Montag, 17. Februar 2014

Jagd und Hund expo 2014 - A meeting with Peter Pfaffinger and the German ritual knife

Then I met with Peter Pfaffinger, and this was a right pleasure and  a privilege to boot. Peter makes "Drudenmesser", traditional German ritual knives, all by hand in the county of Bayern, and his knowledge far transcends mere craftsmanship. He simply knows all there is about folkloristic religious practice, and is eager to learn and discuss new takes on the topic. We had some seriously academical talk, so serious in fact, that Rainer, a friend and fellow knifemaker I met on the expo who first was with me at his  booth, shook his head and went on his merry way. Sorry, bro, if we upset you! Some talks, however, are not to be missed, and I hope Peter and I can collaborate on an article on German ritual and peasant knives very soon!

Go to his website : to have a first look on all there is to know on those knives!

These knives and forks were traditionally worn in the traditional pouch in Bavarian attire "Lederhosen". They often came with a smaller, second fork, the "Dirnd´l-Gabel", which was a lady´s fork to lend to the girl one was with in the inn. The knives are made with 1.4034 blades, real silver and mother-of pearl inlays, with handles made from ebony, buffalo horn, wood, bone and antler.
They are traditionally and even in modern times used as a snack knife and are an essential part of Bavarian culture. Often people just meet in the inn´s garden, and use their own knives and forks when delving into the traditional Bavarian vesper plate dish (Brotzeit). Typically a bavarian vesper plate dish contains several different kinds of smoked bacon, sausage, cheese, pickles, in some cases even pickled cabbage and a pig stilt. You drink Weissbier along the process and a Schnapps for the digestion. It is not consumed in a hurry and often takes several hours. Showing off one´s knife and fork is even as important as the food;-).
Now we are nearing the topic of the "Druden" knife. The "Drud", "Trud", Traud" or *Thrud, *Thraut, was reputed to be a witch coming in the night to the bed of the possessed, resulting in a tightness in the chest and nightmares. The Drud therefore is of the same stamp as the (night) mare in England. The Druds were said to be part of the furious host and subject to Wode/Woden/Wotan.
The traditional bavarian folding knife took the place of the fixed-bladed knife when visiting an inn with a fixed blade knife was not liable any more. The engraving IHS means "Iesus Hominum Salvator", Jesus, saviour of man and was used as an apotrophaeic symbol from the early medieval ages, and was said to have power over every demon spirit. The black handle, made from chamois horn, als had an apotropaeic meaning, as had the inlays of brass sun and moon symbols. Peter makes these with D 2 (1.2379) steel blades, not my favourite steel choice, of course, but who am I to argue;-), they are good enough! by the way, they are simple friction folders.
Peter also had a load of historical knives on display, and you could hardly tell the difference.
Some knives of his personal collection, and all have a boyhood or other story to tell. Peter has been a boy scout for most of his life and has visited many countries in the process.
This is an original Druden knife. The inscription I could not yet read, but I guess it makes clear that these knives had a symbolic meaning!
This one, however, is the most precious knife in his collection. How come? It is a working/utility knife from the 17th century. They are very, very rare for they simply were used up. I love the Santoku-esque blade, and I guess I will make one soon!
And this was right cute. A snake chasing a mouse on the spine of one of his very own ritual knives. I have used that symbol myself, and we had a lot of talk about this symbol, too. We talked about snake symbolisms throughout the world, and about the culture of knifemaking and knife use throughout the cultures of man. I hope we will have a chance to meet again soon. We have planned to do a feature on knife culture together and I look forward to many discussions of the like!

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