A Level I Final Project by
The Sacred Three Goddess School
(All original material in this project is under copyright protection and is the intellectual property of the author Ó2009)
Frau Holda comes to us from various sources; the earliest is sited in Jakob Grimm’s Teutonic Mythology. We see her with many names and attributes. Her legends are so well renowned that we hear echoes of her in the great works of contemporary stories and nursery tales.
Once depicted as the Mother Goddess of the Germanic people, Holda still holds a place of reverence within Germanic culture. As a steadfast guardian, she withstood the passage of the ages and has persisted as a mainstay of Germanic Spirituality and Beliefs. These traditional ways were maintained through centuries of persecution, and eventually migrated with the Palatinate German peoples into a new world and time. She is seen in our traditional Deitsch legends and tales, and she is essential to our healing arts as well as our agriculture practices. Her message of birth and re-birth as a continuous wheel of life is reflected in our seasons.
During centuries of persecution, Holda has been demonized by the Christian orthodoxy and turned from a nurturing goddess into a wicked hag, devil worshiper, and queen of the witches. This was done with a single minded focused intent to fragment and render useless the folk customs of central Europe.
In spite of these attempts, however, she persists in many areas of our culture, and plays an important role in discovering the Heathen/ Pagan customs, which pervade it. She is the rightful Mother Goddess of the Germanic people, and many of her children are now integrating her wisdom into their modern lives. Here we will discover the different aspects of her and her migration from the ancient past into modern day realities and society. I hope to show how her importance is vital to the discovery of the German experience and the spiritual and healing arts of the Braucherei tradition, and the awakening movement surrounding German Heathenry of the Deitsch people, a path known as “Urglaawe”.
“Der Urglaawe” literally means "the original faith" in the Deitsch language. Urglaawe is a Heathen movement that focuses on the pre-Christian religious and cultural undertones that still flow through the Pennsylvania German culture. Although the Pennsylvania Germans did not exist as a distinct ethnic group during the pre-Christian era, our ancestors brought with them many Heathen practices that continued to flourish here after the Diaspora into the Americas.”
Many of the Germanic volk have been scattered over vast distances. Currently through the age of computers, we are able to research and track ancestral links through genealogy. With this aid and guidance we can begin to understand the path our ancestors once sought, the great journey, which continues to beckon to us. Within this consciousness and tradition, this migration has been driven by Frau Holda. It carried the core substance of her existence into our every day lives, and gave us the seeds from which we can re-grow the faith and tradition of our elders.
In Jakob Grimm’s Teutonic Mythology, Holda is spoken of as host to the Wild Hunt or “Wilde Heer”. In this account she is the consort of Woden, supreme god of the Germanic tribes occupying central Europe in ancient times. There are many variations of this story, but the themes that are most prominent are the ones that illustrate Holda leading a Wild Hunt to gather those souls that may still be lingering earth bound; and it is she who gathers them during this ride to usher them into the Other World. Another variation of this record is that she gathers un-baptized children, or more accurately, she gathers those born and who died without having been given a birth name, and takes them safely to the Other World.
Naming a child was a custom held by the Germanic clans that had great importance. It was traditional to name a child within nine days of giving birth to that child. The baby was then presented to the father and recognized as his own child. With this recognition the child would enter into the protection of his father’s clan. If this child died before it was presented and named, it was believed that it would stay earth bound until Holda would ride on her mighty steed, leading the Wild Hunt, to gather all those in need of shepherding to the Other World. The importance of childhood names and the protection of Frau Holda are both themes that remain vital and relevant even to contemporary understanding of Braucherei and other Deitsch folkways.
The fierce spectacle of the Wild Hunt must have been the most haunting of the dark night raids that Tacitus speaks of in his first century accounts of the Germanic Tribes. No doubt the image of dark raids and savage men dressed in animal skins and tree bark, who rode mighty steeds, must have struck fear in the hearts of those outside of Germanic custom. This imagery was carried over into the early narrations of the Wild Hunt, by Christians who sought to give it a nebula of power and fear. Later the narrations would take on a sinister tone as the age of Christianity dominated the continent. This was a time when Gods and Goddesses became Demons and Witches in league with the Devil, who rode the skies on brooms and gathered souls for Satan’s dark deeds.
