Mistress Gotel: Who is She?
Before Europe had been widely Christianized, devout pagans believed food offerings were necessary to placate the gods. It was thought that pestilence and plague were sent by spirit deities who had been offended. An example of the persistence of this folk belief is provided by Jacob Grimm in Deutsche Mythologie. In certain areas of Germany when the harvesters went out into the fields and bound bundles of grain, it was custom to leave some of them behind as gift to the earth goddess Frau Gauen or Frau Gode. In Rapunzel, the sorceress is called Frau Gotel. Gotel is an old German word for godmother and is related etymologically to Gode, Gott, Gud, God, Cot, Gup, and Gote. It was believed that the earth goddess’s power affected fertility and nature’s abundance and that her realm included all types of domestic work commonly performed by women. When the earth goddess was appeased, peace and prosperity ruled on earth. When angered, danger and calamity threatened. In Rapunzel, Mistress Gotel or the godmother is imbued with the magical powers of an earth goddess. It is stated that “she had enormous power and was feared throughout the entire world.” Given the description of her splendid garden, it seems reasonable to assume that this hex’s special powers were linked to the fruits of the earth, the harvest, crops and especially healing herbs.
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