ON THE FAIRIES OF POPULAR SUPERSTITION
"Of airy elves, by moon-light shadows seen,
The silver token, and the circled green."
IN a work avowedly dedicated to the preservation of the poetry and tradition of the "olden time," it would be unpardonable to omit this opportunity of making some observations upon so interesting an article of the popular creed, as that concerning the Elves, or Fairies. The general idea of spirits, of a limited power and subordinate nature, dwelling among the woods and mountains is, perhaps, common to all nations. But the intermixture of tribes, of languages, and religion, which has occurred in Europe, renders it difficult to trace the origin of the names which have been bestowed upon such spirits and the primary ideas which were entertained concerning their manners and habits.
The word elf, which seems to have been the original name of the beings afterwards denominated fairies, is of Gothic origin, and probably signified, simply, a spirit of a lower order. Thus the Saxons had not only dun-elfen, berg-elfen, and munt-elfen-spirits of the downs, hills, and mountains; but also feld-elfen, wudu-elfen, sae-elfen, and wæter-elfen-spirits of the fields, of the woods, of the sea, and of the waters. In low German the same latitude of expression occurs; for night hags are termed aluinnen and aluen, which is sometimes Latinized eluæ. But the prototype of the English elf is to be sought chiefly in the berg-elfen, or duergar, of the Scandinavians. From the most early of the Icelandic Sagas, as well as from the Edda itself, we learn the belief of the Northern nations in a race of dwarfish spirits inhabiting the rocky mountains, and approaching, in some respects, to the human nature. Their attributes, amongst which we recognize the features of the modern Fairy, were supernatural wisdom and prescience, and skill in the mechanical arts, especially in the fabrication of arms. They are farther described as capricious, vindictive, and easily irritated. The story of the elfin-sword, Tyrfing, may be the most pleasing illustration of this position. Suafurlami, a Scandinavian monarch, returning from hunting bewildered himself, among the mountains. About sunset he beheld a large rock, and two dwarfs sitting before the mouth of a cavern. The king drew his sword, and intercepted their retreat by springing betwixt them and their recess, and imposed upon them the following condition of safety : That they should make for him a faulchion, with a baldric and scabbard of pure gold, and a blade which should divide stones and ron as a garment, and which should render the wielder ever victorious in battle. in battle. The elves complied with the requisition, and Suafurlami pursued his way home. Returning at the time appointed, the dwarfs delivered to him the famous sword Tyrfing, then, standing in the entrance of their cavern, spoke thus: "This sword, O king, shall destroy a man every time it is brandished ; but it shall perform three atrocious deeds, and it shall be thy bane." The king rushed forward with the charmed sword and buried both its edges in the rock, but the dwarfs escaped into their recesses. 1 This enchanted sword emitted rays like the sun, dazzling all against whom it was brandished; it divided steel like water, and was never unsheathed without slaying a man (Hervarar Saga, p. 9). Similar to this was the enchanted sword Skoffnung, which was taken by a pirate out of the tomb of a Norwegian monarch. Many such tales are narrated in the Sagas; but the most distinct account of the duergar, or elves, and their attributes is to be found in a preface of Torfæus to the history of Hrolf Kraka, who cites a dissertation by Einar Gudmund, a learned native of Iceland. "I am firmly of opinion," says the Icelander, "that these beings are creatures of God, consisting, like human beings, of a body and rational soul; that they are of different sexes, and capable of producing children, and subject to all human affections, as sleeping and waking, laughing and crying, poverty and wealth; and that they possess cattle, and other effects, and are obnoxious to death, like other mortals." He proceeds to state that the females of this race are capable of procreating with mankind; and gives an account of one who bore a child to an inhabitant of Iceland for whom she claimed the privilege of baptism, depositing the infant for that purpose at the gate of the churchyard, together with a goblet of gold as an offering (Historia Hrolfi Krakæ a Torfæo).
Similar to the traditions of the Icelanders are those current among the Laplanders of Finland, concerning a subterranean people gifted with supernatural qualities and inhabiting the recesses of the earth. Resembling men in their general appearance, the manner of their existence, and their habits of life, they far excel the miserable Laplanders in perfection of nature, felicity of situation, and skill in mechanical arts. From all these advantages, however, after the partial conversion of the Laplanders, the subterranean people have derived no farther credit than to be confounded with the devils and magicians of the dark ages of Christianity; a degradation which, as will shortly be demonstrated, has been also suffered by the harmless Fairies of Albion, and indeed by the whole host of deities of learned Greece and mighty Rome. The ancient opinions are yet so firmly rooted, that the Laps of Finland at this day boast of an intercourse with these beings in banquets, dances, and magical ceremonies, and even in the more intimate commerce of gallantry. They talk with triumph of the feasts which they have shared in the elfin caverns, where wine and tobacco, the productions of the Fairy region, went round in abundance, and whence the mortal guest, after receiving the kindest treatment and the most salutary counsel, has been conducted to his tent by an escort of his supernatural entertainers (Jessen's de Lapponibus).
The superstitions of the islands of Feroe concerning their Froddenskenten, or underground people, are derived from the duergar of Scandinavia. These beings are supposed to inhabit the interior recesses of mountains, which they enter by invisible passages. Like the Fairies, they are supposed to steal human beings. "It happened," says Debes, p. 354, "a good while since, when the burghers of Bergen had the commerce of Feroe, that there was a man in Servaade, called Jonas Soideman, who was kept by spirits in a mountain, during the space of seven years, and at length came out; but lived afterwards in great distress and fear, lest they should again take him away ; wherefore people were obliged to watch him in the night." The same author mentions another young man who had been carried away, and, after his return, was removed a second time upon the eve of his marriage. He returned in a short time, and narrated that the spirit that had carried him away was in the shape of a most beautiful woman, who pressed him to forsake his bride and remain with her, urging her own superior beauty and splendid appearance. He added, that he saw the men who were employed to search for him and heard them call; but they could not see him, nor could he answer them, till, upon his determined refusal to listen to the spirit's persuasions, the spell ceased to operate. The kidney-shaped West Indian bean, which is sometimes driven upon the shore of the Feroes, is termed by the natives "the Fairie's kidney."
In these traditions of the Gothic and Finnish tribes, we may recognize with certainty the rudiments of elfin superstition; but we must look to various other causes for the modifications which it has undergone. These are to be sought: 1st, in the traditions of the East; 2nd, in the wreck and confusion of the Gothic mythology; 3rd, in the tales of chivalry; 4th, in the fables of classical antiquity; 5th, in the influence of the Christian religion; 6th, and finally, in the creative imagination of the sixteenth century. It may be proper to notice the effect of these various causes before stating the popular belief of our own time regarding the Fairies.
I. To the traditions of the East, the Fairies of Britain owe, I think, little more than the appellation by which they have been distinguished since the days of the Crusades. The term "Fairy" occurs not only in Chaucer, and in yet older English authors, but also, and more frequently, in the Romance language, from which they seem to have adopted it. Ducange cites the following passage from Gul. Guiart, in Historia Francica, MS.:
The Lay le Frain, enumerating the subjects of the Breton Lays, informs us expressly
"Plusiers parlent de Guenart,
Du Lou, de L'Asne, de Renart,
De Faëries et de Songes,
De phantosmes et de mensonges"
By some etymologists of that learned class, who not only know whence words come but also whither they are going, the term Fairy, or faërie is derived from faë which is again derived from Nympha. It is more probable the term is of Oriental origin, and is derived from the Persic through the medium of the Arabic. In Persic, the term Peri expresses a species of imaginary being, which resembles the Fairy in some of its qualities, and is one of the fairest creatures of romantic fancy. This superstition must have been known to the Arabs, among whom the Persian tales or romances, even as early as the time of Mahomet, were so popular that it required the most terrible denunciations of that legislator to proscribe them. Now, in the enunciation of the Arabs, the term Peri would sound Fairy, the letter ρ not occurring in the alphabet of that nation; and, as the chief intercourse of the early Crusaders was with the Arabs, or Saracens, it is probable they would adopt the term according to their pronunciation. Neither will it be considered as an objection to this opinion, that in Hesychius the Ionian term Phereas, or Pheres, denotes the satyrs of classical antiquity, if the number of words of Oriental origin in that lexicographer be recollected. Of the Persian Peris, Ouseley, in his Persian Miscellanies, has described some characteristic traits with all the luxuriance of a fancy impregnated with the Oriental association of ideas. However vaguely their nature and appearance is described, they are uniformly represented as gentle, amiable females, to whose character beneficence and beauty are essential. None of them are mischievous or malignant ; none of them are deformed or diminutive, like the Gothic fairy. Though they correspond in beauty with our ideas of angels, their employments are dissimilar, and, as they have no place in heaven, their abode is different. Neither do they resemble those intelligences whom, on account of their wisdom, the Platonists denominated Dæmons ; nor do they correspond either to the guardian Genii of the Romans, or the celestial virgins of paradise whom the Arabs denominate Houri. But the Peris hover in the balmy clouds, live in the colours of the rainbow, and as the exquisite purity of their nature rejects all nourishment grosser than the odours of flowers, they subsist by inhaling the fragrance of the jessamine and rose. Though their existence is not commensurate with the bounds of human life, they are not exempted from the common fate of mortals. With the Peris, in Persian mythology, are contrasted the Dives, a race of beings who differ from them in sex, appearance, and disposition. These are represented as of the male sex, cruel, wicked, and of the most hideous aspect ; or, as they are described by Mr Finch, "with ugly shapes, long horns, staring eyes, shaggy hair, great fangs, ugly paws, long tails, with such horrible difformity and deformity, that I wonder the poor women are not frightened therewith." Though they live very long, their lives are limited, and they are obnoxious to the blows of a human foe. From the malignancy of their nature, they not only wage war with mankind, but persecute the Peris with unremitting ferocity. Such are the brilliant and fanciful colours in which the imaginations of the Persian poets have depicted the charming race of the Peris ; and if we consider the romantic gallantry of the knights of chivalry and of the Crusaders, it will not appear improbable that their charms might occasionally fascinate the fervid imagination of an amorous troubadour. But, further, the intercourse of France and Italy with the Moors of Spain, and the prevalence of the Arabic as the language of science in the dark ages facilitated the introduction of their mythology amongst the nations of the West. Hence the romances of France, of Spain, and of Italy unite in describing the Fairy as an inferior spirit in a beautiful female form, possessing many of the amiable qualities of the Eastern Peri. Nay, it seems sufficiently clear that the romancers borrowed from the Arabs, not merely the general idea concerning those spirits, but even the names of individuals amongst them. The Peri, Mergian Banou (see Herbelot, ap. Peri), celebrated in the ancient Persian poetry, figures in the European romances under the various names of M'ourgue La Faye, sister to King Arthur; Urgande La Deconnue, protectress of Amadis de Gaul; and the Fata Morgana of Boiardo and Ariosto. The description of these nymphs by the troubadours and minstrels is in no respect inferior to those of the Peris. In the tale of Sir Launfal, in Way's Fabliaux, as well as in that of Sir Gruelan, in the same interesting collection, the reader will find the fairy of Normandy, or Bretagne, adorned with all the splendour of Eastern description. The fairy Melusina, also, who married Guy de Lusignan, Count of Poictou, under condition that he should never attempt to intrude upon her privacy, was of this latter class. She bore the count many children, and erected for him a magnificent castle by her magical art. Their harmony was uninterrupted until the prying husband broke the conditions of their union, by concealing himself to behold his wife make use of her enchanted bath. Hardly had Melusina discovered the indiscreet intruder, than, transforming herself into a dragon, she departed with a loud yell of lamentation, and was never again visible to mortal eyes ; although, even in the days of Brantome, she was supposed to be the protectress of her descendants, and was heard wailing as she sailed upon the blast round the turrets of the castle of Lusignan the night before it was demolished. For the full story the reader may consult the Bibliothèque des Romans.2 Gervase of Tilbury (pp. 895 and 989) assures us that in his days the lovers of the Fadæ, or Fairies, were numerous, and describes the rules of their intercourse with as much accuracy as if he had himself been engaged in such an affair. Sir David Lindsay also informs us that a leopard is the proper armorial bearing of those who spring from such intercourse, because that beast is generated by adultery of the pard and lioness. He adds, that Merlin, the prophet, was the first who adopted this cognizance, because he was "borne of faarie in adultrè and right sua the first duk of Guyenne was borne of a fee; and therefoir, the armes of Guyenne are a leopard" (MS. on Heraldry, Advocates' Library, w. q., i3). While, however, the Fairy of warmer climes was thus held up as an object of desire and of affection, those of Britain, and more especially those of Scotland, were far from being so fortunate ; but, retaining the unamiable qualities and diminutive size of the Gothic elves, they only exchanged that term for the more popular appellation of Fairies.
