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My damned believers, who made me fall from being a Goddess(God) of Harvest to a lowly witch, just continue lazily praying to your adored "Messiah"(God)...
Frau Holle

Frau Holle, also called Mother Holda or Old Mother Winter, is the titular Fable from "Frau Holle", a German fairy tale collected by the Brothers Grimm. Before that, she was the Goddess of Winter worshipped by ancient Germans before the arrival of the Norse gods.

Overview

Appearance

Frau Holle is a Fable of many appearance, with her most common one being a short and ugly crone with white eyes, dressed in an old Franconian dress made of stinging nettles. It's believed that she was once a triple goddess and were able to manifest as a maiden and a mother before her attributes became lost.

Personality

Frau Holle is an ancient being, and had lived in the Continental German regions for centuries before the Norse gods conquered the land, taking over as its new rulers and casting the old gods aside to become fairies existing in German folklore.

As such, she detests those of the Norse pantheon, Æsir and Vanir alike, and is said to have "embraced the Cross like an old friend" just to see her usurpers in the same position that she's now in.

She's a spirit of nature, the personification of the planet's will to exist, and as such, to describe her as "temperamental" is an understatement. While she can appear as a kind, gentle, and welcoming grandma at one moment, it'd take less than a minute for her to change into a cold and distant harbinger of death.

At her core, she is a goddess of weaving, whose distaff was used to spin the clouds before it was given to Frigg and whose featherbed pillows and coverlet create snow in the human world. Like an artisan, she is patient and is a perfectionist, taking great care in her duties even though it wasn't required of her anymore. This is also adapted into her plans, as she's always a step ahead of her opponents, even against an infamous manipulator such as Odin.

She favors those who are kind and dilligent and scorns those who are lazy and selfish, and would often reward those before her with "gifts" she believes to be appropriate, which can range from a shower of gold coins to a curse-like plague.

Powers and Abilities

History

Germanic Goddess

Frau Holle originated as a goddess worshipped by the ancient Germans under many names and in many forms. She was an old crone who personified the winter months, the spinning woman who acted as the bogeyman to young children, the white-robed spirit who led the wild hunt, and a leader of nocturnal spirits and witches who flew alongside her on distaffs. Her house was at the bottom of the well and the afterlife of dead infants, and her festival was celebrated in the middle of winter.

However, when the Norse gods arrived in their land - led by Odin - her fellow gods were conquered and slaughtered, and their land became godless, perfect for the Norsemen to claim. She and the survivors were allowed to live in their former kingdom, but not as gods but as spirits and fairies and demons, their religious beliefs faded turned into myths into legends into folklore and into fairy tales.

Fairy Tale: "Frau Holle"

A rich widow lived with her daughter and her stepdaughter. The widow favored her younger biological daughter, allowing her to become spoiled and idle while her older stepdaughter was left to do all the work. Every day the stepdaughter would sit outside the cottage and spin beside the well. One day, she pricked her finger on the point of the spindle. As she leaned over the well to wash the blood away, the spindle fell from her hand and sank out of sight. The stepdaughter feared that she would be punished for losing the spindle, and in panic she leapt into the well after it.

The girl found herself in a meadow, where she came upon an oven full of bread. The bread asked to be taken out before it burned. With a baker's peel, she took all the loaves out and then walked on. Then she came to an apple tree that asked that its apples be harvested. So she did so and gathered them into a pile before continuing on her way. Finally, she came to a small house of an old woman, who offered to allow the girl to stay if she would help with the housework.

The woman identified herself as Frau Holle, and cautioned the girl to shake the featherbed pillows and coverlet well when she made the bed, as that would make it snow in the girl's world. The girl agreed to take service with Frau Holle, and took care to always shake the featherbed until the feathers flew about like snowflakes.

After a time, the girl became homesick and told Frau Holle that it was time for her to return home. Frau Holle had been impressed by the girl's kindness and hard work so much that, when she escorted the girl to the gate, a shower of gold fell upon the girl. She also gave her the spindle which had fallen into the well. With that the gate was closed, and the girl found herself back, not far from her mother's house.

Her mother wished the same good fortune for her biological daughter. She also set her to sit by the well and spin, but the girl deliberately threw the spindle into the well before jumping in herself. She too came to the oven, but would not assist the bread; nor would she help the apple tree. When she came to Frau Holle's house, she likewise took service there, but before long fell into her lazy, careless ways. Frau Holle soon dismissed her. As the lazy girl stood at the gate, a kettle of pitch spilled over her. "That is what you have earned", said Frau Holle, and closed the gate.

Real Version

Even when taking some of its variations into account, the true story of "Frau Holle" can still be considered as darker. The tale originated in a town near the Alps, shortly after the Christianization of the region, with a small family whose patriarch had recently died, thus sending his wife and their many children into poverty shortly before the arrival of winter.

No matter how hard she worked or how much she borrowed from her equally poor neighbors, the man's wife was unable to provide enough supply to last all of them through the winter, meaning that at least one of them would have to starve to death. Through unknown means, the wife was able to learn about a ritual for the winter goddess of the ancient heathens, whose name was synonymous with the goddess Frigg. It would bless them with wealth and resources to last through the winter months, even leaving some for months after, but it required the sacrifice of a maiden.

