Read The Left Eye Of Odin (Or Right) on the Norse Mythology Blog

“He is the fury that stirs poet, artist, dancer, and musician as they enter into a deeply creative state in which they lose track of time and mundane situation. When the guitarist is so concentrated on improvising in the moment that she doesn’t afterward remember making any conscious musical decisions, Odin is there. When the painter is so immersed in the work that she doesn’t notice the night’s passing until the beeping of her morning alarm finds her still brushing away, Odin is there.”

Read the whole article about developing myths and stories over time, comparative mythology and the figure of Odin by clicking on the link below:


Ostara and the historical accuracy of deities

Lately I was reminded of this meme from a few years ago:


It was apparently sent out by a community of skeptics – mostly to use as a means to discredit the christian celebration of Easter. Pagans fell over themselves to tell how wrong the meme is. And indeed, it’s baffling that skeptics (of all people) didn’t first check their history books before they decided to bash christianity.

However, what was mostly pointed out was the fact that Easter doesn’t come from Ishtar. And the egg and hare certainly aren’t Istar’s symbols for all I know. I mean, they are the symbols of the goddes Ostara a.k.a. Eostre! Right? I find it suprising how many pagans and heathens still stick to this idea – the idea that Ostara is an ancient Germanic goddess (or Eostre an ancient Anglo-Saxon goddess) who is associated with dawn and spring and whose symbols are the egg and hare. Ostara having her celebration around the same time as christian Easter explains where the name Easter comes from, or so they say.

Except that the evidence for the existence of an ancient goddess called Eostre or Ostara is very scant, almost non-existent. The only concrete information we have is based on one mention by Bede in his 8th-century De Tempore Ratione. He writes:

“Eosturmonath has a name which is now translated “Paschal month”, and which was once called after a goddess of theirs named Eostre, in whose honour feasts were celebrated in that month.  Now they designate that Paschal season by her name, calling the joys of the new rite by the time-honoured name of the old observance.” [translation: see under sources below]

That’s it, that’s all the historical information we have on Eostre. It’s not even a direct source. It appears that all the other elements of Eostre were added in the 19th century by Jacob Grimm, who was puzzled by the existence of the goddess, and by other folkloric traditions concerning eggs and hares. He decided that they might have been connected. Grimm also thought that Eostre might have been the same as several Germanic goddesses with names that sounded a bit alike. Thus, the names Eostre and Ostara have become mingled in such a way that it seems that they are all the same deity (for more on that, read Grimm and Shaw – see sources below).

Somehow this has stuck with later folks, and especially with pagans and heathens. I think it has to do with us having so little information about some ancient deities that we latch onto anything that might fill in the gaps. Even the people who *know* that all we have on Eostre is her name, are more than happy to incorporate her in their Ostara/spring equinox celebrations, while dying eggs and telling stories about hares and witches. Why, I’m even guilty of it myself!

This is one of the hot topic discussions within pagan religions. Do we try our best to recontruct the ancient religions, or do we interpret and fill in the grey areas as we go along? To be honest, I think that question has been answered already.

We cannot go back in time. A lot of lore has been lost through the ages and will likely never be  regained. Much of what we do is (post-)modern, whether we like it or not. Even the science that many reconstructionsts base their work on, is again based on theories. Of course, some things are well known and based on facts. Even then I have to wonder: cultures and religions change over time – it seems a part of nature. So why wouldn’t our deities change along?

Ostara and Eostre (if they ever existed as such) were lost to us for a long time, and then rediscovered in one shape or another. The goddess is again worshipped, in a way that befits the 21st century. In our current time, in which human culture has been almost consciously seperated from nature, pagans worship nature deities (among others) in their many shapes and forms. Ostara as goddess of spring, dawn and fertility is one of them.

That doesn’t mean we don’t have to learn accurately from history. Of course we have to – and it’s one of the aims of this website. But that means we know what our gods were like 1000+ years ago, it’s historical and perhaps inspirational knowledge. It is only an indication of what experiences with deities in 2016 will be like. Ostara/Eostre is stronger then ever – she is celebrated all over the world and connected with popular fertility symbols. I don’t see anything wrong with that, as long as we learn and remember where she comes from.


