Tam Lin: a reunderstanding of desire

If you haven’t heard the Tricky Pixie recording of Tam Lin, go do that. I’ll wait. Really. (Eventually I’ll even edit in the right link, promise.)

Tam Lin is a story and a song that can be told many ways. For me, it might be a revolutionary reunderstanding and reclaiming of desire. I reclaim sexual desire of multitudinous forms even in the face of societal disapproval:

She’s come to the roses growing wild

she’s pulled a single one

when a wild young man appears

and cries ‘O, lady, let alone!

‘How dare you pull my roses out,

How dare you break my tree!

How dare you run in these green woods

Without asking leave of me?’

Says Janet fair ‘this wood’s my own

My father gave it me

And I can pluck myself a rose

Without asking leave of thee.’

This is my new motto: “I can pluck myself a rose / without asking leave of thee.”

QUILTBAG people ought to be able to pluck their roses without asking leave of the state, or, quite frankly, anyone. And if I want to use contraception, or have an abortion, I shouldn’t need to go begging leave. Roses and thorns will sort themselves out without any mortal pretending to superior authority apportioning them. I promise.

Reality’s funny that way, and really, the only way to be in a free relationship with reality is to honestly acknowledge and claim things like desire and love and the many other manifestations of the driving force of the universe.

There might even be a Christian idea hidden inside there. If our bodies are what God the Father gives us – and I don’t subscribe to that notion, but let’s just theorize – then “this wood’s my own, my Father gave it me…” might have tremendous theological resonance. Even if you want to replace “wood” with “hortus conclusus” or something similarly medieval…the conclusion is radically modern in terms of indivIdual rights, even for women, over their own bodies.

Whether you call it authenticity, or desire, or love, or any of its other myriad names, I think that some of the most beautiful pieces of art emerge from explorations of this theme. And if you want to cut off or limit the loving working-out of this moving force of nature, then you are the one who is unnatural, and you are the one driving yourself towards death, and you are the one who simply cannot stop and smell the roses, in your own garden or any other.

For that, I pity you.

About Literata

Literata is a Wiccan priestess and writer. She edited Crossing the River: An Anthology in Honor of Sacred Journeys, and her poetry, rituals, and nonfiction have appeared in works such as Mandragora, Unto Herself, and Anointed as well as multiple periodicals. Literata has presented rituals and workshops at Sacred Space conference, Fertile Ground Gathering, and other mid-Atlantic venues. Literata offers healing and divination services as well as customized life-cycle rituals. She is currently completing her doctoral dissertation in history with the support of her husband and four cats.
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