Rhyme of the Rosewater Hag

Unknown [Dishonored]


[Excerpt from an almanac on folk tales and superstitions of Gristol]

So far in this almanac we have cataloged many trite and ignorant, if somewhat harmless tales, but we must now turn to that special class of folk customs that can only be called wicked and pernicious. The worst of these is perhaps the Rhyme of the Rosewater Hag. Variants of this accursed poem seem to predate even the founding of Dunwall, though its ultimate origins are lost to us. As to its meaning, some consider it a tale of revenge by a mother against her own daughter. Others see it as a supplication meant to solicit the attention of some ancient spirit from the Void. In any case, the ritual surrounding the poem is profusely morbid, and in many regions is used as a primitive means of settling the matter between two parties where one has accused the other of falsehood. It is performed as follows:

First, whoever is to be tested must find a fountain of standing water and cover the surface with fallen rose petals. Once there are sufficient petals as to completely obscure the water, you must close your eyes firmly, and place both hands within the fountain so that they are submerged beneath the blanket of rose petals. Then you are to recite the following verses:


Petals, petals on the waterTell me, tell me, where's your daughter?

Has she drowned beneath the mark?Has she vanished in the dark?

Petals, petals on the waterTell me, tell me, where's your daughter?

Has she trysted by the well?Has she secrets left to tell?

Petals, petals on the waterTell me, tell me, am I your daughter?

After this you must lean into the fountain, lowering your head fully into the water and under the rose petals, face first with both eyes still squeezed tight. Count to three and then open your eyes. At that moment, it is said that the Rosewater Hag will arrive. If you are without fault you will see nothing, except that you will feel her gentle caress on the back of your neck. But if there is a falsehood or wickedness in your heart you will see the terrible face of the Rosewater Hag, a creature of indescribable horror. The hag will drown you in the fountain with a cord made of thorny vines.

Obviously, while the Abbey takes things very seriously, most authorities classify this tale as superstitious nonsense. However, it must be noted that every year there are at least half a dozen reports from the countryside, of young women found dead and blue-faced, with their necks nicked and scratched as if by a collar of thorns.