"Many ther beth of faëry."
II. Indeed, so singularly unlucky were the British Fairies, that, as has already been hinted, amid the wreck of the Gothic mythology, consequent upon the introduction of Christianity, they seem to have preserved with difficulty their own distinct characteristics, while, at the same time, they engrossed the mischievous attributes of several other classes of subordinate spirits, acknowledged by the nations of the North. The abstraction of children, for example, the well-known practice of the modern Fairy, seems, by the ancient Gothic nations, to have rather been ascribed to a species of nightmare, or hag, than to the berg-elfen, or duergar. In the ancient legend of St Margaret, of which there is a Saxo-Norman copy in Hickes' Thesaurus Linguar. Septen., and one, more modern, in the Auchinleck MSS., that lady encounters a fiend, whose profession it was, among other malicious tricks, to injure newborn children and their mothers ; a practice afterwards imputed to the Fairies. Gervase of Tilbury, in the Otia Imperialia, mentions certain hags, or lamiæ who entered into houses in the night-time to oppress the inhabitants while asleep, injure their persons and property, and carry off their children. He likewise mentions the Dracæ, a sort of water-spirits, who inveigle women and children into the recesses which they inhabit, beneath lakes and rivers, by floating past them, on the surface of the water, in the shape of gold rings or cups. The women, thus seized, are employed as nurses, and after seven years are permitted to revisit earth. Gervase mentions one woman, in particular, who had been allured by observing a wooden dish or cup float by her while washing clothes in a river. Being seized as soon as she reached the depths, she was conducted into one of these subterranean recesses, which she describes as very magnificent, and employed as nurse to one of the brood of the hag who had allured her. During her residence in this capacity, having accidentally touched one of her eyes with an ointment of serpent's grease, she perceived, at her return to the world, that she had acquired the faculty of seeing the dracæ when they intermingle themselves with men. Of this power she was, however, deprived by the touch of her ghostly mistress, whom she had one day incautiously addressed. It is a curious fact, that this story in almost all its parts is current in both the Highlands and Lowlands of Scotland, with no other variation than the substitution of Fairies for dracæ and the cavern of a hill for that of a river.3 These water fiends are thus characterized by Heywood in the Hierarchie:
The following Frisian superstition, related by Schott in his Physica Curiosa, p. 362, on the authority of Cornelius a Kempen, coincides more accurately with the popular opinions concerning the Fairies, than even the dracæ of Gervase, or the water-spirits of Thomas Heywood : "In the time of the Emperor Lotharius, in 830," says he, "many spectres infested Friesland, particularly the white nymphs of the ancients, which the moderns denominate witte wiven, who inhabited a subterraneous cavern, formed in a wonderful manner, without human art, on the top of a lofty mountain. These were accustomed to surprise benighted travellers, shepherds watching their herds and flocks, and women newly delivered, with their children; and convey them into their caverns, from which subterranean murmurs, the cries of children, the groans and lamentations of men, and sometimes imperfect words, and all kinds of musical sounds, were heard to proceed." The same superstition is detailed by Bekker in his World Bewitch'd, p. 196 of the English translation. As the different classes of spirits were gradually confounded, the abstraction of children seems to have been chiefly ascribed to the elves, or Fairies ; yet not so entirely as to exclude hags and witches from the occasional exertion of their ancient privilege. In Germany the same confusion of classes has not taken place. In the beautiful ballads of the Erl King, the Water King, and the Mer-Maid, we still recognize the ancient traditions of the Goths concerning the wald-elven and the dracæ.
"Spirits, that have o'er water gouvernement,
Are to mankind alike malevolent;
They trouble seas, flouds, rivers, brookes, and well,
Meres, lakes, and love to enhabit watry cells;
Hence noisome and pestiferous vapours raise;
Besides, they men encounter divers ways.
At wreckes some present are ; another sort,
Ready to cramp their joints that swim for sport:
One kind of these, the Italians fatæ name,
Fee the French, we sybils, and the same;
Others white nymphs, and those that have them seen,
Night ladies some, of which Habundia queen."
Hierarchie of the Blessed Angels, p. 507.
A similar superstition, concerning abstraction by demons, seems, in the time of Gervase of Tilbury, to have pervaded the greatest part of Europe. "In Catalonia," says that author, "there is a lofty mountain, named Cavagum, at the foot of which runs a river with golden sands, in the vicinity of which there are likewise mines of silver. This mountain is steep, and almost inaccessible. On its top, which is always covered with ice and snow, is a black and bottomless lake, into which, if a stone be thrown, a tempest suddenly rises; and near this lake, though invisible to men, is the porch of the palace of demons. In a town adjacent to this mountain, named Junchera, lived one Peter de Cabinam. Being one day teazed with the fretfulness of his young daughter, he, in his impatience, suddenly wished that the devil might take her; when she was immediately borne away by the spirits. About seven years afterwards, an inhabitant of the same city, passing by the mountain, met a man, who complained bitterly of the burthen he was constantly forced to bear. Upon enquiring the cause of his complaining, as he did not seem to carry any load, the man related, that he had been unwarily devoted to the spirits by an execration, and that they now employed him constantly as a vehicle of burthen. As a proof of his assertion, he added, that the daughter of his fellow-citizen was detained by the spirits, but that they were willing to restore her, if her father would come and demand her on the mountain. Peter de Cabinam, on being informed of this, ascended the mountain to the lake, and, in the name of God, demanded his daughter ; when, a tall, thin, withered figure, with wandering eyes, and almost bereft of understanding, was wafted to him in a blast of wind. After some time, the person, who had been employed as the vehicle of the spirits, also returned, when he related where the palace of the spirits was situated; but added, that none were permitted to enter but those, who devoted themselves entirely to the spirits; those who had been rashly committed to the devil by others, being only permitted, during their probation, to enter the porch." It may be proper to observe, that the superstitious idea, concerning the lake on the top of the mountain, is common to almost every high hill in Scotland. Wells, or pits, on the top of high hills, were likewise supposed to lead to the subterranean habitations of the Fairies. Thus Gervase relates (p. 975), "that he was informed the swine-herd of William Peverell, an English baron, having lost a brood-sow, descended through a deep abyss, in the middle of an ancient ruinous castle, situated on the top of a hill, called Bech, in search of it. Though a violent wind commonly issued from this pit, he found it calm ; and pursued his way till he arrived at a subterraneous region, pleasant and cultivated, with reapers cutting down corn, though the snow remained on the surface of the ground above. Among the ears of corn he discovered his sow, and was permitted to ascend with her, and the pigs which she had farrowed." Though the author seems to think that the inhabitants of this cave might be Antipodes, yet, as many such stories are related of the Fairies, it is probable that this narration is of the same kind. O£ a similar nature seems to be another superstition, mentioned by the same author, concerning the ringing of invisible bells, at the hour of one, in a field in the vicinity of Carleol, which, as he relates, was denominated Laikibraine, or Lai ki brait. From all these tales we may perhaps be justified in supposing that the faculties and habits ascribed to the Fairies, by the superstition of latter days, comprehended several originally attributed to other classes of inferior spirits.
III. The notions arising from the spirit of chivalry, combined to add to the Fairies certain qualities, less atrocious, indeed, but equally formidable with those which they derived from the last-mentioned source, and alike inconsistent with the powers of the duergar, whom we may term their primitive prototype. From an early period the daring temper of the northern tribes urged them to defy even the supernatural powers. In the days of Cæsar the Suevi were described, by their countrymen, as a people with whom the immortal gods dared not venture to contend. At a later period the historians of Scandinavia paint their heroes and champions, not as bending at the altar of their deities, but wandering into remote forests and caverns, descending into the recesses of the tomb, and extorting boons alike from gods and demons by dint of the sword and battle-axe. I will not detain the reader by quoting instances in which heaven is thus described as having been literally attempted by storm. He may consult Saxo, Olaus Wormius, Olaus Magnus, Torfaeus, Bartholin, and other northern antiquaries. With such ideas of superior beings, the Normans, Saxons, and other Gothic tribes brought their ardent' courage to ferment yet more highly in the genial climes of the south, and under the blaze of romantic chivalry. Hence, during the dark ages, the invisible world was modelled after the material; and the saints, to the protection of whom the knights-errant were accustomed to recommend themselves, were accoutred like preux chevaliers by the ardent imaginations of their votaries. With such ideas concerning the inhabitants of the celestial regions, we ought not to be surprised to find the inferior spirits, of a more dubious nature and origin, equipped in the same disguise. Gervase of Tilbury (Otia Imperial. ap. Script. rer. Brunsvic., vol. i, p. 797) relates the following popular story concerning a Fairy Knight : "Osbert, a bold and powerful baron, visited a noble family in the vicinity of Wandelbury, in the bishopric of Ely. Among other stories related in the social circle of his friends, who, according to custom, amused each other by repeating ancient tales and traditions, he was informed, that if any knight, unattended, entered an adjacent plain by moonlight, and challenged an adversary to appear, he would be immediately encountered by a spirit in the form of a knight. Osbert resolved to make the experiment, and set out, attended by a single squire, whom he ordered to remain without the limits of the plain, which was surrounded by an ancient entrenchment. On repeating the challenge, he was instantly assailed by an adversary, whom he quickly unhorsed, and seized the reins of his steed. During this operation, his ghostly opponent sprung up, and, darting his spear, like a javelin, at Osbert, wounded him in the thigh. Osbert returned in triumph with the horse, which he committed to the care of his servants. The horse was of a sable colour, as well as his whole accoutrements, and apparently of great beauty and vigour. He remained with his keeper till cockcrowing, when, with eyes flashing fire, he reared, spurned the ground, and vanished. On disarming himself, Osbert perceived that he was wounded, and that one of his steel boots was full of blood. Gervase adds, that as long as he lived, the scar of his wound opened afresh on the anniversary of the eve on which he encountered the spirit."4. Less fortunate was the gallant Bohemian knight who, travelling by night with a single companion, came in sight of a fairy host, arrayed under displayed banners. Despising the remonstrances of his friend, the knight pricked forward to break a lance with a champion who advanced from the ranks, apparently in defiance. His companion beheld the Bohemian overthrown, horse and man, by his aerial adversary; and returning to the spot next morning he found the mangled corpse of the knight and steed (Hierarchie of Blessed Angels, P. 554).
