Happy Watermaidens Day!

You may, perhaps, be feeling a touch of darkness just now, of despair, of grief.

Feelings, alas, that many watermaidens and snowmaidens understand all too well.

Most, of course, are solitary sorts, keeping themselves hidden in their rivers and springs and ponds, hiding from mortals and fairies alike. A few have even, by choice or coercion, spent their lives half-frozen behind snow and ice, a condition that, however cold and uncomfortable, keeps their hearts secure from pain.  Others live only through a single rainfall, a life too swift, too ephemeral, for sorrow or joy.

But even the most solitary watermaiden may find herself grieving over the loss of a nearby tree, or the disappearance of a favorite owl.  Even the most frozen snowmaiden may hear a crack in the ice surrounding her, and for a moment – just a moment – think of pain, or feel despair.  And those who have spent thousands of years hiding in the depths of their lakes, can tell you of long dark nights, when they wondered if they would ever see light dance through their waters again. Others sing of lost friends, of lost loves, of moonlit evenings they must not forget.

And those a little less solitary, a little closer to mortals – their sorrows can be even sharper.  Many have watched as their homes are threatened, or sobbed as fewer and fewer birds arrived each year. Others have dared to talk to mortals, and even more – something that can bring joy or pain.

After all, watermaidens can fall in love, even if they are made of water.

And today, by decree fee, the Official Day of Watermaidens, is a day for remembering those sorrows, those fears, those despairs.

A day where the shimmer on the water you see, out of the corner of your eye, might be no more than a shimmer or a flash of light. Or where a twirling mist might be just an ordinary mist. The water shaking in your glass nothing more than a nearby breeze.

Or it might be a watermaiden, letting you know that she understands.

Watermaidens Day is the brainchild of folklorist Nin Harris. As always, I’m just borrowing it for fun.

Happy Watermaidens Day

For the most part, water maidens and snow maidens avoid each other. The single touch of a water maiden, after all, can melt even the coldest heart of any snow maiden, or turn her hands to clear water. The snow maidens, in their turn, can freeze a water maiden in her tracks, or worse, trap a water maiden beneath ice.  That last, it is whispered, has happened to more than one unwary water maiden choosing cold oceans to explore the ice of Antarctica, or a glittering glacier, or even merely returning to her lake for a forgotten item.  Some, after a few goblets of hot molten rubies, have even spoken of the long standing war between the two, marked by flurries of battle here and there, fights that have left lands glittering with melting ice, and covered rivers with rushing slush.

The fairy courts, of course, have forbidden such things, but the water maidens and the snow maidens have never been ones to pay too much attention to the decree fees of the fairy courts – even when they hear these decrees, which is not often.

And so, the water maidens and snow maidens keep their distance. Usually.

But every few years, a few snow maidens and water maidens do gather together to celebrate Water Maidens Day.

Not in only one place, of course – that is too much cold for any water maiden, even those who inhabit the icier regions of the world. And snow maidens cannot journey far from their clouds, or their snow; they die swift deaths if they do, and so they are unwilling to travel far to meet the water maidens.

Still, some of the more adventurous, the ones who do not wish to remain hidden in hills of snow, or beneath ice laden trees, and who find even a frost-lined fairy court far too warm for them, do venture out to half frozen, watery lakes and ponds, or deep bays by the sea, and call lightly to the water maidens.

Sometimes, this call is only a puff of wind, or a swirl of snow. The water maidens are always alert at this time of year, of course, watching carefully for ice and snow, or the rush of fairies seeking cold and warm sunlight to flavor their winter feasts. And if the water maidens do not respond to wind or snow – well. The snow maiden can always howl in the wind.

They are kin, in a way, the water maidens and the snow maidens. It is a call they cannot resist.

Eventually, the water maidens emerge, shivering.

They have only one remedy against the cold of the snow maidens: dance.

And so they do, the snow maidens dancing with them, for as icy as they are, as frozen their hearts, no snow maiden can resist the call of the dance.

So be cautious, when you travel today. If you see a melting icicle, or a sliver of ice across a puddle, or, in warmer regions, a cool pond or lake, be wary. Watch.  That shimmer? That flicker of light that you cannot be sure you saw? That green sparkle on the ice?

You might be seeing a water maiden sip sunlight just before she slips back into the dance. Or a snow maiden adjusting the the ice on her dress.

Or the edges of a war.

