Myths of the Norsemen From the Eddas and Sagas
Page: 29The woman reproached her husband bitterly for not having brought some of the precious stones which he so glowingly described, instead of the blossoms and seed; nevertheless the man proceeded to sow the latter, and he found to his surprise that the measure supplied seed enough for several acres.
Soon the little green shoots began to appear, and one moonlight night, while the peasant was gazing upon them, as was his wont, for he felt a curious attraction to the field which he had sown, and often lingered there wondering what kind of grain would be produced, he saw a misty form hover above the field, with hands outstretched as if in blessing. At last the field blossomed, and countless little blue flowers opened their calyxes to the golden sun. When the flowers had withered and the seed was ripe, Holda came once more to teach the peasant and his wife how to harvest the flax—for such it was—and from it to spin, weave, and bleach linen. As the people of the neighbourhood willingly purchased both linen and flax-seed, the peasant and his wife soon grew very rich indeed, and while he ploughed, sowed, and harvested, she spun, wove, and bleached the linen. The man lived to a good old age, and saw his grandchildren and great-grandchildren grow up around him. All this time his carefully treasured bouquet had remained fresh as when he first brought it home, but one day he saw that during the night the flowers had drooped and were dying.
Knowing what this portended, and that he too must die, the peasant climbed the mountain once more to the glacier, and found again the doorway for which he had often vainly searched. He entered the icy portal, and was never seen or heard of again, for, according to the legend, the goddess took him under her care, and bade him live in her cave, where his every wish was gratified.
According to a mediæval tradition, Holda dwelt in a cave in the Hörselberg, in Thuringia, where she was known as Frau Venus, and was considered as an enchantress who lured mortals into her realm, where she detained them for ever, steeping their senses in all manner of sensual pleasures. The most famous of her victims was Tannhäuser, who, after he had lived under her spell for a season, experienced a revulsion of feeling which loosened her bonds over his spirit and induced anxious thoughts concerning his soul. He escaped from her power and hastened to Rome to confess his sins and seek absolution. But when the Pope heard of his association with one of the pagan goddesses whom the priests taught were nothing but demons, he declared that the knight could no more hope for pardon than to see his staff bear buds and bloom.
“Hast thou within the nets of Satan lain?
Hast thou thy soul to her perdition pledged?
Hast thou thy lip to Hell’s Enchantress lent,