The Lady in White

Thinking about trying something a little different for my next entry (this whole blogging thing is kind of new and I want to keep it fun)…so while I’m working on some other things, I wanted to discuss a common theme I hear in ghost stories. 

WHY IS IT ALWAYS A WOMAN IN A WHITE DRESS?!


thefoxandtheraven.deviantart.com

Watching my favorite ghost shows or exploring local legends, it seems that there is always a lady in white.  The story is always different, but she’s always there. Sometimes she’s a widow waiting for her husband, other times she’s a young girl who’s life was taken too soon…or sometimes she is the murderer herself!  So, is it the same spirit who is constantly manifesting all over the world at different times? Doubtful. I’d be willing to say that this legend has carried on over the years and found its way into different cultures, as stories seem to do. Maybe people aren’t really seeing her as much as the stories lead you to believe and it’s more of a  “Mary heard it from Mark whose parents are friends with someone who saw the lady in white in the window!” type sighting.  

Now, I’ve been doing a little digging to try and figure out where this particular legend may have started but it is nearly impossible to pinpoint. Here are a few examples I could find:

  • Frederick I of Prussia’s death was reportedly predicted by the appearance of a lady in white, and that was all the way back in 1713.  
  • The Hohenzollerns of Germany were said to be haunted by a “lady in white”. Some thought it was Countess Kunigunde von Orlamonde who died in 1382 and had killed her all of her children.
  • There is white lady of Haapsalu Castle who went in disguise as a man to be with her lover and was eventually found out and killed. In Estonia there is now even a “White Lady Days” festival!
  • The Netherlands have the “white maidens” which are often associated with witches and faeries.
  • In the United States there are countless stories of the Lady in the Lake, who seems to always have befallen some sort of tragedy and who is dressed in white.
  • These USA stories are much more modern and often involve murder, suicide & betrayal. Maybe that’s why she’s in white? Some sort of symbolism that she is “pure” and innocent and didn’t deserve the events that happened?

Seeing how long legends of the lady in white have been around is truly fascinating.  There has to be a grain of truth to these somewhere, doesn’t there? Part of me wonders of some of these stories tie in with the Bean Sídhe (Banshee), a type of faery that brings the omen of death to families when they hear her wailing. As a faery witch I have read a great deal about Banshees, and that was my first thought when browsing through the older legends.

As for many of the more modern “lady in white” stories, I tend to believe they are mostly urban legends. Every town has a haunted bridge, or a school bus crash where the ghosts of children will move your car…and of course the lady in white.  These stories are always fun, and get people spooked but I can for sure say as soon as someone tells me “There’s been sightings of a lady in white…..” I usually become a lot more skeptical.

Who knows, maybe someday I’ll run into the lady in white. Maybe she can tell me why she is so sad. 

xo

Folklore: The Stolen Children

Changelings. Found in folklore throughout Europe (largely Ireland), a changeling was believed to be a fae child left in place of a human child that was then stolen by the fae. As a witch who is learning to work with the fae, these old legends and stories truly fascinate me. How many have a grain of truth to them? I believe many of them do, but not so much the changeling legends. They are entertaining stories, until you really start to think about the history behind them.

During a good part of history, Christianity overtook Ireland as well as many other places in the world.  Due to this, Pagan cultures were demonized and said to be the work of devil. Witches! Witches everywhere! There is so much evidence of old folklore being “christianized” and it makes my heart hurt. Who knows how much has been lost due to this! Who knows what we might be able to understand about the world if we had been able to preserve more of the old cultures…One great example of this is Thomas the Rhymer (which I’ll discuss more another time). There are different versions, and you can most certainly tell which was altered to fit a more Christian worldview…

Anyway, as much as I enjoy reading about changelings, I believe that these were stories created out of fear & to try and find a reason for the bad things that happened to people. If a human child was “replaced” by a fae child, it was easy to blame evil and in turn also blame the parent for a lack of faith.

“There are many variations on the following story, but the Brothers Grimm summed up in concise form the main components of a typical changeling story from mid-19th-century Germany:

A mother had her child taken from the cradle by elves. In its place they laid a changeling with a thick head and staring eyes who would do nothing but eat and drink. In distress she went to a neighbor and asked for advice. The neighbor told her to carry the changeling into the kitchen, set it on the hearth, make a fire, and boil water in two eggshells. That should make the changeling laugh, and if he laughs it will be all over with him. The woman did everything just as her neighbor said. When she placed the eggshells filled with water over the fire, the changeling said:

‘Now I am as old
As the Wester Wood,
But have never seen anyone cooking in shells!’

And he began laughing about it. When he laughed, a band of little elves suddenly appeared. They brought the rightful child, set it on the hearth, and took the changeling away.”

Again, there are variations on this story, but this is a basic summation of what was popularly agreed on.

According to legend, when a child was replaced with a fae child, they were said to have everything from deformities, behavioral issues to strange personality aspects.  Unfortunately, these may have just been disabilities that are treatable today. It was also said that the changelings should never be harmed, only threatened. If the fae had the real child with them, they may retaliate if the humans hurt the changeling.  

To prevent a child from being stolen in the first place, people would leave iron near the baby’s crib. Iron is know to repel fae. Also nearly all traditions agreed that a quick baptism would prevent this from happening. But what happens if a changeling is an adult?

In the late 1890’s a woman named Bridget Cleary was murdered by her husband who claimed she had been replaced by a changeling.  I’ll give you a link to the full story, as I cannot tell the story better than this! It’s crazy to me that someone would use folklore to try and excuse something as deplorable as murder…or do you think he really believed this to be true?

What do you guys think about this? I know this isn’t crazy in depth, but I don’t necessarily want this to turn into a blog that is purely scholarly research. 😉

http://mentalfloss.com/article/539793/bizarre-death-bridget-cleary-irish-fairy-wife

I’ll leave you with one of my favorite poems. W.B. Yeats had faery blood in his veins <3

https://www.ancient-origins.net/myths-legends/swapping-babies-disturbing-faerie-changeling-phenomenon-007261