washer at the ford

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English name for a familiar figure in Irish, Scottish Gaelic, Welsh, and perhaps Breton oral tradition, who may appear locally under different names. A death omen, she is sometimes beautiful and weeping or may be ugly and grimacing. She washes bloody garments at the ford of a river and turns to tell the beholder that they are his or hers. The persona of the washer may be derived from the Mórrígan, although Badb can take on this role. In Irish oral tradition the washer is nearly synonymous with the banshee, in Scottish Gaelic tradition is the bean nighe, in Welsh Modron, in Breton tunnerez noz. Fiona Macleod [William Sharp] christianizes the figure as that of Mary Magdalene standing in the middle of a stream washing the souls who crave eternity in his The Washer of the Ford (Edinburgh, 1896).

Subjects: Religion.

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