To the same current of warlike ideas we may safely attribute the long train of military processions which the Fairies are supposed occasionally to exhibit. The elves indeed seem in this point to be identified with the aerial host, termed, during the middle ages, the Milites Herlikini, or Herleurini, celebrated by Pet. Blesensis, and termed, in the life of St Thomas of Canterbury, the Familia Helliquinii. The chief of this band was originally a gallant knight and warrior; but having spent his whole possessions in the service of the emperor, and being rewarded with scorn, and abandoned to subordinate oppression, he became desperate, and with his sons and followers formed a band of robbers. After committing many ravages, and defeating all the forces sent against him, Hellequin, with his whole troop, fell in a bloody engagement with the Imperial host. His former good life was supposed to save him from utter reprobation; but he and his followers were condemned, after death, to a state of wandering which should endure till the last day. Retaining their military habits, they were usually seen in the act of justing together, or in similar warlike employments. See the ancient French romance of Richard sans Peur. Similar to this was the Nacht Lager, or midnight camp, which seemed nightly to beleaguer the walls of Prague,
but which disappeared upon recitation of the magical words, Vezelé Vezelé, ho ! ho ! ho ! For similar delusions, see Delrius, pp. 294, 295. The martial spirit of our ancestors led them to defy these aerial warriors ; and it is still currently believed that he who has courage to rush upon a fairy festival, and snatch from them their drinking cup, or horn, shall find it prove to him a cornucopia of good fortune, if he can bear it in safety across a running stream. Such a horn is said to have been presented to Henry I by a lord of Colchester (Gervas Tilb., p. 98o). A goblet is still carefully preserved in Edenhall; Cumberland, which is supposed to have been seized at a banquet of the elves, by one of the ancient family of Musgrave ; or, as others say, by one of their domestics, in the manner above described. The Fairy train vanished, crying aloud,
"With ghastly faces thronged, and fiery arms,"
The goblet took a name from the prophecy, under which it is mentioned in the burlesque ballad, commonly attributed to the Duke of Wharton, but in reality composed by Lloyd, one of his jovial companions. The duke, after taking a draught, had nearly terminated the "luck of Edenhall," had not the butler caught the cup in a napkin as it dropped from his grace's hands. I understand it is not now subjected to such risks, but the lees of wine are still apparent at the bottom.
"If this glass do break or fall,
Farewell the luck of Edenhall "
Some faint traces yet remain, on the Borders, of a conflict of a mysterious and terrible nature between mortals and the spirits of the wilds. The superstition is incidentally alluded to by Jackson, at the beginning of the seventeenth century. The fern seed, which is supposed to become visible only on St John's Eve,5. and at the very moment when the Baptist was born, is held by the vulgar to be under the special protection of the queen of Faery. But as the seed was supposed to have the quality of rendering the possessor invisible at pleasure6., and to be also of sovereign use in charms and incantations, persons of courage, addicted to these mysterious arts, were wont to watch in solitude to gather it at the moment when it should become visible. The particular charms by which they fenced themselves during this vigil are now unknown ; but it was reckoned a feat of no small danger, as the person undertaking it was exposed to the most dreadful assaults from spirits, who dreaded the effect of this powerful herb in the hands of a cabalist. "Much discourse," says Richard Bovet, "hath been about gathering of fern-seed (which is looked upon as a magical herb) on the night of Midsummereve ; and I remember I was told of one that went to gather it, and the spirits whisk't by his ears like bullets, and sometimes struck his hat, and other parts of his body : in fine, though he apprehended he had gotten a quantity of it, and secured it in papers, and a box besides, when he came home, he found all empty. But, most probable, this appointing of times, and hours, is of the devil's own institution, as well as the fast, that having once ensnared people to an obedience to his rules, he may with more facility oblige them to a stricter vassalage" (Pandæmonium, Lond., 1684, p. 2i'7). Such were the shades which the original superstition, concerning the Fairies, received from the chivalrous sentiments of the middle ages.
"God prosper long, from being broke,
The luck of Edenall."
Parody on Chevy Chace.
IV. An absurd belief in the fables of classical antiquity lent an additional feature to the character of the woodland spirits of whom we treat. Greece and Rome had not only assigned tutelary deities to each province and city, but had peopled, with peculiar spirits, the Seas, the Rivers, the Woods, and the Mountains. The memory of the Pagan creed was not speedily eradicated in the extensive Provinces through which it was once universally received ; and in many particulars it continued long to mingle with, and influence, the original superstitions of the Gothic nations. Hence we find the elves occasionally arrayed in the costume of Greece and Rome, and the Fairy Queen and her attendants transformed into Diana and her nymphs, and invested with their attributes and appropriate insignia (Delrius, pp. 168, 807). According to the same author, the Fairy Queen was also called Habundia. Like Diana, who in one capacity was denominated Hecate, the goddess of enchantment, the Fairy Queen is identified in popular tradition with the Gyre-Carline, Gay Carline, or mother witch of the Scottish peasantry. Of this personage, as an individual, we have but few notices. She is sometimes termed Nicnevin, and is mentioned in the Complaynt of Scotland, by Lindsay in his Dreme, p. 225, edit. 1590, and in his Interludes, apud Pinkerton's Scottish Poems, vol. ii, p. z8. But the traditionary accounts regarding her are too obscure to admit of explanation. In the burlesque fragment subjoined, which is copied from the Bannatyne MS., the Gyre Carline is termed the Queen of Jowis (Jovis, or perhaps Jews), and is, with great consistency, married to Mohammed 7. But chiefly in Italy were traced many dim characters of ancient mythology in the creed of tradition. Thus, so lately as 1536, Vulcan, with twenty of his Cyclops, is stated to have presented himself suddenly to a Spanish merchant, travelling in the night, through the forests of Sicily; an apparition which was followed by a dreadful eruption of Mount ) Ætna (Hierarchie of the Blessed Angels, p. 504). Of this singular mixture the reader will find a curious specimen in the following tale, wherein the Venus of antiquity assumes the manners of one of the Fays, or Fatæ, of romance. "In the year 1058, a young man of noble birth had been married at Rome, and during the period of his nuptial feast, having gone with his companions to play at ball, he put his marriage ring on the finger of a broken statue of Venus in the area, to remain, while he was engaged in the recreation. Desisting from the exercise, he found the finger, on which he had put his ring, contracted firmly against the palm, and attempted in vain either to break it, or to disengage his ring. He concealed the circumstance from his companions, and returned at night with a servant, when he found the finger extended, and his ring gone. He dissembled the loss, and returned to his wife; but whenever he attempted to embrace her, he found himself prevented by something dark and dense, which was tangible, though not visible, interposing between them; and he heard a voice saying, 'Embrace me ! for I am Venus, whom this day you wedded, and I will not restore your ring.' As this was constantly repeated, he consulted his relations, who had recourse to Palumbus, a priest, skilled in necromancy. He directed the young man to go, at a certain hour of night, to a spot among the ruins of ancient Rome, where four roads met, and wait silently till he saw a company pass by, and then, without uttering a word, to deliver a letter, which he gave him, to a majestic being, who rode in a chariot, after the rest of the company. The young man did as he was directed; and saw a company of all ages, sexes, and ranks, on horse and on foot, some joyful and others sad, pass along ; among whom he distinguished a woman in a meretricious dress, who, from the tenuity of her garments, seemed almost naked. She rode on a mule; her long hair, which flowed over her shoulders, was bound with a golden fillet; and in her hand was a golden rod, with which she directed her mule. In the close of the procession, a tall majestic figure appeared in a chariot, adorned with emeralds and pearls, who fiercely asked the young man, ' What he did there ? ' He presented the letter in silence, which the demon dared not refuse. As soon as he had read, lifting up his hands to heaven, he exclaimed, 'Almighty God! how long wilt thou endure the iniquities of the sorcerer Palumbus! ' and immediately dispatched some of his attendants, who, with much difficulty, extorted the ring from Venus, and restored it to its owner, whose infernal banns were thus dissolved" (Forduni Scotichronicon, vol. i, p. 407, cura Goodall).
But it is rather in the classical character of an infernal deity that the elfin queen may be considered, than as Hecate, the patroness of magic ; for not only in the romance writers, but even in Chaucer are the fairies identified with the ancient inhabitants of the classical hell. Thus Chaucer, in his Marchand's Tale, mentions
- Pluto that is king of fayrie-and
Proserpine and all her fayrie."
In the Golden Terge of Dunbar the same phraseology is adopted. Thus,
- "Thair was Pluto that elricke incubus
In cloke of grene, his court usit in sable."
Even so late as 1602, in Harsenet's Declaration of Popish Imposture, P• 57, Mercury is called Prince of the Fairies.
But Chaucer, and those poets who have adopted his phraseology, have only followed the romance-writers, for the same substitution occurs in the romance of Orfeo and Heurodis, in which the story of Orpheus and Eurydice is transformed into a beautiful romantic tale of faëry and the Gothic mythology engrafted on the fables of Greece. Heurodis is represented as wife of Orfeo and queen of Winchester, the ancient name of which city the romancer, with unparalleled ingenuity, discovers to have been Traciens, or Thrace. The monarch, her husband, had a singular genealogy:
- "His fader was comen of King Pluto,
And his moder of King Juno ;
That sum time were as godes y-holde,
For aventours that thai dede and tolde."
- "With an hundred knights and mo,
And damisels an hundred also,
Al on snowe white stedes ;
As white as milk were her wedes
Y no seigh never yete bifore,
So fair creatours y-core
The kinge hadde a croun on hede,
It nas of silver, no of golde red,
Ac it was of a precious ston
As bright as the sonne it schon."
- "A morwe the under tide is come,
And Orfeo hath his armes y-nome,
And wele ten hundred knights with him,
Ich y-armed stout and grim;
And with the quen wenten he,
Right upon that ympe tre.
Thai made scheltrom in iche aside,
And sayd thai wold there abide,
And dye ther everichon,
Er the quen schuld fram hem gon
Ac yete amiddes hem ful right,
The quen was oway y-twight,
With Fairi forth y-nome,
Men wizt never wher sche was become."
- "He that werd the fowe and griis,
And on the bed the purpur biis,
Now on the hard hethe he lith,
With leves and grease he him writh
He that had castells and tours,
Rivers, forests, frith with flowers,
Now thei it commence to snewe and freze,
This king mot make his bed in mese
He that had y-had knightes of priis,
Bifore him kneland and leuedis
Now seth he no thing that him liketh,
Bot wild wormes bi him striketh ;
He that had y-had plente
Of mete and drink, of ich deynte,
Now may he al daye digge and wrote,
Er he find his fille of rote.
In somer he liveth bi wild fruit,
And verien bot gode lite.
In winter may he no thing find,
Bot rotes, grases, and the rinde.
* * * * *
His here of his berd blac and rowe,
To his girdel stede was growe ; '
His harp, whereon was al his gle,
He hidde in ane holwe tre
And, when the weder was clere and bright,
He toke his harp to him wel right,
And harped at his owen will,
Into al the wode the soun gan shill,
That al the wild bestes that ther beth
For joie abouten him thai teth ;
And al the foules that ther wer,
Come and sete on ich a brere,
To here his harping a fine,
So miche melody was therein."
- "He might se him besides
Oft in hot undertides,
The King of Fairi, with his route,
Come to hunt him al about,
With dim cri and bloweing,
And houndes also with him berking ;
Ac no best thai no nome,
No never he nist whider thai bi come.
And other while he might hem se
As a gret ost bi him te,
Well atourned ten hundred knightes,
Ich y-armed to his rightes,
Of cuntenance stout and fers,
With mane desplaid baners ;
And ich his sword y-drawe hold,
Ac never he nist whider thai wold.
And otherwhile he seighe other thing;
Knightis and leuedis com daunceing,
In queynt atire gisely,
Queyete pas and softlie
Tabours and trumpes gede hem bi,
And al maner menstraci.
And on a day he seighe him biside,
Sexti leuedis on hors ride.
Gentil and jolif as brid on ris ;
Nought o man amonges hem ther nis ;
And ich a faucoun on bond here,
And riden on hauken bi o river
Of game thai found wel gode haunt,
Maulardes, hayroun, and cormoraunt ;
The foules of the water ariseth,
Ich faucoun hem wele deviseth,
Ich faucoun his pray slough,
That seize Orfeo and lough.
'Par fay,' quoth he, 'there is fair game
Hider Ichil bi Godes name,
Ich was y won swich work to se'
He aros, and thider gan to ;
To a leuedie hi was y-come,
Bihelde, and hath wel under nome,
And seth, bi al thing, that is
His owen quen dam Heurodis ;
Gem hi beheld her, and sche him eke,
Ac nouther to other a word no speke
For messais that sche on him seighe,
That had hen so riche and so heighe,
The teres fel out of her eighe ;
The other leuedis this y-seighe,
And maked her oway to ride,
Sche most with him rlo longer obide.
- ' Allas !' quoth he, ' nowe is mi woe,
Whi nil deth now me slo !
