Mother Holle

A negative relationship with the personal mother may be deeply wounding, but in the tale of Mother Holle we find a relational archetypal pattern (personified as feminine) aimed at restoration and inner growth.

A maiden had a cruel stepmother who forced her to work hard and spin till her fingers bled. One day while rinsing her sore fingers, the spindle slipped from her hand into the well. Ordered to retrieve it immediately, she jumped into the well in great sorrow. She awoke to find herself in a meadow through which she started to walk. Along the way she was requested to do certain tasks which she did with compassion, as was her nature. After a while she reached a hut where a frightening old woman lived, Mother Holle. She was instructed to shake the bedding till the feathers fly, for it brings snow on earth. She took courage and served the old woman well for a time but then she became homesick. To her surprise the old woman helped her to find her way home through a doorway where she was showered with gold. Upon her return her lazy envious stepsister wanted her share of the gold. She stung her finger and jumped into the well. She was careless while attending to the simple tasks on her way and Mother Holle soon tired of her lazy servant. Dismissed, leaving through the doorway, she was showered in pitch which clung to her for the rest of her life.

Trying to gain approval and love a person may work hard to serve the negative mother complex, working one’s fingers to the bone and wounding oneself. All one receives in return are envy and rejection. In utter despair and great sorrow, a descent follows. One discovers a different world, and a new path unfolds where one learns to undertake tasks simply and for their own sake, ‘cooling off’ the complex.

Undertaking this service is frightening, it demands courage, but one may learn to serve an aspect of the Self truthfully. The envious stepsister, the shadow, may be tamed, and spiritual meaning may be found, extending far beyond the personal complex.


Dougherty, Nancy J.; West, Jacqueline J. The Matrix and Meaning of Character (pp. 142-144). Taylor and Francis. Kindle Edition.