Folklore

The Old Corpse Road Folklore Collective

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Brownie

The best known of the industrious domestic hobgoblins. The brownie's land is over all the North of England and up into the highlands of Scotland. They are good-natured, invisible brown elves or household goblins who live in farmhouses and other country dwellings in Scotland.

The brownie is small, hairy, ragged and shaggy dressed in brown clothes. They are about 2 to 3 feet in height with their brown wrinkled flat faces and pinhole nostrils, are not very attractive, but their happy smiles and extrovert characters makes up for that.   Some say he has a nose so small as to be hardly more than two nostrils. According to tradition, most brownies go naked, or at least wear ragged clothes, and can make themselves invisible or are good at hiding. The innocent nature of children allows them to see the brownies, but disbelieving adults will never get a glimpse of them. This however does not prevent the brownies from helping adults in countless minor ways. In parts of Aberdeenshire they are said to have no seperate toes or fingers, in the Scottish Lowlands they have a hole instead of a nose but no mouths.  

While people are asleep he is willing to do all odd jobs about a house, (possibly that has been left undone by the servants) but sometimes he untidies what he has been left to tidy.  They make themselves responsible for the farm or house in which they live: reap, mow, herd the sheep, prevent the hens from laying away, run errands and give good counsel at need. They are known to be protective creatures and they become attached to a certain place of family. Even if the family should move to another continent, the brownies will accompany them in their migration.There are several stories of brownies riding to fetch the nurse for their mistress. They become attached to particular families or places. brownie can become personally attached to one member of the family. Their devotion to their master might also make them unpopular with the servants, whom they might punish for wrongdoing. In return for their help they expect only a bowl of cream and a cake to be left for them.Tradition says they do not like teetotallers and ministers.  If there is a lazy servant in the home, he might choose to plague him for it. Care should be taken not to criticize their work. When one farmer criticized the mowing job, the Brownie responsible threw the entire crop over a cliff.

The brownie can accept no payment, and the surest way to drive him away is to leave him a suit of clothes and he will disappear and never be seen again.  Bread and milk and other dainties can be left unobtrusively, but even they must not be openly offered. Any offer of reward or clothing will drive the brownie away, as a 16th century brownie song points out: “What have we here, Hempen Hampen! Here will I never more tread nor stampen.” A gift of new clothes to a brownie oftentimes generate undesirable effects: they immediately stop working and after putting on the clothes, disappear forever. Displeased brownies who have had repeated bad luck with humans often degenerate to malicious spirits called Boggart, who constantly harass the inhabitants of the house or farm they live in. In such cases, wise men are always called in to "lay", or temper, them.  The Claud Lad of Hilton, an unhappy brownie who haunted Hilton Castle in Northumberland, was left a green cloak and a hood, and promptly left the castle singing: ‘Here’s a cloak and here’s a hood! The Claud Lad of Hilton will do no more good!’


The Cornish Browney is of the same nature. His special office is to get the bees to settle. When the bees swarm the housewife beats a tin, and calls out: 'Browney! Browney!' until the brownie comes invisibly to take charge.

His territory extends over the Lowlands of Scotland and up into the Highlands and Islands all over the north and east of England and into the Midlands. With a natural linguistic variation, he becomes the Bwca or Bwbachbod in Wales, the Highland Bodach and the Manx Fenodoree (a larger, stronger variety inhabiting the Isle of Man, believed to originate from the Ferrishyn, or faerie tribe of Man). In the West Country, Pixies or Pisgies occassionally perform the offices of a brownie and show some of the same characteristics, though they are essentially different. Border brownies are most characteristic.

Two varieties are known: Highland Brownies that have no fingers or toes, and Lowland Brownies that have no noses.  Brownies are sometimes indistinguishable from hobgoblins, in part due to the malevolence of some species. Brownies are well known for inhabiting human homes and barns. Their industriousness and beneficient nature to man have given rise to the use of the term "brownies" to the youngest members of the Girl Guides and Girl Scouts. They are rarely seen

Bogles are mischievous Brownies that tend to be evil-natured toward liars and murderers, behaving similarly to poltergeists. Bogles are sometimes classified as goblins because of their mischievous behavior.

