The Bethen are a triad of female spirits associated with fertility, birth, and good fortune. They remedy childlessness, if desired. After a baby is born, the Bethen arrive to rock the cradle. They are associated with women’s mysteries, spinning, and weaving. They may be petitioned to reveal hidden treasure (material and intangible).
Bethen derives from a verb meaning “to pray.” They are associated with healing wells, sacred trees, and stones. Their name survives in German terms like Bethenbrunnen (Bethen wells) and Bethensteine (Bethen stones). Women sat on Bethen stones seeking their gift of fertility.
The Bethen were never forgotten, but by the late Middle Ages, their veneration was absorbed by local Christian practices. Some of their wells were renamed in honor of Saint Peter. Others became associated with witches. Their veneration was transferred to the Madonna as well as to a triad of Christian saints, coincidentally also called the Bethen.
ALSO KNOWN AS:
Red, black, white
An eleventh-century document describes women laying an offering table for the Bethen, complete with food, drink, and a knife for each spirit sister.
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.