"They slept until the black raven, the blithe hearted, proclaimed the joy of heaven." -- "Beowulf"

"Sons of Anarchy" ended Tuesday, but the debate has just begun: Who the heck was the Homeless Woman who handed Jax (Charlie Hunnam) the tattered blanket, with just two words: "It's time"?

Fans know the moment and know her well -- a subject of speculation going back to the very early seasons, and the speculation has only ramped up in the wake of the finale.

Homeless Woman has suddenly turned into a meme -- a phenomenon peculiar to the Internet, in which something is repeated endlessly, and futilely.

Fans want to know who Homeless Woman is. Creator Kurt Sutter is offering no clues ...

Homeless Woman has appeared in past seasons at odd intervals, usually when something momentous is about to happen, and then she vanishes.

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She has been interpreted variously as a ghost, or witch, or prophetess.

She is either a Sutter fever dream, or maybe his smartest MacGuffin.

She could mean either nothing -- or everything, as the clue to the entire series and to Jax, and to the meaning all that came before and all that may follow. (Sutter is, you know, planning sequels and prequels. We may never be able to escape SAMCRO.)

So today, readers, let's decide once and for all who the Homeless Lady is, thereby settling this debate and moving on to other important matters -- like the real work I'm supposed to do today.

But this is all just too much fun. I can't help myself.

Let's start with the obvious. The ghost ... "Who are you?" Jax asks, which of course is meant to evoke Hamlet's question of that phantom who walked the battlements of Elsinore, Hamlet's own murdered father, who then explained to Hamlet that he had been murdered by the husband of Hamlet's mother, and that Hamlet must seek revenge, etc.

As "SOA" fans know -- really, this is almost too obvious to point out, but here goes, anyway -- Sutter has long evoked "Hamlet" as the superstructure for his overall story. He reinforces this with the final quote on screen: "Doubt thou the stars are fire, doubt that the sun doth move, doubt truth to be a liar, but never doubt I love ... "

Nice touch, Kurt, and a tricky one, too. For this is from the letter that Hamlet sends to Ophelia, and which Polonius sees as evidence of his madness. (If I'm wrong, Shakespeare scholars, please don't hesitate to holler. But if memory serves. ... )

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  [Reader Kevin Hoffman in fact has given me a much more concise reading of this passage: 

"More precisely, Polonius interprets Hamlet's letter as proof of the young man's hots for his daughter Ophelia and the supposed source of his erratic behavior. For Hamlet, it is all part of his 'antic disposition' he has seen fit to put on in order to veil his true purpose of corroborating the story his dad's ghost has told him about his uncle Claudius and his mama Gertrude. Poor Ophelia really gets taken for a ride --pun intentional, a la SOA -- just like Tara."]

The wandering ghost idea has long been reinforced with specifics: That Homeless Woman is in fact the orb of Emily Putner, mother of Brooke Putner; Emily was killed in that semitrailer crash that killed Jax's father, John. (All of course engineered by Gemma and Clay -- so Emily was essentially murdered too.)

So is the Homeless Woman a ghost? No -- ghosts can't carry a very real blanket, because they tend to slip through their ghostly hands. (Recall, she gave Jax the blanket, which he used to shield himself, in a grim reaper pose, before gunning down August Marks.)

Let's go now to other interpretations, which I tend to favor, but again, nothing is final here.

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-- Homeless Woman is indeed a magical figure who has shape-shifted from a raven -- but not from a crow. As silly as this may sound, consider that Sutter drew from three primary sources for "Sons of Anarchy" -- the Bible; "Hamlet," as mentioned; and, as I've covered in other posts, Greek mythology. The final scenes in the Tuesday finale (of course) were seen by every single viewer as Jax riding to his death, as some sort of Christ-like figure dying for the sins of others, etc.

Even Vic Mackey says "Jeeeeesus" just before impact -- just so we don't miss the point.

But I suspect Sutter was playing with viewers' heads a bit, leaving the real meaning to the final scene: a raven and a crow picking at the very loaf of bread that Homeless Woman had been eating earlier.

Had Sutter really meant to say that Homeless Woman had prophesied Jax's end all along, and that she shape-shifted to witness her prophecy?

The very first scene of the entire series also featured these two birds, by the way ...

And if not, how did that loaf of bread get there, anyway? By helicopter?

The words of the song that Sutter had written specifically for this scene seem to indicate the raven theory:

"On a blanket made of woven shadows

Flew up to heaven

On a raven's glide

These angels have turned my wings to wax

Now I feel like Judas from grace tonight ... "

By the way, in the Bible, the raven essentially disobeyed Noah -- sent to find dry land during the flood, it just kept on flying. For disobeying the word of God, its feathers were turned from white to black ...

So Homeless Woman is a raven. (Hmm.)

-- Homeless Woman is indeed a magical figure who has shape-shifted from a crow. I like this theory too, for this brings Ovid into the mix -- Ovid, the great Roman poet, whose book, "Metamorphoses," charts various instances of shape-shifting, as epigrams that offer insights into the nature of violence, human suffering and fate.

Coronis was the lover of Apollo, and was pregnant with his child. Then ... she had an affair. Apollo -- who ends up killing Coronis and the unborn child -- is also furious at the crow who was meant to guard her. As punishment, the crow's feathers are turned black ...

Hmmm. Crow ... SAMCRO ... unborn child, maybe a reference to the Homeless Woman's empty baby carriage . (Hmm.)

-- Homeless Woman is Poe's Raven. Ah yes, Edgar Allen Poe's "The Raven." And all that.

Remember -- Jax demanded to know who Homeless Woman was, much as the narrator of Poe's poem wanted to know who the raven was.

The raven offered just this clue: "Nevermore."

Nevermore WHAT?

"And the Raven, never flitting, still is sitting, still is sitting

On the pallid bust of Pallas just above my chamber door;

And his eyes have all the seeming of a demon's that is dreaming,

And the lamp-light o'er him streaming throws his shadow on the floor;

And my soul from out that shadow that lies floating on the floor

Shall be lifted - nevermore!"

So there you have it, dear and patient readers. I really don't have a bloody clue who Homeless Woman is or was. But at least I had fun trying to figure out who she was.

Now, if you'll excuse me, I have to do some real work. ...