Fairies


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Related to Fairies: Types of fairies

Fairies

(religion, spiritualism, and occult)

Belief in fairies (or faeries) is ancient and widespread. Among the Celts of Scotland, Ireland, the Isle of Man, Wales and Britanny, and the Teutonic races of Scandinavia, Germany, and Britain, the fairies are seen as counterparts of humankind. They live in societies, with families and dwellings. The Irish word for fairy is sheehogue. The fairies are the "Gods of the Earth," according to the Book of Armagh. As the Tuatha De Danaan, they were the gods of pagan Ireland. In Highland Scotland, fairies are called daoine sithe or "men of peace."

J. F. Campbell, writing in 1890, said: I believe there once was a small race of people in these (British) islands, who are remembered as fairies, for the fairy belief is not confined to the Highlanders of Scotland. This class of stories is so widely spread, so matter-of-fact, hangs so well together, and is so implicitly believed all over the United Kingdom that I am persuaded of the former existence of a race of men in these islands who were smaller in stature than the Celts; who used stone arrows, lived in conical mounds like the Lapps, knew some mechanical arts, pilfered goods and stole children; and were perhaps contemporary with some species of wild cattle and horses.

The size of fairies is open to some controversy. Campbell believed them to be "smaller in stature than the Celts," yet not diminutive. Supposition from the witch trials was similar. Of Joan Tyrrye (1555), it was told how "at one time she met with one of the fairies, being a man, in the market of Taunton, having a white rod in his hand, and she came up to him, thinking to make an acquaintance of him, and then her sight was clean taken away for a time." (This, apparently, was not unusual. Many times when the fairies did not wish to be seen, the observer lost his or her sight for a period.) Joan, apparently, did not even realize he was a fairy but took him to be just another person in the marketplace. In Orkney, in 1615, Jonet Drever was found guilty of "fostering a bairn in the hill of Westray to the fairy folk, called on her our good neighbors." Alesoun Peirsoun of Fifeshire said in 1588 that "a man in green appeared to her, a lusty man, with many men and women with him." She also mentioned the fairies making their medicines: "the good neighbors make their salves with pans and fires, and gathered their herbs before the sun rising." Master John Walsh consulted with the fairies in Netherbury, Dorset, in 1566, and "went among the hills" to do it. He consulted with them at noon and at midnight. The Auldearne witch, Issobell Gowdie, in 1662 said she was "in the Downie-hills, and got meat there from the Queen of Fearrie, more than I could eat." She went on to say, "The Queen of Faerrie is brawlie clothed in white linens, and in white and brown clothes, and the King of Faerrie is a braw man, well favored, and broad faced." In all these instances—and many more—the fairies were of almost the same size as the humans. Sometimes a human would meet with a fairy and not realize, till later, that it was a fairy. There were even marriages recorded between fairies and humans. Shakespeare admitted their size when, in The Merry Wives of Windsor, he had Mistress Page, a full-grown woman, not only dress as a fairy but expect to be accepted as one.

In the Historia de Gentibus Septenrionalibus of Swedish bishop Olaus Magnus (1558), there is an illustration of a knight visiting a fairy hill. The fairies are shown as smaller than the knight, but by no means diminutive. Another indicator of the size of fairies is found in the references to changelings. It is said that sometimes fairies fancied a human child and would carry it away, leaving their own child in its place. The exchange might not be discovered for years, since the children were of comparable size.

One theory regards the identity of the "little people" as those who were historically known as the Picts. The Picts were of the same race as the Lapps. Lapps, Picts, and fairies were all small-statured races. The fairies were said to live inside hollow hillocks and under the ground. In Scotland and other areas of Britain, there are numerous underground structures and artificial mounds whose interiors show them to have been dwelling places. These are popularly known as "fairy hills" and, in some areas, as "Picts' houses." A manuscript of the Bishop of Orkney, dated 1443, states that when Harald Haarfagr conquered the Orkneys in the ninth century, the inhabitants were the two nations of the Papae and the Peti, both of whom were exterminated. The Peti were certainly the Picts. Of these Picts of Orkney, it is said that they "were only a little exceeding pygmies in stature and worked wonderfully in the construction of their cities, evening and morning, but in the midday, being quite destitute of strength, they hid themselves in little houses underground." Christina Hole speaks of "those primitive tribes who were conquered but not destroyed by the Celtic invaders and who continued for long afterwards to live in scattered communities in the wilder parts of the country. They were people of small stature and quick movements who dwelt in low turf-covered houses resembling green hillocks at first sight and easily overlooked by any casual traveller." She goes on to say, "That they sometimes inter-married with their conquerors seems clear from the many tales of fairywives, or of human women carried away to the fairy kingdom."

Although witches probably knew very little of the history of this small race, the two had many things in common, not least being their knowledge and use of herbs for medicinal purposes and their use of magic. Both also used "elf bolts"—the small arrowheads shot from the fingers.