None the less, the Wild Hunt has come to us in various forms, and in spite of the corruptions, Frau Holda is still honored in Germanic culture as she was in earlier times. Among the Pagan Heathenry of Germanic folk on both sides of the Atlantic she is known as the consort of Woden and is considered to be the Great Mother Goddess. Even among the Christian practitioners of the Deitsch folkways such as Braucherei, Frau Holda (or as she is known to the Deitsch “Hollerbeier Fraa”) is central to traditional understanding of healing, spirituality, and agriculture.
Among the Deitsch, the Wild Hunt continues its ride, which is why we leave our windows open on Walpurgisnacht (April 30th), why we burn the Butzeman before Halloween, and why the Belschnickel visits at Christmas time. These customs echo the great wheel of the year that our ancestors knew intimately, with Frau Holda at the lead, driving ever forward.
The Many Names and Faces of Frau Holda
There are many names and faces that can be attributed to Holda. In conducting this research I’ve found that there has been some disagreement and confusion in identifying Holda with other the supernatural beings known as Bertha and Pertha. Some sources indicate that Holda is not the same supernatural being, but rather that each is a separate being, independent of the others. From the information gathered, this assumption grew largely from differing viewpoints stemming from various regional interpretations denoting Holda’s numerous attributes thus resulting in altered appearances and practices.
However, Grimm in his Teutonic Mythology indicates that in actuality these supernatural beings are one and the same, reflecting different aspects or faces of the same Deity. Various regions thus identified Frau Holda differently as she was expressed in local terms. Grimm writes, “Similar to Holda, in the Upper German regions in Alsace and in Switzerland and Bavaria and Austria, she makes her appearance in a slightly different way. She is known as Perahta and Berchte.”
Some of the names she is known by are: Holda (the Merciful) Hulda, Hulla, Hulle, Huld, Hulda, Holl, Holle, Bertha (the Bright), Berchte, Berta Brecht, Perchta, Perahta, Frau Holle, and (in the Deitsch Diaspora) Hollerbeier Fraa.
As discussed previously, the Germanic tribes considered Frau Holda to be the Great Mother Goddess, Leader of the Wild Hunt, and consort of Woden. Her work is to gather souls and to usher them to the otherworld. She is the Patron of Motherhood and childbearing and of the housewife. Frau Holda is reputed to reside around Wells, Sacred Pools, and Springs that were believed to be the portals to the Other world.
Frau Holda shaking her Feather Bed
An obvious connection here can be found in Grimm’s Fairy Tales, in their rendition of the story of Mother Holle. In this story, a girl falls down a well to find herself at the home of Mother Holle. She works diligently for Mother Holle and does everything that is asked of her. At the end of her stay she is rewarded with spectacular gifts. When her selfish and lazy stepsister sees this, and she attempts to procure the same gifts for herself, she goes to the home of Mother Holle, but refuses to do the things that Mother Holle asks of her, or if she does them, she does them poorly, and tries to cheat. Mother Holle rewards her with a bucket full of tar over the head as she leaves. In this sense Frau Holda could be seen as the giver of gifts (which is appropriate to the goddess of the earth, or mother goddess). She gives all that we have, and regulates the distribution of those gifts. It could also be said that she has a hand in teaching discipline to children as they grow.
Holda known as Mother Goose
Historically it was believed that newborns were first drawn from Frau Holda’s pond, and that it was with her that each person departed this life as well. In the Braucherei Healing tradition, this same pond is thought to be a place of healing and sanctuary. She is still believed by many to be a protector of children and babies acting as a guardian until the time of their naming, and in many cases well after this time as well. According to some folklore she delivered newborns to their mothers at the time of childbirth, and could be seen riding on the back of a goose during this endeavor. In legend, Frau Holda is largely associated with Winter and in controlling the weather (she is responsible for making it snow). It was believed that when it snowed Frau Holle was shaking her feather bed. In a similar vein, the Goose is associated with her and is held sacred to her. The image of Frau Holda atop her goose survives still in the stories and Rhymes of Mother Goose.
