Friday, 10 July 2015

Holda - Goddess of Fruitfulness?

On the 10th of July I put up a post for remembering three Goddesses, Skadi, Holda and Hel and said that Skadi is the Northern Goddess of hunting and hunters, Holda goddess of the hearth and fruitfulness and Hel daughter of Loki and Goddess of the Underworld. They appear now to remind us that although it is Summer, Winter will come and so now is the time to ensure that you will have sufficient stores for the coming season.

The mention of Holda as a goddess of fruitfulness, has got a few folks baffled, so I thought it might be an idea to go into this more deeply.

Holda is also known as the Elder Mother, which is usually interpreted to mean that she is a Crone goddess. She is after all, one of the goddesses of the crossroads, who guards the gateway between the worlds. In folk stories she appears as Mother Holda, who has down filled mattresses which need to be turned regularly, and when they are, the tiny downy feathers are released and fall to earth as snowflakes. So she is a goddess of Winter, and often celebrated around the Winter Solstice. But her mattress does not dwell in solitary splendour, her mattress is with the home of Mother Holda, or Frau Holle. A home where things are kept in order, the hearth clean and swept, the cauldron bubbling busily over the fire, the mattresses turned regularly. Frau Holle is a proud house wife, her house is spick and span, ready for whatever work she chooses to do whether it is making jam or brewing a potion.

Notice though, in both of the above she is referred to as 'Mother'. This can, of course, simply be an honorific, a title showing respect. Or it can refer to the fact that she is a Mother Goddess.

Holda is a complex goddess, and as she is linked to the Elder Tree, her nature changes through the year and can be represented by the changes in the Tree. In the spring time the elder is festooned with lacy heads, and full of intoxicating perfume, and clouds of pollen, it is the very essence of fertility, a Maiden in her prime enticing bees to come and pollinate her. At this time we are also reminded that Elder is a fairy tree, and the door to fairy land can sometimes be found beneath an elder. Elders are also wishing trees and at Beltane, they are one of the trees we tie scraps of rag and ribbons to when we make a wish. Elder flowers also make a fizzy intoxicating wine, that is both simple and quick to make.

In the Summer Elder sets her fruit, and her leaves are a shady place to keep off the worst rays of the sun. Incidentally all parts of the Elder were at one time used in medicine and remedies, so that the Elder was known as the Poor Man's Medicine Chest.

In Autumn the branches of the Elder droop under the weight of the purple fruit it bears. They are rather bitter to eat, but they make a rich and heady, deep coloured wine. The birds love those fruit and eat as many as they can manage. So at this time Holda certainly is being very literally 'fruitful'.

Remember also that of all the trees, Elder, the tree of Mother Holda, is the only one where we still remember the ritual rhyme we must speak before we gather any of her wood:

Lady Holda, give me some of thy wood
And I will give thee some of mine, when it grows again in the forest.

Sometimes the rhyme is addressed to Lady Elen, which is yet another name for the lady of the Crossroads. Everything goes around in circles, like the cycle of the year.

Like the trees which 'die' in the winter, losing their leaves and their beauty, revealing their skeletal limbs to the chill winter winds, then are reborn in the spring, with new leaves and flowers, so we are also promised that we will live again, one way or another.

Vrou Elde, Mother Holle, Lady Elen, Holda promises us that we will live again in the forest.

She is the life giver - what can be more fruitful than that?


  1. I thoroughly enjoy your daily blog and often share you on Facebook via Antinous the Gay God. Alas, I comment seldom but feel moved to say that this is very good explanation of "Frau Holda" who is still celebrated to this day at the Winter Solstice in Germanic countries. She is a regular feature of Christmas Markets in Germany, for example. I never realised she was also related to mid-Summer. Thank you very much indeed!

    1. Thank you so much for your comment - I have only just found it, as it is so rare that anyone comments on my blog that it was a complete surprise (and a lovely one at that) to find that someone had left a comment. I am so glad that my blog, and the facebook posts are not only of interest, and (I hope) enjoyable, but are also sparking new insights. I know that some of my pieces are works of inspiration, that a spirit or deity simply wants to be heard, or wants to show off an unexpected facet of their character. I am just thrilled that I get to do the writing. Thank you again for your kind comment