Besides Woden, tradition also speaks of a woman riding at the head of the Furious Host. Holda, like Odin, can ride the wind clothed in terror. Like him, she belongs to the Wild Hunt. Sometimes she is portrayed as his wife, Frau Gode (Gauden, Wode, Woden), that is “Mrs. Odin.” According to one such legend preserved by Jacob Grimm, there was once a rich lady of rank named Frau Gauden who so passionately loved the chase that she sinfully declared, “Hunting is better than heaven.” In time, she bore twenty-four daughters, who all held the same conviction. One day, as Frau Gauden and her daughters bounded over woods and fields in wild abandon, those wicked words escaped her lips once more, and suddenly before their mother's eyes, her daughters' attire turned into tufts of fur, their arms into legs, and at once twenty-four hunting dogs barked around their mother's carriage —four doing duty as horses, the rest encircling the hunting-car —and away went the wild train, up into the clouds, to hunt between heaven and earth forevermore. She has long since grown weary of constant pursuit and laments her foolish words, but she must bear her guilt until the hour of redemption comes.


During Yule, the only time that men can perceive her, Frau Gauden directs her chase toward human habitations. Most of all, she loves to drive through village streets on Christmas Eve or New Year's Eve, and wherever she finds an open door, she sends in a dog, who does the household no other harm than to disturb their sleep with its constant crying. It whimpers and whines the whole year through. Not until Yule comes around again is peace restored to the house. It cannot be pacified nor driven away. Those foolish enough to kill the dog bring disaster upon themselves. This is what happened to a couple in Bresegardt. From that moment on, there was no säg und täg(blessing and thriving) to be had, and at length their house burned down to the ground. Therefore, all must be careful during Yule to keep the house door locked after nightfall. Whoever forgets to lock up is to blame should Frau Gauden enter. Careless folk at Semmerin left their front door wide open one New Year’s Eve and the next morning found a black dog lying on the hearth, who kept the household awake at night with its incessant whining. The family was at their wits’ end when a wise woman told them to brew their beer through an eggshell. So they placed an eggshell in the tap-hole of the brewing-vat, and no sooner had the beer run through it, when the dog leapt up and spoke:


“ik bün so olt as Böhmen golt,

äwerst dat heff ik min leder nicht truht,

wenn man 't bier dorch 'n eierdopp bruht.”


“I am as old as Bohemian gold,

And in my life have ne’er viewed,

Beer thro’ an eggshell brewed.”


The sight so startled the spectral dog that it fled with his tail between his legs. It disappeared and no one has seen the dog since. Better luck befalls those who do Frau Gauden a service. It happens at times, that in the dark of night she loses her way and finds herself at a crossroads, which are a stumbling block to her. Every time she strays into one, her carriage breaks down and she cannot go on. Once, while in this plight, she came dressed as a stately dame to the bedside of a laborer at Boeck, woke him, and implored his help. The man rose and followed her to the crossroads, where he found one of her carriage wheels broken off. He soon fixed the wheel and as payment she told him to fill his pockets with her dogs’ dung, assuring him that his effort would not be in vain. Indignant but curious, the man reluctantly did as he was told and took some of the droppings with him. To his utter amazement, at sunrise his wages glittered and upon inspection had turned to gold. He now regretted not gathering up more and returned to the crossroads in haste, but could find no trace of her. For a man at Conow who put a new pole on her carriage and for a woman at Göhren who replaced the pivot that supports the bar, Frau Gauden repaid their kindness with wood-shavings which fell as they worked. To their surprise, they likewise discovered that the wood-chips had turned into gold. In this she resembles Frau Holda and Berchta, who drive at Yuletide and have their vehicles repaired in the same manner.

-Excerpt from the book Odin's Wife (2018) by William P. Reaves