The Role of the Female in the Supernatural genre
A light-hearted look at the various roles of the supernatural lady
So, what is the job of a woman in any supernatural setting? Is it to scare the living daylights out of you, or to tease you with her presence or merely to loiter, doing nothing but to simply float about a bit? Let’s look at what we have to work with:
One of the most common apparitions is a lady of sorts, in a long flowing dress of variable colours to which many have spun some lovelorn tale to give rise to the dress being her wedding gown. Sightings over many years have her wearing grey, white, green, brown or blue, even pink on occasion if she’s feeling girly. She tends to merely float about a bit, moaning for some lost, forgotten love that either died tragically or spurned her for another foolish lady. She can typically be found in a castle setting, walking through the thick stone walls, or wailing along the coastline on dark and stormy nights, usually the site of her rejection, where she took her own life out of despair. Any attempts at communication are rudely ignored as she is so far sunk in her melancholy. There is of course one lady that everybody knows not to attempt any sort of interaction, and that is, the ‘lady in black’ who does more than moan and groan and wail, she stares really, really hard and kills off children and ‘spoiler Alert’ the main character!
Perhaps the elderly nanny type is more to your taste. A kindly, gentle soul who is usually caught loitering around children’s bedrooms to tuck them in or sing them an old lullaby. If they are unlucky, she might even tickle their toes, move the bed around with them still in it or hover horizontally above their beds. After a few visits and a brief description from the child in question who is finally taken seriously by their exhausted parents, the spectral granny is usually found to be some long lost relative of the family, or a woman of the nursing variety who once lived in the house and due to being dead has forgotten that night-time, is sleep-time for children…Hmmm, someone needs to remind her.
Now, the banshee is nothing gentle or quiet, but is considered a deathly omen and wails loud enough to any idiot brave enough to listen as she tries to make some kind of a point. It seems she only likes the families of the Celtic origin and hangs around said families for generations, ensuring that each child reaching a certain age is told of the ancient family hag. She appears in all her fierce aspect, or her wails are heard on the wind, whenever some tragedy is on its way, yet, strangely, not enough time for the family to thwart said tragedy of course!
The seductive spectre who likes nothing more than to ‘molest’ any men within her space is a quiet temptress, so far as no wailing or screeching involved, (so far as I know anyway?). Sometimes being so bold as to slide in between the sheets and caress the lucky man with her cold, pale hands, perhaps stealing a kiss or two before she is stopped in her passionate attempts when the man either wakes, terrified and yells loud enough to, well, wake the dead! Perhaps he tires of her freezing hands on his skin and orders her to leave his bed, or his other half puts a stop to the proceedings with a shriek, a slap and running out of the room, pulling the reluctant spouse behind her! Not to be confused with the succubus, this is thought to be a demon woman who has sexual relations with men while they sleep. The seductress is beautiful, the other is, well, not to put too fine a point on it – hideous!
Faeries walk, or if tales are to be believed, fly around our world, stealing children and replacing them with fairy changelings, along with seducing men in the hope that they can entice them into the faerie realm. (Busy little faeries indeed!) There are so many variations of faerie, it is impossible to name all of them here. Gnomes. Pixie, Elf, Nymph. Are they good or evil? Dark or light. Big, ugly creatures, or tiny beings with gossamer wings whose jobs involve caring for the world we live in, and taking away our teeth, replacing it with cash.
Now witches, if fables…and society, are to be believed, are wicked, warty, hairy, green skinned old hags with pointy hats and pointy chins, who eat up children after enticing them into their gingerbread house with sweets, and flying around on broomsticks is their mode of travel, hastily followed by flying monkeys. They mean only harm to us ‘normal folk’ and will endeavour to do so unless a good faerie or a rare good witch can be found. Oh, and apparently they cackle… The only way to rid the world of said evil hag is to burn, hang or drown said woman…I mean, evil witch…?
Let us not forget the ‘famous ladies’ who’s nightly exercises have been attributed to a well known woman who lived in the house, castle, garden or even, cafe, and so it is supposed that it must be her or why else would she come back? Some have recognised her face from a portrait hanging in some gallery, yet we are more than aware that painters of old sneakily used any old face to use as a template? They may be old Queens, princesses, Duchesses who have either been beheaded and feel a bit miffed at having their lives cut short on a man’s whimsical decision, or they have apparently loved the place so much, they refuse to leave it to the next generation and basically say, ‘if you want the house, you get me for free’!
Whatever the role of women is in a supernatural setting, be she good, bad, or ugly, she certainly makes her presence known and leaves you in no doubt that you have witnessed, woman.
P.J. Roscoe – Award-winning author of historical, paranormal novels, and the Adventures of Faerie folk series, for children.