Excerpt from the SECRET HISTORY OF THE WITCHES .... Max Dashu

The Old Goddess of the pagans lived on in popular speech, in rituals of hearth and earth, in festival custom with its cargo of symbol and myth. She was still seen as the source of life power and wisdom. People prayed to her for well-being, abundance, protection, and healing. They invoked her in birth, and the dead returned to her (especially the unbaptized) and moved in her retinue. They said that the Old Goddess rode the winds, causing rain and snow and hail on earth, and that she revealed omens of weather and deaths and other momentous things to come.

Across Europe, Friday was observed as her holy day, beginning with its eve on Thursday night. The dark of the year was sacred to Old Goddess. On winter solstice nights, she was said to fly over the land with her spirit hosts. Tradition averred that shamanic witches rode in her wake on the great pagan festivals, along with the ancestral dead.

Reverence was made to Old Goddess in planting and harvesting, baking, spinning and weaving. The fateful Spinner was worshipped as Holle or Perchta by the Germans, as Mari by the Basques, and as Laima by the Lithuanians and Latvians. She appears as Befana in Italy and as myriad faery goddesses in France, Spain, and the Gaeltacht. In Serbia she is Srecha; in Russia she is Mokosh or Kostroma or the apocryphal saint Paraska.

I call her the Old Goddess because she was commonly pictured as an aged woman, and her veneration was ancient. While the goddesses of the various ethnic cultures have their unique qualities, they share certain traits, some international deep root of commonality. Old Goddess is like the weathered Earth, ancestor of all, an immanent presence in forests, grottos and fountains. In her infinitude she manifests in countless forms, as females of various ages and shapeshifting to tree, serpent, frog, bird, deer, mare and other creatures. In the middle ages and even under the downpour of diabolism during the Burning Terror, she remained beloved by the common people.


Andra Mari ... (Euskadi / Basques)
Laima ... (Lithuania, Latvia)
Nicniven, Gyre Carline ...(Scotland)
Hulda ... (Denmark)
Holle, Holda, Fraw Holt ... (north Germany)
Perchta, Perhta Baba, Zlata Baba ... (south Germany, Austria)
Fraw Saelde, Zälti ... (Austria)
Luca, Szepasszony... (Hungary)
Saint Friday ... (Estonia)
Mokosh / Paraskeva ... (Russia)
Dame Habonde, Abundia ... (France)
Befana (Epiphania) ... (Sicily)
Signora Oriente, Diana, Signora del gioco, Sapiente Sibillia ... (Italy)

Holle was already described as a witch goddess in the 9th century Corrector Burchardi, which rebuked the belief that shamanic women rode animals through the skies in her company in the dark of night. Many centuries later, these beliefs were still current. Holle was said to head a wild cavalcade of spirits, witches and the dead, especially in the dark of the year.

At Giessen her visits were anticipated in a proverbial saying: Die Holle kommt. “The Holle comes” in storms, riding the winds. German peasants said that witches fared to Holle's sacred mountain on the old holydays. [Rüttner-Cova, 150, compares Hollefahren (Holle's journey) to Hexenfarhten (the travelling of witches).]

Her name means "the beneficent one." Holle protects the hearth and watches over the distaff and flax baskets placed near it. Her gifts—coal, wood, flax pods—seem insignificant but turn out to have unimagined value.

Holle creates whirlwinds and snowfall. She brings life-force to the land, causing growth, abundance and good fortune. Her yearly circling of the fields brings rich crops. Hulda and her Seligen (“happy ones”) roam across the land where flax will be planted. [Pocs, 74] According to Alberus, the women travelling in Hulda's host carried sickles. [Grimm, 476] Such myths reflect actual rituals blessing the flax fields, like the Slovenian ceremonies in honor of the Mittwinterfrau, another form of the Old Goddess. [Pocs, 76]

In lower Saxony, Harke or frau Harke flies over the fields as a dove, making them fruitful. [Grimm, 1364. He notes that a folktale presents Harke as a witch's daughter.] Holle also shapeshifts into a frog to retrieve the red apple of life from a well. [Gimbutas, Language of the Goddess, 255] As the Haulemutter of the Harz mountains, she has the power to become huge or tiny. She is a shaggy-haired, hump-backed old woman who walks with a crutch.

