Little Red Riding Hood

Little Red Riding Hood
aka Rotkaeppchen or Little Red Cap

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Little Red Riding Hood and the Hooded Deity

According to the Roman poet Juvenal who wrote around 100 AD, the hood or cucullus was a Celtic invention. It was primarily worn by people close to the land or those routinely exposed to the elements, such as farm laborers, travelers or shepherds. It had a practical funnel-shape, which could be easily pulled over the head. It was worn separately or combined with a cape or tunic. Besides having these utilitarian functions, the cucullus could also conceal the identity of the wearer. The most basic information about a person was wrapped in mystery, so-to-speak, because it was difficult to ascertain the gender, age, occupation or intent of such a cloaked figure.

In areas of Europe occupied by both Romans and Celts, archaeologists have found numerous representations of a hooded deity, which they refer to as genius cucullatus. Some of these figures are considered to be female and are believed to be associated with earth goddesses. They often carry eggs or other fertility symbols. Others carry parchments or scrolls, possibly signifying the wisdom and power associated with healing. It is believed these cult figures were revered for their control over prosperity, health and fertility. In 1931 two altars were found in the village of Wabelsdorf, Austria with the inscription “genio cucullato” or “to the hooded deity”. This finding is important because it confirms a formal cult following for these hooded figures. In Britain, genius cucullatus usually appears in groupings of three but in the Rhine-Moselle region of Germany the figure is usually alone and appears dwarf-like. The number three was significant in Celtic thought and this is also reflected in the tale of Brigit, who simultaneously represented a mother figure, a guardian of childbirth and a goddess of prosperity.

Thus, there are ample clues in the archaelogical record but no proofs (to-date) confirming the identity or exact nature of this figure. A hooded deity has been prominent in the European imagination for thousands of years in an area extending from Bohemia in the East to Ireland in the West.
The Dirneweibl (of Bavarian folk tradition) and the character Little Red Riding Hood share some of the attributes of this mysterious deity: they all wear a cloak, which to some extent conceals their true identity; they offer life-giving nourishment in the form of wine, cake and apples and thus represent healing, security and prosperity; the color red ties them to passion, love and fecundity. In short, these two figures of folk tradition share the same attributes associated with the hooded deity. It is perhaps most fitting that such characters be forever shrouded in mystery, leaving most of the story to the imagination.


This article draws heavily on information provided at www.vroma.org/images/mcmanus_images/cucullus.jpg
It is very worthwhile to read the entire article!


Sunday, January 18, 2009

Little Red Riding Hood: The Text

Translation: Copyright FairyTaleChannel.org
(Please read, enjoy, link to or pass this story on to friends.
Please do not plagiarize, copy or pilfer. Thanks!)

