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The significance of a white wand

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Lucifer Post number 8641 Posted: 21st January 2010     Subject:
PS Maybe the girl was originally a gipsy herself? The killing of her unloyal lover is not at all implausible either way.

A variant titled "Brown Girl" in The Ballad Book, ed. MacEdward Leach, 1955 is similarly based on two girls and a guy, the Brown Girl killing her rival and being killed in turn by the guy.

Greetings,

Lucifer

PAGANS OF THE WORLD UNITE! HEIDEN ALLER LÄNDER VEREINIGT EUCH! ¡PAGANOS DEL MUNDO UNÍOS!
Lucifer Post number 8643 Posted: 21st January 2010     Subject:
Here’s one of the versions.

BROWN GIRL

“Mother, O Mother, go riddle my sport;
Go riddle it all as one:
Must I go marry fair Alender,
Or bring the brown girl home? ”

“The Brown girl she has house and land,
Fair Alender has none;
Therefore I warn you as a blessing,
Go bring the brown girl home. ”

“Go saddle up my milk-white steed,
Go saddle him up for me;
I’ll go invite fair Alender
All to my wedding meal. ”

“He rode, he rode till he came to the hall;
He tingled on the ring;
Nobody so ready as Fair Alender
To rise and let him in.

“What news? what news? ” Fair Alender cried,
“What news have you brought to me? ”
“I’ve come to invite you to my wedding,
Is that good news to thee? ”

“Bad news, bad news, ” Fair Alender cried,
“Bad news you have brought to me;
I once did think I would be your bride,
And you my bridegroom be.

“Mother, O mother, go riddle my sport;
Go riddle it all as one;
Must I go to Lord Thomas’s wedding,
Or tarry with thee at home? ”

She dressed herself in scarlet red,
Her maidens they dressed in green,
And every town that they rode through,
They took her to be some queen.

She rode, she rode, till she came to the hall;
She tingled on the ring;
Nobody so ready as Lord Thomas himself,
To rise and let her in.

He took her by the lily-white hand,
And led her across the hall;
And led her up to the head of the table,
Amongst the fair maids all.

“Is this your bride, “Fair Alender cried,
“That looks so wonderful brown?
You once could of got as fair a lady
As ever the sun shone on. ”

The brown girl had a little pen knife,
It was both keen and sharp;
Between the long ribs and the short,
She entered Fair Alender’s heart.

“What’s the matter? What’s the matter? ”
Lord Thomas he cried.
“Oh don’t you plainly see?
O don’t you see my own heart’s blood
A-trickling down by me? ”

He took the brown girl by the hand,
He led her across the hall;
He drew (his) bright sword, he cut her head off.
And threw it against the wall.

He put the butt against the ground,
The point against his breast;
Here three young lovers all dead to-day,
God send them all to rest!"

Obviously, the ballad is about Lord Thomas. But it’s got all the basic elements: (1) two girls and a guy, (2) blow to the chest with a pointed object, (3) death.

In your version, the brown girl takes off her rings (given by her lover?) which implies a permanent separation.

The brown girl dances on her lover’s grave, which implies that he dies (and that she's happy about his being dead).

Of course, the story probably has changed over time and might have been mixed with elements from other traditions, so it's hard to tell what the original version was. But on balance, it might be crime of passion rather than magic .

Greetings,

Lucifer

PAGANS OF THE WORLD UNITE! HEIDEN ALLER LÄNDER VEREINIGT EUCH! ¡PAGANOS DEL MUNDO UNÍOS!
Thestoryteller Post number 8646 Posted: 21st January 2010     Subject:
Thanks for bringing the variations to my attention Lucifer. I think once again the problem is we just don't have enough information given to us in the ballad to come to any definite conclusions about the wand, and it looks as if the question will just have to remain unanswered for that reason.
Lucifer Post number 8649 Posted: 21st January 2010     Subject:
Hi Storyteller,

The way I see it, the ballad describes the girl as “wild” and the rest of the story is absolutely consistent with the behaviour of a wild girl.

What does any girl feel when she’s been dumped for another one? Especially for one that is “fair” as opposed to “brown” and hence presumably considered by society as “better looking”?

Think about it for a minute.

Now, add to that the fact that she’s a wild girl. You can easily imagine what a lethal mix we are talking about!

A girl like that is definitely going to want him dead.

Besides, the “wand” in a magic sense can only be accepted if we ignore further very important elements:

1. She laughs at his suffering.

2. She takes off (or returns?) her rings.

3. She strikes him on the chest with a pointed object.

4. She dances on his grave.

The only odd thing out in the whole story is the “magic” wand! It is the “magic” interpretation that creates the problem in the first place.

So, it’s got to be a weapon as supported by similar ballads.

Of course, we can't be 100% certain, but I think that's what it looks like.

It would be interesting to hear what others think of it.

Greetings,

Lucifer

PAGANS OF THE WORLD UNITE! HEIDEN ALLER LÄNDER VEREINIGT EUCH! ¡PAGANOS DEL MUNDO UNÍOS!
Thestoryteller Post number 8651 Posted: 21st January 2010     Subject:
I agreee that's what it looks like Lucifer, but it seems all we can do is to speculate about it in the absence of any hard evidence. Anyway, good to read your views and I hope others will take part in this too.
Lucifer Post number 8657 Posted: 22nd January 2010     Subject:
Hi Storyteller,

I’ve been doing some more research on your ballad. I even got some of my colleagues at work interested! [Very happy]

Unfortunately, all the indications so far seem to point away from the magic-wand thesis.

Are you at all familiar with The Cruel Nymph?

It seems to be virtually identical with the Child version of The Brown Girl.

