. . .licht, licht’s the luve that can be coft
wi’ gowd an’ buskins gay. . .”The Green Ladye o’ Newton” old Scots ballad
As the wisdom of our grandmothers through a long descent has it, the way to a man’s heart is through his stomach.
Or, perhaps, in other ways modesty prevents me from mentioning. (^_^)
Or you could try the way that the Green Lady of Newton Castle, the hapless Jean Drummond, tried: enlisting the help of the faery folk of Scots legend.
On the whole, I can’t say I’d recommend it.
Newton Castle, near Blairgowrie in Scotland, dates in part to the fourteenth century. Newton has long been the favored haunt of a Green Lady. In life she was the daughter of the castle’s contemporary owner; her name was Jean Drummond.
Lady Jean had, in those long-ago days, fallen desperately in love with the laird of a nearby castle. Lord Ronald, as he was called, had seemed in the beginning to return her passion. His was transitory as hers was constant, and he eventually moved on to another woman.
Like many another woman before and since, Jean refused to give up on her faithless lover. She wanted him back, and to entice him took to dressing in fine clothing: dresses of silk, silver-buckled shoes of the finest leather. She had a mane of long black hair, and she braided it with pearls and precious stones.
Lord Ronald looked her up and down, complimented her on her fine appearance, and made some excuse to go back to his dowdier but dear new lover.
Lady Jean fell into a deep gloom, and drove the other inhabitants of Newton half-frantic by retreating to a window in the north tower, where she sat day after day, singing maudlin and sometimes morbid songs of lost love.
Nearby there lived an old lady described by some as a fortune-teller, by others as an outright witch. After some time, Jean aroused from her funk long enough to go to consult this old lady. Perhaps she hoped the woman would foretell Lord Ronald’s return to her arms; perhaps she hoped for a love charm.
Well, the old lady advised that last. Her fine clothes were no use at all, she said; if she wanted her man back, she would have to try the magical garb of the faery folk: the witchin’ claith o’ green, she called it.
First, she said, Lady Jean must gather some of the long green grass that grew in the local kirkyard. Then she was to go to the hill where the town’s gallows stood; atop that hill stood a rowan tree, and she must cut a branch from it. Then she was to tie grass and branch together with a braided reed.
So far, so good. When Lady Jean had gathered this magical accoutrements, she was to take them, as darkness fell, to the nearby Cobble Pool, a still place in the River Ericht. In the Cobble Pool there was a great ancient boulder known as the Corbie Stane (Scots for stone). She was to sit all night on the Corbie Stane, close her eyes, and wait for what would happen in the wee hours. Whatever she might hear, the old lady emphasized solemnly, she must not open her eyes.
So Lady Jean, just at twilight, waded out to the Corbie Stane, climbed up onto it, and closed her eyes.
In the wee hours she was startled and frightened by sounds of laughter all around her. A sudden cold wind arose, and she felt hands pulling at her clothes. So frightened did she become that she no longer needed to close her eyes; she fainted, and did not rouse until she heard roosters greeting the dawn.
The clothes she had worn the night before were gone, never to be seen again. In their stead, she wore a dress of green: the green favored by the faery folk.
She presented herself to Lord Ronald. The faery magic worked; he returned to her, and they were to be married at once. The bride wore that strange and beautiful green dress for their wedding.
At the altar, though, she seemed oddly distracted, her eyes suddenly dark and lifeless. Lord Ronald noticed that her hand in his was deathly cold.
Without warning, Jean screamed a terrible scream, and collapsed at Ronald’s feet. Taken to the bed where she would have lain with her husband on their wedding night, she lingered for a few days before dying.
Only then did the story of the green dress come out. The old lady had kept from her the most terrible aspect of her magical deception: that none save true faery folk could wear the witchin’ claith o’ green with impunity.
As she died under enchantment, Jean could not be buried in kirk. She was laid to rest in unhallowed ground on Knockie Hill, and a simple stone put up to mark the spot.
They say that on Halloween nights, all these many centuries later, that gravestone turns around three times. Then the Lady Jean, still clad in that lovely uncanny dress of faery green, makes her way down the hill and into the north tower of Newton Castle, where she spends that night when the veil between living and dead thins singing sad love songs, as she did in life.
Dane Love, Scottish Ghosts (1995)
Lily Seafield, Ghostly Scotland (2006).
The full text of “The Green Ladye o’ Newton” can be found here.