Riding With Holda

Like someone else we know, this yuletide goddess also flew through the air, slipped down chimneys, and delivered gifts.

BY: Selena Fox

 

You thought the person in the red outfit giving out treats to children on Christmas Eve was a jolly, overweight elf with a white beard and a team of reindeer leading the way. Nah. That's just what Santa's spin doctors want the world to believe.

Want to know who

really

decides who's naughty or nice? Try Holda, the Teutonic goddess of winter. She's the beautiful blonde wearing a shimmering gown and red or white goosedown cape who flies through the night sky on December 24 bringing gifts and spreading joy.

In Pagan religions, goddesses are an important part of our celebrations because they help tie us to ancient traditions and the seasons of the year. Holda is one of my favorites. Stories about her are found in old folktales of Germany, Switzerland, Austria, Holland, Denmark, Norway, and other parts of Europe. Her name means " kind" and "merciful."

Holda

I first discovered Holda many years ago while researching the Pagan origins of Santa Claus. In addition to learning that the Teutonic Gods Odin and Thor were part of Santa's mix, I found that in some parts of old Europe, it was Holda--not Santa--who brought gifts to children and determined who was "naughty or nice." I also encountered lore depicting her as dressed in red and going down chimneys to bring gifts to children. An old Germanic tradition included leaving an offering of food and milk for Holda on December 24, known as Mother Night.

I decided to learn more about Holda, and connecting with her and her lore has been part of my Winter Solstice celebrations ever since. I invoke her in rituals, and keep a picture of her on my household altar. She is even among the Yuletide characters that appear in the public

Winter Solstice pageant

that I direct each year in Madison, Wisconsin.

As with many ancient goddesses, Holda is complex. Also called Hulde and Frau Holle, she goes by a variety of names and takes different forms, depending on locale and culture. In her form as a beneficent and noble White Lady, Holda is beautiful and stately, with long, flowing golden hair, which shines with sunlight as she combs it. She wears a white gown covered with a magical white goose down cape. At Yuletide, she travels the world in a carriage and bestows good health, good fortune, and other gifts to humans that honor her. She not only is connected with Winter Solstice itself, but also with the holiday season that continues many of its customs, the 12 days of Christmas--from December 25 through January 6.

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