Fairies frequented many parts of Durham in England. There is a hillock, or tumulus, near Bishopton and a large hill near Billingham, both of which used to be "haunted by fairies," according to local legend. Even Ferry-Hill, between Darlington and Durham, is evidently a corruption of "fairy hill."

The dwarfs of Yesso, in Japan, were small people who survived till the beginning of the seventeenth century. They were under four feet in height and lived in semi-subterranean pit dwellings. A belief about them has grown in recent times. The Aino word for "pit-dweller" is not unlike the word for a burdock leaf. It was known that these people were small; it did not take long, therefore, for the belief to spring up that their name meant they were "people who lived under burdock leaves" rather than "in pits." So, to many modern natives of Yesso, those historical dwarves were "so small that if caught in a shower of rain they could shelter under a dock leaf!" Similar thinking must have made the European fairy into the diminutive creature generally thought of today. The writings of Shakespeare (despite his probable accuracy in The Merry Wives of Windsor) and Spenser romanticized the fairies and made them part of the larger world of sprites and spirits, such as the elves, gnomes, goblins, and brownies.

Most modern-day Witches do believe in the spirits of nature, who they frequently see as tiny in size, and include "fairies" with them. It is possible that, over the years, the labels have become confused.

Fairies

(religion, spiritualism, and occult)

Belief in fairies (or faeries—spellings differ) is ancient and widespread. Among the Celts of Scotland, Ireland, the Isle of Man, Wales and Britanny, and the Teutonic races of Scandinavia, Germany and Britain, the fairies are seen as counterparts of humankind. They live in societies, with families and dwellings. The Irish word for fairy is sheehogue. The fairies are the “Gods of the Earth,” according to the Book of Armagh. As the Tuatha De Danaan, they were the gods of pagan Ireland. In Highland Scotland, fairies are called daoine sithe or “men of peace.”

J. G. Campbell said, “I believe there once was a small race of people in these [British] islands who are remembered as fairies, for the fairy belief is not confined to the Highlanders of Scotland. This class of stories is so widely spread, so matter-of-fact, hangs so well together, and is so implicitly believed all over the United Kingdom that I am persuaded of the former existence of a race of men in these islands who were smaller in stature than the Celts; who used stone arrows, lived in conical mounds like the Lapps, knew some mechanical arts, pilfered goods and stole children; and were perhaps contemporary with some species of wild cattle and horses.”

The dwarfs of Yesso in Japan were small people who survived till the beginning of the seventeenth century. They were less than four feet in height and lived in semi-subterranean pit dwellings. A belief about them has grown in recent times. The Aino word for “pit-dweller” is not unlike the word for a burdock leaf. It was known that these people were small; it did not take long, therefore, for the belief to spring up that their name meant they were “people who lived under burdock leaves” (rather than “in pits”). So, to many modern natives of Yesso, those historical dwarves were “so small that if caught in a shower of rain they could shelter under a dock leaf!” Similar thinking must have made the European fairy into the diminutive creature generally thought of today. The writings of Shakespeare (despite his probable accuracy in The Merry Wives of Windsor) and Spenser romanticized the fairies and made them part of the larger world of sprites and spirits; the elves, gnomes, goblins, brownies and similar.

The size of fairies is open to some controversy. Campbell believed they were “smaller in stature than the Celts” yet not diminutive. Evidence from the witchcraft trials supports this. It was said of Joan Tyrrye (1555) that “at one time she met with one of the fairies, being a man, in the market of Taunton, having a white rod in his hand, and she came up to him, thinking to make an acquaintance of him, and then her sight was clean taken away for a time.” This, apparently, was not unusual. Many times when the fairies did not wish to be seen, the observer lost his or her sight for a period. Joan, apparently, did not even realize he was a fairy but took him to be just another person in the marketplace. In Orkney, in 1615, Jonet Drever was found guilty of “fostering a bairn in the hill of Westray to the fairy folk, called on her our good neighbors.” In 1588, Alesoun Peirsoun of Fifeshire said, “a man in green appeared to her, a lusty man, with many men and women with him.” She also mentioned the fairies making their medicines, saying, “the good neighbors make their salves with pans and fires, and gathered their herbs before the sun rising.” In 1566, Master John Walsh consulted with the fairies in Netherbury, Dorset, and “went among the hills” to do it. He consulted with them at noon and at midnight. In 1662, the Auldearne witch, Issobell Gowdie, said she was “in the Downie-hills, and got meat there from the Queen of Fearrie, more than I could eat…. The Queen of Faerrie is brawlie clothed in white linens, and in white and brown clothes, and the King of Faerrie is a braw man, well favored, and broad faced.” In these and many more instances, the fairies were almost the same size as the humans. Sometimes a human would meet with a fairy and not realize, till later, that it was a fairy. There were even marriages recorded between fairies and humans. Shakespeare admitted their size when, in The Merry Wives of Windsor, he had Mistress Page, a full grown woman, not only dress as a fairy but expect to be accepted as one.

