She’s nothin’ like they say she is, you know. Green haired, green toothed, frog-eyed creature with the tail of a six-foot eel. I mean, some people don’t even believe she’s a woman. But I’ve seen her, so I know.
I was recently invited to tell a story as part of WaterWeek 2015 at St Elisabeth’s church crypt in Eastbourne. The story, Elynge Ellett, is one that I’ve been working with for a while now, inhabiting it and being inhabited by it in different ways, and it’s the first story I’ve successfully managed to cross over from writing into performance.
It’s a story based on oral Sussex folklore, but is closely related to the story collected by the Brothers Grimm called The Nixie in the Millpond. In this story, collected by Michael O’Leary in his book Sussex Folktales, Elynge Ellett is the ‘green toothed, green haired, frog eyed creature’ of the Sussex marshes who is the local equivalent of the Grimms’ Nixie. The word ‘nixie’ became ‘nicor’ in the English language and ‘knucker’ in the Sussex dialect – a name for local water snakes and dragons, such as the legend of the Lyminster Knucker.
‘Knucker’ is also related to the old Saxon word ‘cnucl’, or knuckle – meaning a hinge/henge or join between two worlds. And it was fascinating to find out during another WaterWeek presentation that Sussex is home to a number of ‘knucker holes’ – deep natural bores into the watery world beneath the earth!
The evening, on Thursday 12th March, was an informative and eclectic approach to the theme of water, and just one of the many varied events taking place throughout the week. Thank you and well done to Charlotte Still and Clare Whistler for organising such a vibrant week of events.
Back in November, I told my first story at St Elisabeth’s crypt as part of the 2014 Eastbourne Festival. It was a story of three intertwining parts called The Goddess in the Crypt celebrating the murals that Hans Feibusch painted on the walls there. The murals depict the story of The Pilgrim’s Progress and show Christian and Christiana as they make their ways through the world towards the beyond. What’s remarkable about these murals is that they represent the feminine as well as the masculine aspects of Christ and Christianity, giving each equal prominence.
My story was an exploration into the silenced and forgotten feminine in Christianity, linking her to goddess figures from Celtic, Hindu and Gnostic spiritual stories and traditions.
A recording of the story can be watched by clicking on this link: http://www.eastbournelive.org.uk/mural
The theme of the silenced goddess has been a strong one for me, and I returned to it for an Experimental Writing exercise recently in A Valentine for Jesus.
I will be developing the Elynge Ellett story and further exploring the silenced goddess for my MA papers this term. I’ll be researching around the theme of utopian poetics in narrative structures and developing a dialectical narrative-metanarrative approach based partly on the New Narrative of Robert Gluck.