Riding With Holda
Like someone else we know, this yuletide goddess also flew through the air, slipped down chimneys, and delivered gifts.
You thought the person in the red outfit giving out treats tochildren 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 whoreally
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 goosedowncape who flies through the night sky onDecember 24 bringing gifts and spreading joy.
In Pagan religions, goddesses are an important part of our celebrationsbecause they help tie us to ancienttraditions and the seasons of the year. Holda is one of my favorites.Stories about her are found in oldfolktales of Germany, Switzerland, Austria, Holland, Denmark, Norway, andother parts of Europe. Her namemeans " kind" and "merciful."
I first discovered Holda many years ago while researching the Paganorigins of Santa Claus. In addition tolearning that the Teutonic Gods Odin and Thor were part of Santa's mix, Ifound that in some parts of oldEurope, it was Holda--not Santa--who brought gifts to children anddetermined who was "naughty or nice." Ialso encountered lore depicting her as dressed in red and going downchimneys to bring gifts to children. Anold Germanic tradition included leaving an offering of food and milk forHolda on December 24, known as MotherNight.
I decided to learn more about Holda, and connecting with her and her lorehas been part of my Winter Solsticecelebrations ever since. I invoke her in rituals, and keep a picture ofher on my household altar. She is evenamong the Yuletide characters that appear in the publicWinter Solsticepageant
that I direct each year inMadison, Wisconsin.
As with many ancient goddesses, Holda is complex. Also calledHulde and Frau Holle, she goes by avariety of names and takes different forms, depending on locale andculture. In her form as a beneficent andnoble White Lady, Holda is beautiful and stately, with long, flowinggolden hair, which shines with sunlightas she combs it. She wears a white gown covered with a magical white goosedown cape. At Yuletide, she travelsthe world in a carriage and bestows good health, good fortune, and othergifts to humans that honor her. Shenot only is connected with Winter Solstice itself, but also with theholiday season that continues many of itscustoms, the 12 days of Christmas--from December 25 through January 6.