It was widely accepted that Holda presided over the hearth and home as the patron of Spinning, weaving, childrearing, and Domesticity. Holda is also associated with Agriculture as flax was held sacred to her, along with other crops that would give sustenance to humans and their livestock. Sometimes Holda is depicted as an old crone with long hair and teeth. She is often seen traveling in a wagon or with a plough. She is particularly associated with the art of spinning, which was an essential craft for every housewife to know.
Sometimes stories were told of an enraged and darker side of Frau Holda who would break the spindles and burn or spoil the flax of those who did not finish their spinning on time. Conversely, however, she was known to reward young women who were diligent and skilled in this craft. During the twelve days of Yule (a feast originally associated with Holda, Woden, and the Wild Hunt) all spinning and textile work was to come to a halt until the end of the festivities.
SummerGaile’s Ashford Spinning Wheel
Complete with wool she spun
Forests have always held a great importance to the German people throughout history. Our ancient ancestors worshiped in groves where certain trees were held sacred and were believed to be filled with Spirit. This belief in the spirits within the plant world persists in Braucherei in the practice of Blanzeschwetze (speaking with plants). Many native European plants are associated with Holda, and many of these are among the most highly revered plant spirits in contemporary practice. The Elderberry is such a tree and is particularly sacred to Frau Holle for its wise old “Elder” spirit that renewed itself and brought forth new blossoms of white flowers each Spring. In the Pennsylvania Deitsch language the tree is referred to as Hollebier Schtock. Elder is a veritable medicine chest, as each part of the shrub has different medicinal properties. During the time of Charlemagne, it was mandated by law that every homestead was required to grow an elder bush near the house.
In the Winter Season, the Holly tree is a most sacred tree as it’s ever green branches are hung during the Yule season to remind us of the coming rebirth of the living world. In this way, Holle is honored in each home that continues this practice.
The Rose is also among the plants that are associated with her, known as Frau Rose or Mother Rose. In folklore, those who care for a rose bush are believed to be blessed by Frau Holda. To pick a flower one should seek permission from Holda or else great misfortune will follow, once again demonstrating the Merciful and Dark side of the Goddess.
With the demonization of Holda in Christian times, the Wild Hunt, once a sacred yearly cycle, became the unleashing of a vengeful and spiteful host whose alliegence resided with the devil himself. Holda was believed by many Christians to be in league with Satan and was called Queen of the Witches, and was believed to sit at the head of her own Cult. Holda is often linked to Brocken Mountains, which is reputed by Christian witch hunters to be associated with witches. Here we see Frau Holda fell from grace due to the dominance of the Roman Catholic Church, as she was viewed as demonic in their eyes. This was a focused intent to uproot the Mother Nature Nurturing aspect held by the Goddess Holda and her followers in the world view.
In the realm of Orthodoxy, the old Pagan Heathen ways were exterminated or integrated and absorbed into Christian practice and observances. Interestingly, this demonization did not happen across the board. While the orthodoxy of the Church and the witch hunters feared Holda, her people loved her. The split that happened to her is one that happened to many heathen deities: the unacceptable aspects were demonized, while the acceptable or benign aspects were allowed to persist in folklore. The Germanic people clung to Holda, and wove her into legends that were handed down from generation to generation and carried on in oral and written tradition.
She comes to us now at times in the form of well known written works and literature such as “Kinder- und Hausmärchen” (Children’s Household Tales), by Jakob Grimm. Her lessons survive as well in the oral history tradition of the Deitsch and other Germanic peoples.
The story of Holda is one that leads us to live in harmony with the seasons and tides of the earth. It also shows us the persistence and tenacity of spirit of a people, and the power of their steadfast will. These attributes of Germanic folklore stem from the very ancient core of our Germanic Consciousness and beliefs. The Matron of Home and Hearth, turns her great wheel, spinning her raw flax into the ever-changing seasons of life: she readies the soil, plants the seed, tends the crop, reaps the harvest, and mills the germ from the chaff in an unbroken Circle of Life.
