Wednesday, 4 December 2013

The Wraith

Traditional maritime folklore believed that women (especially red haired women) were so unlucky that sailors and fishermen would go home rather than sail immediately after meeting one. It also dictated that no-one must ever whistle aboard a ship - for it was to call upon a wind. Whistling would bring either dangerous high winds, or some alternative form of bad luck.

I knew her story as a child - by heart. Whispered in hushed voices and tales spun under bedsheets in the dark. By early winter gloom and late flash light. By the wooden sill of the window we stretched on tiptoes and scanned the inky shoreline for her like.

We grew up with her tale, the beautiful lady they called a wraith - of the beach, of the coves and of the cave. Of the cliff and the headland and the sheer drop - metres, metres, to the waves. They said to look upon her face - more bewitching than any mortal born on earth - was to firmly set foot on a treacherous path to a bitter end.

Folks from round here said she was the devil sent to men.

The Wraith

The wraith begins,
winter nights when haar rolls in,
sea and land and ragged bitter cliff merge - lost in mist.

She'll take you close in her embrace,
smooth your cheek and wind whipped hair,
pull on heavy woollen cloak and drag on coat and tail.

No sane man from hereabouts would look her in the face.

Would walk in gale,
venture out in dark and rain,
lose the sense of what their mothers warned them way back when.

From where she comes be sure to know that she will come again.

shifting sands and shifting dress,
vivid, brilliant, living, breathing bone and hair and flesh.

Terror equals beauty equals deadly claim to stake.

To whistle storm upon a boat,
upon a crew hell bent on home,
upon those lost and local left in water on their own.

They say she offers icy hand but doesn't guide you home.

So keep yours safe,
hold your bundled swaddled babes,
stay from off the battered shore in winter's howling gail.

From her domain -
queen of grit and ocean wave,
vicious, wicked woman sent from deepest, dankest place.

If you're from here or hereabouts beware the sand storm wraith.

If you enjoy my writing you might enjoy my little book - A Familiar Voice - which is available on special offer until Christmas. 

Prose for Thought


  1. Bravo. Bravo. Bravo. This was simply superb... I was totally entranced, hypnotised by this... pulled in by the wraith. But I have to say, red heads get such a raw deal. I love her power. I love yours with words.... X

  2. Oh my, I could almost hear the waves crashing against the shore as I sat here and read with eager eyes. Beautiful, beautiful words. It so needs to be read out loud.

  3. This is fantastic! so atmospheric. The idea of the icy hand that doesn't guide you home really gave me the shivers. The perfect poem for today's storm!

  4. No less creepy in the light of day! I love the line Queen of grit. There is a horror film waiting to be written here!

  5. "vivid, brilliant, living, breathing bone and hair and flesh." great description of her. Hope you're enjoying your stormy day - this is perfect for it isn't it. Did you see her...?

  6. This is beautiful story telling. Queen of grit and ocean wave is just fabulous. I think your writing and story telling is getting better Helen, and it was pretty spectacular to begin with. Well done xx

  7. This is as beautiful to read today as it was to listen to yesterday :-)

  8. OOhhh you've just given me chills. Loved this so much. #prose4t

  9. Helen i love reading your post, you really are a very gifted writer xx

  10. Absolutely beautiful. Your poetry always has such vivid imagery - so much so that you are transported there. Thank you for linking to Prose for thought x


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