Lady of the High Wilderness
Lady of the High Wilderness
Lady of the High Wilderness
Lady of the High Wilderness
Lady of the High Wilderness
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Lady of the High Wilderness

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This item is from last year's Gawain and the Green Knight Collection and is from my personal collection. She is ready to ship and will be on her way to you 3-5 days from purchase. And she is currently 20% off for the duration of my Halloween sale ;) 

 

Full Description: 

This strand is inspired by the unnamed wife of Bertilak of Haute Desert (i.e. The Green Knight) and the green belt (called a girdle) that she gifts to Gawain upon his departure for the Green Chapel. Gawain’s keeping of this sash is a breach of the exchange of winnings game he had played with his host while in the castle. The game, after all, required each man to hand over his “winnings” at the end of each day. Bertilak, who goes out hunting, returns and gifts Gawain with a deer, a boar, and fox on each of the three days, and Gawain gives Bertilak a series of romantic kisses — his “winnings” from the day, since the lady of the castle spends each of the three days trying quite hard to seduce him. Gawain cannot bring himself to part with the girdle, however, because the lady tells him that it will protect him from all harm, and Gawain is naturally quite worried about that impending blow he must receive from the Green Knight. As Bertilak/The Green Knight will tell him later on, the only mistake Gawain makes (the only blemish on his otherwise wholly honorable reputation) lies in his inability to let this sash go to it’s proper recipient, but Bertilak tries to reassure Gawain that this is both a little and a natural mistake to have made. Gawain takes this all quite hard, and rides back to Arthur’s court wearing the sash as a sign of his shame. I think, though, that we are meant to recognize that Gawain is being rather impossibly hard on himself, and that the sash should — rather than being a way of shaming himself -could instead serve as a reminder that no one can hope to be perfect in this life, even as they strive to be the best version of themselves (as Gawain quite keenly seeks to be in this story).

Back to the unnamed Lady though. Her and Bertilak’s castle is named the castle of “Haute Desert” which translates most directly as “high wilderness.” There is a lot more to these terms than first meets the eye though, as is the case with many Middle English words. “High” could and oftentimes did refer to elevation, but it could also refer to something deep or vast or even, in some contexts, Divine; it could still also refer to something elevated, refined, or lofty in status. Desert, in turn, could mean “desert” but was oftentimes used to refer to many types of wilderness (forests, wastelands, deserts, and so on). It also could refer to something someone “deserves” (i.e. "just deserts”). The castle, and her title, then, encompasses an array of contradictions that parallel the figure of the Green Knight: simultaneously fecund and barren, beautiful and desolate, cultured and wild. The fact that the castle, taking its name at its word, exists in a “desert” (oftentimes understood as a wilderness that is uninhabitable) only adds to the mysterious and paradoxical nature of both it and its inhabitants.

The is a mysterious figure in the end, because while she was clearly *in* on both the exchange of winnings game and the larger beheading game, we never actually get to hear her side of things, nor do we encounter her again after Gawain departs her and Bertilak’s castle. What we do learn, however, is that the old woman who she accompanies into the hall that first night of Gawain’s sojourn is none other than Morgan le Fay herself, who orchestrated the entire ordeal (sending Bertilak in the his Green Knight form to Arthur’s court). This raises fascinating, and ultimately unanswerable, questions about the lady’s connections to Morgan the “goddess” as Bertilak lovingly calls her. Is the lady and/or Bertilak a student of Morgans, as Bertilak tells us Morgan was of Merlin? What kinds of knowledge and magic might she hold also? What kind of relationship does she have with her husband Bertilak, given that both of them were quite keen on Gawain? While late medieval England had no room for open polyamorous love, let alone same-sex attraction, it is also a fact that such relationships absolutely occurred with frequency, then as now, no matter the severe risks involved in loving the person/people one loved.

And so, I think of all of these things whenever I read this story and encounter the Lady once again—as is the case with so many women in ancient stories, I wonder what kinds of other tales and futures and agencies we might give her. How, moreover, would *she* tell this particular tale?

I wove a bit of all of these musings into this strand as a result: the green tourmaline, chrome diopside, and maw sit sit jade evoke the green sash she gifts to Gawain (and all it signifies, especially its reminder to embrace and learn from ones imperfections), but the black represents all the parts of her story that are hidden from us, but that we might, in time, bring into the light (hence the choice of hypersthene and it’s at times coy, but still ever-present, chatoyance). Like the Green Knight, it is roughly 42” with a gorgeous focal clasp (of a cuffed hand). There are so many ways to wear this strand, and it pairs beautifully with its companion, The Goddess Morgne.