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toothed, with bristling and thick-matted hair. ' He's had a jaunt
with Holle,' they say of a man whose hair sticks up in tangled
disorder ; so cliildrcn are frightened with her or her equally hideous
train :2 'hush, there's Hidle-hdz (-bruin), Hidlc-popd (-bogie)
coming.' IIolle-2xicr, as well as Hersche, Harsche, Hescheklas,
Euprecht, Eupper (ch. XVII, house-sprites';, is among the names
given to the muffled servitor who goes about in Holle's train at the
time of the winter solstice. In a nurs3ry-tale (Marchen no. 24)
she is depicted as an old witch with long teeth ; according to the
difference of story, her kind and gracious aspect is exchanged for a
dark and dreadful one.

Again, Holla is set before us as a spinning-wife ; the cultivation
of flax is assigned to her. Industrious maids she presents with
spindles, and spins their reels full for them over night ; a slothful
spinner's distaff she sets on fire, or soils it.^ The girl whose spindle
dropt into her fountain, she rewarded bountifully. When she

1 Estor's oljerh. idiot., siib v.

- Eiasm. Alberus, fable 16 : * Ea kamen ancli zu diesem lieer Yiel weiber
(lie sich forehten selir (were sore afraid), Und trugen sichelii in der hand, Frcm
Hulda hat sie ansgesandt.' Lnther's Expos, of the Epistles, Basel 1 J22 fol.
()9''- : ' Here cometh np dame Hulde with the snout (potznase, botch-nose), to
wit, nature, and goeth about to gainsay her God and give him the lie, hangeth
her old ragfair about her, the straw-harness (stroharnss) ; then falls to work,
and scrapes it featly on ]wv fiddle.' He compares nature rebelling against God
to the heathenish Hulda with the frightful nose (Oberlin, sub v. potzniiinn-
chen), as she enters, mulUed up in straw and frippery, to the tiddle's playing.

3 Bruckner, Contril). to the Henneberg idioticon, p. 9, mentions a popular
belief in that part of Franconia : 'On the high day comes the HolLJnai
(Hollefra, Hullefra), and tlirows in reels ; whoever does not spin them full, she
breaks their necks,' (conf. hA'ra Berlda and Berhtolt and the Devil). 'On the
high day she is burnt,' which reminds one of 'Carrying Death out' in
'I'eutonic and Slav countries, and ' Sawing the old woman ' in Italy and
Spain. By the addition of -frau after the name (conf. gaue fru, p. 253)
v.e perceive its originally adjective character. Cod. pal. ^.35'' : ' ich wen,
kain schnsel in haiin ncken wart nie a Is hesslich als du bist,' I ween no scare-
crow on a distair was ever as U"lv as tiiou.


enters the land at Cliristmas, all the distaffs are well stocked, and
left standing for her ; by Carnival, when she turns homeward, all
spinning must be finished off, and the staffs are now kept out of
her sight (Superst. 683) ; if she finds everything as it should be,
she pronounces her blessing, and contrariwise her curse ; the
formulas ' so many hairs, so many good years ! ' and ' so many
hairs, so many bad years ! ' have an oldworld sound. Apparently
two thinsis have been run into one, when we are also told, that
during the ' twelve-nights ' no flax must be left in the diesse, or
dame Holla w^ill come.^ Tlie concealment of the implements
shows at the same time the sacredness of her holiday, which ought
to be a time of rest.^ In the Khon mts, they do no farm-work on
Hidlas Saturday, neither hoe, nor manure, nor ' drive the team a-
field '. In the North too, from Yule-day to New-year's day, neither
wheel nor windlass must go round (see Superst., Danish, 134; SuppL).
This superintendence of agriculture and of strict order in the
household marks exactly the office of a motherly deity, such as we
got acquainted with in Nerthus and Isis. Then her special care of
Jiax and spinning (the main business of German housewives, who
are named after spindle and distaff,^ as men are after sword and
spear), leads us directly to the ON. Frigg, OSin's wife, whose being
melts into the notion of an earth-goddess, and after whom a
constellation in the sky, Orion's belt, is called Friggja.r rockr,
Friggae coins. Though Icelandic writings do not contain this
name, it has remained in use among the Swedish country-folk
(Ihre, sub v. Friggerock). The constellation is however called
Maridrocli, Dan. Mariroch (Magnusen, gloss. 361. 376), the
christians having passed the same old idea on to Mary the
heavenly mother. The Greeks put spindle and distaff in the hands
of several goddesses, especially Aitemis (')(^pua7j\dKaTo<i, II. 20, 70)
and her mother Leto, but also Athene, Amphitrite and the Nereids.
All this fits in with Holda, who is a goddess of the chase (the wild
host), and of water-springs.