Holle also appears as a young woman bathing in the midday sun, combing her hair or playing enchantingly beautiful music. A young woman with a crown of candles impersonated her on winter holiday. Or she was dressed in straw, flanked by women with sickles. More often, though, Holle is a fateful crone goddess who initiates young woman and rewards them according to their merits. She is especially pleased with compassion and generosity.

The folktale of Frau Holle's Well takes up this theme. A mistreated stepdaughter was made to spin til blood ran from her fingers. She went to wash the spindle in the well, and it fell in. The cruel stepmother told her she had to go in and get it out. The girl jumped into the well and lost consciousness. She awoke in a beautiful sunny meadow full of flowers. She began to walk and soon came to an oven full of baking bread. The oven called out to her, asking her to take out the loaves before they burned. She willingly complied. Then she came to a tree loaded with ripe apples. It asked her to shake them down, and she did that too.

At last the girl came to a cottage where an old woman with big teeth sat looking out at her. The girl was afraid at first, but the crone reassured her. She asked her to stay with her and help around the house, especially to shake her down comforter so that the feathers flew, causing snow on earth. “I'm Frau Holle.”

The girl stayed with the old woman and led a comfortable life with plenty of good food. But after a while she became homesick. Frau Holle offered to take her back to her world. She led the stepdaughter under a big gate, which showered down gold that stuck to her. Walking through the gate, the girl saw she was not far from her house. She returned to her family and told them the whole story.

When her stepsister saw how Frau Holle had treated her, she decided to also pay a visit to the world under the well. She passed through the same cycle of events, but refused to take the bread out of the magical oven or to shake the apple tree, and avoided work at Holle's cottage. When she passed through the gate, she was drenched with tar. [Grimm's GFT]

The plunge into a magical well, the old woman deep in the earth, the apple tree in the abundant land, the bread that the faeries bake—these are old animist images. Holle's quilt whose feathers become snow is linked with the old tales of Goosefoot Bertha and Mother Goose. A Welsh proverb says: “When snow falls people say, 'The old woman is feathering her geese,' or 'Mother Goose is moulting,' or 'The goosemother is feathering her nest.'“ [Trevelyan, 119]

The Goose Mother appears in another Grimm tale, as an old wisewoman living in a mountain forest with her flock of geese. Great age did not prevent her from working energetically. She walked around gathering up huge bundles of grass and fruit and carried them home on her back. She called out cheerful greetings but some people mistrusted her. Fathers warned their sons, “Watch out for the old woman; she's a sly one and a witch.” [Grimm's GFT, 575]

Like Frau Holle, the wisewoman took in a misunderstood daughter. This one’s father had disowned her after she told him that she loved him as much as food loves salt. He cast her off for filial ingratitude. The old woman took her in as a goosegirl, disguising her with gray hair and a false skin that sloughed off. One day the old woman talked a noble youth into carrying her load for her. He was barely able to pick it up, much less carry it for miles, but she shamed him into it. At last he decided to put it down in spite of her mockery and found that he was unable to. The young aristocrat was forced to trudge on under the magical burden. Toward the journey's end, the crone jumped on top of the load and rode him home.

After he was at last free of her, the count's son noticed the goosegirl washing off her disguise at the spring. To make a long story short, he wanted to marry her and led her remorseful parents to the goosegirl. The old woman gave her cottage to her, and it turned into a fantastic, abundantly provisioned palace. In this story, the Goose goddess shapes destiny, brings about justice, and bestows good fortune.

