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Holle

by Sandra Kleinschmitt
Holle is known throughout northern Europe. She is also known as Holda or Hulda. A triple goddess, Holle is the Maiden, the Mother and the Crone--the embodiment of the three stages of womanhood.

As Maiden, she is the ash girl, whose face is half black with soot. Destined to marry Holler, King of Winter and Frost, he tested her with a riddle to be sure of Holle's worthiness. She had to come to his palace neither naked nor clothed, neither riding nor walking, neither alone nor with companions, in neither light nor darkness. Holle answered by arriving wrapped in a fishing net, sitting on a donkey with one toe dragging on the ground, surrounded by twenty-four wolves at twilight.

Holle as Mother is said to be seen as a woman from the front and a tree form the back. Representing fertility and growth she guards and nurtures all the green growing things of the forest.

As Crone, Holle is viewed as the wise Queen of Winter. She shakes her bed till the feathers fly to make it snow. When it snows in Holland, people still say, 'Dame Holle is shaking her bed'. Frau Holle, as she is known in Germany, was called The Queen of the Witches. The brothers Grimm tell a story of step-sisters who both go to visit Frau Holle in the 'nether realms'. They begin their journey to her by falling in a well. One is diligent, learning the lessons Frau Holle teaches well, and is showered with gold. The other is lazy and does not learn the lessons well and is showered with manure. Her counterpart in Russia is called Baba Yaga.

Holle's name is linguistically related to the word Halja, which means "covering", and is the ancient Teutonic name for Hel, the Norse land of the dead. Holle is called the Queen of the Dead, and resides in the 'nether' regions. She possibly lent her name to the country Holland, 'the land of Holle', which is also called the Netherlands because many parts of the country are below sea-level.


Article details:

  • Also known as:
    Holda
    Hulda

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