1 Braunsclnv. aiiz. 1760, no. 86 ; the dicsse is the bundle of flax on the

- This makes one think of Gertrude. The peasants' almanacks in
Carniola represent that saint by two little mice nibbling at the thread on a
spindle (vreteno), as a sign that there ought to be no sjnnning on her dav. The
same holds good of the Russian piatnitsa, Friday (Kopitars rec. von Strahls
gel. Eussland).

'^ RA. 163-8. 470. Women are c^alled in AS. friSowebban, peace-weavers.


One might be tempted to derive dame Holda from a character
in the Old Testament. In 2 Kings 22, U and 2 Chron. 34, 22 we
read of a prophetess rT^Sn Iluleddali, Huldah, for which Luther
puts Hulda ; tlie Septuagint has 'OxBd, the Vulgate Olda, but the
Lat. Bible Viteb. 1529 (and probably others since) Hulda,
following Luther, who, with the German Holda in his mind, thus
domesticated the Jewish prophetess among his countrymen.
Several times in liis writings he brings up the old heathen life ; we
had an instance a page or two Ijack.^ I do not know if any one
before him had put the two names together; but certainly the
whole conception of a dame Holda was not first drawn from the
' Olda ' of the Vulgate, which stands there without any special
significance ; this is proved by the deep-rootedness of the name
in our language, by its general application [as adj. and com.
noun] to several kinds of spirits, and by the very ancient negative

Were it only for the kinship of the Norse traditions with our
own, we should bid adieu to sucli a notion as that. True, the
Eddie mythology has not a Holla answering to our Holda ; but
Snorri (Yngl. saga c. 16. 17) speaks of a wise woman (volva,
seiSkona) named Hiddr, and a later Icelandic saga composed in
the 14th century gives a circumstantial account of the enchantress
Hidda, beloved of OSinn, and mother of the well-known half-
goddesses ThorgerSr and Irpa.^ Of still more weight perhaps
are some Norwegian and Danish folk-tales about a wood or
mountain wife Hulla, Huldra, Huldre, whom they set forth, now
as young and lovely, then again as old and gloomy. In a blue garment
and white veil she visits the pasture-grounds of herdsmen, and
mingles in the dances of men ; but her shape is disfigured by a tail,
which she takes great pains to conceal. Some accounts make her
beautiful in front and ugly behind. She loves music and song, lier
lay has a doleful melody and is called Inddrcslaat. In the forests
you see Huldra as an old woman clothed in gray, marching at the
head of her flock, milkpail in hand. She is said to carry off
people's unchristened infants from tliem. Often she appears, not
alone, but as mistress or queen of the mountain-sprites, who are

1 I believe Luther followed the Hebrew, merely clroiiping the final h, as
he does in Jehova, Judn, tS:c. — Trans.

2 Muller's sa-abibl. 1, 3G3— 6.


called liuldrefolh} In Iceland too they know of tins IluldufdIJc, of
the Huldumemi ; and here we find another point of agreement
with the popular faith of Germany, namely, that by the side of our
dame Holde there are also holden, i.e., friendly spirits, a silent
subterranean people, of whom dame Holde, so to speak, is the
princess (see Suppl.). For this reason, if no other, it must be more
correct to explain the Norse name Hidla, Hiddra from the ON.
hollr (lidus, fidelis, pi-opitius) which is huld in Dan. and Swed., and
not from the OiST. hulda (obscuritas) as referring to the subterranean
abode of the mountain-sprites. In Swedish folk-songs I find
' huldmoder, hulda moder ' said of one's real mother in the same
sense as kara (dear) moder (Sv. vis. 1, 2, 9) ; so that huld must
have quite the meaning of our German word. It is likely that the
term hulduiulk was imported into the Icelandic tongue from the
Danish or Norwegian. It is harder to explain the li inserted in
the forms Haldra, Hiddrc ; did it spring out of the plural form
hulder (boui genii, hollar Victtir) ? or result from composition ?

