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The Fairy-Faith in Celtic Countries By W. Y. Evans-Wentz Characters: 394464

Updated: 2017-12-01 00:03

'During all these centuries the Celt has kept in his heart some affinity with the mighty beings ruling in the Unseen, once so evident to the heroic races who preceded him. His legends and faery tales have connected his soul with the inner lives of air and water and earth, and they in turn have kept his heart sweet with hidden influence.'-A. E.

Method of presentation-The logical verdict-Trustworthiness of legends-The Fairy-Faith held by the highly educated Celt as well as by the Celtic peasant-The evidence is complete and adequate-Its analysis-The Fairy-Tribes dealt with-Witnesses and their testimony: from Ireland, with introduction by Dr. Douglas Hyde; from Scotland, with introduction by Dr. Alexander Carmichael; from the Isle of Man, with introduction by Miss Sophia Morrison; from Wales, with introduction by the Right Hon. Sir John Rh?s; from Cornwall, with introduction by Mr. Henry Jenner; and from Brittany, with introduction by Professor Anatole Le Braz.


Various possible plans have presented themselves for setting forth the living Fairy-Faith as I have found it during my travels in the six Celtic countries among the people who hold it. To take a bit here and a bit there from a miscellaneous group of psychological experiences, fairy legends and stories which are linked together almost inseparably in the mind of the one who tells them, does not seem at all satisfactory, nor even just, in trying to arrive at a correct result. Classification under various headings, such, for example, as Fairy Abductions, Changelings, or Appearances of Fairies, seems equally unsatisfactory; for as soon as the details of folk-lore such as I am presenting are isolated from one another-even though brought together in related groups-they must be rudely torn out of their true and natural environment, and divorced from the psychological atmosphere amidst which they were first presented by the narrator. The same objection applies to any plan of dividing the evidence into (1) that which is purely legendary; (2) that which is second-hand or third-hand evidence from people who claim to have seen fairies, or to have been in Fairyland or under fairy influences; and (3) that which is first-hand evidence from actual percipients: these three classes of evidence are so self-evident that every reader will be able to distinguish each class for himself as it occurs, and a mechanical classification by us is unnecessary. So no plan seems so good as the plan I have adopted of permitting all witnesses to give their own testimony in their own way and in its native setting, and then of classifying and weighing such testimony according to the methods of comparative religion and the anthropological sciences.

In most cases, as examination will show, the evidence is so clear that little or no comment is necessary. Most of the evidence also points so much in one direction that the only verdict which seems reasonable is that the Fairy-Faith belongs to a doctrine of souls; that is to say, that Fairyland is a state or condition, realm or place, very much like, if not the same as, that wherein civilized and uncivilized men alike place the souls of the dead, in company with other invisible beings such as gods, daemons, and all sorts of good and bad spirits. Not only do both educated and uneducated Celtic seers so conceive Fairyland, but they go much further, and say that Fairyland actually exists as an invisible world within which the visible world is immersed like an island in an unexplored ocean, and that it is peopled by more species of living beings than this world, because incomparably more vast and varied in its possibilities.

We should be prepared in hearing the evidence to meet with some contradictions and a good deal of confusion, for many of the people who believe in such a strange world as we have just described, and who think they sometimes have entered it or have seen some of its inhabitants, have often had no training at all in schools or colleges. But when we hear legendary tales which have never been recorded save in the minds of unnumbered generations of men, we ought not on that account to undervalue them; for often they are better authorities and more trustworthy than many an ancient and carefully inscribed manuscript in the British Museum; and they are probably far older than the oldest book in the world. Let us, then, for a time, forget that there are such things as libraries and universities, and betake ourselves to the Celtic peasant for instruction, living close to nature as he lives, and thinking the things which he thinks.

But the peasant will not be our only teacher, for we shall also hear much of first importance from city folk of the highest intellectual training. It has become, perhaps always has been in modern times, a widespread opinion, even among some scholars, that the belief in fairies is the property solely of simple, uneducated country-folk, and that people who have had 'a touch of education and a little common sense knocked into their heads', to use the ordinary language, 'wouldn't be caught believing in such nonsense.' This same class of critics used to make similar remarks about people who said there were ghosts, until the truth of another 'stupid superstition' was discovered by psychical research. So in this chapter we hope to correct this erroneous opinion about the Fairy-Faith, an opinion chiefly entertained by scholars and others who know not the first real fact about fairies, because they have never lived amongst the people who believe in fairies, but derive all their information from books and hearsay. In due order the proper sort of witnesses will substantiate this position, but before coming to their testimony we may now say that there are men and women in Dublin, in other parts of Ireland, in Scotland, in the Isle of Man, and in Brythonic lands too, whom all the world knows as educated leaders in their respective fields of activity, who not only declare their belief that fairies were, but that fairies are; and some of these men and women say that they have the power to see fairies as real spiritual beings.

In the evidence about to be presented there has been no selecting in favour of any one theory; it is presented as discovered. The only liberty taken with some of the evidence has been to put it into better grammatical form, and sometimes to recast an ambiguous statement when I, as collector, had in my own mind no doubt as to its meaning. Translations have been made as literal as possible; though sometimes it has been found better to offer the meaning rather than what in English would be an obscure colloquialism or idiomatic expression. The method pursued in seeking the evidence has been to penetrate as deeply and in as natural a way as possible the thoughts of the people who believe in fairies and like beings, by living among them and observing their customs and ways of thought, and recording what seemed relevant to the subject under investigation-chance expressions, and legends told under various ordinary conditions-rather than to collect long legends or literary fairy-stories. For these last the reader is referred to the many excellent works on Celtic folk-lore. We have sought to bring together, as perhaps has not been done before, the philosophy of the belief in fairies, rather than the mere fairy-lore itself, though the two cannot be separated. In giving the evidence concerning fairies, we sometimes give evidence which, though akin to it and thus worthy of record, is not strictly fairy-lore. All that we have omitted from the materials in the form first taken down are stories and accounts of things not sufficiently related to the world of Faerie to be of value here.

In no case has testimony been admitted from a person who was known to be unreliable, nor even from a person who was thought to be unreliable. Accordingly, the evidence we are to examine ought to be considered good evidence so far as it goes; and since it represents almost all known elements of the Fairy-Faith and contains almost all the essential elements upon which the advocates of the Naturalistic Theory, of the Pygmy Theory, of the Druid Theory, of the Mythological Theory, as well as of our own Psychological Theory, must base their arguments, we consider it very adequate evidence. Nearly every witness is a Celt who has been made acquainted with the belief in fairies through direct contact with people who believe in them, or through having heard fairy-traditions among his own kindred, or through personal psychological experiences. And it is exceedingly fortunate for us that an unusually large proportion of these Celtic witnesses are actual percipients and natural seers, because the eliminations from the Fairy-Faith to be brought about in chapter iii by means of an anthropological analysis of evidence will be so extensive that, scientifically and strictly speaking, there will remain as a residual or unknown quantity, upon which our final conclusion must depend, solely the testimony of reliable seer-witnesses. That is to say, no method of anthropological dissection of the evidence can force aside consideration of the ultimate truth which may or may not reside in the testimony of sane and thoroughly reliable seer-witnesses.

Old and young, educated and uneducated, peasant and city-bred, testify to the actual existence of the Celtic Fairy-Faith; and the evidence from Roman Catholics stands beside that from Protestants, the evidence of priests supports that of scholars and scientists, peasant seers have testified to the same kind of visions as highly educated seers; and what poets have said agrees with what is told by business men, engineers, and lawyers. But the best of witnesses, like ourselves, are only human, and subject to the shortcomings of the ordinary man, and therefore no claim can be made in any case to infallibility of evidence: all the world over men interpret visions pragmatically and sociologically, or hold beliefs in accord with their own personal experiences; and are for ever unconsciously immersed in a sea of psychological influences which sometimes may be explainable through the methods of sociological inquiry, sometimes may be supernormal in origin and nature, and hence to be explained most adequately, if at all, through psychical research. Our study is a study of human nature itself, and, moreover, often of human nature in its most subtle aspects, which are called psychical; and the most difficult problem of all is for human nature to interpret and understand its own ultimate essence and psychological instincts. Our whole aim is to discover what reasonableness may or may not stand behind a belief so vast, so ancient, so common (contrary to popular non-Celtic opinion) to all classes of Celts, and so fundamental a shaping force in European history, religion, and social institutions.

When we state our conviction that the Fairy-Faith is common to all classes of Celts, we do not state that it is common to all Celts. The materialization of the age has affected the Fairy-Faith as it has affected all religious beliefs the world over. This has been pointed out by Dr. Hyde, by Dr. Carmichael, and by Mr. Jenner in their respective introductions for Ireland, Scotland, and Cornwall. Nevertheless, the Fairy-Faith as the folk-religion of the Celtic peoples is still able to count its adherents by hundreds of thousands. Even in many cases where Christian theology has been partially or wholly discarded by educated Celts, in the country or in the city, as being to them in too many details out of harmony with accepted scientific truths, the belief in fairies has been jealously retained, and will, so it would seem, be retained in the future.

We are now prepared to hear about the Daoine Maithe, the 'Good People', as the Irish call their Sidhe race; about the 'People of Peace', the 'Still-Folk' or the 'Silent Moving Folk', as the Scotch call their Sìth who live in green knolls and in the mountain fastnesses of the Highlands; about various Manx fairies; about the Tylwyth Teg, the 'Fair-Family' or 'Fair-Folk', as the Welsh people call their fairies; about Cornish Pixies; and about Fées (fairies), Corrigans, and the Phantoms of the Dead in Brittany. And along with these, for they are very much akin, let us hear about ghosts-sometimes about ghosts who discover hidden treasure, as in our story of the Golden Image-about goblins, about various sorts of death-warnings generally coming from apparitions of the dead, or from banshees, about death-candles and phantom-funerals, about leprechauns, about hosts of the air, and all kinds of elementals and spirits-in short, about all the orders of beings who mingle together in that invisible realm called Fairyland.


Introduction by Douglas Hyde, LL.D., D. Litt., M.R.I.A. (An Craoibhín Aoibhinn), President of the Gaelic League; author of A Literary History of Ireland, &c.

Whatever may be thought of the conclusions drawn by Mr. Wentz from his explorations into the Irish spirit-world, there can be no doubt as to the accuracy of the data from which he draws them. I have myself been for nearly a quarter of a century collecting, off and on, the folk-lore of Western Ireland, not indeed in the shape in which Mr. Wentz has collected it, but rather with an eye (partly for linguistic and literary purposes) to its songs, sayings, ballads, proverbs, and sgéalta, which last are generally the equivalent of the German M?rchen, but sometimes have a touch of the saga nature about them. In making a collection of these things I have naturally come across a very large amount of folk-belief conversationally expressed, with regard to the 'good people' and other supernatural manifestations, so that I can bear witness to the fidelity with which Mr. Wentz has done his work on Irish soil, for to a great number of the beliefs which he records I have myself heard parallels, sometimes I have heard near variants of the stories, sometimes the identical stories. So we may, I think, unhesitatingly accept his subject-matter, whatever, as I said, be the conclusions we may deduce from them.

The folk-tale (sean-sgéal) or M?rchen, which I have spent so much time in collecting, must not be confounded with the folk-belief which forms the basis of Mr. Wentz's studies. The sgéal or story is something much more intricate, complicated, and thought-out than the belief. One can quite easily distinguish between the two. One (the belief) is short, conversational, chiefly relating to real people, and contains no great sequence of incidents, while the other (the folk-tale) is long, complicated, more or less conventional, and above all has its interest grouped around a single central figure, that of the hero or heroine. I may make this plainer by an example. Let us go into a cottage on the mountain-side, as Mr. Wentz and I have done so often, and ask the old man of the house if he ever heard of such things as fairies, and he will tell you that 'there is fairies in it surely. Didn't his own father see the "forth"[10] beyond full of them, and he passing by of a moonlight night and a little piper among them, and he playing music that mortal man never heard the like?' or he'll tell you that 'he himself wouldn't say agin fairies for it's often he heard their music at the old bush behind the house'. Ask what the fairies are like, and he will tell you-well, pretty much what Mr. Wentz tells us. From this and the like accounts we form our ideas of fairies and fairy music, of ghosts, mermaids, púcas, and so on, but there is no sequence of incidents, no hero, no heroine, no story.

Again, ask the old man if he knows e'er a sean-sgéal (story or M?rchen), and he will ask you at once, 'Did you ever hear the Speckled Bull; did you ever hear the Well at the end of the world; did you ever hear the Tailor and the Three Beasts; did you ever hear the Hornless Cow?' Ask him to relate one of these, and if you get him in the right vein, which may be perhaps one time in ten, or if you induce the right vein, which you may do perhaps nine times out of ten, you will find him begin with a certain gravity and solemnity at the very beginning, thus, 'There was once, in old times and in old times it was, a king in Ireland'; or perhaps 'a man who married a second wife'; or perhaps 'a widow woman with only one son': and the tale proceeds to recount the life and adventures of the heroes or heroines, whose biographies told in Irish in a sort of stereotyped form may take from ten minutes to half an hour to get through. Some stories would burn out a dip candle in the telling, or even last the whole night. But these stories have little or nothing to say to the questions raised in this book.

The problem we have to deal with is a startling one, as thus put before us by Mr. Wentz. Are these beings of the spirit world real beings, having a veritable existence of their own, in a world of their own, or are they only the creation of the imagination of his informants, and the tradition of bygone centuries? The newspaper, the 'National' School, and the Zeitgeist have answered to their own entire satisfaction that these things are imagination pure and simple. Yet this off-hand condemnation does not always carry with it a perfect conviction. We do not doubt the existence of tree-martins or kingfishers, although nine hundred and ninety-nine people out of every thousand pass their entire lives without being vouchsafed a glimpse of them in their live state; and may it not be the same with the creatures of the spirit world, may not they also exist, though to only one in a thousand it be vouchsafed to behold them? The spirit creatures cannot be stuffed and put into museums, like rare animals and birds, whose existence we might doubt of if we had not seen them there; yet they may exist just as such animals and birds do, though we cannot see them. I, at least, have often been tempted to think so. But the following considerations, partly drawn from comparative folk-lore, have made me hesitate about definitely accepting any theory.

In the first place, then, viewing the Irish spirit-world as a whole, we find that it contains, even on Mr. Wentz's showing, quite a number of different orders of beings, of varying shapes, appearances, size, and functions. Are we to believe that all those beings equally exist, and, on the principle that there can be no smoke without a fire, are we to hold that there would be no popular conception of the banshee, the leprechaun, or the Maighdean-mhara (sea-maiden, mermaid), and consequently no tales told about them, if such beings did not exist, and from time to time allow themselves to be seen like the wood-martin and the kingfisher? This question is, moreover, further complicated by the belief in the appearance of things that are or appear to be inanimate objects, not living beings, such as the deaf coach or the phantom ship in full sail, the appearance of which Mr. Yeats has immortalized in one of his earliest and finest poems.

Again, although the bean-sidhe (banshee), leprechaun, púca, and the like are the most commonly known and usually seen creatures of the spirit world, yet great quantities of other appearances are believed to have been also sporadically met with. I very well remember sitting one night some four or five years ago in an hotel in Indianapolis, U.S.A., and talking to four Irishmen, one or two of them very wealthy, and all prosperous citizens of the United States. The talk happened to turn upon spirits-the only time during my entire American experiences in which such a thing happened-and each man of the four had a story of his own to tell, in which he was a convinced believer, of ghostly manifestations seen by him in Ireland. Two of these manifestations were of beings that would fall into no known category; a monstrous rabbit as big as an ass, which plunged into the sea (rabbits can swim), and a white heifer which ascended to heaven, were two of them. I myself, when a boy of ten or eleven, was perfectly convinced that on a fine early dewy morning in summer when people were still in bed, I saw a strange horse run round a seven-acre field of ours and change into a woman, who ran even swifter than the horse, and after a couple of courses round the field disappeared into our haggard. I am sure, whatever I may believe to-day, no earthly persuasion would, at the time, have convinced me that I did not see this. Yet I never saw it again, and never heard of any one else seeing the same.

My object in mentioning these things is to show that if we concede the real objective existence of, let us say, the apparently well-authenticated banshee (Bean-sidhe, 'woman-fairy'), where are we to stop? for any number of beings, more or less well authenticated, come crowding on her heels, so many indeed that they would point to a far more extensive world of different shapes than is usually suspected, not to speak of inanimate objects like the coach and the ship. Of course there is nothing inherently impossible in all these shapes existing any more than in one of them existing, but they all seem to me to rest upon the same kind of testimony, stronger in the case of some, less strong in the case of others, and it is as well to point out this clearly.

My own experience is that beliefs in the Sidhe (pronounced Shee) folk, and in other denizens of the invisible world is, in many places, rapidly dying. In reading folk-lore collections like those of Mr. Wentz and others, one is naturally inclined to exaggerate the extent and depth of these traditions. They certainly still exist, and can be found if you go to search for them; but they often exist almost as it were by sufferance, only in spots, and are ceasing to be any longer a power. Near my home in a western county (County Roscommon) rises gently a slope, which, owing to the flatness of the surrounding regions, almost becomes a hill, and is a conspicuous object for many miles upon every side. The old people called it in Irish Mullach na Sidhe. This name is now practically lost, and it is called Fairymount. So extinct have the traditions of the Sidhe-folk, who lived within the hill, become, that a high ecclesiastic recently driving by asked his driver was there an Irish name for the hill, and what was it, and his driver did not know. There took place a few years ago a much talked of bog-slide in the neighbouring townland of Cloon-Sheever (Sidhbhair or Siabhra), 'the Meadow of the Fairies,' and many newspaper correspondents came to view it. One of the natives told a sympathetic newspaper reporter, 'Sure we always knew it was going to move, that's why the place is named Cloon-Sheever, the bog was always in a "shiver"!' I have never been able to hear of any legends attached to what must have at one time been held to be the head-quarters of the Sidhe for a score of miles round it.

Of all the beings in the Irish mythological world the Sidhe are, however, apparently the oldest and the most distinctive. Beside them in literature and general renown all other beings sink into insignificance. A belief in them formerly dominated the whole of Irish life. The Sidhe or Tuatha De Danann were a people like ourselves who inhabited the hills-not as a rule the highest and most salient eminences, but I think more usually the pleasant undulating slopes or gentle hill-sides-and who lived there a life of their own, marrying or giving in marriage, banqueting or making war, and leading there just as real a life as is our own. All Irish literature, particularly perhaps the 'Colloquy of the Ancients' (Agallamh na Senórach) abounds with reference to them. To inquire how the Irish originally came by their belief in these beings, the Sidhe or Tuatha De Danann, is to raise a question which cannot be answered, any more than one can answer the question, Where did the Romans obtain their belief in Bacchus and the fauns, or the Greeks their own belief in the beings of Olympus?

But granting such belief to have been indigenous to the Irish, as it certainly seems to have been, then the tall, handsome fairies of Ben Bulbin and the Sligo district, about whom Mr. Wentz tells us so much interesting matter, might be accounted for as being a continuation of the tradition of the ancient Gaels, or a piece of heredity inherent in the folk-imagination. I mean, in other words, that the tradition about these handsome dwellers within the hill-sides having been handed down for ages, and having been perhaps exceptionally well preserved in those districts, people saw just what they had always been told existed, or, if I may so put it, they saw what they expected to see.

Fin Bheara, the King of the Connacht Fairies in Cnoc Meadha (or Castlehacket) in the County Galway, his Queen Nuala, and all the beautiful forms seen by Mr. Wentz's seer-witness (pp. 60 ff.), all the banshees and all the human figures, white women, and so forth, who are seen in raths and moats and on hill-sides, are the direct descendants, so to speak, of the Tuatha De Danann or the Sidhe. Of this, I think, there can be no doubt whatever.

But then how are we to account for the little red-dressed men and women and the leprechauns? Yet, are they any more wonderful than the pygmies of classic tradition? Is not the Mermaid to be found in Greece, and is not the Lorelei as Germanic as the Kelpy is Caledonian. If we grant that all these are creatures of primitive folk-belief, then how they come to be so ceases to be a Celtic problem, it becomes a world problem. But granted, as I say, that they were all creatures of primitive folk-belief, then their occasional appearances, or the belief in such, may be accounted for in exactly the same way as I have suggested to be possible in the case of the Ben Bulbin fairies.

As for the belief in ghosts or revenants (in Irish tais or taidhbhse), it seems to me that this may possibly rest to some extent upon a different footing altogether. Here we are not confronted by a different order of beings of different shapes and attributes from our own, but only with the appearances, amongst the living, of men who were believed or known to be dead or far away from the scene of their appearances. Even those who may be most sceptical about the Sidhe-folk and the leprechauns are likely to be convinced (on the mere evidence) that the existence of 'astral bodies' or 'doubles', or whatever we may call them, and the appearances of people, especially in the hour of their death, to other people who were perhaps hundreds of miles away at the time, is amply proven. Yet whatever may have been the case originally when man was young, I do not think that this had in later times any more direct bearing upon the belief in the Sidhe, the leprechauns, the mermaid, and similar beings than upon the belief in the Greek Pantheon, the naiads, the dryads, or the fauns; all of which beliefs, probably arising originally from an animistic source, must have differentiated themselves at a very early period. Of course every real apparition, every 'ghost' apparition, tends now, and must have tended at all times, to strengthen every spirit belief. For do not ghost apparitions belong, in a way, to the same realm as all the others we have spoken of, that is, to a realm equally outside our normal experience?

Another very interesting point, and one hitherto generally overlooked, is this, that different parts of the Irish soil cherish different bodies of supernatural beings. The North of Ireland believes in beings unknown in the South, and North-East Leinster has spirits unknown to the West. Some places seem to be almost given up to special beliefs. Any outsider, for instance, who may have read that powerful and grisly book, La Légende de la Mort, by M. Anatole Le Braz, in two large volumes, all about the awful appearances of Ankou (Death), who simply dominates the folk-lore of Brittany, will probably be very much astonished to know that, though I have been collecting Irish folk-lore all my life, I have never met Death figuring as a personality in more than two or three tales, and these mostly of a trivial or humorous description, though the Deaf Coach (Cóiste Bodhar), the belief in which is pretty general, does seem a kind of parallel to the creaking cart in which Ankou rides.

I would suggest, then, that the restriction of certain forms of spirits, if I may so call them, to certain localities, may be due to race intermixture. I would imagine that where the people of a primitive tribe settled down most strongly, they also most strongly preserved the memory of those supernatural beings who were peculiarly their own. The Sidhe-folk appear to be pre-eminently and distinctively Milesian, but the geancanach (name of some little spirit in Meath and portion of Ulster) may have been believed in by a race entirely different from that which believed in the clúracaun (a Munster sprite). Some of these beliefs may be Aryan, but many are probably pre-Celtic.

Is it not strange that while the names and exploits of the great semi-mythological heroes of the various Saga cycles of Ireland, Cuchulainn, Conor mac Nessa, Finn, Osgar, Oisin, and the rest, are at present the inheritance of all Ireland, and are known in every part of it, there should still be, as I have said, supernatural beings believed in which are unknown outside of their own districts, and of which the rest of Ireland has never heard? If the inhabitants of the limited districts in which these are seen still think they see them, my suggestion is that the earlier race handed down an account of the primitive beings believed in by their own tribe, and later generations, if they saw anything, saw just what they were told existed.

Whilst far from questioning the actual existence of certain spiritual forms and apparitions, I venture to throw out these considerations for what they may be worth, and I desire again to thank Mr. Wentz for all the valuable data he has collected for throwing light upon so interesting a question.

Ratra, Frenchpark,

County Roscommon, Ireland,

September 1910.

The Fairy Folk of Tara

On the ancient Hill of Tara, from whose heights the High Kings once ruled all Ireland, from where the sacred fires in pagan days announced the annual resurrection of the sun, the Easter Tide, where the magic of Patrick prevailed over the magic of the Druids, and where the hosts of the Tuatha De Danann were wont to appear at the great Feast of Samain, to-day the fairy-folk of modern times hold undisputed sovereignty. And from no point better than Tara, which thus was once the magical and political centre of the Sacred Island, could we begin our study of the Irish Fairy-Faith. Though the Hill has lain unploughed and deserted since the curses of Christian priests fell upon it, on the calm air of summer evenings, at the twilight hour, wondrous music still sounds over its slopes, and at night long, weird processions of silent spirits march round its grass-grown raths and forts.[11] It is only men who fear the curse of the Christians; the fairy-folk regard it not.

The Rev. Father Peter Kenney, of Kilmessan, had directed me to John Graham, an old man over seventy years of age, who has lived near Tara most of his life; and after I had found John, and he had led me from rath to rath and then right through the length of the site where once stood the banquet hall of kings and heroes and Druids, as he earnestly described the past glories of Tara to which these ancient monuments bear silent testimony, we sat down in the thick sweet grass on the Sacred Hill and began talking of the olden times in Ireland, and then of the 'good people':-

The 'Good People's' Music.-'As sure as you are sitting down I heard the pipes there in that wood (pointing to a wood on the north-west slope of the Hill, and west of the banquet hall). I heard the music another time on a hot summer evening at the Rath of Ringlestown, in a field where all the grass had been burned off; and I often heard it in the wood of Tara. Whenever the good people play, you hear their music all through the field as plain as can be; and it is the grandest kind of music. It may last half the night, but once day comes, it ends.'

Who the 'Good People' are.-I now asked John what sort of a race the 'good people' are, and where they came from, and this is his reply:-'People killed and murdered in war stay on earth till their time is up, and they are among the good people. The souls on this earth are as thick as the grass (running his walking-stick through a thick clump), and you can't see them; and evil spirits are just as thick, too, and people don't know it. Because there are so many spirits knocking (going) about they must appear to some people. The old folk saw the good people here on the Hill a hundred times, and they'd always be talking about them. The good people can see everything, and you dare not meddle with them. They live in raths, and their houses are in them. The opinion always was that they are a race of spirits, for they can go into different forms, and can appear big as well as little.'

Evidence from Kilmessan, near Tara

John Boylin, born in County Meath about sixty years ago, will be our witness from Kilmessan, a village about two miles from Tara; and he, being one of the men of the vicinity best informed about its folk-lore, is able to offer testimony of very great value:-

The Fairy Tribes.-'There is said to be a whole tribe of little red men living in Glen Odder, between Ringlestown and Tara; and on long evenings in June they have been heard. There are other breeds or castes of fairies; and it seems to me, when I recall our ancient traditions, that some of these fairies are of the Fir Bolgs, some of the Tuatha De Danann, and some of the Milesians. All of them have been seen serenading round the western slope of Tara, dressed in ancient Irish costumes. Unlike the little red men, these fairy races are warlike and given to making invasions. Long processions of them have been seen going round the King's Chair (an earthwork on which the Kings of Tara are said to have been crowned); and they then would appear like soldiers of ancient Ireland in review.'

The Fairy Procession.-'We were told as children, that, as soon as night fell, the fairies from Rath Ringlestown would form in a procession, across Tara road, pass round certain bushes which have not been disturbed for ages, and join the gangkena (?) or host of industrious folk, the red fairies. We were afraid, and our nurses always brought us home before the advent of the fairy procession. One of the passes used by this procession happened to be between two mud-wall houses; and it is said that a man went out of one of these houses at the wrong time, for when found he was dead: the fairies had taken him because he interfered with their procession.'[12]

Death through Cutting Fairy-Bushes.-'A man named Caffney cut as fuel to boil his pot of potatoes some of these undisturbed bushes round which the fairies pass. When he put the wood under the pot, though it spat fire, and fire-sparkles would come out of it, it would not burn. The man pined away gradually. In six months after cutting the fairy-bushes, he was dead. Just before he died, he told his experiences with the wood to his brother, and his brother told me.'

The Fairies are the Dead.-'According to the local belief, fairies are the spirits of the departed. Tradition says that Hugh O'Neil in the sixteenth century, after his march to the south, encamped his army on the Rath or Fort of Ringlestown, to be assisted by the spirits of the mighty dead who dwelt within this rath. And it is believed that Gerald Fitzgerald has been seen coming out of the Hill of Mollyellen, down in County Louth, leading his horse and dressed in the old Irish costume, with breastplate, spear, and war outfit.'

Fairy Possession.-'Rose Carroll was possessed by a fairy-spirit. It is known that her father held communion with evil spirits, and it appears that they often assisted him. The Carrolls' house was built at the end of a fairy fort, and part of it was scooped out of this fort. Rose grew so peculiar that her folks locked her up. After two years she was able to shake off the fairy possession by being taken to Father Robinson's sisters, and then to an old witch-woman in Drogheda.'

In the Valley of the Boyne

In walking along the River Boyne, from Slane to Knowth and New Grange, I stopped at the cottage of Owen Morgan, at Ross-na-Righ, or 'the Wood of the Kings', though the ancient wood has long since disappeared; and as we sat looking out over the sunlit beauty of Ireland's classic river, and in full view of the first of the famous moats, this is what Owen Morgan told me:-

How the Shoemaker's Daughter became the Queen of Tara.-'In olden times there lived a shoemaker and his wife up there near Moat Knowth, and their first child was taken by the queen of the fairies who lived inside the moat, and a little leprechaun left in its place. The same exchange was made when the second child was born. At the birth of the third child the fairy queen came again and ordered one of her three servants to take the child; but the child could not be moved because of a great beam of iron, too heavy to lift, which lay across the baby's breast. The second servant and then the third failed like the first, and the queen herself could not move the child. The mother being short of pins had used a needle to fasten the child's clothes, and that was what appeared to the fairies as a beam of iron, for there was virtue in steel in those days.

'So the fairy queen decided to bestow gifts upon the child; and advised each of the three servants to give, in turn, a different gift. The first one said, "May she be the grandest lady in the world"; the second one said, "May she be the greatest singer in the world"; and the third one said, "May she be the best mantle-maker in the world." Then the fairy queen said, "Your gifts are all very good, but I will give a gift of my own better than any of them: the first time she happens to go out of the house let her come back into it under the form of a rat." The mother heard all that the fairy women said, and so she never permitted her daughter to leave the house.

'When the girl reached the age of eighteen, it happened that the young prince of Tara, in riding by on a hunt, heard her singing, and so entranced was he with the music that he stopped to listen; and, the song ended, he entered the house, and upon seeing the wonderful beauty of the singer asked her to marry him. The mother said that could not be, and taking the daughter out of the house for the first time brought her back into it in an apron under the form of a rat, that the prince might understand the refusal.

'This enchantment, however, did not change the prince's love for the beautiful singer; and he explained how there was a day mentioned with his father, the king, for all the great ladies of Ireland to assemble in the Halls of Tara, and that the grandest lady and the greatest singer and the best mantle-maker would be chosen as his wife. When he added that each lady must come in a chariot, the rat spoke to him and said that he must send to her home, on the day named, four piebald cats and a pack of cards, and that she would make her appearance, provided that at the time her chariot came to the Halls of Tara no one save the prince should be allowed near it; and, she finally said to the prince, "Until the day mentioned with your father, you must carry me as a rat in your pocket."

'But before the great day arrived, the rat had made everything known to one of the fairy women, and so when the four piebald cats and the pack of cards reached the girl's home, the fairies at once turned the cats into the four most splendid horses in the world, and the pack of cards into the most wonderful chariot in the world; and, as the chariot was setting out from the Moat for Tara, the fairy queen clapped her hands and laughed, and the enchantment over the girl was broken, so that she became, as before, the prettiest lady in the world, and she sitting in the chariot.

'When the prince saw the wonderful chariot coming, he knew whose it was, and went out alone to meet it; but he could not believe his eyes on seeing the lady inside. And then she told him about the witches and fairies, and explained everything.

'Hundreds of ladies had come to the Halls of Tara from all Ireland, and every one as grand as could be. The contest began with the singing, and ended with the mantle-making, and the young girl was the last to appear; but to the amazement of all the company the king had to give in (admit) that the strange woman was the grandest lady, the greatest singer, and the best mantle-maker in Ireland; and when the old king died she became the Queen of Tara.'

After this ancient legend, which Owen Morgan heard from the old folks when he was a boy, he told me many anecdotes about the 'good people' of the Boyne, who are little men usually dressed in red.

The 'Good People' at New Grange.-Between Knowth and New Grange I met Maggie Timmons carrying a pail of butter-milk to her calves; and when we stopped on the road to talk, I asked her, in due time, if any of the 'good people' ever appeared in the region, or about New Grange, which we could see in the field, and she replied, in reference to New Grange:-'I am sure the neighbours used to see the good people come out of it at night and in the morning. The good people inherited the fort.'

Then I asked her what the 'good people' are, and she said:-'When they disappear they go like fog; they must be something like spirits, or how could they disappear in that way? I knew of people,' she added, 'who would milk in the fields about here and spill milk on the ground for the good people; and pots of potatoes would be put out for the good people at night.' (See chap. viii for additional New Grange folk-lore.)

The Testimony of an Irish Priest

We now pass directly to West Ireland, in many ways our most important field, and where of all places in the Celtic world the Fairy-Faith is vigorously alive; and it seems very fitting to offer the first opportunity to testify in behalf of that district to a scholarly priest of the Roman Church, for what he tells us is almost wholly the result of his own memories and experiences as an Irish boy in Connemara, supplemented in a valuable way by his wider and more mature knowledge of the fairy-belief as he sees it now among his own parishioners:-

Knock Ma Fairies.-'Knock Ma, which you see over there, is said to contain excavated passages and a palace where the fairies live, and with them the people they have taken. And from the inside of the hill there is believed to be an entrance to an underground world. It is a common opinion that after consumptives die they are there with the fairies in good health. The wasted body is not taken into the hill, for it is usually regarded as not the body of the deceased but rather as that of a changeling, the general belief being that the real body and the soul are carried off together, and those of an old person from Fairyland substituted. The old person left soon declines and dies.'

Safeguards against Fairies.-'It was proper when having finished milking a cow to put one's thumb in the pail of milk, and with the wet thumb to make the sign of the cross on the thigh of the cow on the side milked, to be safe against fairies. And I have seen them when churning put a live coal about an inch square under the churn, because it was an old custom connected with fairies.'

Milk and Butter for Fairies.-'Whatever milk falls on the ground in milking a cow is taken by the fairies, for fairies need a little milk. Also, after churning, the knife which is run through the butter in drying it must not be scraped clean, for what sticks to it belongs to the fairies. Out of three pounds of butter, for example, an ounce or two would be left for the fairies. I have seen this several times.'

Crossing a Stream, and Fairies.-'When out on a dark night, if pursued by fairies or ghosts one is considered quite safe if one can get over some stream. I remember coming home on a dark night with a boy companion and hearing a noise, and then after we had run to a stream and crossed it feeling quite safe.'

Fairy Preserves.-'A heap of stones in a field should not be disturbed, though needed for building-especially if they are part of an ancient tumulus. The fairies are said to live inside the pile, and to move the stones would be most unfortunate. If a house happens to be built on a fairy preserve, or in a fairy track, the occupants will have no luck. Everything will go wrong. Their animals will die, their children fall sick, and no end of trouble will come on them. When the house happens to have been built in a fairy track, the doors on the front and back, or the windows if they are in the line of the track, cannot be kept closed at night, for the fairies must march through. Near Ballinrobe there is an old fort which is still the preserve of the fairies, and the land round it. The soil is very fine, and yet no one would dare to till it. Some time ago in laying out a new road the engineers determined to run it through the fort, but the people rose almost in rebellion, and the course had to be changed. The farmers wouldn't cut down a tree or bush growing on the hill or preserve for anything.'

Fairy Control over Crops.-'Fairies are believed to control crops and their ripening. A field of turnips may promise well, and its owner will count on so many tons to the acre, but if when the crop is gathered it is found to be far short of the estimate, the explanation is that the fairies have extracted so much substance from it. The same thing is the case with corn.'

November Eve and Fairies.-'On November Eve it is not right to gather or eat blackberries or sloes, nor after that time as long as they last. On November Eve the fairies pass over all such things and make them unfit to eat. If one dares to eat them afterwards one will have serious illness. We firmly believed this as boys, and I laugh now when I think how we used to gorge ourselves with berries on the last day of October, and then for weeks after pass by bushes full of the most luscious fruit, and with mouths watering for it couldn't eat it.'

Fairies as Flies.-'There is an old abbey on the river, in County Mayo, and people say the fairies had a great battle near it, and that the slaughter was tremendous. At the time, the fairies appeared as swarms of flies coming from every direction to that spot. Some came from Knock Ma, and some from South Ireland, the opinion being that fairies can assume any form they like. The battle lasted a day and a night, and when it was over one could have filled baskets with the dead flies which floated down the river.'

Those who Return from Faerie.-'Persons in a short trance-state of two or three days' duration are said to be away with the fairies enjoying a festival. The festival may be very material in its nature, or it may be purely spiritual. Sometimes one may thus go to Faerie for an hour or two; or one may remain there for seven, fourteen, or twenty-one years. The mind of a person coming out of Fairyland is usually a blank as to what has been seen and done there. Another idea is that the person knows well enough all about Fairyland, but is prevented from communicating the knowledge. A certain woman of whom I knew said she had forgotten all about her experiences in Faerie, but a friend who heard her objected, and said she did remember, and wouldn't tell. A man may remain awake at night to watch one who has been to Fairyland to see if that one holds communication with the fairies. Others say in such a case that the fairies know you are on the alert, and will not be discovered.'

The Testimony of a Galway Piper

Fairies=Sidheóga.-According to our next witness, Steven Ruan, a piper of Galway, with whom I have often talked, there is one class of fairies 'who are nobody else than the spirits of men and women who once lived on earth'; and the banshee is a dead friend, relative, or ancestor who appears to give a warning. 'The fairies', he says, 'never care about old folks. They only take babies, and young men and young women. If a young wife dies, she is said to have been taken by them, and ever afterwards to live in Fairyland. The same things are said about a young man or a child who dies. Fairyland is a place of delights, where music, and singing, and dancing, and feasting are continually enjoyed; and its inhabitants are all about us, as numerous as the blades of grass.'

A Fairy Dog.-In the course of another conversation, Steven pointed to a rocky knoll in a field not far from his home, and said:-'I saw a dog with a white ring around his neck by that hill there, and the oldest men round Galway have seen him, too, for he has been here for one hundred years or more. He is a dog of the good people, and only appears at certain hours of the night.'

An Old Piper in Fairyland.-And before we had done talking, the subject of fairy-music came up, and the following little story coming from one of the last of the old Irish pipers himself, about a brother piper, is of more than ordinary value:-'There used to be an old piper called Flannery who lived in Oranmore, County Galway. I imagine he was one of the old generation. And one time the good people took him to Fairyland to learn his profession. He studied music with them for a long time, and when he returned he was as great a piper as any in Ireland. But he died young, for the good people wanted him to play for them.'

The Testimony of 'Old Patsy' of Aranmore

Our next witness is an old man, familiarly called 'Old Patsy', who is a native of the Island of Aranmore, off the coast from Galway, and he lives on the island amid a little group of straw-thatched fishermen's homes called Oak Quarter. As 'Old Patsy' stood beside a rude stone cross near Oak Quarter, in one of those curious places on Aranmore, where each passing funeral stops long enough to erect a little memorial pile of stones on the smooth rocky surface of the roadside enclosure, he told me many anecdotes about the mysteries of his native island.

Aranmore Fairies.-Twenty years or so ago round the Bedd of Dermot and Grania, just above us on the hill, there were seen many fairies, 'crowds of them,' said 'Old Patsy', and a single deer. They began to chase the deer, and followed it right over the island. At another time similar little people chased a horse. 'The rocks were full of them, and they were small fellows.'

