BERCHTA (in old German. Peracta, and the original form of the name Bertha, being from the same root as the English word bright, and meaning"shining," " white") is, in German mythology, the name given in the s. of Germany and in Switzerland to a spiritual being, who was apparently the same as the Ilulda (gracious, benign) of northern Germany. This being represented originally one of the kindly and benign aspects of the unseen powers; and so the traditions of hulda (q.v.) in the north continued to repre sent her. But the B. of the south, in the course of time, became rather an object of terror, and a bugbear to frighten children; the difference probably arising from the cir cumstance, that the influence of Christianity in converting the pagan deities into demons was sooner felt in the south than in the north. Lady B. has the oversight of spinners. The last day of the year is sacred to her, and if she find any flax left on the distaff that day, she spoils it. Her festival is kept with a prescribed kind of meager fare—oat meal-gruel, or pottage, and fish. If she catches any persons eating other food on that
day, she cuts them up, fills their paunch with chopped straw and other such agreeable stuffing, and then sews tip the wound with a plowshare for a needle, and an iron chain for a thread. In some places, she is the queen of the crickets. She is represented as having a long iron nose and an immensely large foot That she was once an object of worship, is testified by the numerous springs, etc., that bear her name in Salzburg and elsewhere. It is likely that many of the sagas of B. were transferred to the famous Berthas (q.v.) of history and fable. The numerous stories of the "White Lady" who appears in noble houses at night, rocks and nurses the children while the nurses are asleep, and acts as the guardian angel of the race, have doubtless their root in the ancient heathen goddess Bernina.