The German Holda presides over spinning and agriculture, the
Norse Hulle over cattle-grazing and milking.

5. Pkrahta, Berchte.
A being similar to Holda, or the same under another name,
makes her appearance precisely in those Upper German regions
where Holda leaves off, in Swabia, in Alsace, in Switzerland, in
J>avaria and Austria.^ She is called frau Berchte, i.e., in OHG.
Feralita, the bright,^ luminous, glorious (as Holda produces the
glittering snow) : by the very meaning of the word a benign and
gladdening intluence, yet she is now rarely represented as such ; as
a rule, the awe-inspiring side is brought into prominence, and she

1 Details to be found in Miiller's sagab. 1, 367-8. Hallager p. 48. Faye
pp. 39-43 and 10. 15. 25. 26. 36. Frigge, nytaarsgave for 1813, p. 85. Strom's
8ondni6r 1, 538-59. Vilses Spydeberg 2, 419. Villes Sillejord. p. 230.
Asbiornsen, passim.

2 A portion of Franconia and Thnringia knows both Berchta and Holda,
there at all events is the boundary between the two. Matthesius, in his
Exposition of the gospels for feastdays, p. 22, names dame Hulda and old
Berchte side by side.

=* Among the celebrated maidens of MengloS is a Biort (Seem. Ill*),
Mengl63 herself is called 'su in sulbiarta ' (111^), and the father of her
betrothed Svipdagr Solbiartr (sun-bright, 112'''). A MengloS in a later story
appears to some one in a dream (Fornm. sog. 3, 222-3), and leaves him a
marvellous pair of gloves.


appears as a grim bugbear to frighten children with. In the
stories of dame Berclda the bad meaning predominates, as the good
one does in those of dame Holda; that is to say, the pojjular
christian view had degraded Berchta lower than Holda. But she
too is evidently one with Herke, Freke and some others (see


Where their identity comes out most plainly is in the fact that
they all go their rounds at the same time, in the so-called ' twelfths'
between Christmas and New-year. Berchta however has a
particular day assigned her at the end of that period, which I never
find named after Holda. And no less similar are their functions.

Berchta, like Holda, has the oversight of spinners; whatever
spinning she finds unfinished the last day of the year, she spoOs
(Superst. 512). Her festival has to be kept with a certain tradi-
tional food, gi'uel and fish. Thorr says he has had sildr ok hafra
(herrings and oats) for supper, Saem. 1b^ ; our. white ladij has pre-
scribed the country folk a dish of fish and oat-grits for evermore,
and is angry whenever it is omitted (Deutsche sagen, no. 267).
The Thuringians in the Saalfeld country wind up the last day of
the year with dumplings and herrings. Fish and farinaceous food
were considered by christians the proper thing for a fast.^

The revenge taken by the wrathful Berclda, when she misses the
fish and dumplings, has a quaint and primitive sound : whoever has
partaken of other food on her day, she cuts his belly open, fills it
with chopped straw, and sews up the gash with a ploughshare for
a needle and an iron chain by way of thread (Superst. 525).^

^ Tlie Braunschw. anz. 17G0, p. 1302, says no leguminous plants are to lie
eaten when dame Holla is going ronnd in the ' twelve-nights '. Either a
niistake, or to be understood of particular kinds of pulse.

