In this Frau Holle ritual to improve wyrd (the Norse concept of causality or “fate”), you will mirror the actions of the heroine in one of the Grimm’s fairy tales, “Mother Holle”, (also known as “The Golden Girl and the Pitch Maiden”), offering your cares and worries to the Germanic Goddess by dropping them on a spindle into a fresh water “well” and praying for her assistance in resolving them. A traditional Northern European blot, a drink offering, begins the ritual. This simplified rite, suitable to any time of year, is part of a longer Norse Winternights Ceremony I wrote honoring the ancestors and the Wild Hunt during the autumn. An especially ideal time for it would be on Mothers’ Night, the evening before Yule. (More information on Holle’s symbols and nature can be found within that Ceremony.)
Frau Holle (or the young girl who faithfully served her) by Otto Ubbelohde.
It’s the season of Winternights, typically celebrated during October or very early November, the time of the ancestors, akin to the Celtic Samhain. It is a time of turning inward, of female power, when the Disir, the ancient Mothers, visit their descendants, and the Wild Hunt rides, gathering the lost souls who have died in the last year and driving away those spirits who would harm us. In central Europe, one form of the Wild hunt is led by a Goddess.
Frau Holle (Frow Hohl-leh) is the head of the continental German pantheon, known in Scandinavia as Frigg, and deeply connected to the underworld Goddess Helle. The “fairy” Godmother of so many Grimm’s tales, she battles frost Giants and restores order to the world. Like her husband, Odin, she leads the Wild Hunt, gentler troupes of lost children and women who die in childbirth, and the wandering spirits from Winternights to Yule and in the Spring at Walpurgisnight (Beltane). A Goddess of order, work, destiny, childbirth and children, death and womanhood, of magic and wild places, she is often depicted weaving and rewards hard work and loyalty.
You can find out more about her here.
Or read the fairytale that inspired this rite.
You will need a well, pool or pond, a horn or cup, cherry juice or alcohol such as mead or San Germain (elderflower liquor) as age-appropriate, and a spindle as an offering– and possibly a trowel. (A simple spindle can be made from a dowel or stick; see directions below. You can use a real one, but most of us are not spinners.) The Well, which will be ideally a pond or lake, or simply a beautiful planter or deep bowl filled with water, figures prominently in folklore and surviving tales as a sacred object for contacting Holle.
Finding the Right Spot –
Excellent locations for this ritual include mountain tops, misty and boggy places, such as beside a garden well, pond or spring or groves of her sacred trees, such as juniper, linden and birch or aspen.
If you hold the ritual inside, please make sure your house, especially the kitchen, is tidy! Holle is a Goddess of order, after all.
How to Make the Spindle –
- Use a stick or dowel of an appropriate wood, about 8-12 inches long, preferably trimmed and dried before the ritual.
- Use a ball or large skein or cotton, wool or other natural fiber crochet thread or yarn.
Notch the stick toward the middle to catch the thread, and carve/paint the spindle rune Naudhiz in blood red at both ends of the spindle, or along its body. Carve Othala, the distaff rune, on its body.
Wrap enough red cotton thread or yarn of a natural fiber around the spindle stick to form a significant ball. Don’t knot the thread; hold the initial loose end of the thread sideways along the spindle, starting at the notch. Wind the other end of the thread around this, gradually making a diamond-shaped ball. It’s easiest to do this if you hold the thread taut in your most dexterous hand, and twirl the stick with the other, winding the thread onto it. There are a variety of methods you can feel out using both or either hand to make the ball. When you’re done, tuck the loose end neatly into the thread ball. Leave this on your altar before the ritual.
Gather by a sacred tree and body of water, or by a hearth and the “well”, which should be placed in front of an altar. Fill a horn or cup with mead or another drink offering. Just prior to beginning, pick up the spindle and place it on the ground, thrusting it into the earth beside the well in front of the altar. This part is important– it taps into millennia of protective magic, and connects to the primal energies of ancestors/north/female deity/earth.
Pick up the horn and say:
Snow-haired Goddess, Protectress of the lost and vulnerable, you who gather all dead children to your breast, and shake your feather blankets out into the gentle snows, I come here to honor you today.
I hallow and drink this red drink, the tart blood of berries, to symbolize the life that flows through my veins, connecting me with the past, present and future. I share this drink with you in thanks for your aid!
(raise the horn)
Hail Frau Holle!
Take a sip, then pass the horn if more than one person is present. All of you should toast Holle in turn. Pour the horn out into the well and place it back onto the altar or gently beside the well on the ground.
Spindle Offering –
Pick up the spindle, leaving a tail of thread at the base of the well. Sit quietly holding it, spending some time to think about your needs and concerns and offer them silently to Frau Holle with your thanks when you feel ready. If more than one person is present, gently unwind the spindle as you hand it to your neighbor, holding onto the thread until you are all finished. The last person should stand or sit beside the well. Now, one by one, as you gently let the thread go, winding it back onto the spindle, let go of your worries, trusting that your needs shall be met, and trust Holle to give you some response in the weeks ahead. (Wind the spindle and hold it above the well, saying:)
Frau Holle, I offer this you!
(drop spindle in well)
Thank you for all you have done and continue to do. Hail!
Simply walk respectfully away from a natural area. Otherwise, leave your offering in the well for time, then pour the water and drink offering out onto the ground and bury the spindle with care and respect where it will not be found– preferably right where the well was poured. Please do not cast the spindle into a shallow or moving body of water where it is likely to entangle or harm any wildlife, especially waterfowl who are sacred to Holle!
The act of immersing the spindle in water or letting it sink into a deep pond, and pouring out the “well” then burying the spindle, will carry away any negative energies that may have remained on the spindle. The spindle itself then becomes your offering. Water offerings of this kind are found throughout the world, but especially potent for Norse, Celtic and Slavic workings.
Please do not republish or re-post this ritual without my permission. Feel free to link to it, however! Thank you.
- Brigit Knorr wrote an excellent hymn to Frau Holle which can be seen and heard on Youtube: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PY41_02nJlI&feature=youtu.be
- Modern translation of another fairytale showing Frau Holle’s abundant compassion, so far as I know, the only version available in English: http://crazygirlyheathen.blogspot.com/2010/12/frau-hulle.html
- Our Troth Vol. 1 has extensive scholarly information linking Holle, Hel, Frigg and Nerthus: http://www.thetroth.org/index.php?page=store&title=Store%20|%20The%20Troth&css=style2&pagestyle=mid
- Grimm’s Teutonic Mythology has scattered entries throughout its volumes about Perchta, Bertha, Frau Holle, the Wild Hunt and Frigg: http://books.google.com/books/about/Teutonic_Mythology.html?id=q1gOAAAAYAAJ
- The Urglaawe native faith of Germany, practiced by the Pennsylvania Deutsch, is quite different from Asatru. Holle is worshiped as the head of pantheon and Deutsch tradition contains much oral lore not found in Snorri Sturleson’s writings or the Poetic Edda, including a warmer perspective on the Gods and worship of Tyr’s wife, Zisa, lady of Victory. Deutsch tradition also includes its own guardian spirits of place, who followed immigrants over into the United States from Germany: http://urglaawe.org