A Fairy Beating-in a Dream.-'In the South Island,' he continued, 'as night was coming on, a man was giving his cow water at a well, and, as he looked on the other side of a wall, he saw many strange people playing hurley. When they noticed him looking at them, one came up and struck the cow a hard blow, and turning on the man cut his face and body very badly. The man might not have been so badly off, but he returned to the well after the first encounter and got five times as bad a beating; and when he reached home he couldn't speak at all, until the cock crew. Then he told about his adventures, and slept a little. When he woke up in the daylight he was none the worse for his beating, for the fairies had rubbed something on his face.' Patsy says he knew the man, who if still alive is now in America, where he went several years ago.

Where Fairies Live.-When I asked Patsy where the fairies live, he turned half around, and pointing in the direction of Dun Aengus, which was in full view on the sharp sky-line of Aranmore, said that there, in a large tumulus on the hill-side below it, they had one of their favourite abodes. But, he added, 'The rocks are full of them, and they are small fellows.' Just across the road from where we were standing, in a spot near Oak Quarter, another place was pointed out where the fairies are often seen dancing. The name of it is Moneen an Damhsa, 'the Little Bog of the Dance.' Other sorts of fairies live in the sea; and some of them who live on Aranmore (probably in conjunction with those in the sea) go out over the water and cause storms and wind.

The Testimony of a Roman Catholic Theologian

The following evidence, by the Rev. Father --, came out during a discussion concerning spirits and fairies as regarded by Roman Catholic theology, which he and I enjoyed when we met as fellow travellers in Galway Town:-

Of Magic and Place-spirits.-'Magic, according to Catholic theology, is nothing else than the solicitation of spiritual powers to help us. If evil spirits are evoked by certain irrational practices it is unholy magic, and this is altogether forbidden by our Church. All charms, spells, divination, necromancy, or geomancy are unholy magic. Holy magic is practised by carrying the Cross in Christ. Now evil magic has been practised here in Ireland: butter has been taken so that none came from the churning; cows have been made to die of maladies; and fields made unproductive. A cow was bought from an old woman in Connemara, and no butter was ever had from the cow until exorcism with holy water was performed. This is reported to me as a fact.' And in another relation the Rev. Father -- said what for us is highly significant:-'My private opinion is that in certain places here in Ireland where pagan sacrifices were practised, evil spirits through receiving homage gained control, and still hold control, unless driven out by exorcisms.'

The Testimony of the Town Clerk of Tuam

To the town clerk of Tuam, Mr. John Glynn, who since his boyhood has taken a keen interest in the traditions of his native county, I am indebted for the following valuable summary of the fairy creed in that part of North Galway where Finvara rules:-

Fairies of the Tuam Country.-'The whole of Knock Ma (Cnoc Meadha[13]), which probably means Hill of the Plain, is said to be the palace of Finvara, king of the Connaught fairies. There are a good many legends about Finvara, but very few about Queen Meave in this region.'

Famine of 1846-7 caused by Fairies.-'During 1846-7 the potato crop in Ireland was a failure, and very much suffering resulted. At the time, the country people in these parts attributed the famine to disturbed conditions in the fairy world. Old Thady Steed once told me about the conditions then prevailing, "Sure, we couldn't be any other way; and I saw the good people and hundreds besides me saw them fighting in the sky over Knock Ma and on towards Galway." And I heard others say they saw the fighting also.'

Fairyland; and the Seeress.-'Fairies are said to be immortal, and the fairy world is always described as an immaterial place, though I do not think it is the same as the world of the dead. Sick persons, however, are often said to be with the fairies, and when cured, to have come back. A woman who died here about thirty years ago was commonly believed to have been with the fairies during her seven years' sickness when she was a maiden. She married after coming back, and had children; and she was always able to see the good people and to talk with them, for she had the second-sight. And it is said that she used to travel with the fairies at night. After her marriage she lived in Tuam, and though her people were six or seven miles out from Tuam in the country, she could always tell all that was taking place with them there, and she at her own home at the time.'

Fairies on May Day.-'On May Day the good people can steal butter if the chance is given them. If a person enters a house then, and churning is going on, he must take a hand in it, or else there will be no butter. And if fire is given away on May Day nothing will go right for the whole year.'

The Three Fairy Drops.-'Even yet certain things are due the fairies; for example, two years ago, in the Court Room here in Tuam, a woman was on trial for watering milk, and to the surprise of us all who were conducting the proceedings, and, it can be added, to the great amusement of the onlookers, she swore that she had only added "the three fairy drops".'

Food of Fairies.-'Food, after it has been put out at night for the fairies, is not allowed to be eaten afterwards by man or beast, not even by pigs. Such food is said to have no real substance left in it, and to let anything eat it wouldn't be thought of. The underlying idea seems to be that the fairies extract the spiritual essence from food offered to them, leaving behind the grosser elements.'

Fairy Warfare.-'When the fairy tribes under the various kings and queens have a battle, one side manages to have a living man among them, and he by knocking the fairies about turns the battle in case the side he is on is losing. It is always usual for the Munster fairy king to challenge Finvara, the Connaught fairy king.'

County Sligo, and the Testimony of a Peasant Seer[14]

The Ben Bulbin country in County Sligo is one of those rare places in Ireland where fairies are thought to be visible, and our first witness from there claims to be able to see the fairies or 'gentry' and to talk with them. This mortal so favoured lives in the same townland where his fathers have lived during four hundred years, directly beneath the shadows of Ben Bulbin, on whose sides Dermot is said to have been killed while hunting the wild-boar. And this famous old mountain, honeycombed with curious grottoes ages ago when the sea beat against its perpendicular flanks, is the very place where the 'gentry' have their chief abode. Even on its broad level summit, for it is a high square tableland like a mighty cube of rock set down upon the earth by some antediluvian god, there are treacherous holes, wherein more than one hunter may have been lost for ever, penetrating to unknown depths; and by listening one can hear the tides from the ocean three or four miles away surging in and out through ancient subterranean channels, connected with these holes. In the neighbouring mountains there are long caverns which no man has dared to penetrate to the end, and even dogs, it is said, have been put in them never to emerge, or else to come out miles away.

One day when the heavy white fog-banks hung over Ben Bulbin and its neighbours, and there was a weird almost-twilight at midday over the purple heather bog-lands at their base, and the rain was falling, I sat with my friend before a comfortable fire of fragrant turf in his cottage and heard about the 'gentry':-

Encounters with the 'Gentry'.-'When I was a young man I often used to go out in the mountains over there (pointing out of the window in their direction) to fish for trout, or to hunt; and it was in January on a cold, dry day while carrying my gun that I and a friend with me, as we were walking around Ben Bulbin, saw one of the gentry for the first time. I knew who it was, for I had heard the gentry described ever since I could remember; and this one was dressed in blue with a head-dress adorned with what seemed to be frills.[15] When he came up to us, he said to me in a sweet and silvery voice, "The seldomer you come to this mountain the better. A young lady here wants to take you away." Then he told us not to fire off our guns, because the gentry dislike being disturbed by the noise. And he seemed to be like a soldier of the gentry on guard. As we were leaving the mountains, he told us not to look back, and we didn't. Another time I was alone trout-fishing in nearly the same region when I heard a voice say, "It is -- barefooted and fishing." Then there came a whistle like music and a noise like the beating of a drum, and soon one of the gentry came and talked with me for half an hour. He said, "Your mother will die in eleven months, and do not let her die unanointed." And she did die within eleven months. As he was going away he warned me, "You must be in the house before sunset. Do not delay! Do not delay! They can do nothing to you until I get back in the castle." As I found out afterwards, he was going to take me, but hesitated because he did not want to leave my mother alone. After these warnings I was always afraid to go to the mountains, but lately I have been told I could go if I took a friend with me.'

'Gentry' Protection.-'The gentry have always befriended and protected me. I was drowned twice but for them. Once I was going to Durnish Island, a mile off the coast. The channel is very deep, and at the time there was a rough sea, with the tide running out, and I was almost lost. I shrieked and shouted, and finally got safe to the mainland. The day I talked with one of the gentry at the foot of the mountain when he was for taking me, he mentioned this, and said they were the ones who saved me from drowning then.'

'Gentry' Stations.-'Especially in Ireland, the gentry live inside the mountains in beautiful castles; and there are a good many branches of them in other countries. Like armies, they have various stations and move from one to another. Some live in the Wicklow Mountains near Dublin.'

'Gentry' Control Over Human Affairs.-'The gentry take a great interest in the affairs of men, and they always stand for justice and right. Any side they favour in our wars, that side wins. They favoured the Boers, and the Boers did get their rights. They told me they favoured the Japanese and not the Russians, because the Russians are tyrants. Sometimes they fight among themselves. One of them once said, "I'd fight for a friend, or I'd fight for Ireland."'

The 'Gentry' Described.-In response to my wish, this description of the 'gentry' was given:-'The folk are the grandest I have ever seen. They are far superior to us, and that is why they are called the gentry. They are not a working class, but a military-aristocratic class, tall and noble-appearing. They are a distinct race between our own and that of spirits, as they have told me. Their qualifications are tremendous. "We could cut off half the human race, but would not," they said, "for we are expecting salvation." And I knew a man three or four years ago whom they struck down with paralysis. Their sight is so penetrating that I think they could see through the earth. They have a silvery voice, quick and sweet. The music they play is most beautiful. They take the whole body and soul of young and intellectual people who are interesting, transmuting the body to a body like their own. I asked them once if they ever died, and they said, "No; we are always kept young." Once they take you and you taste food in their palace you cannot come back. You are changed to one of them, and live with them for ever. They are able to appear in different forms. One once appeared to me, and seemed only four feet high, and stoutly built. He said, "I am bigger than I appear to you now. We can make the old young, the big small, the small big." One of their women told all the secrets of my family. She said that my brother in Australia would travel much and suffer hardships, all of which came true; and foretold that my nephew, then about two years old, would become a great clergyman in America, and that is what he is now. Besides the gentry, who are a distinct class, there are bad spirits and ghosts, which are nothing like them. My mother once saw a leprechaun beside a bush hammering. He disappeared before she could get to him, but he also was unlike one of the gentry.'[16]

Evidence from Grange

Our next witness, who lives about three miles from our last witness, is Hugh Currid, the oldest man in Grange; and so old is he that now he does little more than sit in the chimney-corner smoking, and, as he looks at the red glow of the peat, dreaming of the olden times. Hugh knows English very imperfectly, and so what he narrated was in the ancient Gaelic which his fathers spoke. When Father Hines took me to Hugh's cottage, Hugh was in his usual silent pose before the fire. At first he rather resented having his thoughts disturbed, but in a few minutes he was as talkative as could be, for there is nothing like the mention of Ireland to get him started. The Father left us then; and with the help of Hugh's sister as an interpreter I took down what he said:-

The Flax-Seller's Return from Faerie.-'An old woman near Lough More, where Father Patrick was drowned,[17] who used to make her living by selling flax at the market, was taken by the gentry, and often came back afterwards to her three children to comb their hair. One time she told a neighbour that the money she saved from her dealings in flax would be found near a big rock on the lake-shore, which she indicated, and that she wanted the three children to have it.'

A Wife Recovered from the 'Gentry'.-'A man's young wife died in confinement while he was absent on some business at Ballingshaun, and one of the gentry came to him and said she had been taken. The husband hurried home, and that night he sat with the body of his wife all alone. He left the door open a little, and it wasn't long before his wife's spirit came in and went to the cradle where her child was sleeping. As she did so, the husband threw at her a charm of hen's dung which he had ready, and this held her until he could call the neighbours. And while they were coming, she went back into her body, and lived a long time afterwards. The body was stiff and cold when the husband arrived home, though it hadn't been washed or dressed.'

A Tailor's Testimony

Our next witness is Patrick Waters, by trade a tailor, living in Cloontipruckilish, a cross-road hamlet less than two miles from Hugh Currid's home. His first story is a parallel to one told about the minister of Aberfoyle who was taken by the 'good people' (pp. 89 ff.):-

The Lost Bride.-'A girl in this region died on her wedding-night while dancing. Soon after her death she appeared to her husband, and said to him, "I'm not dead at all, but I am put from you now for a time. It may be a long time, or a short time, I cannot tell. I am not badly off. If you want to get me back you must stand at the gap near the house and catch me as I go by, for I live near there, and see you, and you do not see me." He was anxious enough to get her back, and didn't waste any time in getting to the gap. When he came to the place, a party of strangers were just coming out, and his wife soon appeared as plain as could be, but he couldn't stir a hand or foot to save her. Then there was a scream and she was gone. The man firmly believed this, and would not marry again.'

The Invisible Island.-'There is an enchanted island which is an invisible island between Innishmurray and the mainland opposite. It is only seen once in seven years. I saw it myself, and so did four or five others with me. A boatman from Sligo named Carr took two strange men with him towards Innishmurray, and they disappeared at the spot where the island is, and he thought they had fallen overboard and been drowned. Carr saw one of the same men in Connelly (County Donegal), some six months or so after, and with great surprise said to him, "Will you tell me the wonders of the world? Is it you I saw drowned near Innishmurray?" "Yes," he said; and then asked, "Do you see me?" "Yes," answered Carr. "But," said the man again, "you do not see me with both eyes?" Then Carr closed one eye to be sure, and found that he saw him with one eye only. And he told the man which one it was. At this information the fairy man blew on Carr's face, and Carr never saw him again.'

A Dream.-'My father dreamt he saw two armies coming in from the sea, walking on the water. Reaching the strand, they lined up and commenced a battle, and my father was in great terror. The fighting was long and bloody, and when it was over every fighter vanished, the wounded and dead as well as the survivors. The next morning an old woman who had the reputation of talking with the fairies came in the house to my father, who, though greatly disturbed over the dream, had told us nothing of it, and asked him, "Have you anything to tell? I couldn't but laugh at you," she added, and before my father could reply, continued, "Well, Jimmy, you won't tell the news, so I will." And then she began to tell about the battle. "Ketty!" exclaimed my father at this, "can it be true? And who were the men beside me?" When Ketty told him, they turned out to be some of his dead friends. She received her information from a drowned man whom she met on the spot where the gentry armies had come ashore; and, in the place where they fought, the sand was all burnt red, as from fire.'

As the narrator reflected on this dream story, he remarked about dreams generally:-'The reason our dreams appear different from what they are is because while in them we can't touch the body and transform it. People believe themselves to be with the dead in dreams.'

During September 1909, when I had several fresh interviews with Patrick Waters, I verified all of his 1908 testimony such as it appears above; and among unimportant anecdotes I have omitted from the matter taken down in 1908 one anecdote about our seer-witness from County Sligo, because it proved to be capable of opposite interpretations. Patrick Waters, however, like many of his neighbours, thoroughly supports Hugh Currid's opinion that our seer-witness 'surely sees something, and it must be the gentry'; and of Hugh Currid himself, Patrick Waters said, 'Hugh Currid did surely see the gentry; he saw them passing this way like a blast of wind.' Patrick's fresh testimony now follows, the story about Father Patrick and Father Dominick coming first:-

Father Patrick and Father Dominick.-'Father Patrick Noan while bathing in the harbour at Carns (about three miles north-west of Grange) was drowned. His body was soon brought ashore, and his brother, Father Dominick Noan, was sent for. When Father Dominick arrived, one of the men who had collected around the body said to him, "Why don't you do something for your brother Patrick?" "Why don't somebody ask me?" he replied, "for I must be asked in the name of God." So Jimmy McGowan went on his knees and asked for the honour of God that Father Dominick should bring Father Patrick back to life; and, at this, Father Dominick took out his breviary and began to read. After a time he whistled, and began to read again. He whistled a second time, and returned to the reading. Upon his whistling the third time, Father Patrick's spirit appeared in the doorway.

'"Where were you when I whistled the first time?" Father Dominick asked. "I was at a hurling match with the gentry on Mulloughmore strand." "And where were you at the second whistle?" "I was coming over Corrick Fadda; and when you whistled the third time I was here at the door." Father Patrick's spirit had gone back into the body, and Father Patrick lived round here as a priest for a long time afterwards.

'There was no such thing as artificial respiration known hereabouts when this happened some fifty or sixty years ago. I heard this story, which I know is true, from many persons who saw Father Dominick restore his brother to life.'

A Druid Enchantment.-After this strange psychical narrative, there followed the most weird legend I have heard in Celtic lands about Druids and magic. One afternoon Patrick Waters pointed out to me the field, near the sea-coast opposite Innishmurray, in which the ancient menhir containing the 'enchantment' used to stand; and, at another time, he said that a bronze wand covered with curious marks (or else interlaced designs) was found not far from the ruined dolmen and allée couverte on the farm of Patrick Bruan, about two miles southward. This last statement, like the story itself, I have been unable to verify in any way.

'In times before Christ there were Druids here who enchanted one another with Druid rods made of brass, and metamorphosed one another into stone and lumps of oak. The question is, Where are the spirits of these Druids now? Their spirits are wafted through the air, and the man or beast they meet is smitten, while their own bodies are still under enchantment. I had such a Druid enchantment in my hand; it wasn't stone, nor marble, nor flint, and had human shape. It was found in the centre of a big rock on Innis-na-Gore; and round this rock light used to appear at night. The man who owned the stone decided to blast it up, and he found at its centre the enchantment-just like a man, with head and legs and arms.[18] Father Healy took the enchantment away, when he was here on a visit, and said that it was a Druid enchanted, and that to get out of the rock was one part of the releasement, and that there would be a second and complete releasement of the Druid.'

The Fairy Tribes Classified.-Finally I asked Patrick to classify, as far as he could, all the fairy tribes he had ever heard about, and he said:-'The leprechaun is a red-capped fellow who stays round pure springs, generally shoemaking for the rest of the fairy tribes. The lunantishees are the tribes that guard the blackthorn trees or sloes; they let you cut no stick on the eleventh of November (the original November Day), or on the eleventh of May (the original May Day). If at such a time you cut a blackthorn, some misfortune will come to you. Pookas are black-featured fellows mounted on good horses; and are horse-dealers. They visit racecourses, but usually are invisible. The gentry are the most noble tribe of all; and they are a big race who came from the planets-according to my idea; they usually appear white. The Daoine Maithe (though there is some doubt, the same or almost the same as the gentry) were next to Heaven at the Fall, but did not fall; they are a people expecting salvation.'

Bridget O'Conner's Testimony

Our next witness is Bridget O'Conner, a near neighbour to Patrick Waters, in Cloontipruckilish. When I approached her neat little cottage she was cutting sweet-pea blossoms with a pair of scissors, and as I stopped to tell her how pretty a garden she had, she searched out the finest white bloom she could find and gave it to me. After we had talked a little while about America and Ireland, she said I must come in and rest a few minutes, and so I did; and it was not long before we were talking about fairies:-

The Irish Legend of the Dead.-'Old Peggy Gillin, dead these thirty years, who lived a mile beyond Grange, used to cure people with a secret herb shown to her by her brother, dead of a fairy-stroke. He was drowned and taken by the fairies, in the big drowning here during the herring season. She would pull the herb herself and prepare it by mixing spring water with it. Peggy could always talk with her dead relatives and friends, and continually with her brother, and she would tell everybody that they were with the fairies. Her daughter, Mary Short, who inherited some of her mother's power, died here about three or four years ago.

'I remember, too, about Mary Leonard and her daughter, Nancy Waters. Both of them are dead now. The daughter was the first to die, as it happened, and in child-birth. When she was gone, her mother used to wail and cry in an awful manner; and one day the daughter appeared to her in the garden, and said, "The more you wail for me, the more I am in torment. Pray for me, but do not wail."'

A Midwife Story.-'A country nurse was requested by a strange man on horseback to go with him to exercise her profession; and she went with him to a castle she didn't know. When the baby was born, every woman in the place where the event happened put her finger in a basin of water and rubbed her eyes, and so the nurse put her finger in and rubbed it on one of her eyes. She went home and thought no more about it. But one day she was at the fair in Grange and saw some of the same women who were in the castle when the baby was born; though, as she noticed, she only could see them with the one eye she had wet with the water from the basin. The nurse spoke to the women, and they wanted to know how she recognized them; and she, in reply, said it was with the one eye, and asked, "How is the baby?" "Well," said one of the fairy women; "and what eye do you see us with?" "With the left eye," answered the nurse. Then the fairy woman blew her breath against the nurse's left eye, and said, "You'll never see me again." And the nurse was always blind in the left eye after that.'

The Spirit World at Carns

The Carns or Mount Temple country, about three miles from Grange, County Sligo, has already been mentioned by witnesses as a 'gentry' haunt, and so now we shall hear what one of its oldest and most intelligent native inhabitants says of it. John McCann had been referred to, by Patrick Waters, as one who knows much about the 'gentry' at first hand, and we can be sure that what he offers us is thoroughly reliable evidence. For many years, John McCann, born in 1830, by profession a carpenter and boat-builder, has been official mail-carrier to Innishmurray; and he knows quite as much about the strange little island and the mainland opposite it as any man living. His neat little cottage is on the shore of the bay opposite the beautiful fairy-haunted Darnish Island; and, as we sat within it beside a brilliant peat fire, and surrounded by all the family, this is what was told me:-

A 'Gentry' Medium.-'Ketty Rourk (or Queenan) could tell all that would happen-funerals, weddings, and so forth. Sure some spirits were coming to her. She said they were the gentry; that the gentry are everywhere; and that my drowned uncles and grandfather and other dead are among them. A drowned man named Pat Nicholson was her adviser. He used to live just a mile from here; and she knew him before he was drowned.'

Here we have, clearly enough, a case of 'mediumship', or of communication with the dead, as in modern Spiritualism. And the following story, which like this last has numerous Irish parallels, illustrates an ancient and world-wide animistic belief, that in sickness-as in dreams-the soul goes out of the body as at death, and meets the dead in their own fairy world.

The Clairvoyance of Mike Farrell.-'Mike Farrell, too, could tell all about the gentry, as he lay sick a long time. And he told about Father Brannan's youth, and even the house in Roscommon in which the Father was born; and Father Brannan never said anything more against Mike after that. Mike surely saw the gentry; and he was with them during his illness for twelve months. He said they live in forts and at Alt Darby ("the Big Rock"). After he got well, he went to America, at the time of the famine.'

The 'Gentry' Army.-'The gentry were believed to live up on this hill (Hill of the Brocket Stones, Cluach-a-brac), and from it they would come out like an army and march along the road to the strand. Very few persons could see them. They were thought to be like living people, but in different dress. They seemed like soldiers, yet it was known they were not living beings such as we are.'

The Seership of Dan Quinn.-'On Connor's Island (about two miles southward from Carns by the mainland) my uncle, Dan Quinn, often used to see big crowds of the gentry come into his house and play music and dance. The house would be full of them, but they caused him no fear. Once on such an occasion, one of them came up to him as he lay in bed, and giving him a green leaf told him to put it in his mouth. When he did this, instantly he could not see the gentry, but could still hear their music. Uncle Dan always believed he recognized in some of the gentry his drowned friends. Only when he was alone would the gentry visit him. He was a silent old man, and so never talked much; but I know that this story is as true as can be, and that the gentry always took an interest in him.'

Under the Shadow of Ben Bulbin and Ben Waskin

I was driving along the Ben Bulbin road, on the ocean side, with Michael Oates, who was on his way from his mountain-side home to the lowlands to cut hay; and as we looked up at the ancient mountain, so mysterious and silent in the shadows and fog of a calm early morning of summer, he told me about its invisible inhabitants:-

The 'Gentry' Huntsmen.-'I knew a man who saw the gentry hunting on the other side of the mountain. He saw hounds and horsemen cross the road and jump the hedge in front of him, and it was one o'clock at night. The next day he passed the place again, and looked for the tracks of the huntsmen, but saw not a trace of tracks at all.'

The 'Taking' of the Turf-Cutter.-After I had heard about two boys who were drowned opposite Innishmurray, and who afterwards appeared as apparitions, for the gentry had them, this curious story was related:-'A man was cutting turf out on the side of Ben Bulbin when a strange man came to him and said, "You have cut enough turf for to-day. You had better stop and go home." The turf-cutter looked around in surprise, and in two seconds the strange man had disappeared; but he decided to go home. And as soon as he was home, such a feeling came over him that he could not tell whether he was alive or dead. Then he took to his bed and never rose again.'

Hearing the 'Gentry' Music.-At this Michael said to his companion in the cart with us, William Barber, 'You tell how you heard the music'; and this followed:-'One dark night, about one o'clock, myself and another young man were passing along the road up there round Ben Bulbin, when we heard the finest kind of music. All sorts of music seemed to be playing. We could see nothing at all, though we thought we heard voices like children's. It was the music of the gentry we heard.'

My next friend to testify is Pat Ruddy, eighty years old, one of the most intelligent and prosperous farmers living beside Ben Bulbin. He greeted me in the true Irish way, but before we could come to talk about fairies his good wife induced me to enter another room where she had secretly prepared a great feast spread out on a fresh white cloth, while Pat and myself had been exchanging opinions about America and Ireland. When I returned to the kitchen the whole family were assembled round the blazing turf fire, and Pat was soon talking about the 'gentry':-

Seeing the 'Gentry' Army.-'Old people used to say the gentry were in the mountains; that is certain, but I never could be quite sure of it myself. One night, however, near midnight, I did have a sight: I set out from Bantrillick to come home, and near Ben Bulbin there was the greatest army you ever saw, five or six thousand of them in armour shining in the moonlight. A strange man rose out of the hedge and stopped me, for a minute, in the middle of the road. He looked into my face, and then let me go.'

An Ossianic Fragment.-'A man went away with the good people (or gentry), and returned to find the townland all in ruins. As he came back riding on a horse of the good people, he saw some men in a quarry trying to move a big stone. He helped them with it, but his saddle-girth broke, and he fell to the ground. The horse ran away, and he was left there, an old man'[19] (cf. pp. 346-7).

A Schoolmaster's Testimony

A schoolmaster, who is a native of the Ben Bulbin country, offers this testimony:-'There is implicit belief here in the gentry, especially among the old people. They consider them the spirits of their departed relations and friends, who visit them in joy and in sorrow. On the death of a member of a family, they believe the spirits of their near relatives are present; they do not see them, but feel their presence. They even have a strong belief that the spirits show them the future in dreams; and say that cases of affliction are always foreshown in a dream.

'The belief in changelings is not now generally prevalent; but in olden times a mother used to place a pair of iron tongs over the cradle before leaving the child alone, in order that the fairies should not change the child for a weakly one of their own. It was another custom to take a wisp of straw, and, lighting one end of it, make a fiery sign of the cross over a cradle before a babe could be placed in it.'

With the Irish Mystics in the Sidhe World

Let us now turn to the Rosses Point country, which, as we have already said, is one of the very famous places for seeing the 'gentry', or, as educated Irish seers who make pilgrimages thither call them, the Sidhe. I have been told by more than one such seer that there on the hills and Greenlands (a great stretch of open country, treeless and grass-grown), and on the strand at Lower Rosses Point-called Wren Point by the country-folk-these beings can be seen and their wonderful music heard; and a well-known Irish artist has shown me many drawings, and paintings in oil, of these Sidhe people as he has often beheld them at those places and elsewhere in Ireland. They are described as a race of majestic appearance and marvellous beauty, in form human, yet in nature divine. The highest order of them seems to be a race of beings evolved to a superhuman plane of existence, such as the ancients called gods; and with this opinion, strange as it may seem in this age, all the educated Irish seers with whom I have been privileged to talk agree, though they go further, and say that these highest Sidhe races still inhabiting Ireland are the ever-young, immortal divine race known to the ancient men of Erin as the Tuatha De Danann.

Of all European lands I venture to say that Ireland is the most mystical, and, in the eyes of true Irishmen, as much the Magic Island of Gods and Initiates now as it was when the Sacred Fires flashed from its purple, heather-covered mountain-tops and mysterious round towers, and the Greater Mysteries drew to its hallowed shrines neophytes from the West as well as from the East, from India and Egypt as well as from Atlantis;[20] and Erin's mystic-seeing sons still watch and wait for the relighting of the Fires and the restoration of the old Druidic Mysteries. Herein I but imperfectly echo the mystic message Ireland's seers gave me, a pilgrim to their Sacred Isle. And until this mystic message is interpreted, men cannot discover the secret of Gaelic myth and song in olden or in modern times, they cannot drink at the ever-flowing fountain of Gaelic genius, the perennial source of inspiration which lies behind the new revival of literature and art in Ireland, nor understand the seeming reality of the fairy races.

An Irish Mystic's Testimony

Through the kindness of an Irish mystic, who is a seer, I am enabled to present here, in the form of a dialogue, very rare and very important evidence, which will serve to illustrate and to confirm what has just been said above about the mysticism of Ireland. To anthropologists this evidence may be of more than ordinary value when they know that it comes from one who is not only a cultured seer but who is also a man conspicuously successful in the practical life of a great city:-


Q.-Are all visions which you have had of the same character?

A.-'I have always made a distinction between pictures seen in the memory of nature and visions of actual beings now existing in the inner world. We can make the same distinction in our world: I may close my eyes and see you as a vivid picture in memory, or I may look at you with my physical eyes and see your actual image. In seeing these beings of which I speak, the physical eyes may be open or closed: mystical beings in their own world and nature are never seen with the physical eyes.'


Q.-By the inner world do you mean the Celtic Otherworld?

A.-'Yes; though there are many Otherworlds. The Tír-na-nog of the ancient Irish, in which the races of the Sidhe exist, may be described as a radiant archetype of this world, though this definition does not at all express its psychic nature. In Tír-na-nog one sees nothing save harmony and beautiful forms. There are other worlds in which we can see horrible shapes.'

Classification of the 'Sidhe'.-

Q.-Do you in any way classify the Sidhe races to which you refer?

A.-'The beings whom I call the Sidhe, I divide, as I have seen them, into two great classes: those which are shining, and those which are opalescent and seem lit up by a light within themselves. The shining beings appear to be lower in the hierarchies; the opalescent beings are more rarely seen, and appear to hold the positions of great chiefs or princes among the tribes of Dana.'

Conditions of Seership.-

Q.-Under what state or condition and where have you seen such beings?

A.-'I have seen them most frequently after being away from a city or town for a few days. The whole west coast of Ireland from Donegal to Kerry seems charged with a magical power, and I find it easiest to see while I am there. I have always found it comparatively easy to see visions while at ancient monuments like New Grange and Dowth, because I think such places are naturally charged with psychical forces, and were for that reason made use of long ago as sacred places. I usually find it possible to throw myself into the mood of seeing; but sometimes visions have forced themselves upon me.'

The Shining Beings.-

Q.-Can you describe the shining beings?

A.-'It is very difficult to give any intelligible description of them. The first time I saw them with great vividness I was lying on a hill-side alone in the west of Ireland, in County Sligo: I had been listening to music in the air, and to what seemed to be the sound of bells, and was trying to understand these aerial clashings in which wind seemed to break upon wind in an ever-changing musical silvery sound. Then the space before me grew luminous, and I began to see one beautiful being after another.'

The Opalescent Beings.-

Q.-Can you describe one of the opalescent beings?

A.-'The first of these I saw I remember very clearly, and the manner of its appearance: there was at first a dazzle of light, and then I saw that this came from the heart of a tall figure with a body apparently shaped out of half-transparent or opalescent air, and throughout the body ran a radiant, electrical fire, to which the heart seemed the centre. Around the head of this being and through its waving luminous hair, which was blown all about the body like living strands of gold, there appeared flaming wing-like auras. From the being itself light seemed to stream outwards in every direction; and the effect left on me after the vision was one of extraordinary lightness, joyousness, or ecstasy.

'At about this same period of my life I saw many of these great beings, and I then thought that I had visions of Aengus, Manannan, Lug, and other famous kings or princes among the Tuatha De Danann; but since then I have seen so many beings of a similar character that I now no longer would attribute to any one of them personal identity with particular beings of legend; though I believe that they correspond in a general way to the Tuatha De Danann or ancient Irish gods.'

Stature of the 'Sidhe'.-

Q.-You speak of the opalescent beings as great beings; what stature do you assign to them, and to the shining beings?

A.-'The opalescent beings seem to be about fourteen feet in stature, though I do not know why I attribute to them such definite height, since I had nothing to compare them with; but I have always considered them as much taller than our race. The shining beings seem to be about our own stature or just a little taller. Peasant and other Irish seers do not usually speak of the Sidhe as being little, but as being tall: an old schoolmaster in the West of Ireland described them to me from his own visions as tall beautiful people, and he used some Gaelic words, which I took as meaning that they were shining with every colour.'

The worlds of the 'Sidhe.'-

Q.-Do the two orders of Sidhe beings inhabit the same world?

A.-'The shining beings belong to the mid-world; while the opalescent beings belong to the heaven-world. There are three great worlds which we can see while we are still in the body: the earth-world, mid-world, and heaven-world.'

Nature of the 'Sidhe.'-

Q.-Do you consider the life and state of these Sidhe beings superior to the life and state of men?

A.-'I could never decide. One can say that they themselves are certainly more beautiful than men are, and that their worlds seem more beautiful than our world.

'Among the shining orders there does not seem to be any individualized life: thus if one of them raises his hands all raise their hands, and if one drinks from a fire-fountain all do; they seem to move and to have their real existence in a being higher than themselves, to which they are a kind of body. Theirs is, I think, a collective life, so unindividualized and so calm that I might have more varied thoughts in five hours than they would have in five years; and yet one feels an extraordinary purity and exaltation about their life. Beauty of form with them has never been broken up by the passions which arise in the developed egotism of human beings. A hive of bees has been described as a single organism with disconnected cells; and some of these tribes of shining beings seem to be little more than one being manifesting itself in many beautiful forms. I speak this with reference to the shining beings only: I think that among the opalescent or Sidhe beings, in the heaven-world, there is an even closer spiritual unity, but also a greater individuality.'

Influence of the 'Sidhe' on Men.-

Q.-Do you consider any of these Sidhe beings inimical to humanity?

A.-'Certain kinds of the shining beings, whom I call wood beings, have never affected me with any evil influences I could recognize. But the water beings, also of the shining tribes, I always dread, because I felt whenever I came into contact with them a great drowsiness of mind and, I often thought, an actual drawing away of vitality.'

Water Beings Described.-

Q.-Can you describe one of these water beings?

A.-'In the world under the waters-under a lake in the West of Ireland in this case-I saw a blue and orange coloured king seated on a throne; and there seemed to be some fountain of mystical fire rising from under his throne, and he breathed this fire into himself as though it were his life. As I looked, I saw groups of pale beings, almost grey in colour, coming down one side of the throne by the fire-fountain. They placed their head and lips near the heart of the elemental king, and, then, as they touched him, they shot upwards, plumed and radiant, and passed on the other side, as though they had received a new life from this chief of their world.'

Wood Beings Described.-

Q.-Can you describe one of the wood beings?

A.-'The wood beings I have seen most often are of a shining silvery colour with a tinge of blue or pale violet, and with dark purple-coloured hair.'

Reproduction and Immortality of the 'Sidhe'.-

Q.-Do you consider the races of the Sidhe able to reproduce their kind; and are they immortal?

A.-'The higher kinds seem capable of breathing forth beings out of themselves, but I do not understand how they do so. I have seen some of them who contain elemental beings within themselves, and these they could send out and receive back within themselves again.

'The immortality ascribed to them by the ancient Irish is only a relative immortality, their space of life being much greater than ours. In time, however, I believe that they grow old and then pass into new bodies just as men do, but whether by birth or by the growth of a new body I cannot say, since I have no certain knowledge about this.'

Sex among the 'Sidhe'.-

Q.-Does sexual differentiation seem to prevail among the Sidhe races?

A.-'I have seen forms both male and female, and forms which did not suggest sex at all.'

'Sidhe' and Human Life.-

Q.-(1) Is it possible, as the ancient Irish thought, that certain of the higher Sidhe beings have entered or could enter our plane of life by submitting to human birth? (2) On the other hand, do you consider it possible for men in trance or at death to enter the Sidhe world?

A.-(1) 'I cannot say.' (2) 'Yes; both in trance and after death. I think any one who thought much of the Sidhe during his life and who saw them frequently and brooded on them would likely go to their world after death.'

Social Organization of the 'Sidhe'.-

Q.-You refer to chieftain-like or prince-like beings, and to a king among water beings; is there therefore definite social organization among the various Sidhe orders and races, and if so, what is its nature?

A.-'I cannot say about a definite social organization. I have seen beings who seemed to command others, and who were held in reverence. This implies an organization, but whether it is instinctive like that of a hive of bees, or consciously organized like human society, I cannot say.'

Lower 'Sidhe' as Nature Elementals.-

Q.-You speak of the water-being king as an elemental king; do you suggest thereby a resemblance between lower Sidhe orders and what mediaeval mystics called elementals?

A.-'The lower orders of the Sidhe are, I think, the nature elementals of the mediaeval mystics.'

Nourishment of the Higher 'Sidhe'.-

Q.-The water beings as you have described them seem to be nourished and kept alive by something akin to electrical fluids; do the higher orders of the Sidhe seem to be similarly nourished?

A.-'They seemed to me to draw their life out of the Soul of the World.'

Collective Visions of 'Sidhe' Beings.-

Q.-Have you had visions of the various Sidhe beings in company with other persons?

A.-'I have had such visions on several occasions.'

And this statement has been confirmed to me by three participants in such collective visions, who separately at different times have seen in company with our witness the same vision at the same moment. On another occasion, on the Greenlands at Rosses Point, County Sligo, the same Sidhe being was seen by our present witness and a friend with him, also possessing the faculty of seership, at a time when the two percipients were some little distance apart, and they hurried to each other to describe the being, not knowing that the explanation was mutually unnecessary. I have talked with both percipients so much, and know them so intimately that I am fully able to state that as percipients they fulfil all necessary pathological conditions required by psychologists in order to make their evidence acceptable.

Parallel Evidence as to the Sidhe Races

In general, the rare evidence above recorded from the Irish seer could be paralleled by similar evidence from at least two other reliable Irish people, with whom also I have been privileged to discuss the Fairy-Faith. One is a member of the Royal Irish Academy, the other is the wife of a well-known Irish historian; and both of them testify to having likewise had collective visions of Sidhe beings in Ireland.

This is what Mr. William B. Yeats wrote to me, while this study was in progress, concerning the Celtic Fairy Kingdom:-'I am certain that it exists, and will some day be studied as it was studied by Kirk.'[21]

Independent Evidence from the Sidhe World

One of the most remarkable discoveries of our Celtic researches has been that the native population of the Rosses Point country, or, as we have called it, the Sidhe world, in most essentials, and, what is most important, by independent folk-testimony, substantiate the opinions and statements of the educated Irish mystics to whom we have just referred, as follows:-

John Conway's Vision of the 'Gentry'.-In Upper Rosses Point, Mrs. J. Conway told me this about the 'gentry':-'John Conway, my husband, who was a pilot by profession, in watching for in-coming ships used to go up on the high hill among the Fairy Hills; and there he often saw the gentry going down the hill to the strand. One night in particular he recognized them as men and women of the gentry; and they were as big as any living people. It was late at night about forty years ago.'

Ghosts and Fairies.-When first I introduced myself to Owen Conway, in his bachelor quarters, a cosy cottage at Upper Rosses Point, he said that Mr. W. B. Yeats and other men famous in Irish literature had visited him to hear about the fairies, and that though he knew very little about the fairies he nevertheless always likes to talk of them. Then Owen began to tell me about a man's ghost which both he and Bran Reggan had seen at different times on the road to Sligo, then about a woman's ghost which he and other people had often seen near where we were, and then about the exorcizing of a haunted house in Sligo some sixty years ago by Father McGowan, who as a result died soon afterwards, apparently having been killed by the exorcized spirits. Finally, I heard from him the following anecdotes about the fairies:-

A Stone Wall overthrown by 'Fairy' Agency.-'Nothing is more certain than that there are fairies. The old folks always thought them the fallen angels. At the back of this house the fairies had their pass. My neighbour started to build a cow-shed, and one wall abutting on the pass was thrown down twice, and nothing but the fairies ever did it. The third time the wall was built it stood.'