^ Almost the same is told iu the Voigtland of the JVerre or dame Holle.
Tlie W'erre, on the holy eve of the high New-year, holds a strict inquiry
whether all the distaffs are spun off ; if they are not, she defiles the flax. And
on that evening you must aat jwlse, a thick pap of Hour and water prepared in
a peculiar way ; if any one omits it, she rips his body open, Jul. Schmidt,
Reichenfels, p. i.;2. The name IVerra (from her 'gewirrt,' tiinglcd shaggy
hair'/) is found in Thoni. Reinesius, Lect. var., Altenbg 1640, p. 57:) (in the
critical notes on IJhyakinus's, i.e. Audr. Kivinus or Bachmann's Liber Kirani-
dum Kirini, Lips. 1G38) : Nostrates hodie([ue i)etulantioribus et refractariis
manducum alii[uem cum ore hiante frendcntem dentibus, aut furibundam
silvescente coma, facie lurida, et cetero habitu terriljilem cum comitatu niaena-
duni IVerram iriterminantur. Reinesius (1587-16(37) came from Gotha, but
lived at Hof in the Voigtland. A werre is also a noisome chirping insect of
the cricket kind (Popowitsch 620). In MHG. : 'siBJetdiu IVcrre (i)iscordia)
ir samen dai-,' sows her seed, Ms. 2, 251*^, conf. Troj. o85 (see Suppl.) ; and in



And the same threat is lield out in other districts also (see

Borner's Folk-tales of the Orlagau (between the Saale and the
Orle) furnish abundant details. At p, 153 : The night before
Twelfthday, Perchtha always examines the spinning-rooms of the
whole neighbourhood, slie brings the spinners empty reels, with
directions to spin them full within a very brief time, and if all she
demands cannot be delivered, she punishes them by tangling and
befouling the flax. On the same occasion she cuts open any one's
body, that has not eaten zemmcdc ^ that day, takes out any other
food he has had, and fills the empty space with hay or straw wisps
and bricks, and at last sews his body up again, using a ploughshare
for a needle, and for thread a rohm chain. — P. 159 : At Oppurg, the
same night of the year, Perchtha found the spinning-room full of
merrymaking guests, and in a towering rage she handed in through the
window twelve cm-pty reels, which were to be spun full to the rim within
an hour, when she would come back ; one quarter of an hour had
passed after another in fearful expectation, when a saucy girl ran
up to the garret, reached down a roll of tow, and wrapped it round
the empty reels, then they spun two or three thicknesses of thread
over the tow, so that the reels looked full. Perchtha came, they
handed over to her their finished work, and she walked off with it,
shaking her head, (Conf. the similar story of the white manikin in
Bader, p. 3G9). — P. 167: At Langendembach lived an old spinning-
wife, who swiftly wound the thread all the winter through, and did
not so much as leave off on Twelfth day-eve, though son and
daugliter-in-law warned her : ' If Perchtha comes, it will go hard
with you '. ' Heyday ! ' was her answer, ' Perchtha brings me no
shirts, I must spin them myself After a while the window is
pushed open, Perchtha looks into the room, and throws some empty

Selpliartes re^el (Wackernarrel's lb. 903), there is exhibited, together with
bruoder Zornli and bruoder Ergerli, a bruoder Wirra, ' der sin herze mit welt-
lichen dingen also heworren hat (has so entangled his lieart with worldly things),
daz da nilit me in mag '. And that notion of tangled thread and hair, which
prevails abont Bertha and Holda, may after all be akin to this. On L. Zurich
she is called de Chlungere, because she puts chlungel (knots, Inmps) in the nn-
finished yarn of slothful maidens, Alb. Schott, Deutsche colonien in Piedmont,
p. 282. In Bavaria and German Bohemia, Berhta is often represented by St.
Lucia, though her day comes on Dec. 13. Frau Lufz cuts the belly open,
Schmeller 2, 532. Jos. Bank, Bohmerwald, p. 137. Conf. the Lusse in Sweden,
Wieselgren. 386-7.

