Just as Ostara (who will be discussed in her own article), the goddess Hreda is mainly known through one single early medieval source: De Temporum Ratione (On the reckoning of time) by the Anglo-Saxon monk/historian Bede. Bede writes that the period we now equal to the month of March was called Hredmonath, and that this month
“is named for their goddess Hretha, to whom they sacrificed at this time.”
It is not sure where the name comes from or what it even means. And as with Eostre, there is still a small possibility that Hreda is not a goddess at all. Still, if we assume that Bede was right about Hreda, there a few possibilities. Philip Shaw suggests that Hreda’s name likely stems from the word hræd, which means “quick” (if you are interested in the history of Germanic religion and/or etymology, go read his book). This may refer to the quickening of the season. It makes me think of the the Dutch word “lente”, which is thought to stem from words that mean “long day”.
This does not necessarily make Hreda a spring goddess. Again, just as with Eostre, the idea comes mostly from Jacob Grimm, who wrote about her in his Deutsche Mythologie. He interpreted Hreda as a goddess of victory, based on another etymological study of her name. Just as Hreda was probably not a goddess of victory, she probably wasn’t a goddess of spring either. Still, the period of March is named after her, so why not have a nice spring celebration in her name?
Shaw finds it interesting that Hreda’s name appears to derrive from a personal name element (Hred). This may indicate that she was some sort of ancestor-goddess and/or that her name her was connected to a group of people. Another reason to look at Hreda this way is that Eostre’s name probably has the same kind of origin. This is not strange, as research has shown that throughout ancient Germanic and Celtic Europe there were hundreds of deities who were mainly connected to a tribe or a place. Keep also in mind that this means that Hreda was probably a local goddess (we also can suspect this because the name Hredmonath was apparently only used in certain parts of England). However we still do not known which group of people it is that Hreda might have been connected with.
The irony is (again) that it is through a Christian source that we know anything about what was probably a minor goddess who might otherwise have been lost in the mists of time.
PS Based on the above, can we also conclude that the sprinq equinox should have actually been called after Hreda, instead of Ostara?
Shaw, Philip A. Pagan Goddesses in the Early Germanic World. Eostre, Hreda and the Cult of the Matrons. London: Bristol Classical Press. 2011.