Thursday, 17 November 2011

Mikelmerck - the Roosh, the Washerwoman and the Duck Race

The Roosh is a dangerous river.  Never wide, it is nevertheless full of strong currents ready to trap the unwary.  Each year, visitors underestimate its power.  Running the whole length of Mikelmerck, the source lies high and tumbles relentlessly through the dale forming small waterfalls as it goes.  Notorious as one of the fastest rivers in Albion, it has been known to break its banks and flood, rendering the little arable land useless.

Jenny Greenteeth abandoned it long ago - Mikelmerckian children do not wander near its banks for her to entrap and she has been swept downstream herself too often.  Not so the Washerwoman.  She is seldom seen, but ever-present.  None bar a few of the powerful even know her name, but all fear her.  To see the Washerwoman is to see death.

When the river changes colour, the Washerwoman is at work.  She brings the floods and stirs the currents as she pummels the cloth of men's lives.  The Roosh is entirely her creature and she commands it.  For the many villages that run alongside the river, she is a being to be propitiated.

Customs and Places notes that in Strangmont they drop offerings from the Green Bridge every spring.  These are wooden waterfowl, lovingly made over the winter.  The wooden creatures are followed down the banks by the people as they race towards the finishing point.  The maker of the winning duck has the right to climb the Strangmont waterfall at midsummer and bath in the Roosh without harm.  Wainwright adds that this privilege is not often taken.  The number of surviving waterfowl is said to portend the likelyhood of flooding for the coming year, but Wainwright concludes that this is an unreliable method of prediction.

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