The belief that fairies were elementals - creatures made only of earth, fire, air or water - seems to have been common amongst medieval magicians, who devised complex spells and rituals for raising them and using there powers. One ritual recorded in an early 15th century manuscript now in the Bodleian Library in Oxford, involves stripping the bark from three hazel wands, writing the fairies name on the wood, and burying the wands ‘under some hill whereas you suppose fairies haunt’. The fairy will come if she is called on the following Friday, after the wands have been dug up.
Jamieson's Northern Antiquities gives the story of the most famous of the Crodh Mara, the cow bred by the visit of a water-bull and of the farmer too mean for gratitude.
The elf-bull is small, compared with earthly bulls, of a mousecolour; Mosted [crop-eared], with short corky horns; short in the legs; long, round, and slamp [supple] in the body, like a wild animal; with short, sleek, and glittering hair, like an otter; and supernaturally active and strong. They most frequently appear near the banks of rivers; eat much green corn in the night-time; and are only to be got rid of by certain spells .
Giraldus Cambrensis in ITINERARIUM CAMBRIAE, the account of his journey through Wales in 1188, gives a remarkable narrative of a boy's visit to Fairyland. It contains so mush information in so short a space that it deserves to be included in full. It is one of the best of the early fairy anecdotes:
" Some time ago I heard about a priest called Elidor, who had had a strange event, when he was a boy. 12-years old Elidor, who wanted to avoid his severe teachers hard discipline and beating, that continued on an on, ran away one day, and hide in river´s cliff. He had been there for 2 days, when 2 dwarf´s size men came to him and said:
" If you want to come with us, we´ll take you into a kingdom, wich is full of joy and fun." Elidor consented the men´s suggestion and left with them.
The fairies of the Medieval Romances grew out of the Celtic tradition of the Heroic Fairies, the knights and ladies of the MABINOGION, the Daoine Sidh who encountered the Milesians in love or battle; but the poets and dramatists of the Elizabethan age brought a different strand of fairy tradition into prominence. This was partly because the rise of the yeoman class, as the 16th century went on, had brought a spread of literacy and produced a new class of writers, drawn from the country up to town as Shakespeare was drawn, and bringing with them their own country traditions,
Cross - From the earliest days of Christianity the cross was believed to be a most potent protective symbol against fairies and all evil spirits. It is even possible that cross-roads had a pre-Christian significance, as sacred to the god of limits and a place of sacrifice. The cross in all its forms was protective - the 'saining' or crossing of one's own body or that of another, a cross scratched on the ground or formed by four roads meeting, a cross of wood, stone or metal set up by roadside, a cross worn as a trinket round the neck, all these were believed to give substantial protection against devils, ghosts or fairies. Sometimes this protection was reinforced by carrying a cross of a particular material - of rowan wood, for instance, for this wood was a protection of itself - or for trinkets crosses of coral or amber, both of some potency.
Folklore states that in Ireland at night you can often see the hills inhabited by Fairies shining of a myriad of sparkling lights . Sometiems the hill rises up on columns , revealing the lively light of the Fairies who slowly move togheter towars another hill. It happens traditionally during Lammas period,expecially on August the 7th. By tradition the best time for seeing fairies is the twighlight and midnight when the moon is full. There are a number of dates which hold particular significance with regard to those who wish to find (or avoide) the fay.
It has been recently hypothesised that many of the alien and UFO sighings that are being constantly reported, are actually sightings of faeries. Cultural tracking, first brought to our notice by Jacques Vallée in his 1970 classic Passport to Magonia , demonstraits the similarities between abduction by fairies, who were taken to ‘fairyland’, and modern kidnapping by extraterrestrials. Is it a coincidence that toadstools, supposedly domain of the fairies, resemble modern saucer shape craft? One answer is that witnesses in previous times described extraterrestrials and their flying machines in terms of fairies and toadstools.
The very numerous fairy animals, of which there are many traditions in the British Isles, may be divided into two main classes. There are wild ones, that exist for their own purposes and in their own right, and the domesticated ones bred and used by the fairies. It is sometimes difficult to distinguish between these two types, because the fairies occasionally allow their creatures to roam freely, as, for instance, the Cu Sith of the Highlands, which is generally kept as a watch dog in the Brughs, but is at times free to roam as its pleasure, and the Crodh Mara, which sometimes visit human herds. But the distinction is generally clear. The two kinds of fairy creatures occur very early in our traditions and are mentioned in the medieval chronicles.
In the middle ages fairy aristocrats were thought to be the most beautiful of fairylands people and their heroic exploits were described in legends about King Authur, in the Border ballads and in medieval romance. In many stories they were led by a King and a Queen and were at least the size of humans, but they could also be tiny. Like human aristocrats they spent their time hunting, hawking and feasting. Many tales were told of the fairy Rade, when they rode in procession behind there king and queen, on white horses hung with silver bells.
The fairies of Britain vary as much in dress as they do in appearance and size. Most people, asked off-hand about the colour of the fairies' clothes, would answer 'green' without hesitation, and they would not be far astray. Green is generally acknowledged to be the fairy colour, particularly in Celtic countries, and for this reason is so unlucky that many Scotswomen refuse to wear green at all. Fairies believe that they alone have the right to wear green, and are apt to deal harshly with any mortal foolish enough to infringe this right. this lead to the idea that green is an unlucky colour. Red runs green very close, and in Ireland the small trooping fairies, the Daoine Sidh and the Shefro, wear green coats and red caps while the solitary fairies, such as the Leprachauns, the Cluricaun and the Fear Dearg, generally wear red. William Allingham describes Wee folk, good folk, trooping all together, Green jacket, red cap and white owl's feather.This seems to be the typical costume of the small trooping fairies.