Divine Spinners

The earliest known sources show the Old Goddess as a spinner. She is Fate, whose spinning has immense creative force in time and space. A Finnish kenning for the sun — “God's Spindle” — reflects her power. [Kalevala, 32, 20, in Grimm, 1500] The Goddess's spinning and weaving also “symbolize the creation of matter, especially of human flesh.” [Matossian, 120]

There are countless avatars of the spinning goddess: Mari of the Basques, Holle of Germany, Laima of Lithuania and Latvia, Mokosh of Russia, the old Frankish Berthe Pedauque, They include local fatas such as Tante Arie in French Switzerland, Habetrot in Britain, and the Wendish Pshi-Polnitsa.

Among the Greeks, the spinner Fates are threefold, the ancient, mighty Moirae. This triunity is repeated in innumerable folk traditions all over medieval and early modern Europe. French peasants of Saintonge said that the fades (fates) or bonnes (“good women”) roamed in the moonlight as three old women, always carrying distaffs and spindles. The fades had prophetic powers and cast lots. They were seen along the banks of the Charente river, or near certain grottos, or near megalithic monuments. [Michon, Statistique de la Charente, in Sebillot I 444]

In Berry, a white faery carrying a distaff was said to walk on certain nights at the edge of an old mardelle called Spinner's Hole. Three pale ladies spun their distaffs by the Faeries' Rock near Langres. A spinner could be heard at Villy, but was only seen at dawn or dusk. [Sebillot, Metiers, 23-4] Portuguese women made offerings to faeries whose name shows its derivation from “the dianas”:

In the Algarve the memory is not extinct of female creatures called jãs or jans, for whom it used to be customary to leave a skein of flax and a cake of bread on the hearth. In the morning the flax would be spun as fine as hair and the cake would have disappeared. [Gallop, 58]

Women in western France made similar offerings. In the Landes, women placed fine flax at the entrance of caves or the edge of fountains inhabited by the hades, who instantly turned it into thread.

It was once believed that the faeries would come to the aid of spinners who implored them; in Upper Bretagne, if buttered bread and a flax doll was placed at the entrance to one of their grottos, the next day it would be found very well spun in the same place. [Sebillot, Metiers, 23-4]

Even in the far north, in a very different cultural world, the spinning wheel was sacred to the spring goddess of the Saami. She is the spirit maiden Rana Nedie, who makes the mountains green and feeds the reindeer. When sacrifices were made to her, they rubbed the blood on a spinning wheel and leaned it against her altar. [find cite]

The spinning faeries are often encountered near water. A Welsh faery woman would emerge from Corwrion Pool to spin on beautiful summer days, singing to herself, “Sìli ffrit, sìli ffrit...” Another tale says a faery used to borrow things from a Llyn farmwoman, but wouldn't give her name. Once she borrowed a spinning wheel. The woman overheard her singing while spinning, “Little did she know/ That Sìli go Dwt/ Is my name.” [Rhys II, 584, compares Silly Frit and Sìli go Dwt with the Scottish seelie (591) as in “seelie wights,” helpful faeries.]

The border Scots revered Habetrot as the goddess of spinners. She is seen near water, usually by a “holey” stone that is a gateway to the Otherworld. Habetrot appears as a helper and initiator of girls, bringing good fortune to them. It was said that “a shirt made by her was a sovereign remedy for all sorts of diseases.” [Briggs, 216] (More on her in another installment.)

Another spinning water faery was the Loireag. Warping, weaving, and washing of webs were her sacraments, and she saw to it that women followed the traditions. Singing was one of them, and it had to be melodious. A modern source dismisses the Loireag as “a small mite of womanhood that does not belong to this world but to the world thither” and “a plaintive little thing, stubborn and cunning.” [from Carmichael's Carmina Gadelica, in Briggs, 271]