She calls to us, the pulsing heartbeat of the earth herself; she shows us a new path that grows from the old, one that honors the cycles and rhythms of nature, one that teaches us that it is only through the earth that we may be as one with all who have gone before, and all who are yet to be.
My Art Project
The Door to the Wild Hunt,
designed and created by SummerGaile
Written by SummerGaile
This ritual is to honor Frau Holle on Walpurgisnacht.
This is one of the Holiest of Eves for the Germanic people as well as many others who occupy Europe. This is when Frau Holle concludes her Wild Hunt and is about to begin the cycle of Spring by taking those Souls into the ground with her so they may become Re-born. This practice is held on the Eve of May Day (April 30) beginning at sunset.
Today across Germany and throughout Europe, window sills are left open so they might invite Frau Holle into their homes for a Blessing.
This Ritual is to Bring Blessings into our Home and to your Family and Friends and to Swear Solemn Oaths for Prosperity.
Set up Altar :
Fire cauldron (can be small to put oaths into it)
Paper and pen
Wine glass and Wine/ Mead/ Cider or apple juice
Purify the area with Sage or Cedar
Burn a smudge stick to purify and Hallow the ground.
*Cast the circle using salt.
*Calling the Quarters:
We call the Powers of the North
Whose icy fingers in Winter
Grips Mother Earth with her frigid hand
Changing the landscape into a Wonderland of Snow eternal.
Hail and Welcome
We call upon the Powers of the East
Whose Air and wind
Lifts up our eyes to the horizon
And brings dreams of good fortune and far off destinations.
Hail and Welcome
We call upon the Great Powers of the South
Who’s Fires of hearth and home
Burns fiercely in our hearts, forging Family and Friendship
Eternal in our souls.
Hail and Welcome
We call upon the Powers of the West
Whose Waters filled with creatures great and small
Surrounds us with dreams of soul searching journeys
Delving into the unknown depths of the unseen.
Hail and Welcome
We call to the Ancients of Antiquity and to the Spirit Guides for their Protection, and we ask them for their good tidings.
*Purpose of Ritual/ Intent
The Purpose: To Honor Frau Holda and ask for her Blessings on Family and Friends, Hearth and Home as she turns the Great Wheel on this Walpurgisnacht.
We are gathered this evening to Honor Frau Holle. She touches every part of our lives with her inspiration and her courage. It is on this Hollowed Eve that she concludes the Wild Hunt and returns with those Souls to the Otherworld for Rebirth, so She may once again turn the Wheel, so we may begin again the life cycle with the uncovering of Spring.
Frau Holle, We beseech you; may fresh ploughing of the sod and the first Spring planting of the Seeds flourish to bring us love among family and friends. May our hearths be warmed with laughter and good cheer. May our community be united and prosper with jobs for all. May we be Blessed with your abundance and rewarded for our endeavors.
On this Hollowed Night of Walpurgisnacht we honor you and invite you into our homes for your Blessings. We open our windows so you may enter and give us your Blessings.
Hail and Greetings Lady and Mistress of the Wild Hunt. Frau Holda.
We Honor You and seek your Good Tidings.
Hail Great Mother Holle,
We bid you to come into our circle this Holy Eve
Mistress of the Wild Hunt
We Honor you and ask for your Blessings.
Keeper of the Hearth and Home
Protectors of Children and Women
We Honor you and ask for your Blessings.
Guardian of the Great Wheel
And Patron of Spinners and the craft of fibers
We Honor you and Ask for your Blessings.
Great Mother Holle
Your Children Beseech you
We Honor you and Ask for your Blessings.
Hail Mother Holle
Keeper of the Sacred Well
Bless this Hallowed ground and altar.
Hail and Welcome into our circle of Love and Light on this Walpurgis Night.
*Cone of Power: Offering of our Solemn Oaths
This is where if you have an Oath you would like to pledge to the Goddess Frau Holle you may write them on a paper and put them into the burning cauldron to take your words to the Goddess. : Example I plan to be a better listener to my partner, etc…
Meditate on the Oath or Intent you would like to bring before Frau Holle.
