Ballads were the movies, newspapers, and classrooms of their time. Easy to remember and self contained, they could be taken anywhere and brought to life with nothing more than a single voice. They passed from singer to singer, carried on the breath, and some of them have endured to the present time, long after they ceased to be a central carrier of knowledge. We haveFrancis James Child to thank for the fact that so many of them, in so many different forms, have made it to us. This version of Tam Lin was assembled from his collection.
Deeply magical and Pagan to the core, this ballad is one of my favorites. Janet is definitely a blood red rose. She isn’t afraid to go wander the forest alone, and she isn’t afraid of what she finds there. She went looking for Tam Lin, wanting to see for herself what the fuss was about. The story is a fantasy, couched in the language of myth, where Beauty rescues the Prince, for once. She chooses her own path throughout, and at the end of the tale, we still don’t know what shape her life will take when we leave her with Tam Lin in her arms, newly taken from the Queen of Faerie herself. That is another Tale, after all.
You never know what you’ll find wandering in a wild place. Very few of us have an adventure as dramatic as Janet did, no matter what the news would have us believe, but wandering does change us. It doesn’t have to be done in a forest, or even in a physical location of any kind. A gathering where we know no one, a library’s shelves, or our own imaginations will take us to the unexpected.
Even wandering in our own neighborhood can be rewarding. If nothing else, we’ll have a deeper knowledge of the place we live in and a stronger connection to it. Something as simple as knowing where the blackberries grow and not being afraid to taste their sweetness is an adventure available to all of us. Even here in the heart of Oakland I can find them. How many of us know where the city parks are, and go to them?
Where do you wander? What adventures do you have?
Next Stop: Robert Burns