Fairies passing through Stone Walls.-'Where MacEwen's house stands was a noted fairy place. Men in building the house saw fairies on horses coming across the spot, and the stone walls did not stop them at all.'

Seeing the 'Gentry'.-'A cousin of mine, who was a pilot, once went to the watch-house up there on the Point to take his brother's place; and he saw ladies coming towards him as he crossed the Greenlands. At first he thought they were coming from a dance, but there was no dance going then, and, if there had been, no human beings dressed like them and moving as they were could have come from any part of the globe, and in so great a party, at that hour of the night. Then when they passed him and he saw how beautiful they were, he knew them for the gentry women.'

'Michael Reddy (our next witness) saw the gentry down on the Greenlands in regimentals like an army, and in daylight. He was a young man at the time, and had been sent out to see if any cattle were astray.'

And this is what Michael Reddy, of Rosses Point, now a sailor on the ship Tartar, sailing from Sligo to neighbouring ports on the Irish coast, asserts in confirmation of Owen Conway's statement about him:-'I saw the gentry on the strand (at Lower Rosses Point) about forty years ago. It was afternoon. I first saw one of them like an officer pointing at me what seemed a sword; and when I got on the Greenlands I saw a great company of gentry, like soldiers, in red, laughing and shouting. Their leader was a big man, and they were ordinary human size. As a result [of this vision] I took to my bed and lay there for weeks. Upon another occasion, late at night, I was with my mother milking cows, and we heard the gentry all round us talking, but could not see them.'

Going to the 'Gentry' through Death, Dreams, or Trance.-John O'Conway, one of the most reliable citizens of Upper Rosses Point, offers the following testimony concerning the 'gentry':-'In olden times the gentry were very numerous about forts and here on the Greenlands, but rarely seen. They appeared to be the same as any living men. When people died it was said the gentry took them, for they would afterwards appear among the gentry.'

'We had a ploughman of good habits who came in one day too late for his morning's work, and he in excuse very seriously said, "May be if you had travelled all night as much as I have you wouldn't talk. I was away with the gentry, and save for a lady I couldn't have been back now. I saw a long hall full of many people. Some of them I knew and some I did not know. The lady saved me by telling me to eat no food there, however enticing it might be."'

'A young man at Drumcliffe was taken [in a trance state], and was with the Daoine Maithe some time, and then got back. Another man, whom I knew well, was haunted by the gentry for a long time, and he often went off with them' (apparently in a dream or trance state).

'Sidhe' Music.-The story which now follows substantiates the testimony of cultured Irish seers that at Lower Rosses Point the music of the Sidhe can be heard:-'Three women were gathering shell-fish, in the month of March, on the lowest point of the strand (Lower Rosses or Wren Point) when they heard the most beautiful music. They set to work to dance with it, and danced themselves sick. They then thanked the invisible musician and went home.'

The Testimony of a College Professor

Our next witness is the Rev. Father --, a professor in a Catholic college in West Ireland, and most of his statements are based on events which happened among his own acquaintances and relatives, and his deductions are the result of careful investigation:-

Apparitions from Fairyland.-'Some twenty to thirty years ago, on the borders of County Roscommon near County Sligo, according to the firm belief of one of my own relatives, a sister of his was taken by the fairies on her wedding-night, and she appeared to her mother afterwards as an apparition. She seemed to want to speak, but her mother, who was in bed at the time, was thoroughly frightened, and turned her face to the wall. The mother is convinced that she saw this apparition of her daughter, and my relative thinks she might have saved her.

'This same relative who gives it as his opinion that his sister was taken by the fairies, at a different time saw the apparition of another relative of mine who also, according to similar belief, had been taken by the fairies when only five years old. The child-apparition appeared beside its living sister one day while the sister was going from the yard into the house, and it followed her in. It is said the child was taken because she was such a good girl.'

Nature of the Belief in Fairies.-'As children we were always afraid of fairies, and were taught to say "God bless them! God bless them!" whenever we heard them mentioned.

'In our family we always made it a point to have clean water in the house at night for the fairies.

'If anything like dirty water was thrown out of doors after dark it was necessary to say "Hugga, hugga salach!" as a warning to the fairies not to get their clothes wet.

'Untasted food, like milk, used to be left on the table at night for the fairies. If you were eating and food fell from you, it was not right to take it back, for the fairies wanted it. Many families are very serious about this even now. The luckiest thing to do in such cases is to pick up the food and eat just a speck of it and then throw the rest away to the fairies.

'Ghosts and apparitions are commonly said to live in isolated thorn-bushes, or thorn-trees. Many lonely bushes of this kind have their ghosts. For example, there is Fanny's Bush, Sally's Bush, and another I know of in County Sligo near Boyle.'

Personal Opinions.-'The fairies of any one race are the people of the preceding race-the Fomors for the Fir Bolgs, the Fir Bolgs for the Dananns, and the Dananns for us. The old races died. Where did they go? They became spirits-and fairies. Second-sight gave our race power to see the inner world. When Christianity came to Ireland the people had no definite heaven. Before, their ideas about the other world were vague. But the older ideas of a spirit world remained side by side with the Christian ones, and being preserved in a subconscious way gave rise to the fairy world.'

Evidence from County Roscommon

Our next place for investigation will be the ancient province of the great fairy-queen Meave, who made herself famous by leading against Cuchulainn the united armies of four of the five provinces of Ireland, and all on account of a bull which she coveted. And there could be no better part of it to visit than Roscommon, which Dr. Douglas Hyde has made popular in Irish folk-lore.

Dr. Hyde and the Leprechaun.-One day while I was privileged to be at Ratra, Dr. Hyde invited me to walk with him in the country. After we had visited an old fort which belongs to the 'good people', and had noticed some other of their haunts in that part of Queen Meave's realm, we entered a straw-thatched cottage on the roadside and found the good house-wife and her fine-looking daughter both at home. In response to Dr. Hyde's inquiries, the mother stated that one day, in her girlhood, near a hedge from which she was gathering wild berries, she saw a leprechaun in a hole under a stone:-'He wasn't much larger than a doll, and he was most perfectly formed, with a little mouth and eyes.' Nothing was told about the little fellow having a money-bag, although the woman said people told her afterwards that she would have been rich if she had only had sense enough to catch him when she had so good a chance.[22]

The Death Coach.-The next tale the mother told was about the death coach which used to pass by the very house we were in. Every night until after her daughter was born she used to rise up on her elbow in bed to listen to the death coach passing by. It passed about midnight, and she could hear the rushing, the tramping of the horses, and most beautiful singing, just like fairy music, but she could not understand the words. Once or twice she was brave enough to open the door and look out as the coach passed, but she could never see a thing, though there was the noise and singing. One time a man had to wait on the roadside to let the fairy horses go by, and he could hear their passing very clearly, and couldn't see one of them.

When we got home, Dr. Hyde told me that the fairies of the region are rarely seen. The people usually say that they hear or feel them only.

The 'Good People' and Mr. Gilleran.-After the mother had testified, the daughter, who is quite of the younger generation, gave her own opinion. She said that the 'good people' live in the forts and often take men and women or youths who pass by the forts after sunset; that Mr. Gilleran, who died not long ago, once saw certain dead friends and recognized among them those who were believed to have been taken and those who died naturally, and that he saw them again when he was on his death-bed.

We have here, as in so many other accounts, a clear connexion between the realm of the dead and Fairyland.

The Testimony of a Lough Derg Seer

Neil Colton, seventy-three years old, who lives in Tamlach Townland, on the shores of Lough Derg, County Donegal, has a local reputation for having seen the 'gentle folk', and so I called upon him. As we sat round his blazing turf fire, and in the midst of his family of three sturdy boys-for he married late in life-this is what he related:-

A Girl Recovered from Faerie.-'One day, just before sunset in midsummer, and I a boy then, my brother and cousin and myself were gathering bilberries (whortleberries) up by the rocks at the back of here, when all at once we heard music. We hurried round the rocks, and there we were within a few hundred feet of six or eight of the gentle folk, and they dancing. When they saw us, a little woman dressed all in red came running out from them towards us, and she struck my cousin across the face with what seemed to be a green rush. We ran for home as hard as we could, and when my cousin reached the house she fell dead. Father saddled a horse and went for Father Ryan. When Father Ryan arrived, he put a stole about his neck and began praying over my cousin and reading psalms and striking her with the stole; and in that way brought her back. He said if she had not caught hold of my brother, she would have been taken for ever.'

The 'Gentle Folk'.-'The gentle folk are not earthly people; they are a people with a nature of their own. Even in the water there are men and women of the same character. Others have caves in the rocks, and in them rooms and apartments. These races were terribly plentiful a hundred years ago, and they'll come back again. My father lived two miles from here, where there were plenty of the gentle folk. In olden times they used to take young folks and keep them and draw all the life out of their bodies. Nobody could ever tell their nature exactly.'

Evidence from County Fermanagh

From James Summerville, eighty-eight years old, who lives in the country near Irvinestown, I heard much about the 'wee people' and about banshees, and then the following remarkable story concerning the 'good people':-

Travelling Clairvoyance through 'Fairy' Agency.-'From near Ederney, County Fermanagh, about seventy years ago, a man whom I knew well was taken to America on Hallow Eve Night; and they (the good people) made him look down a chimney to see his own daughter cooking at a kitchen fire. Then they took him to another place in America, where he saw a friend he knew. The next morning he was at his own home here in Ireland.

'This man wrote a letter to his daughter to know if she was at the place and at the work on Hallow Eve Night, and she wrote back that she was. He was sure that it was the good people who had taken him to America and back in one night.'

Evidence from County Antrim

At the request of Major R. G. Berry, M.R.I.A., of Richill Castle, Armagh, Mr. H. Higginson, of Glenavy, County Antrim, collected all the material he could find concerning the fairy-tradition in his part of County Antrim, and sent to me the results, from which I have selected the very interesting, and, in some respects, unique tales which follow:-

The Fairies and the Weaver.-'Ned Judge, of Sophys Bridge, was a weaver. Every night after he went to bed the weaving started of itself, and when he arose in the morning he would find the dressing which had been made ready for weaving so broken and entangled that it took him hours to put it right. Yet with all this drawback he got no poorer, because the fairies left him plenty of household necessaries, and whenever he sold a web [of cloth] he always received treble the amount bargained for.'

Meeting Two Regiments of 'Them'.-'William Megarry, of Ballinderry, as his daughter who is married to James Megarry, J.P., told me, was one night going to Crumlin on horseback for a doctor, when after passing through Glenavy he met just opposite the Vicarage two regiments of them (the fairies) coming along the road towards Glenavy. One regiment was dressed in red and one in blue or green uniform. They were playing music, but when they opened out to let him pass through the middle of them the music ceased until he had passed by.'

In Cuchulainn's Country: A Civil Engineer's Testimony

In the heroic days of pagan Ireland, as tradition tells, the ancient earthworks, now called the Navan Rings, just outside Armagh, were the stronghold of Cuchulainn and the Red Branch Knights; and, later, under Patrick, Armagh itself, one of the old mystic centres of Erin, became the ecclesiastical capital of the Gaels. And from this romantic country, one of its best informed native sons, a graduate civil engineer of Dublin University, offers the following important evidence:-

The Fairies are the Dead.-'When I was a youngster near Armagh, I was kept good by being told that the fairies could take bad boys away. The sane belief about the fairies, however, is different, as I discovered when I grew up. The old people in County Armagh seriously believe that the fairies are the spirits of the dead; and they say that if you have many friends deceased you have many friendly fairies, or if you have many enemies deceased you have many fairies looking out to do you harm.'

Food-Offerings to Place-Fairies.-'It was very usual formerly, and the practice is not yet given up, to place a bed, some other furniture, and plenty of food in a newly-constructed dwelling the night before the time fixed for moving into it; and if the food is not consumed, and the crumbs swept up by the door in the morning, the house cannot safely be occupied. I know of two houses now that have never been occupied, because the fairies did not show their willingness and goodwill by taking food so offered to them.'

On the Slopes of Slieve Gullion

In climbing to the summit of Cuchulainn's mountain, which overlooks parts of the territory made famous by the 'Cattle Raid of Cooley', I met John O'Hare, sixty-eight years old, of Longfield Townland, leading his horse to pasture, and I stopped to talk with him about the 'good people'.

'The good people in this mountain,' he said, 'are the people who have died and been taken; the mountain is enchanted.'

The 'Fairy' Overflowing of the Meal-Chest.-'An old woman came to the wife of Steven Callaghan and told her not to let Steven cut a certain hedge. "It is where we shelter at night," the old woman added; and Mrs. Callaghan recognized the old woman as one who had been taken in confinement. A few nights later the same old woman appeared to Mrs. Callaghan and asked for charity; and she was offered some meal, which she did not take. Then she asked for lodgings, but did not stop. When Mrs. Callaghan saw the meal-chest next morning it was overflowing with meal: it was the old woman's gift for the hedge.'

The Testimony of two Dromintee Percipients

After my friend, the Rev. Father L. Donnellan, C.C., of Dromintee, County Armagh, had introduced me to Alice Cunningham, of his parish, and she had told much about the 'gentle folk', she emphatically declared that they do exist-and this in the presence of Father Donnellan-because she has often seen them on Carrickbroad Mountain, near where she lives. And she then reported as follows concerning enchanted Slieve Gullion:-

The 'Sidhe' Guardian of Slieve Gullion.-'The top of Slieve Gullion is a very gentle place. A fairy has her house there by the lake, but she is invisible. She interferes with nobody. I hear of no gentler places about here than Carrickbroad and Slieve Gullion.'

Father Donnellan and I called next upon Thomas McCrink and his wife at Carrifamayan, because Mrs. McCrink claims to have seen some of the 'good people', and this is her testimony:-

Nature of the 'Good People'.-'I've heard and felt the good people coming on the wind; and I once saw them down in the middle field on my father's place playing football. They are still on earth. Among them are the spirits of our ancestors; and these rejoice whenever good fortune comes our way, for I saw them before my mother won her land [after a long legal contest] in the field rejoicing.

'Some of the good people I have thought were fallen angels, though these may be dead people whose time is not up. We are only like shadows in this world: my mother died in England, and she came to me in the spirit. I saw her plainly. I ran to catch her, but my hands ran through her form as if it were mere mist. Then there was a crack, and she was gone.' And, finally, after a moment, our percipient said:-'The fairies once passed down this lane here on a Christmas morning; and I took them to be suffering souls out of Purgatory, going to mass.'

The Testimony of a Dromintee Seeress

Father Donnellan, the following day, took me to talk with almost the oldest woman in his parish, Mrs. Biddy Grant, eighty-six years old, of Upper Toughal, beside Slieve Gullion. Mrs. Grant is a fine specimen of an Irishwoman, with white hair, clear complexion, and an expression of great natural intelligence, though now somewhat feeble from age. Her mind is yet clear, however; and her testimony is substantiated by this statement from her own daughter, who lives with her:-'My mother has the power of seeing things. It is a fact with her that spirits exist. She has seen much, even in her old age; and what she is always telling me scares me half to death.'

The following is Mrs. Grant's direct testimony given at her own home, on September 20, 1909, in answer to our question if she knew anything about the 'good people':-

Seeing the 'Good People' as the Dead.-'I saw them once as plain as can be-big, little, old, and young. I was in bed at the time, and a boy whom I had reared since he was born was lying ill beside me. Two of them came and looked at him; then came in three of them. One of them seemed to have something like a book, and he put his hand to the boy's mouth; then he went away, while others appeared, opening the back window to make an avenue through the house; and through this avenue came great crowds. At this I shook the boy, and said to him, "Do you see anything?" "No," he said; but as I made him look a second time he said, "I do." After that he got well.

'These good people were the spirits of our dead friends, but I could not recognize them. I have often seen them that way while in my bed. Many women are among them. I once touched a boy of theirs, and he was just like feathers in my hand; there was no substance in him, and I knew he wasn't a living being. I don't know where they live; I've heard they live in the Carrige (rocks). Many a time I've heard of their taking people or leading them astray. They can't live far away when they come to me in such a rush. They are as big as we are. I think these fairy people are all through this country and in the mountains.'

An Apparition of a 'Sidhe' Woman?-'At a wake I went out of doors at midnight and saw a woman running up and down the field with a strange light in her hand. I called out my daughter, but she saw nothing, though all the time the woman dressed in white was in the field, shaking the light and running back and forth as fast as you could wink. I thought the woman might be the spirit of Nancy Frink, but I was not sure.' (Cf. pp. 60 ff., 83, 155, 215.)

Evidence from Lough Gur, County Limerick

One of the most interesting parts of Ireland for the archaeologist and for the folk-lorist alike is the territory immediately surrounding Lough Gur, County Limerick. Shut in for the most part from the outer world by a circle of low-lying hills on whose summits fairy goddesses yet dwell invisibly, this region, famous for its numerous and well-preserved cromlechs, dolmens, menhirs, and tumuli, and for the rare folk-traditions current among its peasantry, has long been popularly regarded as a sort of Otherworld preserve haunted by fairy beings, who dwell both in its waters and on its land.

There seems to be no reasonable doubt that in pre-Christian times the Lough Gur country was a very sacred spot, a mystic centre for pilgrimages and for the celebration of Celtic religious rites, including those of initiation. The Lough is still enchanted, but once in seven years the spell passes off it, and it then appears like dry land to any one that is fortunate enough to behold it. At such a time of disenchantment a Tree is seen growing up through the lake-bottom-a Tree like the strange World-Tree of Scandinavian myth. The Tree is covered with a Green Cloth, and under it sits the lake's guardian, a woman knitting.[23] The peasantry about Lough Gur still believe that beneath its waters there is one of the chief entrances in Ireland to Tír-na-nog, the 'Land of Youth', the Fairy Realm. And when a child is stolen by the Munster fairies, 'Lough Gur is conjectured to be the place of its unearthly transmutation from the human to the fairy state.'[23]

To my friend, Count John de Salis, of Balliol College, I am indebted for the following legendary material, collected by him on the fairy-haunted Lough Gur estate, his ancestral home, and annotated by the Rev. J. F. Lynch, one of the best-informed antiquarians living in that part of South Ireland:-

The Fairy Goddesses, Aine and Fennel (or Finnen).-'There are two hills near Lough Gur upon whose summits sacrifices and sacred rites used to be celebrated according to living tradition. One, about three miles south-west of the lake, is called Knock Aine, Aine or Ane being the name of an ancient Irish goddess, derived from an, "bright." The other, the highest hill on the lake-shores, is called Knock Fennel or Hill of the Goddess Fennel, from Finnen or Finnine or Fininne, a form of fin, "white." The peasantry of the region call Aine one of the Good People;[24] and they say that Fennel (apparently her sister goddess or a variant of herself) lived on the top of Knock Fennel' (termed Finnen in a State Paper dated 1200).

The Fairy Boat-Race.-'Different old peasants have told me that on clear calm moonlight nights in summer, fairy boats appear racing across Lough Gur. The boats come from the eastern side of the lake, and when they have arrived at Garrod Island, where the Desmond Castle lies in ruins, they vanish behind Knock Adoon. There are four of these phantom boats, and in each there are two men rowing and a woman steering. No sound is heard, though the seer can see the weird silvery splash of the oars and the churning of the water at the bows of the boats as they shoot along. It is evident that they are racing, because one boat gets ahead of the others, and all the rowers can be seen straining at the oars. Boats and occupants seem to be transparent, and you cannot see exactly what their nature is. One old peasant told me that it is the shining brightness of the clothes on the phantom rowers and on the women who steer which makes them visible.

'Another man, who is about forty years of age, and as far as I know of good habits, assures me that he also has seen this fairy boat-race, and that it can still be seen at the proper season.'

The Bean-Tighe.[25]-'The Bean-tighe, the fairy housekeeper of the enchanted submerged castle of the Earl of Desmond, is supposed to appear sitting on an ancient earthen monument shaped like a great chair and hence called Suidheachan, the "Housekeeper's Little Seat," on Knock Adoon (Hill of the Fort), which juts out into the Lough. The Bean-tighe, as I have heard an old peasant tell the tale, was once asleep on her Seat, when the Buachailleen[26] or "Little Herd Boy" stole her golden comb. When the Bean-tighe awoke and saw what had happened, she cast a curse upon the cattle of the Buachailleen, and soon all of them were dead, and then the "Little Herd Boy" himself died, but before his death he ordered the golden comb to be cast into the Lough.'[27]

Lough Gur Fairies in General.-'The peasantry in the Lough Gur region commonly speak of the Good People or of the Kind People or of the Little People, their names for the fairies. The leprechaun indicates the place where hidden treasure is to be found. If the person to whom he reveals such a secret makes it known to a second person, the first person dies, or else no money is found: in some cases the money is changed into ivy leaves or into furze blossoms.

'I am convinced that some of the older peasants still believe in fairies. I used to go out on the lake occasionally on moonlight nights, and an old woman supposed to be a "wise woman" (a seeress), hearing about my doing this, told me that under no circumstances should I continue the practice, for fear of "Them People" (the fairies). One evening in particular I was warned by her not to venture on the lake. She solemnly asserted that the "Powers of Darkness" were then abroad, and that it would be misfortune for me to be in their path.[28]

'Under ordinary circumstances, as a very close observer of the Lough Gur peasantry informs me, the old people will pray to the Saints, but if by any chance such prayers remain unanswered they then invoke other powers, the fairies, the goddesses Aine and Fennel, or other pagan deities, whom they seem to remember in a vague subconscious manner through tradition.'

Testimony from a County Kerry Seer

To another of my fellow students in Oxford, a native Irishman of County Kerry, I am indebted for the following evidence:-

A Collective Vision of Spiritual Beings.-'Some few weeks before Christmas, 1910, at midnight on a very dark night, I and another young man (who like myself was then about twenty-three years of age) were on horseback on our way home from Limerick. When near Listowel, we noticed a light about half a mile ahead. At first it seemed to be no more than a light in some house; but as we came nearer to it and it was passing out of our direct line of vision we saw that it was moving up and down, to and fro, diminishing to a spark, then expanding into a yellow luminous flame. Before we came to Listowel we noticed two lights, about one hundred yards to our right, resembling the light seen first. Suddenly each of these lights expanded into the same sort of yellow luminous flame, about six feet high by four feet broad. In the midst of each flame we saw a radiant being having human form. Presently the lights moved toward one another and made contact, whereupon the two beings in them were seen to be walking side by side. The beings' bodies were formed of a pure dazzling radiance, white like the radiance of the sun, and much brighter than the yellow light or aura surrounding them. So dazzling was the radiance, like a halo, round their heads that we could not distinguish the countenances of the beings; we could only distinguish the general shape of their bodies; though their heads were very clearly outlined because this halo-like radiance, which was the brightest light about them, seemed to radiate from or rest upon the head of each being. As we travelled on, a house intervened between us and the lights, and we saw no more of them. It was the first time we had ever seen such phenomena, and in our hurry to get home we were not wise enough to stop and make further examination. But ever since that night I have frequently seen, both in Ireland and in England, similar lights with spiritual beings in them.' (Cf. pp. 60 ff., 77, 133, 155, 215, 483.)

Reality of the Spiritual World.-'Like my companion, who saw all that I saw of the first three lights, I formerly had always been a sceptic as to the existence of spirits; now I know that there is a spiritual world. My brother, a physician, had been equally sceptical until he saw, near our home at Listowel, similar lights containing spiritual beings and was obliged to admit the genuineness of the phenomena.

'In whatever country we may be, I believe that we are for ever immersed in the spiritual world; but most of us cannot perceive it on account of the unrefined nature of our physical bodies. Through meditation and psychical training one can come to see the spiritual world and its beings. We pass into the spirit realm at death and come back into the human world at birth; and we continue to reincarnate until we have overcome all earthly desires and mortal appetites. Then the higher life is open to our consciousness and we cease to be human; we become divine beings.' (Recorded in Oxford, England, August 12, 1911.)


Introduction by Alexander Carmichael, Hon. LL.D. of the University of Edinburgh; author of Carmina Gadelica.

The belief in fairies was once common throughout Scotland-Highland and Lowland. It is now much less prevalent even in the Highlands and Islands, where such beliefs linger longer than they do in the Lowlands. But it still lives among the old people, and is privately entertained here and there even among younger people; and some who hold the belief declare that they themselves have seen fairies.

Various theories have been advanced as to the origin of fairies and as to the belief in them. The most concrete form in which the belief has been urged has been by the Rev. Robert Kirk, minister of Aberfoyle, in Perthshire.[29] Another theory of the origin of fairies I took down in the island of Miunghlaidh (Minglay); and, though I have given it in Carmina Gadelica, it is sufficiently interesting to be quoted here. During October 1871, Roderick Macneill, known as 'Ruaraidh mac Dhomhuil,' then ninety-two years of age, told it in Gaelic to the late J. F. Campbell of Islay and the writer, when they were storm-stayed in the precipitous island of Miunghlaidh, Barra:-

'The Proud Angel fomented a rebellion among the angels of heaven, where he had been a leading light. He declared that he would go and found a kingdom for himself. When going out at the door of heaven the Proud Angel brought prickly lightning and biting lightning out of the doorstep with his heels. Many angels followed him-so many that at last the Son called out, "Father! Father! the city is being emptied!" whereupon the Father ordered that the gates of heaven and the gates of hell should be closed. This was instantly done. And those who were in were in, and those who were out were out; while the hosts who had left heaven and had not reached hell flew into the holes of the earth, like the stormy petrels. These are the Fairy Folk-ever since doomed to live under the ground, and only allowed to emerge where and when the King permits. They are never allowed abroad on Thursday, that being Columba's Day; nor on Friday, that being the Son's Day; nor on Saturday, that being Mary's Day; nor on Sunday, that being the Lord's Day.

God be between me and every fairy,

Every ill wish and every druidry;

To-day is Thursday on sea and land,

I trust in the King that they do not hear me.

On certain nights when their bruthain (bowers) are open and their lamps are lit, and the song and the dance are moving merrily, the fairies may be heard singing lightheartedly:-

Not of the seed of Adam are we,

Nor is Abraham our father;

But of the seed of the Proud Angel,

Driven forth from Heaven.'

The fairies entered largely into the lives and into the folk-lore of the Highland people, and the following examples of things named after the fairies indicate the manner in which the fairies dominated the minds of the people of Gaeldom:-teine sith, 'fairy fire' (ignis fatuus); breaca sith, 'fairy marks,' livid spots appearing on the faces of the dead or dying; marcachd shith, 'fairy riding,' paralysis of the spine in animals, alleged to be brought on by the fairy mouse riding across the backs of animals while they are lying down; piob shith, 'fairy pipe' or 'elfin pipe', generally found in ancient underground houses; miaran na mna sithe, 'the thimble of the fairy woman,' the fox-glove; lion na mna sithe, 'lint of the fairy woman,' fairy flax, said to be beneficial in certain illnesses; and curachan na mna sithe, 'coracle of the fairy woman,' the shell of the blue valilla. In place-names sith, 'fairy,' is common. Glenshee, in Perthshire, is said to have been full of fairies, but the screech of the steam-whistle frightened them underground. There is scarcely a district of the Highlands without its fairy knoll, generally the greenest hillock in the place. 'The black chanter of Clan Chattan' is said to have been given to a famous Macpherson piper by a fairy woman who loved him; and the Mackays have a flag said to have been given to a Mackay by a fairy sweetheart. The well-known fairy flag of Dunvegan is said to have been given to a Macleod of Macleod by a fairy woman; and the Macrimmons of Bororaig, pipers to the Macleods of Macleod, had a chanter called 'Sionnsair airgid na mna sithe', 'the silver chanter of the fairy woman.' A family in North Uist is known as Dubh-sith, 'Black fairy,' from a tradition that the family had been familiar with the fairies in their secret flights and nightly migrations.

Donald Macalastair, seventy-nine years of age, crofter, Druim-a-ghinnir, Arran, told me, in the year 1895, the following story in Gaelic:-'The fairies were dwelling in the knoll, and they had a near neighbour who used to visit them in their home. The man used to observe the ways of the fairies and to do as they did. The fairies took a journey upon them to go to Ireland, and the man took upon him to go with them. Every single fairy of them caught a ragwort and went astride it, and they were pell-mell, every knee of them across the Irish Ocean in an instant, and across the Irish Ocean was the man after them, astride a ragwort like one of themselves. A little wee tiny fairy shouted and asked were they all ready, and all the others replied that they were, and the little fairy called out:-

My king at my head,

Going across in my haste,

On the crests of the waves,

To Ireland.

"Follow me," said the king of the fairies, and away they went across the Irish Ocean, every mother's son of them astride his ragwort. Macuga (Cook) did not know on earth how he would return to his native land, but he leapt upon the ragwort as he saw the fairies do, and he called as he heard them call, and in an instant he was back in Arran. But he had got enough of the fairies on this trip itself, and he never went with them again.'

The fairies were wont to take away infants and their mothers, and many precautions were taken to safeguard them till purification and baptism took place, when the fairy power became ineffective. Placing iron about the bed, burning leather in the room, giving mother and child the milk of a cow which had eaten of the mothan, pearl-wort (Pinguicula vulgaris), a plant of virtue, and similar means were taken to ensure their safety. If the watching-women neglected these precautions, the mother or child or both were spirited away to the fairy bower. Many stories are current on this subject.

Sometimes the fairies helped human beings with their work, coming in at night to finish the spinning or the house-work, or to thresh the farmer's corn or fan his grain. On such occasions they must not be molested nor interfered with, even in gratitude. If presented with a garment they will go away and work no more. This method of getting rid of them is often resorted to, as it is not easy always to find work for them to do.

Bean chaol a chot uaine 's na gruaige buidhe, 'the slender woman of the green kirtle and of the yellow hair,' is wise of head and deft of hand. She can convert the white water of the rill into rich red wine and the threads of the spiders into a tartan plaid. From the stalk of the fairy reed she can bring the music of the lull of the peace and of the repose, however active the brain and lithe the limb; and she can rouse to mirth and merriment, and to the dance, men and women, however dolorous their condition. From the bower could be heard the pipe and the song and the voice of laughter as the fairies 'sett' and reeled in the mazes of the dance. Sometimes a man hearing the merry music and seeing the wonderful light within would be tempted to go in and join them, but woe to him if he omitted to leave a piece of iron at the door of the bower on entering, for the cunning fairies would close the door and the man would find no egress. There he would dance for years-but to him the years were as one day-while his wife and family mourned him as dead.

The flint arrow-heads so much prized by antiquarians are called in the Highlands Saighead sith, fairy arrows. They are said to have been thrown by the fairies at the sons and daughters of men. The writer possesses one which was thrown at his own maid-servant one night when she went to the peatstack for peats. She was aware of something whizzing through the silent air, passing through her hair, grazing her ear and falling at her feet. Stooping in the bright moonlight the girl picked up a fairy arrow!

'But faith is dead-such things do not happen now,' said a courteous informant. If not quite dead it is almost dead, hastened by the shifting of population, the establishment of means of communication, the influx of tourists, and the scorn of the more materialistic of the incomers and of the people themselves.


October 1910.

Aberfoyle, the Country of Robert Kirk

My first hunt for fairies in Scotland began at Aberfoyle, where the Highlands and the Lowlands meet, and in the very place where Robert Kirk, the minister of Aberfoyle, was taken by them, in the year 1692. The minister spent a large part of his time studying the ways of the 'good people', and he must have been able to see them, for he was a seventh son. Mrs. J. MacGregor, who keeps the key to the old churchyard where there is a tomb to Kirk, though many say there is nothing in it but a coffin filled with stones, told me that Kirk was taken into the Fairy Knoll, which she pointed to just across a little valley in front of us, and is there yet, for the hill is full of caverns, and in them the 'good people' have their homes. And she added that Kirk appeared to a relative of his after he was taken, and said that he was in the power of the 'good people', and couldn't get away. 'But,' says he, 'I can be set free if you will have my cousin do what I tell him when I appear again at the christening of my child in the parsonage.' According to Mr. Andrew Lang, who reports the same tradition in more detail in his admirable Introduction to The Secret Commonwealth, the cousin was Grahame of Duchray, and the thing he was to do was to throw a dagger over Kirk's head. Grahame was at hand at the christening of the posthumous child, but was so astonished to see Kirk appear as Kirk said he would, that he did not throw the dagger, and so Kirk became a perpetual prisoner of the 'good people'.

After having visited Kirk's tomb, I called on the Rev. William M. Taylor, the present successor of Kirk, and, as we sat together in the very room where Kirk must have written his Secret Commonwealth, he told me that tradition reports Kirk as having been taken by the fairies while he was walking on their hill, which is but a short way from the parsonage. 'At the time of his disappearance, people said he was taken because the fairies were displeased with him for prying into their secrets. At all events, it seems likely that Kirk was taken ill very suddenly with something like apoplexy while on the Fairy Knoll, and died there. I have searched the presbytery books, and find no record of how Kirk's death really took place; but of course there is not the least doubt of his body being in the grave.' So thus, according to Mr. Taylor, we are to conclude that if the fairies carried off anything, it must have been the spirit or soul of Kirk. I talked with others round Aberfoyle about Kirk, and some would have it that his body and soul were both taken, and that what was buried was no corpse at all. Mrs. Margaret MacGregor, one of the few Gaelic speakers of the old school left in Aberfoyle, holds another opinion, for she said to me, 'Nothing could be surer than that the good people took Kirk's spirit only.'

In the Aberfoyle country, the Fairy-Faith, save for the stories about Kirk, which will probably persist for a long time yet, is rapidly passing. In fact it is almost forgotten now. Up to thirty years ago, as Mr. Taylor explained, before the railway reached Aberfoyle, belief in fairies was much more common. Nowadays, he says, there is no real fairy-lore among the peasants; fifty to sixty years ago there was. And in his opinion, 'the fairy people of three hundred years ago in Scotland were a distinct race by themselves. They had never been human beings. The belief in them was a survival of paganism, and not at all an outgrowth of Christian belief in angelic hosts.'

A Scotch Minister's Testimony

A Protestant minister of Scotland will be our next witness. He is a native of Ross-shire, though he draws many of his stories from the Western Hebrides, where his calling has placed him. Because he speaks from personal knowledge of the living Fairy-Faith as it was in his boyhood and is now, and chiefly because he has had the rare privilege of conscious contact with the fairy world, his testimony is of the highest value.

Reality of Fairies.-'When I was a boy I was a firm believer in fairies; and now as a Christian minister I believe in the possibility and also the reality of these spiritual orders, but I wish only to know those orders which belong to the realm of grace. It is very certain that they exist. I have been in a state of ecstasy, and have seen spiritual beings which form these orders.[30]

'I believe in the actuality of evil spirits; but people in the Highlands having put aside paganism, evil spirits are not seen now.'

This explanation was offered of how fairies may exist and yet be invisible:-'Our Saviour became invisible though in the body; and, as the Scriptures suggest, I suppose we are obliged to concede a similar power of invisibility to spirits as well, good and evil ones alike.'

Precautions against Fairies.-'I remember how an old woman pulled me out of a fairy ring to save me from being taken.

'If a mother takes some bindweed and places it burnt at the ends over her babe's cradle, the fairies have no power over the child. The bindweed is a common roadside convolvulus.

'As a boy, I saw two old women passing a babe over red-hot coals, and then drop some of the cinders in a cup of water and give the water to the babe to drink, in order to cure it of a fairy stroke.'

Fairy Fights on Halloween.-'It is a common belief now that on Halloween the fairies, or the fairy hosts, have fights. Lichens on rocks after there has been a frost get yellowish-red, and then when they thaw and the moisture spreads out from them the rocks are a bright red; and this bright red is said to be the blood of the fairies after one of their battles.'

Fairies and the Hump-back.-The following story by the present witness is curious, for it is the same story of a hump-back which is so widespread. The fact that in Scotland the hump is removed or added by fairies as it is in Ireland, in Cornwall by pixies, and in Brittany by corrigans, goes far to prove the essential identity of these three orders of beings. The story comes from one of the remote Western Hebrides, Benbecula:-'A man who was a hump-back once met the fairies dancing, and danced with their queen; and he sang with them, "Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday," so well that they took off his hump, and he returned home a straight-bodied man. Then a tailor went past the same place, and was also admitted by the fairies to their dance. He caught the fairy queen by the waist, and she resented his familiarity. And in singing he added "Thursday" to their song and spoilt it. To pay the tailor for his rudeness and ill manners, the dancers took up the hump they had just removed from the first man and clapped it on his back, and the conceited fellow went home a hump-back.'

Libations to Fairies.-'An elder in my church knew a woman who was accustomed, in milking her cows, to offer libations to the fairies.[31] The woman was later converted to Christ and gave up the practice, and as a result one of her cows was taken by the fairies. Then she revived the practice.

'The fairy queen who watches over cows is called Gruagach in the Islands, and she is often seen. In pouring libations to her and her fairies various kinds of stones, usually with hollows in them, are used.[32]

'In Lewis libations are poured to the goddess [or god] of the sea, called Shoney,[33] in order to bring in seaweed. Until modern times in Iona similar libations were poured to a god corresponding to Neptune.'

In the Highlands

I had the pleasure as well as the great privilege of setting out from Inverness on a bright crisp September morning in company with Dr. Alexander Carmichael, the well-known folk-lorist of Scotland, to study the Fairy-Faith as it exists now in the Highlands round Tomatin, a small country village about twenty miles distant. We departed by an early train; and soon reaching the Tomatin country began our search-Dr. Carmichael for evidence regarding rare and curious Scotch beliefs connected with folk-magic, such as blood-stopping at a distance and removing motes in the eye at a distance, and I for Highland ghosts and fairies.

Our first experience was with an old man whom we met on the road between the railway station and the post office, who could speak only Gaelic. Dr. Carmichael talked with him awhile, and then asked him about fairies, and he said there were some living in a cave some way off, but as the distance was rather too far we decided not to call on them. Then we went on to see the postmaster, Mr. John MacDougall, and he told us that in his boyhood the country-folk round Tomatin believed thoroughly in fairies. He said they thought of them as a race of spirits capable of making themselves visible to mortals, as living in underground places, as taking fine healthy babes and leaving changelings in their place. These changelings would waste away and die in a short time after being left. So firmly did the old people believe in fairies then that they would ridicule a person for not believing. And now quite the reverse state has come about.[34]

The Testimony of John Dunbar of Invereen

We talked with other Highlanders in the country round Tomatin, and heard only echoes, mostly fragmentary, of what their forefathers used to believe about fairies. But at Invereen we discovered John Dunbar, a Highlander, who really knows the Fairy-Faith and is not ashamed to explain it. Speaking partly from experience and partly from what he has heard his parents relate concerning the 'good people', he said:-

The Sheep and the Fairy-Hunting.-'I believe people saw fairies, but I think one reason no one sees them now is because every place in this parish where they used to appear has been put into sheep, and deer, and grouse, and shooting. According to tradition, Coig na Fearn is the place where the last fairy was seen in this country. Before the big sheep came, the fairies are supposed to have had a premonition that their domains were to be violated by them. A story is told of a fight between the sheep and fairies, or else of the fairies hunting the sheep:-James MacQueen, who could traffic with the fairies, whom he regarded as ghosts or spirits, one night on his old place, which now is in sheep, was lying down all alone and heard a small and big barking of dogs, and a small and big bleating of sheep, though no sheep were there then. It was the fairy-hunting he heard. "I put an axe under my head and I had no fear therefore," he always repeated when telling the story. I believe the man saw and heard something. And MacQueen used to aid the fairies, and on that account, as he was in the habit of saying, he always found more meal in his chest than he thought he had.'

