An invitation from Frau Holle

In my previous post I claimed that stories, if they are to remain relevant, should be seen as worlds that are alive, and that we can and should interact with, rather than seeing them as museum-objects to be studied from a safe distance. 

And so this week I would like to have a closer look at the fairytale of Frau Holle. (Should you not be familiar with it, here’s a short summary of the tale: A girl lives together with her stepmother and stepsister, who are treating her rather badly, making her do all the household work. One day, as she sits spinning next to the well, she accidentally drops her spindle in the waters. She decides to dive after it to go and fetch it. When she jumps in, she is transported to a different world where she is asked to perform some tasks, and then eventually meets Frau Holle, who invites her to come and live with her for a while. And so she stays, helping the old women with household chores whenever she can. After a while, she gets homesick, and asks to be allowed to return home. Frau Holle consents, and gives her a golden dress as reward for her diligence. When she returns home, her sister decides to give it a try herself (as she wants a golden dress too), but lazy as she is, she half-asses all of her tasks. When she goes home eventually, she returns covered in a layer of black tar.)

What is the relevance of this tale for us today? Is it simply about not being lazy? I’d suggest there is far more to it than that, but who am I to tell? And so I will now step aside and offer Frau Holle a chance to interact with you directly…

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This is Frau Holle.

You probably know me as a figure from the world of fairy tales, but today I would like to invite you to see the bigger picture behind my story, and how it can also be read as a cautionary tale about your connection to the web of life.

Join me then, on a journey to the otherworld, a journey to the world of others, of spirits, of nature, of darkness and of light.

The journey begins when you start your life, and you are given your first spindle. See this as a symbol acknowledging that you too, are one of the spinners creating the great web. You are part of it, and you partake in creating it. As long as you live, you will depend on it and hopefully you will give back to it as well.

Now, approach the well, and drop your spindle into the depths before you. What do you think that signifies? It is a journey into darkness, into depth, into an exploration of the underlying causes and connections. Are you ready to begin to see? Are you ready to acknowledge your own role within this symphony? Then jump. Or turn away, but if you should choose to do so, then seriously question why you are even part of life if you are not willing to engage with it.

Ready? Then jump, and find yourself standing in exactly the same place as before. That is precisely the magic: that you have faced the depths and still find yourself in the same world. Or did you perhaps expect to arrive in some fantasy dream world? Let me disappoint you then. The otherworld is right here, in front of your eyes. If you fail to acknowledge it here on earth, there is little point in you seeking for it elsewhere, for all you will find are illusions. Those who think they must travel will only be allowed to reach the other side when they are prepared to find that otherness right where they live. The way to interact with otherworldly beings is by connecting deeply with the world around you. Only through that will you learn to find the connections that you seek. And realize that the otherworld is a world that cannot be understood separately from the world of the here and now.

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So for those of you who think to seek solace in an escape from reality … know that the only way to wisdom is by acknowledging your present reality first. And to accept the teachings that it has to give you, and to accept your responsibility in co-creating that reality.

Now then, look around you. Notice the many ways in which your environment calls out to you. Are you prepared to do the work? Then I welcome you into my realm.

The true test that will determine whether you are worthy of the blessings bestowed on you is whether you are willing to listen and to hear what is asked of you by the web. Contribute and you shall be rewarded thousandfold. Ask to be given what should have benefited another more, and you will be given what the other receives if you first take what was meant for them. In a world where humanity has a tendency to take far more than what is your fair share, what do you expect that reward will be?

Which path will you choose in life? For it is never too late to make the choice to be connected. My well will be waiting for you whenever you feel called to enter it. I do not care how many mistakes you have made in the past. What I care about is what you do once you make the commitment to change and become part of the solution rather than part of the problem.

Can I count on you?

Beith is a druid who likes to wander through the forest, inviting the trees to be her teachers in life. She also runs a personal blog about her druid journey, that can be found at wandering-the-woods.com. In real life she’s a mathematician, trying to walk the boundary between the rational and the irrational.

One thought on “An invitation from Frau Holle

  1. terrific , I have never heard this story before –
    yes yes words are alive, they are our dreaming our reality our guides
    and yes the tasks are before us and within that lies all the worlds we cannot even imagine
    thanks for this story

    Liked by 1 person

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