Crossroads have always regarded as special places, with many superstitions and legends associated with them. Often suicides and murderers were buried or hung in gibbets at lonely crossroads so their restless ghosts would be confused and not know which direction to take, thus preventing them from coming back to harm the living. In Iceland, people believe that the elves move house on New Year’s Eve. Mortals may intercept them at crossroads, in the hope the elves will bribe them with food and treasure to let them pass.
Best Wishes from all at Fae Nation as we stand on the threshold of 2007.Filed under Faerylore, General | Comment (0)
In the tiny village of Zennor, West Cornwall, there once lived a chorister named Matthew Trewhella who was renowned for his sweet singing. A beautiful woman often attended the church where he sang, and Matthew found himself falling in love with this mysterious stranger. One day, desperate to discover her identity he stole after her as she walked along the cliff tops. Matthew was never seen again, although people claimed his singing could be heard drifting in from the sea on calm nights.
Some years later a ship dropped anchor off Pendower Cove, near Zennor. To the Captain’s surprise a mermaid surfaced and requested the anchor be pulled up as it was resting against the door to her underwater home, and she was anxious to return to her husband Matthew Trewhella and their children.
When the Captain repeated this story back in Zennor a figure of a mermaid was carved on the end of a pew (some say the same pew the lady sat on as she watched Matthew sing) – as a warning to other sweet-voiced choristers about mysterious sea-maidens.
Cornwall’s wild landscape is home to many Faerie Folk, but the Piskies are by far the most infamous. Piskies (or as they are known elsewhere – Pixies) are solitary creatures who seem to take an equal delight in mischief making and helping farmers with their chores.
The expression ‘Pisky-led’ described how travellers returning home late at night (often after patronising the local inn) would unwittingly be led astray by Pisky lights. Most likely the unlucky wayfarer would find himself lost on the moors or stumbled into a bog, but on occasion the Piskies would take pity on the poor souls and guide them home safely.
Joan the Wad was a queen of the Piskies who achieved World-wide fame when her image was cast into lucky brass amulets, which sold in their hundreds of thousands in the early 20th century. Even today the visitor to Cornwall will find lucky Cornish Piskie charms everywhere they look, sitting cross-legged and pointy-hatted, on toadstools – and for the full-on Cornish experience – even on a pasty!
Halloween, along with Beltane/May 1st, is one of the two times of year when Faerie activity is most intense. The Faery Raide is seen on this night as the Good Folk move from their summer residences to their winter ones. Children born on Hallowe’en are gifted with the ability to see the Faeries, and for those of you brave enough, walking nine times anti-clockwise around a Faery Hill will grant you with the Sight too. This time of year is associated with gathering the harvest, but make sure you have had your pick of blackberries and fruits before sundown tonight, for the Faeries claim them from Hallowe’en onwards. Anyone eating the fruit after this date risks illness or falling under a Faery spell.Filed under Faerylore | Comment (0)
(…Or a Faery’s Guide to Flying)
In folklore faeries were never winged. These came later, partly as part of Victorian re-imaginings of how Faeries should look.
According to the 17th century folklorist John Aubrey, when the Fae wished to magically transport themselves from one place to another they would cry ‘Horse and Hattock’. They could also travel on cabbage stalks, rather like the popular portrayal of witches on broomsticks.
Katherine Briggs writes of a boy who finds himself lost in the woods. A bear leads him to a little cottage where the two little women who live there invite him in for supper. During the night he is awakened by the clock striking midnight. He witnesses his hosts put on white caps which were hanging on the bed. One says ‘Here’s off’ and the other ‘Here’s after’ at which the both disappear! The boy, not wanting to be left alone takes up another of the white caps and repeats ‘Here’s after!’ He finds himself transported to the fairy ring outside the hut where the women are dancing. So begins an adventure where the women take him to a house using the same formula of magic words. The night ends with the boy in the cellar of the house (having come down the chimney), where he drinks a bottle of wine and falls fast asleep. The servants find him, alone, the next morning, and being unable to explain how he got there he is condemned to hang. The day arrives and just as it looks like all is lost, one of the women rushes to the scaffold and puts a white cap on his head, saying ‘Here’s off!’ The boy quickly cries ‘Here’s after!’ and zips off to the hut in the woods. Here, the fairy woman explains that he displeased them by taking the magic cap, and not to take liberties with the fairies property in the future. This he promises and is allowed to go home. Again, here is an alternative method of flying to the usual wings.