There once lived a sweet, young lass. Everyone who put eyes on her loved her but her grandmother loved her most of all and she showered her with gifts. Once she gave her a present, a little hat made of red velvet. Because she looked so pretty in it and the girl didn’t want to wear anything else, she was now called Little Red Riding Hood (or Little Red Cap). One day her mother said to her: “Come Red Riding Hood. Here is a piece of cake and a bottle of wine. Take this to grandmother. She is ill and weak and will gain strength from it. Be on your way now before it get’s too hot. But while you are walking be especially good and do not stray from the path. If you do, you shall break the glass and grandmother shall have nothing at all. And when you arrive in her chamber, don’t forget to say “Good Morning” and don’t let your eyes wander around looking in every nook and cranny.” “I’ll be good,” Red Riding Hood said to her mother and gave her hand in promise. Now grandmother lived deep in the forest, a half hour’s walk from the village. When Red Riding Hood entered the forest she encountered a wolf. But Red Riding Hood did not know what an evil creature it was and was not frightened. “Good Day, Red Riding Hood,” the wolf said. “And good day to you, wolf,” was her reply. “Where are you going so early in the morning, Red Riding Hood?” “To grandmother’s.” “What are you carrying under your apron?” “Cake and wine. We baked yesterday and now our sick and weak grandmother shall refresh herself and regain her strength.” “Red Riding Hood, where does your grandmother live?” “Still a quarter hour’s walk in the forest, under three large oak trees. Her house stands by the hazel hedge row, certainly you know that,” Red Riding Hood replied. The wolf was thoughtful “This young, sweet thing will be a tasty morsel. She will taste better than the old woman. But I must be cunning so I get both.” He walked a while beside Red Riding Hood, then he said: “Red Riding Hood, look at the pretty little flowers at the side of the path. Why don’t you take a look around?” I believe you don’t even hear how sweetly the little birds are singing? You walk along so soberly as if you were going to school and it is so merry to be in the forest.” Red Riding Hood opened her eyes and when she saw how the sun beams filtered through the trees, dancing and flickering back and forth and how the woods were full of beautiful flowers, she thought “If I bring grandmother a fresh bouquet she shall also be happy. It is so early in the day that I shall still arrive in time.” She ran from the path into the woods and looked for flowers. And when she had broken off one stem, she thought a much prettier flower lay ahead. And so she ran and ran and went deeper and deeper into the forest. But the wolf went straight to the house of the grandmother and knocked on the door. “Who is there?” “Red Riding Hood who is bringing you cake and wine, open up!” “Press on the latch,” the grandmother called, “I am too weak and cannot get up.” The wolf pressed on the latch and the door fell open. Without saying a word, he went straight to the grandmother’s bed and devoured her. Then he put on her clothes, put on her bonnet and lay down in her bed, pulling the curtains all around. But Red Riding Hood had been picking flowers and when she had so many that she couldn’t carry any more, she remembered her grandmother and continued on her way. She was surprised to see the door open and when she entered the chamber it seemed so strange that she thought “Good gracious, how frightened I am, when usually I enjoy visiting grandmother.” She called out “Good morning,” but heard no reply. She approached the bed and pulled back the curtains. There lay the grandmother, who had pulled her bonnet so deeply over her face, she looked quite odd. “Grandmother, what big ears you have!” “The better to hear you with.” “Grandmother, what big eyes you have!” “The better to see you with.” “Grandmother, what big hands you have!” “The better to grab you with.” “But grandmother, you have such a horribly large snout!” “The better to eat you with!” The wolf had hardly spoken these words when he lunged from bed and devoured poor Red Riding Hood. When the wolf had stilled his cravings, he lay back down in bed and began to snore loudly. A huntsman was just passing the house and thought to himself “How loudly the old woman is snoring! Go see if something is the matter.” He entered the chamber and when he got to the bed he saw the wolf lying there. “So here I find you, you old sinner,” the huntsman said. “I have searched for you a very long time.” He wanted to use his rifle but he thought the wolf could have eaten the grandmother and she might still be saved. He didn’t shoot but took scissors and began to cut open the belly of the sleeping wolf. When he had made a few cuts, he saw the bright red cap gleaming; He made a few more cuts and the girl jumped out and called “How frightened I was in the dark belly of the wolf!” Then the grandmother emerged still alive but could hardly breathe. Little Red Riding Hood immediately brought large stones and they filled the wolf’s belly. When he awoke and wanted to jump away, the stones were so heavy that he immediately sank down and fell over dead. All three were gay; the huntsman skinned the wolf and went home. The grandmother ate the cake and drank the wine that Red Riding Hood had brought and soon recovered. But Red Riding Hood thought “For as long as I live I shall not stray from the path and go into the forest, when mother has forbidden it.”