After all, it is the Day of the Water Maidens.

And this year, the Snow Maidens intend to dance.

 

Water Maidens Day is the brainchild of poet, writer and scholar Nin Harris, whose story Your Right Arm recently appeared in Clarkesworld. I’m just borrowing it for fun.

 

 

 

 

Happy Snow Maidens Day!

My last entry on water maidens drew some, how shall I phrase it, hostility, entirely from critics in the New England area who pointed out, with some justice, that they had not seen rain in some time – to the point where they had forgotten what rain looked like, and that people buried in snow do not want to hear about rain, and that they, as a group, are not entirely certain that water, let alone water maidens, still exists beneath the piles of heavy ice and snow.

And one or two asked mournfully why, precisely, their states had been targeted by snow maidens.

To that question, I cannot give a full answer. Snow maidens are even more mysterious, and less known, than water maidens. True, unlike the water maidens, they are regular visitors to fairy courts, providing each court with just the fine, delicate touch of frost every court needs for winter celebrations, and providing fairy dancers with sparkling shoes formed from ice and light.   Some have even been known to join in the fairy dances, tossing snowflakes from their hair as they spin, blinding even the fairies with the light that sparkles from their icy hands.

But they do not linger. Even the coldest of the fairy courts (and many are cold, indeed, making even current Boston temperatures seem warm, as difficult as that may be to believe just now) have their warm spots, too hot for snow maidens to tolerate.  And fairy courts have other dangers – tempting hot drinks (all fairies agree you have not lived until you’ve tasted hot melted rubies, and thus, press this drink upon all), songs to heat the blood, and passionate affairs able to melt even the snowiest heart.  Then, too, unless she is fortunate enough to be bound to a mountain, or a glacier, or a polar region, the life of a snow maiden can be quite, quite short – when she is not bound to spend summer months sleeping in a cloud. And so the snow maidens do no more than touch the courts with ice and frost before retreating to where they feel most safe: snow.

But that does not mean that they do not want to see more of the world. On the contrary: even the most shy, retiring snow maiden gets bored with endless grey and white. And so, each year, the snow maidens march or dance into greener lands, eager for a change – or, for some of them – eager to spin and dance.  A few of the braver ones press themselves against windows, eager to see what’s inside. Most, however, prefer to stay outside, swirling.

And sometimes they gather for a furious dance.

Some claim that their fury is born out of resentment regarding the confined nature of their lives.  (Tree spirits, it must be noted, do not give this argument much credence, but then again, most tree spirits are asleep when the snow maidens visit – or at least pretend to be asleep.)  Some say that it is all merely part of an ongoing war between the snow maidens and the water maidens, a fight so ancient that no one can even say how or where it began.  (Water maidens, when asked, look bewildered at the mere thought – and indeed, few water maidens are particularly combative.)  A few of the crosser sorts of fairies claim that the snow maidens are merely infuriated by mortals, and don’t care how many fairies get inconvenienced by their dances.  (It should be noted that these are generally fairies who have found themselves on the losing side of certain encounters with mortals, and that their accounts of many events have been found to contain certain inaccuracies.)

Others say that it is not a dance of fury at all, but a dance of joy.

And still others that it is only an attempt to stay warm.  After all, the snow maidens wear gowns woven of ice.

The snow maidens, when asked, merely smile, and run blue fingers down the lips of the questioner – freezing those lips at their touch.

Which is why, perhaps, it is wiser not to ask, and wiser to instead watch for the snow maidens. From the corners of your eyes, of course: a sudden swirl of snow there, a crackle of ice there, a flash of colors that burns your eyes, a blue hand appearing, just for a moment, in the wind.   Wiser, instead, just to watch their dances, knowing that eventually, those dances will end, and that eventually, the snow maidens will withdraw from the lands that are, after all, only temporary dwellings for them, back to the lands they find safer: lands of snow and ice, where they never have to fear the retreat of the cold.  After all, those are also the lands of the water maidens, and the snow maidens have the greatest respect for their cousins.

(This post brought to you partly by demand, and partly by the reality that our little section of Florida – Florida – is dropping into freezing temperatures.)

Happy Watermaidens Day

Today I must advise you to pay careful attention to the rain.

