Hulda, a great and ancient goddess of birth and death, presides over a transit station for human souls, a crossroads between life and death. Hulda receives the souls of the newly dead into her realm and releases newborns to live new lives on Earth. Hulda bathes at midday in a fountain from which babies emerge, a well of life.
She was no unknown spirit but a prominent Northern European goddess. Holland is her namesake. Her name may be related to “holy.” Hulda lives in mountain caves and among elder trees, portals to her realm. Her realm may also be accessed via wells. She is sometimes witnessed walking alongside rivers or mountain paths, alone or accompanied by an entourage of rabbits and Fairies. She may be the Queen of the Elves.
Hulda is a weather spirit. When she shakes her feather bed, it snows on Earth. Rain falls from her laundry rinse water. Fog hovering over a mountain may be smoke from Hulda’s fire. She guards and nurtures all the growing things of the forest. She was a culture-goddess, too, credited with introducing flax to Europe and teaching the art of making linen.
Banished after official conversion to Christianity, people were forbidden to venerate or contact Hulda. (Those maintaining that practice were branded witches.) Hulda was reclassified as a Demon witch-goddess who attacked and harmed children.
She retains dominion over Pagan babies. People were urged to baptize their babies lest they end up in Hulda’s realm. Mother Holle, once so benevolent, was transformed into a monster. People warned their children that if they weren’t obedient, Hulda would “get” them.
Vestiges of rituals invoking Hulda’s blessings on baby girls were retained by Ashkenazi Jews (the Hollekreisch), whether because Pagan women found discreet safety in that community rather than convert to Christianity or because Jews perceived Hulda’s resemblance to Lilith. (Although the rituals survive, many would beshocked and horrified to realize that they invoke a Pagan goddess.)
Like Lilith, Hulda is not always so benevolent these days. She is a proud and resolutely Pagan spirit with little patience for hypocrites. Hulda can bestow fertility but she can take it away, too. She has power over storms, raising them as well as soothing them. She can be ambivalent toward people as Demonstrated by Mother Holle, the Brothers Grimm fairy tale in which she stars. The theme involves young girls who wander into Hulda’s domain, either inadvertently or deliberately in anticipation of a reward. She rewards the girl who respects her and follows her commands with effort and devotion but causes excrement to rain down upon the lazy, disrespectful girl.
A radiantly beautiful blond woman or a fierce old crone. In her guise as Queen of Witches, she has disheveled hair and a wild look. She may also manifest as a woman when seen from the front but a tree from behind. She may be accompanied by an entourage of torch-bearing rabbits who light her way.
ALSO KNOWN AS:
Mother Holle; Frau Holle; Hulde
The sky, underground, mountains, wells
The Milky Way is the street she travels.
Earth, air, water
Holly, elder, juniper, mugwort, flax; Sorcerer’s Violet (Vinca major), sometimes called Frau Holle
The Winter Solstice is Hulda’s feast day. The twelve days between 25 December and 6 January are sacred to her.
She loves music and dancing.
Encyclopedia of Spirits: The Ultimate Guide to the Magic of Fairies, Genies, Demons, Ghosts, Gods & Goddesses– Written by Judika Illes Copyright © 2009 by Judika Illes.