Frau Holda or Frau Holle by Gypsy Willowmoon
Colours - Brown, red & white
Element - Earth
Offerings - cakes buried under the earth, organise and clean your home, apples & flax.
Daily devotion - making a hearty stew, with root veg and wholegrain bread.
Geese are sacred to Holda, some say she is the source of the storybook character Mother Goose.
As the lady of beast, she is associated with many animals including, hounds, wolves, pigs, horses, goats, bears, and birds of prey.
Frau Holda is a Teutonic Goddess with many interesting characteristics – Maiden, Mother, Crone /Hag, Spinner, Stormbringer, ruler of the Wild Hunt, protector and thief of children’s souls.
She was usually seen dressed in snow-white with white or silver hair, regardless of whether she appears as young and beautiful or as an old hag. In this latter form, she is said to have crooked teeth, a big nose, and one-foot flatter than the other from working the spinning wheel. She wears keys at her belt, the sign of the lady of the house.
Frau Holda is a Goddess of the domestic arts – spinning, cooking, cleaning, and child care. She is a patroness of housewives, and what she values above all is industriousness. There are many legends of her rewarding diligent female workers and punishing lazy ones. She would rock cradles while exhausted mothers slept, I wouldn't like to think about what she did to the lazy ones....
Her preference for hard workers is reflected in the German folktale of “Frau Holle”, where a young girl falls down the well into a strange underworld. She helps every creature she meets, and willingly cleans for the old woman in her cottage, after which the old woman sends her back with a gift – a gold piece falls from her lips every time she speaks. Her mother, amazed, forces her lazy sister down the well; the sister refuses to help anyone and the old woman sends her back with a different gift – instead of gold, toads drop from her lips when she says anything.
In some tales Frau Holda is a called a weather Goddess, with snow flying from her cloak or the comforter on her bed.
It is said that rain comes from her washing day and fog comes from her fire.
In other tales Frau Holda is a Goddess of prosperity and generosity, gold coins fall from her cloak as she opens it. In one tale, after a villager worked all night to make a new wooden shaft to replace the one that had broken, on Frau Holda’s carriage, she thanked him, by turning the wood shavings from his work into gold! This is when he realised it was Goddess Holda whom he had been working for.
In other early lore, Frau Holda was a sky Goddess, riding on the wind. Thought to be an older form of Frigg, wife of Odin, in some tales. Holda & Odin ride the sky together.
Frau Holda has also been honoured as a moon Goddess.
During the persecution times in Europe, some suspected of Witchcraft were said to "Ride with Holda"
She was especially stern when it came to women who were lazy about spinning, which was her specialty - particularly the spinning of flax. One legend has a peasant man stumbling into a cave in a mountain where Holda is seated enthroned with maidens clustered about her. She offers to give the dazed man a gift; humbly, he asks for the cluster of blue flowers in her hand. These were the flowers of flax, which according to the tale was unknown in that area at the time. Holda gave the man some flaxseeds, and eventually taught his wife to ret, scotch, break, and spin flax, thus giving us a myth about the beginning of flax culture. Holda was implacable about using her gift properly; hard workers who fell asleep over their work would awake to find their spinning done for them, while lazy women would find their spindles broken or burned.
She was also a protectress of children, although some of her myths might seem quite the opposite at first glance....
It was said that Frau Holda collected the souls of dead children, usually infants who died too soon – before being christened in Christian times, before being named in the days before that. In pre-Christian times, children were named at nine days old, and before that were believed not to be attached to the ancestral tree. If they died before that time, Holda would take them on instead of their ancestors. She also took children of other ages, for various reasons. The darker side of her myth had her stealing the lives of otherwise healthy children. She was said to travel as an old woman in a wagon, flanked by a procession of children’s dead souls, on her Wild hunt....
Frau Holda, is a Goddess of Winter. Said to wear a red goose down cloak on Christmas eve, whilst delivering presents. She was said to bring on the first snowflakes of the year; they were referred to as Mother Holda plucking her geese, or shaking out her goose-feather pillows and comforters until the down flew.
She is the White Lady during this time, the silver-haired goddess who knits the white blanket of the snow. She was also associated with other weather phenomenon – when it rained, Holda was doing her washing; lightning was her scotching the flax; the fog was the smoke from her chimney. Her association with Winter ties into her craft of fibre arts; winter was the time when people stayed inside and turned the summer’s wool and flax into clothing.
Also, a re-generatrix and birth giver.
Yule, the longest day of winter, was her holiday, and until recently she was one of the Christmas gift-givers in parts of Germany. There she was pictured as a red-cloaked witch on a broom who would fill children’s shoes with goodies and then move on. German children left milk and bread for her, in hopes of better presents.
A Middle Dutch term for the Milky Way was Vroneldenstraet, the highway of Frau Hulde.
Some scholars equate her with Perchta, another Germanic goddess with similar attributes, but much crueller and bloodier. Some of the worshipers of Perchta say the two are the same, but some (especially those who work directly with Perchta) say that they are two separate goddesses who happen to have overlapping areas of expertise.
Frau Holda is a Goddess of witches whom can be called upon for aid in journeying, faring forth in trance. She is also associated with the witches’ work of knot magic (sacred fibre arts), potions (sacred cooking), and shapeshifting into cats or livestock.
Frau Holda is a Goddess of the Underworld, death & regeneration. Small stiff white Goddess figurines with small breast & exaggerated pubic triangles, were placed alongside the dead in order for her accompany the person on their journey of renewal.
Both Holda and Hel were associated with the Elder tree, Hollebier and Holantar in German, whose spirit (also seen as a dignified old woman) is said to guard the road to the Underworld ... be it quiet Helheim or Holda’s magical realm.
The Elder tree was known as the “medicine chest of the common people” because its leaves, flowers, stems, and berries were all useful for different ailments. Like the Elder spirit, Holda was also associated with bodies of water such as fens, bogs, springs, wells, and ponds. New-born children were said to have been pulled wet from Holda’s pond. Her Underworld is more easily achieved by falling through the water than walking the road of the Dead.
If anything, Holda’s underworld realm bears more resemblance to the faery realms, the People Under The Hill. This brings us to another point: Holda is a goddess of the faery folk.
At least one race of faeries, the Huldrefolk, may be named for her. They were wood wives, fair maidens with cow’s tails which they endeavoured to hide from potential human suitors. In other folktales, Huldrefolk included a number of different sorts of elves and faeries, all under Holda’s protection. In medieval times, faeries were often thought to be the reborn souls of dead unbaptised infants, which brings us back to Holda’s retinue again. Indeed, she is said to ride in another kind of procession, dressed in grey and holding a milk bucket, at the head of a flock of Huldrefolk. In this aspect, she has a special sad music that is sung for her, known as huldreslaat.
In Nordic literature, there is a giantess named Hulda in Sturlunga’s Saga who may be related to Holda (or may be Holda). In the Ynglinga saga, the Völva and Seithkona named Hulla may be related to Holda. She also may be related to a woman named Hulda who was said to have had an affair with Odin, bearing the goddesses Thorgerdhr and Irpa who appear in various Germanic sagas. They may have been local land-goddesses in Germany, giantesses who had cults in their own right.
Holda is a magnificent Goddess who managed to hold her own throughout the darkness of the Middle Ages, a dynamic lady with many different sides to her.
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