on my own. My first lace isn’t perfect, not only because I had no practice yet. The Material, self-dyed raw silk is quite difficult to weave, as I read afterwards…
Nevertheless, I am happy with it. I especially like the colors of the self-dyed raw silk (red from madder and blue from elder). This will surely not be the last lace I made.
A djembe is a west-african drum made of hardwood and covered with goatskin. The instrument nowadays is very popular even in germany, as it has a wide variety of sound repertoir. The djembe got my attention from my wife’s bellydance music, from my hobby in the medievals and from my participation at the Musisches Zentrum at Ulm University. The band Angaheym, good friends of us, used the instrument for their bagpipe music, as it is loud enough to stand the volume of the bagpipes.
Soon I wanted to have my own djembe. I asked my friends who already had djembes which qualities I had to pay attention to. In Ulm I got my “personal” djembe which now serves me well for over ten years. Even a performance with children during my alternative civilian service in an integrated kindergarten was no problem for the instrument.
Those who like african or oriental rhythms will be very happy with a djembe. Originally the drums were used as solo instruments or in an ensemble with other djembes. Nowadays, they are often used as accompaniment. Especially those pseudo-medieval music groups use the djembe in their percussion.
In 2007 my wife Inés and I made a dream come true: participate to a medieval fair. Inés had gained much experience in felting, so she wantet to felt with children at the market. At castle Katzenstein (engl: cat stone) the spectaculum took place. We were overwhelmed by the mass of children that wanted to felt with us. We rarely had time to get something to eat or drink. But we had so much fun we decided to do that again.
For the presentation of the felt works of my wife I built a homepage. Inés felted some pieces especially for the design of the homepage. We should renew some part of the page. But for treasuring all those felted blooms, hats and bags the page perfectly serves our needs.