This month: fairy tales from ancient Egypt!

Sunday, March 9, 2008

Grimm's Saga 123. Woman in White

Marc Chagall, Madonna of the Village




A woman in white appears in woods and meadows. From time to time she even enters horse stalls carrying a burning wax candle. She combs and brushes the horses and droplets of wax fall on their manes. It is said that when she goes out, she can see clearly, but when she is in her own dwelling she is blind.



Fairy Tale Factum
The woman in this saga is described as a “schlossweisse Frau”, which can mean she is white like a castle or white like a hailstone. Another possibility is snow-white (schlohweiss). Radiantly white women are common in German mythology and are frequently depicted wearing a long white dress and having very pale-white skin. The color white was of central importance in ancient ceremony. It represented divinity and was associated with kings. Apparently the purpose of such weisse Frauen was to serve the gods and to prophesy to mankind. This contrasts with the Christian and Jewish traditions, where the role is primarily left to prophets and angels. In the traditions of ancient Germanic tribes, prophecies foretold by women have higher sacredness and significance. According to Jacob Grimm, Germanic tribes esteemed men for their acts, but women were honored for their wisdom.

The horse was considered to be the most noble, intelligent and trustworthy of all animals. The Germanic hero frequently conversed with his horse, the horse empathized with his master’s troubles and celebrated his victories. Horses were used in sacred rituals and their manes were carefully tended and adorned. Apparently gold and silver bands were often woven into their hair. The hair of sacred horses was said to have magical properties and was often preserved as an object of veneration.


Bronze Horse, c. 750-800 BC. Metropolitan Museum of Art, NYC


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