- Titles: Goddess of Abundance, Queen of Witches
- Also known as: Bertha; Perchta; Frau Berta; Eisen Berta, Berchtli
- Origin: Germanic
- Sacred plants: Holly, mayflower
- Sacred creatures: Crickets, swans, geese.
Bavaria is the ancient stronghold of Berchta, goddess of abundance. Allegedly whatever you give her will be returned many times over. Berchta rules a sort of transit area for souls, caring for and guarding those who died as babies. Depending on the version, they either stay in her garden forever or she tends them until they reincarnate and receive new life. She protects living children, too. German folk tales describe a beautiful lady dressed in white who mysteriously appears in the middle of the night to nurse babies.
Initially, Perchta was the upholder of cultural taboos, such as the prohibition against spinning on holidays. She was an immensely popular goddess, and so post-Christianity she was aggressively demonized by the Church as a Queen of Witches. People were told to baptize their babies because otherwise they’d end up in Berchta’s realm, not in Heaven. She is among the leaders of the Wild Hunt, usually leading a parade of unbaptized babies.
She evolved into a bogeywoman still invoked as a threat to make children behave before Yule. She allegedly punishes “bad children” but gives gifts to good ones.
This old story is as follows:
In the folklore of Bavaria and Austria, Perchta was said to roam the countryside at midwinter, and to enter homes during the twelve days between Christmas and Epiphany (especially on the Twelfth Night). She would know whether the children and young servants of the household had behaved well and worked hard all year. If they had, they might find a small silver coin next day, in a shoe or pail. If they had not, she would slit their bellies open, remove stomach and guts, and stuff the hole with straw and pebbles.
She was particularly concerned to see that girls had spun the whole of their allotted portion of flax or wool during the year. She would also slit people’s bellies open and stuff them with straw if they ate something on the night of her feast day other than the traditional meal of fish and gruel.
- Unbaptized babies
- Stillbirths, miscarriages, abortions
- Those driven to suicide by broken hearts or despair
- Dead souls who lack people to remember them
- Dead souls who have not received proper, respectful burial
The types of dead souls Berchta protects have a tendency to trouble the living by manifesting as destructive ghosts. Should you be afflicted by such a ghost, petition Berchta to soothe and remove it, escorting it to her realm, where it will be much happier.
A beautiful woman with pearls braided into her gold hair. A white veil obscures her face, and she wears a long, white silk dress. She has another look too: an old decrepit hag with long, wild grey hair and disheveled clothes.
In many old descriptions, Bertha had one large foot, sometimes called a goose foot or swan foot. Grimm thought the strange foot symbolized her being a higher being who could shapeshift to animal form. He noticed that Bertha with a strange foot exists in many languages:
“It is apparently a swan maiden’s foot, which as a mark of her higher nature she cannot lay aside…and at the same time the spinning-woman’s splayfoot that worked the treadle”.
Because she sometimes manifests with one webbed goose foot, it is possible that Berchta may be the original Mother Goose. In the Tyrol she appears as little old woman with a very wrinkled face, bright lively eyes, and a long hooked nose; her hair is disheveled, her garments tattered and torn.
When she’s young and beautiful, she carries the keys to happiness in one hand and a spray of mayflowers in the other; as a hag, she carries a distaff.
A subterranean palace with a fabulous garden where she welcomes souls of children who died in infancy.
She maintains other homes within hollow mountains.
- Spirit allies
Perchta travels with a retinue of spirits called Perchten. Christian legend says the devil rides in their midst, but this may indicate the presence of a male deity who accompanies her.
- Sacred time
Berchta is celebrated throughout the entire Yule season. Post-Christianity, Yule became synonymous with Christmas, but in its original Pagan context it was a lengthier season.
In German tradition, the Feast of the Epiphany (Jan 6) is Berchtentag – Berchta’s Day. The preceding eve is Berchtennacht. The festival is celebrated with processions characterized by grotesque masks.
- Sacred places
Berchtesgaden in the Austrian Alps means “Berchta’s Garden.” Many springs near Salzburg are named in her honor.
Leave offerings out for her on Epiphany Eve, the way offerings are left for Santa. Not milk and cookies, though. Berchta likes a hearty meal: herring and dumplings is her favorite. Give her schnapps or other alcoholic beverages.