Allas ! too long last mi lief,
When y no dare nought with mi wif,
Nor bye to me o word speke ;
Allas whi nil miin hert breke !
Par fay,' quoth he, 'tide what betide,
Whider so this leuedis ride,
The selve way Ichil stretche ;
Of lief, no dethe, me no reche."
- "In at roche the leuedis rideth,
And he after and nought abideth ;
When he was in the roche y-go,
Wele thre mile other mo,
He com into a fair cuntray,
As bright soonne somers day,
Smothe and plain and al grene,
Hill no dale nas none ysene,
Amiddle the lond a castle he seighe,
Rich and reale and wonder heighe ;
Al the utmast wal
Was cler and schine of cristal ;
An hundred tours ther were about,
Degiselich and betaild stout;
The butrass come out of the diche
Of rede gold y-arched riche;
The bousour was anowed al,
Of ich maner deuers animal;
Within ther wer wide wones
Al of precious stones,
The werss piler onto biholde,
Was al of burnist gold
Al that lond was ever light,
For when it schuld be therk and night,
The riche stonnes light gonne,
Bright as doth at nonne the sonne
No man may tel, na thenke in thought,
The riche werk that ther was rought.
* * * * *
Than he gan biholde about al,
And seighe ful liggeand with in the wal,
Of folk that wer thidder y-brought,
And thought dede and nere nought;
Sum stode with outen hadde ;
And some none armes nade ;
And sum thurch the bodi hadde wounde ;
And sum lay wode y-bounde ;
And sum armed on hors sete
And sum astrangled as thai ete ;
And sum war in water adreynt ;
And sum with fire all for schreynt ;
Wives ther lay on childe bedde ;
Sum dede, and sum awedde ;
And wonder fele ther lay besides,
Right as thai slepe her undertides ;
Eche was thus in this warld y-nome,
With fairi thider y-come.9,
There he seize his owhen wiif,
Dame Heurodis, his liif liif,
Slepe under an ympe tree
Bi her clothes he knewe that it was she.
And when he had bihold this mervalis alle,
He went into the kinges halle ;
Then seigh he there a semly sight,
A tabernacle blisseful and bright;
Ther in her maister king sete,
And her quen fair and swete ;
Her crounes, her clothes schine so bright,
That unnethe bihold he hem might."
Orfeo and Heurodis, MS.
Orfeo, as a minstrel, so charms the Fairy King with the music of his harp that he promises to grant him whatever he should ask. He immediately demands his lost Heurodis, and, returning safely with her to Winchester, resumes his authority- a catastrophe less pathetic, indeed, but more pleasing than that of the classical story. The circumstances mentioned in this romantic legend correspond very exactly with popular tradition. Almost all the writers on demonology mention, as a received opinion, that the power of the demons is most predominant at noon and midnight. The entrance to the Land of Faery is placed in the wilderness, a circumstance which coincides with a passage in Lindsay's Complaint of the Papingo:
- "Bot sen my spreit mon from my bodye go,
I recommend it to the quene of Fary,
Eternally into her court to tarry
In wilderness amang the holtis hair."
Chaucer also agrees in this particular with our romancer
- "In his sadel he clombe anon,
And priked over stile and ston,
An Elfe Quene for to espie ;
Till he so long had riden and gone
That he fond in a privie wone
The countree of Faërie
Wherein he soughte north and south,
And often spired with his mouth,
In many a foreste wilde ;
For in that countree nas ther non,
That to him dorst ride or gon,
Neither wif ne childe."
Rime of Sir Thopas.
V. Other two causes, deeply affecting the superstition of which we treat, remain yet to be noticed. The first is derived from the Christian religion, which admits only of two classes of spirits, exclusive of the souls of men- Angels, namely, and devils. This doctrine had a necessary tendency to abolish the distinction among subordinate spirits which had been introduced by the superstitions of the Scandinavians. The existence of the Fairies was readily admitted, but as they had no pretensions to the angelic character, they were deemed to be of infernal origin. The union, also, which had been formed betwixt the elves and the Pagan deities was probably of disservice to the former, since every one knows that the whole synod of Olympus were accounted demons.
The fulminations of the Church were, therefore, early directed against those who consulted or consorted with the Fairies ; and, according to the inquisitorial logic, the innocuous choristers of Oberon and Titania were, without remorse, confounded with the sable inhabitants of the orthodox Gehennim ; while the rings, which marked their revels, were assimilated to the blasted sward on which the witches held their infernal sabbath (Delrii Disq. Mag., p. 179). This transformation early took place ; for, among the many crimes for which the famous Joan of Arc was called upon to answer, it was not the least heinous that she had frequented the Tree and Fountain, near Dompre, which formed the rendezvous of the Fairies, and bore their name ; that she had joined in the festive dance with the elves who haunted this aharmed spot ; had accepted of their magical bouquets, and availed herself of their talismans for the delivery of her country. Vide Acta Judiciaria contra Yohannam D'Arceam, vulgo vocatam, Johanne la Pucelle.
The Reformation swept away many of the corruptions of the Church of Rome, but the purifying torrent remained itself somewhat tinctured by the superstitious impurities of the soil over which it had passed. The trials of sorcerers and witches, which disgrace our criminal records, become even more frequent after the Reformation of the Church; as if human credulity, no longer amused by the miracles of Rome, had sought for food in the traditionary records of popular superstition. A Judaical observation of the precepts of the Old Testament also characterized the Presbyterian reformers. "Thou shalt not suffer a witch to live" was a text which at once (as they conceived) authorized their belief in sorcery, and sanctioned the penalty which they denounced against it. The Fairies were, therefore, in no better credit after the Reformation than before, being still regarded as actual demons, or something very little better. A famous divine, Doctor Jasper Brokeman, teaches us, in his system of divinity, "that they inhabit in those places that are polluted with any crying sin, as effusion of blood, or where unbelief or superstitione have gotten the upper hand" (Description of Feroe). The Fairies being on such bad terms with the divines, those who pretended to intercourse with them were, without scruple, punished as sorcerers, and such absurd charges are frequently stated as exaggerations of crimes in themselves sufficiently heinous.
Such is the case in the trial of the noted Major Weir and his sister, where the following mummery interlards a criminal indictment, too infamously flagitious to be farther detailed : "9th April 1670. Jean Weir, indicted of sorceries, committed by her when she lived and kept a school at Dalkeith : that she took employment from a woman, to speak in her behalf to the Queen of Fairii, meaning the devil; and that another woman gave her a piece of a tree, or root, the next day, and did tell her, that as long as she kept the same, she should be able to do what she pleased; and that same woman, from whom she got the tree, caused her spread a cloth before her door, and set her foot upon it, and to repeat thrice, in the posture foresaid, these words, 'All her losses and crosses go alongst to the doors,' which was truly a consulting with the devil, and an act of sorcery, &c. That after the spirit, in the shape of a woman, who gave her the piece of tree, had removed, she, addressing herself to spinning, and having spun but a short time, found more yarn upon the pirn than could possibly have come there by good means" 10, (Books of Adjournal).
Neither was the judgment of the criminal court of Scotland less severe against another familiar of the Fairies, whose supposed correspondence with the court of Elfland seems to have constituted the sole crime for which she was burned alive. Her name was Alison Pearson, and she seems to have been a very noted person. In a bitter satire against Adamson, Bishop of St Andrews, he is accused of consulting with sorcerers, particularly with this very woman, and an account is given of her travelling through Breadalbane in the company of the Queen of Faery, and of her descrying, in the court of Elfland, many persons who had been supposed at rest in the peaceful grave .11 Among these we find two remarkable personages, the secretary, young Maitland of Lethington, and one of the old lairds of Buccleuch. The cause of their being stationed in Elfland probably arose from the manner of their decease, which, being uncommon and violent, caused the vulgar to suppose that they had been abstracted by the Fairies. Lethington, as is generally supposed, died a Roman death during his imprisonment in Leith, and the Buccleuch whom I believe to be here meant was slain in a nocturnal scufe by the Kers, his hereditary enemies. Besides, they were both attached to the cause of Queen Mary and to the ancient religion, and were thence, probably, considered as more immediately obnoxious to the assaults of the powers of darkness.12, The indictment of Alison Pearson notices her intercourse with the Archbishop of St Andrews, and contains some particulars, worthy of notice, regarding the court of Elfland. It runs thus : "28th May 1586. Alison Pearson, in Byrehill, convicted of witchcraft, and of consulting with evil spirits, in the form of one Mr William Sympsoune, her cosin, who she affirmed was a gritt scollar, and doctor of medicine, that healed her of her diseases when she was twelve years of age ; having lost the power of her syde, and having a familiaritie with him for divers years, dealing with charms, and abuseing the common people by her arts of witchcraft, thir divers yeares by-past.
"Item, For hanting and repairing with the gude neighbours, and Queene of Elfland, thir divers years by-past, as she had confest ; and that she had friends in that court, which were of her own blude, who had gude acquaintance of the Queene of Elfland, which might have helped her; but she was whiles well, and whiles ill, sometimes with them, and other times away frae them; and that she would be in her bed haille and feire, and would not wytt where she would be the mom; and that she saw not the Queene this seven years, and that she was seven years ill handled in the court of Elfland ; that, however, she had gude friends there, and that it was the gude neighbours that healed her, under God; and that she was comeing and going to St Andrews to haile folkes thir many years past.
"Item, Convict of the said act of witchcraft, in as far as she confest that the said Mr William Sympsoune, who was her guidsir sone, borne in Stireling, who was the King's smith, who, when about eight years of age, was taken away by ane Egyptian into Egypt; which Egyptian was a gyant, where he remained twelve years, and then came home.
"Item, That she being in Grange Muir, with some other folke, she, being sick, lay downe ; and, when alone, there came a man to her, clad in green, who said to her, if she would be faithful, he would do her good; but she, being feared, cried out, but naebodye came to her; so she said, if he came in God's name, and for the gude of her saule, it was well; but he gaid away: that he appeared to her another time like a lustie man, and many mer. and women with him; that, at seeing him, she signed herself and prayed, and past with them, and saw them making merrie with pypes, and gude cheir and wine, and that she was carried with them; and that when she telled any of these things, she was sairlie tormentit by them; and that the first time she gaed with them, she gat a sair straike frae one of them, which took all the poustie 13, of her syde frae her, and left ane ill-far'd mark on her syde.
"Item, That she saw the gude neighbours make their sawes 14, with panns and fyres, and that they gathered the herbs before the sun was up, and they came verie fearful sometimes to her, and flaide 15, her verie sair, which made her cry, and threatened they would use her worse than before ; and, at last, they took away the power of her haile syde frae her, which made her lye many weeks. Sometimes they would come and sitt by her, and promise all that she should never want, if she would be faithful, but if she would speak and telle of them, they should murther her; and that Mr William Sympsoune is with them, who healed her and telt her all things ; that he is a young man not six years older than herself, and that he will appear to her before the court comes ; that he told her he was taken away by them, and he bid her sign herself that she be not taken away, for the teind of them are tane to hell everie year.
"Item, That the said Mr William told her what herbs were fit to cure every disease, and how to use them ; and particularlie tauld, that the Bishop of St Andrews laboured under sindrie diseases, sic as the ripples, trembling, fever, flux, &c. and bade her make a sawe, and anoint several parts of his body therewith, and gave directions for making a posset, which she made and gave him." For this idle story the poor woman actually suffered death. Yet, notwithstanding the fervent arguments thus liberally used by the orthodox, the common people, though they dreaded even to think or speak about the Fairies, by no means unanimously acquiesced in the doctrine which consigned them to eternal perdition. The inhabitants of the Isle of Man call them the "good people ; and say they live in wilds and forests, and on mountains, and shun great cities, because of the wickedness acted therein : all the houses are blessed where they visit, for they fly vice. A person would be thought impudently prophane who should suffer his family to go to bed, without having first set a tub, or pail, full of clean water, for those guests to bathe themselves in, which the natives aver they constantly do, as soon as ever the eyes of the family are closed, wherever they vouchsafe to come" (Waldron's Works, p. 126). There are some curious and perhaps anomalous facts concerning the history of Fairies, in a sort of Cock-lane narrative, contained in a letter from Moses Pitt to Dr Edward Fowler, Lord Bishop of Gloucester, printed at London in 1696, and preserved in Morgan's Phœ nix Britannicus, 4to, London, 1732.
