The Element Encyclopedia of Witchcraft: The Complete A-Z for the Entire Magical World - Judika Illes 2005
The Snow Queen
Fairy-Tale Witches and Mother Goose
The Snow Queen is not a witch but a frost goddess. The story recounts the shamanic journey of its heroine, Gerda, to redeem her beloved playmate Kay frozen in the Snow Queen’s realm. Gerda and Kay are both depicted as children. When Kay mysteriously disappears, Gerda searches for him.
Her first step is to make a pagan-style offering of her precious red shoes to the river so that, in exchange, it will return Kay. The river responds: when Gerda climbs into a boat, it simply floats away with her, taking her on a journey that ultimately leads to Kay.
How does Gerda know how to do this? Her grandmother is described as speaking the language of crows, i.e. she is a shaman.
Gerda’s first stop downriver is a little house with toy soldiers standing guard. It is a witch’s house: she is described as an old, old woman leaning on a crutch. Although the woman can work magic, we are advised that she is not a “wicked witch,” only a dabbler. She adores Gerda and would like to keep her but intends to care for her, not harm or eat her, although she is obstructing Gerda’s path. She enchants Gerda so that she temporarily forgets her quest. From a shamanic-journey perspective, the old woman is a test: will Gerda become so comfortable that she gives up?
Gerda is able to speak to plants, and so eventually recalls her mission.
She is able to speak to crows, and so is given information bringing her closer to Kay.
In the process of rescuing Kay, Gerda must visit the houses of two more wise-women: one identified as a Saami woman, the other as a Finnmark woman, both identified with Pagan traditions and Finno-Ugric shamanism.
These three women serve as Gerda’s shamanic initiators. Gerda passes all tests, behaves with purity of heart and single-minded focus, and is able to rescue Kay from permanent frost (coma?). In true shamanic style, the journey is retraced step-by-step until Kay and Gerda are safely home with her proud, welcoming grandmother.
See ANIMALS: Corvids; HAG: Gerda, Skadi.