Mother Holle

I’m getting to know my coworkers at my new job. Some of them asked how I’d gotten my PMP certification. See, most of them are trying to get that cert.

“I can give you the name of the study group! It’s great…” I prepared to give them the speech of how I did it. How there were phone calls twice a week they could join and it was all I needed. Well, that and studying 10 or more hours a week.

I thought about my life then and my life now. I could not spare ten hours to study right now. I didn’t finish my sentence. Suddenly it felt like a much bigger deal than I had given myself credit for.

Later that night, I was reading my daughter from the Brothers Grimm. Her new favorite fairy tale is Mother Holle.

In the fairy tale, one good hardworking girl is the stepdaughter. The biological daughter is lazy. As the story goes, the good girl drops a spindle down a well and the horrible stepmother forces her to go in after it.

Instead of drowning she finds herself in the land of Mother Holle. She proves herself a good worker and goes into service working for the woman. The trick is she is supposed to shake Mother Holle’s bed and pillows so that the feathers fly about. That means that it is snowing in the human world.

When at last she goes back to her home, Mother Holle rewards her for her service by showering her with gold. Her stepmother and sister are delighted with this, and the lazy girl goes down the well in hopes of getting the same reward.

Of course, the lazy girl is rewarded for her poor service: she is covered with pitch that never washes off.

Now I’m curious. Who is the Mother Holle person? What’s this about her feather bed and snowing?

One thing I know about The Grimm Brothers is that they were interested in more than stories. When they started gathering their stories, their true purpose was to reach back in time and find stories from before literacy. They were looking for stories that were told and repeated from fireside and bedside. What were these people like from before history started?

Mother Holle is one of those before times holdovers. The internet tells me she is a goddess from even before Odin, Thor and the rest of the Asgard crowd.

There are a million little hints at the ancient story of this goddess…the spindle, the well, the tidy home and even maidens are supposed to be the territory of this elemental goddess. She is a foundational force, one not to be denied. Who can mess with the weather? And maiden girls? These are essential components of life.

The story is basic and elemental too. We know this set up: stepdaughter is mistreated and does all the work around the house. The ugly and mean biological daughter is lazy and good-for-nothing.

Cinderella again. What was UP with Cindy anyway? Why did she just take all that crap and do all the work of everybody?

It was just her nature. In the end, she got her reward because she got the prince. He may not have valued how well she could wash the drapes in the palace, but something about her grabbed him.

In the case of the Mother Holle story, the hard-working girl was so afraid of her stepmother that she jumped down a well rather than return without her spindle. Rather than drowning, like she should have, she lands in a beautiful meadow. She follows her nature, and does the things asked of her as well as she can.

She can do things pretty well, as it turns out.

Something flashed to me. I took the time to study and learn and get this certification some many years ago. I didn’t think anything of it. It was fun to learn and fun to study. I didn’t think about how hard it was.

The industrious girl didn’t think about it being hard to shake that feather bed. She just did the best she could.

It was her nature.

Our best nature is elemental. It’s best to pursue it on all occasions. I followed it for no good reason when I was studying and I got the reward. The hardworking girl followed her highest nature when she did the work for Mother Holle. And as sure as it snows in the North, our rewards will come.

This is a delightful surprise, because we would be doing our best regardless.