My name is Rosalie. I have always been an avid lover of fairy tales and folk lore. Not just for the aspect of escaping to or fantasizing on the quests of our fictional or mythological favorites. I love fairy tales as if you look deep enough, you can often find lore woven into the story, bridging the years to bring us wisdom we in turn can weave into our craft.
Each month I will release a new post here on Patreon. This post will focus on a figure from Germanic mythology and how this lore can be used in craft and rite. It is meant to entertain, inform and spark debate. Do you agree with my take on the lore? If not, how do you interpret it? Let's have a conversation! Let us also remember the term “UPG – unverified personal gnosis” exists for a reason. Let's go for sources first and foremost, but let's not dismiss UPG offhand either. Sometimes, that spirit really did just tell that person that. The beautiful part about UPG is the P, personal.
This month we are focusing on the Moss Maidens. Moss maidens (moss people/moss folk) are found in various Germanic tales, varying in description and temperament, but in most accounts they are benevolent towards humans.
Moss folk (Moosleute) are described as child sized, though with an elderly appearance. At the same time they are said to be beautiful. They are said to be grey and clad in moss (hence the name)
They were said to interact with humans in a friendly manner, asking for aid and offering compensation or reward. In this we see mutual gifting, or an balanced exchange. For those working with or intending to work with these fairies or nature spirits, be wary of what is on offer and what is being requested. While Moss Maidens are not known to be harmful, they have a fierce temper, and offend easy. If you agree to a bargain you must keep it, and be content with your reward. They do not take refusal well.
The moss maidens were a much loved part of local Germanic folklore. It is said the woodsmen would leave at least one large stump from the day's work, marking it with a cross to let the moss maidens know they had somewhere to hide during the rampage of the Wild Hunt.
Moss maidens were tied to the life of their trees. It does not appear to be a case of one tree per maiden. Rather the life of the forest as a whole was tied to each moss maiden. If any tree was cut, a maiden would die.
“attached to the trees; if any one causes by friction the inner bark to loosen, a Wood-woman dies.” (1)
The moss maidens as the Moosfrauleins, were said to be the daughters of the Buschgrossmutter, attending her as she made her rounds of the country. The Buschgrossmutter has been linked to the spirit Berchta, or goddess Holda, and was considered the head of the wild hunt. As Moosfrauleins, the moss maidens attend their queen during the Wild Hunt's rampage, along with dwarves and pixies. (2)
Moss maidens, or moss folk would seem to be gentle and helpful to those new to interacting with the nature or plant entities, though as said before be wary of their mischievous side. When seeking to commune with the land and the trees asking their aid could be of great benefit, but be prepared to leave offerings (nothing ever with caraway! (3)), and if they ask for something in particular be sure you can supply it/do it before agreeing. If you do agree, they may teach you the secrets of the land you live on, of the healing plants and of the baneful plants.
In this aspect they would seem to be of use to the wild harvester/wild plant herbalist. A friendship with moss maidens would also be beneficial to the traveler. There was little info on what was used as an offering to moss maidens in particular, however a modern day witch could bring something that aids the forest. Bring wild seed mixes for the birds, strips of meat for the carnivores. As an offering these items work well, though you do not want to do it often. Wild animals need to remember how to be wild animals, free hand outs don't help that. Bring a bottle of wine, mead or beer to give to the tree you seek to commune with/through.
Please note: while the goal of working with these entities or land consciousness keep your common sense firmly in place. If you field guide says those berries are death-on-ingestion and a moss maiden says you can eat it, you may wish to examine her teaching a little closer. Keep in mind these are beings said to be mischievous, and their version of mischief may be your dead body on the forest floor. Until you've established a firm connection, don't do anything your self preservation sounds the alarm at.
(1)Thomas Keightley*'s "Fairy Mythology" 1850:231.
(2)Ludwig Bechstein: Deutsches Sagenbuch. Meersburg, Leipzig 1930, p.379 f.
(3)Jacob Grimm:Deutsche Mythologie. Wiesbaden 2007, p. 375.