Fairies.-'My grandmother believed firmly in fairies, and I have heard her tell a good many stories about them. They were a small people dressed in green, and had dwellings underground in dry spots. Fairies were often heard in the hills over there (pointing), and I believe something was there. They were awful for music, and used to be heard very often playing the bagpipes. A woman wouldn't go out in the dark after giving birth to a child before the child was christened, so as not to give the fairies power over her or the child. And I have heard people say that if fairies were refused milk and meat they would take a horse or a cow; and that if well treated they would repay all gifts.'

Time in Fairyland.-'People would be twenty years in Fairyland and it wouldn't seem more than a night. A bridegroom who was taken on his wedding-day was in Fairyland for many generations, and, coming back, thought it was next morning. He asked where all the wedding-guests were, and found only one old woman who remembered the wedding.'

Highland Legend of the Dead.-As I have found to be the case in all Celtic countries equally, fairy stories nearly always, in accordance with the law of psychology known as 'the association of ideas', give place to or are blended with legends of the dead. This is an important factor for the Psychological Theory. And what follows proves the same ideas to be present to the mind of Mr. Dunbar:-'Some people after death are seen in their old haunts; no mistake about it. A bailiff had false corn and meal measures, and so after he died he came back to his daughter and told her he could have no peace until the measures were burned. She complied with her father's wish, and his spirit was never seen again. I have known also of phantom funerals of people who died soon afterwards being seen on the road at night.'

To the Western Hebrides

From Inverness I began my journey to the Western Hebrides. While I waited for the steamer to take me from Kyle to the Isle of Skye, an old man with whom I talked on the docks said this about Neill Mackintosh, of Black Island:-'You can't argue with the old man that he hasn't seen fairies. He can tell you all about them.'

Evidence from the Isle of Skye

Miss Frances Tolmie, who was born at Uignish, Isle of Skye, and has lived many years in the isle in close touch with some of its oldest folk, contributes, from Edinburgh, the evidence which follows. The first two tales were told in the parish of Minginish a number of years ago by Mary Macdonald, a goat-herd, and have their setting in the region of the Koolian[35] range of mountains on the west side of Skye.

The Fatal Peat Ember.-'An aged nurse who had fallen fast asleep as she sat by the fire, was holding on her knees a newly-born babe. The mother, who lay in bed gazing dreamily, was astonished to see three strange little women enter the dwelling. They approached the unconscious child, and she who seemed to be their leader was on the point of lifting it off the nurse's lap, when the third exclaimed:-"Oh! let us leave this one with her as we have already taken so many!" "So be it," replied the senior of the party in a tone of displeasure, "but when that peat now burning on the hearth shall be consumed, her life will surely come to an end." Then the three little figures passed out. The good wife, recognizing them to be fairies, sprang from her bed and poured over the fire all the water she could find, and extinguished the half-burnt ember. This she wrapped carefully in a piece of cloth and deposited at the very bottom of a large chest, which afterwards she always kept locked.

'Years passed, and the babe grew into a beautiful young woman. In the course of time she was betrothed; and, according to custom, not appearing in public at church on the Sunday preceding the day appointed for her marriage, remained at home alone. To amuse herself, she began to search the contents of all the keeping-places in the house, and came at last to the chest containing the peat ember. In her haste, the good mother had that day forgotten the key of the chest, which was now in the lock. At the bottom of the chest the girl found a curious packet containing nothing but a morsel of peat, and this apparently useless thing she tossed away into the fire. When the peat was well kindled the young girl began to feel very ill, and when her mother returned was dying. The open chest and the blazing peat explained the cause of the calamity. The fairy's prediction was fulfilled.'

Results of Refusing Fairy Hospitality.-'Two women were walking toward the Point when one of them, hearing churning going on under a hillock, expressed aloud a wish for some butter-milk. No sooner had she spoken than a very small figure of a woman came out with a bowlful and offered it to her, but the thirsty woman, ignorant of fairy customs and the penalty attending their infringement, declined the kind offer of refreshment, and immediately found herself a prisoner in the hillock. She was led to an apartment containing a chest full of meal and a great bag of wool, and was told by the fairy that when she had eaten all the meal and spun all the wool she would be free to return to her home. The prisoner at once set herself to eating and spinning assiduously, but without apparent result, and despairing of completing the task consulted an old man of very sad countenance who had long been a captive in the hillock. He willingly gave her his advice, which was to wet her left eye with saliva each morning before she settled down to her task. She followed this advice, and gradually the wool and the meal were exhausted. Then the fairy granted her freedom, but in doing so cursed the old man, and said that she had it in her power to keep him in the hillock for ever.'

The Fairies' 'Waulking' (Fulling).-'At Ebost, in Bracadale, an old woman was living in a little hut, with no companion save a wise cat. As we talked, she expressed her wonder that no fairies are ever seen or heard nowadays. She could remember hearing her father tell how he, when a herd-boy, had heard the fairies singing a "waulking" song in Dun-Osdale, an ancient and ruined round tower in the parish of Dùirinish, and not far from Heléval mhor (great) and Heléval bheag (less)-two hills occasionally alluded to as "Macleod's Tables". The youth was lying on the grass-grown summit of the ruin, and heard them distinctly. As if with exultation, one voice took the verse and then the whole company joined in the following chorus: "Ho! fir-e! fair-e, foirm! Ho! Fair-eag-an an clò! (Ho! well done! Grand! Ho! bravo the web [of homespun]!)"'

Crodh Chailean.-'This tale was related by Mr. Neil Macleod, the bard of Skye:-"Colin was a gentleman of Clan Campbell in Perthshire, who was married to a beautiful maiden whom the fairies carried off on her marriage-day, and on whom they cast a spell which rendered her invisible for a day and a year. She came regularly every day to milk the cows of her sorrowing husband, and sang sweetly to them while she milked, but he never once had the pleasure of beholding her, though he could hear perfectly what she sang. At the expiry of the year she was, to his great joy, restored to him."'[36]

Fairy Legend of the Macleod Family.-'There is a legend told of the Macleod family:-Soon after the heir of the Macleods was born, a beautiful woman in wonderful raiment, who was a fairy woman or banshee (there were joyous as well as mourning banshees) appeared at the castle, and went directly to the babe's cradle. She took up the babe and chanted over it a series of verses, and each verse had its own melody. The verses foretold the future manhood of the young child, and acted as a protective charm over its life. Then she put the babe back into its cradle, and, going out, disappeared across the moorlands.

'For many generations it was a custom in the Macleod family that whoever was the nurse of the heir must sing those verses as the fairy woman had sung them. After a time the song was forgotten, but at a later period it was partially recovered, and to-day it is one of the proud folk-lore heritages of the Macleod family.'[37]

Origin and Nature of the Fairy-Faith.-Finally, with respect to the origin and nature of the Scotch Fairy-Faith, Miss Tolmie states:-'As a child I was not permitted to hear about fairies. At twenty I was seeking and trying to understand the beliefs of my fathers in the light of modern ideas. I was very determined not to lose the past.

'The fairy-lore originated in a cultured class in very ancient times. The peasants inherited it; they did not invent it. With the loss of Gaelic in our times came the loss of folk-ideals. The classical and English influences combined had a killing effect; so that the instinctive religious feeling which used to be among our people when they kept alive the fairy-traditions is dead. We have intellectually-constructed creeds and doctrines which take its place.

'We always thought of fairies as mysterious little beings living in hills. They were capricious and irritable, but not wicked. They could do a good turn as well as a bad one. They were not aerial, but had bodies which they could make invisible; and they could make human bodies invisible in the same way. Besides their hollow knolls and mounds there seemed to be a subterranean world in which they also lived, where things are like what they are in this world.'

The Isle of Barra,[38] Western Hebrides

We pass from Cuchulainn's beautiful island to what is now the most Celtic part of Scotland-the Western Hebrides, where the ancient life is lived yet, and where the people have more than a faith in spirits and fairies. And no one of the Western Hebrides, perhaps excepting the tiny island of Erisgey, has changed less during the last five hundred years than Barra.

Our Barra guide and interpreter, Michael Buchanan, a native and a life-long resident of Barra, is seventy years old, yet as strong and active as a city man at fifty. He knows intimately every old man on the island, and as he was able to draw them out on the subject of the 'good people' as no stranger could do, I was quite willing, as well as obliged on account of the Scotch Gaelic, to let him act on my behalf in all my collecting on Barra. Mr. Buchanan is the author of a little book called The MacNeils of Barra Genealogy, published in the year 1902. He was the official interpreter before the Commission of Inquiry which was appointed by the British Parliament in 1883 to search into the oppression of landlordism in the Highlands and Islands, and he acted in the same capacity before the Crofters' Commission and the Deer-Forest Commission. We therefore feel perfectly safe in allowing him to present, before our jury trying the Fairy-Faith, the evidence of the Gaelic-speaking witnesses from Barra.

John MacNeil's Testimony

We met the first of the Barra witnesses on the top of a rocky hill, where the road from Castlebay passes. He was carrying on his back a sack of sand heavy enough for a college athlete, and he an old man between seventy and eighty years of age. Michael Buchanan has known John MacNeil all his life, for they were boys together on the island; and there is not much difference between them in age, our interpreter being the younger. Then the three of us sat down on a grassy knoll, all the world like a fairy knoll, though it was not; and when pipes were lit and the weather had been discussed, there was introduced the subject of the 'good people'-all in Gaelic, for our witness now about to testify knows no English-and what John MacNeil said is thus interpreted by Michael Buchanan:-

A Fairy's Visit.-'Yes, I have' (in answer to a question if he had heard of people being taken by the 'good people' or fairies). 'A fairy woman visited the house of a young wife here in Barra, and the young wife had her baby on her breast at the time. The first words uttered by the fairy woman were, "Heavy is your child;" and the wife answered, "Light is everybody who lives the longest." "Were it not that you have answered my question," said the fairy woman, "and understood my meaning, you should have been less your child." And then the fairy woman departed.'

Fairy-Singing.-'My mother, and two other women well known here in Barra, went to a hill one day to look after their sheep, and, a thick fog coming on, they had to rest awhile. They then sat down upon a knoll and began to sing a walking (cloth-working) song, as follows:-"It is early to-day that I have risen;" and, as they sang, a fairy woman in the rocks responded to their song with one of her own.'

Nature of Fairies.-Then the question was asked if fairies were men or spirits, and this is the reply:-'I never saw any myself, and so cannot tell, but they must be spirits from all that the old people tell about them, or else how could they appear and disappear so suddenly? The old people said they didn't know if fairies were flesh and blood, or spirits. They saw them as men of more diminutive stature than our race. I heard my father say that fairies used to come and speak to natural people, and then vanish while one was looking at them. Fairy women used to go into houses and talk and then vanish. The general belief was that the fairies were spirits who could make themselves seen or not seen at will. And when they took people they took body and soul together.'

The Testimony of John Campbell, Ninety-four Years Old

Our next witness from Barra is John Campbell, who is ninety-four years old, yet clear-headed. He was born on Barra at Sgalary, and lives near there now at Breuvaig. We were on our way to call at his home, when we met him coming on the road, with a cane in each hand and a small sack hanging from one of them. Michael saluted him as an old acquaintance, and then we all sat down on a big boulder in the warm sunshine beside the road to talk. The first thing John wanted was tobacco, and when this was supplied we gradually led from one subject to another until he was talking about fairies. And this is what he said about them:-

The Fairy and the Fountain.-'I had a companion by the name of James Galbraith, who was drowned about forty years ago, and one time he was crossing from the west side of the island to the east side, to the township called Sgalary, and feeling thirsty took a drink out of a spring well on the mountain-side. After he had taken a drink, he looked about him and saw a woman clad in green, and imagined that no woman would be clad in such a colour except a fairy woman. He went on his way, and when he hadn't gone far, looked back, and, as he looked, saw the woman vanish out of his sight. He afterwards reported the incident at his father's house in Sgalary, and his father said he also had seen a woman clad in clothes of green at the same place some nights before.'

A Step-son Pitied by the Fairies.-'I heard my father say that a neighbour of his father, that is of my grandfather, was married twice, and had three children from the first marriage, and when married for the second time, a son and daughter. His second wife did not seem to be kind enough to the children of the first wife, neglecting their food and clothing and keeping them constantly at hard work in the fields and at herding.

'One morning when the man and his second wife were returning from mass they passed the pasture where their cows were grazing and heard the enjoyable skirrels of the bagpipes. The father said, "What may this be?" and going off the road found the eldest son of the first wife playing the bagpipes to his heart's pleasure; and asked him earnestly, "How did you come to play the bagpipes so suddenly, or where did you get this splendid pair of bagpipes?" The boy replied, "An old man came to me while I was in the action of roasting pots in a pit-fire and said, 'Your step-mother is bad to you and in ill-will towards you.' I told the old man I was sensible that that was the case, and then he said to me, 'If I give you a trade will you be inclined to follow it?' I said yes, and the old man then continued, 'How would you like to be a piper by trade?' 'I would gladly become a piper,' says I, 'but what am I to do without the bagpipes and the tunes to play?' 'I'll supply the bagpipes,' he said, 'and as long as you have them you'll never want for the most delightful tunes.'" The male descendants of the boy in question were all famous pipers thereafter, and the last of them was a piper to the late Cluny MacPherson of Cluny.'

Nature of Fairies.-At this point, Michael turned the trend of John's thoughts to the nature of fairies, with the following result:-'The general belief of the people here during my father's lifetime was that the fairies were more of the nature of spirits than of men made of flesh and blood, but that they so appeared to the naked eye that no difference could be marked in their forms from that of any human being, except that they were more diminutive. I have heard my father say it was the case that fairy women used to take away children from their cradles and leave different children in their places, and that these children who were left would turn out to be old men.

'At Barra Head, a fairy woman used to come to a man's window almost every night as though looking to see if the family was home. The man grew suspicious, and decided the fairy woman was watching her chance to steal his wife, so he proposed a plan. It was then and still is the custom after thatching a house to rope it across with heather-spun ropes, and, at the time, the man was busy spinning some of them; and he told his wife to take his place that night to spin the heather-rope, and said he would take her spinning-wheel. They were thus placed when the fairy woman made the usual look in at the window, and she seeing that her intention was understood, said to the man, "You are yourself at the spinning-wheel and your wife is spinning the heather-rope."

'I have heard it said that the fairies live in knolls on a higher level than that of the ground in general, and that fairy songs are heard from the faces of high rocks. The fairies of the air (the fairy or spirit hosts) are different from those in the rocks. A man whom I've seen, Roderick MacNeil, was lifted by the hosts and left three miles from where he was taken up. The hosts went at about midnight. A man awake at midnight is in danger. Cows and horses are sometimes shot in place of men' (and why, will be explained by later witnesses).

Father MacDonald's Opinions.-We then asked about the late Rev. Donald MacDonald, who had the reputation of knowing all about fairies and spirits when he lived here in these islands, and John said:-'I have heard my wife say that she questioned Father MacDonald, who was then a parish priest here in Barra, and for whom she was a housekeeper, if it was possible that such beings or spirits as fairies were in existence. He said "Yes", and that they were those who left Heaven after the fallen angels; and that those going out after the fallen angels had gone out were so numerous and kept going so long that St. Michael notified Christ that the throne was fast emptying, and when Christ saw the state of affairs he ordered the doors of Heaven to be closed at once, saying as he gave the order, "Who is out is out and who is in is in." And the fairies are as numerous now as ever they were before the beginning of the world.' (Cf. pp. 47, 53, 67, 76, 85, 109, 113, 116, 129, 154, 205, 212.)

Here we left John, and he, continuing on his way up the mountain road in an opposite direction from us and round a turn, disappeared almost as a fairy might.

An Aged Piper's Testimony

We introduce now as a witness Donald McKinnon, ninety-six years old, a piper by profession; and not only is he the oldest man on Barra, but also the oldest man among all our witnesses. He was born on the Island of South Uist, one of the Western Hebrides north of Barra, and came to Barra in 1836, where he has lived ever since. In spite of being four years less than a hundred in age, he greeted us very heartily, and as he did not wish us to sit inside, for his chimney happened not to be drawing very well, and was filling the straw-thatched cottage with peat smoke, we sat down outside on the grass and began talking; and as we came to fairies this is what he said:-

Nature of Fairies.-'I believe that fairies exist as a tribe of spirits, and appear to us in the form of men and women. People who saw fairies can yet describe them as they appeared dressed in green. No doubt there are fairies in other countries as well as here.

'In my experience there was always a good deal of difference between the fairies and the hosts. The fairies were supposed to be living without material food, whereas the hosts were supposed to be living upon their own booty. Generally, the hosts were evil and the fairies good, though I have heard that the fairies used to take cattle and leave their old men rolled up in the hides. One night an old witch was heard to say to the fairies outside the fold, "We cannot get anything to-night." The old men who were left behind in the hides of the animals taken, usually disappeared very suddenly. I saw two men who used to be lifted by the hosts. They would be carried from South Uist as far south as Barra Head, and as far north as Harris. Sometimes when these men were ordered by the hosts to kill men on the road they would kill instead either a horse or a cow; for in that way, so long as an animal was killed, the injunction of the hosts was fulfilled.' To illustrate at this point the idea of fairies, Donald repeated the same legend told by our former witness, John Campbell, about the emptying of Heaven and the doors being closed to keep the remainder of its population in. Then he told the following story about fairies:-

The Fairy-Belt.-'I heard of an apprentice to carpentry who was working with his master at the building of a boat, a little distance from his house, and near the sea. He went to work one morning and forgot a certain tool which he needed in the boat-building. He returned to his carpenter-shed to get it, and found the shed filled with fairy men and women. On seeing him they ran away so greatly confused that one of the women forgot her gird (belt), and he picked it up. In a little while she came back for the gird, and asked him to give it her, but he refused to do so. Thereupon she promised him that he should be made master of his trade wherever his lot should fall without serving further apprenticeship. On that condition he gave her the gird; and rising early next morning he went to the yard where the boat was a-building and put in two planks so perfectly that when the master arrived and saw them, he said to him, "Are you aware of anybody being in the building-yard last night, for I see by the work done that I am more likely to be an apprentice than the person who put in those two planks, whoever he is. Was it you that did it?" The reply was in the affirmative, and the apprentice told his master the circumstances under which he gained the rapid mastership of his trade.'

Across the Mountains

It was nearing sunset now, and a long mountain-climb was ahead of us, and one more visit that evening, before we should begin our return to Castlebay, and so after this story we said a hearty good-bye to Donald, with regret at leaving him. When we reached the mountain-side, one of the rarest of Barra's sights greeted us. To the north and south in the golden glow of a September twilight we saw the long line of the Outer Hebrides like the rocky backbone of some submerged continent. The scene and colours on the land and ocean and in the sky seemed more like some magic vision, reflected from Faerie by the 'good people' for our delight, than a thing of our own world. Never was air clearer or sea calmer, nor could there be air sweeter than that in the mystic mountain-stillness holding the perfume of millions of tiny blossoms of purple and white heather; and as the last honey-bees were leaving the beautiful blossoms their humming came to our ears like low, strange music from Fairyland.

Marian MacLean of Barra, and her Testimony

Our next witness to testify is a direct descendant of the ancient MacNeils of Barra. Her name now is Marian MacLean; and she lives in the mountainous centre of Barra at Upper Borve. She is many years younger than the men who have testified, and one of the most industrious women on the island. It was already dark and past dinner-time when we entered her cottage, and so, as we sat down before a blazing peat-fire, she at once offered us some hot milk and biscuits, which we were only too glad to accept. And, as we ate, we talked first about our hard climb in the darkness across the mountains, and through the thick heather-bushes, and then about the big rock which has a key-hole in it, for it contains a secret entrance to a fairy palace. We had examined it in the twilight as we came through the mountain pass which it guards, and my guide Michael had assured me that more than one islander, crossing at the hour we were, had seen some of the fairies near it. We waited in front of the big rock in hopes one might appear for our benefit, but, in spite of our strong belief that there are fairies there, not a single one would come out. Perhaps they came and we couldn't see them; who knows?

Fairies and Fairy Hosts ('Sluagh').[39]-'O yes,' Marian said, as she heard Michael and myself talking over our hot milk, 'there are fairies there, for I was told that the Pass was a notable fairy haunt.' Then I said through Michael, 'Can you tell us something about what these fairies are?' And from that time, save for a few interruptions natural in conversation, we listened and Marian talked, and told stories as follows:-

'Generally, the fairies are to be seen after or about sunset, and walk on the ground as we do, whereas the hosts travel in the air above places inhabited by people. The hosts used to go after the fall of night, and more particularly about midnight. You'd hear them going in fine weather against a wind like a covey of birds. And they were in the habit of lifting men in South Uist, for the hosts need men to help in shooting their javelins from their bows against women in the action of milking cows, or against any person working at night in a house over which they pass. And I have heard of good sensible men whom the hosts took, shooting a horse or cow in place of the person ordered to be shot.

'There was a man who had only one cow and one daughter. The daughter was milking the cow at night when the hosts were passing, and that human being whom the hosts had lifted with them was her father's neighbour. And this neighbour was ordered by the hosts to shoot the daughter as she was milking, but, knowing the father and daughter, he shot the cow instead. The next morning he went where the father was and said to him, "You are missing the cow." "Yes," said the father, "I am." And the man who had shot the cow said, "Are you not glad your cow and not your daughter was taken? For I was ordered to shoot your daughter and I shot your cow, in order to show blood on my arrow." "I am very glad of what you have done if that was the case," the father replied. "It was the case," the neighbour said.

'My father and grandfather knew a man who was carried by the hosts from South Uist here to Barra. I understand when the hosts take away earthly men they require another man to help them. But the hosts must be spirits. My opinion is that they are both spirits of the dead and other spirits not the dead. A child was taken by the hosts and returned after one night and one day, and found at the back of the house with the palms of its hands in the holes in the wall, and with no life in its body. It was dead in the spirit. It is believed that when people are dropped from a great height by the hosts they are killed by the fall. As to fairies, my firm opinion is that they are spirits who appear in the shape of human beings.'

The question was now asked whether the fairies were anything like the dead, and Marian hesitated about answering. She thought they were like the dead, but not to be identified with them. The fallen-angel idea concerning fairies was an obstacle she could not pass, for she said, 'When the fallen angels were cast out of Heaven God commanded them thus:-"You will go to take up your abodes in crevices, under the earth, in mounds, or soil, or rocks." And according to this command they have been condemned to inhabit the places named for a certain period of time, and when it is expired before the consummation of the world, they will be seen as numerous as ever.'

Now we heard two good stories, the first about fairy women spinning for a mortal, the second about a wonderful changeling who was a magic musician:-

Fairy-Women Spinners.-'I have heard my father, Alexander MacNeil, who was well known to Mr. [Alexander] Carmichael and to Mr. J. F. Campbell of Islay, say that his father knew a woman in the neighbourhood who was in a hurry to have her stock of wool spun and made into cloth, and one night this woman secretly wished to have some women to help her. So the following morning there appeared at her house six or seven fairy women in long green robes, all alike chanting, "A wool-card, and a spinning-wheel." And when they were supplied with the instruments they were so very desirous to get, they all set to work, and by midday of that morning the cloth was going through the process of the hand-loom. But they were not satisfied with finishing the work the woman had set before them, but asked for new employment. The woman had no more spinning or weaving to be done, and began to wonder how she was to get the women out of the house. So she went into her neighbour's house and informed him of her position in regard to the fairy women. The old man asked what they were saying. "They are earnestly petitioning for some work to do, and I have no more to give them," the woman replied. "Go you in," he said to her, "and tell them to spin the sand, and if then they do not move from your house, go out again and yell in at the door that Dun Borve is in fire!" The first plan had no effect, but immediately on hearing the cry, "Dun Borve is in fire!" the fairy women disappeared invisibly. And as they went, the woman heard the melancholy wail, "Dun Borve is in fire! Dun Borve is in fire! And what will become of our hammers and anvil?"-for there was a smithy in the fairy-dwelling.'

The Tailor and the Changeling.-'There was a young wife of a young man who lived in the township of Allasdale, and the pair had just had their first child. One day the mother left her baby in its cradle to go out and do some shearing, and when she returned the child was crying in a most unusual fashion. She fed him as usual on porridge and milk, but he wasn't satisfied with what seemed to her enough for any one of his age, yet every suspicion escaped her attention. As it happened, at the time there was a web of home-made cloth in the house waiting for the tailor. The tailor came and began to work up the cloth. As the woman was going out to her customary shearing operation, she warned the tailor if he heard the child continually crying not to pay much attention to it, adding she would attend to it when she came home, for she feared the child would delay him in his work.

'All went well till about noon, when the tailor observed the child rising up on its elbow and stretching its hand to a sort of shelf above the cradle and taking down from it a yellow chanter [of a bagpipe]. And then the child began to play. Immediately after the child began to play the chanter, the house filled with young fairy women all clad in long green robes, who began to dance, and the tailor had to dance with them. About two o'clock that same afternoon the women disappeared unknown to the tailor, and the chanter disappeared from the hands of the child also unknown to the tailor; and the child was in the cradle crying as usual.

'The wife came home to make the dinner, and observed that the tailor was not so far advanced with his work as he ought to be in that space of time. However, when the fairy women disappeared, the child had enjoined upon the tailor never to tell what he had seen. The tailor promised to be faithful to the child's injunctions, and so he said nothing to the mother.

'The second day the wife left for her occupation as usual, and told the tailor to be more attentive to his work than the day before. A second time at the same hour of the day the child in the cradle, appearing more like an old man than a child, took the chanter and began to play. The same fairy women filled the house again, and repeated their dance, and the tailor had to join them.

'Naturally the tailor was as far behind with his work the second day as the first day, and it was very noticeable to the woman of the house when she returned. She thereupon requested him to tell her what the matter might be. Then he said to her, "I urge upon you after going to bed to-night not to fondle that child, because he is not your child, nor is he a child: he is an old fairy man. And to-morrow, at dead tide, go down to the shore and wrap him in your plaid and put him upon a rock and begin to pick that shell-fish which is called limpet, and for your life do not leave the shore until such a time as the tide will flow so high that you will scarcely be able to wade in to the main shore." The woman complied with the tailor's advice, and when she had waded to the main shore and stood there looking at the child on the rock, it cried to her, "You had a great need to do what you have done. Otherwise you'd have seen another ending of your turn; but blessing be to you and curses on your adviser." When the wife arrived home her own natural child was in the cradle.'

The Testimony of Murdoch MacLean

The husband of Marian MacLean had entered while the last stories were being told, and when they were ended the spirit was on him, and wishing to give his testimony he began:-

Lachlann's Fairy Mistress.-'My grandmother, Catherine MacInnis, used to tell about a man named Lachlann, whom she knew, being in love with a fairy woman. The fairy woman made it a point to see Lachlann every night, and he being worn out with her began to fear her. Things got so bad at last that he decided to go to America to escape the fairy woman. As soon as the plan was fixed, and he was about to emigrate, women who were milking at sunset out in the meadows heard very audibly the fairy woman singing this song:-

What will the brown-haired woman do

When Lachlann is on the billows?

'Lachlann emigrated to Cape Breton, landing in Nova Scotia; and in his first letter home to his friends he stated that the same fairy woman was haunting him there in America.'[40]

Abduction of a Bridegroom.-'I have heard it from old people that a couple, newly married, were on their way to the home of the bride's father, and for some unknown reason the groom fell behind the procession, and seeing a fairy-dwelling open along the road was taken into it. No one could ever find the least trace of where he went, and all hope of seeing him again was given up. The man remained with the fairies so long that when he returned two generations had disappeared during the lapse of time. The township in which his bride's house used to be was depopulated and in ruins for upwards of twenty years, but to him the time had seemed only a few hours; and he was just as fresh and youthful as when he went in the fairy-dwelling.'

Nature of Fairies.-Previous to his story-telling Murdoch had heard us discussing the nature and powers of fairies, and at the end of this account he volunteered, without our asking for it, an opinion of his own:-'This (the story just told by him) leads me to believe that the spirit and body [of a mortal] are somehow mystically combined by fairy enchantment, for the fairies had a mighty power of enchanting natural people, and could transform the physical body in some way. It cannot be but that the fairies are spirits. According to my thinking and belief they cannot be anything but spirits. My firm belief, however, is that they are not the spirits of dead men, but are the fallen angels.'

Then his wife Marian had one more story to add, and she at once, when she could, began:-

The Messenger and the Fairies.-'Yes, I have heard the following incident took place here on the Island of Barra about one hundred years ago:-A young woman taken ill suddenly sent a messenger in all haste to the doctor for medicine. On his return, the day being hot and there being five miles to walk, he sat down at the foot of a knoll and fell asleep; and was awakened by hearing a song to the following air: "Ho, ho, ho, hi, ho, ho. Ill it becomes a messenger on an important message to sleep on the ground in the open air."'

And with this, for the hour was late and dark, and we were several miles from Castlebay, we bade our good friends adieu, and began to hunt for a road out of the little mountain valley where Murdoch and Marian guard their cows and sheep. And all the way to the hotel Michael and I discussed the nature of fairies. Just before midnight we saw the welcome lights in Castlebay across the heather-covered hills, and we both entered the hotel to talk. There was a blazing fire ready for us and something to eat. Before I took my final leave of my friend and guide, I asked him to dictate for me his private opinions about fairies, what they are and how they appear to men, and he was glad to meet my request. Here is what he said about the famous folk-lorist, the late Mr. J. F. Campbell, with whom he often worked in Barra, and for himself:-

Michael Buchanan's Deposition Concerning Fairies

'I was with the late Mr. J. F. Campbell during his first and second tour of the Island of Barra in search of legendary lore strictly connected with fairies, and I know from daily conversing with him about fairies that he held them to be spirits appearing to the naked eye of the spectator as any of the present or former generations of men and women, except that they were smaller in stature. And I know equally that he, holding them to be spirits, thought they could appear or disappear at will. My own firm belief is that the fairies were or are only spirits which were or are seen in the shape of human beings, but smaller as regards stature. I also firmly believe in the existence of fairies as such; and accept the modern and ancient traditions respecting the ways and customs of various fairy tribes, such as John Mackinnon, the old piper, and John Campbell, and the MacLeans told us. And I therefore have no hesitation in agreeing with the views held by the late Mr. J. F. Campbell regarding fairies.'

The Reciters' Lament, and their Story

The following material, so truly Celtic in its word-colour and in the profound note of sadness and lamentation dominating it, may very appropriately conclude our examination of the Fairy-Faith of Scotland, by giving us some insight into the mind of the Scotch peasants of two generations ago, and into the then prevailing happy social environment under which their belief in fairies flourished. For our special use Dr. Alexander Carmichael has rendered it out of the original Gaelic, as this was taken down by him in various versions in the Western Hebrides. One version was recited by Ann Macneill, of Barra, in the year 1865, another by Angus Macleod, of Harris, in 1877. In relation to their belief in fairies the anti-clerical bias of the reciters is worth noting as a curious phenomenon:-

'That is as I heard when a hairy little fellow upon the knee of my mother. My mother was full of stories and songs of music and chanting. My two ears never heard musical fingers more preferable for me to hear than the chanting of my mother. If there were quarrels among children, as there were, and as there will be, my beloved mother would set us to dance there and then. She herself or one of the other crofter women of the townland would sing to us the mouth-music. We would dance there till we were seven times tired. A stream of sweat would be falling from us before we stopped-hairful little lassies and stumpy little fellows. These are scattered to-day! scattered to-day over the wide world! The people of those times were full of music and dancing stories and traditions. The clerics have extinguished these. May ill befall them! And what have the clerics put in their place? Beliefs about creeds, and disputations about denominations and churches! May lateness be their lot! It is they who have put the cross round the heads and the entanglements round the feet of the people. The people of the Gaeldom of to-day are anear perishing for lack of the famous feats of their fathers. The black clerics have suppressed every noble custom among the people of the Gaeldom-precious customs that will never return, no never again return.' (Now follows what the Reciters heard upon the knee of their mother):-

'"I have never seen a man fairy nor a woman fairy, but my mother saw a troop of them. She herself and the other maidens of the townland were once out upon the summer sheiling (grazing). They were milking the cows, in the evening gloaming, when they observed a flock of fairies reeling and setting upon the green plain in front of the knoll. And, oh King! but it was they the fairies themselves that had the right to the dancing, and not the children of men! Bell-helmets of blue silk covered their heads, and garments of green satin covered their bodies, and sandals of yellow membrane covered their feet. Their heavy brown hair was streaming down their waist, and its lustre was of the fair golden sun of summer. Their skin was as white as the swan of the wave, and their voice was as melodious as the mavis of the wood, and they themselves were as beauteous of feature and as lithe of form as a picture, while their step was as light and stately and their minds as sportive as the little red hind of the hill. The damsel children of the sheiling-fold never saw sight but them, no never sight but them, never aught so beautiful.

'"There is not a wave of prosperity upon the fairies of the knoll, no, not a wave. There is no growth nor increase, no death nor withering upon the fairies. Seed unfortunate they! They went away from the Paradise with the One of the Great Pride. When the Father commanded the doors closed down and up, the intermediate fairies had no alternative but to leap into the holes of the earth, where they are, and where they will be."

'This is what I heard upon the knee of my beloved mother. Blessings be with her ever evermore!'


Introduction by Sophia Morrison, Hon. Secretary of the Manx Language Society.

The Manx hierarchy of fairy beings people hills and glens, caves and rivers, mounds and roads; and their name is legion. Apparently there is not a place in the island but has its fairy legend. Sir Walter Scott said that the 'Isle of Man, beyond all other places in Britain, was a peculiar depository of the fairy-traditions, which, on the Island being conquered by the Norse, became in all probability chequered with those of Scandinavia, from a source peculiar and more direct than that by which they reached Scotland and Ireland'.

A good Manxman, however, does not speak of fairies-the word ferish, a corruption of the English, did not exist in the island one hundred and fifty years ago. He talks of 'The Little People' (Mooinjer veggey), or, in a more familiar mood, of 'Themselves', and of 'Little Boys' (Guillyn veggey), or 'Little Fellas'. In contradistinction to mortals he calls them 'Middle World Men', for they are believed to dwell in a world of their own, being neither good enough for Heaven nor bad enough for Hell.

At the present moment almost all the older Manx peasants hold to this belief in fairies quite firmly, but with a certain dread of them; and, to my knowledge, two old ladies of the better class yet leave out cakes and water for the fairies every night. The following story, illustrative of the belief, was told to me by Bill Clarke:-

'Once while I was fishing from a ledge of rocks that runs out into the sea at Lag-ny-Keilley, a dense grey mist began to approach the land, and I thought I had best make for home while the footpath above the rocks was visible. When getting my things together I heard what sounded like a lot of children coming out of school. I lifted my head, and behold ye, there was a fleet of fairy boats each side of the rock. Their riding-lights were shining like little stars, and I heard one of the Little Fellas shout, "Hraaghyn boght as earish broigh, skeddan dy liooar ec yn mooinjer seihll shoh, cha nel veg ain" (Poor times and dirty weather, and herring enough at the people of this world, nothing at us). Then they dropped off and went agate o' the flitters.'

'Willy-the-Fairy,' as he is called, who lives at Rhenass, says he often hears the fairies singing and playing up the Glen o' nights. I have heard him sing airs which he said he had thus learned from the Little People.[41]

Again, there is a belief that at Keeill Moirrey (Mary's Church), near Glen Meay, a little old woman in a red cloak is sometimes seen coming over the mountain towards the keeill, ringing a bell, just about the hour when church service begins. Keeill Moirrey is one of the early little Celtic cells, probably of the sixth century, of which nothing remains but the foundations.

And the following prayer, surviving to our own epoch, is most interesting. It shows, in fact, pure paganism; and we may judge from it that the ancient Manx people regarded Manannan, the great Tuatha De Danann god, in his true nature, as a spiritual being, a Lord of the Sea, and as belonging to the complex fairy hierarchy. This prayer was given to me by a Manxwoman nearly one hundred years old, who is still living. She said it had been used by her grandfather, and that her father prayed the same prayer-substituting St. Patrick's name for Manannan's:-

Manannan beg mac y Leirr, fer vannee yn Ellan,

Bannee shin as nyn maatey, mie goll magh

As cheet stiagh ny share lesh bio as marroo "sy vaatey".

(Little Manannan son of Leirr, who blest our Island,

Bless us and our boat, well going out

And better coming in with living and dead [fish] in the boat).

* * *

It seems to me that no one of the various theories so far advance

d accounts in itself for the Fairy-Faith. There is always a missing factor, an unknown quantity which has yet to be discovered. No doubt the Pygmy Theory explains a good deal. In some countries a tradition has been handed down of the times when there were races of diminutive men in existence-beings so small that their tiny hands could have used the flint arrow-heads and scrapers which are like toys to us. No such tradition exists at the present day in the Isle of Man, but one might have filtered down from the far-off ages and become innate in the folk-memory, and now, unknown to the Manx peasant, may possibly suggest to his mind the troops of Little People in the shadowy glen or on the lonely mountain-side. Again, the rustling of the leaves or the sough of the wind may be heard by the peasant as strange and mysterious voices, or the trembling shadow of a bush may appear to him as an unearthly being. Natural facts, explainable by modern science, may easily remain dark mysteries to those who live quiet lives close to Nature, far from sophisticated towns, and whose few years of schooling have left the depths of their being undisturbed, only, as it were, ruffling the shallows.

But this is not enough. Even let it be granted that nine out of every ten cases of experiences with fairies can be analysed and explained away-there remains the tenth. In this tenth case one is obliged to admit that there is something at work which we do not understand, some force in play which, as yet, we know not. In spite of ourselves we feel 'There's Powers that's in'. These Powers are not necessarily what the superstitious call 'supernatural'. We realize now that there is nothing supernatural-that what used to be so called is simply something that we do not understand at present. Our forefathers would have thought the telephone, the X-rays, and wireless telegraphy things 'supernatural'. It is more than possible that our descendants may make discoveries equally marvellous in the realms both of mind and matter, and that many things, which nowadays seem to the materialistically-minded the creations of credulous fancy, may in the future be understood and recognized as part of the one great scheme of things.

Some persons are certainly more susceptible than others to these unknown forces. Most people know reliable instances of telepathy and presentiment amongst their acquaintances. It seems not at all contrary to reason that both matter and mind, in knowledge of which we have not gone so very far after all, may exist in forms as yet entirely unknown to us. After all, beings with bodies and personalities different from our own may well inhabit the unseen world around us: the Fairy Hound, white as driven snow, may show himself at times among his mundane companions; Fenodyree may do the farm-work for those whom he favours; the Little People may sing and dance o' nights in Colby Glen. Let us not say it is 'impossible'.

Peel, Isle of Man,

September 1910.

On the Slopes of South Barrule

I was introduced to the ways and nature of Manx fairies in what is probably the most fairy-haunted part of the isle-the southern slopes of South Barrule, the mountain on whose summit Manannan is said to have had his stronghold, and whence he worked his magic, hiding the kingdom in dense fog whenever he beheld in the distance the coming of an enemy's ship or fleet. And from a representative of the older generation, Mrs. Samuel Leece, who lives at Ballamodda, a pleasant village under the shadow of South Barrule, I heard the first story:-

Baby and Table Moved by Fairies.-'I have been told of their (the fairies') taking babies, though I can't be sure it is true. But this did happen to my own mother in this parish of Kirk Patrick about eighty years since: She was in bed with her baby, but wide awake, when she felt the baby pulled off her arm and heard the rush of them. Then she mentioned the Almighty's name, and, as they were hurrying away, a little table alongside the bed went round about the floor twenty times. Nobody was in the room with my mother, and she always allowed it was the little fellows.'