A Goddess of Many Names
Perchta had many different names depending on the era and region: Grimm listed the names Perahta and Berchte as the main names, followed by Berchta in Old High German, as well as Behrta and Frau Perchta. In Baden, Swabia, Switzerland and Slovenian regions, she was often called Frau Faste (the lady of the Ember days) or Pehta or ‘Kvaternica’, in Slovene. Elsewhere she was known as Posterli, Quatemberca and Fronfastenweiber.
In southern Austria, in Carinthia among the Slovenes, a male form of Perchta was known as Quantembermann, in German, or Kvaternik, in Slovene (the man of the four Ember days). Grimm thought that her male counterpart or equivalent is Berchtold.
Regional variations of the name include Berigl, Berchtlmuada, Perhta-Baba, Zlobna Pehta, Bechtrababa, Sampa, Stampa, Lutzl, Zamperin, Pudelfrau, Zampermuatta and Rauweib.
In contemporary culture, Perchta is portrayed as a “rewarder of the generous, and the punisher of the bad, particularly lying children”.
Vestiges of devotion to Berchta survive in some Alpine villages where it is traditional to place offerings of food for her on rooftops so she finds them while riding by.
Today in Austria, particularly Salzburg, where she is said to wander through Hohensalzburg Castle at dead of night, the Perchten are still a traditional part of holidays and festivals (such as the Carnival Fastnacht). The wooden animal masks made for the festivals are today called Perchten.
In the Pongau region of Austria large processions of Schönperchten (“beautiful Perchten”) and Schiachperchten (“ugly Perchten”) are held every winter. Beautiful masks are said to encouraging financial windfalls, and the ugly masks are worn to drive away evil spirits.
Other regional variations include the Tresterer in the Austrian Pinzgau region, the stilt dancers in the town of Unken, the Schnabelpercht in the Unterinntal region and the Glöcklerlaufen (“bell-running”) in the Salzkammergut. A number of large ski-resorts have turned the tradition into a tourist attraction drawing large crowds every winter.
From: Encyclopedia of Spirits and Wikipedia
- Titles: Master of the Cemetery, Lord of the Dead
- Also known as: Bawon, Samedi, Bawon Sanmdi, Baron Saturday, Baron Sandi
- Colors: Black, also red and purple
- Day: Saturday
- Numbers: 3, 7, 21
- Classification: Lwa
- Consort: Madame Brigitte (Maman Brigitte)
- Venerated in: Haitian Vodou, Louisiana Voodoo, Folk Catholicism
- Feast: November 2
- Patronage: Death, tombs, gravestones, cemeteries, dead relatives, obscenities, healing, smoking, drinking, disruption, spirits
Baron Samedi is one of the loa of Haitian Vodou. He is the leader of the Barons and possibly the Gedes. He presides over a sprawling, confusing, complex clan of spirits. When people speak of the Baron, they tend to mean Baron Samedi. Baron Samedi literally means Baron Saturday, which may sound innocuous compared to Baron Cemetery, or Krininel, but Saturday was the one day when Christ was really truly dead, the day between the crucifixion on Friday and resurrection on Sunday. On Saturday, even Jesus must answer to the Baron, Lord of the Dead.
Baron Samedi is Grand Master of the Celestial Masonic Lodge of Vodou Spirits, a thirty-second degree initiated Mason. He is invoked to contact and communicate with the dead. He determines whether they can come visit or not. He may be petitioned to remove bothersome ghosts and invoked to ward off death.
He is noted for disruption, obscenity, debauchery, and having a particular fondness for tobacco and rum. Additionally, he is the loa of resurrection, and in the latter capacity he is often called upon for healing by those near or approaching death, as it is the only Baron who can accept an individual into the realm of the dead.
Baron Samedi spends most of his time in the invisible realm of vodou spirits. He is notorious for his outrageous behavior, swearing continuously and making filthy jokes to the other spirits. He is married to another powerful spirit known as Maman Brigitte, but often chases after mortal women. He loves smoking and drinking and is rarely seen without a cigar in his mouth or a glass of rum in his bony fingers.
