Frau Holle by Sue Perryman


Other Names: Holda, Herke, Hulda, Hulle, Holl, Herra, Werra, Wode, The Snow Queen

Attributes: Domestic chores, hearth and home, women, children, spinning, weaving, death, rebirth, winter, snow, weather.

Frau Holle is an ancient Scandinavian and Germanic Goddess who may predate the Norse pantheon. Her name, age and myths vary according to the area or country, but her basic character remains the same. She is particularly well known in the German state of Hessen, but stories are told of her all over Germany and the surrounding countries.

A Goddess of the household and domesticity, especially weaving and spinning, Holle is said to reward those who worked hard and punish lazy people.

There are many fairy tales, folk tales, local legends and customs that are linked to Frau Holle. In some areas she is known as a nature spirit particularly associated with evergreen plants and trees, and in other areas she is seen as an aspect of Frigga, wife of Odin associated with fertility and rebirth.

Other legends see her as an old hag associated with winter, while some describe her as a beautiful maiden who watches over children, especially those who die young. One of the most well-known stories of Frau Holle is that when it snows, it means she is shaking out her feather mattress.

The Brothers Grimm wrote two fairy stories about Frau Holle. In ‘Goldmary and Pitch Mary she is an old woman who rewards an industrious girl with gold and her lazy sister with a suitable gift. Jacob Grimm perceived her as a pre-Christian Goddess in the early 19th century and wrote about her in his book ‘Teutonic Mythology’.

She is also mentioned in the Norse Eddas, where she is named Hlodyn, who gives out gifts to women at Winter Solstice.

The earliest Germanic sky/weather Goddess, in some areas she is said to bring sunshine and rain as well as snow.

Her feast day is the 25th of December, between then and Twelfth night she is said to ‘ride the wind, clothed in terror’ as part of the Wild Hunt where she accompanies the souls of the dead and her husband Woden.

Frau Holle is a complex Goddess. She is feared by some and loved by others, but however you see her she is a powerful ancient Goddess whose legends have survived through the spread of Christianity to this day. She is so much more than a fairy tale.



Sources:

Arc of the Goddess by Rachel Patterson

learnreligions.com

germanicmythology.com

germangirlinamerica.com

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