Manx Tales in a Snow-bound Farm-house

When our interesting conversation was over, Mrs. Leece directed me to her son's farm-house, where her husband, Mr. Samuel Leece, then happened to be; and going there through the snow-drifts, I found him with his son and the family within. The day was just the right sort to stir Manx memories, and it was not long before the best of stories about the 'little people' were being told in the most natural way, and to the great delight of the children. The grandfather, who is eighty-six years of age, sat by the open fire smoking; and he prepared the way for the stories (three of which we record) by telling about a ghost seen by himself and his father, and by the announcement that 'the fairies are thought to be spirits'.

Under 'Fairy' Control.-'About fifty years ago,' said Mr. T. Leece, the son, 'Paul Taggart, my wife's uncle, a tailor by trade, had for an apprentice, Humphrey Keggan, a young man eighteen or nineteen years of age; and it often happened that while the two of them would be returning home at nightfall, the apprentice would suddenly disappear from the side of the tailor, and even in the midst of a conversation, as soon as they had crossed the burn in the field down there (indicating an adjoining field). And Taggart could not see nor hear Humphrey go. The next morning Humphrey would come back, but so worn out that he could not work, and he always declared that little men had come to him in crowds, and used him as a horse, and that with them he had travelled all night across fields and over hedges.' The wife of the narrator substantiated this strange psychological story by adding:-'This is true, because I know my Uncle Paul too well to doubt what he says.' And she then related the two following stories:-

Heifer Killed by Fairy Woman's Touch.-'Aunt Jane was coming down the road on the other side of South Barrule when she saw a strange woman' (who Mr. T. Leece suggested was a witch) 'appear in the middle of the gorse and walk right over the gorse and heather in a place where no person could walk. Then she observed the woman go up to a heifer and put her hand on it; and within a few days that heifer was dead.'

The Fairy Dog.-'This used to happen about one hundred years ago, as my mother has told me:-Where my grandfather John Watterson was reared, just over near Kerroo Kiel (Narrow Quarter), all the family were sometimes sitting in the house of a cold winter night, and my great grandmother and her daughters at their wheels spinning, when a little white dog would suddenly appear in the room. Then every one there would have to drop their work and prepare for the company to come in: they would put down a fire and leave fresh water for them, and hurry off upstairs to bed. They could hear them come, but could never see them, only the dog. The dog was a fairy dog, and a sure sign of their coming.'

Testimony of a Herb-Doctor and Seer

At Ballasalla I was fortunate enough to meet one of the most interesting of its older inhabitants, John Davies, a Celtic medicine-man, who can cure most obstinate maladies in men or animals with secret herbs, and who knows very much about witchcraft and the charms against it. 'Witches are as common as ducks walking barefooted,' he said, using the duck simile, which is a popular Manx one; and he cited two particular instances from his own experience. But for us it is more important to know that John Davies is also an able seer. The son of a weaver, he was born in County Down, Ireland, seventy-eight years ago; but in earliest boyhood he came with his people to the Isle of Man, and grew up in the country near Ramsay, and so thoroughly has he identified himself with the island and its lore, and even with its ancient language, that for our purposes he may well be considered a Manxman. His testimony about Manx fairies is as follows:-

Actual Fairies Described.-'I am only a poor ignorant man; when I was married I couldn't say the word "matrimony" in the right way. But one does not have to be educated to see fairies, and I have seen them many a time. I have seen them with the naked eye as numerous as I have seen scholars coming out of Ballasalla school; and I have been seeing them since I was eighteen to twenty years of age. The last one I saw was in Kirk Michael. Before education came into the island more people could see the fairies; now very few people can see them. But they (the fairies) are as thick on the Isle of Man as ever they were. They throng the air, and darken Heaven, and rule this lower world. It is only twenty-one miles from this world up to the first heaven.[42] There are as many kinds of fairies as populations in our world. I have seen some who were about two and a half feet high; and some who were as big as we are. I think very many such fairies as these last are the lost souls of the people who died before the Flood. At the Flood all the world was drowned; but the Spirit which God breathed into Adam will never be drowned, or burned, and it is as much in the sea as on the land. Others of the fairies are evil spirits: our Saviour drove a legion of devils into a herd of swine; the swine were choked, but not the devils. You can't drown devils; it is spirits they are, and just like a shadow on the wall.' I here asked about the personal aspects of most fairies of human size, and my friend said:-'They appear to me in the same dress as in the days when they lived here on earth; the spirit itself is only what God blew into Adam as the breath of life.'

It seems to me that, on the whole, John Davies has had genuine visions, but that whatever he may have seen has been very much coloured in interpretation by his devout knowledge of the Christian Bible, and by his social environment, as is self-evident.

Testimony of a Ballasalla Manxwoman

A well-informed Manxwoman, of Ballasalla, who lives in the ancient stone house wherein she was born, and in which before her lived her grandparents, offers this testimony:-

Concerning Fairies.-'I've heard a good deal of talk about fairies, but never believed in them myself; the old people thought them the ghosts of the dead or some such things. They were like people who had gone before (that is, dead). If there came a strange sudden knock or noises, or if a tree took a sudden shaking when there was no wind, people used to make out it was caused by the fairies. On the 11th of May[43] we used to gather mountain-ash (Cuirn) with red berries on it, and make crosses out of its sprigs, and put them over the doors, so that the fairies would not come in. My father always saw that this was done; he said we could have no luck during the year if we forgot to do it.'

Testimony Given in a Joiner's Shop

George Gelling, of Ballasalla, a joiner, has a local reputation for knowing much about the fairies, and so I called on him at his workshop. This is what he told me:-

Seeing the Fairies.-'I was making a coffin here in the shop, and, after tea, my apprentice was late returning; he was out by the hedge just over there looking at a crowd of little people kicking and dancing. One of them came up and asked him what he was looking at; and this made him run back to the shop. When he described what he had seen, I told him they were nothing but fairies.'

Hearing Fairy Music.-'Up by the abbey on two different occasions I have heard the fairies. They were playing tunes not of this world, and on each occasion I listened for nearly an hour.'

Mickleby and the Fairy Woman.-'A man named Mickleby was coming from Derbyhaven at night, when by a certain stream he met two ladies. He saluted them, and then walked along with them to Ballahick Farm. There he saw a house lit up, and they took him into it to a dance. As he danced, he happened to wipe away his sweat with a part of the dress of one of the two strange women who was his partner. After this adventure, whenever Mickleby was lying abed at night, the woman with whom he danced would appear standing beside his bed. And the only way to drive her away was to throw over her head and Mickleby a linen sheet which had never been bleached.'

Nature of Fairies.-'The fairies are spirits. I think they are in this country yet: A man below here forgot his cow, and at a late hour went to look for her, and saw that crowds of fairies like little boys were with him. [St.] Paul said that spirits are thick in the air, if only we could see them; and we call spirits fairies. I think the old people here in the island thought of fairies in the same way.'

The Fairies' Revenge.-William Oates now happened to come into the workshop, and being as much interested in the subject under discussion as ourselves, offered various stories, of which the following is a type:-'A man named Watterson, who used often to see the fairies in his house at Colby playing in the moonlight, on one occasion heard them coming just as he was going to bed. So he went out to the spring to get fresh water for them; and coming into the house put the can down on the floor, saying, "Now, little beggars, drink away." And at that (an insult to the fairies) the water was suddenly thrown upon him.'

A Vicar's Testimony

When I called on the Rev. J. M. Spicer, vicar of Malew parish, at his home near Castletown, he told me this very curious story:-

The Taking of Mrs. K--.-'The belief in fairies is quite a living thing here yet. For example, old Mrs. K--, about a year ago, told me that on one occasion, when her daughter had been in Castletown during the day, she went out to the road at nightfall to see if her daughter was yet in sight, whereupon a whole crowd of fairies suddenly surrounded her, and began taking her off toward South Barrule Mountain; and, she added, "I couldn't get away from them until I had called my son."'

A Canon's Testimony

I am greatly indebted to the Rev. Canon Kewley, of Arbory, for the valuable testimony which follows, and especially for his kindness in allowing me to record what is one of the clearest examples of a collective hallucination I have heard about as occurring in the fairy-haunted regions of Celtic countries:-

A Collective Hallucination.-'A good many things can be explained as natural phenomena, but there are some things which I think cannot be. For example, my sister and myself and our coachman, and apparently the horse, saw the same phenomenon at the same moment: one evening we were driving along an avenue in this parish when the avenue seemed to be blocked by a great crowd of people, like a funeral procession; and the crowd was so dense that we could not see through it. The throng was about thirty to forty yards away. When we approached, it melted away, and no person was anywhere in sight.'

The Manx Fairy-Faith.-'Among the old people of this parish there is still a belief in fairies. About eighteen years ago, I buried a man, a staunch Methodist, who said he once saw the road full of fairies in the form of little black pigs, and that when he addressed them, "In the name of God what are ye?" they immediately vanished. He was certain they were the fairies. Other old people speak of the fairies as the little folk. The tradition is that the fairies once inhabited this island, but were banished for evil-doing. The elder-tree, in Manx tramman, is supposed to be inhabited by fairies. Through accident, one night a woman ran into such a tree, and was immediately stricken with a terrible swelling which her neighbours declared came from disturbing the fairies in the tree. This was on the borders of Arbory parish.'

The Canon favours the hypothesis that in much of the folk-belief concerning fairies and Fairyland there is present an instinct, as seen among all peoples, for communion with the other world, and that this instinct shows itself in another form in the Christian doctrine of the Communion of Saints.

Fairy Tales on Christmas Day

The next morning, Christmas morning, I called at the picturesque roadside home of Mrs. Dinah Moore a Manxwoman living near Glen Meay; and she contributed the best single collection of Manx folk-legends I discovered on the island. The day was bright and frosty, and much snow still remained in the shaded nooks and hollows, so that a seat before the cheerful fire in Mrs. Moore's cottage was very comfortable; and with most work suspended for the ancient day of festivities in honour of the Sun, re-born after its death at the hands of the Powers of Darkness, all conditions were favourable for hearing about fairies, and this may explain why such important results were obtained.

Fairy Deceit.-'I heard of a man and wife who had no children. One night the man was out on horseback and heard a little baby crying beside the road. He got off his horse to get the baby, and, taking it home, went to give it to his wife, and it was only a block of wood. And then the old fairies were outside yelling at the man: "Eash un oie, s'cheap t'ou mollit!" (Age one night, how easily thou art deceived!).'

A Midwife's Strange Experience.-'A strange man took a nurse to a place where a baby boy was born. After the birth, the man set out on a table two cakes, one of them broken and the other one whole, and said to the nurse: "Eat, eat; but don't eat of the cake which is broken nor of the cake which is whole." And the nurse said: "What in the name of the Lord am I going to eat?" At that all the fairies in the house disappeared; and the nurse was left out on a mountain-side alone.'

A Fairy-Baking.-'At night the fairies came into a house in Glen Rushen to bake. The family had put no water out for them; and a beggar-man who had been left lodging on the sofa downstairs heard the fairies say, "We have no water, so we'll take blood out of the toe of the servant who forgot our water." And from the girl's blood they mixed their dough. Then they baked their cakes, ate most of them, and poked pieces up under the thatched roof. The next day the servant-girl fell ill, and was ill until the old beggar-man returned to the house and cured her with a bit of the cake which he took from under the thatch.'

A Changeling Musician.-'A family at Dalby had a poor idiot baby, and when it was twenty years old it still sat by the fire just like a child. A tailor came to the house to work on a day when all the folks were out cutting corn, and the idiot was left with him. The tailor began to whistle as he sat on the table sewing, and the little idiot sitting by the fire said to him: "If you'll not tell anybody when they come in, I'll dance that tune for you." So the little fellow began to dance, and he could step it out splendidly. Then he said to the tailor: "If you'll not tell anybody when they come in, I'll play the fiddle for you." And the tailor and the idiot spent a very enjoyable afternoon together. But before the family came in from the fields, the poor idiot, as usual, was sitting in a chair by the fire, a big baby who couldn't hardly talk. When the mother came in she happened to say to the tailor, "You've a fine chap here," referring to the idiot. "Yes, indeed," said the tailor, "we've had a very fine afternoon together; but I think we had better make a good fire and put him on it." "Oh!" cried the mother, "the poor child could never even walk." "Ah, but he can dance and play the fiddle, too," replied the tailor. And the fire was made; but when the idiot saw that they were for putting him on it he pulled from his pocket a ball, and this ball went rolling on ahead of him, and he, going after it, was never seen again.' After this strange story was finished I asked Mrs. Moore where she had heard it, and she said:-'I have heard this story ever since I was a girl. I knew the house and family, and so did my mother. The family's name was Cubbon.'

The Fenodyree's (or 'Phynnodderee's') Disgust.-'During snowy weather, like this, the Fenodyree would gather in the sheep at night; and during the harvest season would do the threshing when all the family were abed. One time, however, just over here at Gordon Farm, the farmer saw him, and he was naked; and so the farmer put out a new suit of clothes for him. The Fenodyree came at night, and looking at the clothes with great disgust at the idea of wearing such things, said:-

Bayrn da'n chione, doogh da'n chione,

Cooat da'n dreeym, doogh da'n dreeym,

Breechyn da'n toin, doogh da'n toin,

Agh my she lhiat Gordon mooar,

Cha nee lhiat Glion reagh Rushen.

(Cap for the head, alas! poor head,

Coat for the back, alas! poor back,

Breeches for the breech, alas! poor breech,

But if big Gordon [farm] is thine,

Thine is not the merry Glen of Rushen.)[44]

And off he went to Glen Rushen for good.'

Testimony from the Keeper of Peel Castle

From Mrs. Moore's house I walked on to Peel, where I was fortunate in meeting, in his own home, Mr. William Cashen, the well-known keeper of the famous old Peel Castle, within whose yet solid battlements stands the one true round tower outside of Ireland. I heard first of all about the fairy dog-the Moddey Doo (Manx for Black Dog)-which haunts the castle; and then Mr. Cashen related to me the following anecdotes and tales about Manx fairies:-

Prayer against the Fairies.-'My father's and grandfather's idea was that the fairies tumbled out of the battlements of Heaven, falling earthward for three days and three nights as thick as hail; and that one third of them fell into the sea, one third on the land, and one third remained in the air, in which places they will remain till the Day of Judgement. The old Manx people always believed that this fall of the fairies was due to the first sin, pride; and here is their prayer against the fairies:-"Jee saue mee voish cloan ny moyrn" (God preserve me from the children of pride [or ambition]).'

A Man's Two Wives.-'A Ballaleece woman was captured by the fairies; and, soon afterwards, her husband took a new wife, thinking the first one gone for ever. But not long after the marriage, one night the first wife appeared to her former husband and said to him, and the second wife overheard her: "You'll sweep the barn clean, and mind there is not one straw left on the floor. Then stand by the door, and at a certain hour a company of people on horseback will ride in, and you lay hold of that bridle of the horse I am on, and don't let it go." He followed the directions carefully, but was unable to hold the horse: the second wife had put some straw on the barn floor under a bushel.'

Sounds of Infinity.-'On Dalby Mountain, this side of Cronk-yn-Irree-Laa the old Manx people used to put their ears to the earth to hear the Sounds of Infinity (Sheean-ny-Feaynid), which were sounds like murmurs. They thought these sounds came from beings in space; for in their belief all space is filled with invisible beings.'[45]

To the Memory of a Manx Scholar

Since the following testimony was written down, its author, the late Mr. John Nelson, of Ramsey, has passed out of our realm of life into the realm invisible. He was one of the few Manxmen who knew the Manx language really well, and the ancient traditions which it has preserved both orally and in books. In his kindly manner and with fervent loyalty toward all things Celtic, he gave me leave, during December 1909, to publish for the first time the interesting matter which follows; and, with reverence, we here place it on record to his memory:-

A Blinding by Fairies.-'My grandfather, William Nelson, was coming home from the herring fishing late at night, on the road near Jurby, when he saw in a pea-field, across a hedge, a great crowd of little fellows in red coats dancing and making music. And as he looked, an old woman from among them came up to him and spat in his eyes, saying: "You'll never see us again"; and I am told that he was blind afterwards till the day of his death. He was certainly blind for fourteen years before his death, for I often had to lead him around; but, of course, I am unable to say of my own knowledge that he became blind immediately after his strange experience, or if not until later in life; but as a young man he certainly had good sight, and it was believed that the fairies destroyed it.'

The Fairy Tune.-'William Cain, of Glen Helen (formerly Rhenass), was going home in the evening across the mountains near Brook's Park, when he heard music down below in a glen, and saw there a great glass house like a palace, all lit up. He stopped to listen, and when he had the new tune he went home to practise it on his fiddle; and recently he played the same fairy tune at Miss Sophia Morrison's Manx entertainment in Peel.'

Manannan the Magician.-Mr. Nelson told a story about a Buggane or Fenodyree, such as we already have, and explained the Glashtin as a water-bull, supposed to be a goblin half cow and half horse, and then offered this tradition about Manannan:-'It is said that Manannan was a great magician, and that he used to place on the sea pea-shells, held open with sticks and with sticks for masts standing up in them, and then so magnify them that enemies beheld them as a strong fleet, and would not approach the island. Another tradition is that Manannan on his three legs (the Manx coat of arms) could travel from one end to the other of his isle with wonderful swiftness, moving like a wheel.'[46]

Testimony of a Farmer and Fisherman

From the north of the island I returned to Peel, where I had arranged to meet new witnesses, and the first one of these is James Caugherty, a farmer and fisherman, born in Kirk Patrick fifty-eight years ago, who testified (in part) as follows:-

Churn Worked by Fairies.-'Close by Glen Cam (Winding Glen), when I was a boy, our family often used to hear the empty churn working in the churn-house, when no person was near it, and they would say, "Oh, it's the little fellows."'

A Remarkable Changeling Story.-'Forty to fifty years ago, between St. John's and Foxdale, a boy, with whom I often played, came to our house at nightfall to borrow some candles, and while he was on his way home across the hills he suddenly saw a little boy and a little woman coming after him. If he ran, they ran, and all the time they gained on him. Upon reaching home he was speechless, his hands were altered (turned awry), and his feet also, and his fingernails had grown long in a minute. He remained that way a week. My father went to the boy's mother and told her it wasn't Robby at all that she saw; and when my father was for taking the tongs and burning the boy with a piece of glowing turf [as a changeling test], the boy screamed awfully. Then my father persuaded the mother to send a messenger to a doctor in the north near Ramsey "doing charms", to see if she couldn't get Robby back. As the messenger was returning, the mother stepped out of the house to relieve him, and when she went into the house again her own Robby was there. As soon as Robby came to himself all right, he said a little woman and a little boy had followed him, and that just as he got home he was conscious of being taken away by them, but he didn't know where they came from nor where they took him. He was unable to tell more than this. Robby is alive yet, so far as I know; he is Robert Christian, of Douglas.'

Evidence from a Member of the House of Keys

Mr. T. C. Kermode, of Peel, member of the House of Keys, the Lower House of the Manx Parliament, very kindly dictated for my use the following statement concerning fairies which he himself has seen:-

Reality of Fairies.-'There is much belief here in the island that there actually are fairies; and I consider such belief based on an actual fact in nature, because of my own strange experience. About forty years ago, one October night, I and another young man were going to a kind of Manx harvest-home at Cronk-a-Voddy. On the Glen Helen road, just at the Beary Farm, as we walked along talking, my friend happened to look across the river (a small brook), and said: "Oh look, there are the fairies. Did you ever see them?" I looked across the river and saw a circle of supernatural light, which I have now come to regard as the "astral light" or the light of Nature, as it is called by mystics, and in which spirits become visible. The spot where the light appeared was a flat space surrounded on the sides away from the river by banks formed by low hills; and into this space and the circle of light, from the surrounding sides apparently, I saw come in twos and threes a great crowd of little beings smaller than Tom Thumb and his wife. All of them, who appeared like soldiers, were dressed in red. They moved back and forth amid the circle of light, as they formed into order like troops drilling. I advised getting nearer to them, but my friend said, "No, I'm going to the party." Then after we had looked at them a few minutes my friend struck the roadside wall with a stick and shouted, and we lost the vision and the light vanished.'

The Manx Fairy-Faith.-'I have much evidence from old Manx people, who are entirely reliable and God-fearing, that they have seen the fairies hunting with hounds and horses, and on the sea in ships, and under other conditions, and that they have heard their music. They consider the fairies a complete nation or world in themselves, distinct from our world, but having habits and instincts like ours. Social organization among them is said to be similar to that among men, and they have their soldiers and commanders. Where the fairies actually exist the old people cannot tell, but they certainly believe that they can be seen here on earth.'

Testimony from a Past Provincial Grand Master

Mr. J. H. Kelly, Past Provincial Grand Master of the Isle of Man District of Oddfellows, a resident of Douglas, offers the following account of a curious psychical experience of his own, and attributes it to fairies:-

A Strange Experience with Fairies.-'Twelve to thirteen years ago, on a clear moonlight night, about twelve o'clock, I left Laxey; and when about five miles from Douglas, at Ballagawne School, I heard talking, and was suddenly conscious of being in the midst of an invisible throng. As this strange feeling came over me, I saw coming up the road four figures as real to look upon as human beings, and of medium size, though I am certain they were not human. When these four, who seemed to be connected with the invisible throng, came out of the Garwick road into the main road, I passed into a by-road leading down to a very peaceful glen called Garwick Glen; and I still had the same feeling that invisible beings were with me, and this continued for a mile. There was no fear or emotion or excitement, but perfect calm on my part. I followed the by-road; and when I began to mount a hill there was a sudden and strange quietness, and a sense of isolation came over me, as though the joy and peace of my life had departed with the invisible throng. From different personal experiences like this one, I am firmly of the opinion and belief that the fairies exist. One cannot say that they are wholly physical or wholly spiritual, but the impression left upon my mind is that they are an absolutely real order of beings not human.'

Invoking Little Manannan, son of Leirr, to give us safe passage across his watery domain, we now go southward to the nearest Brythonic country, the Land of Arthur, Wales.


Introduction by The Right Hon. Sir John Rh?s, M.A., D.Litt., F.B.A., Hon. LL.D. of the University of Edinburgh; Professor of Celtic in the University of Oxford; Principal of Jesus College; author of Celtic Folklore, Welsh and Manx, &c.

The folk-lore of Wales in as far as it concerns the Fairies consists of a very few typical tales, such as:-

(1) The Fairy Dance and the usual entrapping of a youth, who dances with the Little People for a long time, while he supposes it only a few minutes, and who if not rescued is taken by them.

(2) There are other ways in which recruits may be led into Fairyland and induced to marry fairy maidens, and any one so led away is practically lost to his kith and kin, for even if he be allowed to visit them, the visit is mostly cut short in one way or another.

(3) A man catches a fairy woman and marries her. She proves to be an excellent housewife, but usually she has had put into the marriage-contract certain conditions which, if broken, inevitably release her from the union, and when so released she hurries away instantly, never to return, unless it be now and then to visit her children. One of the conditions, especially in North Wales, is that the husband should never touch her with iron. But in the story of the Lady of Llyn y Fan Fach, in Carmarthenshire, the condition is that he must not strike the wife without a cause three times, the striking being interpreted to include any slight tapping, say, on the shoulder. This story is one of the most remarkable on record in Wales, and it recalls the famous tale of Undine, published in German many years ago by De La Motte Fouqué. It is not known where he found it, or whether the people among whom it was current were pure Germans or of Celtic extraction.

(4) The Fairies were fond of stealing nice healthy babies and of leaving in their place their own sallow offspring. The stories of how the right child might be recovered take numerous forms; and some of these stories suggest how weak and sickly children became the objects of systematic cruelty at the hands of even their own parents. The changeling was usually an old man, and many were the efforts made to get him to betray his identity.

(5) There is a widespread story of the fairy husband procuring for his wife the attendance of a human midwife. The latter was given a certain ointment to apply to the baby's eyes when she dressed it. She was not to touch either of her own eyes with it, but owing to an unfailing accident she does, and with the eye so touched she is enabled to see the fairies in their proper shape and form. This has consequences: The fairy husband pays the midwife well, and discharges her. She goes to a fair or market one day and observes her old master stealing goods from a stall, and makes herself known to him. He asks her with which eye she sees him. She tells him, and the eye to which he objects he instantly blinds.

(6) Many are the stories about the fairies coming into houses at night to wash and dress their children after everybody is gone to bed. A servant-maid who knows her business leaves a vessel full of water for them, and takes care that the house is neat and tidy, and she then probably finds in the morning some fairy gift left her, whereas if the house be untidy and the water dirty, they will pinch her in her sleep, and leave her black and blue.

(7) The fairies were not strong in their household arrangements, so it was not at all unusual for them to come to the farm-houses to borrow what was wanting to them.

In the neighbourhood of Snowdon the fairies were believed to live beneath the lakes, from which they sometimes came forth, especially on misty days, and children used to be warned not to stray away from their homes in that sort of weather, lest they should be kidnapped by them. These fairies were not Christians, and they were great thieves. They were fond of bright colours. They were sharp of hearing, and no word that reached the wind would escape them. If a fairy's proper name was discovered, the fairy to whom it belonged felt baffled.[47]

Some characteristics of the fairies seem to argue an ancient race, while other characteristics betray their origin in the workshop of the imagination; but generally speaking, the fairies are heterogeneous, consisting partly of the divinities of glens and forests and mountains, and partly of an early race of men more or less caricatured and equipped by fable with impossible attributes.[48]

Jesus College, Oxford,

October 1910.

Our field of research in the Land of Arthur includes all the coast counties save Cardiganshire, from Anglesey on the north to Glamorganshire on the south. At the very beginning of our investigation of the belief in the Tylwyth Teg, or 'Fair Folk' in the Isle of Anglesey or Mona, the ancient stronghold of the Druids, we shall see clearly that the testimony offered by thoroughly reliable and prominent native witnesses is surprisingly uniform, and essentially animistic in its nature; and in passing southward to the end of Wales we shall find the Welsh Fairy-Faith with this same uniformity and exhibiting the same animistic background everywhere we go.

Testimony of an Anglesey Bard

Mr. John Louis Jones, of Gaerwen, Anglesey, a native bard who has taken prizes in various Eisteddfods, testifies as follows:-

Tylwyth Teg's Visits.-'When I was a boy here on the island, the Tylwyth Teg were described as a race of little beings no larger than children six or seven years old, who visited farm-houses at night after all the family were abed. No matter how securely closed a house might be, the Tylwyth Teg had no trouble to get in. I remember how the old folk used to make the house comfortable and put fresh coals on the fire, saying, "Perhaps the Tylwyth Teg will come to-night." Then the Tylwyth Teg, when they did come, would look round the room and say, "What a clean beautiful place this is!" And all the while the old folk in bed were listening. Before departing from such a clean house the Tylwyth Teg always left a valuable present for the family.'

Fairy Wife and Iron Taboo.-'A young man once caught one of the Tylwyth Teg women, and she agreed to live with him on condition that he should never touch her with iron. One day she went to a field with him to catch a horse, but in catching the horse he threw the bridle in such a way that the bit touched the Tylwyth Teg woman, and all at once she was gone. As this story indicates, the Tylwyth Teg could make themselves invisible. I think they could be seen by some people and not by other people. The old folk thought them a kind of spirit race from a spirit world.'

Evidence from Central Anglesey

Owing to the very kindly assistance of Mr. E. H. Thomas, of Llangefni, who introduced me to the oldest inhabitants of his town, in their own homes and elsewhere, and then acted as interpreter whenever Welsh alone was spoken, I gleaned very clear evidence from that part of Central Anglesey. Seven witnesses, two of whom were women, ranging in age from seventy-two to eighty-nine years, were thus interviewed, and each of them stated that in their childhood the belief in the Tylwyth Teg as a non-human race of good little people-by one witness compared to singing angels-was general. Mr. John Jones, the oldest of the seven, among much else, said in Welsh:-'I believe personally that the Tylwyth Teg are still existing; but people can't see them. I have heard of two or three persons being together and one only having been able to see the Tylwyth Teg.'

Testimony from Two Anglesey Centenarians

Perhaps nowhere else in Celtic lands could there be found as witnesses two sisters equal in age to Miss Mary Owen and Mrs. Betsy Thomas, in their hundred and third and hundredth year respectively (in 1909). They live a quiet life on their mountain-side farm overlooking the sea, in the beautiful country near Pentraeth, quite away from the rush and noise of the great world of commercial activity; and they speak only the tongue which their prehistoric Kimric ancestors spoke before Roman, or Saxon, or Norman came to Britain. Mr. W. Jones, of Plas Tinon, their neighbour, who knows English and Welsh well, acted as interpreter. The elder sister testified first:-

'Tylwyth Teg's' Nature.-'There were many of the Tylwyth Teg on the Llwydiarth Mountain above here, and round the Llwydiarth Lake where they used to dance; and whenever the prices at the Llangefni market were to be high they would chatter very much at night. They appeared only after dark; and all the good they ever did was singing and dancing. Ann Jones, whom I knew very well, used often to see the Tylwyth Teg dancing and singing, but if she then went up to them they would disappear. She told me they are an invisible people, and very small. Many others besides Ann Jones have seen the Tylwyth Teg in these mountains, and have heard their music and song. The ordinary opinion was that the Tylwyth Teg are a race of spirits. I believe in them as an invisible race of good little people.'

Fairy Midwife and Magic Oil.-'The Tylwyth Teg had a kind of magic oil, and I remember this story about it:-A farmer went to Llangefni to fetch a woman to nurse his wife about to become a mother, and he found one of the Tylwyth Teg, who came with him on the back of his horse. Arrived at the farm-house, the fairy woman looked at the wife, and giving the farmer some oil told him to wash the baby in it as soon as it was born. Then the fairy woman disappeared. The farmer followed the advice, and what did he do in washing the baby but get some oil on one of his own eyes. Suddenly he could see the Tylwyth Teg, for the oil had given him the second-sight. Some time later the farmer was in Llangefni again, and saw the same fairy woman who had given him the oil. "How is your wife getting on?" she asked him. "She is getting on very well," he replied. Then the fairy woman added, "Tell me with which eye you see me best." "With this one," he said, pointing to the eye he had rubbed with the oil. And the fairy woman put her stick in that eye, and the farmer never saw with it again.'[49]

Seeing 'Tylwyth Teg'.-The younger sister's testimony is as follows:-'I saw one of the Tylwyth Teg about sixty years ago, near the Tynymyndd Farm, as I was passing by at night. He was like a little man. When I approached him he disappeared suddenly. I have heard about the dancing and singing of the Tylwyth Teg, but never have heard the music myself. The old people said the Tylwyth Teg could appear and disappear when they liked; and I think as the old people did, that they are some sort of spirits.'

Testimony from an Anglesey Seeress

At Pentraeth, Mr. Gwilyn Jones said to me:-'It always was and still is the opinion that the Tylwyth Teg are a race of spirits. Some people think them small in size, but the one my mother saw was ordinary human size.' At this, I immediately asked Mr. Jones if his mother was still living, and he replying that she was, gave me her address in Llanfair. So I went directly to interview Mr. Jones's mother, Mrs. Catherine Jones, and this is the story about the one of the Tylwyth Teg she saw:-

'Tylwyth Teg' Apparition.-'I was coming home at about half-past ten at night from Cemaes, on the path to Simdda Wen, where I was in service, when there appeared just before me a very pretty young lady of ordinary size. I had no fear, and when I came up to her put out my hand to touch her, but my hand and arm went right through her form. I could not understand this, and so tried to touch her repeatedly with the same result; there was no solid substance in the body, yet it remained beside me, and was as beautiful a young lady as I ever saw. When I reached the door of the house where I was to stop, she was still with me. Then I said "Good night" to her. No response being made, I asked, "Why do you not speak?" And at this she disappeared. Nothing happened afterwards, and I always put this beautiful young lady down as one of the Tylwyth Teg. There was much talk about my experience when I reported it, and the neighbours, like myself, thought I had seen one of the Tylwyth Teg. I was about twenty-four years old at the time of this incident.'[50]

Testimony from a Professor of Welsh

Just before crossing the Menai Straits I had the good fortune to meet, at his home in Llanfair, Mr. J. Morris Jones, M.A. (Oxon.), Professor of Welsh in the University College at Bangor, and he, speaking of the fairy-belief in Anglesey as he remembers it from boyhood days, said:-

'Tylwyth Teg.'-'In most of the tales I heard repeated when I was a boy, I am quite certain the implication was that the Tylwyth Teg were a kind of spirit race having human characteristics, who could at will suddenly appear and suddenly disappear. They were generally supposed to live underground, and to come forth on moonlight nights, dressed in gaudy colours (chiefly in red), to dance in circles in grassy fields. I cannot remember having heard changeling stories here in the Island: I think the Tylwyth Teg were generally looked upon as kind and good-natured, though revengeful if not well treated. And they were believed to have plenty of money at their command, which they could bestow on people whom they liked.'

Evidence from North Carnarvonshire

Upon leaving Anglesey I undertook some investigation of the Welsh fairy-belief in the country between Bangor and Carnarvon. From the oldest Welsh people of Treborth I heard the same sort of folk-lore as we have recorded from Anglesey, except that prominence was given to a flourishing belief in Bwganod, goblins or bogies. But from Mr. T. T. Davis Evans, of Port Dinorwic, I heard the following very unusual story based on facts, as he recalled it first hand:-

Jones's Vision.-'William Jones, who some sixty years ago declared he had seen the Tylwyth Teg in the Aberglaslyn Pass near Beddgelert, was publicly questioned about them in Bethel Chapel by Mr. Griffiths, the minister; and he explained before the congregation that the Lord had given him a special vision which enabled him to see the Tylwyth Teg, and that, therefore, he had seen them time after time as little men playing along the river in the Pass. The minister induced Jones to repeat the story many times, because it seemed to please the congregation very much; and the folks present looked upon Jones's vision as a most wonderful thing.'

Evidence from South Carnarvonshire

To Mr. E. D. Rowlands, head master of the schools at Afonwen, I am indebted for a summary of the fairy-belief in South Carnarvonshire:-

'Tylwyth Teg.'-'According to the belief in South Carnarvonshire, the Tylwyth Teg were a small, very pretty people always dressed in white, and much given to dancing and singing in rings where grass grew. As a rule, they were visible only at night; though in the day-time, if a mother while hay-making was so unwise as to leave her babe alone in the field, the Tylwyth Teg might take it and leave in its place a hunchback, or some deformed object like a child. At night, the Tylwyth Teg would entice travellers to join their dance and then play all sorts of tricks on them.'[51]

Fairy Cows and Fairy Lake-Women.-'Some of the Tylwyth Teg lived in caves; others of them lived in lake-bottoms. There is a lake called Llyn y Morwynion, or "Lake of the Maidens", near Festiniog, where, as the story goes, a farmer one morning found in his field a number of very fine cows such as he had never seen before. Not knowing where they came from, he kept them a long time, when, as it happened, he committed some dishonest act and, as a result, women of the Tylwyth Teg made their appearance in the pasture and, calling the cows by name, led the whole herd into the lake, and with them disappeared beneath its waters. The old people never could explain the nature of the Tylwyth Teg, but they always regarded them as a very mysterious race, and, according to this story of the cattle, as a supernatural race.'

Evidence from Merionethshire

Mr. Louis Foster Edwards, of Harlech, recalling the memories of many years ago, offers the following evidence:-

Scythe-Blades and Fairies.-'In an old inn on the other side of Harlech there was to be an entertainment, and, as usual on such occasions, the dancing would not cease until morning. I noticed, before the guests had all arrived, that the landlady was putting scythe-blades edge upwards up into the large chimney, and, wondering why it was, asked her. She told me that the fairies might come before the entertainment was over, and that if the blades were turned edge upwards it would prevent the fairies from troubling the party, for they would be unable to pass the blades without being cut.'

'Tylwyth Teg' and their World.-'There was an idea that the Tylwyth Teg lived by plundering at night. It was thought, too, that if anything went wrong with cows or horses the Tylwyth Teg were to blame. As a race, the Tylwyth Teg were described as having the power of invisibility; and it was believed they could disappear like a spirit while one happened to be observing them. The world in which they lived was a world quite unlike ours, and mortals taken to it by them were changed in nature. The way a mortal might be taken by the Tylwyth Teg was by being attracted into their dance. If they thus took you away, it would be according to our time for twelve months, though to you the time would seem no more than a night.'

Fairy Tribes in Montgomeryshire

From Mr. D. Davies-Williams, who outlined for me the Montgomeryshire belief in the Tylwyth Teg as he has known it intimately, I learned that this is essentially the same as elsewhere in North and Central Wales. He summed up the matter by saying:-

Belief in Tylwyth Teg.-'It was the opinion that the Tylwyth Teg were a real race of invisible or spiritual beings living in an invisible world of their own. The belief in the Tylwyth Teg was quite general fifty or sixty years ago, and as sincere as any religious belief is now.'

Our next witness is the Rev. Josiah Jones, minister of the Congregational Church of Machynlleth; and, after a lifetime's experience in Montgomeryshire, he gives this testimony:-

A Deacon's Vision.-'A deacon in my church, John Evans, declared that he had seen the Tylwyth Teg dancing in the day-time, within two miles from here, and he pointed out the very spot where they appeared. This was some twenty years ago. I think, however, that he saw only certain reflections and shadows, because it was a hot and brilliant day.'

Folk-Beliefs in General.-'As I recall the belief, the old people considered the Tylwyth Teg as living beings halfway between something material and spiritual, who were rarely seen. When I was a boy there was very much said, too, about corpse-candles and phantom funerals, and especially about the Bwganod, plural of Bwgan, meaning a sprite, ghost, hobgoblin, or spectre. The Bwganod were supposed to appear at dusk, in various forms, animal and human; and grown-up people as well as children had great fear of them.'

A Minister's Opinion.-'Ultimately there is a substance of truth in the fairy-belief, but it is wrongly accounted for in the folk-lore: I once asked Samuel Roberts, of Llanbrynmair, who was quite a noted Welsh scholar, what he thought of the Tylwyth Teg, of hobgoblins, spirits, and so forth; and he said that he believed such things existed, and that God allowed them to appear in times of great ignorance to convince people of the existence of an invisible world.'

In Cardiganshire; and a Folk-lorist's Testimony

No one of our witnesses from Central Wales is more intimately acquainted with the living folk-beliefs than Mr. J. Ceredig Davies, of Llanilar, a village about six miles from Aberystwyth; for Mr. Davies has spent many years in collecting folk-lore in Central and South Wales. He has interviewed the oldest and most intelligent of the old people, and while I write this he has in the press a work entitled The Folk-Lore of Mid and West Wales. Mr. Davies very kindly gave me the following outline of the most prominent traits in the Welsh fairy-belief according to his own investigations:-

'Tylwyth Teg.'-'The Tylwyth Teg were considered a very small people, fond of dancing, especially on moonlight nights. They often came to houses after the family were abed; and if milk was left for them, they would leave money in return; but if not treated kindly they were revengeful. The changeling idea was common: the mother coming home would find an ugly changeling in the cradle. Sometimes the mother would consult the Dynion Hysbys, or "Wise Men" as to how to get her babe back. As a rule, treating the fairy babe roughly and then throwing it into a river would cause the fairy who made the change to appear and restore the real child in return for the changeling.'

'Tylwyth Teg' Marriage Contracts.-'Occasionally a young man would see the Tylwyth Teg dancing, and, being drawn into the dance, would be taken by them and married to one of their women. There is usually some condition in the marriage contract which becomes broken, and, as a result, the fairy wife disappears-usually into a lake. The marriage contract specifies either that the husband must never touch his fairy wife with iron, or else never beat or strike her three times. Sometimes when fairy wives thus disappear, they take with them into the lake their fairy cattle and all their household property.'

