The himmeli is a symbol of an ordered and harmonic universe. They positively influence their surroundings and people around them and, through their yellow colours and shape, a himmeli expresses the concept of light being reborn – spiritually assisting the sun in its ascent of the mountain that is the sky.
These kinetic interior objects originate from northern Europe and though they are widely known as “himmeli” (From the Germanic word himmel meaning sky) different countries in the region have different names for them. For example, in Latvia they are called “puzurs”.
A himmeli transforms negative emotions, organizes thoughts, creates a protective field and symbolizes a connection with God and the divine. They illustrate how each small mundane world contributes in creating a greater one. Just like we, humans and all life around us is bound in a kind of energetic and spiritual silver thread which reaches towards the origin, the heavens.
Although the materials and methods traditionally used in making a himmeli are simple – reeds, straws, bits of wood, egg shells, bird feathers and yarn, the result can be impressive. Himmeli can to be made up of hundreds and even thousands of straws. The traditional module shape they are made up of is the octahedron which consists of 12 interconnected straws and it symbolizes the year with it’s 12 months and because of this the himmeli is one of the oldest Christmas (Winter solstice) decorations, being in use long before the Christmas tree.
The himmeli our ancestors created helped to overcome the dark months of winter but each year a new one was made, with the old himmeli being burnt so as to destroy negative energies it had accumulated.
How to make a himmeli
October is the best month for gathering reeds
The material traditionally used for making himmeli
1. Making a himmeli is a delicate and time consuming process. You can usually gather the necessary reeds between august and february but the best quality reeds can be found in august (this may vary on your region, the reed type and climate). You could say that the reason for himmeli being wintertime decorations is exactly due to when the materials are available.
2. In modern times people sometimes also use different materials for himmeli making – for example, metal or plastic straws. These are more durable and therefore it’s possible to make some more practical creations from them. It’s also easier to work with these materials and they are easier to manufacture but the himmeli will lose its homely charm. Traditional himmeli also tend to be made from rye straws.
Materials ready to be dried
3. After harvesting the reeds need to be cleaned – remove the shells and “leaves”. You’ll see that reeds gathered in October are actually reddish-green under the “shell” and not golden-yellow as you see in himmeli. This is because prior to use it’s advised to dry the reeds. The time needed for drying will depend on the conditions (warmer=faster).
4. After cleaning, getting rid of the useless plant material the reeds will take up far less space for storage and they will dry faster. Besides you’ll have to remove the excess material when cutting the straws to size anyway. Straws cut from the bottom of a reed are usually longer and wider but the ones cut from the top are shorter and more fine. Both types of straws are used in making a himmeli depending on the size and position of the element.
The prepared materials and necessary tools
5. Once the reeds have been dried, they have to be cut into sets of 12 equally long straws. Then you will need a needle, thread and scissors. The larger and heavier (to an extent) your needle is the easier it will be to work with it. The best kind of thread will be thin but durable. Usually you’ll want to use black, white or yellow-ish thread however depending on how you’ll be decorating the himmeli you can use something more colourful.
6. Then using the needle and thread you connect the 12 straws creating triangular faces and trying not to use knots except for the last one in order to let the energy flow freely. There are multiple methods for connecting the straws to create an octahedron and here we’ll show you three of them, starting with the simplest one. Method #1 is the most convenient when working at a surface like a table.
7. Method #2 is useful when using straws of differing length and creating elongated octahedrons. All the methods create the same result so just use the one that’s easier to work with. Reeds are a surprisingly durable material, as long as you don’t apply pressure parallel to the straw and so long as the straws are cut with appropriate tools and technique.
8. Method #3 is convenient when working without a surface and if you’re working on a module already attached to some larger structure. It is possible to create many other basic shapes and you can connect these shapes together in countless ways making each himmeli unique.
The first knot
The base structure
The module takes shape
9. Here you can see method #1 in life. Once the himmeli is complete, you can use a variety of materials for decoration. Bird feathers symbolize the broom of Laima, which clears your path and sweeps away debris misfortune. If you’re using coloured yarn, it attracts fertility. If you want an extra colourful himmeli you can spray paint it any colour you like.
Where to position your himmeli
It is said that if a himmeli moves and rotates, all is well in your home. Himmeli were hung above children’s cribs, because it would bring the child happiness, good fortune and protect them from illness, evil forces. They were also hung in the corners of rooms, as that’s where negative energy accumulates. Often a himmeli would be found above a wedding feast right in front of the newlyweds.
Reed and straw himmeli cannot really be placed outdoors however modern metal himmeli are more durable and can be used as holders for flowerpots or lamps both inside and outside.
When positioning a himmeli don’t forget about fire safety! Don’t place a himmeli over candles, too close to a fireplace or stove.
Continue the traditions of our ancestors and create your own himmeli!