Baron Samedi can usually be found at the crossroads between the worlds of the living and the dead. When someone dies, he digs their grave and greets their soul after they have been buried, leading them to the underworld.
He is a powerful healer and is especially sympathetic to terminally ill children. Baron Samedi rules the cemetery: no one can die until he gives permission for their grave to be dug. Baron Samedi is lewd, obscene, and vulgar, but he can be just and kind. He prefers that children live full lives before joining him in the cemetery.
Baron Samedi is the crossroads where sex and death meet. Spirit of the undying life-force, he may be petitioned for fertility. He is the guardian of ancestral knowledge and the link to your ancestral spirits. If one lens keeps popping out of your dark glasses, the Baron may be seeking your attention or offering his patronage.
Baron Samedi is syncretized to Jesus Christ as they share the symbol of the cross. It is possible that Baron Samedi’s associations with the cross may pre-date christianity. In Congolese cosmology, the cross is the symbol of the life cycle: death – birth – rebirth. He may also be syncretized to Saint Expedite, and with Saint Martin de Porres.
Syncretized means to attempt to unite and harmonize especially without critical examination or logical unity.
Baron Samedi manifests as an older, dark-skinned man in formal attire, dressed completely in black. He wears a black top hat, black suit, and may be smoking one of his beloved cigars. He wears impenetrable black sunglasses.
- The glasses may be missing a lens because he possesses two kinds of vision: he simultaneously sees the realms of the living and the dead.
- Alternatively his glasses have but one lens because a penis has but one eye and the phallus is his attribute (and because he loves sexual humor and innuendo.)
He is usually depicted with a top hat, black tail coat, dark glasses, and cotton plugs in the nostrils, as if to resemble a corpse dressed and prepared for burial in the Haitian style. He has a white, frequently skull-like face (or actually has a skull for a face), and speaks in a nasally voice. The former President for Life of Haiti, François Duvalier, modeled his cult of personality on Baron Samedi; he was often seen speaking in a deep nasal tone and wearing dark glasses.
- Favored People
Children; women seeking to conceive; funeral workers; grave diggers; those whose work brings them into contact with death.
Connection to other loas:
Baron Samedi is the leader of the Guédé, loa with particular links to magic, ancestor worship and death. Samedi is a loa of the dead, along with Baron’s numerous other incarnations Baron Cimetière, Baron La Croix, and Baron Kriminel. These lesser spirits, all dressed like the Baron, are all as rude and crude, but not nearly as charming as their master. They help carry the dead to the underworld.
Working with Baron Samedi
- Iconography: Baron Samedi’s throne is a chair chained to a cross. Images of Darth Vader are supposed to represent him (or just to decorate his altar; he likes toys)
- Attributes: Coffin; phallus, skull and crossbones; shovel; grave; black sunglasses; cross
As well as being master of the dead, Baron Samedi is also a giver of life. He can cure any mortal of any disease or wound, if he thinks it is worthwhile. His powers are especially great when it comes to vodou curses and black magic. Even if somebody has been afflicted by a hex that brings them to the verge of death, they will not die if the Baron refuses to dig their grave. So long as this mighty spirit keeps them out of the ground, they are safe.
He also ensures that all corpses rot in the ground to stop any soul from being brought back as a brainless zombie. What he demands in return depends on his mood. Sometimes he is content with his followers wearing black, white or purple clothes or using sacred objects; he may simply ask for a small gift of cigars, rum, black coffee, grilled peanuts, or bread. But sometimes the Baron requires a vodou ceremony to help him cross over into this world.
Black coffee, plain bread, dry toast, roasted peanuts. He drinks rum in which twenty-one very hot peppers have been steeped. Cigars, cigarettes, dark sun glasses, Day of the Dead toys, the sexier and more macabre the better; raise a skull and crossbones pirate flag for him, beautiful wrought-iron crosses are crafted in his honor.