'Tylwyth Teg' Habitations.-'The Tylwyth Teg were generally looked upon as an immortal race. In Cardiganshire they lived underground; in Carmarthenshire in lakes; and in Pembrokeshire along the sea-coast on enchanted islands amid the Irish Sea. I have heard of sailors upon seeing such islands trying to reach them; but when approached, the islands always disappeared. From a certain spot in Pembrokeshire, it is said that by standing on a turf taken from the yard of St. David's Cathedral, one may see the enchanted islands.'[52]

'Tylwyth Teg' as Spirits of Druids.-'By many of the old people the Tylwyth Teg were classed with spirits. They were not looked upon as mortal at all. Many of the Welsh looked upon the Tylwyth Teg or fairies as the spirits of Druids dead before the time of Christ, who being too good to be cast into Hell were allowed to wander freely about on earth.'

Testimony from a Welshman Ninety-four Years Old

At Pontrhydfendigaid, a village about two miles from the railway-station called Strata Florida, I had the good fortune to meet Mr. John Jones, ninety-four years old, yet of strong physique, and able to write his name without eye-glasses. Both Mr. J. H. Davies, Registrar of the University College of Aberystwyth, and Mr. J. Ceredig Davies, the eminent folk-lorist of Llanilar, referred me to Mr. John Jones as one of the most remarkable of living Welshmen who could tell about the olden times from first-hand knowledge. Mr. John Jones speaks very little English, and Mr. John Rees, of the Council School, acted as our interpreter. This is the testimony:-

Pygmy-sized 'Tylwyth Teg'.-'I was born and bred where there was tradition that the Tylwyth Teg lived in holes in the hills, and that none of these Tylwyth Teg was taller than three to four feet. It was a common idea that many of the Tylwyth Teg, forming in a ring, would dance and sing out on the mountain-sides, or on the plain, and that if children should meet with them at such a time they would lose their way and never get out of the ring. If the Tylwyth Teg fancied any particular child they would always keep that child, taking off its clothes and putting them on one of their own children, which was then left in its place. They took only boys, never girls.'

Human-sized 'Tylwyth Teg'.-'A special sort of Tylwyth Teg used to come out of lakes and dance, and their fine looks enticed young men to follow them back into the lakes, and there marry one of them. If the husband wished to leave the lake he had to go without his fairy wife. This sort of Tylwyth Teg were as big as ordinary people; and they were often seen riding out of the lakes and back again on horses.'

'Tylwyth Teg' as Spirits of Prehistoric Race.-'My grandfather told me that he was once in a certain field and heard singing in the air, and thought it spirits singing. Soon afterwards he and his brother in digging dikes in that field dug into a big hole, which they entered and followed to the end. There they found a place full of human bones and urns, and naturally decided on account of the singing that the bones and urns were of the Tylwyth Teg.'[53]

A Boy's Visit to the 'Tylwyth Teg's' King.-'About eighty years ago, at Tynylone, my grandfather told me this story: "A boy ten years old was often whipped and cruelly treated by his schoolmaster because he could not say his lessons very well. So one day he ran away from school and went to a river-side, where some little folk came to him and asked why he was crying. He told them the master had punished him; and on hearing this they said, 'Oh! if you will stay with us it will not be necessary for you to go to school. We will keep you as long as you like.' Then they took him under the water and over the water into a cave underground, which opened into a great palace where the Tylwyth Teg were playing games with golden balls, in rings like those in which they dance and sing. The boy had been taken to the king's family, and he began to play with the king's sons. After he had been there in the palace in the full enjoyment of all its pleasures he wished very much to return to his mother and show her the golden ball which the Tylwyth Teg gave him. And so he took the ball in his pocket and hurried through the cave the way he had come; but at the end of it and by the river two of the Tylwyth Teg met him, and taking the ball away from him they pushed him into the water, and through the water he found his way home. He told his mother how he had been away for a fortnight, as he thought, but she told him it had been for two years. Though the boy often tried to find the way back to the Tylwyth Teg he never could. Finally, he went back to school, and became a most wonderful scholar and parson."'[54]

In Merlin's Country; and a Vicar's Testimony

The Rev. T. M. Morgan, vicar of Newchurch parish, two miles from Carmarthen, has made a very careful study of the folk-traditions in his own parish and in other regions of Carmarthenshire, and is able to offer us evidence of the highest value, as follows:-[55]

'Tylwyth Teg' Power over Children.-'The Tylwyth Teg were thought to be able to take children. "You mind, or the Tylwyth Teg will take you away," parents would say to keep their children in the house after dark. It was an opinion, too, that the Tylwyth Teg could transform good children into kings and queens, and bad children into wicked spirits, after such children had been taken-perhaps in death. The Tylwyth Teg were believed to live in some invisible world to which children on dying might go to be rewarded or punished, according to their behaviour on this earth. Even in this life the Tylwyth Teg had power over children for good or evil. The belief, as these ideas show, was that the Tylwyth Teg were spirits.'

'Tylwyth Teg' as Evil Spirits.-A few days after my return to Oxford, the Rev. T. M. Morgan, through his son, Mr. Basil I. Morgan, of Jesus College, placed in my hands additional folk-lore evidence from his own parish, as follows:-'After Mr. Wentz visited me on Thursday, September 30, 1909, I went to see Mr. Shem Morgan, the occupier of Cwmcastellfach farm, an old man about seventy years old. He told me that in his childhood days a great dread of the fairies occupied the heart of every child. They were considered to be evil spirits who visited our world at night, and dangerous to come in contact with; there were no good spirits among them. He related to me three narratives touching the fairies':-

'Tylwyth Teg's' Path.-The first narrative illustrates that the Tylwyth Teg have paths (precisely like those reserved for the Irish good people or for the Breton dead), and that it is death to a mortal while walking in one of these paths to meet the Tylwyth Teg.

'Tylwyth Teg' Divination.-The second narrative I quote:-'A farmer of this neighbourhood having lost his cattle, went to consult y dyn hysbys (a diviner), in Cardiganshire, who was friendly with the fairies. Whenever the fairies visited the diviner they foretold future events, secrets, and the whereabouts of lost property. After the farmer reached the diviner's house the diviner showed him the fairies, and then when the diviner had consulted them he told the farmer to go home as soon as he could and that he would find the cattle in such and such a place. The farmer did as he was directed, and found the cattle in the very place where the dyn hysbys told him they would be.' And the third narrative asserts that a man in the parish of Trelech who was fraudulently excluded by means of a false will from inheriting the estate of his deceased father, discovered the defrauder and recovered the estate, solely through having followed the advice given by the Tylwyth Teg, when (again as in the above account) they were called up as spirits by a dyn hysbys, a Mr. Harries, of Cwrt y Cadno, a place near Aberystwyth.[56]

Testimony from a Justice of the Peace

Mr. David Williams, J.P., who is a member of the Cymmrodorion Society of Carmarthen, and who has sat on the judicial bench for ten years, offers us the very valuable evidence which follows:-

'Tylwyth Teg' and their King and Queen.-'The general idea, as I remember it, was that the Tylwyth Teg were only visitors to this world, and had no terrestrial habitations. They were as small in stature as dwarfs, and always appeared in white. Often at night they danced in rings amid green fields. Most of them were females, though they had a king; and, as their name suggests, they were very beautiful in appearance. The king of the Tylwyth Teg was called Gwydion ab Don, Gwyd referring to a temperament in man's nature. His residence was among the stars, and called Caer Gwydion. His queen was Gwenhidw. I have heard my mother call the small fleece-like clouds which appear in fine weather the Sheep of Gwenhidw.'[57]

'Tylwyth Teg' as Aerial Beings.-Mr. Williams's testimony continues, and leads us directly to the Psychological or Psychical Theory:-'As aerial beings the Tylwyth Teg could fly and move about in the air at will. They were a special order of creation. I never heard that they grew old; and whether they multiplied or not I cannot tell. In character they were almost always good.'

Ghosts and Apparitions.-Our conversation finally drifted towards ghosts and apparitions, as usual, and to Druids. In the chapter dealing with Re-birth (pp. 390-1) we shall record what Mr. Williams said about Druids, and here what he said about ghosts and apparitions:-'Sixty years ago there was hardly an individual who did not believe in apparitions; and in olden times Welsh families would collect round the fire at night and each in turn give a story about the Tylwyth Teg and ghosts.'

Conferring Vision of a Phantom Funeral.-'There used to be an old man at Newchurch named David Davis (who lived about 1780-1840), of Abernant, noted for seeing phantom funerals. One appeared to him once when he was with a friend. "Do you see it? Do you see it?" the old man excitedly asked. "No," said his friend. Then the old man placed his foot on his friend's foot, and said, "Do you see it now?" And the friend replied that he did.'[58]

Magic and Witchcraft.-Finally, we shall hear from Mr. Williams about Welsh magic and witchcraft, which cannot scientifically be divorced from the belief in fairies and apparitions:-'There used to be much witchcraft in this country; and it was fully believed that some men, if advanced scholars, had the power to injure or to bewitch their neighbours by magic. The more advanced the scholar the better he could carry on his craft.'

Additional Evidence from Carmarthenshire

My friend, and fellow student at Jesus College, Mr. Percival V. Davies, of Carmarthen, contributes, as supplementary to what has been recorded above, the following evidence, from his great-aunt, Mrs. Spurrell, also of Carmarthen, a native Welshwoman who has seen a canwyll gorff (corpse-candle):-

Bendith y Mamau.-'In the Carmarthenshire country, fairies (Tylwyth Teg) are often called Bendith y Mamau, the "Mothers' Blessing."'

How Ten Children Became Fairies.-'Our Lord, in the days when He walked the earth, chanced one day to approach a cottage in which lived a woman with twenty children. Feeling ashamed of the size of her family, she hid half of them from the sight of her divine visitor. On His departure she sought for the hidden children in vain; they had become fairies and had disappeared.'

In Pembrokeshire; at the Pentre Evan Cromlech

Our Pembrokeshire witness is a maiden Welshwoman, sixty years old, who speaks no English, but a university graduate, her nephew, will act as our interpreter. She was born and has lived all her life within sight of the famous Pentre Evan Cromlech, in the home of her ancestors, which is so ancient that after six centuries of its known existence further record of it is lost. In spite of her sixty years, our witness is as active as many a city woman of forty or forty-five. Since her girlhood she has heard curious legends and stories, and, with a more than ordinary interest in the lore of her native country, has treasured them all in her clear and well-trained memory. The first night, while this well-stored memory of hers gave forth some of its treasures, we sat in her own home, I and my friend, her nephew, on one side in a chimney-seat, and she and her niece on the other side in another, exposed to the cheerful glow and warmth of the fire. When we had finished that first night it was two o'clock, and there had been no interruption to the even flow of marvels and pretty legends. A second night we spent likewise. What follows now is the result, so far as we are concerned with it:-

Fairies and Spirits.-'Spirits and fairies exist all round us, invisible. Fairies have no solid bodily substance. Their forms are of matter like ghostly bodies, and on this account they cannot be caught. In the twilight they are often seen, and on moonlight nights in summer. Only certain people can see fairies, and such people hold communication with them and have dealings with them, but it is difficult to get them to talk about fairies. I think the spirits about us are the fallen angels, for when old Doctor Harris died his books on witchcraft had to be burned in order to free the place where he lived from evil spirits. The fairies, too, are sometimes called the fallen angels. They will do good to those who befriend them, and harm to others. I think there must be an intermediate state between life on earth and heavenly life, and it may be in this that spirits and fairies live. There are two distinct types of spirits: one is good and the other is bad. I have heard of people going to the fairies and finding that years passed as days, but I do not believe in changelings, though there are stories enough about them. That there are fairies and other spirits like them, both good and bad, I firmly believe. My mother used to tell about seeing the "fair-folk" dancing in the fields near Cardigan; and other people have seen them round the cromlech up there on the hill (the Pentre Evan Cromlech). They appeared as little children in clothes like soldiers' clothes, and with red caps, according to some accounts.'

Death-Candles Described.-'I have seen more than one death-candle. I saw one death-candle right here in this room where we are sitting and talking.' I was told by the nephew and niece of our present witness that this particular death-candle took an untrodden course from the house across the fields to the grave-yard, and that when the death of one of the family occurred soon afterwards, their aunt insisted that the corpse should be carried by exactly the same route; so the road was abandoned and the funeral went through the ploughed fields. Here is the description of the death-candle as the aunt gave it in response to our request:-'The death-candle appears like a patch of bright light; and no matter how dark the room or place is, everything in it is as clear as day. The candle is not a flame, but a luminous mass, lightish blue in colour, which dances as though borne by an invisible agency, and sometimes it rolls over and over. If you go up to the light it is nothing, for it is a spirit. Near here a light as big as a pot was seen, and rays shot out from it in all directions. The man you saw here in the house to-day, one night as he was going along the road near Nevern, saw the death-light of old Dr. Harris, and says it was lightish green.'

Gors Goch Fairies.-Now we began to hear more about fairies:-'One night there came a strange rapping at the door of the ancient manor on the Gors Goch farm over in Cardiganshire, and the father of the family asked what was wanted. Thin, silvery voices said they wanted a warm place in which to dress their children and to tidy them up. The door opened then, and in came a dozen or more little beings, who at once set themselves to hunting for a basin and water, and to cleaning themselves. At daybreak they departed, leaving a pretty gift in return for the kindness. In this same house at another time, whether by the same party of little beings or by another could not be told, a healthy child of the family was changed because he was unbaptized, and a frightful-looking child left in his place. The mother finally died of grief, and the other children died because of the loss of their mother, and the father was left alone. Then some time after this, the same little folks who came the first time returned to clean up, and when they departed, in place of their former gifts of silver, left a gift of gold. It was not long before the father became heir to a rich farm in North Wales, and going to live on it became a magician, for the little people, still befriending him, revealed themselves in their true nature and taught him all their secrets.'

Levi Salmon's Control of Spirits.-'Levi Salmon, who lived about thirty years ago, between here and Newport, was a magician, and could call up good and bad spirits; but was afraid to call up the bad ones unless another person was with him, for it was a dangerous and terrible ordeal. After consulting certain books which he had, he would draw a circle on the floor, and in a little while spirits like bulls and serpents and other animals would appear in it, and all sorts of spirits would speak. It was not safe to go near them; and to control them Levi held a whip in his hand. He would never let them cross the circle. And when he wanted them to go away he always had to throw something to the chief spirit.'

The Haunted Manor and the Golden Image.-I offer now, in my own language, the following remarkable story:-The ancient manor-house on the Trewern Farm (less than a mile from the Pentre Evan Cromlech) had been haunted as long as anybody could remember. Strange noises were often heard in it, dishes would dance about of their own accord, and sometimes a lady dressed in silk appeared. Many attempts were made to lay the ghosts, but none succeeded. Finally things got so bad that nobody wanted to live there. About eighty years ago the sole occupants of the haunted house were Mr. -- and his two servants. At the time, it was well known in the neighbourhood that all at once Mr. -- became very wealthy, and his servants seemed able to buy whatever they wanted. Everybody wondered, but no one could tell where the money came from; for at first he was a poor man, and he couldn't have made much off the farm. The secret only leaked out through one of the servants after Mr. -- was dead. The servant declared to certain friends that one of the ghosts, or, as he thought, the Devil, appeared to Mr. -- and told him there was an image of great value walled up in the room over the main entrance to the manor. A search was made, and, sure enough, a large image of solid gold was found in the very place indicated, built into a recess in the wall. Mr. -- bound the servants to secrecy, and began to turn the image into money. He would cut off small pieces of the image, one at a time, and take them to London and sell them. In this way he sold the whole image, and nobody was the wiser. After the image was found and disposed of, ghosts were no longer seen in the house, nor were unusual noises heard in it at night. The one thing which beyond all doubt is true is that when Mr. -- died he left his son an estate worth about £50,000 (an amount probably greatly in excess of the true one); and people have always wondered ever since where it came from, if not in part from the golden image.[59]

Hundreds of parallel stories in which, instead of ghosts, fairies and demons are said to have revealed hidden treasure could be cited.

In the Gower Peninsula, Glamorganshire

Our investigations in Glamorganshire cover the most interesting part, the peninsula of Gower, where there are peculiar folk-lore conditions, due to its present population being by ancestry English and Flemish as well as Cornish and Welsh. Despite this race admixture, Brythonic beliefs have generally survived in Gower even among the non-Celts; and because of the Cornish element there are pixies, as shown by the following story related to me in Swansea by Mr. --, a well-known mining engineer:-

Pixies.-'At Newton, near the Mumbles (in Gower), an old woman, some twenty years ago, assured me that she had seen the pixies. Her father's grey mare was standing in the trap before the house ready to take some produce to the Swansea market, and when the time for departure arrived the pixies had come, but no one save the old woman could see them. She described them to me as like tiny men dancing on the mare's back and climbing up along the mare's mane. She thought the pixies some kind of spirits who made their appearance in early morning; and all mishaps to cows she attributed to them.'

Testimony from an Archaeologist

The Rev. John David Davis, rector of Llanmadoc and Cheriton parishes, and a member of the Cambrian Archaeological Society, has passed many years in studying the antiquities and folk-lore of Gower, being the author of various antiquarian works; and he is without doubt the oldest and best living authority to aid us. The Rector very willingly offers this testimony:-

Pixies and 'Verry Volk'.-'In this part of Gower, the name Tylwyth Teg is never used to describe fairies; Verry Volk is used instead. Some sixty years ago, as I can remember, there was belief in such fairies here in Gower, but now there is almost none. Belief in apparitions still exists to some extent. One may also hear of a person being pixy-led; the pixies may cause a traveller to lose his way at night if he crosses a field where they happen to be. To take your coat off and turn it inside out will break the pixy spell.[60] The Verry Volk were always little people dressed in scarlet and green; and they generally showed themselves dancing on moonlight nights. I never heard of their making changelings, though they had the power of doing good or evil acts, and it was a very risky thing to offend them. By nature they were benevolent.'

A 'Verry Volk' Feast.-'I heard the following story many years ago:-The tenant on the Eynonsford Farm here in Gower had a dream one night, and in it thought he heard soft sweet music and the patter of dancing feet. Waking up, he beheld his cow-shed, which opened off his bedroom, filled with a multitude of little beings, about one foot high, swarming all over his fat ox, and they were preparing to slaughter the ox. He was so surprised that he could not move. In a short time the Verry Volk had killed, dressed, and eaten the animal. The feast being over, they collected the hide and bones, except one very small leg-bone which they could not find, placed them in position, then stretched the hide over them; and, as the farmer looked, the ox appeared as sound and fat as ever, but when he let it out to pasture in the morning he observed that it had a slight lameness in the leg lacking the missing bone.'[61]

Fairies Among Gower English Folk

The population of the Llanmadoc region of Gower are generally English by ancestry and speech; and not until reaching Llanmorlais, beyond Llanridian, did I find anything like an original Celtic and Welsh-speaking people, and these may have come into that part within comparatively recent times; and yet, as the above place-names tend to prove, in early days all these regions must have been Welsh. It may be argued, however, that this English-speaking population may be more Celtic than Saxon, even though emigrants from England. In any case, we can see with interest how this so-called English population now echo Brythonic beliefs which they appear to have adopted in Gower, possibly sympathetically through race kinship; and the following testimony offered by Miss Sarah Jenkins, postmistress of Llanmadoc, will enable us to do so:-

Dancing with Fairies.-'A man, whose Christian name was William, was enticed by the fairy folk to enter their dance, as he was on his way to the Swansea market in the early morning. They kept him dancing some time, and then said to him before they let him go, "Will dance well; the last going to market and the first that shall sell." And though he arrived at the market very late, he was the first to sell anything.'

Fairy Money.-'An old woman, whom I knew, used to find money left by the fairies every time they visited her house. For a long time she observed their request, and told no one about the money; but at last she told, and so never found money afterwards.'

Nature of Fairies.-'The fairies (verry volk) were believed to have plenty of music and dancing. Sometimes they appeared dressed in bright red. They could appear and disappear suddenly, and no one could tell how or where.'


Much more might easily be said about Welsh goblins, about Welsh fairies who live in caves, or about Welsh fairy women who come out of lakes and rivers, or who are the presiding spirits of sacred wells and fountains,[62] but these will have some consideration later, in Section III. For the purposes of the present inquiry enough evidence has been offered to show the fundamental character of Brythonic fairy-folk as we have found them. And we can very appropriately close this inquiry by allowing our Welsh-speaking witness from the Pentre Evan country, Pembrokeshire, to tell us one of the prettiest and most interesting fairy-tales in all Wales. The name of Taliessin appearing in it leads us to suspect that it may be the remnant of an ancient bardic tale which has been handed down orally for centuries. It will serve to illustrate the marked difference between the short conversational stories of the living Fairy-Faith and the longer, more polished ones of the traditional Fairy-Faith; and we shall see in it how a literary effect is gained at the expense of the real character of the fairies themselves, for it transforms them into mortals:-

Einion and Olwen.-'My mother told the story as she used to sit by the fire in the twilight knitting stockings:-"One day when it was cloudy and misty, a shepherd boy going to the mountains lost his way and walked about for hours. At last he came to a hollow place surrounded by rushes where he saw a number of round rings. He recognized the place as one he had often heard of as dangerous for shepherds, because of the rings. He tried to get away from there, but he could not. Then an old, merry, blue-eyed man appeared. The boy, thinking to find his way home, followed the old man, and the old man said to him, 'Do not speak a word till I tell you.' In a little while they came to a menhir (long stone). The old man tapped it three times, and then lifted it up. A narrow path with steps descending was revealed, and from it emerged a bluish-white light. 'Follow me,' said the old man, 'no harm will come to you.' The boy did so, and it was not long before he saw a fine, wooded, fertile country with a beautiful palace, and rivers and mountains. He reached the palace and was enchanted by the singing of birds. Music of all sorts was in the palace, but he saw no people. At meals dishes came and disappeared of their own accord. He could hear voices all about him, but saw no person except the old man-who said that now he could speak. When he tried to speak he found that he could not move his tongue. Soon an old lady with smiles came to him leading three beautiful maidens, and when the maidens saw the shepherd boy they smiled and spoke, but he could not reply. Then one of the girls kissed him; and all at once he began to converse freely and most wittily. In the full enjoyment of the marvellous country he lived with the maidens in the palace a day and a year, not thinking it more than a day, for there was no reckoning of time in that land. When the day and the year were up, a longing to see his old acquaintances came on him; and thanking the old man for his kindness, he asked if he could return home. The old man said to him, 'Wait a little while'; and so he waited. The maiden who had kissed him was unwilling to have him go; but when he promised her to return, she sent him off loaded with riches.

'"At home not one of his people or old friends knew him. Everybody believed that he had been killed by another shepherd. And this shepherd had been accused of the murder and had fled to America.

'"On the first day of the new moon the boy remembered his promise, and returned to the other country; and there was great rejoicing in the beautiful palace when he arrived. Einion, for that was the boy's name, and Olwen, for that was the girl's name, now wanted to marry; but they had to go about it quietly and half secretly, for the fair-folk dislike ceremony and noise. When the marriage was over, Einion wished to go back with Olwen to the upper world. So two snow-white ponies were given them, and they were allowed to depart.

'"They reached the upper world safely; and, being possessed of unlimited wealth, lived most handsomely on a great estate which came into their possession. A son was born to them, and he was called Taliessin. People soon began to ask for Olwen's pedigree, and as none was given it was taken for granted that she was one of the fair-folk. 'Yes, indeed,' said Einion, 'there is no doubt that she is one of the fair-folk, there is no doubt that she is one of the very fair-folk, for she has two sisters as pretty as she is, and if you saw them all together you would admit that the name is a suitable one.' And this is the origin of the term fair-folk (Tylwyth Teg)."'

From Wales we go to the nearest Brythonic country, Cornwall, to study the fairy-folk there.


Introduction by Henry Jenner, Member of the Gorsedd of the Bards of Brittany; Fellow and Local Secretary for Cornwall of the Society of Antiquaries; author of A Handbook of the Cornish Language, &c.

In Cornwall the legends of giants, of saints, or of Arthur and his knights, the observances and superstitions connected with the prehistoric stone monuments, holy wells, mines, and the like, the stories of submerged or buried cities, and the fragments of what would seem to be pre-Christian faiths, have no doubt occasional points of contact with Cornish fairy legends, but they do not help to explain the fairies very much. Yet certain it is that not only in Cornwall and other Celtic lands, but throughout most of the world, a belief in fairies exists or has existed, and so widespread a belief must have a reason for it, though not necessarily a good one. That which with unconscious humour men generally call 'education' has in these days caused those lower classes, to whom the deposit of this faith was entrusted, to be ashamed of it, and to despise and endeavour to forget it. And so now in Cornwall, as elsewhere at that earlier outbreak of Philistinism, the Reformation,

From haunted spring and grassy ring

Troop goblin, elf and fairy,

And the kelpie must flit from the black bog-pit,

And the brownie must not tarry.

But, in spite of Protestantism, school-boards, and education committees, 'pisky-pows' are still placed on the ridge-tiles of West Cornish cottages, to propitiate the piskies and give them a dancing-place, lest they should turn the milk sour, and St. Just and Morvah folk are still 'pisky-led' on the Gump (an ?n Gumpas, the Level Down, between Ch?n Castle and Carn Kenidjack), and more rarely St. Columb and Roche folk on Goss Moor. It will not do to say that it is only another form of 'whisky-led'. That is an evidently modern explanation, invented since the substitution of strange Scottish and Irish drinks for the good 'Nantes' and wholesome 'Plymouth' of old time, and it does not fit in with the phenomena. It was only last winter, in a cottage not a hundred yards from where I am writing, that milk was set at night for piskies, who had been knocking on walls and generally making nuisances of themselves. Apparently the piskies only drank the 'astral' part of the milk (whatever that may be) and then the neighbouring cats drank what was left, and it disagreed with them. I cannot vouch for the truth of the part about the piskies and the 'astral' milk-I give it as it was told to me by the occupant of the cottage, who was not unacquainted with 'occult' terminology-but I do know that the milk was consumed, and that the cats, one of which was my own, were with one accord unwell all over the place. But for the present purpose it does not matter whether these things really happened or not. The point is that people thought they happened.

Robert Hunt, in his Popular Romances of the West of England, divided the fairies of Cornish folk-lore into five classes: (1) the Small People; (2) the Spriggans; (3) the Piskies; (4) the Buccas, Bockles, or Knockers; (5) the Brownies. This is an incorrect classification. The Pobel Vean or Small People, the Spriggans, and the Piskies are not really distinguishable from one another. Bucca, who properly is but one, is a deity not a fairy, and it is said that at Newlyn, the great seat of his worship, offerings of fish are still left on the beach for him. His name is the Welsh pwca, which is probably 'Puck', though Shakespeare's Puck was just a pisky, and it may be connected with the general Slavonic word Bog, God; so that if, as some say, buccaboo is really meant for Bucca-du, Black Bucca, this may be an equivalent of Czernobog, the Black God, who was the Ahriman of Slavonic dualism, and Bucca-widn (White Bucca), which is rarer, though the expression does come into a St. Levan story, may be the corresponding Bielobog. Bockle, which personally I have never heard used, suggests the Scottish bogle, and both may be diminutives of bucca, bog, bogie, or bug, the last in the sense in which one English version translates the timor nocturnus of Psalm XC. 5, not in that of cimex lectularius. But bockle and brownie are probably both foreign importations borrowed from books, though a 'brownie' eo nomine has been reported from Sennen within the last twenty years.

The Knockers or Knackers are mine-spirits, quite unconnected with Bucca or bogles. The story, as I have always heard it, is that they are the spirits of Jews who were sent by the Romans to work in the tin mines, some say for being concerned in the Crucifixion of our Lord, which sounds improbable. They are benevolent spirits, and warn miners of danger.

But the only true Cornish fairy is the Pisky, of the race which is the Pobel Vean or Little People, and the Spriggan is only one of his aspects. The Pisky would seem to be the 'Brownie' of the Lowland Scot, the Duine Sith of the Highlander, and, if we may judge from an interesting note in Scott's The Pirate, the 'Peght' of the Orkneys. If Daoine Sith really means 'The Folk of the Mounds' (barrows), not 'The People of Peace', it is possible that there is something in the theory that Brownie, Duine Sith, and 'Peght', which is Pict, are only in their origin ways of expressing the little dark-complexioned aboriginal folk who were supposed to inhabit the barrows, cromlechs, and allées couvertes, and whose cunning, their only effective weapon against the mere strength of the Aryan invader, earned them a reputation for magical powers. Now Pisky or Pisgy is really Pixy. Though as a patriotic Cornishman I ought not to admit it, I cannot deny, especially as it suits my argument better, that the Devon form is the correct one. But after all there has been always a strong Cornish element in Devon, even since the time when Athelstan drove the Britons out of Exeter and set the Tamar for their boundary, and I think the original word is really Cornish. The transposition of consonants, especially when s is one of them, is not uncommon in modern Cornish English. Hosged for hogshead, and haps for hasp are well-known instances. If we take the root of Pixy, Pix, and divide the double letter x into its component parts, we get Piks or Pics, and if we remember that a final s or z in Cornish almost always represents a t or d of Welsh and Breton (cf. tas for tad, nans for nant, bos for bod), we may not unreasonably, though without absolute certainty, conjecture that Pixy is Picty in a Cornish form.[63]

Without begging any question concerning the origin, ethnology, or homogeneity of those who are called 'Picts' in history, from the times of Ammianus Marcellinus and Claudian until Kenneth MacAlpine united the Pictish kingdom with the Scottish, we can nevertheless accept the fact that the name 'Pict' has been popularly applied to some pre-Celtic race or races, to whom certain ancient structures, such as 'vitrified forts' and 'Picts' houses' have been attributed. In Cornwall there are instances of prehistoric structures being called 'Piskies' Halls' (there is an allée couverte so called at Bosahan in Constantine), and 'Piskies' Crows' (Crow or Craw, Breton Krao, is a shed or hovel; 'pegs' craw' is still used for 'pig-sty'); and there are three genuine examples of what would in Scotland be called 'Picts' Houses' just outside St. Ives in the direction of Zennor, though only modern antiquaries have applied that name to them. In the district in which they are, the fringe of coast from St. Ives round by Zennor, Morvah, Pendeen, and St. Just nearly to Sennen, are found to this day a strange and separate people of Mongol type, like the Bigaudens of Pont l'Abbé and Penmarc'h in the Breton Cornouailles, one of those 'fragments of forgotten peoples' of the 'sunset bound of Lyonesse' of whom Tennyson tells. They are a little 'stuggy' dark folk, and until comparatively modern times were recognized as different from their Celtic neighbours, and were commonly believed to be largely wizards and witches. One of Mr. Wentz's informants seems to attribute to Zennor a particularly virulent brand of pisky, and Zennor is the most primitive part of that district. Possibly the more completely unmixed ancestors of this race were 'more so' than the present representatives; but, be this as it may, if Pixy is really Picty, it would seem that, like the inhabitants of the extreme north of the British Isles, the south-western Britons eventually applied the fairly general popular name of the mysterious, half dreaded, half despised aboriginal to a race of preternatural beings in whose existence they believed, and, with the name, transferred some of the qualities, attributes, and legends, thus producing a mixed mental conception now known as 'pisky' or 'pixy'.

There seems to have been always and everywhere (or nearly so) a belief in a race, neither divine nor human, but very like to human beings, who existed on a 'plane' different from that of humans, though occupying the same space. This has been called the 'astral' or the 'fourth-dimensional' plane. Why 'astral'? why 'fourth-dimensional'? why 'plane'? are questions the answers to which do not matter, and I do not attempt to defend the terms, but you must call it something. This is the belief to which Scott refers in the introduction to The Monastery, as the 'beautiful but almost forgotten theory of astral spirits or creatures of the elements, surpassing human beings in knowledge and power, but inferior to them as being subject, after a certain space of years, to a death which is to them annihilation'. The subdivisions and elaborations of the subject by Paracelsus, the Rosicrucians, and the modern theosophists are no doubt amplifications of that popular belief, which, though rather undefined, resembles the theory of these mystics in its main outlines, and was probably what suggested it to them.

These beings are held to be normally imperceptible to human senses, but conditions may arise in which the 'astral plane' of the elementals and that part of the 'physical plane' in which, if one may so express it, some human being happens to be, may be in such a relation to one another that these and other spirits may be seen and heard. Some such condition is perhaps described in the story of Balaam the soothsayer, in that incident when 'the Lord opened the eyes of the young man and he saw, and behold, the mountain was full of horses and chariots of fire round about Elisha', and possibly also in the mysterious 'sound of a going in the tops of the mulberry trees' which David heard; but no doubt in these cases it was angels and not elementals. It may also be allowable to suggest, without irreverence, that the Gospel stories of the Transfiguration and Ascension are connected with the same idea, though the latter is expressed in the form of the geocentric theory of the universe.

The Cornish pisky stories are largely made up of instances of contact between the two 'planes', sometimes accidental, sometimes deliberately induced by incantations or magic eye-salve, yet with these stories are often mingled incidents that are not preternatural at all. How, when, and why this belief arose, I do not pretend even to conjecture; but there it is, and though of course the holders of it do not talk about 'planes', that is very much the notion which they appear to have.

I do not think that the piskies were ever definitely held to be the spirits of the dead, and while a certain confusion has arisen, as some of Mr. Wentz's informants show, I think it belongs to the confused eschatology of modern Protestants. To a pre-Reformation Cornishman, or indeed to any other Catholic, the idea was unthinkable. 'Justorum animae in manu Dei sunt, et non tanget illos tormentum malitiae: visi sunt oculis insipientium mori: illi autem sunt in pace,' and the transmigration of the souls of the faithful departed into another order of beings, not disembodied because never embodied, was to them impossible. Such a notion is on a par with the quaint but very usual hope of the modern 'Evangelical' Christian, so beautifully expressed in one of Hans Andersen's stories, that his departed friends are promoted to be 'angels'. There may be, perhaps, an idea, as there certainly is in the Breton Death-Faith, that the spirits of the faithful dead are all round us, and are not rapt away into a distant Paradise or Purgatory. This may be of pre-Christian origin, but does not contradict any article of the Christian faith. The warnings, apparitions, and hauntings, the 'calling of the dead' at sea, and other details of Cornish Death-Legends, seem to point to a conception of a 'plane' of the dead, similar to but not necessarily identical with that of the elementals. Under some quite undefined conditions contact may occur with the 'physical plane', whence the alleged incidents; but this Cornish Death-Faith, though sometimes, as commonly in Brittany, presenting similar phenomena, has in itself nothing to do with piskies, and as for the unfaithful departed, their destination was also well understood, and it was not Fairyland. There are possible connecting links in the not very common idea that piskies are the souls of unbaptized children, and in the more common notion that the Pobel Vean are, not the disembodied spirits, but the living souls and bodies of the old Pagans, who, refusing Christianity, are miraculously preserved alive, but are condemned to decrease in size until they vanish altogether. Some authorities hold that it is the race and not the individual which dwindles from generation to generation.

This last idea, as well as the name 'pixy', gives some probability to the conclusion that, as applied to Cornwall, Mr. MacRitchie's theory represents a part of the truth, and that on to an already existing belief in elementals have been grafted exaggerated traditions of a dark pre-Celtic people. These were not necessarily pygmies, but smaller than Celts, and may have survived for a long time in forests and hill countries, sometimes friendly to the taller race, whence come the stories of piskies working for farmers, sometimes hostile, which may account for the legends of changelings and other mischievous tricks. This is how it appears to one who knows his Cornwall in all its aspects fairly well, but does not profess to be an expert in folk-lore.

Bospowes, Hayle, Cornwall,

July 1910.

Our investigation of the Fairy-Faith in Cornwall covers the region between Falmouth and the Land's End, which is now the most Celtic; and the Tintagel country on the north coast. It is generally believed that ancient Cornish legends, like the Cornish language, are things of the past only, but I am now no longer of that opinion. Undoubtedly Cornwall is the most anglicized of all Celtic lands we are studying, and its folk-lore is therefore far from being as virile as the Irish folk-lore; nevertheless, through its people, racially mixed though they are, there still flows the blood and the inspiration of a prehistoric native ancestry, and among the oldest Cornish men and women of many an isolated village, or farm, there yet remains some belief in fairies and pixies. Moreover, throughout all of Old Cornwall there is a very living faith in the Legend of the Dead; and that this Cornish Legend of the Dead, with its peculiar Brythonic character, should be parallel as it is to the Breton Legend of the Dead, has heretofore, so far as I am aware, not been pointed out. I am giving, however, only a very few of the Cornish death-legends collected, because in essence most of them are alike.

A Cornish Historian's Testimony

I was privileged to make my first call in rural Cornwall at the pretty country home of Miss Susan E. Gay, of Crill, about three miles from Falmouth; and Miss Gay, who has written a well-known history of Falmouth (Old Falmouth, London, 1903), very willingly accorded me an interview on the subject of my inquiry, and finally dictated for my use the following matter:

-Pixies as 'Astral Plane' Beings.-'The pixies and fairies are little beings in the human form existing on the 'astral plane', who may be in the process of evolution; and, as such, I believe people have seen them. The 'astral plane' is not known to us now because our psychic faculty of perception has faded out by non-use, and this condition has been brought about by an almost exclusive development of the physical brain; but it is likely that the psychic faculty will develop again in its turn.'

Psychical Interpretation of Folk-Lore.-'It is my point of view that there is a basis of truth in the folk-lore. With its remnants of occult learning, magic, charms, and the like, folk-lore seems to be the remains of forgotten psychical facts, rather than history, as it is often called.'

Peasant Evidence from the Crill Country

Miss Gay kindly gave me the names of certain peasants in the Crill region, and from one of them, Mrs. Harriett Christopher, I gleaned the following material:-

A Pisky Changeling.-'A woman who lived near Breage Church had a fine girl baby, and she thought the piskies came and took it and put a withered child in its place. The withered child lived to be twenty years old, and was no larger when it died than when the piskies brought it. It was fretful and peevish and frightfully shrivelled. The parents believed that the piskies often used to come and look over a certain wall by the house to see the child. And I heard my grandmother say that the family once put the child out of doors at night to see if the piskies would take it back again.'

Nature of Piskies.-'The piskies are said to be very small. You could never see them by day. I used to hear my grandmother, who has been dead fifty years, say that the piskies used to hold a fair in the fields near Breage, and that people saw them there dancing. I also remember her saying that it was customary to set out food for the piskies at night. My grandmother's great belief was in piskies and in spirits; and she considered piskies spirits. She used to tell so many stories about spirits [of the dead] coming back and such things that I would be afraid to go to bed.'

Evidence from Constantine

Our witnesses from the ancient and picturesque village of Constantine are John Wilmet, seventy-eight years old, and his good wife, two most excellent and well-preserved types of the passing generation of true Cornish stock. John began by telling me the following tale about an allée couverte-a tale which in one version or another is apt to be told of most Cornish megaliths:-

A Pisky-House.-'William Murphy, who married my sister, once went to the pisky-house at Bosahan with a surveyor, and the two of them heard such unearthly noises in it that they came running home in great excitement, saying they had heard the piskies.'

The Pisky Thrasher.-'On a farm near here, a pisky used to come at night to thrash the farmer's corn. The farmer in payment once put down a new suit for him. When the pisky came and saw it, he put it on, and said:-

Pisky fine and pisky gay,

Pisky now will fly away.

And they say he never returned.'

Nature of Piskies.-'I always understood the piskies to be little people. A great deal was said about ghosts in this place. Whether or not piskies are the same as ghosts I cannot tell, but I fancy the old folks thought they were.'

Exorcism.-'A farmer who lived two miles from here, near the Gweek River, called Parson Jago to his house to have him quiet the ghosts or spirits regularly haunting it, for Parson Jago could always put such things to rest. The clergyman went to the farmer's house, and with his whip formed a circle on the floor and then commanded the spirit, which made its appearance on the table, to come down into the circle. While on the table the spirit had been visible to all the family, but as soon as it got into the ring it disappeared; and the house was never haunted afterwards.'