1 Made of flour and milk or water, and baked in a pan : fasting fare,


spools to her, wliich she must have back, spun full, in an hour's
time. The spinner took heart of grace, spun a few rounds on each
spool for dear life, and threiv them, one and all, into the brook that
ran past the house (and by that, Perchtha seems to have been
appeased). — P. 173 : As a miner was returning from Bucha to
Konitz on Perchtha's night, she came up to him at the cross-roads,
and demanded with threats, that he should put a icedge in her
waggon. He took his knife, cut the wedge as well as he could, and
fitted it into Perchtha's waggon, who made him a present of the
fallen chips. He picked them up, and at home he drew gold out of
every pocket in which he had put Perchtha's gifts. — P. 182 : Two
peasants of Jiidewein, after stopping at the alehouse in Kostriz till
late on Perchtha's eve, had gone but a little way, when Perchtha
came driving in a waggon, and called to them to put a peg in the
pole of her waggon. One of the men had a knife, and Perchtha
supplied him with wood, the peg was let in, and the handy man
carried home several pieces of money in his shoe as a reward. —
P. 113 : Between Bucha and Wilhelmsdorf in the fruitful vale of
the Saale, Perchtha queen of the heimchen had her dwelling of old ;
at her command the heimchen had to water the fields of men,
while she worked underground with her plough. At last the
people fell out with her, and she determined to quit the country ;
on Perchtha's eve the ferryman at Altar village received notice to
be ready late in the night, and when he came to the Saale bank,
his eyes beheld a tall stately dame surrounded by Vy^eeping children,
and demanding to be ferried over. She stept into the craft, the
little ones dragged a plough and a number of other tools in, loudly
lamenting that they had to leave that lovely region. Arrived at
the other side, Perchtha bade the boatman cross once more and
fetch the heimchen that had been left behind, which under compul-
sion he did. She in the meantime had been mending the plovgh,
she pointed to the chii^s, and said to the ferryman, ' There, take
that to reward thy trouble '. Grumbling, he pocketed three of the
chips, and at home flung them on the window-shelf, and himself,
ill at ease, into bed. In the morning, three gold-pieces lay where
he had thrown the chips. The memory of Perchtha's passage is also
preserved at Kaulsdorf on the Saale, and at Kostriz on the Elstcr,
not far from Gera. — P. 126 : Late one night, the master wheel-
wright at Colba was coming home from Oppurg, where he had


been to work ; it was the eve of the Three-kings (Twelfthday), and
on the bank of the rivulet Orla he came upon Perchtha, her broken
plough surrounded by weeping heimclien. ' Hast thou a hatchet
with thee, so help me mend ! ' she cried to the terrified traveller.
He gave what help he could, but the fallen chips offered hita for
wages he would not touch : ' I have plenty of them at home,' says he.
When he got home, he told what had happened to him, and while
his people shook their heads incredulously, he pulled off one of his
shoes, which something had got into, that hurt his foot, and out
rolled a bright new gold-piece. A twelvemonth passed, and one of
his men, who had heard him tell the tale, set out on Perchtha's
night, and waited by the Orla, just where his master had met
Perchtha ; in a little while, on she came with her infant train :
' What seekest thou here at this hour ? ' she cried in anger, and
when he stammered out an answer, she continued : ' I am better
provided with tools this time, so take thou thy due ! ' and with
those words she dug her hatchet into the fellow's shoulder. The
same story is repeated near Kaulsdorf at a part of the brook which
is called the water over the way, at Presswitz near the Saal-house,
and on the sandhill between Possneck and the forester's lodge of
Eeichenbach. Below the Gleitsch, a curiously shaped rock near
Tischdorf, the story varies in -so far, that there Perchtha along with
the helmchen ivas driving a waggon, and had just broken the axle,
when she fell in with a countryman, who helped her out with a
makeshift axle, and was paid in chips, which however he disdained,
and only carried a piece home in his shoe. — P. 133 : A spinning-
girl walked over from the Neidenberg during that night, she had
done every bit of her spinning, and M^as in high spirits, when
Perchtha came marching up the hill towards her, with a great troop
of the heimchen-folk, all children of one sort and size, one set of
them toiling to push a heavy j^lovgh, another party loaded with
farming-tools ; they loudly complained that they had no longer a
home. At this singular procession the spinner began to laugh out
loud, Perchtha enraged stept up to the giddy thing, Ueio tipon her,
and struck her blind on the spot. The poor girl had a trouble to
find her way into the village, she led a wretched life, could no
longer work, but sat mournful by the wayside begging. When the
year was past and Perchtha visited Altar again, the blind one, not
knowing one from another, asked an alms of the high dame as she