Anne Jefferies was born in the parish of St Teath in the county of Cornwall in 1626. Being the daughter of a poor man, she resided as servant in the house of the narrator's father, and waited upon the narrator himself in his childhood. As she was knitting stockings in an arbour of the garden, "six small people, all in green clothes," came suddenly over the garden wall ; at the sight of whom, being much frightened, she was seized with convulsions, and continued so long sick that she became as a changeling, and was unable to walk. During her sickness she frequently exclaimed, "They are just gone out of the window ! they are just gone out of the window! do you not see them ?" These expressions, as she afterwards declared, related to their disappearing. During the harvest, when every one was employed, her mistress walked out ; and dreading that Anne, who was extremely weak and silly, might injure herself or the house, by the fire, with some difficulty persuaded her to walk in the orchard till her return. She accidentally hurt her leg, and, at her return, Anne cured it by stroking it with her hand. She appeared to be informed of every particular, and asserted that she had this information from the Fairies, who had caused the misfortune. After this she performed numerous cures, but would never receive money for them. From harvest time to Christmas she was fed by the Fairies, and ate no other victuals but theirs. The narrator affirms, that looking one day through the keyhole of the door of her chamber he saw her eating, and that she gave him a piece of bread, which was the most delicious he ever tasted. The Fairies always appeared to her in even numbers, never less than two nor more than eight at a time. She had always a sufficient stock of salves and medicines, and yet neither made nor purchased any ; nor did she ever appear to be in want of money. She one day gave a silver cup, containing about a quart, to the daughter of her mistress, a girl about four years old, to carry to her mother, who refused to receive it. The narrator adds, that he had seen her dancing in the orchard among the trees, and that she informed him she was then dancing with the Fairies. The report of the strange cures which she performed, soon attracted the attention of both ministers and magistrates. The ministers endeavoured to persuade her that the Fairies, by which she was haunted, were evil spirits, and that she was under the delusion of the devil. After they had left her she was visited by the Fairies, while in great perplexity ; who desired her to cause those who termed them evil spirits to read that place of scripture, First Epistle of John, chap. iv, x : Dearly beloved, believe not every spirit, but try the spirits, whether they are of God, etc. Though Anne Jefferies could not read, she produced a Bible folded down at this passage. By the magistrates she was confined three months, without food, in Bodmin jail, and afterwards for some time in the house of justice Tregeagle. Before the constable appeared to apprehend her, she was visited by the Fairies, who informed her what was intended, and advised her to go with him. When this account was given, on May i, 1696, she was still alive; but refused to relate any particulars of her connexion with the Fairies, or the occasion on which they deserted her, lest she should again fall under the cognizance of the magistrates.
Anne Jefferies' Fairies were not altogether singular in maintaining their good character in opposition to the received opinion of the Church. Aubrey and Lilly, unquestionably judges in such matters, had a high opinion of these beings, if we may judge from the following succinct and business-like memorandum of a ghost-seer: "Anno 1670. Not far from Cirencester was an apparition. Being demanded whether a good spirit or a bad, returned no answer, but disappeared with a curious perfume, and most melodious twang. M. W. Lilly believes it was a fairie. So Propertius,
- "Omnia finierat ; tenues secessit in auras,
Mansit odor, possis scire fuisse Deam ! "
Aubrey's Miscellanies, p. So.
Webster gives an account of a person who cured diseases by means of a white powder. "To this I shall only add thus much, that the man was accused for invoking and calling upon evil spirits, and was a very simple and illiterate person to any man's judgment, and had formerly been very poor, but had gotten some pretty little means to maintain himself, his wife, and diverse small children, by his cures done with his white powder, of which there were sufficient proofs; and the judge asking him how he came by the powder, he told a story to this effect. That one night, before day was gone, as he was going home from his labour, being very sad and full of heavy thoughts, not knowing how to get meat and drink for his wife and children, he met a fair woman in fine clothes, who asked him why he was so sad, and he told her that it was by reason of his poverty, to which she said, that if he would follow her counsel, she would help him to that which would serve to get him a good living; to which he said he would consent with all his heart, so it were not by unlawful ways : she told him that it should not be by any such ways, but by doing good, and curing of sick people; and so warning him strictly to meet her there the next night, at the same time, she departed from him, and he went home. And the next night, at the time appointed, he duly waited, and she (according to promise) came, and told him that it was well that he came s o duly, otherwise he had missed that benefit, that she intended to do unto him, and so bade him follow her, and not be afraid. Thereupon she led him to a little hill, and she knocked three times, and the hill opened, and they went in, and came to a fair hall, wherein was a Queen sitting in great state, and many people about her, and the gentlewoman that brought him presented him to the Queen, and she said he was welcome, and bid the gentlewoman give him some of the white powder, and teach him how to use it, which she did, and gave him a little wood box full of the white powder, and bade him give two or three grains of it to any that were sick, and it would heal them; and so she brought him forth of the hill, and so they parted. And, being asked by the judge, whether the place within the hill, which he called a hall, were light or dark, he said, indifferent, as it is with us in the twilight; and being asked how he got more powder, he said, when he wanted, he went to that hill, and knocked three times, and said every time, I am coming, I am coming, whereupon it opened, and he, going in, was conducted by the aforesaid woman to the Queen, and so had more powder given him. This was the plain and simple story (however it may be judged of) that he told before the judge, the whole court, and the jury ; and there being no proofs, but what cures he had done to very many, the jury did acquit him : and I remember the j udge said, when all the evidence was heard, that if he were to assign his punishment, he should be whipped from thence to Fairy-hall ; and did seem to judge it to be a delusion or an imposture" (Webster's Displaying of supposed Witchcraft, p. 301).
A rustic, also, whom Jackson taxed with magical practices, about 1620, obstinately denied that the good King of the Fairies had any connexion with the devil; and some of the Highland seers, even in our day, have boasted of their intimacy with the elves, as an innocent and advantageous connexion. One Macoan, in Appin, the last person eminently gifted with the second sight, professed to my learned and excellent friend, Mr Ramsay, of Ochtertyre, that he owed his prophetic visions to their intervention.
VI. There remains yet another cause to be noticed, which seems to have induced a considerable alteration into the popular creed of England, respecting Fairies. Many poets of the sixteenth century, and, above all, our immortal Shakespeare, deserting the hackneyed fictions of Greece and Rome, sought for machinery in the superstitions of their native country. "The fays, which nightly dance upon the wold," were an interesting subject; and the creative imagination of the bard, improving upon the vulgar belief, assigned to them many of those fanciful attributes and occupations which posterity have since associated with the name of Fairy. In such employments, as raising the drooping flower, and arranging the disordered chamber, the Fairies of South Britain gradually lost the harsher character of the dwarfs, or elves. Their choral dances were enlivened by the introduction of the merry goblin Puck16, for whose freakish pranks they exchanged their original mischievous propensities. The Fairies of Shakespeare, Drayton, and Mennis, therefore, at first exquisite fancy portraits, may be considered as having finally operated a change in the original which gave them birth 17.
While the fays of South Britain received such attractive and poetical embellishments, those of Scotland, who possessed no such advantage, retained more of their ancient and appropriate character. Perhaps, also, the persecution which these sylvan deities underwent at the instance of the stricter Presbyterian clergy had its usual effect in hardening their dispositions, or at least in rendering them more dreaded by those among whom they dwelt. The face of the country, too, might have had some effect; as we should naturally attribute a less malicious disposition, and a less frightful appearance, to the fays who glide by moonlight through the oaks of Windsor, than to those who haunt the solitary heaths and lofty mountains of the north. The fact at least is certain, and it has not escaped a late ingenious traveller, that the character of the Scottish Fairy is more harsh and terrific than that which is ascribed to the elves of our sister kingdom. See Stoddart's View of Scenery and Manners in Scotland.
Some curious particulars concerning the Daoine Shie, or Men of Peace, for so the Highlanders call Fairies, may be found in Dr Graham's Sketches of Picturesque Scenery on the Southern Confines of Perthshire. They are, though not absolutely malevolent, believed to be a peevish, repining, and envious race, who enjoy, in the subterranean recesses, a kind of shadowy splendour. The Highlanders are at all times unwilling to speak of them, but especially on Friday, when their influence is supposed to be particularly extensive. As they are supposed to be invisibly present, they are at all times to be spoken of with respect.
The Fairies of Scotland are represented as a diminutive race of beings, of a mixed, or rather dubious nature, capricious in their dispositions, and mischievous in their resentment. They inhabit the interior of green hills, chiefly those of a conical form, in Gaelic termed Sighan, on which they lead their dances by moonlight ; impressing upon the surface the marks of circles, which sometimes appear yellow and blasted, sometimes of a deep green hue, and within which it is dangerous to sleep, or to be found after sunset. The removal of those large portions of turf, which thunderbolts sometimes scoop out of the ground with singular regularity, is also ascribed to their agency. Cattle, which are suddenly seized with the cramp, or some similar disorder, are said to be elf-shot ; and the approved cure is to chafe the parts affected with a blue bonnet, which, it may readily be believed, often restores the circulation. The triangular flints frequently found in Scotland, with which the ancient inhabitants probably barbed their shafts, are supposed to be the weapons of Fairy resentment, and are termed elf arrow-heads. The rude brazen battle-axes of the ancients, commonly called celts, are also ascribed to their manufacture. But, like the Gothic duergar, their skill is not confined to the fabrication of arms; for they are heard sedulously hammering in linns, precipices, and rocky or cavernous situations, where, like the dwarfs of the mines mentioned by Georg. Agricola, they busy themselves in imitating the actions and the various employments of men. The brook of Beaumont, for example, which passes in its course by numerous linns and caverns, is notorious for being haunted by the Fairies ; and the perforated and rounded stones, which are formed by trituration in its channel, are termed by the vulgar; fairy cups and dishes. A beautiful reason is assigned by Fletcher for the fays frequenting streams and fountains. He tells us of
- "A virtuous well, about whose flowery banks
The nimble-footed Fairies dance their rounds,
By the pale moon-shine, dipping oftentimes
Their stolen children, so to make them free
From dying flesh, and dull mortality."'
Like the feld elfen of the Saxons, the usual dress of the Fairies is green; though, on the moors, they have been sometimes observed in heath-brown, or in weeds dyed with the stoneraw, or lichen18. They often ride in invisible procession, when their presence is discovered by the shrill ringing of their bridles. On these occasions they sometimes borrow mortal steeds ; and when such are found at morning, panting and fatigued in their stalls, with their manes and tails dishevelled and entangled, the grooms, I presume, often find this a convenient excuse for their situation; as the common belief of the elves quaffing the choicest liquors in the cellars of the rich (see the story of Lord Duffus, below) might occasionally cloak the delinquencies of an unfaithful butler.
The Fairies, beside their equestrian processions, are addicted, it would seem, to the pleasures of the chase. A young sailor travelling by night from Douglas, in the Isle of Man, to visit his sister residing in Kirk Merlugh, heard the noise of horses, the holloa of a huntsman, and the sound of a horn. Immediately afterwards, thirteen horsemen, dressed in green and gallantly mounted, swept past him. Jack was so much delighted with the sport that he followed them, and enjoyed the sound of the horn for some miles ; and it was not till he arrived at his sister's house that he learned the danger which he had incurred. I must not omit to mention, that these little personages are expert jockeys, and scorn to ride the little Manks ponies, though apparently well suited to their size. The exercise, therefore, falls heavily upon the English and Irish horses brought into the Isle of Man. Mr Waldron was assured by a gentleman of Ballafletcher, that he had lost three or four capital hunters by these nocturnal excursions (Waldron's Works, p. i 32). From the same author we learn, that the Fairies sometimes take more legitimate modes of procuring horses. A person of the utmost integrity informed him, that, having occasion to sell a horse, he was accosted among the mountains by a little gentleman plainly dressed, who priced his horse, cheapened him, and after some chaffering finally purchased him. No sooner had the buyer mounted; and paid the price, than he sunk through the earth, horse and man, to the astonishment and terror of the seller ; who experienced, however, no inconvenience from dealing with so extraordinary a purchaser (ibid., p. 135).