At St. Michael's Mount, Marazion

Our next place for an investigation of the surviving Cornish Fairy-Faith is Marazion, the very ancient British town opposite the isle called St. Michael's Mount. (From Constantine I walked through the country to this point, talking with as many old people as possible, but none of them knew very much about ancient Cornish beliefs.) It is believed, though the matter is very doubtful, that Marazion was the chief mart for the tin trade of Celtic Britain, and that the Mount-sacred to the Sun and to the Pagan Mysteries long before Caesar crossed the Channel from Gaul-sheltered the brilliantly-coloured sailing-ships of the Phoenicians.[64] In such a romantic town, where Oriental merchants and Celtic pilgrims probably once mingled together, one might expect some survival of olden beliefs and customs.

Piskies.-To Mr. Thomas G. Jago, of Marazion, with a memory extending backwards more than seventy years, he being eighty years old, I am indebted for this statement about the pisky creed in that locality:-'I imagine that one hundred and fifty years ago the belief in piskies and spirits was general. In my boyhood days, piskies were often called "the mites" (little people): they were regarded as little spirits. The word piskies is the old Cornish brogue for pixies. In certain grass fields, mushrooms growing in a circle might be seen of a morning, and the old folks pointing to the mushrooms would say to the children, "Oh, the piskies have been dancing there last night."'

Two more of the oldest natives of Marazion, among others with whom I talked, are William Rowe, eighty-two years old, and his married sister seventy-eight years old. About the piskies Mr. Rowe said this:-'People would go out at night and lose their way and then declare that they had been pisky-led. I think they meant by this that they fell under some spiritual influence-that some spirit led them astray. The piskies were said to be small, and they were thought of as spirits.'[65] Mr. Rowe's sister added:-'If we as children did anything wrong, the old folks would say to us, "The piskies will carry you away if you do that again."'

Witch-Doctors.-I heard the following witch-story from a lawyer, a native of the district, who lives in the country just beyond Marazion:-'Jimmy Thomas, of Wendron parish, who died within the last twenty-five years, was the last witch-doctor I know about in West Cornwall. He was supposed to have great power over evil spirits. His immediate predecessor was a woman, called the "Witch of Wendron", and she did a big business. My father once visited her in company with a friend whose father had lost some horses. This was about seventy to eighty years ago. The witch when consulted on this occasion turned her back to my father's companion, and began talking to herself in Cornish. Then she gave him some herbs. His father used the herbs, and no more horses died: the herbs were supposed to have driven all evil spirits out of the stable.'

In Penzance: An Architect's Testimony

Penzance from earliest times has undoubtedly been, as it is now, the capital of the Land's End district, the Sacred Land of Britain. And in Penzance I had the good fortune to meet those among its leading citizens who still cherish and keep alive the poetry and the mystic lore of Old Cornwall; and to no one of them am I more indebted than to Mr. Henry Maddern, F.I.A.S. Mr. Maddern tells me that he was initiated into the mysteries of the Cornish folk-lore of this region when a boy in Newlyn, where he was born, by his old nurse Betty Grancan, a native Zennor woman, of stock probably the most primitive and pure in the British Islands. At his home in Penzance, Mr. Maddern dictated to me the very valuable evidence which follows:-

Two Kinds of Pixies.-'In this region there are two kinds of pixies, one purely a land-dwelling pixy and the other a pixy which dwells on the sea-strand between high and low water mark.[66] The land-dwelling pixy was usually thought to be full of mischievous fun, but it did no harm. There was a very prevalent belief, when I was a boy, that this sea-strand pixy, called Bucca,[67] had to be propitiated by a cast (three) of fish, to ensure the fishermen having a good shot (catch) of fish. The land pixy was supposed to be able to render its devotees invisible, if they only anointed their eyes with a certain green salve made of secret herbs gathered from Kerris-moor.[68] In the invisible condition thus induced, people were able to join the pixy revels, during which, according to the old tradition, time slipped away very, very rapidly, though people returned from the pixies no older than when they went with them.'

The Nurse and the Ointment.-'I used to hear about a Zennor girl who came to Newlyn as nurse to the child of a gentleman living at Zimmerman-Cot. The gentleman warned her never to touch a box of ointment which he guarded in a special room, nor even to enter that room; but one day in his absence she entered the room and took some of the ointment. Suspecting the qualities of the ointment, she put it on her eyes with the wish that she might see where her master was. She immediately found herself in the higher part of the orchard amongst the pixies, where they were having much junketing (festivity and dancing); and there saw the gentleman whose child she had nursed. For a time she managed to evade him, but before the junketing was at an end he discovered her and requested her to go home; and then, to her intense astonishment, she learned that she had been away twenty years, though she was unchanged. The gentleman scolded her for having touched the ointment, paid her wages in full, and sent her back to her people. She always had the one regret, that she had not gone into the forbidden room at first.'

The Tolcarne Troll.-'The fairy of the Newlyn Tolcarne[69] was in some ways like the Puck of the English Midlands. But this fairy, or troll, was supposed to date back to the time of the Phoenicians. He was described as a little old pleasant-faced man dressed in a tight-fitting leathern jerkin, with a hood on his head, who lived invisible in the rock. Whenever he chose to do so he could make himself visible. When I was a boy it was said that he spent his time voyaging from here to Tyre on the galleys which carried the tin; and, also, that he assisted in the building of Solomon's Temple. Sometimes he was called "the Wandering One", or "Odin the Wanderer". My old nurse, Betty Grancan, used to say that you could call up the troll at the Tolcarne if while there you held in your hand three dried leaves, one of the ash, one of the oak, and one of the thorn, and pronounced an incantation or charm. Betty would never tell me the words of the charm, because she said I was too much of a sceptic. The words of such a Cornish charm had to pass from one believer to another, through a woman to a man, and from a man to a woman, and thus alternately.'[70]

Nature of Pixies.-'Pixies were often supposed to be the souls of the prehistoric dwellers of this country. As such, pixies were supposed to be getting smaller and smaller, until finally they are to vanish entirely. The country pixies inhabiting the highlands from above Newlyn on to St. Just were considered a wicked sort. Their great ambition was to change their own offspring for human children; and the true child could only be got back by laying a four-leaf clover on the changeling. A winickey child-one which was weak, frail, and peevish-was of the nature of a changeling. Miner pixies, called "knockers", would accept a portion of a miner's croust (lunch) on good faith, and by knocking lead him to a rich mother-lode, or warn him by knocking if there was danger ahead or a cavern full of water; but if the miner begrudged them the croust, he would be left to his own resources to find the lode, and, moreover, the "knockers" would do all they could to lead him away from a good lode. These mine pixies, too, were supposed to be spirits, sometimes spirits of the miners of ancient times.'[71]

Fairies and Pixies.-'In general appearance the fairies were much the same as pixies. They were small men and women, much smaller than dwarfs. The men were swarthy in complexion, and the women had a clear complexion of a peach-like bloom. None ever appeared to be more than five-and-twenty to thirty years old. I have heard my nurse say that she could see scores of them whenever she picked a four-leaf clover and put it in the wisp of straw which she carried on her head as a cushion for the bucket of milk. Her theory was that the richness of the milk was what attracted them. Pixies, like fairies, very much enjoyed milk, and people of miserly nature used to put salt around a cow to keep the pixies away; and then the pixies would lead such mean people astray the very first opportunity that came. According to some country-people, the pixies have been seen in the day-time, but usually they are only seen at night.'

A Cornish Editor's Opinion

Mr. Herbert Thomas, editor of four Cornish papers, The Cornishman, The Cornish Telegraph, Post, and Evening Times, and a true Celt himself, has been deeply interested in the folk-lore of Cornwall, and has made excellent use of it in his poetry and other literary productions; so that his personal opinions, which follow, as to the probable origin of the fairy-belief, are for our study a very important contribution:-

Animistic Origin of Belief in Pixies.-'I should say that the modern belief in pixies, or in fairies, arose from a very ancient Celtic or pre-Celtic belief in spirits. Just as among some savage tribes there is belief in gods and totems, here there was belief in little spirits good and bad, who were able to help or to hinder man. Belief in the supernatural, in my opinion, is the root of it all.'

A Cornish Folk-lorist's Testimony

In Penzance I had the privilege of also meeting Miss M. A. Courtney, the well-known folk-lorist, who quite agrees with me in believing that there is in Cornwall a widespread Legend of the Dead; and she cited a few special instances in illustration, as follows:-

Cornish Legend of the Dead.-'Here amongst the fishermen and sailors there is a belief that the dead in the sea will be heard calling if a drowning is about to occur. I know of a woman who went to a clergyman to have him exorcize her of the spirit of her dead sister, which she said appeared in the form of a bee. And I have heard of miners believing that white moths are spirits.'[72]

Evidence from Newlyn

In Newlyn, Mrs. Jane Tregurtha gave the following important testimony:-

The 'Little Folk'.-'The old people thoroughly believed in the little folk, and that they gambolled all over the moors on moonlight nights. Some pixies would rain down blessings and others curses; and to remove the curses people would go to the wells blessed by the saints. Whenever anything went wrong in the kitchen at night the pixies were blamed. After the 31st of October [or after Halloween] the blackberries are not fit to eat, for the pixies have then been over them' (cf. the parallel Irish belief, p. 38).

Fairy Guardian of the Men-an-Tol.[73]-'At the Men-an-Tol there is supposed to be a guardian fairy or pixy who can make miraculous cures. And my mother knew of an actual case in which a changeling was put through the stone in order to get the real child back. It seems that evil pixies changed children, and that the pixy at the Men-an-Tol being good, could, in opposition, undo their work.'

Exorcism.-'A spirit was put to rest on the Green here in Newlyn. The parson prayed and fasted, and then commanded the spirit to teeme (dip dry) the sea with a limpet shell containing no bottom; and the spirit is supposed to be still busy at this task.'

Piskies as Apparitions.-When I talked with her in her neat cottage at Newlyn, Miss Mary Ann Chirgwin (who was born on St. Michael's Mount in 1825) told me this:-'The old people used to say the piskies were apparitions of the dead come back in the form of little people, but I can't remember anything more than this about them.'

An Artist's Testimony

One of the members of the Newlyn Art School was able to offer a few of his own impressions concerning the pixies of Devonshire, where he has frequently made sketches of pixies from descriptions given to him by peasants:-

Devonshire Pixies.-'Throughout all the west of Devonshire, anywhere near the moorlands, the country people are much given to belief in pixies and ghosts. I think they expect to see them about the twilight hour; though I have not found anybody who has actually seen a pixy-the belief now is largely based on hearsay.'

Testimony from the Historian of Mousehole

To Mr. Richard Harry, the historian of Mousehole, I am indebted for these remarks about the nature and present state of the belief in pixies as he observes it in that region:-

The Pixy Belief.-'The piskies, thought of as little people who appear on moonlight nights, are still somewhat believed in here. If interfered with too much they are said to exhibit almost fiendish powers. In a certain sense they are considered spiritual, but in another sense they are much materialized in the conceptions of the people. Generally speaking, the belief in them has almost died out within the last fifty years.'

A Seaman's Testimony

'Uncle Billy Pender,' as our present witness is familiarly called, is one of the oldest natives of Mousehole, being eighty-five years old; and most of his life has been passed on the ocean, as a fisherman, seaman, and pilot. After having told me the usual things about piskies, fairies, spirits, ghosts, and the devil, Uncle Billy Pender was very soon talking about the dead:-

Cornish Legend of the Dead.-'I was up in bed, and I suppose asleep, and I dreamt that the boy James came to my bedside and woke me up by saying, "How many lights does Death put up?" And in the dream there appeared such light as I never saw in my life; and when I woke up another light like it was in the room. Within three months afterwards we buried two grand-daughters out of this house. This was four years ago.' When this strange tale was finished, Uncle Billy Pender's daughter, who had been listening, added:-'For three mornings, one after another, there was a robin at our cellar door before the deaths, and my husband said he didn't like that.'

Then Uncle Billy told this weird Breton-like tale:-'"Granny" told about a boat named Blücher, going from Newlyn to Bristol with six thousand mackerel, which put in at Arbor Cove, close to Padstow, on account of bad weather. The boat dragged her anchors and was lost. "Granny" afterwards declared that he saw the crew going up over the Newlyn Slip; and the whole of Newlyn and Mousehole believed him.'

Testimony by Two Land's End Farmers

In the Sennen country, within a mile of the end of Britain, I talked with two farmers who knew something about piskies. The first one, Charles Hutchen, of Trevescan, told me this legend:-

A St. Just Pisky.-'Near St. Just, on Christmas Day, a pisky carried away in his cloak a boy, but the boy got home. Then the pisky took him a second time, and again the boy got home. Each time the boy was away for only an hour' (probably in a dream or trance state).

Seeing the Pisky-Dance.-Frank Ellis, seventy-eight years old, of the same village of Trevescan, then gave the following evidence:-'Up on Sea-View Green there are two rings where the piskies used to dance and play music on a moonlight night. I've heard that they would come there from the moors. Little people they are called. If you keep quiet when they are dancing you'll see them, but if you make any noise they'll disappear.' Frank Ellis's wife, who is a very aged woman, was in the house listening to the conversation, and added at this point:-'My grandmother, Nancy Maddern, was down on Sea-View Green by moonlight and saw the piskies dancing, and passed near them. She said they were like little children, and had red cloaks.'

Testimony from a Sennen Cove Fisherman

John Gilbert Guy, seventy-eight years old, a retired fisherman of Sennen Cove, offers very valuable testimony, as follows:-

'Small People'.-'Many say they have seen the small people here by the hundreds. In Ireland they call the small people the fairies. My mother believes there were such things, and so did the old folks in these parts. My grandmother used to put down a good furze fire for them on stormy nights, because, as she said, "They are a sort of people wandering about the world with no home or habitation, and ought to be given a little comfort." The most fear of them was that they might come at night and change a baby for one that was no good. My mother said that Joan Nicholas believed the fairies had changed her baby, because it was very small and cross-tempered. Up on the hill you'll see a round ring with grass greener than anywhere else, and that is where the small people used to dance.'

Danger of Seeing the 'Little People'.-'I heard that a woman set out water to wash her baby in, and that before she had used the water the small people came and washed their babies in it. She didn't know about this, and so in washing her baby got some of the water in her eyes, and then all at once she could see crowds of little people about her. One of them came to her and asked if she was able to see their crowd, and when she said "Yes," the little people wanted to take her eyes out, and she had to clear away from them as fast as she could.'

Testimony from a Cornish Miner

William Shepherd, a retired miner of Pendeen, near St. Just, where he has passed all his life, offers us from his own experiences under the earth the evidence which follows:-

Mine Piskies.-'There are mine-piskies which are not the "knockers". I've heard old men in the mines say that they have seen them, and they call them the small people. It appears that they don't like company, for they are always seen singly. The "knockers" are spirits, too, as one might say. They are said to bring bad luck, while the small people may bring good luck.'

Testimony from King Arthur's Country

Leaving the Land's End district and South Cornwall, we now pass northward to King Arthur's country. Our chief researches there are to be made outside the beaten track of tourists as far as possible, in the country between Camelford and Tintagel. At Delabole, the centre of this district, we find our first witness, Henry Spragg, a retired slate-quarryman, seventy years old. Mr. Spragg has had excellent opportunities of hearing any folk-lore that might have been living during his lifetime; and what he offers first is about King Arthur:-

King Arthur.-'We always thought of King Arthur as a great warrior. And many a time I've heard old people say that he used to appear in this country in the form of a nath.'[74] This was all that could be told of King Arthur; and the conversation finally was directed toward piskies, with the following results:-

Piskies.-'A man named Bottrell, who lived near St. Teath, was pisky-led at West Down, and when he turned his pockets inside out he heard the piskies going away laughing.[75] Often my grandmother used to say when I got home after dark, "You had better mind, or the piskies will carry you away." And I can remember hearing the old people say that the piskies are the spirits of dead-born children.' From pixies the conversation drifted to the spirit-hounds 'often heard at night near certain haunted downs in St. Teath parish', and then, finally, to ordinary Cornish legends about the dead.

Our next witnesses from Delabole are John Male, eighty-two years old, one of the very oldest men in King Arthur's country, and his wife; and all of Mr. Male's ancestors as far back as he can trace them have lived in the same parish.

Piskies in General.-Mr. Male remarked:-'I have heard a good deal about the piskies, but I can't remember any of the old women's tales. I have heard, too, of people saying that they had seen the piskies. It was thought that when the piskies have misled you they show themselves jumping about in front of you; they are a race of little people who live out in the fields.' Mrs. Male had now joined us at the open fire, and added:-'Piskies always come at night, and in marshy ground there are round places called pisky beds where they play. When I was little, my mother and grandmother would be sitting round the fire of an evening telling fireside stories, and I can remember hearing about a pisky of this part who stole a new coat, and how the family heard him talking to himself about it, and then finally say:-

Pisky fine and pisky gay,

Pisky's got a bright new coat,

Pisky now will run away.

And I can just remember one bit of another story: A pisky looked into a house and said:-

All alone, fair maid?

No, here am I with a dog and cat,

And apples to eat and nuts to crack.'

Tintagel Folk-Beliefs.-A retired rural policeman of the Tintagel country, where he was born and reared, and now keeper of the Passmore Edwards Art Gallery at Newlyn, offered this testimony from Tintagel:-'In Tintagel I used to sit round the fire at night and hear old women tell so much about piskies and ghosts that I was then afraid to go out of doors after darkness had fallen. They religiously believed in such things, and when I expressed my doubts I was driven away as a rude boy. They thought if you went to a certain place at a certain hour of the night that you could there see the piskies as little spirits. It was held that the piskies could lead you astray and play tricks on you, but that they never did you any serious injury.' Of the Arthurian folk-legend at Tintagel he said:-'The spirit of King Arthur is supposed to be in the Cornish chough-a beautiful black bird with red legs and red beak.'

We now leave Great Britain and cross the English Channel to Little Britain, the third of the Brythonic countries.


Introduction by Anatole le Braz, Professor of French Literature, University of Rennes, Brittany; author of La Légende de la Mort, Au Pays des Pardons, &c.

English Translation of Introduction

Mon cher Monsieur Wentz,

Il me souvient que, lors de votre soutenance de thèse devant la Faculté des Lettres de l'Université de Rennes, un de mes collègues, mon ami, le professeur Dottin, vous demanda:

'Vous croyez, dites-vous, à l'existence des fées? En avez-vous vu?'

Vous répond?tes, avec autant de phlegme que de sincérité:

'Non. J'ai tout fait pour en voir, et je n'en ai jamais vu. Mais il y a beaucoup de choses que vous n'avez pas vues, monsieur le professeur, et dont vous ne songeriez cependant pas à nier l'existence. Ainsi fais-je à l'égard des fées.'

Je suis comme vous, mon cher monsieur Wentz: je n'ai jamais vu de fées. J'ai bien une amie très chère que nous avons baptisée de ce nom, mais, malgré tous ses beaux dons magiques, elle n'est qu'une humble mortelle. En revanche, j'ai vécu, tout enfant, parmi des personnes qui avaient avec les fées véritables un commerce quasi journalier.

C'était dans une petite bourgade de Basse-Bretagne, peuplée de paysans à moitié marins, et de marins à moitié paysans. Il y avait, non loin du village, une ancienne gentilhommière que ses propriétaires avaient depuis longtemps abandonnée pour on ne savait au juste quel motif. On continuait de l'appeler le 'chateau' de Lanascol, quoiqu'elle ne f?t plus guère qu'une ruine. Il est vrai que les avenues par lesquelles on y accédait avaient conservé leur aspect seigneurial, avec leurs quadruples rangées de vieux hêtres dont les vastes frondaisons se miraient dans de magnifiques étangs. Les gens d'alentour se risquaient peu, le soir, dans ces avenues. Elles passaient pour être, à partir du coucher du soleil, le lieu de promenade favori d'une 'dame' que l'on désignait sous le nom de Groac'h Lanascol,-la 'Feé de Lanascol'.

Beaucoup disaient l'avoir rencontrée, et la dépeignaient sous les couleurs, du reste, les plus diverses. Ceux-ci faisaient d'elle une vieille femme, marchant toute courbée, les deux mains appuyées sur un tron?on de béquille avec lequel, de temps en temps, elle remuait, à l'automne, les feuilles mortes. Les feuilles mortes qu'elle retournait ainsi devenaient soudain brillantes comme de l'or et s'entrechoquaient avec un bruit clair de métal. Selon d'autres, c'était une jeune princesse, merveilleusement parée, sur les pas de qui s'empressaient d'étranges petits hommes noirs et silencieux. Elle s'avan?ait d'une majestueuse allure de reine. Parfois elle s'arrêtait devant un arbre, et l'arbre aussit?t s'inclinait comme pour recevoir ses ordres. Ou bien, elle jetait un regard sur l'eau d'un étang, et l'étang frissonnait jusqu'en ses profondeurs, comme agité d'un mouvement de crainte sous la puissance de son regard.

On racontait sur elle cette curieuse histoire:-

Les propriétaires de Lanascol ayant voulu se défaire d'un domaine qu'ils n'habitaient plus, le manoir et les terres qui en dépendaient furent mis en adjudication chez un notaire de Plouaret. Au jour fixé pour les enchères nombre d'acheteurs accoururent. Les prix étaient déjà montés très haut, et le domaine allait être adjugé, quand, à un dernier appel du crieur, une voix féminine, très douce et très impérieuse tout ensemble, s'éleva et dit:

'Mille francs de plus!'

Il y eut grande rumeur dans la salle. Tout le monde chercha des yeux la personne qui avait lancé cette surenchère, et qui ne pouvait être qu'une femme. Mais il ne se trouva pas une seule femme dans l'assistance. Le notaire demanda:

'Qui a parlé?'

De nouveau, la même voix se fit entendre.

'Groac'h Lanascol!' répondit-elle.

Ce fut une débandade générale. Depuis lors, il ne s'était jamais présenté d'acquéreur, et voilà pourquoi, répétait-on couramment, Lanascol était toujours à vendre.

Si je vous ai entretenu à plaisir de la Fée de Lanascol, mon cher monsieur Wentz, c'est qu'elle est la première qui ait fait impression sur moi, dans mon enfance. Combien d'autres n'en ai-je pas connu, par la suite, à travers les récits de mes compatriotes des grèves, des champs ou des bois! La Bretagne est restée un royaume de féerie. On n'y peut voyager l'espace d'une lieue sans c?toyer la demeure de quelque fée male ou femelle. Ces jours derniers, comme j'accomplissais un pèlerinage d'automne à l'hallucinante forêt de Paimpont, toute hantée encore des grands souvenirs de la légende celtique, je croisai, sous les opulents ombrages du Pas-du-Houx, une ramasseuse de bois mort, avec qui je ne manquai pas, vous pensez bien, de lier conversation. Un des premiers noms que je pronon?ai fut naturellement celui de Viviane.

'Viviane!' se récria la vieille pauvresse. 'Ah! bénie soit-elle, la bonne Dame! car elle est aussi bonne que belle.... Sans sa protection, mon homme, qui travaille dans les coupes, serait tombé, comme un loup, sous les fusils des gardes....' Et elle se mit à me conter comme quoi son mari, un tantinet braconnier comme tous les b?cherons de ces parages, s'étant porté, une nuit, à l'aff?t du chevreuil, dans les environs de la Butte-aux-Plaintes, avait été surpris en flagrant délit par une tournée de gardes. Il voulut fuir: les gardes tirèrent. Une balle l'atteignit à la cuisse: il tomba, et il s'apprêtait à se faire tuer sur place, plut?t que de se rendre, lorsque, entre ses agresseurs et lui, s'interposa subitement une espèce de brouillard très dense qui voila tout,-le sol, les arbres, les gardes et le blessé lui-même. Et il entendit une voix sortie du brouillard, une voix légère comme un bruit de feuilles, murmurer à son oreille: 'Sauve-toi, mon fils: l'esprit de Viviane veillera sur toi jusqu'à ce que tu aies rampé hors de la forêt.'

'Telles furent les propres paroles de la fée,' conclut la ramasseuse de bois mort.

Et, dévotement, elle se signa, car la religieuse Bretagne-vous le savez-vénère les fées à l'égal des saintes.

* * *

J'ignore s'il faut rattacher les lutins au monde des fées, mais, ce qui est s?r, c'est que cette charmante et malicieuse engeance a toujours pullulé dans notre pays. Je me suis laissé dire qu'autrefois chaque maison avait le sien. C'était quelque chose comme le petit dieu pénate. Tant?t visible, tant?t invisible, il présidait à tous les actes de la vie domestique. Mieux encore: il y participait, et de la fa?on la plus efficace. A l'intérieur du logis, il aidait les servantes, soufflait le feu dans l'atre, surveillait la cuisson de la nourriture pour les hommes ou pour les bêtes, apaisait les cris de l'enfant couché dans le bas de l'armoire, empêchait les vers de se mettre dans les pièces de lard suspendues aux solives. Il avait pareillement dans son lot le gouvernement des étables et des écuries: grace à lui, les vaches donnaient un lait abondant en beurre, et les chevaux avaient la croupe ronde, le poil luisant. Il était, en un mot, le bon génie de la famille, mais c'était à la condition que chacun e?t pour lui les égards auxquels il avait droit. Si peu qu'on lui manquat, sa bonté se changeait en malice et il n'était point de mauvais tours dont il ne f?t capable envers les gens qui l'avaient offensé, comme de renverser le contenu des marmites sur le foyer, d'embrouiller la laine autour des quenouilles, de rendre infumable le tabac des pipes, d'emmêler inextricablement les crins des chevaux, de dessécher le pis des vaches ou de faire peler le dos des brebis. Aussi s'effor?ait-on de ne le point mécontenter. On respectait soigneusement toutes ses habitudes, toutes ses manies. C'est ainsi que, chez mes parents, notre vieille bonne Filie n'enlevait jamais le trépied du feu sans avoir la précaution de l'asperger d'eau pour le refroidir, avant de le ranger au coin de l'atre. Si vous lui demandiez pourquoi ce rite, elle vous répondait:

'Pour que le lutin ne s'y br?le pas, si, tout à l'heure, il s'asseyait dessus.'

* * *

Il appartient encore, je suppose, à la catégorie des hommes-fées, ce Bugul-Noz, ce mystérieux 'Berger de la nuit' dont les Bretons des campagnes voient se dresser, au crépuscule, la haute et troublante silhouette, si, d'aventure, il leur arrive de rentrer tard du labour. On n'a jamais pu me renseigner exactement sur le genre de troupeau qu'il faisait pa?tre, ni sur ce que présageait sa rencontre. Le plus souvent, on la redoute. Mais, comme l'observait avec raison une de mes conteuses, Lise Bellec, s'il est préférable d'éviter le Bugul-Noz, il ne s'ensuit pas, pour cela, que ce soit un méchant Esprit. D'après elle, il remplirait plut?t une fonction salutaire, en signifiant aux humains, par sa venue, que la nuit n'est pas faite pour s'attarder aux champs ou sur les chemins, mais pour s'enfermer derrière les portes closes et pour dormir. Ce berger des ombres serait donc, somme toute, une manière de bon pasteur. C'est pour assurer notre repos et notre sécurité, c'est pour nous soustraire aux excès du travail et aux emb?ches de la nuit qu'il nous force, brebis imprudentes, à regagner promptement le bercail.

Sans doute est-ce un r?le tutélaire à peu près semblable qui, dans la croyance populaire, est dévolu à un autre homme-fée, plus spécialement affecté au rivage de la mer, comme l'indique son nom de Yann-An-?d. Il n'y a pas, sur tout le littoral maritime de la Bretagne ou, comme on dit, dans tout l'armor, une seule région ou l'existence de ce 'Jean des Grèves' ne soit tenue pour un fait certain, d?ment constaté, indéniable. On lui prête des formes variables et des aspects différents. C'est tant?t un géant, tant?t un nain. Il porte tant?t un 'suroit' de toile huilée, tant?t un large chapeau de feutre noir. Parfois, il s'appuie sur une rame et fait penser au personnage énigmatique, armé du même attribut, qu'Ulysse doit suivre, dans l'Odyssée. Mais, toujours, c'est un héros marin dont la mission est de parcourir les plages, en poussant par intervalles de longs cris stridents, propres à effrayer les pêcheurs qui se seraient laissé surprendre dehors par les ténèbres de la nuit. Il ne fait de mal qu'à ceux qui récalcitrent; encore ne les frappe-t-il que dans leur intérêt, pour les contraindre à se mettre à l'abri. Il est, avant tout, un 'avertisseur'. Ses cris ne rappellent pas seulement au logis les gens attardés sur les grèves; ils signalent aussi le dangereux voisinage de la c?te aux marins qui sont en mer et, par là, suppléent à l'insuffisance du mugissement des sirènes ou de la lumière des phares.

Remarquons, à ce propos, qu'on relève un trait analogue dans la légende des vieux saints armoricains, pour la plupart émigrés d'Irlande. Un de leurs exercices coutumiers consistait à déambuler de nuit le long des c?tes où ils avaient établi leurs oratoires, en agitant des clochettes de fer battu dont les tintements étaient destinés, comme les cris de Yann-An-?d, à prévenir les navigateurs que la terre était proche.

Je suis persuadé que le culte des saints, qui est la première et la plus fervente des dévotions bretonnes, conserve bien des traits d'une religion plus ancienne où la croyance aux fées jouait le principal r?le. Et il en va de même, j'en suis convaincu, pour ces mythes funéraires que j'ai recueillis sous le titre de La Légende de la Mort chez les Bretons armoricains. A vrai dire, dans la conception bretonne, les morts ne sont pas morts; ils vivent d'une vie mystérieuse en marge de la vie réelle, mais leur monde reste, en définitive, tout mêlé au n?tre et, sit?t que la nuit tombe, sit?t que les vivants proprement dits s'abandonnent à la mort momentanée du sommeil, les soi-disant morts redeviennent les habitants de la terre qu'ils n'ont jamais quittée. Ils reprennent leur place à leur foyer d'autrefois, ils vaquent à leurs anciens travaux, ils s'intéressent au logis, aux champs, à la barque; ils se comportent, en un mot, comme ce peuple des hommes et des femmes-fées qui formait jadis une espèce d'humanité plus fine et plus délicate au milieu de la véritable humanité.

* * *

J'aurais encore, mon cher monsieur Wentz, bien d'autres types à évoquer, dans cet intermonde de la féerie bretonne qui, chez mes compatriotes, ne se confond ni avec ce monde-ci, ni avec l'autre, mais participe à la fois de tous les deux, par un singulier mélange de naturel et de surnaturel. Je n'ai voulu, en ces lignes rapides, que montrer la richesse de la matière à laquelle vous avez, avec tant de conscience et de ferveur, appliqué votre effort. Et maintenant, que les fées vous soient douces, mon cher ami! Elles ne seront que justes en favorisant de toute leur tendresse le jeune et brillant écrivain qui vient de restaurer leur culte en rénovant leur gloire.


ce 1er novembre 1910.

Breton Fairies or Fées

In Lower Brittany, which is the genuinely Celtic part of Armorica, instead of finding a widespread folk-belief in fairies of the kind existing in Wales, Ireland, and Scotland, we find a widespread folk-belief in the existence of the dead, and to a less extent in that of the corrigan tribes. For our Psychological Theory this is very significant. It seems to indicate that among the Bretons-who are one of the most conservative Celtic peoples-the Fairy-Faith finds its chief expression in a belief that men live after death in an invisible world, just as in Ireland the dead and fairies live in Fairyland. This opinion was first suggested to me by Professor Anatole Le Braz, author of La Légende de la Mort, and by Professor Georges Dottin, both of the University of Rennes. But before evidence to sustain and to illustrate this opinion is offered, it will be well to consider the less important Breton fées or beings like them, and then corrigans and nains (dwarfs).

The 'Grac'hed Coz'.-F. M. Luzel, who collected so many of the popular stories in Brittany, found that what few fées or fairies there are almost always appear in folk-lore as little old women, or as the Breton story-teller usually calls them, Grac'hed coz. I have selected and abridged the following legendary tale from his works to illustrate the nature of these Breton fairy-folk:-

In ancient times, as we read in La Princesse Blondine, a rich nobleman had three sons; the oldest was called Cado, the second, Méliau, and the youngest, Yvon. One day, as they were together in a forest with their bows and arrows, they met a little old woman whom they had never seen before, and she was carrying on her head a jar of water. 'Are you able, lads,' Cado asked his two brothers, 'to break with an arrow the jar of the little old woman without touching her?' 'We do not wish to try it,' they said, fearing to injure the good woman. 'All right, I'll do it then, watch me.' And Cado took his bow and let fly an arrow. The arrow went straight to its mark and split the jar without touching the little old woman; but the water wet her to the skin, and, in anger, she said to the skilful archer: 'You have failed, Cado, and I will be revenged on you for this. From now until you have found the Princess Blondine all the members of your body will tremble as leaves on a tree tremble when the north wind blows.' And instantly Cado was seized by a trembling malady in all his body. The three brothers returned home and told their father what had happened; and the father, turning to Cado, said: 'Alas, my unfortunate son, you have failed. It is now necessary for you to travel until you find the Princess Blondine, as the fée said, for that little old woman was a fée, and no doctor in the world can cure the malady she has put upon you.'[76]

'Fées' of Lower Brittany.-Throughout the Morbihan and Finistère, I found that stories about fées are much less common than about corrigans, and in some localities extremely rare; but the ones I have been fortunate enough to collect are much the same in character as those gathered in the C?tes-du-Nord by Luzel, and elsewhere by other collectors. Those I here record were told to me at Carnac during the summer of 1909; the first one by M. Yvonne Daniel, a native of the ?le de Croix (off the coast north-west of Carnac); and the others by M. Goulven Le Scour.[77]

'The little ?le de Croix was especially famous for its old fées; and the following legend is still believed by its oldest inhabitants:-"An aged man who had suffered long from leprosy was certain to die within a short time, when a woman bent double with age entered his house. She asked from what malady he suffered, and on being informed began to say prayers. Then she breathed upon the sores of the leper, and almost suddenly disappeared: the fée had cured him."'

'It is certain that about fifty years ago the people in Finistère still believed in fées. It was thought that the fées were spirits who came to predict some unexpected event in the family. They came especially to console orphans who had very unkind step-mothers. In their youth, Tanguy du Chatel and his sister Eudes were protected by a fée against the misfortune which pursued them; the history of Brittany says so. In Léon it is said that the fées served to guide unfortunate people, consoling them with the promise of a happy and victorious future. In the Cornouailles, on the contrary, it is said that the fées were very evilly disposed, that they were demons.

'My grandmother, Marie Le Bras, had related to me that one evening an old fée arrived in my village, Kerouledic (Finistère), and asked for hospitality. It was about the year 1830. The fée was received; and before going to bed she predicted that the little daughter whom the mother was dressing in night-clothes would be found dead in the cradle the next day. This prediction was only laughed at; but in the morning the little one was dead in her cradle, her eyes raised toward Heaven. The fée, who had slept in the stable, was gone.'

In these last three accounts, by M. Le Scour, we observe three quite different ideas concerning the Breton fairies or fées: in Finistère and in Léon the fées are regarded as good protecting spirits, almost like ancestral spirits, which originally they may have been; in the Cornouailles they are evil spirits; while in the third account, about the old fée-and in the legend of the leper cured by a fée-the fées are rationalized, as in Luzel's tale quoted above, into sorceresses or Grac'hed Coz.

Children Changed by 'Fées'.-M. Goulven Le Scour, at my request, wrote down in French the following account of actual changelings in Finistère:-'I remember very well that there was a woman of the village of Kergoff, in Plouneventer, who was called --,[78] the mother of a family. When she had her first child, a very strong and very pretty boy, she noticed one morning that he had been changed during the night; there was no longer the fine baby she had put to bed in the evening; there was, instead, an infant hideous to look at, greatly deformed, hunchbacked, and crooked, and of a black colour. The poor woman knew that a fée had entered the house during the night and had changed her child.

'This changed infant still lives, and to-day he is about seventy years old. He has all the possible vices; and he has tried many times to kill his mother. He is a veritable demon; he often predicts the future, and has a habit of running abroad during the night. They call him the "Little Corrigan", and everybody flees from him. Being poor and infirm now, he has been obliged to beg, and people give him alms because they have great fear of him. His nick-name is Olier.

'This woman had a second, then a third child, both of whom were seen by everybody to have been born with no infirmity; and, in turn, each of these two was stolen by a fée and replaced by a little hunchback. The second child was a most beautiful daughter. She was taken during the night and replaced by a little girl babe, so deformed that it resembled a ball. If her brother Olier was bad, she was even worse; she was the terror of the village, and they called her Anniac. The third child met the same luck, but was not so bad as the first and second.

'The poor mother, greatly worried at seeing what had happened, related her troubles to another woman. This woman said to her, "If you have another child, place with it in the cradle a little sprig of box-wood which has been blessed (by a priest), and the fée will no longer have the power of stealing your children." And when a fourth child was born to the unfortunate woman it was not stolen, for she placed in the cradle a sprig of box-wood which had been blessed on Palm Sunday (Dimanche des Rameaux).[79]

'The first three children I knew very well, and they were certainly hunchbacked: it is pretended in the country that the fées who come at night to make changelings always leave in exchange hunchbacked infants. It is equally pretended that a mother who has had her child so changed need do nothing more than leave the little hunchback out of doors crying during entire hours, and that the fée hearing it will come and put the true child in its place. Unfortunately, Yvonna -- did not know what she should have done in order to have her own children again.'

Transformation Power of 'Fées'.-At Kerallan, near Carnac, this is what Madame Louise Le Rouzic said about the transformation power of fées:-'It is said that the fées of the region when insulted sometimes changed men into beasts or into stones.'[80]

Other Breton Fairies.-Besides the various types of fées already described, we find in Luzel's collected stories a few other types of fairy-like beings: in Les Compagnons (The Companions),[81] the fée is a magpie in a forest near Rennes-just as in other Celtic lands, fairies likewise often appear as birds (see our study, pp. 302 ff.); in La Princesse de l'étoile Brillante (The Princess of the Brilliant Star),[81] a princess under the form of a duck plays the part of a fairy (cf. how fairy women took the form of water-fowls in the tale entitled the Sick Bed of Cuchulainn (see our study, p. 345); in Pipi Menou et les Femmes Volantes (Pipi Menou and the Flying Women),[81] there are fairy women as swan-maidens; and then there are yet to be mentioned Les Morgans de l'?le d'Ouessant (The Morgans of the Isle of Ushant), who live under the sea in rare palaces where mortals whom they love and marry are able to exist with them. In some legends of the Morgans, like one recorded by Luzel, the men and women of this water-fairy race, or the Morgans and Morganezed, seem like anthropomorphosed survivals of ancient sea-divinities, such, for example, as the sea-god called Shony, to whom the people of Lewis, Western Hebrides, still pour libations that he may send in sea-weed, and the sea-god to whom anciently the people of Iona poured libations.[82]

The 'Morgan'.-To M. J. Cuillandre (Glanmor), President of the Fédération des étudiants Bretons, I am indebted for the following weird legend of the Morgan, as it is told among the Breton fisher-folk on the ?le Molène, Finistère:-'Following a legend which I have collected on the ?le Molène, the Morgan is a fairy eternally young, a virgin seductress whose passion, never satisfied, drives her to despair. Her place of abode is beneath the sea; there she possesses marvellous palaces where gold and diamonds glimmer. Accompanied by other fairies, of whom she is in some respects the queen, she rises to the surface of the waters in the splendour of her unveiled beauty. By day she slumbers amid the coolness of grottoes, and woe to him who troubles her sleep. By night she lets herself be lulled by the waves in the neighbourhood of the rocks. The sea-foam crystallizes at her touch into precious stones, of whiteness as dazzling as that of her body. By moonlight she moans as she combs her fair hair with a comb of fine gold, and she sings in a harmonious voice a plaintive melody whose charm is irresistible. The sailor who listens to it feels himself drawn toward her, without power to break the charm which drags him onward to his destruction; the bark is broken upon the reefs: the man is in the sea, and the Morgan utters a cry of joy. But the arms of the fairy clasp only a corpse; for at her touch men die, and it is this which causes the despair of the amorous and inviolate Morgan. She being pagan, it suffices to have been touched by her in order to suffer the saddest fate which can be reserved to a Christian. The unfortunate one whom she had clasped is condemned to wander for ever in the trough of the waters, his eyes wide open, the mark of baptism effaced from his forehead. Never will his poor remains know the sweetness of reposing in holy ground, never will he have a tomb where his kindred might come to pray and to weep.'

