The Old Corpse Road Folklore Collective
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The Nimble Men or Merry Dancers were the names given by Highlanders to the Aurora Borealis. In SCOTTISH FOLK LORE AND FOLK LIFE, by Mackenzie, gives a good account of the tradition about the Fir Chlis (Merry Dancers), distinguishing their 'everlasting battle' from the more hurtful activities of the Sluagh. He himself was told of the 'Nimble Men' engaging in fights between the clans of two chiefs, rivals for the possession of a fairy lady.
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.
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 ;
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.
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.
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.
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.
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'.
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.
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.