You see, barring a few seductions here and there, water maidens tend to live rather solitary lives. Oh, that’s not to say that they don’t find the peace of their ponds and lakes and rivers and springs interrupted by mortals more often than they would like, or find their careful flower arrangements disturbed by children or alligators, or find themselves glumly removing trash from their waters. But none of these activities exactly involves conversation, and even these days, some fortunate water maidens can avoid even all that.

But that doesn’t quite mean that they don’t crave company.  Quite the opposite. Or that they don’t wish to dance.

The difficulty, of course, is arranging such matters. Water maidens have never been terribly comfortable with the formality of fairy courts. Or, for that matter, vice versa – many of the noblest of fairy queens have been known to make quite unkind comments regarding the puddles that water maidens often leave in their wake – to say nothing of the occasional unfortunate events with wilting water lilies and seaweeds.  So gathering at the fairy courts – although this may be their right and privilege – is rarely the first choice.

Nor are water maidens ever particularly comfortable long away from water, or in water that is not their own. They can stand on land, certainly – they have even carried out the occasional seduction there, from time to time – and have even been known to venture a mile or so away from their water to obtain one of the latest electronic devices, or particularly fine chocolate.  Legend even tells of three maidens who never fail to creep to nearby windows to watch the latest episode of Game of Thrones.  (They are reportedly all on Team Dragon, and have threatened violent flooding if the final episode does not contain dragons flying in triumph.)  But these are for short periods only – an hour or two, at most – and not quite right for a gathering of water maidens.

And so, when a water maiden craves company, she summons the rain.

You might see it – a touch of mist over a puddle, or a pond; a glimmer of light on a river, or a shimmer against a white cloud. Or you might see it on the edge of the sky – a thin grey line that for a moment, flashes silver and gold.

And then the rain, summoning the water maidens.

Watch carefully, when the rain comes after something like this. Watch very carefully, for that flash of other, for a sudden shimmer, for a touch of cold on your skin.

It might just be a water maiden, inviting you to dance and sing.

Particularly today, which is, by decree fee, the official Water Maidens Day, a day for all water maidens to emerge from the waters.

If only for a moment.

Water Maidens Day is the idea of poet, writer and folklorist Nin Harris. I’m just borrowing it for fun.

(Also, for those of you in the northeast currently buried in snow, the water maidens feel you. They really, really do. But even their magic has limits.)

 

Happy Watermaidens Day

Once again, the fairy courts have met and declared that today is, by decree fee, Official Watermaidens Day.

Now, the trouble is how to inform the water maidens.

It is easy enough for the fairies to send out messages to mortals: a dream here, an enchanted drop of water there. Nothing spectacular, of course, nothing overt: just enough to let a mortal spend a moment or two, perhaps, thinking of water and dreams, shadow and light, or the sound of a drop of water falling on crystal. Nothing more than that; nothing that might let mortals know that fairies really are, well, real.  A moment, and it is done.

Water maidens, however, are harder to reach. They have never been ones to come to fairy courts, after all, which are, they explain, far too dry for their tastes. Even the ones concealed behind waterfalls, or filled with dancing fountains.   They are still filled with – how can the water maidens put this? – air.

And so the water maidens stay in their ponds, their rivers, their springs, climbing out only to explore a puddle or two, or perhaps snatch a luxury item or two from an unwary mortal, or even – for particularly bold water maidens – an hour or two of shopping.

Which means that the fairies must deliver the decree fee to the water maidens.

It is quite a daunting task: preparing messages that cannot drown in water or vanish in mist, yet cause no harm to the crystal clear waters some water maidens still jealously guard.  (Alas, other water maidens have found themselves guarding polluted waters – but that is something that impacts all fairy realms, not merely those of water.) Preparing messages that cannot be seen by mortals.

Preparing messages that water maidens will see.

Some fairies, it must be confessed, simply dodge out of the task entirely, decree fee or no decree fee. You must not blame them too much: they are, after all, fairies, and in some sections of the world it is simply too cold or too hot to ask anyone, especially a fairy, to do anything that involves getting out of a bed or that is not strictly confined to drinking tea brewed from moonlight or eating ice cream carved from starlight.

(This last, by the way, is a specialty of fairies from the Antarctic; should you ever be fortunate enough to taste some, be sure to have some restorative tea of pennywort and mint nearby – the effect on mortals is said to be quite devastating.)

Other fairies, either more diligent or more interested in saving their ears, noses and feet from the fury of the fairy queens (who can become quite creative when crossed) resignedly show up to their assigned clouds or caves or tall standing stones and set to work.