Among the many beliefs held about the fairies, there is one strand which describes them as beautiful in appearance, but with a deformity which they cannot always hide. The Scandinavian ellewomen, for instance, have beautiful faces, but if looked at from behind are seen to be hollow. The evil but beautiful Glaistigs of the Highlands wear trailing green dresses to conceal their goat's hoofs.
Allan Cunningham in his LIVES OF EMINENT BRITISH PAINTERS records that William Blake claimed to have seen a fairy funeral. 'Did you ever see a fairy's funeral, madam? said Blake to a lady who happened to sit next to him. 'Never, Sir!' said the lady. 'I have,' said Blake, 'but not before last night.' And he went on to tell how, in his garden, he had seen 'a procession of creatures of the size and colour of green and grey grashoppers, bearing a body laid out on a rose-leaf, which they buried with songs, and then disappeared'.
Glamor is the word for the magical abilities that are always attributed to faeries. Much of it stems from the faerie's own mutable nature. Although always very small naturally, most faeries can change their form to appear any size or shape. There is usually some clue that lets a careful observer tell that a creature might be a faerie in disguise. For instance a horse might have that spark of intelligence in its eyes that an animal just shouldn't have. Faeries masquerading as humans usually have some exaggerated feature or abnormality, such as pointy ears, a long nose or club feet. A faerie may of course try to hide such features. Certain faeries are known to prefer certain forms, the Hyter sprite for instance, commonly takes the from of a sand martin.
Faeries can be found in a wide variety of places, indeed almost anywhere in the world, and several places which aren't. But there are a number of areas and types of places where they can be frequently found. In recent times faeries are often portrayed as living in forests, but in the ancient myths they are creatures of the soil. The 'Hollow Hills' of the Brittish isles are the sacred residences of the wee folk. These hill sofen thought to be the burial mounds of clets, or the remains of Roman or saxon forts or rathes are called Sidhe (Shee). They are the lodgings of Spriggans, Leprachans, the Unsellie Court, and Daoine Sidhe to name but a few. Most faeries would gaurd their homes jealously against any mortal intruder, and the ill-fated man who dug or built upon their hills was in for great misery or even death. Such superstition has lasted even into the 20th century, for in Ireland local workers still refuse to desecrate the Sidhe.
There is an ancient and universal belief inherent in all the native religions of the existence of an invisible realm, a land of youth, happiness and beauty, inhabited by Otherworldly beings. Most of us have from our childhood days heard mention of the Faery Folk, or the 'Good People', as they are known in Ireland and Scotland. Images of small, dainty beings with silk wings flitting through the grass fill the pages of children's story books. Yet these romantic images of diminutive creatures, heavily influenced by the Victorian era, are far removed from the original concept of the Sidhe within native Celtic religion as powerful spirit manifestations of the elemental forces of nature. In their original status they form an integral part of the inner religious life of the Gael, both past and present.
There are many myths that describe the origins of the faeries, and almost all of them are different. Many involve Christianity in some way, these are generally believed to be later myths created by priests to explain the pagan creatures of the wood. Some believers have thought that fairies are a special creation, and that they exist in there own right. Others have said that fairies like ghosts are the spirits of the dead, or of certain types of dead who died before Christianity came to Britain, for instance, or unbatised or stillborn babies. To others fairies were fallen angels, neither wicked enough for Hell nor good enough for Heaven. Here are some concepts ;
Stroke - The word 'Stroke' for a sudden paralytic seizure comes directly from fairy belief. It is an abbreviation of 'fairy stroke' or 'elf stroke', and was supposed to come from an elf-shot or an elf-blow, which struck down the victim, animal or human, who was then carried off invisibly, while a Stock remained to take its place. Sometimes this was a transformed fairy, sometimes a lump of wood, transformed by glamour and meant to be taken for the corpse of the victim.
Cramps - These were often the penalty for annoying the fairies. Scolding and ill-temper were specially punished in this way.
Elf Shot - Everywhere it seems small round fossils known as an echinite is a 'fairies loaf' and flint arrowheads are fairy darts or elf shots. In North Yorkshire if cattle suddenley became excited it was because elves where shooting at them ; to cure an 'awful shtten' beast it was necessary to give it water in which an elf shot has been dipped.
The Fairy Rade, or procession, was a matter of great importance. It took place on the coming in of summer, awl the peasantry, by using the precaution of placing a branch of rowan over their door, might safely gaze on the cavalcade, as with music sounding, bridles ringing, and voices mingling, it pursued its way from place to place.
Clean Hearth - The first recipe in old days for encouraging fairy visits and gaining fairy favours was to leave the hearth swept and the fire clear. This seems some indication of the contention that domestic fairies were of the type of the Lares, the ancestral spirits who were the ghosts of those who had been buried under the hearth according to the primitive custom in pre-classical times.
Clean Water - A bowl of clear, fair water had to be left in any place where the fairy ladies were supposed to resort with their babies to wash them by the fire. Dirty water or empty pails were commonly punished by pinching or lameness.
Cheerful - A cheerful wayfarer, a cheerful giver and a cheerful worker are all likely to gain the patronage of the fairies, who dislike nothing so much as grumbling and moaning.
He was also a poet and seer, who received his training from an old bard named Finnegas on the banks of the river Boyne. During this time we are told Fionn received the wisdom of the great salmon of knowledge that swam in the river. Fionn also received the gift of wisdom from a sacred well of the goddess. The three daughters who guarded the well threw some of the well water at Fionn to prevent him approaching. In doing so the water went into his mouth and so he gained the knowledge of the well. Fionn was the keeper of many weapons, each of them having some magical quality, in true Celtic style. His banner was called the Dealb Greine ('sun shape') for it had the likeness of the sun.