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Thursday, November 8th, 2007, 02:33 PM
Frau Holle
The High Meißner mountain

Copyright GardenStone 1999.
Thanks to Susan Granquist for her help and support.

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It is quite commonly accepted under scientific researchers (and their many neo-pagan followers) of germanic mythology in the past (f.i. Golther 1895) and present (f.i. G”ll 1991), that Frau Holle is one of the names, given in several areas in Germany to the wife of Wodan (Odin), the Goddess .......
You would expect to hear her name here, but it isn't that easy!
Her nordic name is Frigg, but in German, this isn't really simple; some sources write her name as 'Freya', others as Frîja and Friya. It might be not surprising, that she often is muddled with that other Goddess Freyja, sister of the God Frei (nordic: Freyr).
Wodans wife, I call her here Freya, is in German legends often called the 'Goddess of love', although Freyja has also that name. Anyway, clearing this confusion, accept for the moment, that Wodan's wife is called Freya, and a regional german name for her is Frau Holle.

In several local legends, Frau Holle is presented as a Goddess of healing and is presented as equal to the earth- and piece Goddess Hertha, in other germanic regions also called Hludana, and in the Edda as Hlodyn, widely seen as the mother of Donar (Thor). Another indication of Frau Holle being Wodan's wife.

There is a story, where a woman, married to a sluggard called Holle, who lost everything including himself in bets, came out on the streets. She went to the hills and lived there. One day, near a small pond she saw a white woman, who said to her:
"I am Hertha, mistress of the earth and I come from the north to visit this part of my domain. I have observed you, and found you well worth and have choosen you to represent me here, to let me return to my home at the isle of Rügen."
The story goes on with some gifts that are given by Hertha to Frau Holle, which she used to help other women.

Where Frau Holle seems to originate from the area which is now the northern part of the german state of Hessen, so originates Berchta or Perchta from what is now the german state of Bavaria. In the opinion of most mythology researchers in these areas they are the same Goddess, although they have each their own different local legends.

In the german state of Hessen, around the mountain "Meißner" near the cities Eschwege and Bad Sooden-Allendorf, there was a lot of worshipping of Frau Holle; no wonder, because it is said, she lived(s) there. Therefore, this article about Frau Holle is restricted to that area.

Near the small city of Hilgershausen, hidden in a small forest, there's a steep rock, called the "Hollestein". (stone of Holle). Even more hidden in that rock is the cave in it.

Moss-covered stones lead, like big stairs, to that cave, and close for the entrance, there's a big sacrificial stone under a roof of beechbranches. Mighty and dusty rockstones inside the cave, built like the stairs of a temple, which reaches to the vaulted roof. Unvisible drops of water are dripping on the stones. This is the invisible home of Frau Holle.

It is said, that the girls around the Meißner hadn't difficulties to keep their youthful beauty. They just had to enter Frau Holles cave in the night of Ostara (Easter) between 23 and 24 hours, and wash themselves wish the cave-water. They had to do that in complete silence, because only then the magic worked. The boys had their fun in trying to make the girls speaking or laughing by doing all kinds of foolish things and making pull faces. It wasn't easy for the girls keep their silence while washing themselves.

Yong married women are advised to take a bath in the small pond in the cave. By doing that either on May-eve or Yule-eve, they would bring a child within a year. And frau Holle would fullfill the heart-wishes of the unmarried ones if the put flowers in the cave or on the sacrificial stone just outside.

The mountain "Hohe Meißner" is known through whole Germany as the Holy mountain of Frau Holle, and there are lots of old legends and habits around her in the Meißner-area. So is she the local deity in the cave above. The origin of this deity might probably be found in the germanic Goddess Hludana, who is, according to some sources a variation of Freya, the goddess of Love. Other sources see here a connection between the 'love' aspects from wodans Wife Freya and the Goddess Freyja, sister of Frei.
Many aspects of the legendary Holle, Holda or Hulda are also aspects of Freya, from which maybe the name of the weekday Friday derives from.
She, Wodans wife, is responsible for the fruitfullness of plants, animals and humans- and related to that, also for "das freien". (= making love).
The above described waterhabits and the flowers-offering in the "Hohlstein-cave" points to that luck-in-love and fruitfullness aspect. The rituals that have been handed down appeal to Freya/Holle, and they're asked for their help.
The cave near the Meißner mountain is because of these ancient habits probably an earth-sanctuary of the Goddess, who, under the name of Frau Holle, is also engaged with the so called 'female arts', which are spinning and housekeeping arts.

So is there f.i. the legend, that Queen Holle does the housekeeping of the 'sleeping' emperor Barbarossa, who will awake when Germany is in ultimate danger.

Giving blessings, warnings and urgings she wanders under the names of Holle or Berchta through the spinningrooms of Hessen. Both the spinning and erotical aspects came together as the young people of the villages 'visited' those spinning rooms.

And it is also Frau Holle, who brings the traffic on the streets in the winter to a collapse, when she shakes her mattresses, filled with feathers that heavy, that the snowploughs can't follow her quick enough.

The cave is well-hidden in a forest between the villages Hilgershausen and Kammerbach. Both villages claim the cave belonging to their village. The old names "Hohlstein" and "Hollestein" aren't hardly used now, although that name has written proof from the 13th century. Despite of this, the Hilgershauser people, who got the claim, have renamed the cave in all kind of touristic information to "Hilgershäuser Höhlen".

This short article was one of the pre-studies for the german book "Goettin Holle" (Goddess Holle) which was published in 2001. The book is in the 2nd. edition already and is available through the shop on this site (http://www.boudicca.de/shop/)or by a direct email to GardenStone.

1. Zeitschrift des vereins für Hessiche Geschichte und Landeskunde, Bd.1, Kassel 1837.

2. Karl Wehrhan, Sagen aus Hessen und Nassau, (Echblatts deutscher Sagenschatz, Bd.5, Leipzig-Gholis 1922.

3. Gerd Bauer, Geheimnisvolles Hessen, Marburg: Hitzenroth 1993.

4. Hag & Hexe, issue 5, 1997.