Monday, June 18, 2007

Ravenswood Stories: The Woman Who Didn't Die

This trip to Scotland is already paying off for, some values of paying off. For Example:

The Story of the Woman Who Didn't Die

Once there was a woman who was abandoned by her husband. On her way to her family, she passed through the Ravenswood, and offered to help at the Inn, for her board and lodging. She got on well with the Landlady, and the arrangement was made permanent.

As it turned out she got on even better with the Landlord, and found herself pregnant. This not being in her Terms of Employment, she concealed this. Eventually the babe was born prematurely, and died the next day. To try and hide the body, the woman took the babe down to the river, meaning to throw it in. But overcome with grief, she just put it down in the reeds.

The body was found the next day, and was traced back to the woman. She was accused of killing the child, and, when found guilty, was sentenced to be hanged by the Black Lord of Ravenswood.

As it turned out, a Great Scholar was in the village, with his followers. After woman was hanged, he declared her dead and tried to claim the body for his anatomical studies. The villagers would not accept this, and a fight broke out between them and the Scholar's followers. Eventually, the villagers won, and prepared the body for burial.

On the way to the graveyard, a knocking was heard from the coffin. To every one's surprise, the woman was alive. This caused a legal dilemma - should they hang the woman again? As she had been declared dead, it was considered a miracle, and even the Black Lord of the Ravenswood would not challenge the judgement of Heaven. But as she had been declared dead, she was barred from the village, and from dealing with the living. And so she lived out in the forest, beyond the graveyard, looking paler and fainter as the seasons went by.

This story is stolen almost completely from the true tale of Maggie Dickson, known as Half Hangit Maggie, who was hanged under similar circumstances in 1724. I've made some changes, principally to the ending, which is now much crueler and stranger, and to the legal aspects (for example, Maggie was sentenced to death under the 1690 Concealment of Pregnancy act).