 

Banshee

The banshee is a type of fairy known both in Ireland and Scotland. In Scotland she is sometimes called the Little Washer at the Ford, or the Little Washer of Sorrow.

She can be heard wailing by the riverside as she washes the clothes of the man destined for death. If a mortal can seize and hold her, she must tell the name of the doomed man, and also grant three wishes. She is no beauty, for she has only one nostril, a large, starting out front tooth and web feet. The Irish banshee only wails for the members of the death of someone very great or holy. The banshee has long, streaming hair and a grey cloak over a green dress. Her eyes are fiery red from continually weeping. In the Highlands of Scotland the word Banshi means only a fairy Woman and is chiefly used for the fairies who marry mortals. 

 THE IRISH & SCOTTISH BANSHEES
   
    There are various descriptions of the banshee. The Irish banshee is called 
bean sidhe. Depending upon how you define the ancient tongue, bean sidhe can 
mean "fairy woman" or "woman of the hills." The Irish banshee is often 
described as beautiful with streaming auburn hair. She wears a green woolen 
dress with gray cloak clasped about her shoulders. The only hint that this 
beautiful banshee is a messenger of doom is that her eyes are blood red from 
crying for her dead.
    The Scottish banshee, or bean nighe, is more menacing. She dresses in grave 
clothes. Her face covered by a veil. It is impossible to guess the banshee's 
age, but she typically appears as a crone.
    The mid-Ohio Valley, which includes west-central West Virginia and Scottish 
blood. Stories of banshee spirits surely went underground as Irish and Scottish 
immigrants moved into the Ohio Valley, but her legend was not entirely 
forgotten.

 

Black Annis

A blue-faced hag, akin to the Cailleachs Bheare and Bheur, who eats people. She is supposed to live in a cave in the Dane Hills in Leicestershire. There was a great oak at the mouth of the cave in which she was said to hide to leap out, catch and devour stray children and lambs. The cave, which was called 'Black Annis' Bower Close', was supposed to have been dug out of the rock by her own nails.

On Easter Monday it was the custom from early times to hold a drag hunt from Annis' Bower to the Mayor of Leicester's house. The bait dragged was a dead cat drenched in aniseed. Black Annis and Gentle Annie are supposed to derive from Anu, or Dana, a Celtic mother goddess. It has also been suggested that she is MILTON'S 'blew meager hag'.

Bat

A creature of frequent association with the Moon and darkness. In China, bats were symbols of good fortune and happiness; in Europe, a companion creature of the Goddess Hel. Christians made the bat evil and demonic in order to disengage people from the Goddess.

Bendith Y Mamau

Bendith y Mamau (bendith er mamigh) 'The Mothers' Blessing'  which was the name of the fairies of the Carmarthenshire country in Wales; this saying became a prayer spoken to ward-off harm. These are faerie-goblin cross-breed and are known to  steal children, elf-ride horses and visit houses.  They have the ill-disposition and ugly appearance of goblins, but the glaymor of faeries. They usually live in clans in underground caverns, and do not enjoy the company of humans. Bendith Y Mamau go out of their way to make people's lives unpleasant. Stealing cattle and children, killing farm animals, and breaking important tools are some of their favorite pastimes.Bowls of milk were put out for them. It is significant that they are associated with the triple form of the Goddess.

Bogies

'Bogies, 'Bogles', 'Bugs', or 'bug-a-boos' are names given to a whole class of mischievous, frightening and even dangerous spirits. Their temperments can range the spectrum from benign to malevolent. They can be a male hobgoblin who is only up to evil and capricious acts of wrongdoing. He enjoys tormenting any traveler who is unfortunate enough to cross his path. Sometimes they go about in troops, like the Hobyahs, but as a rule they may be described as individual and solitary fairy members of the Unseelie Court. A nickname of the Devil in Somerset is 'Bogie', presumably to play him down a little, for bogies generally rank rather low in the retinue of hell. They are often adepts at shape-shifting, like the Bullbeggar, the Hedley Kow and the Picktree Brag. These are generally no more than mischievous. The well-known Boggart is the most harmless of all, generally a Brownie who has been soured by mistreatment; among the most dangerous are the fiendish Nuckelavee and the Duergar, and other examples appear under Bogy or Bogey-Beast. But even so, some bogies, like minor devils, are just simple and gullible.