In the Historia de Gentibus Septenrionalibus, of Swedish bishop Olaus Magnus (1558), there is an illustration of a knight visiting a fairy hill. The fairies are shown as smaller than the knight, but by no means diminutive. Another indicator of the size of fairies is found in the references to changelings. It is said that sometimes fairies fancied a human child and would carry it away, leaving their own child in its place. The exchange might not be discovered for years, since the children were of comparable size.

One theory regarding the identity of the “little people” is that they were the people historically known as the Picts. The Picts were of the same race as the Lapps. Lapps, Picts, and fairies were all small-statured races. The fairies were said to live inside hollow hillocks and under the ground. In Scotland and other areas of Britain, there are numerous underground structures and artificial mounds whose interiors show them to have been dwelling places, and these are popularly known as “fairy hills” and, in some areas, as “Picts’ houses.” A manuscript of the Bishop of Orkney, dated 1443, states that when Harald Haarfagr conquered the Orkneys in the ninth century, the inhabitants were the two nations of the Papae and the Peti, both of whom were exterminated. The Peti were certainly the Picts. The Picts of Orkney “were only a little exceeding pygmies in stature and worked wonderfully in the construction of their cities, evening and morning, but in the midday, being quite destitute of strength, they hid themselves in little houses underground.”

Christina Hole speaks of “those primitive tribes who were conquered but not destroyed by the Celtic invaders and who continued for long afterwards to live in scattered communities in the wilder parts of the country. They were people of small stature and quick movements who dwelt in low turf-covered houses resembling green hillocks at first sight and easily overlooked by any casual traveler…. That they sometimes inter-married with their conquerors seems clear from the many tales of fairy-wives, or of human women carried away to the fairy kingdom.”

Although witches probably knew very little of the history of this small race, the two had many things in common, not least being their knowledge and use of herbs for medicinal purposes and their use of magic. Both also used the “elf bolts,” the small arrowheads shot from the fingers.

Fairies frequented many parts of Durham, in England. There is a hillock, or tumulus, near Bishopton, and a large hill near Billingham, both of which used to be “haunted by fairies” according to local legend. Even Ferry-Hill, between Darlington and Durham, is evidently a corruption of “fairy hill.”

Many modern day people do believe in spirits of nature, who they frequently see as tiny in size, and include “fairies” in with them. It is possible that, over the years, the labels have become confused.

Sources:

Buckland, Raymond: The Witch Book: The Encyclopedia of Witchcraft, Wicca and Neo-Paganism. Detroit: Visible Ink Press, 2002
Buckland, Raymond: Witchcraft From the Inside. St. Paul: Llewellyn, 1995
Campbell, John Gregorson: Popular Tales of the Western Highlands. Edinburgh, 1890
Campbell, John Gregorson: Superstitions of the Highlands and Islands of Scotland. Glasgow, 1900
Davidson, Thomas: Rowan Tree & Red Thread. Edinburgh: Oliver & Boyd, 1949
Hole, Christina: Witchcraft in England. New York: Charles Scribner’s, 1947
Hughes, Pennethorne: Witchcraft. London: Longmans, Green, 1952
James, E.O.: Prehistoric Religion. New York: Barnes & Noble, 1962
References in classic literature ?
But it is not; it simply means that she is doing as she has seen the fairies do; she begins by following their ways, and it takes about two years to get her into the human ways.
The fairies are exquisite dancers, and that is why one of the first things the baby does is to sign to you to dance to him and then to cry when you do it.
Well, these tricky fairies sometimes slyly change the board on a ball night, so that it says the Gardens are to close at six-thirty for instance, instead of at seven.
They were now loath to let her go, for, "If the fairies see you," they warned her, "they will mischief you, stab you to death or compel you to nurse their children or turn you into something tedious, like an evergreen oak.
There were six horsemen in front and six behind, in the middle walked a prim lady wearing a long train held up by two pages, and on the train, as if it were a couch, reclined a lovely girl, for in this way do aristocratic fairies travel about.
Maimie also noticed that the whole cavalcade seemed to be in a passion, tilting their noses higher than it can be safe for even fairies to tilt them, and she concluded that this must be another case in which the doctor had said "Cold, quite cold
Darker and more desolate seemed his stately home, and when the Fairies asked for flowers, he felt ashamed that he had none to give them.
His own, so cold and dark and dreary, his empty gardens where no flowers could bloom, no green trees dwell, or gay birds sing, all desolate and dim;--and while he gazed, his own Spirits, casting off their dark mantles, knelt before him and besought him not to send them forth to blight the things the gentle Fairies loved so much.
The old King, surrounded by the happy Fairies, sat in Violet's lovely home, and watched his icy castle melt away beneath the bright sunlight; while his Spirits, cold and gloomy no longer, danced with the Elves, and waited on their King with loving eagerness.
Really, he thought they had now talked enough about fairies, and it struck him that Tinker Bell was keeping very quiet.
It was about this time that the fairies suddenly took fright lest his love for his father should interfere with the plans they had made for the young prince.
This was the doing of the fairies, and we must suppose that they had their reasons for acting as they did.