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On the Twelfth Night: the Coming of the Christmas Witch

The last night of the Yuletide is approaching, although when exactly it is depends on whom you ask. For much of Europe, it’s the Eve of Epiphany, January 5th. On this night, Perchta descends from the Alps to visit homes in Bavaria and Austria. In Italy, the Christmas Witch called La Befana leaves gifts for…

The Feast of the Midwinter Witch

Frau Holle is to me what many neopagans would call a patron deity. Goddess of witchcraft and nocturnal flights, wild animals, winter, and mountains as well as childbirth, housekeeping, and fabric arts — Frau Holle oversees so many aspects of life that are important to me. Like Baba Yaga, she looks (and can be) fearsome;…

They Come In Threes: Germanic Goddesses in Folktales and Lore

Three women arrive in the night, seemingly from nowhere but the darkness itself. They appear human enough at first glance, but there’s something off – features that are too extreme, or too animal. A broad, flat foot like that of a waterfowl. Wolf-like fangs. A long, iron nose. They look frightening, but they have kindness…

Old Frick, the Devil’s Grandmother: Goddesses in Folk Tales and Lore

Old Frick is a complex, mysterious figure in Brandenburgian lore, sometimes fearsome, other times helpful. Alternately referred to as Frau Fricke, she is one of a number of feminine spirits given the respectful title Frau (meaning “lady”) across Germany (Hammer 62). I first came upon Frick while researching the Norse goddess Frigg. Wikipedia cites “Fricke” as the Low German…

Witches Incognito: The Spindle, the Shuttle, and the Needle

  “Once upon a time there was a girl whose father and mother died when she was still a little child. Her godmother lived all alone at the end of the village in a little house, and earned her living with spinning, weaving, and sewing.” So begins the Grimm Brothers’ tale “The Spindle, the Shuttle,…

To Ride Through the Air on a Very Fine Gandr: The Staff as a Magical Tool in Fairy Tales

I’ve been reading Claude Lecouteux’s Witches, Werewolves and Fairies: Shapeshifters and Astral Doubles in the Middle Ages, which I was lucky enough to find at my local library. It’s a fantastic examination of the Double (also variously called the fylgja, familiar, fetch, etc., depending on where you’re looking) and the role it played in medieval and…