Christmas In Ritual & Tradition - online book

The Observance Of Christmas In Various Lands And Ages.

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PAGAN SURVIVALS
tail at the inmates and whines, and will not be driven away. If killed, he turns into a stone by day ; this, though it may be thrown away, always returns and is a dog again by night. All through the year he whines and brings ill luck upon the house ; so people are careful to keep their street-doors shut during the Twelve Nights.55
Good luck, however, befalls those who do Frau Gaude a ser­vice. A man who put a new pole to her carriage was brilliantly repaid—the chips that fell from the pole turned to glittering gold. Similar stories of golden chips are told about Holda and Berchta.56
A train of dogs belongs not only to Frau Gaude but also to Frau Harke ; with these howling beasts they go raging through the air by night.57 The Frauen in certain aspects are, indeed, the leaders of the " Wild Host."
Holda and Perchta, as some strange stories show, are the guides and guardians of the heimchen or souls of children who have died unbaptized. In the valley of the Saale, so runs a tale, Perchta, queen of the heimchen, had her dwelling of old, and at her com­mand the children watered the fields, while she worked with her plough. But the people of the place were ungrateful, and she resolved to leave their land. One night a ferryman beheld on the bank of the Saale a tall, stately lady with a crowd of weeping children. She demanded to be ferried across, and the children dragged a plough into the boat, crying bitterly. As a reward for the ferrying, Perchta, mending her plough, pointed to the chips. The man grumblingly took three, and in the morning they had turned to gold-pieces.58
Holda, whose name means " the kindly one," is the most friendly of the Frauen. In Saxony she brings rewards for diligent spinsters, and on every New Year's Eve, between nine and ten o'clock, she drives in a carriage full of presents through villages where respect has been shown to her. At the crack of her whip the people come out to receive her gifts. In Hesse and Thuringia she is imagined as a beautiful woman clad in white with long golden hair, and, when it snows hard, people say, " Frau Holle is shaking her featherbed." 59
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