It is hoped the reader will receive, with due respect, these and similar stories told by Mr Waldron; for he himself, a scholar and a gentleman, informs us, "as to circles in grass, and the impressions of small feet among the snow, I cannot deny but I have seen them frequently, and once thought I heard a whistle, as though in my ear, when nobody that could make it was near me." In this passage there is a curious picture of the contagious effects of a superstitious atmosphere. Waldron had lived so long among the Manks, that he was almost persuaded to believe their legends.
The worthy Captain George Burton communicated to Richard Bovet, gent., author of the interesting work entitled, Pandæmonium, or the Devil's Cloister Opened, the following singular account of a lad called the Fairy Boy of Leith, who, it seems, acted as drummer to the elves, who weekly held rendezvous in the Calton Hill, near Edinburgh.
"About fifteen years since, having business that detained me for some time at Leith, which is near Edinburgh, in the kingdom of Scotland, I often met some of my acquaintance at a certain house there, where we used to drink a glass of wine for our refection; the woman which kept the house was of honest reputation among the neighbours, which made me give the more attention to what she told me one day about a fairy boy (as they called him) who lived about that town. She had given me so strange an account of him, that I desired her that I might see him the first opportunity, which she promised; and not long after, passing that way, she told me there was the fairy boy, but a little before I came by ; and, casting her eye into the street, said, 'Look, you, sir, yonder he is at play with those other boys,' and designing him to me, I went, and by smooth words, and a piece of money, got him to come into the house with me ; where, in the presence of divers people, I demanded of him several astrological questions, which he answered with great subtilty ; and, through all his discourse, carried it with a cunning much above his years, which seemed not to exceed ten or eleven.
"He seemed to make a motion like drumming upon the table with his fingers, upon which I asked him, Whether he could beat a drum ? To which he replied, Yes, sir, as well as any man in Scotland; for every Thursday night I beat all points to a sort of people that used to meet under yonder hill (pointing to the great hill between Edinburgh and Leith). How, boy ? quoth I, What company have you ,there ? There are, sir (said he), a great company both of men and women, and they are entertained with many sorts of musick, besides my drum ; they have, besides, plenty of variety of meats and wine, and many times we are carried into France or Holland in a night, and return again, and, whilst we are there, we enjoy all the pleasures the country doth afford. I demanded of him, how they got under that hill ? To which he replied, that there were a great pair of gates that opened to them, though they were invisible to others ; and that within there were brave large rooms, as well accommodated as most in Scotland. I then asked him, How I should know what he said to be true ? Upon which he told me he would read my fortune, saying, I should have two wives, and that he saw the forms of them sitting on my shoulders ; that both would be very handsome women. As he was thus speaking, a woman of the neighbourhood coming into the room, demanded of him, What her fortune should be ? He told her that she had two bastards before she was married, which put her in such a rage, that she desired not to hear the rest.
"The woman of the house told me, that all the people in Scotland could not keep him from the rendezvous on Thursday night; upon which, by promising him some snore money, I got a promise of him to meet me at the same place, in the afternoon, the Thursday following, and so dismist him at that time. The boy came again, at the place and time appointed, and I had prevailed with some friends to continue with me (if possible) to prevent his moving that night. He was placed between us, and answered many questions, until, about eleven of the clock, he was got away unperceived of the company, but I, suddenly missing him, hasted to the door, and took hold of him, and so returned him into the same room ; we all watched him, and, on a sudden, he was again out of doors ; I followed him close, and he made a noise in the street, as if he had been set upon ; but from that time I could never see him. - GEORGE BURTON."
Pandæmonium, or the Devil's Cloyster. By Richard Bovet, Gent. Lond., 1684, p. 172.
From the History of the Irish Bards, by Mr Walker, and from the glossary subjoined to the lively and ingenious tale of Castle Rackrent, we learn, that the same ideas concerning Fairies are current among the vulgar in that country. The latter authority mentions their inhabiting the ancient tumuli, called Barrows, and their abstracting mortals. They are termed "the good people" ; and when an eddy of wind raises loose dust and sand the vulgar believe that it announces a Fairy procession, and bid God speed their journey.
The Scottish Fairies, in like manner, sometimes reside in subterranean abodes in the vicinity of human habitations, or, according to the popular phrase, under the "door-stane," or threshold; in which situation they sometimes establish an intercourse with men by borrowing and lending, and other kindly offices. In this capacity they are termed "the good neighbours," 19, from supplying privately the wants of their friends, and assisting them in all their transactions, while their favours are concealed. Of this the traditionary story of Sir Godfrey Macculloch forms a curious example.
As this Gallovidian gentleman was taking the air on horseback, near his own house, he was suddenly accosted by a little old man arrayed in green and mounted upon a white palfrey. After mutual salutation, the old man gave Sir Godfrey to understand that he resided under his habitation, and that he had great reason to complain of the direction of a drain, or common sewer, which emptied itself directly into his chamber of dais20, Sir Godfrey Macculloch was a good deal startled at this extraordinary complaint ; but, guessing the nature of the being he had to deal with, he assured the old man, with great courtesy, that the direction of the drain should be altered ; and caused it to be done accordingly. Many years afterwards Sir Godfrey had the misfortune to kill, in a fray, a gentleman of the neighbourhood. He was apprehended, tried, and condemned 21, The scaffold upon which his head was to be struck off, was erected on the Castle-hill of Edinburgh; but hardly had he reached the fatal spot, when the old man, upon his white palfrey, pressed through the crowd with the rapidity of lightning. Sir Godfrey, at his command, sprung on behind him ; the "good neighbour" spurred his horse down the steep bank, and neither he nor the criminal were ever again seen.
The most formidable attribute of the elves was their practice of carrying away and exchanging children ; and that of stealing human souls from their bodies. "A persuasion prevails among the ignorant," says the author of a MS. history of Moray, "that in a consumptive disease, the Fairies steal away the soul, and put the soul of a Fairy in the room of it." This belief prevails chiefly along the eastern coast of Scotland, where a practice, apparently of druidical origin, is used to avert the danger. In the increase of the March moon, withies of oak and ivy are cut and twisted into wreaths or circles, which they preserve till next March. After that period, when persons are consumptive, or children hectic, they cause them to pass thrice through these circles. In other cases the cure was more rough, and at least as dangerous as the disease, as will appear from the following extract :-
According to the earlier doctrine concerning the original corruption of human nature, the power of demons over infants had been long reckoned considerable in the period intervening between birth and baptism. During this period, therefore, children were believed to be particularly liable to abstraction by the fairies, and mothers chiefly dreaded the substitution of changelings in the place of. their own offspring. Various monstrous charms existed in Scotland for procuring the restoration of a child which had been thus stolen; but the most efficacious of them was supposed to be the roasting of the supposititious child upon the live embers, when it was believed it would vanish, and the true child appear in the place whence it had been originally abstracted.22, It may be questioned if this experiment could now be made without the animadversion of the law. Even that which is prescribed in the following legend is rather too hazardous for modern use:-
"There is one thing remarkable in this parish of Suddie (in Inverness-shire) which I think proper to mention. There is a small hill N.W. from the church, commonly called Therdy Hill, or Hill of Therdie, as some term it; on the top of which there is a well, which I had the curiosity to view, because of the several reports concerning it. When children happen to be sick, and languish long in their malady, so that they almost turn skeletons, the common people imagine they are taken away (at least the substance) by spirits, called Fairies, and the shadow left with them; so at a particular season in summer, they leave them all night, themselves watching at a distance, near this well, and this they imagine will either end or mend them; they say many more do recover than do not. Yea, an honest tenant who lives hard by it, and whom I had the curiosity to discourse about it, told me it has recovered some, who were about eight or nine years of age, and to his certain knowledge, they bring adult persons to it ; for, as he was passing one dark night, he heard groanings and coming to the well, he found a man, who had been long sick, wrapped in a plaid, so that he could scarcely move, a stake being fixed in the earth, with a rope, or tedder, that was about the plaid; he had no sooner enquired what he was, but he conjured him to loose him, and out of sympathy he was pleased to slacken that, wherein he was, as I may so speak, swaddled; but, if I right remember, he signified, he did not recover "
Account of the Parish of Suddie, apud Macfarlane's MSS.).
The most minute and authenticated account of an exchanged child is to be found in Waldron's Isle of Man, a book from which I have derived much legendary information. "I was prevailed upon myself," says that author, "to go and see a child, who, they told me, was one of these changelings, and, indeed, must own, was not a little surprised, as well as shocked, at the sight. Nothing under heaven could have a more beautiful face; but, though between five and six years old, and seemingly healthy, he was so far from being able to walk or stand, that he could not so much as move any one joint; his limbs were vastly long for his age, but smaller than any infant's of six months ; his complexion was perfectly delicate, and he had the finest hair in the world. He never spoke nor cried, ate scarce any thing, and was very seldom seen to smile; but if any one called him a. fairy-elf, he would frown, and fix his eyes so earnestly on those who said it, as if he would look them through. His mother, or at least his supposed mother, being very poor, frequently went out a chareing; and left him a whole day together. The neighbours, out of curiosity, have often looked in at the window, to see how he behaved while alone ; which whenever they did, they were sure to find him laughing, and in the utmost delight. This made them judge that he was not without company, more pleasing to him than any mortals could be; and what made this conjecture seem the more reasonable, was, that if he were left ever so dirty, the woman, at her return, saw him with a clean face, and his hair combed with the utmost exactness and nicety" (p. 128).
"A certain woman having put out her child to nurse in the country, found, when she came to take it home, that its form was so much altered, that she scarce knew it ; nevertheless, not knowing what time might do, took it home for her own. But when, after some years, it could neither speak nor go, the poor woman was fain to carry it, with much trouble, in her arms ; and one day, a poor man coming to the door, ' God bless you, mistress,' said he, ' and your poor child ; be pleased to bestow something on a poor man.' ' Ah ! this child,' replied she, ' is the cause of all my sorrow,' and related what had happened, adding, moreover, that she thought it changed, and none of her child. The old man, whom years had rendered more prudent in such matters, told her, to find out the truth, she should make a clear fire, sweep the hearth very clean, and place the child fast in his chair, that he might not fall, before it, and break a dozen eggs, and place the four-and-twenty halfshells before it ; then go out, and listen at the door : for, if the child spoke, it was certainly a changeling ; and then she should carry it out, and leave it on the dunghill to cry, and not to pity it, till she heard its voice no more. The woman, having done all things according to these words, heard the child say, 'Seven years old was I before I came to the nurse, and four years have I lived since, and never saw so many milk pans before.' So the woman took it up, and left it upon the dunghill to cry, and not to be pitied, till at last she thought the voice went up into the sir ; and coming, found there her own natural and well favoured child "
(Grose's Provincial Glossary, quoted from A Pleasant Treatise on Witchcraft).
Waldron gives another account of a poor woman to whose offspring, it would seem, the Fairies had taken a special fancy. A few nights after she was delivered of her first child, the family were alarmed by a dreadful cry of "Fire !" All flew to the door, while the mother lay trembling in bed, unable to protect her infant, which was snatched from the bed by an invisible hand. Fortunately, the return of the gossips, after the causeless alarm, disturbed the Fairies, who dropped the child, which was found sprawling and shrieking upon the threshold. At the good woman's second accouchement, a tumult was heard in the cowhouse, which drew thither the whole assistants. They returned when they found that all was quiet among the cattle, and to ! the second child had been carried from the bed and dropped in the middle of the lane. But upon the third occurrence of the same kind, the company were again decoyed out of the sick woman's -chamber by a false alarm, leaving only a nurse, who was detained by the bonds of sleep. On this last occasion, the mother plainly saw her child removed, though the means were invisible. She screamed for assistance to the nurse ; but the old lady had partaken too deeply of the cordials which circulate on such joyful occasions, to be easily awakened. In short, the child was this time fairly carried off, and a withered, deformed creature left in its stead, quite naked, with the clothes of the abstracted infant rolled in a bundle by its side. This creature lived nine years, ate nothing but a few herbs, and neither spoke, stood, walked, nor performed any other functions of mortality ; resembling in all respects the changeling already mentioned (Waldron's Works, ibid.).