Bean-Tighe

Sometimes called the “King of the Dead”. He is similar to the Ankou in that he collects souls upon their death and escorts them to the land of the dead. Traveling his own familiar paths in black  with a black cart he is mainly seen on November Eve.

BODACHAN SABHAILL

(botuchan so-will) 'The Little Old Man of the Barn'. A barn Brownie who took pity on old men, and treshed for them. D. A. Mackenzie gives us a verse about him in his Scottish Folk Lore and Folk Life: When the peat will turn grey and shadows fall deep And weary old Callum is snoring asleep... The Little Old Man of the Barn Will tresh with no light in the mouth of the night, The Little Old Man of the Barn. Little Old Man of the Barn When the peat will turn grey and shadows fall deep And weary Old Callum is snoring asleep... The Little Old Man of the Barn Will thresh with no light in the mouth of the night, The Little Old Man of the Barn.

Bean-Nighe

(ben-neeya)  She occurs both in Highland and Irish tradition as one of the variants of the Banshee. The Washing women is the type of Banshee who haunts the lonely streams of Scotland and Ireland. Washing the blood-stained garments of those about to die. She is similar to the Bean-Sidhe in that she also foretells death. It is said that these spirits are the ghosts of women who died in childbirth and that they are fated to perform their task until the day when they would have normally died.

The name and characteristics vary in different localities. She is small and generally dressed in green, and has red webbed feet. The Highland Banshee, like the other fairies, has some physical defects. She has only one nostril, a large protruding front tooth
and long hanging breasts.  She portends evil, but if anyone who sees her before she sees him gets between her and the water she will grant him three wishes. She will answer three questions, but she asks three questions again, which must be answered truly. Anyone bold enough to seize one of her hanging breasts and suck it may claim that he is her foster-child and she will be favourable to him.

But the Caointeach of Islay, which is the same as the Bean-Nighe, is fiercer and more formidable. If anyone interrupts her she strikes at his legs with her wet linen and often he loses the use of his limbs. Is is said that the bean-nighe are the ghosts of women who have died in childbirth and must perform their task until the natural destined time of their death comes. The bean-nighe, sometimes called the Little Washer By The Ford, chiefly haunt the Highlands and Islands of Scotland, but Peter Buchan collected a washer story in Banffshire.

Blue Men of the Minch

The Blue Men used particularly to haunt the strait between Long Island and the Shiant Islands. They swam out to wreck passing ships, and could be stopped by captains who were good at rhyming and could keep the last word. They were supposed to be fallen angels. The sudden storms that arose around the Shiant Islands were said to be caused by the Blue Men, who lived in under-water caves and were ruled by a chieftain.

Boggart

Household spirits from the north of England, and similar to brownies and bogies, although their nature is much more malicious and less helpful. They are Brownies that have turned evil, often those who have been wronged by humans.

The dark and hairy boggarts are dressed in tattered clothes, with meddling hands and clumsy feet. The presence of a boggart is betrayed by the unusual number of small accidents and strange noises after dark. They enjoy playing tricks on humans and often cause a great deal of trouble. They tip over milk bottles, frighten cats, pinch little children, blow out candles, and cause many other mishaps. No one has ever found a way to appease them, and often there is no alternative but to quickly and stealthy move to another home. In Manx folklore, it is called a buggane.

A farmer and his family once prepared to leave their home because they had been so tormented by a boggart. Upon learning that the boggart intended to move with them they chose to stay, feeling that it was better to suffer it’s tricks in their own home than in a new one. Eventually it grew tired of  it’s mischeif about that farm and moved on.