Clarissa Johal: #FolkloreThursday - The Green Maiden (Glaistig) of the British Isles

Thursday, April 21, 2016

#FolkloreThursday - The Green Maiden (Glaistig) of the British Isles

The glaistig or Green Maiden is a type of spirit native to the British Isles. There are several renditions to her tale. In one, she's considered a protective water spirit. In another, she's mischievous, and throws pebbles at passerby's or leads people down the wrong path. In Scottish mythology, she holds a darker edge, luring men to her lair with song or dance, and then drinking their blood.

The Green Maiden has been described in many different ways. Some folktales depict her as a beautiful woman with long yellow or grey hair. She wears a flowing green gown and has an ethereal, fairy-like quality. Other folktales describe her as a demon. Cursed with the hybrid form of half-woman and half-goat, she keeps her lower goat form covered. 

Another version of glaistig states she is simply a ghost. One tale in particular, claimed the "Green Lady" would appear beside a castle fireplace to pick up a ghostly infant, and then vanish. When the castle was renovated, the bones of a woman and her baby were found underneath the fireplace. There have been other reports stating the spirit of the Green Lady has shown up dripping wet at a cottage door. She asks to come in to warm herself and dry her clothing. If she is made welcome in the home, she'll stay to protect the house and family. If the family moves, she'll stay behind to protect the next family.

Some glaistig mythology reiterate she's helpful to farmers. She's been known to herd cattle into the barn in order to protect them from a storm or enemies. Offerings of milk were left for her, and may be linked with older fertility customs.

More about the glaistig can be found in Encyclopedia of Fairies in World Folklore and Mythology by Theresa Bane

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