But the power of the Fairies was not confined to unchristened children alone ; it was supposed frequently to extend to full-grown persons, especially such as, in an unlucky hour, were devoted to the devil by the execration of parents and of masters ; 23, or those who were found asleep under a rock, or on a green hill, belonging to the Fairies, after sunset, or, finally, to those who unwarily joined their orgies. A tradition existed, during the seventeenth century, concerning an ancestor of the noble family of Duffus, who, "walking abroad in the fields, near to his own house, was suddenly carried away, and found the next day at Paris, in the French king's cellar, with a silver cup in his hand. Being brought into the king's presence, and questioned by him who he was and how he came thither, he told his name, his country, and the place of his residence; and that, on such a day of the month, which proved to be the day immediately preceding, being in the fields, he heard the noise of a whirlwind, and of voices, crying, 'Horse and Hattock ! ' (this is the word which the Fairies are said to use when they remove from any place) whereupon he cried 'Horse and Hattock ' also, and was immediately caught up, and transported through the air, by the Fairies, to that place, where, after he had drunk heartily, he fell asleep, and before he woke the rest of the company were gone, and had left him in the posture wherein he was found. It is said the king gave him the cup, which was found in his hand, and dismissed him." The narrator affirms that the cup was still preserved and known by the name of the Fairy Cup. He adds, that Mr Steward, tutor to the then Lord Duffus, had informed him, that, "when a boy, at the school of Forres, he, and his school-fellows, were upon a time whipping their tops in the church-yard, before the door of the church, when, though the day was calm, they heard a noise of a wind, and at some distance saw the small dust begin to rise and turn round, which motion continued advancing till it came to the place where they were, whereupon they began to bless themselves ; but one of their number being, it seems, a little more bold and confident than his companions, said, 'Horse and Hattock with my top,' and immediately they all saw the top lifted up from the ground, but could not see which way it was carried, by reason of a cloud of dust which was raised at the same time. They sought for the top all about the place where it was taken up, but in vain ; and it was found afterwards in the church-yard, on the other side of the church." This puerile legend is contained in a letter from a learned gentleman in Scotland to Mr Aubrey, dated 15th March 1695, published in Aubrey's Miscellanies, p. 158.
Notwithstanding the special example of Lord Duffus, and of the top, it is the common opinion, that persons falling under the power of the Fairies were only allowed to revisit the haunts of men after seven years had expired. At the end of seven years more, they again disappeared, after which they were seldom seen among mortals: The accounts they gave of their situation differ in some particulars. Sometimes they were represented as leading a life of constant restlessness, and wandering by moonlight. According to others, they inhabited a pleasant region, where, however, their situation was rendered horrible by the sacrifice of one or more individuals to the devil, every seventh year. This circumstance is mentioned in Alison Pearson's indictment, and in the Tale of the Young Tamlane, where it is termed "the paying the kane to hell," or, according to some recitations, "the teind," or tenth. This is the popular reason assigned for the desire of the Fairies to abstract young children as substitutes for themselves in this dreadful tribute. Concerning the mode of winning, or recovering, persons abstracted by the Fairies, tradition differs; but the popular opinion, contrary to what may be inferred from the following tale, supposes, that the recovery must be effected within a year and a day, to be held legal in the Fairy court. This feat, which was reckoned an enterprise of equal difficulty and danger, could only be accomplished on Hallowe'en, at the great annual procession of the Fairy court24. Of this procession the following description is found in Montgomery's Flyting against Polwart, apud Watson's Collection of Scots Poems, 1709, Part III, p. 12.
- "In the hinder end of harvest, on All-Hallowe'en,
When our good neighbours dois ride, if I read right,
Some buckled on a bunewand, and some on a been,
Ay trottand in troups from the twilight;
Some saidled a she-ape, all grathed into green,
Some hobland on a hemp-stalk, hovand to the hight ;
The king of Pharie and his court, with the Elf Queen,
With many elfish incubus was ridand that night.
There an elf on an ape, an ursel begat,
Into a pot by Pomathorne ;
That bratchart in a busse was born;
They fand a monster on the morn, Waur faced nor a cat."
A similar but real incident took place at the town of North Berwick, within the memory of man. The wife of a man, above the lowest class of society, being left alone in the house a few days after delivery, was attacked and carried off by one of those convulsion fits incident to her situation. Upon the return of the family, who had been engaged in hay-making or harvest, they found the corpse much disfigured. This circumstance, the natural consequence of her disease, led some of the spectators to think that she had been carried off by the Fairies, and that the body before them was some elfin deception. The husband, probably, paid little attention to this opinion at the time. The body was interred, and after a decent time had elapsed, finding his domestic affairs absolutely required female superintendence, the widower paid his addresses to a young woman in the neighbourhood. The recollection, however, of his former wife, whom he had tenderly loved, haunted his slumbers; and one morning he came to the clergyman of the parish in the utmost dismay, declaring that she had appeared to him the preceding night, informed him that she was a captive in Fairy Land, and conjured him to attempt her deliverance. She directed him to bring the minister and certain other persons, whom she named, to her grave at midnight. Her body was then to be dug up, and certain prayers recited ; after which the corpse was to become animated, and fly from them. One of the assistants, the swiftest runner in the parish, was to pursue the body ; and if he was able to seize it, before it had thrice encircled the church, the rest were to come to his assistance and detain it, in spite of the struggles it should use, and the various shapes into which it might be transformed. The redemption of the abstracted person was then to become complete. The minister, a sensible man, argued with his parishioner upon the indecency and absurdity of what was proposed, and dismissed him. Next Sunday, the banns being for the first time proclaimed betwixt the widower and his new bride, his former wife, very naturally, took the opportunity of the following night to make him another visit, yet more terrific than the former. She upbraided him with his incredulity, his fickleness, and his want of affection ; and, to convince him that her appearance was no aerial illusion, she gave suck in his presence to her youngest child. The man, under the greatest horror of mind, had again recourse to the pastor; and his ghostly counsellor fell upon an admirable expedient to console him. This was nothing less than dispensing with the further solemnity of banns, and marrying him, without an hour's delay, to the young woman to whom he was affianced; after which no spectre again disturbed his repose.
Having concluded these general observations upon the Fairy superstition, which, although minute, may not, I hope, be deemed altogether uninteresting, I proceed to the more particular illustrations relating to the Tale of the Young Tamlane.
The following ballad, still popular in Ettrick Forest where the scene is laid, is certainly of much greater antiquity than its phraseology, gradually modernized as transmitted by tradition, would seem to denote. The Tale of the Young Tamlane is mentioned in the Complaynt of Scotland; and the air, to which it was chaunted, seems to have been accommodated to a particular dance ; for the dance of Thom of Lynn, another variation of Thomalin, likewise occurs in the same performance. Like every popular subject, it seems to have been frequently parodied; and a burlesque ballad, beginning
- "Tom o' the Linn was a Scotsman born,"
In a medley, contained in a curious and ancient MS. cantus, penes J. G. Dalyell, Esq., there is an allusion to our ballad
In Scottish Songs, 1774, a part of the original tale was published under the title of Kerton Ha' ; a corruption of Carterhaugh ; and in the same collection there is a fragment containing two or three additional verses, beginning
"Sing young Thomlin, be merry, be merry, and twice so merry."
In Johnson's Musical Museum, a more complete copy occurs, under the title of Tom Linn, which, with some alterations, was reprinted in the Tales of Wonder.
"I'll wager, I'll wager, I'll wager with you," etc.
The present edition is the most perfect which has yet appeared; being prepared from a collation of the printed copies with a very accurate one in Glenriddell's MSS., and with several recitals from tradition. Some verses are omitted in this edition, being ascertained to belong to a separate ballad, which will be found in a subsequent part of the work. In one recital only, the wellknown fragment of the Wee, wee Man was introduced, in the same measure with the rest of the poem. It was retained in the first edition, but is now omitted ; as the Editor has been favoured, by the learned Mr Ritson, with a copy of the original poem of which it is a detached fragment. The Editor has been enabled to add several verses of beauty and interest to this edition of Tamlane, in consequence of a copy, obtained from a gentleman residing near Langholm, which is said to be very ancient, though the diction is somewhat of a modern cast. The manners of the Fairies are detailed at considerable length, and in poetry of. no common merit.
Carterhaugh is a plain, at the conflux of the Ettrick and Yarrow, in Selkirkshire, about a mile above Selkirk and two miles below Newark Castle ; a romantic ruin which overhangs the Yarrow, and which is said to have been the habitation of our heroine's father, though others place his residence in the tower of Oakwood. The peasants point out upon the plain, those electrical rings which vulgar credulity supposes to be traces of the Fairy revels. Here, they say, were placed the stands of milk, and of water, in which Tamlane was dipped in order to effect the disenchantment ; and upon these spots, according to their mode of expressing themselves, the grass will never grow. Miles Cross (perhaps a corruption of Mary's Cross), where fair Janet waited the arrival of the Fairy train, is said to have stood near the Duke of Buccleuch's seat of Bowhill, about half a mile from Carterhaugh. In no part of Scotland, indeed, has the belief in Fairies maintained its ground with more pertinacity than in Selkirkshire. The most sceptical among the lower ranks only venture to assert that their appearances and mischievous exploits have ceased, or at least become infrequent, since the light of the Gospel was diffused in its purity. One of their frolics is said to have happened late in the last century. The victim of elfin sport was a poor man, who, being employed in pulling heather upon Peatlaw, a hill not far from Carterhaugh, had tired of his labour and laid him down to sleep upon a Fairy ring. When he awakened he was amazed to find himself in the midst of a populous city, to which, as well as to the means of his transportation, he was an utter stranger. His coat was left upon the Peatlaw ; and his bonnet, which had fallen off in the course of his aerial journey, was afterwards found hanging upon the steeple of the church of Lanark. The distress of the poor man was, in some degree, relieved by meeting a carrier whom he had formerly known, and who conducted him back to Selkirk by a slower conveyance than had whirled him to Glasgow. That he had been carried off by the Fairies was implicitly believed by all, who did not reflect that a man may have private reasons for leaving his own country and for disguising his having intentionally done so.
- Perhaps in this and similar tales we may recognize something of real history. That the Fins, or ancient natives of Scandinavia, were driven into the mountains by the invasion of Odin and his Asiatics is sufficiently probable ; and there is reason to believe that the aboriginal inhabitants understood better than the intruders how to manufacture the produce of their own mines. It is therefore possible that, in process of time, the oppressed may have been transformed into the supernatural duergar. A similar transformation has taken place among the vulgar in Scotland regarding the Picts, or Peghs, to whom they ascribe various supernatural attributes.
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- Upon this, or some similar tradition, was founded the notion, which the inveteracy of national prejudice so easily diffused in Scotland, that the ancestor of the English monarchs, Geoffrey Plantagenet, had actually married a demon. Bowmaker, in order to explain the cruelty and ambition of Edward 1, dedicates a chapter to show "how the kings of England are descended from the devil, by the mother's side" (Fordun, Chron., lib. 9, cap. 6). The lord of a certain castle, called Espervel, was unfortunate enough to have a wife of the same class. Having observed, for several years, that she always left the chapel before the mass was concluded, the baron, in a fit of obstinacy or curiosity, ordered his guard to detain her by force, of which the consequence was that, unable to support the elevation of the host, she retreated through the air, carrying with her one side of the chapel and several of the congregation.
