Goddesses of the low countries

As you know, I live in the Netherlands, traditionally the ‘low countries’. More than 60 percent of the Dutch people live under sealevel, protected by the dykes, but if you look at estimated maps of the Netherlands in the past (distant past), the land looked quite different. There weren’t any dykes then, and the water level was probably different.

This was the time that the ancient tribes lived, the different farmer cultures that we only recognize by their pottery (that’s how I was taught in primary school). It’s a bit more recent that I began to develop an interest not necessarily in these cultures, how fascinating they might be, but in their religious life and the gods and goddesses. The world around me, the landscape and the way the seasons affect local nature, that is what I base a big part of my own practice on. So, naturally, I want to know about local deities!

Last year, when my cousin and I went to the museum of Antiquities in Leiden, we saw the tributes to Nehalennia. This goddess had temples in Zeeland (the southwestern part of Holland), close to a route from the mainland to Great Britain. In Roman times, merchants from Europe’s mainland paid tribute to Nehalennia in order to get home safely after their travel. She was depicted with a dog and apples, probably as a very powerful house goddess. She was the trigger to wanting to discover more!

Godinnen van eigen bodemDuring a weekend in Groningen I finally was able to purchase a book I wanted for quite some time about the goddesses of the low countries. Nehalennia is obviously portraited in that, but also, one of my favourite fairytale characters was! Who would have thought? Frau Holle, who brings snow to the world when her cushions are shaken. That is mainly how I know her from Grimm’s fairytale, but other elements are also important. She is a goddess of the netherworld, judging those entering her realm. A very powerful goddess and a very powerful image. Tomorrow, I will do a meditation, hoping to meet her for the first time.

One last goddess that was new to me, or actually a group of goddesses, were the Witte Wieven (White Ladies). They reveal themselves in misty surroundings. Perhaps that is too much, they show themselves as mist, as wisps of fog. I now pay much more attention when I cycle through fog, rather then trying to get through as fast as possible. These goddesses are known for predicting the future, but as fog tends to do, they can also lead you in the wrong direction. This makes appeasing them with cake for example a logical step, because you don’t want to get lost in the fog.

These are three goddesses from my home country, goddesses of the low countries. Every place will have its own traditional gods and goddesses, not always conforming to the pantheons. Do you know any from your place?

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13 Responses to “Goddesses of the low countries”

  1. Silverleaf Says:

    This is fascinating! Thank you for sharing these stories. I remember you writing in the summer about visiting the museum of antiquities, and I

    • Silverleaf Says:

      wish we had something similar here. I really enjoy bridging the gap between folk tale/fairy tales and the history of a culture. I also found your application of your understanding about the goddesses in the mist to be practical but also inspiring; every day consciousness meets magic.

      • 91juditho Says:

        I think, wherever you live, there must be some sort of local folklore that you can apply this to. Perhaps it is an explanation of why a place is called that way, or a story about a particular hill or forest or whatever shapes in nature there might be. Most of it is indeed practical, I’m not very good with abstract concepts when I want to do religious work, though I like theorizing about the nature of deities and such 🙂 But more concrete examples live more for me.

  2. Emmy Says:

    Sounds like a book for me!

    • 91juditho Says:

      It is! I think you’d like the type of drawings they use in the book as well, they are somewhat similar to your own style (in my opinion then, but I’m not an artist).

  3. witchesbrew Says:

    Very good article!

    • 91juditho Says:

      Thank you! If I had started earlier I might have expanded on it a little. Perhaps I’ll do seperate posts on the different goddesses one day 🙂

  4. ViaNocturna85 Says:

    Vergeet niet Frija, waar onze Vrijdag van komt. De moeder die altijd voor je zorgt.

    • 91JudithO Says:

      Natuurlijk! Ik heb hier slechts een drietal godinnen benoemd, maar dat neemt niet weg dat er anderen zijn die ook bij Nederland horen 🙂

  5. Karen Neumann Says:

    I am also doing some study of this. I also am drawn to Nehalennia. I did think also of the witte woman and Freya. Suddenly I am looking forward to fog. ❤

    • 91JudithO Says:

      Fog is beautiful, especially in the early morning. I think all natural phenomena, including things such as waves on the beach and the wind rustling through the trees, can be experienced as expressions of the divine.

  6. lucifudge Says:

    Actually, the “White Ladies” is basically the same as a Volva, or a female seer or witch practicing seidr.
    It’s the Dutch name for the above mentioned.


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