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.

The magic of landscapes


When starting this website, I wanted to focus as much as possible on Dutch heathenism, witchcraft and folklore. I soon stumbled upon a problem: ‘the Netherlands’ as we now know them are only 200 years old. The borders we have now were unheard of in ancient times. What’s more, many people who lived in this area a couple of thousand years ago, are all but gone. Many people who live here now don’t stem from Germanic tribes who lived here generations before. But they still consider themselves Dutch. Basically, the construction of ‘the Netherlands’ is relatively modern, quite arbitrary, and always developing.

National identity is a fickle thing. I’m still a sucker for it. When I walk around in the area where I was born and grew up, I feel a deep connection to the land. I know that this is a personal thing – even though my family has lived in Noord-Brabant for quite some generations. But there are many people who were born here, who don’t feel a connection with their homeland at all, and even actively want to leave to go and live somewhere else.


So where does this connection come from? For me personally, it’s the experience of walking through fields and forests, the many plants growing, blooming, sleeping then awakening again. It’s experiencing the wind, seeing beautiful skies and birds flying. Noticing the life patterns of the animals living in my area. This can be noticed in practically every other land on Earth, I know. But having lived her for almost all my life makes it much more intimate, as if I’m part of this particular land.

The connection is also created through a sense of history, the realisation that the land we walk on is so much older then we are. It literally contains the knowledge of the era’s that came before us. It makes us feel part of a bigger whole. This can especially be seen in the many legends that are connected to the areas over the world. From legends about ghosts and monsters to the folklore of places being fairy mounds or kobold dwellings. No one really knows how old these stories are and where they came from, but they give us the feeling, the idea, that there is more to the land than meets the eye. And I love how we give stories to the land. Maybe it’s our gift back, because the land gives us so much.


Many of the old Dutch stories, legends and fairy tales haven’t been translated into English as far as I know. Many of them are connected to particular places. I will start (roughly) translating them and putting them on this website in the near future.

New book: Arcadia Britannica – a modern British folklore portrait

Arcadia Britannica

A wonderful looking new release from Thames & Hudson, one of my favorite publishers.  Henry Bourne has a great track record as a potrait photographer. In Arcadia Britannica he depicts the colorful characters from British folklore as they are portrayed by people from all over the island. Green men, horn dancers and other creatures abound! There’s a forword by Robin Muir, after which Simon Costin (founder and director at the Museum of British Folklore and director at the Museum of Witchcraft and Magic) introduces us in the world of modern British folklore. A nice touch is the calendar of folkloric events in the back.

You can peak inside the book and order it on Amazon.