Grimm, Jacob. Deutsche Mythologie. (1st edition) Göttingen: Dieterich. 1835.

Shaw, Philip A.  Pagan Goddesses in the Early Germanic World: Eostre, Hreda and the Cult of Matrons (Studies in Early Medieval History). Bristol Classical Press. 2011.

Wallis, Faith (tr.) The reckoning of time. Liverpool University Press .1988.

Holda’s visit

Finally, winter has shown its pale face here in the Netherlands. Last week, temperatures dropped below zero (seems almost a miracle these days). The earth , plants and trees were covered in a glittering blue layer of frost, which became all the more enchanting when the rising sun shone its pink-golden light over the world.

Finally, Holda has shown her pale face.

Holda, die gütige Beschützerin, by F.W. Heine, 1882.

Holda, die gütige Beschützerin, by F.W. Heine, 1882.

Holda is a German folkloric figure slash goddess, who came to the Netherlands in the in the character of Frau Holle. At least, that’s how I came to know her as a little girl, when I was reading (and re-reading) the fairy tales written down by the Brothers Grimm. Frau Holle was one of my favorites. I loved the idea of a parallel world where apples could talk to you and where it would snow on earth if you’d clean up your pillows. And there was the enigmatic figure of Frau Holle, who lived comfortable in her little house in the underworld, and who would reward you if you were a good girl, but punish you if you were lazy and insufferable.

It was only when I grew up that I realized the many layers of this fairy tale, and the possible pagan and magical meanings of it. It was then too, that I learned more about Holda, Perchta and other enigmatic female folkloric characters. Many of them are thought to have pagan origins (possibly being ancient goddesses dimished into folklore).  Many are thought to be connected to death and fertility. Many are connected to the winter season, or to chaotic periods such as Carnaval. Many are seen as witch figures who ride with other witches to the sabbath, or ride along during the Wild Hunt. And many of them are also moral figures, who will reward you when you act well, and punish you when you act wrongly.

As central- and south German figures, Holda and her sisters are really just outside the scope of this website (see here for what this website is about), but I have such strong feelings towards Holda that I still want to honor her in this blog post. Holda is always there of course, in the otherworld that is just beyond our everyday senses. But sometimes she makes herself known. She is strong in the winter season, when the earth turns white and dark, and people light the fire in their homes when spirits of the dead wander outside. Meanwhile, under the earth and in the womb, she is creating new life that will bloom when the frost melts away.

It is especially during winter that Holda is venerated. Germanic traditions are familiar with the Nights of the Mothers, which is a time that is sacred to mother goddesses such as Holda. But also remember the Wild Hunt, which  takes place during the dark time of the year. As a goddess with many facets, there are multiple ways to honor Holda. Some ideas that I personally like:

  • Cleaning! Make a sacred act out of your everyday chores. Holda loves tidiness. (But note that during Yule/Midwinter, it is thought by some to be taboo to do any cleaning, or any work at all.)
  • Honoring your ancestors. Holda travels with the spirits, and among those spirits are the dead. She is a goddess who takes care of the dead, and your ancestors are among them. When you are on good terms with her, you can be (more) sure that your ancestors are having a good time – and might even communicate with you, if you are into that sort of thing.
  • Traveling between worlds. Holda doesn’t only travel with the dead; she travels with witches and fairies, too. She can take you on many an eventful and insightful journey.
  • Connecting with the earth. Go outside for a walk, feel the earth beneath your feet, really get to know your environment. Holda is an earth goddess, so going outside is getting to know her.

I’m sure you can come up with more. As for now, it seems winter has come and gone. The temperature has risen to an insane 15 degrees Celsius. Still a few months to go until spring, so my hopes for a layer of snow are still there…hopefully I’ll see Holda’s pale face again. And if not, I’ll remember that she is everywhere – in my work and dreams, in my beloved ancestors, and in the very earth itself.