Holda (Frau Holda) is a highly revered and very misunderstood Teutonic
Goddess. In old German households she brought on Winter, rewarded the
and carried infants that died to the Heavens. She is a symbol of virtue
and hard work. Holda is perhaps the only Teutonic Goddess whose worship
survived until today (1). Her association with the home and women may
what caused her to be much maligned in modern times. I hope her story
helps bring her back into the Light.
of the White Lady of Winter
means “gracious one”. She resides in the sky, riding her chariot
the night. Her chariot is pulled by many animals of the wood and she is
accompanied by the infants that died before they were named. She is
as a beautiful woman with long white hair bathing in a clear pool to
good hearted and hard working. But to the lazy and unkind she appears
a wizened old woman. She is sometimes seen as a woman with two faces;
young and beautiful, one old and stern. In either manifestation, she is
not a lithe spirit. She is of sturdy stock, at par with her sisters to
the North. My favorite portrait
of Holda (see links below) was done by Neil Geddes-Ward.
courtesy of Odin’s
of the Home
is protector of the household and patron of the housewife and mother.
holds hard work above all else. Spinning, being the main industry of
housewife, is her favorite pastime. She promotes the independence of
Before the industrial revolution, spinning and selling their goods was
the only way housewives could get money of their own. “It is hard for
to understand the central importance that spinning played in the lives
of women before the Industrial Revolution” writes Paxson (4). Women
pray to Holda to help in this endeavor. There are many ancient tales
Grimm) where Holda brought reward to the hardworking and virtuous,
to the fields and animals and protection to women and children.
(1) writes, “Holda is believed to cause many natural phenomena. Snow
caused by her shaking her feather bed, (B, C) fog was the smoke from
fire. When it rained it was Holda’s washing day and lightning was heard
when she worked at her flax. It was also said that she made the fields
fertile and awoke the apple trees in the spring.” Holda has a magic
Women could come to ask for help in conceiving children. Hard working
who visited the well would be rewarded with prizes from the well. Lazy
children must beware!
Gracious Lady to Halloween Hag
how did this lovely Goddess become the “Goddess of the Witch’s”, an
hag, riding her broom through the night sky? Many ancient customs, Gods
and Goddesses have been misunderstood by historians – or adopted and
by the cultures that came later. But post-Christian documents seem to
a special effort to demonize “the Gracious One”. It is perhaps Holda’s
association with the housewife that caused this special attention. It
my personal conclusion that Holda was demonized to discourage
in housewives. No where is this demonization more clear than in
Beauty” where the spinning wheel and spindle are turned into symbols of
evil. Many of her other attributes were turned around (5) as well. Her
protection of the dead soul of infants was turned around to her
in and stealing children from their cradles. Her image as wise old
instilling moral values turned to the foolish old Mother Goose who
could go on…but please just remember…Holda is not the “Leader of the
of Witch’s” as portrayed by the church of the 15th century (2). She is
a noble and gracious Goddess worthy of your praise as worshipped by the
Parens", Painting by William Bouguereau (1825-1905)
take a minute and browse these other images of Holda.
Holda Making Snow (from a children’s Story)
Holda Making Snow
Holda Drawing Down the Snow
Names: Frau Holda, Frau Holle, Winter Goddess (C), White Lady,
Yule (A), Hulde
Virtue, Motherhood, Wisdom
Spindle, Spinning Wheel, Flax, Geese, Apples, Milk, Elder Tree,
White, Ice Blue
Snow, Snowflakes, Well
Names or connections: Holda is not Hel, Perchta, Berchta, Frigga,
Goddess, nor The Hag that rides through the night on her broom
is closely associated with Winter and Yule as it is Holda that brings
snow. Holda can tell the naughty children from the good and rides thru
the sky on Yule Eve. You honor Holda anytime you give of yourself
in your housework and cooking. Any work around the house can be
in Honor of Holda.
excellent ritual to Holda would be a whole day affair. Take a day
between Yule and New Years to clean the house and prepare for your New
Year celebration. Burn red candles throughout the house with
scents. If there is anything left of your Yule log, use it to
the house warm this day. Pause in the middle of the day to spend
sometime with your pets or the outdoor animals. End the day by
spicy ginger cakes (gingerbread or covered in lots powdered
Drink milk or Elderberry Tea. Remember Holda as the powdered
"snows" all over the place! Honor Holda by keeping New Years Day
as a day of rest and celebration.
Holda, by Diane L. Paxson
Holda, in the Heavens
snowy featherbed you're shaking --
the earth with your white blanket,
the mantle you are making.
high above come riding,
Wagon rolls through winter weather,
away you face of terror,
us as we bide together.
Holda, here we gather,
us skill in all our spinning,
to help in housework,
and health with you aid winning!
spinning wheel was made by my greatgrand father. He was a Volga
color is from a vegetable stain made with carrots. It is pictured
in front of our Christmas Tree.
Thorskegga Thorn, “Holda” http://www.thorshof.org/holda.htm
Edward Hilton, “Winter Goddess” http://des.users.netlink.co.uk//winter.htm
The space is too short here to explain why Mother Holda is not the same
as the Goddesses named. I have not issue with Witches. Holda's ugly
did not come from Pagans. If you are interested in how I came to these
conclusions…please write me at email@example.com)
read this version of the Night Before Yule.
Diana L. Paxson, Idunna 30, 1997 http://www.hrafnar.org/goddesses/holda.html
“Northern Tradition and the Natural Lore” http://home.no.net/hagalaz/tradition.htm
Telesco, 365 Goddess
and the Cult of Witches” http://www.ealdriht.org/witchholda.html
Tree” [site no
with Holda” at Beliefnet
C. Toews, “The Christmas Myth: Archaic Roots of Present Day Rituals"
“A Visit From The Yule Spirits”