Category Archives: The Wanton Witch

All things wyrd and wonderful.

Tam Lin

The first appearance of the ballad of Tam lin is in the ‘The Complaynt of Scotland‘ which was printed in 1549.

I found the tale re told in a book which was part of a series of fairy stories around the world, which my local library had in the children’s section and which I worked my way through, many times.

It is about a headstrong young woman, named Janet who goes where she wills and falls in love with someone  who is under the thrall of the Queen of Fairies so she rescues him, by being brave and seeing through the glamours cast on him.

There are many different versions and variations of the ballad, most of them have been collated here at http://www.tam-lin.org/tamlin1.html

Of course one of the most famous modern english versions was recorded by Fairport Convention.

I don’t know if we will ever see a Disney movie version of Tam Lin, how ever I do know I preferred that Janet as a role model rather then Cinderella or Sleeping beauty growing up.  And then there is the haunting way it ends, with the last words given to the Queen of Fairies, which has always made me wonder what happened next for it seemed to me that this was not going to be the last encounter between her and Janet.

  1. Out then spak the Queen o Fairies,
    Out of a bush o broom,
    “Them that has gotten young Tam Lin
    Has gotten a stately-groom.”
  2. Out then spak the Queen o Fairies,
    And an angry woman was she,
    “Shame betide her ill-far’d face,
    And an ill death may she die,
    For she’s taen awa the bonniest knight
    In a’ my companie.
  3. “But had I kend, Tam Lin,” said she,
    “What now this night I see,
    I wad hae taen out thy twa grey een,
    And put in twa een o tree.”

What’s in a name?

What’s in a name? Does how we are named effect our Fate, our Wyrd or how we see ourselves?

Mostly I think not, but in my case it’s a bit odd. I’ve been a self declared witch for the last 20 years, but the concept was know to me well before that, so pretty much like most children being curious would look up to see who had the same name as me.

This was in the way back times before the internet, never mind search engines but I had a library card and knew how to use the index and make requests to get in the system delivered to my local library.  What I found to this day still bemuses me.

It was my grandmother who suggest my name to my mother when she came to visit her in the maternity hospital and that is how it came about that I was named Janet. Many people in Ireland think of it as being an English name, but it’s Scottish, just like my Nana.

Once I started digging, the first thing I found was the ballad of Tam Lin, which dates back to the mid 1500s and then it starts to appear in connection with Witchcraft.

From the mid 1500s up until the mid 1700s the name Janet appears time and again  as the name of women persecuted and usually killed for being witches. From the first person convicted and killed, Janet Bowman in 1572 to the last that of Janet Horne in 1727,  indeed so many women accused of being a witch, seemed to be called Janet it’s not know if Janet is really their name or if it had become pseudonym for witch.

Not that many of my peers knew any of this growing up, I was more likely to get a ribbing once they start to see the Rocky Horror Picture Show, with the female lead being Janet Weiss, thankfully I like the musical, must be awkward if you are Janet who does not.

One thing which has happened on and off for years in the pagan community is that people confuse me with someone else, so much so I have lost count the number of times I have been told I am not Janet or I am the ‘wrong’ Janet. But I guess that is to be expected when Ireland is a small country and it’s were Janet Farrar, who is an internationally known pagan Author makes her home.

Has my name resulted in me being a witch? No I don’t think so, I do know it opened me up to the history of Witchcraft at a young age, but I believe I have had a choice and did choose to be a witch, this time around, with the comfort that I was unlikely to be vilified, tortured and killed like those who have had the name before me.