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Submitted on
October 10, 2010
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Witte Wieven - Dutch Folktale by PaperTales Witte Wieven - Dutch Folktale by PaperTales
'Why all these Dutch folktales all of the sudden? ' some of you might be thinking. Well, I have started a new folklore related project a few weeks ago about which I will tell you all later this week.
But first I would like to share with you my latest drawing, which is also part of the project, named: "Witte Wieven". These two small words have two different meanings. Witte can mean white or (in dialect) wise and wieven means women. Thus it can refer to white women or wise women. In this case both interpetations would actually be correct.

These Witte Wieven are always described by the people as white, ghostly, witch-like figures, often brought in connection with mist. They haunt the old burial-mounds, which can still be found in the Netherlands, dating back to the Iron Age. It is not a coincidence that these ghostly women are haunting these burial-mounds because the Witte Wieven are infact the vestiges of the old Germanic priestesses worshipped by the people. The church obviously disapproved with this sort of worship like they cursed the old burial mounds, being graveyards of heathens. And soon the two: Germanic priestesses and the burial-mounds, became connected.

The people for a long time strongly believed in the powers of the Witte Wieven. They often left food for them in order to recieve their blessings. Their favorite food was balkenhaze, which is the name for roast cat and pancakes. It was believed that if one should refuse to offer the Witte Wieven food they would take revenge. They would kill cattle by sticking long needles into the animal bodies and burn down sheds and if you were really unlucky they would kidnap you. They were especially known for kidnapping young mothers, because they needed them for feeding their young dogs. It was said that the Witte Wieven sometimes had such long breasts, because of the feeding, they could throw them over their shoulders. Hence the reason why they preferred other women to do the job, I guess. Once these women were captured they had to stay with them for 7 years, after which they were released.

The Witte Wieven were also great sorceresses; who could turn wood into gold and such. This is why the people were making offerings, in hope they would share these gifts with them.

There must be hundreds of folktales related to the Witte Wieven: stories about revenge they took on young rude boys, women they kidnapped and about women who knew how to escape. Tales about farmers who owe their riches to them and farmers who lost it all because they broke with the tradition of food-offerings.

Nowadays, the people in the eastern parts of the Netherlands no longer believe in these matters, but the tales they have survived. But if you are lucky to meet one of the old farmers they will assure you all of it is true and they still look at the burial mounds with a suspicious eye. Of course, they know better....

And for those who are interested, prints will soon be for sale at my shop.


Other places where you can find me:

My Etsy Shop: [link]

My Folklore Blog:[link]

My Official Website: [link]
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Gothyra Featured By Owner Mar 9, 2014  Hobbyist Digital Artist
In Drenthe, waar ik woon, zijn er nog drie verhalen over de witte wieven. Dat als het heiig was op de heide, dan zag je de witte wieven, zielen van het landschap die zich lieten zien. Een andere variant is dat als het heiig was op de heide, dat het de zielen waren van de slachtoffers van Ellert en Brammert, twee mythische reuzen uit Drenthe (waar ook meerdere interpretaties van zijn). Een derde is dat ten tijden van een soort Hallows Eve feest in Drenthe (lang, lang geleden, het feest bestaat niet meer), dat verschillende dorpen elkaar bezochten, en dat wanneer het wederom heiig was, dan waren het de witte wieven, zielen die ook jaren na hun dood meededen aan het feest.
DutchGirl221 Featured By Owner Aug 21, 2011
Ik moet zeggen, ze lijken sprekend op mijn verbeelding.
GriswaldTerrastone Featured By Owner Nov 20, 2010
One of the best things about DA is the incredible variety of styles. Your's for example, with it's clean yet detailed use of lines, and the striking images.

Best of all, your knowledge of Dutch folklore. Being half-Dutch, but not knowing too much about this, it's something worth learning.
PaperTales Featured By Owner Dec 9, 2010   Artisan Crafter
That is exactly what I like about DA, you learn something new every day. And thank you for your kind words, it really means a lot to me to hear that :-)And again I am really glad to have found someone whose interested in Dutch folklore.
HeroesDaughter Featured By Owner Nov 9, 2010  Hobbyist General Artist
It's so beautiful. A use of the lines a bit out of your usual style but very effective to cast the impression of the story in your comment on the observer.
The eyes are amazing: “empty eyes” are almost always connected to some sort of hidden wisdom and since the ladies in your drawing are staring directly in perfect darkness (where regular eyes wouldn’t work) and pointing there as showing that it’s not void but that there’s actually something in there, it becomes a very revealing feature.
I also love the fact that they are three.

Thank you for sharing!

Actually, it's the story what gets my eye the most... Your description of them makes me think about the Scandinavian heathen ghost/goddess that are somehow associated with the valkyries and that are often referred to as genii cucullati (hooded ones) or gaviae (richly giving) by classic authors , feeling that, somehow they are connected to the ancient Vanir cults. I know those are common to the Danish (and Celts and Germans, but I’m looking for a more direct connection there). Any clue you can give me here by chance?
PaperTales Featured By Owner Nov 19, 2010   Artisan Crafter
I will see if there is any relation between them. I have a couple of books about the Witte Wieven so I could easily check it out for you... I will come back to you later :) (hopefully with an answer)
HeroesDaughter Featured By Owner Dec 5, 2010  Hobbyist General Artist
Thank you very much! However, don't trouble yourself much about this, it is just curiosity.
SanneCazemier Featured By Owner Oct 30, 2010  Student General Artist
Great job!

Ik ken het verhaal, maar heb het nog nooit zo in detail gelezen, heel gaaf!
Bij mij thuis, in Groningen, is er ook nog de toevoeging dat de Witte Wieven witte Berkebomen zijn. Met dikke mist veranderen de bomen in vrouwen.
PaperTales Featured By Owner Oct 30, 2010   Artisan Crafter
Dat wist ik nog niet! Wat ontzettend leuk om dat te horen! En bedankt voor je comment :)
SanneCazemier Featured By Owner Oct 30, 2010  Student General Artist
Of het echt Gronings is, weet ik niet zeker hoor! Ik woon een beetje tussen Friesland, Groningen en Drenthe in, dus het kan een soort mix zijn van die drie.

Zo werd het mij vroeger wel verteld in ieder geval xD

En, graag gedaan;)
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