Origin of the 'Morgan'.-The following legendary origin is attributed to the Morgan by M. Goulven Le Scour, our Carnac witness:-'Following the old people and the Breton legends, the Morgan (Mari Morgan in Breton) was Dahut, the daughter of King Gradlon, who was ruler of the city of Is. Legend records that when Dahut had entered at night the bedchamber of her father and had cut from around his neck the cord which held the key of the sea-dike flood-gates, and had given this key to the Black Prince, under whose evil love she had fallen, and who, according to belief, was no other than the Devil, St. Guenolé soon afterwards began to cry aloud, "Great King, arise! The flood-gates are open, and the sea is no longer restrained!"[83] Suddenly the old King Gradlon arose, and, leaping on his horse, was fleeing from the city with St. Guenolé, when he encountered his own daughter amid the waves. She piteously begged aid of her father, and he took her up behind him on the horse; but St. Guenolé, seeing that the waters were gaining on them, said to the king, "Throw into the sea the demon you have behind you, and we shall be saved!" Thereupon Gradlon flung his daughter into the abyss, and he and St. Guenolé were saved. Since that time, the fishermen declare that they have seen, in times of rough sea and clear moonlight, Dahut, daughter of King Gradlon, sitting on the rocks combing her fair hair and singing, in the place where her father flung her. And to-day there is recognized under the Breton name Marie Morgan, the daughter who sings amid the sea.'

Breton Fairyland Legends.-In a legend concerning Mona and the king of the Morgans, much like the Christabel story of English poets, we have a picture of a fairyland not under ground, but under sea; and this legend of Mona and her Morgan lover is one of the most beautiful of all the fairy-tales of Brittany.[84] Another one of Luzel's legends, concerning a maiden who married a dead man, shows us Fairyland as a world of the dead. It is a very strange legend, and one directly bearing on the Psychological Theory; for this dead man, who is a dead priest, has a palace in a realm of enchantment, and to enter his country one must have a white fairy-wand with which to strike 'in the form of a cross' two blows upon the rock concealing the entrance.[84] M. Paul Sébillot records from Upper Brittany a tradition that beneath the sea-waves there one can see a subterranean world containing fields and villages and beautiful castles; and it is so pleasant a world that mortals going there find years no longer than days.[85]

Fairies of Upper Brittany.[86]-Principally in Upper Brittany, M. Sébillot found rich folk-lore concerning fées, though some of his material is drawn from peasants and fishermen who are not so purely Celtic as those in Lower Brittany; and he very concisely summarizes the various names there given to the fairy-folk as follows:-'They are generally called Fées (Fairies), sometimes Fêtes (Fates), a name nearer than fées to the Latin Fata; Fête (fem.) and Fête (mas.) are both used, and from Fête is probably derived Faito or Faitaud, which is the name borne by the fathers, the husbands, or the children of the fées (Saint-Cast). Near Saint-Briac (Ille-et-Vilaine) they are sometimes called Fions; this term, which is applied to both sexes, seems also to designate the mischievous lutins (sprites). Round the Mené, in the cantons of Collinée and of Moncontour, they are called Margot la Fée, or ma Commère (my Godmother) Margot, or even the Bonne Femme (Good Woman) Margot. On the coast they are often enough called by the name of Bonnes Dames (Good Ladies), or of nos Bonnes Mères les Fées (our Good Mothers the Fairies); usually they are spoken of with a certain respect.'[87] As the same authority suggests, probably the most characteristic Fées in Upper Brittany are the Fées des Houles (Fairies of the Billows); and traditions say that they lived in natural caverns or grottoes in the sea-cliffs. They form a distinct class of sea-fairies unknown elsewhere in France or Europe.[88] M. Sébillot regards them as sea-divinities greatly rationalized. Associated with them are the fions, a race of dwarfs having swords no bigger than pins.[88] A pretty legend about magic buckwheat cakes, which in different forms is widespread throughout all Brittany, is told of these little cave-dwelling fairies:-

Like the larger fées the fions kept cattle; and one day a black cow belonging to the fions of Pont-aux-Hommes-Nées ate the buckwheat in the field of a woman of that neighbourhood. The woman went to the fions to complain, and in reply to her a voice said: 'Hold your tongue; you will be paid for your buckwheat!' Thereupon the fions gave the woman a cupful of buckwheat, and promised her that it would never diminish so long as none should be given away. That year buckwheat was very scarce, but no matter how many buckwheat cakes the woman and her family ate there was never diminution in the amount of the fairy buckwheat. At last, however, the unfortunate hour came. A rag-gatherer arrived and asked for food. Thoughtlessly the woman gave him one of her buckwheat cakes, and suddenly, as though by magic, all the rest of the buckwheat disappeared for ever.

Along the Rance the inhabitants tell about fées who appear during storms. These storm-fairies are dressed in the colours of the rainbow, and pass along following a most beautiful fée who is mounted in a boat made from a nautilus of the southern seas. And the boat is drawn by two sea-crabs. In no other place in Brittany are similar fées said to exist.[89] In Upper Brittany, as in Lower Brittany, the fées generally had their abodes in tumuli, in dolmens, in forests, in waste lands where there are great rocks, or about menhirs; and many other kinds of spirits lived in the sea and troubled sailors and fisher-folk. Like all fairy-folk of Celtic countries, those of Upper Brittany were given to stealing children. Thus at Dinard not long ago there was a woman more than thirty years old who was no bigger than a girl of ten, and it was said she was a fairy changeling.[90] In Lower Brittany the taking of children was often attributed to dwarfs rather than to fées, though the method of making the changeling speak is the same as in Upper Brittany, namely, to place in such a manner before an open fire a number of eggshells filled with water that they appear to the changeling-who is placed where he can well observe all the proceedings-like so many small pots of cooking food; whereupon, being greatly astonished at the unusual sight, he forgets himself and speaks for the first time, thus betraying his demon nature.

The following midwife story, as told by J. M. Comault, of Gouray, in 1881, is quite a parallel to the one we have recorded (on p. 54) as coming from Grange, Ireland:-A midwife who delivered a Margot la fée carelessly allowed some of the fairy ointment to get on one of her own eyes. The eye at once became clairvoyant, so that she beheld the fées in their true nature. And, quite like a midwife in a similar story about the fées des houles, this midwife happened to see a fée in the act of stealing, and spoke to her. Thereupon the fée asked the midwife with which eye she beheld her, and when the midwife indicated which one it was, the fée pulled it out.[91]

Generally, like their relatives in insular Celtdom, the fairies of Upper Brittany could assume various forms, and could even transform the human body; and they were given to playing tricks on mortals, and always to taking revenge on them if ill-treated. In most ways they were like other races of fairies, Celtic and non-Celtic, though very much anthropomorphosed in their nature by the peasant and mariner.

As a rule, the fées of Upper Brittany are described in legend as young and very beautiful. Some, however, appear to be centuries old, with teeth as long as a human hand, and with backs covered with seaweeds, and mussels, or other marine growths, as an indication of their great age.[92] At Saint-Cast they are said to be dressed (like the corrigans at Carnac, see p. 208) in toile, a kind of heavy linen cloth.[92]

On the sea-coast of Upper Brittany the popular opinion is that the fées are a fallen race condemned to an earthly exile for a certain period. In the region of the Mené, canton of Collinée, the old folk say that, after the angels revolted, those left in paradise were divided into two parts: those who fought on the side of God and those who remained neutral. These last, already half-fallen, were sent to the earth for a time, and became the fées.[92]

The general belief in the interior of Brittany is that the fées once existed, but that they disappeared as their country was changed by modern conditions. In the region of the Mené and of Ercé (Ille-et-Vilaine) it is said that for more than a century there have been no fées; and on the sea-coast, where it is still firmly believed that the fées used to live in the billows or amid certain grottoes in the cliffs against which the billows broke, the opinion is that they disappeared at the beginning of the last century. The oldest Bretons say that their parents or grandparents often spoke about having seen fées, but very rarely do they say that they themselves have seen fées. M. Sébillot found only two who had. One was an old needle-woman of Saint-Cast, who had such fear of fées that if she was on her way to do some sewing in the country, and it was night, she always took a long circuitous route to avoid passing near a field known as the Couvent des Fées. The other was Marie Chéhu, a woman eighty-eight years old.[93]

The Corrigan Race[94]

It is the corrigan race, however, which, more than fées or fairies, forms a large part of the invisible inhabitants of Brittany; and this race of corrigans and nains (dwarfs) may be made to include many kinds of lutins, or as they are often called by the peasant, follets or esprits follets (playful elves). Though the peasants both in Upper and in Lower Brittany may have no strong faith in fées, most of them say that corrigans, or nains, and mischievous house-haunting spirits still exist. But in a few localities, as M. Sébillot discovered, there is an opinion that the lutins departed with the fées, and with them will return in this century, because during each century with an odd number like 1900, the fairy tribes of all kinds are said to be visible or to reappear among men, and to become invisible or to disappear during each century with an even number like 1800. So this is the visible century.

Corrigans and follets only show themselves at night, or in the twilight. No one knows where they pass the day-time. Some lutins or follets, after the manner of Scotch kelpies, live solitary lives in lakes or ponds (whereas corrigans are socially united in groups or families), and amuse themselves by playing tricks on travellers passing by after dark. Souvestre records a story showing how the lutins can assume any animal form, but that their natural form is that of a little man dressed in green; and that the corrigans have declared war on them for being too friendly to men.[95] From what follows about lutins, by M. Goulven Le Scour, they show affinity with Pucks and such shape-shifting hobgoblins as are found in Wales:-'The lutins were little dwarfs who generally appeared at cross-roads to attack belated travellers. And it is related in Breton legends that these lutins sometimes transformed themselves into black horses or into goats; and whoever then had the misfortune to encounter them sometimes found his life in danger, and was always seized with great terror.' But generally, what the Breton peasant tells about corrigans he is apt to tell at another time about lutins. And both tribes of beings, so far as they can be distinguished, are the same as the elfish peoples-pixies in Cornwall, Robin Good-fellows in England, goblins in Wales, or brownies in Scotland. Both corrigans and lutins are supposed to guard hidden treasure; some trouble horses at night; some, like their English cousins, may help in the house-work after all the family are asleep; some cause nightmare; some carry a torch like a Welsh death-candle; some trouble men and women like obsessing spirits; and nearly all of them are mischievous. In an article in the Revue des Traditions Populaires (v. 101), M. Sébillot has classified more than fifty names given to lutins and corrigans in Lower Brittany, according to the form under which these spirits appear, their peculiar traits, dwelling-places, and the country they inhabit.

Like the fairies in Britain and Ireland, the corrigans and the Cornish pixies find their favourite amusement in the circular dance. When the moon is clear and bright they gather for their frolic near menhirs, and dolmens, and tumuli, and at cross-roads, or even in the open country; and they never miss an opportunity of enticing a mortal passing by to join them. If he happens to be a good-natured man and enters their sport heartily, they treat him quite as a companion, and may even do him some good turn; but if he is not agreeable they will make him dance until he falls down exhausted, and should he commit some act thoroughly displeasing to them he will meet their certain revenge. According to a story reported from Lorient (Morbihan)[96] it is taboo for the corrigans to make a complete enumeration of the days of the week:-

The 'Corrigan' Taboo.-'At night, the corrigans dance, singing, "Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, Friday"; they are prohibited from completing the enumeration of the days of the week. A corrigan having had the misfortune to permit himself to be tempted to add "Saturday", immediately became hunchbacked. His comrades, stupefied and distressed, attempted in vain to knock in his hump with blows of their fists.'

'Corrigans' at Carnac.-How the tradition of the dancing corrigans and their weekday song still lives, appears from the following accounts which I found at and near Carnac, the first account having been given during January 1909 by Madame Marie Ezanno, of Carnac, then sixty-six years old:-'The corrigans are little dwarfs who formerly, by moonlight, used to dance in a circle on the prairies. They sang a song the couplet of which was not understood, but only the refrain, translated in Breton: "Di Lun (Monday), Di Merh (Tuesday), Di Merhier (Wednesday)."

'They whistled in order to assemble. Where they danced mushrooms grew; and it was necessary to maintain silence so as not to interrupt them in their dance. They were often very brutal towards a man who fell under their power, and if they had a grudge against him they would make him submit to the greatest tortures. The peasants believed strongly in the corrigans, because they thus saw them and heard them. The corrigans dressed in very coarse white linen cloth. They were mischievous spirits (esprits follets), who lived under dolmens.'

One morning, M. Lemort and myself called upon Madame Louise Le Rouzic in her neat home at Kerallan, a little group of thatched cottages about a mile from Carnac. As we entered, Madame Le Rouzic herself was sitting on a long wooden bench by the window knitting, and her daughter was watching the savoury-smelling dinner as it boiled in great iron pots hanging from chains over a brilliant fire on the hearth. Large gleaming brass basins were ranged on a shelf above the broad open chimney-place wherein the fire burned, and massive bedsteads carved after the Breton style stood on the stone floor. When many things had been talked about, our conversation turned to corrigans, and then the good woman of the house told us these tales:-

'Corrigans' at Church.-'In former times a young girl having taken the keys of the church (presumably at Carnac) and having entered it, found the corrigans about to dance; and the corrigans were singing, "Lundi, Mardi" (Monday, Tuesday). On seeing the young girl, they stopped, surrounded her, and invited her to dance with them. She accepted, and, in singing, added to their song "Mercredi" (Wednesday). In amazement, the corrigans cried joyfully, "She has added something to our song; what shall we give her as recompense?" And they gave her a bracelet. A friend of hers meeting her, asked where the fine bracelet came from; and the young girl told what had happened. The second girl hurried to the church, and found the corrigans still dancing the rond. She joined their dance, and, in singing, added "Jeudi" (Thursday) to their song; but that broke the cadence; and the corrigans in fury, instead of recompensing her wished to punish her. "What shall we do to her?" one of them cried. "Let the day be as night to her!" the others replied. And by day, wherever she went, she saw only the night.'

The 'Corrigans'' Sabbath.-'Where my grandfather lived,' continued Madame Le Rouzic, 'there was a young girl who went to the sabbath of the corrigans; and when she returned and was asked where she had been, said, "I have travelled over water, wood, and hedges." And she related all she had seen and heard. Then one night, afterwards, the corrigans came into the house, beat her, and dragged her from bed. Upon hearing the uproar, my grandfather arose and found the girl lying flat on the stone floor. "Never question me again," she said to him, "or they will kill me."'[97]

'Corrigans' as Fairies.-Some Breton legends give corrigans the chief characteristics of fairies in Celtic Britain and Ireland; and Villemarqué in his Barzaz Breiz (pp. 25-30) makes the Breton word corrigan synonymous with fée or fairy, thus:-'Le Seigneur Nann et la Fée (Aotrou Nann hag ar Corrigan).' In this legend the corrigan seems clearly enough to be a water-fairy: 'The Korrigan was seated at the edge of her fountain, and she was combing her long fair hair.' But unlike most water-fairies, the Fée lives in a grotto, which, according to Villemarqué, is one of those ancient monuments called in Breton dolmen, or ti ar corrigan; in French, Table de pierres, or Grotte aux Fées-like the famous one near Rennes. The fountain where the Fée was seated seems to be one of those sacred fountains, which, as Villemarqué says, are often found near a Grotte aux Fées, and called Fontaine de la Fée, or in Breton, Feunteun ar corrigan. In another of Villemarqué's legends, L'Enfant Supposé, after the egg-shell test has been used and the little corrigan-changeling is replaced by the real child, the latter as though all the while it had been in an unconscious trance-state-which has a curious bearing on our Psychological Theory-stretches forth its arms and awakening exclaims, 'Ah! mother, what a long time I have been asleep.'[98] And in Les Nains we see the little Duz or dwarfs inhabiting a cave and guarding treasures.[98]

In his introduction to the Barzaz Breiz, Villemarqué describes les korrigan, whom he equates with les fées, as very similar to ordinary fairies. They can foretell the future, they know the art of war-quite like the Irish 'gentry' or Tuatha De Danann-they can assume any animal form, and are able to travel from one end of the world to another in the twinkling of an eye. They love feasting and music-like all Celtic fairy-folk; and dance in a circle holding hands, but at the least noise disappear. Their favourite haunts are near fountains and dolmens. They are little beings not more than two feet high, and beautifully proportioned, with bodies as aerial and transparent as those of wasps. And like all fairy, or elvish races, and like the Breton Morgans or water-spirits, they are given to stealing the children of mortals. Professor J. Loth has called my attention to an unpublished Breton legend of his collection, in which there are fairy-like beings comparable to these described by Villemarqué; and he tells me, too, that throughout Brittany one finds to-day the counterpart of the Welsh Tylwyth Teg or 'Fair Family', and that both in Wales and Brittany the Tylwyth Teg are popularly described as little women, or maidens, like fairies no larger than children.

Fairies and Dwarfs.-Where Villemarqué draws a clear distinction is between these korrigan and fées on the one hand, and the nains or dwarfs on the other. These last are what we have found associated or identified with corrigans in the Morbihan. Villemarqué describes the nains as a hideous race of beings with dark or even black hairy bodies, with voices like old men, and with little sparkling black eyes. They are fond of playing tricks on mortals who fall into their power; and are given to singing in a circular dance the weekday song. Very often corrigans regarded as nains, equally with all kinds of lutins, are believed to be evil spirits or demons condemned to live here on earth in a penitential state for an indefinite time; and sometimes they seem not much different from what Irish Celts, when talking of fairies, call fallen angels. Le Nain de Kerhuiton, translated from Breton by Professor J. Loth, in part illustrates this:-Upon seeing water boiling in a number of egg-shells ranged before an open fire, a polpegan-changeling is so greatly astonished that he unwittingly speaks for the first time, and says, 'Here I am almost one hundred years old, and never such a thing have I yet seen!' 'Ah! son of Satan!' then cries out the mother, as she comes from her place of hiding and beats the polpegan-who thus by means of the egg-shell test has been tricked into revealing his demon nature.[99] In a parallel story, reported by Villemarqué in his Barzaz Breiz (p. 33 n.), a nain-changeling is equally astonished to see a similar row of egg-shells boiling before an open fire like so many pots of food, and gives himself away through the following remark:-'I have seen the acorn before the oak; I have seen the egg before the white chicken: I have never seen the equal to this.'

Nature of the 'Corrigans'.-As to the general ideas about the corrigans, M. Le Scour says:-'Formerly the corrigans were the terror of the country-folk, especially in Finistère, in the Morbihan, and throughout the C?tes-du-Nord. They were believed to be souls in pain condemned to wander at night in waste lands and marshes. Sometimes they were seen as dwarfs; and often they were not seen at all, but were heard in houses making an infernal noise. Unlike the lavandières de nuits (phantom washerwomen of the night), they were heard only in summer, never in winter.'

The Breton Legend of the Dead

We come now to the Breton Legend of the Dead, common generally to all parts of Armorica, though probably even more widespread in Lower Brittany than in Upper Brittany; and this we call the Armorican Fairy-Faith. Even where the peasants have no faith in fées or fairies, and where their faith in corrigans is weak or almost gone, there is a strong conviction among them that the souls of the dead can show themselves to the living, a vigorous belief in apparitions, phantom-funerals, and various death-warnings. As Professor Anatole Le Braz has so well said in his introduction to La Légende de la Mort, 'the whole conscience of these people is fundamentally directed toward that which concerns death. And the ideas which they form of it, in spite of the strong Christian imprint which they have received, do not seem much different from those which we have pointed out among their pagan ancestors. For them, as for the primitive Celts, death is less a change of condition than a journey, a departure for another world.' And thus it seems that this most popular of the Breton folk-beliefs is genuinely Celtic and extremely ancient. As Renan has said, the Celtic people are 'a race mysterious, having knowledge of the future and the secret of death'.[100] And whereas in Ireland unusual happenings or strange accidents and death are attributed to fairy interference, in Brittany they are attributed to the influence of the dead.

The Breton Celt makes no distinction between the living and the dead. All alike inhabit this world, the one being visible, the other invisible. Though seers can at all times behold the dead, on November Eve (La Toussaint) and on Christmas Eve they are most numerous and most easily seen; and no peasant would think of questioning their existence. In Ireland and Scotland the country-folk fear to speak of fairies save through an euphemism, and the Bretons speak of the dead indirectly, and even then with fear and trembling.

The following legend, which I found at Carnac, will serve to illustrate both the profundity of the belief in the power of the dead over the living in Lower Brittany, and how deeply the people can be stirred by the predictions of one who can see the dead; and the legend is quite typical of those so common in Armorica:-

Foretelling Deaths.-'Formerly there was a woman whom spirits impelled to rise from her bed, it made no difference at what hour of the night, in order to behold funerals in the future. She predicted who should die, who should carry the corpse, who the cross, and who should follow the cortège. Her predictions frightened every one, and made her such a terror to the country that the mayor had threatened to take legal proceedings against her if she continued her practice; but she was compelled to tell the things which the spirits showed her. It is about ten years since this woman died in the hospital at Auray.'

Testimony of a Breton Seeress.-There lives in the little hamlet of Kerlois, less than a mile from Carnac, a Breton seeress, a woman who since eight years of age has been privileged to behold the world invisible and its inhabitants, quite like the woman who died at Auray. She is Madame Eugénie Le Port, now forty-two years old, and what she tells of things seen in this invisible world which surrounds her, might easily be taken for Irish legends about fairies. Knowing very little French, because she is thoroughly Breton, Madame Le Port described her visions in her own native tongue, and her eldest daughter acted as interpreter. I had known the good woman since the previous winter, and so we were able to converse familiarly; and as I sat in her own little cottage, in company with her husband and daughters, and with M. Lemort, who acted as recording secretary, this is what she said in her clear earnest manner in answer to my questions:-

'We believe that the spirits of our ancestors surround us and live with us. One day on a road from Carnac I encountered a woman of Kergoellec who had been dead eight days. I asked her to move to one side so that I could pass, and she vanished. This was eleven o'clock in the morning. I saw her at another time in the Marsh of Breno; I spoke, but she did not reply. On the route from Plouharnel (near Carnac) I saw in the day-time the funeral of a woman who did not die until fifteen days afterwards. I recognized perfectly all the people who took part in it; but the person with me saw nothing. Another time, near three o'clock in the afternoon, and eight days before her death, I saw upon the same route the funeral of a woman who was drowned. And I have seen a phantom horse going to the sabbath, and as if forced along against its will, for it reared and pawed the earth. When Pierre Rouzic of Kerlois died, I saw a light of all colours between heaven and earth, the very night of his death. I have seen a woman asleep whose spirit must have been free, for I saw it hovering outside her body. She was not awakened [at the time] for fear that the spirit would not find its body again.' In answer to my question as to how long these various visions usually lasted, Madame Le Port said:-'They lasted about a quarter of an hour, or less, and all of them disappeared instantaneously.' As Madame Le Port now seemed unable to recall more of her visions, I finally asked her what she thought about corrigans, and she replied:-'I believe they exist as some special kind of spirits, though I have never seen any.'

Proof that the Dead Exist.-This is what M. Jean Couton, an old Breton, told me at Carnac:-'I am only an old peasant, without instruction, without any education, but let me tell you what I think concerning the dead. Following my own idea, I believe that after death the soul always exists and travels among us. I repeat to you that I have belief that the dead are seen; I am now going to prove this to you in the following story:-

'One winter evening I was returning home from a funeral. I had as companion a kinswoman of the man just buried. We took the train and soon alighted in the station of Plouharnel. We still had three kilometres to go before reaching home, and as it was winter, and at that epoch there was no stage-coach, we were obliged to travel afoot. As we were going along, suddenly there appeared to my companion her dead relative whom we had buried that day. She asked me if I saw anything, and since I replied to her negatively she said to me, "Touch me, and you will see without doubt." I touched her, and I saw the same as she did, the person just dead, whom I clearly recognized.'[101]

Phantom Washerwomen.-Concerning a very popular Breton belief in phantom washerwomen (les lavandières de nuits; or in Breton, cannered noz), M. Goulven Le Scour offers the following summary:-'The lavandières de nuits were heard less often than the corrigans, but were much more feared. It was usually towards midnight that they were heard beating their linen in front of different washing-places, always some way from the villages. According to the old folk of the past generation, when the phantom washerwomen would ask a certain passer-by to help them to wring sheets, he could not refuse, under pain of being stopped and wrung like a sheet himself. And it was necessary for those who aided in wringing the sheets to turn in the same direction as the washerwomen; for if by misfortune the assistant turned in an opposite direction, he had his arms wrung in an instant. It is believed that these phantom washerwomen are women condemned to wash their mortuary sheets during whole centuries; but that when they find some mortal to wring in an opposite direction, they are delivered.'[102]

Breton Animistic Beliefs.-M. Z. Le Rouzic, a Breton Celt who has spent most of his life studying the archaeology and folk-lore of the Morbihan, and who is at present Keeper of the Miln Museum at Carnac, summarizes for us the state of popular beliefs as he finds them existing in the Carnac country now:-'There are few traditions concerning the fées in the region of Carnac; but the belief in spirits, good and bad-which seems to me to be the same as the belief in fées-is general and profound, as well as the belief in the incarnation of spirits. And I am convinced that these beliefs are the reminiscences of ancient Celtic beliefs held by the Druids and conserved by Christianity.'

In Finistère, as purely Breton as the Morbihan, I found the Legend of the Dead just as widespread, and the belief in spirits and the apparitional return of the dead quite as profound; but nothing worth recording concerning fairies. The stories which follow were told to me by M. Pierre Vichon, a pure Breton Celt, born at Lescoff, near the Pointe du Raz, Finistère, in 1842. Peter is a genuine old 'sea-dog', having made the tour of the globe, and yet he has not lost the innate faith of his ancient ancestors in a world invisible; for though he says he cannot believe all that the people in his part of Finistère tell about spirits and ghosts, he must have a belief that the dead as spirits exist and influence the living, because of his own personal experience-one of the most remarkable of its kind. Peter speaks Breton, French, and English fluently, and since he had an opportunity for the first time in seventeen months of using English, he told me the stories in my own native language:-

Pierre Vichon's Strange Experience.-'Some forty years ago a strange thing happened in my life. A relative of mine had taken service in the Austrian army, for by profession he was a soldier, though at first he had begun to study for the priesthood. During the progress of the war I had no news from him; and, then one day while I was on the deck of a Norwegian ship just off Dover (England), my fellow sailors heard a noise as though of a gun being discharged, and the whirr of a shot. At the same moment I fell down on the deck as though mortally wounded, and lay in an unconscious state for two hours. When the news came, it was ascertained that at the very moment I fell and the gun-report was heard, my relative in Austria had been shot in the head and fell down dead. And he had been seen to throw his hands up to his head to grasp it just as I did.'

An Apparition of the Dead.-'I had another relative who died in a hospital near Christiania, Norway; and on the day he died a sister of mine, then a little girl, saw his spirit appear here in Lescoff, and she easily recognized it; but none of her girl companions with her at the time saw the spirit. After a few days we had the news of the death, and the time of it and the time of my sister's seeing the spirit coincided exactly.'

In all the peninsula of which the famous and dangerous Pointe du Raz is the terminus, similar stories are current. And among the fisher-folk with whom I lived on the strange and historic ?le de Sein, the Legend of the Dead is even more common.

The Dead and Fairies Compared.-Without setting down here in detail numerous other death-legends which we have collected, we may now note how much the same are the powers and nature of the dead and spirits in Brittany, and the power and nature of the fairy races in Celtic Britain and Ireland. Thus the Breton dead strike down the living just as fairies are said to do; the Ankou,[103] who is a king of the dead, and his subjects, like a fairy king and fairies, have their own particular paths or roads over which they travel in great sacred processions;[104] and exactly as fairies, the hosts of the dead are in possession of the earth on November Eve, and the living are expected to prepare a feast and entertainment for them of curded-milk, hot pancakes, and cider, served on the family table covered with a fresh white table-cloth, and to supply music. The Breton dead come to enjoy this hospitality of their friends; and as they take their places at the table the stools are heard to move, and sometimes the plates; and the musicians who help to entertain them think that at times they feel the cold breath of the invisible visitors. Concerning this same feast of the dead (La Toussaint) Villemarqué in his Barzaz Breiz (p. 507) records that in many parts of Brittany libations of milk are poured over or near ancestral tombs-just as in Ireland and Scotland libations of milk are poured to fairies. And the people of Armorica at other times than November Eve remember the dead very appropriately, as in Ireland the Irish remember fairies. The Breton peasant thinks of the dead as frequently as the Irishman thinks of fairies. One day while I was walking toward Carnac there was told to me in the most ordinary manner a story about a dead man who used to be seen going along the very road I was on. He quite often went to the church in Carnac seeking prayers for his soul. And almost every man or woman one meets in rural Lower Brittany can tell many similar stories. If a mortal should happen to meet one of the dead in Brittany and be induced to eat food which the dead sometimes offer, he will never be able to return among the living,[105] for the effect would be the same as eating fairy-food. Like ghosts and fairies in Ireland, Scotland, and Wales, in Brittany the dead guard hidden treasure. It is after sunset that the dead have most power to strike down the living,[105] and to take them just as fairies do. A natural phenomenon, a malady, a death, or a tempest may be the work of a spirit in Brittany,[105] and in Ireland the work of a fairy. The Breton dead, like the Scotch fairies described in Kirk's Secret Commonwealth, are capable of making themselves visible or invisible to mortals, at will.[105] Their bodies-for they have bodies-are material,[105] being composed of matter in a state unknown to us; and the bodies of daemons as described by the Ancients are made of congealed air. The dead in Brittany have forms more slender and smaller in stature than those of the living;[105] and herein we find one of the factors which supporters of the Pygmy Theory would emphasize, but it is thoroughly psychical. Old Breton farmers after death return to their farms, as though come from Fairyland; and sometimes they even take a turn at the ploughing.[105] As in Ireland, so in Brittany, the day belongs to the living, and the night, when a mortal is safer indoors than out, to spirits and the dead.[105] The Bretons take great care not to counterfeit the dead nor to speak slightingly of them,[106] for, like fairies, they know all that is done by mortals, and can hear all that is said about them, and can take revenge. Just as in the case of all fairies and goblins, the dead disappear at first cock-crow.[107] The world of the dead, like the land of Faerie or the Otherworld, may be underground, in the air, in a hill or mountain like a fairy palace, under a river or sea, and even on an island out amid the ocean.[107] As other Celts do against evil spirits and fairies, the Breton peasants use magic against evil souls of the dead,[108] and the priests use exorcisms. The Breton realm of the dead equally with the Irish Fairyland is an invisible world peopled by other kinds of spirits besides disembodied mortals and fairies.[109] The dead haunt houses just as Robin Good-fellows and brownies, or pixies and goblins, generally do. The dead are fond of frequenting cross-roads, and so are all sorts of fairies. In Brittany one must always guard against the evil dead, in Cornwall against pixies, in other Celtic lands against different kinds of fairies. In Ireland and Scotland there is the banshee, in Wales the death-candle, in Brittany the Ankou or king of the dead, to foretell a death. And as the banshee wails before the ancestral mansion, so the Ankou sounds its doleful cry before the door of the one it calls.[109] There seems not to be a family in the Carnac region of the Morbihan without some tradition of a warning coming before the death of one of its members. In Ireland only certain families have a banshee, but in Brittany all families. Professor Le Braz has devoted a large part of his work on La Légende de la Mort to these Breton death-warnings or intersignes. They may be shades of the dead under many aspects-ghostly hands, or ghosts of inanimate objects. They may come by the fall of objects without known cause; by a magpie resting on a roof-just as in Ireland; by the crowing of cocks, and the howling of dogs at night. They may be death-candles or torches, dreams, peculiar bodily sensations, images in water, phantom funerals, and death-chariots or death-coaches as in Wales.

The Bretons may be said to have a Death-Faith, whereas the other Celts have a Fairy-Faith, and both are a real folk-religion innate in the Celtic nature, and thus quite as influential as Christianity. Should Christianity in some way suddenly be swept away from the Celt he would still be religious, for it is his nature to be so. And as Professor Le Braz has suggested to me, Carnac with its strange monuments of an unknown people and time, and wrapped in its air of mystery and silence, is a veritable Land of the Dead. I, too, have felt that there are strange, vague, indefinable influences at work at Carnac at all times of the day and night, very similar to those which I have felt in the most fairy-haunted regions of Ireland. We might say that all of Brittany is a Land of the Dead, and ancient Carnac its Centre, just as Ireland is Fairyland, with its Centre at ancient Tara.


We can very appropriately conclude our inquiry about Brittany with a very beautiful description of a Veillée in Lower Brittany, written down in French for our special use by the Breton poet, M. Le Scour, of Carnac, and here translated. M. Le Scour draws the whole picture from life, and from his own intimate experience. It will serve to give us some insight into the natural literary ability of the Breton Celts, to illustrate their love of tales dealing with the marvellous and the supernormal, and is especially valuable for showing the social environment amidst which the Fairy-Faith of Lower Brittany lives and flourishes, isolated from foreign interference:-

A 'Veillée'[110] in Lower Brittany.-'The wind was blowing from the east, and in the intermittent moonlight the roof of the thatched cottage already gleamed with a thin covering of snow which had fallen since sunset. Each comer reached on the run the comfortable bakehouse, wherein Alain Corre was at work kneading his batch of barley bread; and the father Le Scour was never the last to arrive, because he liked to get the best seat in front of the bake-oven.

'Victor had promised us for that night a pretty story which no person had ever heard before. I was not more than fourteen years old then, but like all the neighbours I hurried to get a place in order to hear Victor. My mother was already there, making her distaff whirr between her two fingers as she sat in the light of a rosin candle, and my brother Yvon was finishing a wooden butter-spoon. Every few minutes I and my little cousin went out to see if it was still snowing, and if Victor had arrived.

'At last Victor entered, and everybody applauded, the young girls lengthening out their distaffs to do him reverence. Then when silence was restored, after some of the older men had several times shouted out, "Let us commence; hold your tongues," Victor began his story as follows:-

'"Formerly, in the village of Kastel-Laer, Plouneventer (Finistère), there were two neighbours; the one was Paol al Ludu and the other Yon Rustik. Paol al Ludu was a good-for-nothing sort of fellow; he gained his living easily, by cheating everybody and by robbing his neighbours; and being always well dressed he was much envied by his poorer acquaintances. Yon Rustik, on the contrary, was a poor, infirm, and honest man, always seeking to do good, but not being able to work, had to beg.

'"One evening our two men were disputing. Paol al Ludu treated Yon shamefully, telling him that it would be absurd to think an old lame man such as he was could ever get to Paris; 'But I,' added Paol, 'am going to see the capital and amuse myself like a rich bourgeois.' At this, Yon offered to bet with Paol that in spite of infirmities he would also go to Paris; and being an honest man he placed his trust in God. The wager was mutually agreed to, and our two men set out for Paris by different routes.

'"Paol al Ludu, who had no infirmities, arrived at Paris within three weeks. He followed the career of a thief, and deceived everybody; and as he was well dressed, people had confidence in him. The poor Yon Rustik, on the contrary, did not travel rapidly. He was obliged to beg his way, and being meanly dressed was compelled to sleep outdoors when he could not find a stable. At the end of a month he arrived in a big forest in the region of Versailles, and having no other shelter for the night chose a great oak tree which was hollowed by the centuries and lined with fungi within. In front of this ancient oak there was a fountain which must have been miraculous, for it flowed from east to west, and Yon had closely observed it.

'"Towards midnight Yon was awakened by a terrible uproar; there were a hundred corrigans dancing round the fountain. He overheard one of them say to the others: 'I have news to report to you; I have cast an evil spell upon the daughter of the King, and no mortal will ever be able to cure her, and yet in order to cure her nothing more would be needed than a drop of water from this fountain.' The corrigan who thus spoke was upon two sticks[111] (crippled), and commanded all the others. The beggar having understood the conversation, awaited impatiently the departure of the corrigans. When they were gone, he took a little water from the fountain in a bottle, and hurried on to Paris, where he arrived one fine morning.

'"In the house where Yon stopped to eat his crust of dry bread he heard it reported that the daughter of the King was very ill, and that the wisest doctors in France had been sent for. Three days later, Yon Rustik presented himself at the palace, and asked audience with the King, but as he was so shabbily dressed the attendants did not wish to let him enter. When he strongly insisted, they finally prevailed upon the King to receive him; and then Yon told the King that he had come to cure the princess. Thereupon the King caused Yon to be fittingly dressed and presented before the sick-bed; and Yon drew forth his bottle of water, and, at his request, the princess drank it to the last drop. Suddenly she began to laugh with joy, and throwing her arms about the neck of the beggar thanked him: she was radically cured. At once the King gave orders that his golden coach of state be made ready; and placing the princess and the beggar on one seat, made a tour throughout all the most beautiful streets of Paris. Never before were such crowds seen in Paris, for the proclamation had gone forth that the one who had made the miraculous cure was a beggar.

'"Paol al Ludu, who was still in Paris, pressed forward to see the royal coach pass, and when he saw who sat next to the princess he was beside himself with rage. But before the day was over he discovered Yon in the great hotel of the city, and asked him how it was that he had been able to effect the cure; and Yon replied to his old rival that it was with the water of a miraculous fountain, and relating everything which had passed, explained to him in what place the hollow oak and the fountain were to be found.

'"Paol did not wait even that night, but set off at once to find the miraculous fountain. When he finally found it the hour was almost midnight, and so he hid himself in the hollow of the oak, hoping to overhear some mysterious revelation. Midnight had hardly come when a frightful uproar commenced: this time the crippled corrigan chief was swearing like a demon, and he cried to the others, 'The daughter of the King has been cured by a beggar! He must have overheard us by hiding in the hollow of that d--d old oak. Quick! let fire be put in it, for it has brought us misfortune.'

'"In less than a minute, the trunk of the oak was in flames; and there were heard the cries of anguish of Paol al Ludu and the gnashing of his teeth, as he fought against death. Thus the evil and dishonest man ended his life, while Yon Rustik received a pension of twenty thousand francs, and was able to live happy for many years, and to give alms to the poor."'

Here M. Le Scour ends his narrative, leaving the reader to imagine the enthusiastic applause and fond embraces bestowed upon Victor for this most marvellous story, by the happy gathering of country-folk in that cosy warm bakehouse in Lower Brittany, while without the cold east wind of winter was whirling into every nook and corner the falling flakes of snow.

* * *

The evidence from Ireland, Scotland, Isle of Man, Wales, Cornwall, and Brittany, which the living Celtic Fairy-Faith offers, has now been heard; and, as was stated at the beginning of the inquiry, apparently most of it can only be interpreted as belonging to a world-wide doctrine of souls. But before this decision can be arrived at safely, all the evidence should be carefully estimated according to anthropological and psychological methods; and this we shall proceed to do in the following chapter, before passing to Section II of our study.

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