Fertile Ground Portland

A Festival of New Works Blog

Investigating La Llorona December 2, 2009

Filed under: the creative process — fertilegroundpdx @ 3:48 am

What is it that is so compelling about a woman who kills her children? Throughout time we’ve been fascinated, disgusted, drawn and repelled by the fate of the woman who chooses some other goal (revenge, love, riches) over the fate of her own children.

While researching the figure of La Llorona, the wailing woman of Latin American mythology for their Fertile Ground project Memory Water: A Tale of Love, Loss and Liquid, collaborators Chisao Hata, Andrea Stolowitz and Samantha Van Der Merwe discovered that the myth of the child killing woman trapped in the “in-between” has an international array of counterparts. Here’s a few others for you to consider:

Banshee: In Irish legend, a banshee wails around a house if someone in the house is about to die.

The Onryō: (Japan) Ghosts in this in-between state who are very powerful from love, jealousy, hatred or sorrow can bridge the gap back to the physical plane where they can haunt and wreak havoc on their earthly tormentors.

The White Lady: (U.S.A & Europe) is a type of female ghost purported to appear in many rural areas, and who is supposed to have died or suffered trauma in life.

The lady in white of Latuda: (U.S.A) is a young mother, who had on a fateful day in 1927 left her child sleeping at home while she ran a quick errand at the general store. After an avalanche killed her child, she hung herself in the upper floors of the mine office. To this day the lady in white walks the streets of this ghost town, seemingly unaware that the town now lay in ruins.

Dames Blanches (meaning literally white ladies), in French mythology or folklore, were female spirits or supernatural beings, comparable to the White Women of both Dutch and Germanic mythology. They lurk in narrow places such as ravines, fords, and on bridges, and try to attract passerby attention.

Witte Wieven (Dutch) are thought to be wise women, herbalists and medicine healers who took care of people’s physical and mental ailments. It was said they had the talent for prophecy and looking into the future. They had a high status in the communities, and so when they died ceremonies were held at their grave sites to honor them. According to mythology, their spirits remained on earth, and they became living spirits (or elven beings) that either helped or hindered people who encountered them. They tended to reside in the burial sites or other sacred places. It was thought that mist on a grave hill was the spirit of the wise woman appearing, and people would bring them offerings and ask for help.

the Weisse Frauen (meaning White Women), in Continental Germanic mythology and folklore, are elven-like spirits that may have derived from Germanic paganism in the form of legends of light elves (Old Norse: Ljósálfar). They are described as beautiful and enchanted creatures who appear at noon and can be seen sitting in the sunshine brushing their hair or bathing in a brook. They may be guarding treasure or haunting castles. They entreat mortals to break their spell, but this is always unsuccessful. The mythology dates back at least to the Middle Ages and was known in the present-day area of Germany.

Spooky cool, eh? Can’t wait to see what they do with these juicy archetypes in the show.

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One Response to “Investigating La Llorona”

  1. paul Says:

    don’t quite see the connection to ‘child-killing women’ in the other “white woman(men)” tales?….but very interesting nonetheless….


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