As a suggestion, it might be worthwhile investigating at what point the ballad was given the title The Cruel Nymph. If that happened fairly early, then this would suggest that the brown girl was interpreted as a “cruel” wild girl from an early stage, possibly even from the beginning. In which case she never was the “good fairy” type and the wand would probably have to be discounted as an instrument of magic. It would have to be some kind of weapon instead.

Obviously, a woman could wear a sharp pin or even small dagger in her head-dress or anywhere else on her body. This is suggested of the brown girl in at least one of the Lord Thomas versions. Alternatively, as I said earlier, it could have been any wand-like object with a blade inside it which apparently was quite common in those days. According to the Oxford Dictionary one of the meanings of “wand” is/was walking-stick. So it looks as if a swordstick or similar object could perfectly well have been referred to as “wand”.

The frustrating thing, of course, is that we have no idea what the wand actually does to the guy or, for that matter, even if the word is original to the ballad or some later addition or substitute for an earlier word. It goes to show how easily tradition is lost!

Anyway, here are some links that should help clarify what I’m talking about.

Swordstick:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Swordstick

The Cruel Nymph:

http://www.mustrad.org.uk/articles/dung01.htm

Two final questions:

1. Is there any specific reason (e.g. related external tradition) why the wand in this story has to be a magic wand rather than something else?

2. Is the main object of the query specifically the meaning/symbolism of white wand in the context of the Brown-Girl story or white wand as a magic object in general, i.e., outside the story?

Greetings,

Lucifer

PAGANS OF THE WORLD UNITE! HEIDEN ALLER LÄNDER VEREINIGT EUCH! ¡PAGANOS DEL MUNDO UNÍOS!
Thestoryteller Post number 8663 Posted: 22nd January 2010     Subject:
Thank you for giving the question so much of your time Lucifer. Very generous of you.

I'm doing some research into the ballad for a new book I'm writing: Shamanic Journeys, Shamanic Stories. In it, I will be looking at shamanic ballads too. By shamanic ballad I mean a ballad that has either been based on or inspired by a shamanic journey, or one that contains a number of the elements typical of such a journey. And the Brown Girl could be regarded as an account of a case of soul theft. The title will be coming out in paperback in 2010, and published by O Books.
Lucifer Post number 8665 Posted: 22nd January 2010     Subject:
Storyteller,

That’s definitely an interesting perspective and it sounds like an interesting book!

In that case, the wand would be a symbol of (shamanic/spiritual) power which wands originally were anyhow – possibly connected with the moon or some other deity or spiritual entity (depending on how Christianised the magician was).

But this perspective seems to create new problems:

Is there anything in the story from which we can infer that she does anything with the soul?

Would she give him her rings back and dance on his grave if she had his soul in her possession?

Greetings,

Lucifer

PAGANS OF THE WORLD UNITE! HEIDEN ALLER LÄNDER VEREINIGT EUCH! ¡PAGANOS DEL MUNDO UNÍOS!
Thestoryteller Post number 8666 Posted: 22nd January 2010     Subject:
All will become clear in the book I hope, which will also contain a chapter on my vary favourite ballad - Thomas Rhymer.

Have a good weekend Lucifer and hope we'll have the chance to meet some time.
Lucifer Post number 8676 Posted: 23rd January 2010     Subject:
Storyteller,

It’s been fun doing a bit of forensic profiling on the poor chap in The Brown Girl.

I’ve always been rather partial to old ballads like Thomas Rhyder and I might add The Brown Girl to my favourites once I’ve sussed out what the “wand” is all about.

My only problem with these ballads is the story is a tad on the short side (the same happens with Romanian and other ballads, by the way). They always leave you wandering whether the performer has forgotten some of his lines or is just being a lazy lump of lard! [Very happy]

Anyway, we must meet up for a drink sometime and I’ll definitely buy the book when it comes out.

Meanwhile, have a great weekend yourself!

Greetings,

Lucifer

PAGANS OF THE WORLD UNITE! HEIDEN ALLER LÄNDER VEREINIGT EUCH! ¡PAGANOS DEL MUNDO UNÍOS!
Astrid Post number 10713 Posted: 26th June 2010     Subject:
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MM Storyteller,

I was wondering how your book about the significance of the wand is coming along?

Blessings

Astrid
Thestoryteller Post number 10725 Posted: 27th June 2010     Subject:
Thank you for your interest Astrid. The book "Shamanic Journeys, Shamanic Stories" is now complete and will be published by O-Books, hopefully before the end of the year.
Astrid Post number 10775 Posted: 3rd July 2010     Subject:
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congratulations!!

bb

Astrid
Thestoryteller Post number 11134 Posted: 31st August 2010     Subject: For all of you who kindly helped me with my research
Journeys Outside Time: A collection of shamanic ballads and shamanic stories, is currently being printed and should be available from www.amazon.com and / or the publisher within the next few days. The price has been set at $8.95 and the ISBN number is 978-0-9843302-7-0.
_

Michael Berman works as a teacher and a writer. Publications include The Power of Metaphor for Crown House, The Nature of Shamanism and the Shamanic Story for Cambridge Scholars Publishing, and Shamanic Journeys through the Caucasus for O-Books. . For more information please visit www.Thestoryteller.org.uk
--
Pendraig Publishing is devoted to bringing quality books to the Pagan community, covering subjects like Traditional Witchcraft, Wortcunning, The Art of the Cunning Folk, and Ancient Mystery Traditions. www.pendraigpublishing.com
Astrid Post number 11228 Posted: 4th September 2010     Subject:
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again, congratulations.

Blessings

Astrid
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