Wood wives are wild women of the forests and are found in various fairy tailes and mythology from Germany and Austria and the surrounding areas. Also known as Moss Wives, Spae Wives and Skogrsa they are mostly portrayed as benevolent wood dwelling creatures,particularly among the “new age” community, however in lore they could be either benevolent or malevolent as their feeling dictated.
Appearance – most often portrayed as youthful and beautiful beings dressed in flowing red, velvet or blue, but they have also been described in some lore as having old and wizened faces.
Activities – Wood wives would appear to travellers lost in the woods, often to ask a favour of some kind for which she would offer only woodchips as payment. Should the traveller accept and help the wood wife he would soon find the wood chips would turn to gold once he left the forest.
Wood Wives were said to dislike hunters and woodcutters, especially those that went deep into the forests causing damage, felling trees and killing the woodland creatures that lived there.
In the 16th and 17th century wolves were rife in the forests of Europe. The death of a hunter or woodsman, and in particular a spate of local deaths where there was evidence of violence, was often attributed to the wood wives. Supposedly many of the victims were found with their throats ripped out , leading to the belief that wood wives could be vampiric in nature and would act in vengeance for any perceived wrongdoing by the victim in her wood.
In certain legends the wood wives are said to be particularly drawn to the blood of the newborn child and would drink from them if the child lay unprotected. In older children or adults the wood wife rarely killed, preferring only to take a little blood. They were often seen as the cause when a child failed to thrive or an adult became listless.
How to Appease them – wood cutters would cut 3 small crosses and leave them in the shape of a triangle in the woods. These small areas provided safe haven for the wood wives when The Wild Hunt rode, and prevented the wild hunt from killing them.
It was said that a hunter who granted the wood wife sexual favours would be blessed with a weapon that would never miss and a fine catch each time he ventured forth.
Women would take small pieces of wood and wrap them inside bundles of their own hair. These would be taken and burnt in the fire as an offering to the wood wife. Offerings would be left in the wood in the form of bread and cake in order to gain favour for their menfolk and also to protect them from the vampiric tendencies and sexual advances of the wood wife dwelling within.
How to kill them – the wood wife will die if a branch of wood is cut from her forest and twisted until the bark falls off.
Curran, Bob. Vampires: A Field Guide to the Creatures that Stalk the Night. NJ: Career Press, 2005.