Scottish faery lore is full of spinning and weaving. The Gyre-Carling, queen of the “good neighbors” (faery folk) oversaw the work of spinners in Fife. [Briggs, 325] The faeries could sometimes be heard chanting waulking songs: Ho! fir-e! fair-e, foirm! Ho! Fair-eag-an an cló! (“Well done, grand, bravo the web!”). Border Scots believed in the thrumpin, a fateful guardian with the power to take life, or Thrummy-cap, a faery wearing a hat made of wool that weavers clipped from the ends of their webs. [Evans-Wentz, 395]

The French said that faery divinities came to houses to spin on certain nights. An Alsatian ballad pictured them as three fates: “When midnight sounds / not a soul in the village awake / Then three spectres glide in the window/and sit at the three wheels / They spin, their arms moving silently / the threads hum rapidly onto the spindles...” As they finish, an owl cries from the cemetery, “What will become of the fine fabric/ and will there again be three engagement robes?” [Sebillot, M, 15]

Spring gossamer was often explained as the craft of faeries. An Italian saying—“See how much the three Marias have spun tonight”—substitutes a Christian name for the old triune goddess. [Grimm, 1533] The sacraments of spinning and weaving were transferred to certain saints: Germana of Bar-sur-Aube; Lucie of Sampigny, whose stone helped women conceive; and Genovefa of Brabant, who was said to sit behind the altar at the Frauenkirchen (“women's church”) where the buzz of her spinning wheel could be heard. [Eckenstein, 25-6]


At right:

The spinning sow appears

in folklore from Wales to Russia.

Church sculpture at

Malestroit, Morbihan, 1400s.

Spinning faeries often appear to help out children burdened with work. A Manx servant girl asked the spiders to help her with a load of spinning. Not only did they spin her wool, but they wove her a gorgeous shawl out of their own thread. [Briggs, 138] In a Swiss Romande tale, a girl's parents made her spin a full distaff, and herd the cattle too. “One day a fee came to ask her hospitality in her chalet, and having been well received, she came every evening to take her distaff, put it in the horns of one of the cows that was going to pasture, then, sitting on the brave beast's back, she began to spin by moonlight, for the benefit of her protegée, and each morning she returned her distaff filled with skeins of beautiful fine thread.” [Sebillot, M, 23]

“German legend is full of spinning and weaving women,” as Grimm pointed out. They make magical mantles or other clothing, like “the robe that a wild faery (wildiu feine) span.” A Westphalian tradition says, “in the cave sits an old spinster...” This cavern-dweller prophesies to those who seek her advice. The elves, too, are often described as weavers. [Grimm, 1402, 407, 447]

The Swedish hill troll Dame Soåsan was also associated with the spinster’s craft. “To those who were careful not to offend her the woman exhibited much kindness and extended many favors.” She helped a starving old woman by offering her flax to spin. But she laid a condition: the woman should not wet the thread with spittle, since she had been christened. The old spinner left the yarn in a glade and received silver pieces in return. She prospered, until she stopped keeping faith with the trolls and wet the thread with her spit. Then she got lost in the woods, and when she returned home, all her silver had turned to pebbles. [Booss, 254-6]

In a Norwegian folk tale, a girl goes in quest to find a prince who lives “East of the Sun and West of the Moon.” She ascends a mountain, “where an old woman was sitting and spinning on a golden spinning wheel.” She lends the girl a horse, gives her a golden spinning wheel, and advises her to ask the east wind for help. [Booss, 63-70]

An old Estonian tradition says that Vana-ema (Old Mother) will spin all night if you leave out a distaff and thread. In some districts Estonians called this spinner the Grandmother or the Night Mother. She was connected to the dead and the underworld spinning women (maa-aluste naised). [Matossian, 121] Estonian peasants used to explain the strange ticking sound of wall moths as the spinning of the Twilight Mother.

