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05 August 2005 @ 02:26 pm
The CatfishWoman  
This piece represents a personal impression of a genius loci or 'spirit of place'. I've sensed this particular faery many times while walking along the shore of the lake near my home. She tends to be elusive, somewhat sullen, but always watchful of her territory. Like many other mermaids (and lakemaids, for that matter) in world myth, she possesses a dangerous side, and her murky waters have been known to lure men to their death.

Even though the lake itself is man-made, I do not believe that she is a new inhabitant of the area; she very likely resided in the immediate vicinity when only the stream, which was dammed to create the lake, ran through the valley. I think it is very possible though that her haunt expanded as a result of the building of the lake. The larger body of water allows her a greater vantage point from which to guard and observe. As a creature of the dark, weed-choked waters of the lake, it seemed entirely befitting that she revealed herself as a CatfishWoman in this image. Specifically, her form and coloring are based on the Channel Catfish (Ictalurus punctatus), a species which actually does live in the lake. Sleek and scaleless, she is adept at slipping below the surface without leaving a solitary ring in her wake. Interestingly, another common name for this fish is "lady cat."

copyright Desiree Isphording 2005

While in the middle of writing a book review, at a time when I had temporarily set this piece aside with only the foreground and mid-ground completed since I couldn't determine the proper background setting, a strange verse suddenly came into my head:
follow the Catfish Woman
to the edge of the ravine
but beware the ring of trout lilies
all is not as it seems
In European folklore, rings of fertile grass or mushrooms were said to mark the circular paths of Faery revelry. That same body of folklore also cautions against tresspassing the boundary of a fairy ring or otherwise disturbing it. People who dared to pass into the ring sometimes never reemerged on the other side, and if they did return to the land of mortals it was often as great cost, for time passes strangely in Faery: a youth could step into the circle, but a haggard old man steps out; someone strong and able could enter, but the one who exits could be withered and lame. Scientifically speaking, the phenomenon historically called fairy rings are the result of a spreading fungus which grows outwards in a radial fashion. In this case, the boundary of the ring is marked with Trout lilies.
Crossposted to spookyfaeries and my own journal.