Over the past few weeks, I have begun calling Frigg at my altar by more than one name. I have begun calling to her, rather, by three. From all of the readings I have done and my own communication with her, I understand and practice with these three names as the same entity.
The second name I call into sacred space is Holda.
Holda’s correlation with Frigg is not on grounds of a single occurrence, but similarities appear throughout reliable sources.
Every written account I have found on Holda states she has multiple names depending on the region in which she is being referenced: Holde (which stands for “merciful”), Perchta, Berta (“Bright”), Frau Freke, Frau Gode and most famously so, Frau Holle. Frau Freke is an almost direct reference to Allmother. Another name for Holda, and therefore Frigg, is “Frau Gode”. German language shifted the W to a G in early medieval times, and has left the prefix Gode in many places. It is the shift from Wode to Gode. So Mrs. Gode, Odin’s wife, Frigg. Germanic lore tends to leave multiple names for their deities: Odin alone has at over fifty, and his son Thor has at least seven.
Luckily, Holda is greatly preserved in German folklore. The most famous folktale about her was written down in the early 19th century CE, by the Brothers Grimm under the guise “Frau Holle”. She has the role of both a good grandmother (to the girl who helps willfully) and a hag (to the girl’s lazy half-sister who refuses to be of any help). On the surface, this seems to be merely a story of morals, but it reminds of the celebration of Christmas (thus, Yule- a time sacred to Frigg): She rewards those who have been good, but punishes those who have been bad.
A further indication of her as a Yule goddess can be found in the idea that “when Frau Holle makes her bed, it snows”. Needless to say, snow is a sign of winter, which is the season in whose midst we celebrate Yule. Also, some of her names are linked very closely to light, especially Perchta and Berta. Again this suggests the time of Yule – as it is indeed the time of year when we celebrate the return of the sun.
Like Brigid to Saint Bridget, traditions devoted to Holda were continued even after our ancestors where Christianized; and some of these traditions are conducted up to the modern day. One of many traditions dedicated to Holda have the twelfth night of Yule allocated to her. Interestingly enough, in Old High German, the name of this night is perahtun naht – meaning “the luminous night”. The connection both to the goddess (as another name for her is “Perchta”), the connection to Frigg, and the general idea of the celebration of Yule can hardly be a coincidence. In many cases, it is Holda, not Santa, who delivers gifts. At Yuletide, she travels the world in a carriage and bestows good health, good fortune, and other gifts to humans that honor her. She not only is connected with Winter Solstice itself, but also with the holiday season that continues many of its customs, the 12 days of Christmas.
Referring back to the idea that Jord and Frigg are one in the same, and Frigg is therefore Thor’s biological mother not stepmother, is confirmed by looking more closely at Holda. In several local legends, Holda is presented as a Goddess of Healing, and is equaled to the Earth Goddess Nerthus, Hludana or Hlodyn; the latter name is identified in Voluspa for Thor’s mother.
Holda is sometimes referred to as a Goddess of beauty, yet sometimes as an old hag. The “hag” part is most likely a later, Christian, addition in an attempt to demonize the folklore of a local goddess. Either way, we are left with the idea that she is a Goddess of beauty and also an old woman – a concept that appears contradictory to the time we live in, where the words “young” and “beautiful” are often seen as synonyms. This reflects on our modern times more than it does Holda: in the past older women – and elders in general – were respected a lot more than today. In the past, beauty was not seen as something that faded with age as it is today with the endless quest for youthful beauty.
Ultimately, almost all folklore agree is Holda the spinstress. This idea is most famously reinforced in the popular story, one of Witchlette’s favorites, Die Blaue Blume. Here she appears as the guardian of a cave – a cave which appears in a number of local German folktales as the habitat of Holda. In this story, she introduces spinning flax into linen to man.
Additionally, a number of sources mention Holda as a patroness of all women and children – another direct tie to Frigg. Holda has a special tie to souls of the dead, mostly babies and children. It is said Frigg keeps the souls of dead children in her hall, and keeps them well until their parents can join them. It is said that as Holda and her entourage passed through the fields, they blessed the land with abundance and caused a double harvest in the growing season that followed. I find hindsight interesting that I was brought to Paganism after my young sister’s death, and I have been blessed by a goddess who keeps dead children.
During persecution times in Europe, some of those suspected of witchcraft were said to “ride with Holda.” Like the word “witch” itself, it seems phrase has grown recent times to take back the goddess and the folkmagick that she brings. This folkmagick is yet another tie to Frigg, the seeress of the Aesir.
With Holda, I have a more complete image of my goddess, Frigg Allmother.