The old women said that if you wake up at night and upon awakening hear that something is purring in the corner, then you should try to put your hand on it; then the twilight mother's spinning wheel will stop and her power to work will stay in your hand; if someone was an excellent spinner, it was said that she had touched the twilight mother's spinning wheel. [Loorits, 1948, 62, in Paulson, 149]


The megalithic sanctuaries built by the elder kindreds of Europe remained an enduring presence on the landscape in the wake of invasions and migrations, long after the peoples who built them were submerged in the ethnic tide. The ancient lore surrounding the great stone monuments became mixed with new religions and stories, but retained its emphasis on powerful women and goddesses. In medieval Europe these sacred stories survived as the fairy faith, where female deities and land spirits mix with the ancestral dead.

International folk tradition credits the faeries with raising dolmens and other megalithic monuments. These accounts laid great emphasis on the builders' power as spinners, typically saying that a fata or goddess or lady carried the giant stones on her head while walking and spinning.

Dolmen of Losa Mora, Rodellar, Aragon

An old Aragonese legend of the Dalle Morisca said that “a woman appeared who spun with her distaff and carried the great horizontal stone of the dolmen on her head. As she reached the place where the dolmen of Rodellar now stands, she set the stone in the position in which she had carried it.” [Gari Lacruz, 287] In Portugal, a spinning moura carried the wonderfully carved Pedra Formosa of Citania de Briteiros. [Gallop, 77]

The Basques named a dolmen at Mendive after the lamiñas. One of them brought the capstone from faraway Armiague balanced on her head, spinning as she went. In some versions she carried the boulder on her little finger. [Sebillot IV 21] The goddess Holle also carried off a boulder on her thumb, according to Germans of the Meisner district. [Grimm] Another Basque tradition says that the witches built dolmens in a single night, carrying stones from the mountains on the tips of their distaffs. [Barandiaran, 173]

This theme of “one night’s work” recurs in Irish traditions of megaliths built by the Cailleach (crone). The Maltese also tell it of their ancient temples . A woman with a baby at her breast is said to have created the oldest of them, the Ggantija. “Strengthened by a meal of magic beans, she is said to have taken the huge blocks of stone to the site in a single day, and then to have built the walls by night.” [von Cles-Reden, 78] The Ggantija is on Gozo island, which Greek tradition called the island of Calypso, daughter of Oceanus. The Maltese still point out her cave below Ggantija, which an 18th century writer describes as a labyrinth. [Biaggi, 13-14]

The Ggantija

A dolmen in Devon was called The Spinners’ Rock. English tradition says that three spinning women erected the megalith one morning before breakfast, amusing themselves on the way to deliver wool they had spun. [Stone Pages, joshua.micronet.it/untesti/dmeozzi/homeng. html, 6-97] Dous Fadas, a dolmen on the road from Clermont to Puy in Auvergne, was named after fées who spun as they carried its stones. In the Dordogne valley three young women elevated the standing stones of Brantôme with their distaffs. In the upper Loire valley three spinning fées carried stones on their heads to build the dolmens at Langeac. [Sebillot IV 21]

The French folklorist Sebillot noted that many menhirs are shaped like distaffs or loaded spindles. They were said to have been put in place by supernatural spinners. [Sebillot, 5] In 1820 peasants near Simandre in Ain told a researcher that the Spindle of the Faery Woman, a great standing stone, had been placed there by la Fau who carried it in her arms. It was the only one left of three menhirs planted in the ground by three fées on their way to a gathering. [Tardy, Le Menhir de Simandre, 1892, cited in Sebillot IV, 6]

At Rocquaine on the island of Guernsey a woman of very small stature was seen climbing the cliff beyond the beach, knitting and carrying something in her apron as carefully as if it was a dozen eggs or a newborn. She suddenly stopped and, with great ease, hurled a fifteen-foot stone into the plain above. [Sebillot, 7]

The Woman Stone at St Georges-sur-Moulon fell when a giant woman from the Haut-Brune forest was descending the hillside. Her apron-strings broke, releasing the stone she was carrying in it. In Scotland it is a basket-strap that broke as the Cailleach carried earth and stones on her back. They spilled out to form Mount Vaichaird, or the rock piles called Carn na Caillich. The Cailleach shaped the hills of Ross-shire and much of the Scottish highlands by carrying loads in her basket. [MacKenzie, 164]