swept by ; Perclitha spoke graciously : ' Here last year I blew a
pair of lights out, tliis year 1 will blow tliem in again'. With these
words she blew into the maid's eyes, which immediately began to
see again. The same legend is found in the so-called Sorge, near
Neustadt on the Orla. Touching stories of the weeping children,
who tramp along in Perchtha's great troop, will be given when we
come to treat minutely of the ' wiitende heer '. (See Suppl.).

To these significant traditions of Thuringia, others can be added
from Bavaria and Austria. In the mountain district about Trauen-
stein (Up. Bavaria, opposite Salzburg) they tell tlie children on the
eve of Epiphany, that if they are naughty, Berchc will come and cut
their bellies open. Greasy calces are baked that day, and the
workmen say you must grease your stomach well with them, so
that dame Berchc s knife may glance off (Schm. 1, 19-4). Is that the
reason why she is called icild Bertha, iron Bertha ? Crusius, Ann.
Suev. p. 2, lib. 8, cap. 7, p. 266, relates, as his explanation of the
origin of the name, that Henry IV. bestowed privileges on the city
of Padua : Inde, in signa libertatis, armato carrocio uti coeperunt in
bello, Bertha nominato. Hinc dictum ortum puto, quo terrentur
inquieti pueri, ' Schweig, oder die eiserne Bertha kommt ! ' ^ In
other places, Franconian and Swabian, she is named Hildaherta
(apparently a combination of the two names Holda and Berta), and
Bildaherta ; with hair all shaggy she walks round the houses at
night, and tears the bad boys to pieces (see Suppl.).'^

Dame Preeht with the long nose is what Vintler calls her : and
even a MIIG. poem, which in one MS. is entitled * daz msere von
der Stempen,' has in another the heading ' von Berchten mit der
laiigen nas' (Haupt's Altd. bl. 1, 105). It is only from the former
(with corrected spelling) that I am able to extract what has a
bearing on our subject :

nu merket rehfe-waz (ich) iu sage : Now mark aright what I you tell:
nachwihennaht amzwelften tage, after Christmas the twelfth day,
nacli dem lieilgen ebenwihe ^ after the holy New-year's day

(gotgeb, daz er uns gedihe), (God grant we prosper in it),

do man ezzen solt ze nahte, when they should eat supper

1 Conf. Cnisius p. 1, lib. 12, cap. 6, p. 329, where Bertha the mother of
Charles is meant. The Lombards called a carrociuni Jlcrta and JJcrteciola
(Ducange sub v.), perhaps the carriage of the travelling goddess or queen ?

^ Joacli. Camerarius, chronol. Ni'cephori, p. 129.

3 Even-holy, equally-holy day, Schetfer's llaltaus, p. 68.


und man ze tische brahte and had to table brought

allez daz man ezzen solde, all that they should eat,

swaz der wirt geben wolde whatso the master would give,

do sprach er zeni gesinde then spake he to his men

iind zuo sin selbes kinde : and to his own child :

' ezzet Mnte fast durch min bete, ' eat fast (hard) to night, I pray,
daz iucli die Stempc niht entrctc! that the Stempe tread you not.'
daz kintlin do von forhten az, The child then ate from fear,

er sprach: 'veterlin, waz ist daz, he said : ' father, what is this
daz du die Slempen nennest ? that thou the Stempe callest ?

sag mir, ob dus erkennest.' tell me, if thou it knowest.'

der vater sprach : 'daz sag ich dir. The father said : ' this tell I thee,
du solt ez wol gelouben mir, thou raayest well believe me,

ez ist so griuwelich getan, there is a thing so gruesome done,

daz ich dirz niht gesagen kan : that I cannot tell it thee :
wan swer des vergizzet, for whoso forgets this,

daz er nicht fast izzct, so that he eats not fast,

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