Wednesday, October 30, 2013

The Wise Women of Germanic Legend...

For the most part, the Dutch words “Witte Wieven” translates into English as “White Women.” However, in the Low German language, spoken in northern Germany and in the eastern portions of the Netherlands, the translation is “Wise Women.” No matter how you translate it, these women are known as herbalists, healers, and prophesiers. They were, and still are, highly respected in some cultures.

Cover Art by Shandra Kay

In answer to readers burning questions concerning "Van Locken's Witch," I thought I'd share some of the Germanic legends concerning these captivating women. After all, my heroine, Lissa Capoen is a direct descendent of the Witte Wieven, and has inherited all of the abilities of her revered ancestors.

According to the myths and legends of the Netherlands, dating back to at least the seventh century, mortals admired the wise women during their mortality and honored them at and after their death. Once death claimed them, their spirits remained earthbound and according to their pleasure, they could choose to help or hinder those they encountered.

Legends tell us that the ghost wieven made their homes in forests, swamps, hills, lakes, grave hills, trees, stones and any other object of nature. In Drenthe, tombs were also seen as homes of the Wise Women. Many mistook the sound carried by the breeze as the White Women busily spinning cloth and mists seen in the night, were mistaken for their ghostly forms as they went about gathering herbs, stems and leaves.

Etching from Gerrit van Goedesbergh in 1660 depicting "Witte Wieven" 

As time went on, the folklore evolved.  The Witte Wieven became nature spirits related to the Alfen or Elves.  In these tales, the women are seen as either evil or friendly witches.  In the city of Vorden, our lovely ladies were called Völeken, and by all accounts, these particular women amused themselves by tossing furniture about in the wee hours of the morning.  Don't ask me why...

The folklore of Germany refers to these women as Weisse Frauen. The myths, which date back to at least the Middle Ages, tell us these enchanted, elven-like beings are very beautiful to behold. They most often appear at midday, brushing their long blonde hair under the light of the sun, or bathing in bodies of water. They haunt castles, guard treasure, and beseech mortals to end the tedious spell that holds them bound. But alas, all human endeavors end in failure.

In French mythology, the Dames Blanches exist as a type of supernatural creature akin to fairies. But these white women are not so nice. They hang out in narrow places like bridges, ravines, and fords in order to accost those who pass them by. They require their victims to assist them in various ways (some of their requests are very trivial and humiliating) before allowing them to pass. Those who comply with their desires find themselves richly rewarded, while those who refuse suffer their wrath. 

So, why the downturn in reputation from a highly respected group of women who could heal and see into the future into something far less desirable? Well, as Lissa puts it, "the falsehoods began centuries ago with a few overzealous ministers who wanted to demonize everything they didn't understand. They denounced their skill and knowledge as pagan in nature and born of evil." 

Witte Wieven by Gouwenaar

Who is your favorite witch?



  1. I just love these stories and myths. I really enjoyed both of your books on the Witte Wivens.I look forward to another sequel its a story you don't want to end. Ever.

  2. Thanks Tammy...I love it when you stop by!

  3. What intriguing history these women have. I love the legends, folklore and history I learn from your blog--and your books. I'm reading Van Locken's Witch right now (btw, love that title) and have just finished the part where Lissa explains the legend of the Witte Wiven. It's turning into the perfect read for Halloween. I'm in love with the characters and the plot!

  4. Aww...thanks Mae! I fell in love with the Wieven legends the first time I encountered them. Talking about stories that feed the imagination! I'm happy that you're liking the book! Happy Halloween!