In Ireland, the Cailleach Bhéara had two sister-hags who were guardians of Kerry peninsulas. Once, when the hag of Beare fell on hard times, the hag of Dingle decided to help her by giving her another island. She roped one of her own and dragged it southward, but it split into two before reaching its destination. [O Hogain, 67] This is reminiscent of the story of Gefjon, who made king Gylfi laugh and was granted the boon of as much land as four oxen could plough in a day and a night. She yoked her giant sons as oxen to a plow and pulled a huge chunk of land into the sea, leaving a huge lake in Sweden. Gefjon named the new island Zeeland.

These tales reach as far as Finland, where giants' daughters carried huge rocks in their aprons and tossed them up near Päjände in Hattulasocken. The Scandanavian merwoman Zechiel and her sister wished to visit each other, and set about building a bridge of stones across the sea. But they never finished; Zechiel was startled by Thor's thunder, and the enormous stones scattered out of her apron. In Pomerania, a giant's daughter wanted to make a bridge across the sea to the island of Rügen. She brought an apronful of sand, but dropped it when her mother threatened to punish her. The spilled sand became the hills near Litzow. [All Grimm 536-7] A Scottish variant has the devil threatening to take an old Donside witch unless she made him a rope of sand before nightfall. She grinned and did it easily. Later it broke, and its remnants are the low sandhills called the Kembs of Kemnay in Aberdeenshire. [Buchan, 268-9]

In some stories the menhir-carrying lady metamorphosed into the Catholic goddess. In Pléchatel the Holy Virgin was walking along spinning with the Long-Stone on her head and the White-Stones in her apron. She dropped her spindle and when she bent to pick it up, the stone on her head slid off and plunged into the ground just where the spindle had fallen. Meanwhile the stones in her apron rolled out and landed in a pattern of thread coming from the Long-Stone spindle. [Sebillot IV, 7]

Sometimes the only trace of the legend is a place-name. The people of Elbersweiller in Alsace called a local menhir the Distaff in the 1700s, and other German stones were called Kunkel (distaff). The namesofsome stones show cultural drift away from the original pagan goddess: St Barbe's Spindle, Kriemhild's Spindle, the Distaff of la Madeleine or Gargantua's Wife's Spindle. [Sebillot IV, 5] Saint Lufthildis was said to have marked out her lands with her spindle from her hilltop dwelling, the Lufteberg. [Eckenstein, 25]

Assimilation of saints' names is unsurprising given the long campaign to christianize pagan culture, and the peasantry's refusal to give it up. Under these circumstances a synthesis was inevitable. Strange associations arose when biblical characters were projected into the old faery lore: the strongman Samson was said to have carried the standing stones in the Gaillac region—but while spinning! St Radegonde carried the Standing Stone of Poitiers—with the capstone on her head and the five pillars in her apron—and set it in the ground. In the same way, St Madeleine carried boulders to build a dolmen in an island in the Vienne river. [Sebillot IV, 22-23]

In Aveyron the Virgin carried the boulders of the Peyrignagols dolmen, one on her head and one on each arm, spinning as she walked. During the trip she filled seven spindles with thread each day. This ancient monument was known as the Holy Rocks. The dolmens of Valderies and Peyrolevado were said to be raised the same way, and they too were eventually credited to the Catholic goddess. [Sebillot IV 22]

Other megaliths of the same type fell under the church's ban, and came to be called Devil's Stone or were otherwise demonized. Yet popular memory kept on connecting the archaic stone temples with the faeries and witches. The Aragonese described megalithic sanctuaries as places where witch assemblies took place. They called the dolmen at Ibirque, Aragón, the Witches' Hut; others retained goddess associations. Spanish and Portuguese traditions of supernatural moras at these monuments may allude to their ancient north African origins. [Gari Lacruz, 287-8]

Basques said that the lamiñas (faeries) or sorguiñes (witches) built the dolmens of Mendive, as well as the country's oldest bridges, houses, castles, palaces and even churches. [Barandiarán, 85-6, note] The western Basques often say that devils built the bridges, though they also name the pagans or Moors. Several dolmens are known as Sorguinexte, “witch’s house.”

