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…