Visualize her as the Great Mother Goddess whose heart is open to your needs and wants. Embrace her with your heart and open your mind to her. You are one of her Sacred Children and She is wanting to claim you as her own. She has stretched her arms out over a millennium and has been the caretaker of souls who are in need of finding their way to the Otherworld. On this holy night she leads the way on her mighty steed driving the Wild Hunt to its climax. She is turning the Great wheel where she will now usher in the tidings of Spring.
After Mediating and giving great thought to your Oaths, put them down in writing and throw them into the Cauldron of the Night Ride. She will take with her these Oaths you prescribed as she once again beginning the cycle of rebirth, Renewed again. Visualize her night ride across the star-lit sky, the wind at your face and the Moon at your side. Hear the thunder of the horses’ hooves in your ears. Face your fears and know you are safe and dwell within her heart. Your Solemn Oaths you have given. She rides this Eve Triumphant.
So Mote it be.
*Hallowing the Offerings: Cakes and Ale
Blessed Frau Holle
Be with us and celebrate the joy we have during this Spring season.
Be our honored guest so we may share with you our love and admiration.
Lady of the Fields and Hearth, please grant us your stay
Let us share with you our fruits of sacrifice so we may be forever joined with you.
This is to Give an offering of the sacred wine or cider or Mead and Cake (sacrifice) to the Goddess Holle:
We lift our heart to you and sing our Praise and Thanksgiving.
Let is lift our glasses (horn) to the Mother Goddess Frau Holle.
We offer this sacred Mead and other gifts of bread/ or cakes to you as a token of our great admiration.
We are grateful for your diligence and watchful presents over the great halls of antiquity, hearth and home.
We are grateful for the bonds of friendship and family, one with each other, in the days and seasons to come.
As the Great Wheel of the year turns once more on this Hollowed Eve we give you Thanks and Honor Great Mother Holle.
We have sworn and given our Solemn Oaths.
Hail Frau Holle
Heel Frau Holle
Hail Frau Holle
Pour the remainder of the mead or cider onto the ground and say:
A gift for a gift
In the name of Frau Holle
Blessed be Frau Holle.
*Farwell and Departure: Opening the Circle
We thank the Goddess Frau Holle for her Blessings.
May her Blessings be in our hearts and present in our Minds.
Who is the safeguard of our Oaths, dreams and desires.
May they grow and flourish as the Great Wheel turns and Spring rebounds.
Blessed be the Elements and the Elementals, the Ancients of Antiquity, and the Spirit Guides.
May they go in Peace.
As it is Above
So it is Below
*Close the circle.
This circle is open
But never broken
Merry Meet and Merry Part
Until we Merry Meet again.
Frau Holda Sources:
1. Powwowing: A Persistent American Esoteric Tradition David W Kriebel, Ph.D. http://www.esoteric.msu.edu/VolumeIV/Powwow.htm
3. Brothers Grimm, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Brothers_Grimm
4. Grimm, Jacob Teutonic Mythology, Vol. 1-1V translated from 4th edition by James S.
Stallybrass, George Bell& Sons, London 1883: http://www.Northvegr.org.
5. Davidson, H.E. Roles of the Northern Goddess, 1998 by Anthony Rowe, Ltd.
6. Thorskega Thorm, “Holda”, http://www.thorshof.org/holda.htm
7. Waschmitius, V., Perht, Holda and Werwandte Gestalten, Sitzungen Kaiser Akademie D. Wisserschaften ( Philos./ History) 174, Vienna.
8. Tacitus, Cornelius, Germania, http://www.fordham.edu/halsall/source/tacitus1.html
9. Holda shaking her feather bed: found at http://lexikon.freenet.de/Frau_Holle
10. Mother Goose: found at http://www.collecto-mania.com/
11. Frau Holda: The Door to the Wild Hunt: by SummerGaile
Image of horses found at: http://www.amadan.org/Amadan_na_Briona.html
Note: Volk: people/ tribe of the homeland.