Saturday, January 17, 2009

The Christmas Wolf and Little Red Riding Hood



Copyright FairyTaleChannel.org
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According to a folk belief widely circulated in Europe, certain persons were capable of transforming themselves into wolves on Christmas Eve. The night itself was filled with innumerable magical possibilities: water became wine; the mandrake root of legendary fame bloomed and apple trees simultaneously bore blossoms and fruit. At this time of year Frau Holda appeared with True Eckart, leading an unruly procession. An encounter with this Christmas goddess and her companion was both terrifying and rewarding. An unsuspecting mortal who unwittingly crossed path with Frau Holda’s procession received that most illusive Christmas gift of all, one that kept on giving. If you were lucky enough to be holding a beer stein when you met up with her, your glass would always be filled with tasty beer. That is, until you unwittingly disclosed the source of your secret brew. The night was also good for augering the future. On Christmas Eve the curious hollowed out 12 onions and filled them with salt. Placing them strategically around the room, each onion was designated as a month of the year. On Christmas morning the onions would be carefully examined and the future predicted according to the shape of each onion. A shriveled January onion could only mean a month of meagerness. Likewise a bloated bulb could only portend a fat and prosperous 30 days. As in most things, it appears that much was left to the imagination of the beholder. But back to the Christmas wolf. The wolf was originally significant as companion to Woton (Southern Germanic tribes) or Odin (Northern Germanic tribes). Two wolves reputedly were always by his side and they behaved more or less like hunting dogs. Because of this connection, the wolf became forever associated with heathen or pagan beliefs. An unbaptised child was referred to as heidenwolf (heathen wolf). There were certain methods one could employ to become a wolf: rubbing your body with magical salve or fastening your buckle in the 9th hole of your belt were popular methods. But remarkably, it was on Christmas Eve when pagan powers were especially potent. Persons with such inclinations could transform themselves into wolves quite easily on this night. Why someone would want to become a wolf is anyone’s guess. The night itself was considered to be imbued with supernatural powers. A wolf in December is a ravenous beast. The all-devouring creature in Little Red Riding Hood is juxtaposed with the life-giving nourishment of wine and cake the maid brings her grandmother. In Europe, there is a traditional cake associated with Christmas and the month of December, with many different regional variations. In Germany, this cake is celebrated for its richness and is called Christmas stollen. Other countries also eat a sweet cake, often filled with raisins, nuts or other fruits. Folk tradition stipulates that eating this cake is absolutely necessary, for its richness awards strength and much needed poundage to survive the long winter months. To ward off the ravenous beast within, bake this Christmas stollen and enjoy. Substitute raisins for the dried cherries to bake a more traditional European stollen.
Recipe for Cross-Notched Stollen
Note:
An almond paste filling is optional in this stollen recipe but highly recommended! (Any nut paste can be used, be creative, but stick to one type of nut only!)
Dough: Sprinkle with 4 tablespoons dark rum:
1 cup dried cherries
1/4 cup cubed citron
1/4 cup candied orange peel
Cover and let soak at least 1 hour. (This will be added after the dough rises).
1 package instant yeast dissolved in
3/4 cup warm milk
Let stand 10 minutes until frothy
Add:1 1/2 cups all purpse flour
1/3 cup sugar
Mix until smooth
Let rise for about 1 1/2 hours or until double in size
Mix in to dough mixture:
2 beaten eggs
1 tablespoon vanilla
grated zest of lemon
1 teaspoon salt
Knead in by hand:
1 1/2 cups bread flour until smooth and elastic
Add while kneading:1 3/4 sticks soft butter, the dried fruit/rum mixture, 1/4 cup coarsely chopped and lightly toasted almonds.
Knead until all fruits and nuts are incorporated.
Let rise in buttered bowl 1 1/2 - 2 hours or until double in size.
Mix together (optional) filling:
8 ounces almond paste is mixed together with:
1/4 cup confectioners sugar
1/4 cup fresh bread crumbs2 tablespoons soft butter
Roll into log about 6 inches long and 1/2 inch in diameterRemove dough from bowl and lightly roll out to a 1-inch thick oval (roughly 14 x 9 inches).
Place nut log in center. Fold over and shape into loaf.
Brush loaf with 1 tablespoon melted butter. Place on greased cookie sheet.
Preheat oven to 350 F. Using sharp knife, cut 3 cross-shaped notches across top of loaf. Let rise until double in size. Bake stollen for about 50 minutes or when knife inserted in center comes out clean. Brush with 1 tablespoon melted butter. Top with powdered sugar.
Cool before serving.

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Little Red Riding Hood and the Christmas Goddesses