In Sardinia the ancient nuraghe were sometimes called Nuraghe Istria, “witch's tower.” The witch-goddess Lughia Rajosa lived in one of these neolithic towers. Her enchanted distaff (Rocca fatata) guarded great wealth: herds, thousands of jars of grain and oil. The distaff moved around in the day, while Lughia slept, and whistled to warn her when intruders came. It was told that youths often tried to rob her animals or firewood. She defeated many of them, but one managed to push her magical distaff into the oven. Not knowing how to cry, Lughia turned into innumberable insects who cried for her. Now she flies as a cicada amidst the nuraghe towers. [Fiabe Sarde, 44, 78-81]

A Sardinian nuraga (neolithic tower)

A Breton dolmen called the Spinner's Bed was inhabited by a supernatural sorcière. Standing on the stones, if she threw her spindle to the right it reached to mount Roc'h goz in Plestin; when she hurled it to the left it fell at Beg an Inkinerez in Plougasnou, three miles away. Another powerful fée was said to live in a dolmen at Tregastel, called Gouele an Inkinerez, “Bed of the Spinner.” This fée was able to hurl her spindle enormous distances, like a shaman projecting her power. [Sebillot IV 28] In the 13th century, an account of an old woman tried as a heretic at Reims described her as throwing a ball of thread in this way, and flying after it like a witch. [Kors/Peters cite]

Sometimes the legend of the building faery was assimilated to historical figures. Maud of Hay, a noblewoman whose husband feuded with king John of Robin Hood fame, was captured, ransomed, captured again, and walled up for life in the king's tower, along with her children. Folklore remembers her by her maiden name, as Mol Walbee. Posthumously she acquired a reputation as a powerful witch. The Welsh said that Mol Walbee singlehandedly built the castle of Hay in Breconshire in one night. As she carried stones in her apron, a nine-foot “pebble” dropped into her shoe. She kept going, but the stone irritated her, so she threw it across the Wye river. It landed three miles away in Llowes churchyard, Radnorshire. The church does not seem to have been an accidental target. In another tale, a monk interrupted Moll's midnight incantations, exhorting her to give them up. She grabbed him, carried him to the Wye and dumped him in the river, where he drowned. [Trevelyan, 129]

The Mascos built themselves a home at the Cabano de los Mascos near Ceyrac. (The name of these faeries comes from mascae, an ancient word for witches that shows up in early medieval witchcraft laws.) They too carried enormous blocks atop their distaffs. At the Tioule des Fadas, a fada gathered chunks of granite so large that ten bulls would have been unable to budge them, and built a shelter for herself and her sheep. She carried the largest stone on the tip of her distaff, spinning as she walked. [Sebillot, IV 21]

La Roche des Fées, Essé

In French accounts the fées bringing stones for their megalithic temples often throw them down haphazardly when they find out that the building was already finished. [Sebillot, IV 7] So it happened with fées carrying stones to the Roche-aux-Fées at Essé. When they heard that no more stones were needed, they stuck one boulder upright and scattered the rest alongside it. Another group of fées, hearing their sister call to them not to bring more stones, let them fall and be buried deep in the earth. [Grimm 413]

One legend has Margot-la-Fée walking along with a stone on her head, knitting, when she spotted a motionless bird on the ground. “So you die in this country?” The answer was yes. “And here I am carrying this stone for a monument—it's not worth the trouble to build.” And she threw the rock where it stands today, at Poterie near Lamballe. [Sebillot IV 22]

Copyright 2000 Max Dashu

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