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Aelwaer’s Cat — 1 Comment

  1. She wasn’t a demonic entity but was part of the carnival tradition where everything is turned upside down and satirized. The magpie symboblised the fact she is a chatterer and a scold. One of the verses in the ballad goes

    “On Saint All-True’s head sits a chattering magpie which doesn’t shut up. Like this bird is a quarrelsome man who never shuts up but who never has anything good to say.”

    The name “All True” is satirical of course, gossip is rarely true (she’s also called Saint Quarrelsome in English). Similar mock saints were St Luyaert (St Sluggard), St Reijnuut (St Spendthrift) and St Prattler (St Babille) and they represented human follies and foibles.

    Below the woodcut is a sixteenth century verse explaining her attributes. Bolte previously published this text in 1894, with a preliminary introduction. Morris evidently didn’t bother to research it.

    In Dutch a lot can be found at http://www.dbnl.org/tekst/_spe011197501_01/_spe011197501_01_0012.php

    Aelwaer rides a donkey, who, according to the verse, “does not mess with and go” which is an expression for stubbornness or obstinacy. The grunt or squeal of the pig is the injustice in which she always lives with others. The crying of the cat also calls her a quarrel – it is not a demonic symbol!! The blaring magpie symbolises someone with a big mouth, who always wants to be right, it’s not a symbol of immortality.

    Morris really wasn’t one for doing his homework, sad to say, as I’ve found quite a few other errors of this sort in his works (and in other places he interprets almost anything as sexual symbolism and isn’t taken very seriously nowadays).

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