Spinning with Frau Holda
From the Moirai (fates) of Ancient Greece who spun, measured, and then snipped men’s lives, to the morbid loom used by the Valkyries, to the Incan goddess Mama Ocllo who taught women to spin, weaving and spinning play important roles in folk tales and religious stories throughout history in just about every culture.
Some of the most famous stories involving weaving and spinning—at least in the United States—were collected by Jacob and Wilhelm Grimm, better known as the Brothers Grimm. Many of us are familiar with their retellings of Sleeping Beauty, The Six Swans, and Rumplestiltskin, but less well-known are the stories of Frau Holda.
According to legend, Frau Holda (also known as Frau Holle or Frau Hulda) was a matron of spinning and was the one who taught humans to spin linen from flax. She helps hard working spinners, sometimes even finishing their work for them, and punishes the lazy, as told in the Grimm Brothers’ tale Mother Hulda.
In some areas of Germany Frau Holda and spinning are tied to Christmas. For example, in the Hörselberg region on Christmas Eve flax is placed on the spindles. For every thread spun into linen between then and Epiphany Frau Holda promises "as many threads, as many good years." However, if the spinner fails to spin all the flax into linen by Epiphany Frau Holda promises "as many threads, as many bad years."