Fairy, Faery or Faerie, however you spell it they are all accepted terms for the Fae. However traditionally it was thought unwise to refer to the Fae by actually as faeries as this would anger them – instead people used a variety of alternative names or euphemisms when talking about them.
Fair Family/Fair Folk
The Good Folk/Good Neighbours/Good People
The Green Men
Little People/Wee Folk
Lordly Ones/The Gentry
The Old People
Tylwyth Teg (Welsh ‘Fair Family’, though could also refer to a particular type of Faery)
Verry Volk (Wales)
The Grey Neighbors/Henkies (Shetland/Orkney names for Trows)
Klippe (Forfarshire, Scotland)
Li’l Fellas (Manx)
Sleigh Beggey (Manx language version of ‘Little Folk’)
People of Peace/Still-Folk (Highlands)
Most areas in England, Scotland, Ireland and Wales had regional names, and this is before we even got onto other countries! Things get confusing too when names begin to describe a particular type of Faerie as well as Faeries in general. Take Elves as an example, which used to be interchangeable with Faerie but now generally means either Norse or Teutonic faeries (or Santa’s little helpers depending on your inclinations!).
The word Faerie too is complex, again being an umbrella term Faerie creatures as well as the land of Faerie. Fairy is generally thought to mean the gossamer winged children’s fairies, but it is also an umbrella term like Faerie. The origins of both spellings are said to come from the Latin Fata (Fate) or French Fée. Fae-eerie, or state of enchantment gives us Faerie or Fairy.
Long thought to be a Faerie favourite, Thyme (especially wild Thyme) is said to aid sightings of the Fair Folk. Thyme that grows on Faerie Mounds is the most potent – if you pick the flowers and lay them on your eyes it will allow you to see the Fae, and sprinkling dried Thyme on your windowsills and doorways will invite the Fae to enter your home. It is also one of the herbs listed as an ingredient for a magical ointment to see faeries in a 17th Century manuscript (now at the Ashmolean Museum, Oxford).Filed under Faerylore | Comment (0)
Two similar and equally nasty entities from English folklore are Jenny Greenteeth and Peg Powler. Both inhabit bodies of water, Jenny preferring stagnant pools while Peg haunts the river Tees in the North of England. Children who unwisely played too close to the waters edge would be dragged under by these spirits and drowned (or worse, devoured). The origins of these types of entities are probably cautionary tales to scare children away from playing near water, where the risk of drowning is all too real.Filed under Faerylore | Comment (0)
The British Isles are ancient lands that have been inhabited for many thousands of years. Often traces of these peoples have been interpreted by later cultures as being of otherworldly or faerie origin. Most common are the tumuli, or burial mounds that litter the countryside. Many of these have attached faerie lore and were thought to be homes to the little people. Items used by the prehistoric people have been taken as proof of Faerie too, such as flint and stone arrowheads. They are known as Elf-Shot and it was though malicious faeries fired them at humans to cause harm, though no wound would be visible. The medical term ‘Stroke’ comes from Elf-Stroked as the sudden inexplicable death or paralysis in victims was thought to be caused by being struck by elf shot or being touched by one of the not-so-good folk.Filed under Faerylore | Comment (0)
Headed by a Canadian based research team, the ‘Elemental Life Form Encounters in Nature’ Project seeks to study real life encounter experiences between people and nature spirits. To quote the site, “The ELFEN Project is an exploration into the sociological phenomenon of “fairy” in modern society. It is a search for truth, reality and understanding from a field of information derived largely from contemporary encounter events.” The study is primarily concentrating on North America as folklore concerning the Little People in places like Scandinavia and the British Isles is already well documented. Through the gathering of questionnaires and research into ethnographic records and folklore the Project is building a profile on American and Canadian native elementals interact with humans and their surroundings.Filed under Faerylore | Comment (0)