The Fire Beneath the Ice

A great benison during this gruellingly busy week has been the arrival of Jack Gale’s long-awaited study of the Winter Queen, Fraw Holda, brilliantly entitled Queen of Ice and Fire:  the Goddess Holda (Capall Bann, 2015).  Fraw Holda, as She is often addressed, is an ancient Germanic Goddess who is often experienced as an axis point for several historically attested Deities.  Gimbutas suggested that Holda was the origin of Them all.  The name Holda, in my understanding, is simply an Old High German kenning, “the Fair One.”  It may refer to the white and shining appearance of the Winter landscape.  The name Holda reminds one in meaning of Gwyn, the White or Shining One, a male Deity with some similar attributes.  Obviously, Holda is Northern/Germanic, while Gwyn is Welsh, but recent research has suggested that just as the peoples of these regions interacted more than was once thought in old times, their lore may also present many areas of shared gnosis and tradition.

Jack Gale provides some practical ritual suggestions, among them this “anthem,” which I prefer to think of as a carol. It is set to the tune of “God rest ye merry gentlemen,” and I suggest getting in the mood by playing the wonderfully Paganesque video Annie Lenox did a few years ago for that carol.  I changed some of the words provided by Jack to make it more singable for myself and my friends, and also because Holda Herself seemed to want me to re-work the song on my own.  This was the result:

The trees are standing leafless, and sun is standing still
When daylight comes but fleetingly and wind is blowing chill
As Old Year turns to New Year, we heed your Triple Will!

O great Holda, be with us now, be with us now!
O great Holda, be with us now!

From sleeping through the light time, our Goddess She awakes
With snowy white regalia, the silver Crown She takes
Her sacred Sign we now behold as feather bed She shakes!

O great Holda, be with us now, be with us now!
O great Holda, be with us now!

Rise up, O Winter Goddess, return and take Your place
We know Your Shining Presence extends o’er time and space
As Solstice skies grow bright with light upon Your shining Face!

O great Holda, be with us now, be with us now!
O great Holda, be with us now!

Holda’s sacred Sign is the Hagall rune, which looks just like an abstract snowflake crystal, and is a very potent and powerful sigil to which Jack Gale devotes two chapters in his book.  In an essay about Her composed in 2008 (which I cited in my post about Holda last year, but I feel bears repeating), I wrote: “This Rune provides a potent key to descend into Holda’s Well and unlock the secret gateway into Her Inner Sanctum. One way of visualizing this Rune is to see it as a Stave standing in the midst of the Crossroads… Holda holding the Stave at the Center of the Crossroads also embodies how, in the Northern Tradition, the Winter Festival stands as the pivot around which the entire year revolves, and renews itself. The Queen of the Snows also stands guard over the womb of the New Year. The singularity of Her Personality is the final resolution of the dualities of Life and Death embodied in the white quiet of Wintertide. One image that came to me … is that the six points of this Rune are reflected in Holda’s Pool and thus display the Twelve Nights of Yule, an illimitable energy vortex through which manifest Time and Space continually renew themselves. Holda’s Well and the Sacred Cauldron of Rebirth are, indeed, one and the same.”

In the book, Jack Gale reports these words received by a friend during a moment of intense psychic attunement to the Goddess:

I am the hearthfire
That burns deep within the ice,
The enemy of fear,
And lover of the blissful soul.

An aspect of Holda of which I had been unaware before beginning to read this book is Her identification with the ancient Lady of the Elder Tree, about Whom I wrote last year.  She is an imposing, potent Goddess very powerfully connected to the earth and to orchards, Whose presence was felt long after the displacement of the wisdom teachings by the Christian church.

The Power embodied in the phrase “Fire beneath the Ice” for me emphasizes the life-force deep within Earth Herself.  During the most severe months of Winter when everything seems buried under a heavy mantle of snow and ice, She remains alive, aware, and open to our visions and desires.  She is of many forms and many guises, but the pulsebeat of Her flame deep within burns constant and true.  The moment of the Winter Solstice and the tide of Yule and the turning of the Year remind us of this great hope.




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