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- Indeed, many of the vulgar account it extremely dangerous to touch any thing which they may happen to find without saining (blessing) it, the snares of the Enemy being notorious and well attested. A poor woman of Teviotdale, having been fortunate enough, as she thought herself, to find a wooden beetle at the very time when she needed such an implement, seized it without pronouncing the proper blessing, and, carrying it home, laid it above her bed to be ready for employment in the morning. At midnight the window of her cottage opened, and a loud voice was heard calling upon some one within by a strange and uncouth name, which I have forgotten. The terrified cottager ejaculated a prayer which, we may suppose, insured her personal safety, while the enchanted implement of housewifery, tumbling from the bed-stead, departed by the window with no small noise and precipitation. In a humorous fugitive tract, the late Dr Johnson is introduced as disputing the authenticity of an apparition, merely because the spirit assumed the shape of a tea-pot and of a shoulder of mutton. No doubt a case so much in point as that we have now quoted would have removed his incredulity.
- The unfortunate Chatterton was not probably acquainted with Gervase of Tilbury, yet he seemed to allude, in the Battle of Hastings, to some modification of Sir Osbert's adventure
- "So who they be that ouphant fairies strike,
Their souls shall wander to King Offa s dike."
- "So who they be that ouphant fairies strike,
" Ne'er be I found by thee unawed,
On that thrice hallowed eve abroad,
When goblins haunt, from fire and fen
And wood and lake, the steps of men.
Collins's Ode to Fear.
- This is alluded to by Shakespeare and other authors of his time
- "We have the receipt of fern-seed; we walk invisible."
henry IV, Part 1st, Act z, Scene 3.
- " In Tyberius tyme, the trew imperatour,
Quhen Tynto hills fra skraiping of tour-henis was keipit,
Thair dwelt ane grit Gyre Carling in awld Betokis hour,
That levit upoun Christiane menis flesche, and rewheids unleipit ;
Thair wynit ane hir by, on the west syde, callit Blasour,
For luve of hir Iauchane lippis he walit and he weipit ;
He gadderit ane menzie of modwartis to warp doun the tour;
The Carling with ane yren club, quhen yat Blasour sleipit,
Behind the heil scho hat him sic ane blaw,
Quhil Blasour bled ane quart
Off milk pottage inwart,
The Carling luche, and lut fart
North Berwik Law.
- The King of Fary than come, with elfis many ane,
And sett ane sege, and ane salt, with grit pensallis of pryd;
And all the doggis fra Dunbar wes thair to Dumblane,
With all the tykis of Tervey, come to thame that tyd ;
Thay quelle doune with thair gonnes mony grit stane,
The Carling schup hir on ane sow, and is her gaitis gane,
Grunting our the Greik sie, and durst na langer byd,
For bruklyng of bargane, and breiking of browis ;
The Carling now for dispyte
Is mareit with Mahomyte,
And wall the doggis interdyte,
For scho is quene of Jowis.
- Sensyne the cockis of Crawmound crew nevir at day,
For dule of that devillisch deme wes with Mahoun mareit,
And the henis of Hadingtoun sensyne wald not lay,
For this wild wibroun wich thame widlit sa and wareit ;
And the same North Berwik Law, as I heir wyvis say,
This Carling, with a fals cast, wald away careit ;
For to luck on quha sa lykis, na langer scho tareit;
All this languor for love before tymes fell;
Lang or Betok was born,
Scho bred of ane accorne ;
The laif of the story to morne,
To you I sall telle."
- " In Tyberius tyme, the trew imperatour,
- Ymp tree.-According to the general acceptation, this only signifies a grafted tree ; whether it should be here understood to mean a tree consecrated to the imps, or fairies, is left with the reader
- It was perhaps from such a description that Ariosto adopted his idea of the Lunar Paradise, containing everything that on earth was stolen or lost.
- It is observed in the record that Major Weir, a man of the most vicious character, was at the same time ambitious of appearing eminently godly, and used to frequent the beds of sick persons to assist them with his prayers. On such occasions, he put to his mouth a long staff which he usually carried, and expressed himself with uncommon energy and fluency, of which he was utterly incapable when the inspiring rod was withdrawn. This circumstance, the result probably of a trick or habit, appearing suspicious to the judges, the staff of the sorcerer was burned along with his person. One hundred and thirty years have elapsed since his execution, yet no one has during that space ventured to inhabit the house of this celebrated criminal.
- " For oght the kirk culd him forbid,
He sped him sone, and gat the thrid ;
Ane carling of the Quene of Phareis,
That ewill win geir to elphyne careis ;
Through all Brade Abane scho has bene,
On horsbak on Hallow ewin ;
And ay in seiking certayne nightis,
As scho sayis with sur silly wychirs
And names out nybours sex or sewin,
That we belevit had bene in heawin ;
Scho said scho saw theme weill aneugh,
And speciallie gude auld Balcleuch,
The secretar, and sundrie uther
Ane William Symsone, her mother brother,
Whom fra scho has resavit a buike
For ony herb scho likes to Luke ;
It will instruct her how to tak it,
In saws and sillubs how to mak it;
With stones that meikle mair can doe,
In leich craft, where scho lays them toe;
A thousand maladeis scho hes mendit ;
Now being tane, and apprehendit,
Scho being in the bischopis cure,
And keipit in his castle sure,
Without respect of worldlie glamer,
He past into the witches chalmer."
Scottish Poems of XVI Century, Edin., 18ox, vol. ii, p. 320.
- " For oght the kirk culd him forbid,
Buccleuch was a violent enemy to the English, by whom his lands had been repeatedly plundered (see Introduction), and a great advocate for the marriage betwixt Mary and the Dauphin, 1549. According to John Knox, he had recourse even to threats in urging the Parliament to agree to the French match. "The laird of Balcleuch," says the Reformer, "a bloody man, with many God's wounds, swore, they that would not consent should do worse."
- Robin Goodfellow, or Hobgoblin, possesses the frolicsome qualities of the French Lutin. For his full character the reader is referred to the Reliques of Ancient Poetry. The proper livery of this sylvan Momus is to be found in an old play. "Enter Robin Goodfellow, in a suit of leather, close to his body, his hands and face coloured russet colour, with a flail" (Grim, the Collier of Croydon, Act q., Scene i). At other times, however, he is presented in the vernal livery of the elves, his associates:
- "Tim. I have made
Some speeches, sir, in verse, which have been spoke
By a green Robin Goodfellow, from Cheapside conduit,
To my father's company.'
The City Match, Act i, Scene 6.
- "Tim. I have made
- The Fairyland, and Fairies of Spenser, have no connexion with popular superstition, being only words used to denote a Utopian scene of action, and imaginary and allegorical characters ; and the title of the "Fairy Queen" being probably suggested by the elfin mistress of Chaucer's Sir Thopas. The stealing of the Red Cross Knight, while a child, is the only incident in the poem which approaches to the popular character of the Fairy
- "A Fairy thee unweeting reft ;
There as thou sleptst in tender swadling band,
And her base elfin brood there for thee left.
Such men do changelings call, so chang'd by Fairies theft."
Book I, Canto 10.
- "A Fairy thee unweeting reft ;
- Hencethe hero of the ballad is termed an "elfin grey."
Perhaps this epithet is only one example among many of the extreme civility which the vulgar in Scotland use towards spirits of a dubious, or even a determinedly mischievous, nature. The archfiend himself is often distinguished by the softened title of the "goodman." This epithet, so applied, must sound strange to a southern ear; but as the phrase bears various interpretations, accordin to the places where it is used, so, in the Scottish dialect, the goodman of such a place signifies the tenant, or liferenter, in opposition to the laird or proprietor. Hence the devil is termed the goodman, or tenant, of the infernal regions. In the book of the Universal Kirk, 13th May 1594, mention is made of "the horrible superstitioune usit in Garioch, and dyvers parts of the countrie, in not labouring a parcel of ground dedicated to the devil, under the title of the Guid-Man's Croft." Lord Hailes conjectured this to have been the temnos adjoining to some ancient Pagan temple. The unavowed, but obvious, purpose of this practice was to avert the destructive rage of Satan from the neighbouring possessions. It required various fulminations of the General Assembly of the Kirk to abolish a practice bordering so nearly upon the doctrine of the Magi.
The best chamber was thus currently denominated in Scotland, from the French dais, signifying that part of the ancient halls which was elevated above the rest, and covered with a canopy. The turf-seats which occupy the sunny side of a cottage wall are also termed the dais.
In this particular, tradition coincides with the real fact ; the trial took place in 1697.
Less perilous recipes were sometimes used. The Editor is possessed of a small relique termed by tradition a toad-stone, the influence of which was supposed to preserve pregnant women from the power of demons and other dangers incidental to their situation. It has been carefully preserved for several generations, was often pledged for considerable sums of money, and uniformly redeemed, from a belief in its efficacy.
This idea is not peculiar to the Gothic tribes, but extends to those of Sclavic origin. Tooke (History of Russia, vol. i, p. 100) relates that the Russian peasants believe the nocturnal demon, Kikimoro, to have been a child, whom the devil stole out of the womb of its mother because she had cursed it. They also assert, that if an execration against a child be spoken in an evil hour, the child is carried off by the devil. The beings so stolen are neither fiends nor men ; they are invisible and afraid of the cross and holy water; but, on the other hand, in their nature and dispositions they resemble mankind, whom they love and rarely injure.
- See the inimitable poem of Hallowe'en:
- "Upon that night, when Fairies light
On Cassilis Downans dance;
Or o'er the leys, in splendid blaze,
On sprightly coursers prance," etc.
- "Upon that night, when Fairies light
The ladies are always represented, in Dunbar's poems, with green mantles and yellow hair (Maitland Poems, vol. i, p. q.5).
- Randolph, Earl Murray, was my sire,
Dunbar, Earl March, is thine, etc.-P. 330, v. 1.
Both these mighty chiefs were connected with Ettrick Forest and its vicinity. Their memory, therefore, lived in the traditions of the country. Randolph, Earl of Murray, the renowned nephew of Robert Bruce, had a castle at Ha' Guards, in Annandale, and another in Peeblesshire, on the borders of the forest, the site of which is still called Randall's Walls. Patrick of Dunbar, Earl of March, is said by Henry the Minstrel to have retreated to Ettrick Forest after being defeated by Wallace.
- Randolph, Earl Murray, was my sire,
- And all our wants are well supplied,
From every rich man's store,
Who thankless sins the gifts he gets, etc.-P. 330, v. g.
To sin our gifts, or mercies, means ungratefully to hold them in slight esteem. The idea that the possessions of the wicked are most obnoxious to the depredations of evil spirits may be illustrated by the following tale of a Buttery Spirit, extracted from Thomas Heywood:
An ancient and virtuous monk came to visit his nephew, an innkeeper, and, after some discourse, enquired into his circumstances. Mine host confessed, that although he practised all the unconscionable tricks of his trade, he was still miserably poor. The monk shook his head, and asked to see his buttery, or larder. As they looked into it, he rendered visible to the astonished host an immense goblin, whose paunch, and whole appearance bespoke his being gorged with food, and who, nevertheless, was gormandizing at the innkeeper's expense, emptying whole shelves of food, and washing it down with entire hogsheads of liquor. "To the depredation of this visitor will thy viands be exposed," quoth the uncle, "until thou shalt abandon fraud, and false reckonings." The monk returned in a year. The host having turned over a new leaf, and given Christian measure to his customers, was now a thriving man. When they again inspected the larder, they saw the same spirit, but woefully reduced in size, and in vain attempting to reach at the full plates and bottles which stood around him; starving, in short, like Tantalus, in the midst of plenty. Honest Heywood sums up the tale thus:
- "In this discourse, far be it we should mean
Spirits by meat are fatted made, or lean;
Yet certain 'tis, by God's permission, they
May, over goods extorted, bear like sway.
* * * * * * * *
All such as study fraud, and practise evil,
Do only starve themselves to plumpe the devill."
Hierarchie of the Blessed Angels, p. 577
- And all our wants are well supplied,
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