Copyright FairyTaleChannel.org
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A coterie of fairy tale goddesses presides over the feast days of December, the time of the winter solstice. Frau Holle, Frau Bertha, Perahta, Frau Lutz and the Dirneweible all appear at the end of the year in the month of December. Their importance, though impossible to completely reconstruct today, was linked to the season with the longest amount of darkness and shortest amount of light. The winter solstice was celebrated as the turning point back to light and illumination. The goddesses connected to this tradition were celebrated with processions, lighted candles, singing and feasting. According to The Oxford Book of Days*, by the third century A.D. the Sun was considered to be the one true God by vast segments of the population. The Roman emperor Aurelian made December 25th the official birthday of the sun and proclaimed the day as Natalis Solis Invicti (birthday of the unconquerable sun). When vast segments of Europe became Christianized, the traditions associated with these goddesses were also transformed. In parts of Bohemia and Scandinavia, Frau Berta became St. Lucy and her feast day was set on December 13th. It was at this time of year that Frau Holle and Frau Bertha reputedly made their 12-day procession, marking the time between Christmas and New Year. The procession itself was probably a dramatic reenactment of the natural cycle of the earth, turning from darkness and returning to light.
Nordic countries still celebrate Saint Lucy with a December festival or Luciatag. The day is commemorated with singing and parades marking the twelve days preceding Christmas. Saint Lucy was revered as the patroness of weavers, spinners and the harvest. Consequently, all weaving, spinning and threshing had to be completed by her feast day. Participants in her festival wore white and sang songs in her honor with typically one child being selected to represent Saint Lucy. This maid wore a white dress, a crown of lighted candles and a red sash to set her apart from the other participants, who were also clothed in white but wore silver crowns and sashes. The name Lucy itself suggests light and lucidity. According to Christian tradition, Lucy refused to marry the suitor her parents had selected for her. As punishment for her disobedience, her eyes were pulled out. A gory fate, we might think, but only a minor setback for a spunky saint. Miraculously Lucy was able to reinsert her eyeballs. Thereafter she was associated with persons suffering from eye ailments and was soon known as the patron saint of the blind. According to another tradition popular since the Middle Ages, Lucy was so filled with the Holy Spirit she became quite heavy. A whole group of men and team of oxen could not budge the saint from where she stood. Such weightiness might be the ultimate horror for girls her age and a most terrifying fate. But Lucy used her supernatural torpor to her advantage. Nothing could dislodge her and so she was able to continue arguing her innocence before the proconsul. (In summary the attributes of Saint Lucy: 12-day procession in December; patroness of harvest, weavers and spinners; red sash; name meaning light and lucidity; bringer of luck and prosperity; connection to eyesight, vision and seeing; supernatural weightiness resulting in immobility).
Perchta, Berchta, Perahta (old high German Perahta) or Berta (English) are various names for a Southern Germanic Goddess who was also prominent at the end of the year. These names mean the illuminated or shining one. Frau Holle, revered in areas where Berta left off, was also said to make shining white snow when she shook out her feather bed. According to pagan tradition, maidens were responsible for filling their spindles with neatly spun flax by the end of the year. If this was not accomplished, the goddess would cut open the girl’s stomach while she lay sleeping and fill it with hay and stones. In other traditions, the goddess demanded that a fast be kept and if the typical food prescribed for such fasts was not eaten, the goddess would exact her revenge in a similar manner. Instead of using a needle to sew up the disobedient girl’s stomach, a particularly irked goddess would use a ploughshare bone and instead of thread, an iron chain was used. Apparently the sleeping the maiden never woke up during the ordeal and only noticed something amiss upon waking when she was unable to move under the weight of the stones in her stomach. Like Saint Lucy, Perchta also had an eye connection. She had the power to blow out a person’s eyes and thus, she was a force to be reckoned with. (In summary the attributes of Frau Berta, Perchta or Frau Holle: 12 day procession in December; patroness of weavers and spinners; white garment, name meaning light and the shining one; connection to eyesight, vision and seeing; supernatural weightiness resulting in immobility).
These December goddesses are associated with the life-giving forces of the sun, which wane in December but then dramatically begin to ascend. In Nordic mythology the sun represents life and eternity. The ability to see the sun was equated with being alive; by contrast the dead could no longer see the light of day. The color red, the only color that can be traced back to an Indo-European root, represented the dawn, or the color of the rising sun. This might be why red is a frequent marker and associated with the gods. The gods themselves are concerned with maintaining their health and longevity. To prevent aging, they ate apples tended by the goddess Idunn. In Ossettic mythology, apples are life-giving, bestowing immortality and protecting against disease. A lesser goddess among the powerful personages of December was the Dirneweibl. She appeared at a specific bush in the woods, often referred to as the Christmas bush, and seemed to be more like a nymph of the forest than a full-fledged goddess. She wore a bright red cloak and offered mortals red apples from the basket she carried. Anyone accepting such a gift was rewarded with health and prosperity. But should the person not accept her offering, she retreated further and further into the forest crying pitifully. She is a mysterious figure, both luring the unsuspecting passerby deeper and deeper into the woods but also offering health and happiness in the form of her apples. She is simultaneously dangerous yet beneficent. It is only fitting that her cloak be red, symbolizing all those emotions associated with arousal, including anger, passion, love and even death. Thus, red is tied to those things that are fundamental to our very survival, security and prosperity. A signifier of what is both basic and essential. (In summary, the attributes of the Dirneweibl: her connection to light is only through the red garment she wears and the red apples she offers; she is a potential bringer of health and prosperity but is misunderstood by mortals; appears in the forest or near a specific shrub or tree.) Little Red Riding Hood is perhaps most like the Dirneweibl. In fact, in the opening line of the fairytale she is referred to as eine kleine suesse Dirne. The word Dirne reflects the dual attributes of her character, she is both a temptress yet seemingly innocent. Like the color red, she symbolizes strong emotions, including lust and passion. Dirne is an antiquated word for Maedchen and in its modern-day usage it designates both a girl and a prostitute. Like the goddess Idunn, Red Riding Hood brings her grandmother life-giving food and nourishment. The passage in the narrative about seeing the sun beams flicker through the trees might be considered only a weak marker tying her to other December goddess associated with the winter solstice. But her fate as ballast in the wolf’s stomach and then later, the supernatural torpor, immobility and subsequent death of the wolf induced by large stones placed in his belly are clearly reminiscent of this pre-Christian tradition.