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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Time with friends and family

Yule and Christmas traditionally stand for the return of light and hope to the world. Candles are lit, songs are sung and we feel happy because the longest night has passed and the days will lengthen again.

For me, part of the tradition is to spend time with family and friends. Enjoying eachothers company, sitting cozily together with the light of candles and small lights in the Christmas tree. Eating together, all different dishes in a variety of settings. Yesterday we had dinner with three teams of my club, where 2 of us cooked the entire meal. They have been doing this for 6 years, and traditionally, the food is only just edible. In the invitation therefore, they refer to it as a ‘contingency plan’. Yesterday was no different. The two ladies had made paella, but as I don’t like fish, I got macaroni instead, which was cooked to a mash. Dessert was OK, though it didn’t work out exactly the way they planned. Yet, even though the food wasn’t very good, we all had a great time dining together, talking and laughing all night.

Today I will dine with my in-laws. I have no idea what we will get on our plate, as my mother-in-law refuses to tell anything, but it will be great. In addition my fiancée and I have bought “the nightmare before Christmas” and we’ll try to convince everyone it is fun to watch 🙂 Christmas day we’ll spend time together at home and gourmet with my little brother (yes, little, even though he is way taller than me by now and likes to call me ‘dwarf’) and my grandmother. The 26th we’ll all make something nice and spend time with the family, unwrapping gifts and hopefully eating nice things.

Lots of things planned around Christmas, but all around a central theme: spending time with family and friends. I hope you will all have a great time! Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year!