The veve or symbol for Baron Samedi is as follows:
Sources: Wikipedia and Encyclopedia of Spirits
- Titles: Daughter of Nature, Goddess of Creation, Water Mother, Sky Mother
- Other Names: Luonnotar, Luonotar
- Origin: Finland
- Depicted as: Virgin floating on the sea
- Feast day: August 26
The name Ilmatar is derived from the Finnish word ilma, meaning “air,” and the suffix -tar, denoting a female spirit. Thus, her name literally means “female air spirit.” In the Kalevala she was also occasionally called Luonnotar,which means “female spirit of nature” (Finnish luonto, “nature”)
The story is as follows:
In the beginning, says the Kalevala, there was only Ilmatar, the void and a great deal of wind. She was alone in the beginning of time. She lived in the heavens, but eventually she grew restless and slipped into the vast cosmic sea. She floated and frolicked for centuries on this primordial ocean, counting rainbows and letting the wind play in her hair.
She began to long for a son.Her longing was so great that the East Wind itself took pity. She found herself buffeted and tossed by the wind’s tempestuous love-making until, exhausted, she could bear it no longer and collapsed. During this storm she became pregnant. And there, inside her, was conceived Vainamoinen, the child of the wind.
The goddess floated for centuries on this primordial ocean, unable to give birth because there was no land. She prayed constantly to the god Ukko, the highest of the gods, to help her. After seven centuries or so she began to give up hope, and Ukko took pity on her and sent a duck.
The poor bird was desperately looking for somewhere to land so she could make a nest and lay her eggs. When Ilmatar saw the bird’s predicament, she helpfully raised her knee and the bird came swooping down. Half a dozen cosmic eggs were laid, followed by an egg made of iron. The bird then gathered them all up, sat upon them and went to sleep.
Luonnotar sat and watched the bird eagerly, happy for something to finally be happening after centuries of loneliness and boredom. She became too excited, however, her leg began to heat up, she became extremely uncomfortable. Slowly, carefully, she began to stretch out her leg.. and slowly, inevitably, the seven eggs rolled off and fell majestically into the raging sea.
Now, cosmic eggs are delicate things, as soon as they fell into the waters, they broke open. Ilmatar watched in amazement as the broken shells of the eggs formed the heavens and the earth. The yolks became the sun, the whites the moon, and scattered fragments of the eggs transformed into the stars.
And thus the world was formed. As for the iron egg, the black yolk became a thundercloud.
Ilmatar was delighted with events, and busied herself shaping the lands and adding finishing touches. Even though dry land was now available, Ilmatar continued to carry the child within her for thirty summers while she finished her work. Eventually, she felt a stirring inside her. Vainamoinen had woken up after 30 years of being in the womb and was eager to see the new world. He had quite a struggle to get out, but he managed in the end and eventually, Ilmatar gave birth to Vainamoinen, a bouncing bonny old man, and the worlds first shaman, who then finished her creation.
Compiled from various sources
- Names: Eleutheria, Ilithyia, Genetyllis
- Origin: Crete
- Favored People: Midwives
- Attribute: Torch
Eileithyia is the ancient goddess of childbirth, midwifery, and birthing pains. Eleithyia’s name translates as “Fluid of Generation,” giving her strong fertile aspects, and she also has a hand in personal fate.
According to myth, Eleithyia was the midwife of the gods and even birthed Eos, the creative force behind all things. When Eleithyia’s hands were closed, birth was delayed. When Eleithyia opened her body, a child arrived effortlessly.
Eileithyia is believed to be a Minoan goddess assimilated into the Greek pantheon as Hera’s daughter. She works very closely with Hera and is Hera’s weapon in her struggle to prevent Zeus’ other wives from giving birth and threatening the sovereignty and status of her own children. Without Eileithyia’s cooperation, labor cannot go well and perhaps cannot occur at all.
Eileithyia was venerated by pregnant women and those in labor to provide safety success and to lessen pain. Although comparatively little attention is paid to her in mythology books, she was actually subject of great popular veneration. She had many shrines and was considered an extremely significant deity.
Iconography: A woman bearing a torch or with hands upraised, as if beckoning. Sometimes there is one Eileithyia, but sometimes she is portrayed as a pair of spirits.
Sacred site: The cave of Eileithyia near Knossis, Crete, is allegedly her birthplace and was an important pilgrimage site. She is associated with caves, in general. Eileithyia was a widely venerated goddess with shrines throughout Greece.
Offerings: Ex-votos (milagros) in the shape of breasts; incense; water
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