Desperate, the wife had no choice but to sacrifice her eldest daughter, throwing her body into the well with a spindle placed deep inside her womb so the death may be sent as a tribute to the old goddess. Soon, the ritual took its effects and riches began to pour into the family, and they soon become the wealthiest in the village. The death of the eldest daughter was soon forgotten by all but the girl's lover.

Suspicious, the man began to investigate and discovered the wife's crime, though instead of a goddess, he thought she had made a deal with the Devil. Though before he could present it to the elders, the wife had tricked him into her house and killed him despite guest rights, before throwing his body into the well as another sacrifice to the goddess, thinking more riches will be blessed upon her. However, due to his gender and the broken vows of hospitality, the goddess saw it as an insult and a punishment fell upon the village as a whole.

Weeks after his death, in the coldest days of winter, a rotten smell began to rise from the well, and when opened the lid, dozens of corpses rose up smothered in a pitch-like substance, with yellowish patches of rotting skin filled with maggots underneath. But before anything could do about it, the corpses became alive and attacked the villagers, with the wife being the last to be killed as she was forced to watcher her children brutally killed. After a single night, a town of over 20,000 people was slaughtered, and reports of witches came from surrounding areas, who might be the last followers of the goddess who brought forth the destruction.

Myths and Legends

While Frau Holle's presence as a goddess had faded from the majority of the public's mind, restricted only toward ancient witches who once offered her sacrifices, her legacy still lives on as part of German folklore, most noticeably through the expression "Hulda is making her bed", commonly used in Hesse and Southern parts of the Netherlands.

Through her deal with the Brothers Grimm, her goddess position became more popular, albeit the supreme goddess figure proposed by Jacob Grimm was an amalgamation of the tradtions of pre-Indo-European Neolithic Europe, of Germanic and pre-Germanic - probably Celtic - traditions of the Alpine regions after the Migration Period in the Early Middle Ages. It's also believed that the Twelve Days of Christmas, originally the Zwölften ("the Twelve"), which is also an intercalary period in the Celtic calendar, was the time she's most powerful.

Quotes

Things that have shape will one day crumble away, and all things that possess life will one day pass away. Might that be the same for faith in gods, who have no shape?
Frau Holle
Spinnt, Kinderlein, spinnt,
Die Spillalutsche kommt;
Sie guckt zu allen Löchlein rein,
Ob das Strähnlein wird bald fertig sein.

(Spin, little children, spin,)
(The Spillalutsche comes;)
(She peeks through all the little gaps,)
(If the little strand will be finished soon.)'
Nursery Rhyme
Here cometh up Dame Hulde with the snout, to wit, nature, and goeth about to gainstay her God and give him the lie, hangeth her old ragfair about her, the straw-harness; then falls to work and scrapes it featly on her fiddle.
Martin Luther
Have you believed there is some female, whom the stupid vulgar call Holda [in some manuscripts strigam Holdam, the witch Holda], who is able to do a certain thing, such that those deceived by the devil affirm themselves by necessity and by command to be required to do, that is, with a crowd of demons transformed into the likeness of women, on fixed nights to be required to ride upon certain beasts, and to themselves be numbered in their company? If you have performed participation in this unbelief, you are required to do penance for one year on designated fast-days.
Burchard of Worms

Gallery

Trivia

  • Her male counterpart is Ded Moroz.
  • The Snow Queen claims to be her "Daughter"(Successor), but this is unconfirmed.
  • There's a coven of witches in Russia who practice symbolic magic based on her legends.
  • Her names have many meanings, though the majority of them can be interpreted as "gracious, friendly, kind, favorable, true, faithful, loyal, devout, acceptable, pleasant" or "secret, hidden".
  • Despite being a pagan god/figure, her earliest definite appearance was linked to the Virgin Mary, commonly called the "Queen of Heaven": An early-13th century text listing superstitions states that "In the night of Christ's Nativity they set the table for the Queen of Heaven, whom the people call Frau Holda, that she might help them".
  • In the folklore of Mecklenburg, she was cursed because she preferred eternally hunt rather than go to Heaven, and her daughters, who expressed the same desire, were transformed into dogs who either pull her sled or serve as hunting dogs.
  • In Silesia, she is called Spindelholle ("Spindle Holle") - A hag who oversees spinning taboos and a bogey used for spinning children. During Advent, Christmas, or the Zwölften, she goes from house to house to see if the children and spinsters are spinning diligently: If they're still spinning in the evening and night, they'll receive severe punishment; If they aren't finished, their spindles will catch on fire; If they are lazy, they'll be taken away and beaten with stinging nettles; but if the tow is already spun, no punishment will be given and the house will be protected from misfortune for the who coming years.
    • If she catches children spinning at night, she'll say "Verzage nicht, verzage nicht, warum spinnst du die Zahl am Tage nicht?" (Do not quail, do not quail, why do you not spin the number at day?), before either killing them or taking them away. The children can be warned, however, if their parents yell "Die Spillagritte kommt!" (The Spillagritte comes!), when at evening the wind is howling in the stove.
    • Her home lies beneath a rock in the woods, known as the Spillalutschenstein ("Spillalutsche's stone"), and seven lights can be seen above the Spillalutschenstein at night. She is also married to Popelmann, a German Silesian Bogeyman.
    • Her companions are the Satzemkater (Kater = tomcat), the Satzemziege (Ziege = goat) and the Rilpen, a collectivity of wood sprites. In some stories, accompanied her are small deformed wights which she orders to beat outrageous spinsters with rods.
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