I fear that their precise methods are so secret that were I to attempt to list them here, not only would this blog disappear, but also every computer attempting to read this blog. Oh, not right in front of your eyes, of course. You would just happen to find yourselves distracted – just for a second – a cat, perhaps (fairies love to work through cats) – the scent of chocolate (fairies find this very practical) – a sudden explosion (fairies work with what they need to work with) – the sudden realization that you really, really have to call this person right away, like now (fairies also like to work through guilt) – only to find, when you turn back, that somehow you or someone else has moved your computer. Someplace. You’ll find it, of course. Very soon. In the meantime, you might as well head out and buy a replacement – you’ve wanted one for awhile, haven’t you?

By the time you return, or think to use a cell phone or table, this blog entry would be quite, quite gone.

So let us not risk your computers. Let us instead discuss what happens when these messages are released into the wind and the rain, or, in certain particular cases, delivered in person by fairy hands.

Don’t try to look for them: you will never see a fairy, much less a fairy message, when you are looking.

But you might see a quick swirl of air, a quick dazzle of light, a shadow where you should not see a shadow. Or hear a joyous tinkling bell or a howl of the wind, in a place without a bell or wind.

And if the drink you are holding in your hands quivers a little, for no reason at all; if you think you hear an echo of music while you stand in the shower, or see a rainbow as you pour water into a pot; if you see the wind spin up the falling rain into a whirl of water and dance, or find yourself dreaming of water; or simply feel your breath suddenly catch –

Well. That might be a water maiden, catching a fairy hand.

Watermaidens Day is the brainchild of folklorist, editor, poet, storyteller and scholar Nin Harris. I’m just borrowing it for fun.

Happy Watermaidens Day

Today is, by decree fee from some of the more remote fairy courts, the Official Day of Watermaidens.

Thus, you may have found yourself wondering – quite helplessly, through no real fault of your own – how to catch a water maiden. You may have found yourself thinking of the wealth some of these water maidens are said to guard, although in truth this is only a few of the water maidens, and only in particularly cold or particularly swift or particularly deep rivers and lakes that can be explored only while holding a flower grown from a living diamond in your mouth, with a ruby formed from a broken heart in your left hand and an emerald formed from bird song in your right. Try to swim to the bottom of these lakes or rivers without all three, and you may well find the bottom, but not the gold, unless you know how to transform the laughter of water maidens into spun gold. (Most alchemists recommend starting with unicorn hair.)

Or you may be telling yourself, more practically, that a water maiden has fewer calories than the chocolate that will be going on sale tomorrow – although this, you should be warned, is not entirely true. Water maidens themselves cannot be consumed –they swiftly turn to water in mortal mouths, a defense developed against bears and other less civilized creatures – and frequently demand very luxurious, very caloric, gourmet meals. You may be better off indulging in the chocolate.

Or, you may have sipped a glass of tap water, or gulped down a bottle of pure spring water trapped in plastic, and found yourself dreaming of a wild eyed maiden with blue – or was it green? – or clear? – or dark? – hair.

In any case, you may now find yourself wanting – more than wanting, craving to summon a water maiden.

As you might guess, it is hardly an easy task, even for those living near water, even for those who have built homes on clear lakes in the hopes of seeing these maidens, contenting themselves with glimpses of birds and alligators instead. Those living near deserts may have even less hope. But. It can be done.

It does not take much: living water gathered from the earth – not the water trapped in pipes that rushes to your homes, too wild or beaten from its imprisonment to be controlled, but living water stolen from the surface of the earth – distilled starlight (best stored in bottles carved from aquamarine) – a piece of unworked turquoise, the claw of a dragon, a lace from a seven-league boot, the flight of an owl, all pummeled and mixed together. When you have it, shaking and stirring in your hands, sing.

Do not worry if you can sing or not, or if the neighbors will hear and call the police, or if the nearby dogs and cats will object to the sound. Sing.

Wait.

Or, instead, take a cup of liquid in your hands as the twilight creeps upon your home, and hold it, for a moment, thinking of water maidens and other things that lurk in the shadows. Sip it slowly, and place the cup by your bed as you dream. And if, in the morning, your pillow is a little damp, and you remember hints of green and blue and clear and cool and smooth and tingly and soothing all at once –

You may find yourself singing songs of water and dreams later that day. You were warned.