The Faery Sickness

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A considerable amount of lore about fairies revolves around changelings , fairy children left in the place of stolen human babies. In pre-industrial Europe, a peasant family's subsistence frequently depended upon the productive labor of each member, and a person who was a permanent drain on the family's scarce resources could pose a threat to the survival of the entire family. In terms of protective charms, wearing clothing inside out, [51] church bells, St. John's wort , and four-leaf clovers are regarded as effective. In Newfoundland folklore, the most popular type of fairy protection is bread, varying from stale bread to hard tack or a slice of fresh home-made bread.

Bread is associated with the home and the hearth, as well as with industry and the taming of nature, and as such, seems to be disliked by some types of fairies. On the other hand, in much of the Celtic folklore , baked goods are a traditional offering to the folk, as are cream and butter. This may be a distinguishing trait between the Seelie Court from the Unseelie Court , such that fairies use them to protect themselves from more wicked members of their race. While many fairies will confuse travelers on the path, the will o' the wisp can be avoided by not following it.

Certain locations, known to be haunts of fairies, are to be avoided; C. Lewis reported hearing of a cottage more feared for its reported fairies than its reported ghost. Paths that the fairies travel are also wise to avoid. Home-owners have knocked corners from houses because the corner blocked the fairy path, [57] and cottages have been built with the front and back doors in line, so that the owners could, in need, leave them both open and let the fairies troop through all night. Other actions were believed to offend fairies.

Brownies were known to be driven off by being given clothing, though some folktales recounted that they were offended by inferior quality of the garments given, and others merely stated it, some even recounting that the brownie was delighted with the gift and left with it. Millers were thought by the Scots to be "no canny", owing to their ability to control the forces of nature, such as fire in the kiln, water in the burn, and for being able to set machinery a-whirring. Superstitious communities sometimes believed that the miller must be in league with the fairies.

In Scotland, fairies were often mischievous and to be feared. No one dared to set foot in the mill or kiln at night, as it was known that the fairies brought their corn to be milled after dark. So long as the locals believed this, the miller could sleep secure in the knowledge that his stores were not being robbed.

John Fraser, the miller of Whitehill, claimed to have hidden and watched the fairies trying unsuccessfully to work the mill. He said he decided to come out of hiding and help them, upon which one of the fairy women gave him a gowpen double handful of meal and told him to put it in his empty girnal store , saying that the store would remain full for a long time, no matter how much he took out.

It is also believed that to know the name of a particular fairy could summon it to you and force it to do your bidding. The name could be used as an insult towards the fairy in question, but it could also rather contradictorily be used to grant powers and gifts to the user. Before the advent of modern medicine, many physiological conditions were untreatable and when children were born with abnormalities, it was common to blame the fairies.

Sometimes fairies are described as assuming the guise of an animal. In "The Legend of Knocksheogowna", in order to frighten a farmer who pastured his herd on fairy ground, a fairy queen took on the appearance of a great horse, with the wings of an eagle, and a tail like a dragon, hissing loud and spitting fire. Then she would change into a little man lame of a leg, with a bull's head, and a lambent flame playing round it. In the 19th-century child ballad " Lady Isabel and the Elf-Knight ", the elf-knight is a Bluebeard figure, and Isabel must trick and kill him to preserve her life.

A common feature of the fairies is the use of magic to disguise appearance. Fairy gold is notoriously unreliable, appearing as gold when paid but soon thereafter revealing itself to be leaves, gorse blossoms, gingerbread cakes, or a variety of other comparatively worthless things. These illusions are also implicit in the tales of fairy ointment.

Many tales from Northern Europe [75] [76] tell of a mortal woman summoned to attend a fairy birth — sometimes attending a mortal, kidnapped woman's childbed. Invariably, the woman is given something for the child's eyes, usually an ointment; through mischance, or sometimes curiosity, she uses it on one or both of her own eyes. At that point, she sees where she is; one midwife realizes that she was not attending a great lady in a fine house but her own runaway maid-servant in a wretched cave. She escapes without making her ability known but sooner or later betrays that she can see the fairies.

She is invariably blinded in that eye or in both if she used the ointment on both. There have been claims by people in the past, like William Blake , to have seen fairy funerals. They are thought to represent the main deities of pre-Christian Gaelic Ireland. They are variously said to be ancestors, the spirits of nature, or goddesses and gods.

“Away with the fairies”-fairy illness and blight

These bodies be so pliable through the sublety of Spirits that agitate them, that they can make them appear or disappear at pleasure [80]. The word "fairy" was used to describe an individual inhabitant of Faerie before the time of Chaucer. Fairies appeared in medieval romances as one of the beings that a knight errant might encounter.

A fairy lady appeared to Sir Launfal and demanded his love; like the fairy bride of ordinary folklore, she imposed a prohibition on him that in time he violated. Sir Orfeo 's wife was carried off by the King of Faerie. Huon of Bordeaux is aided by King Oberon. The oldest fairies on record in England were first described by the historian Gervase of Tilbury in the 13th century. Morgan le Fay , whose connection to the realm of Faerie is implied in her name, in Le Morte d'Arthur is a woman whose magic powers stem from study.

Sir Gawain and the Green Knight is a late tale, but the Green Knight himself is an otherworldly being. Fairies appear as significant characters in William Shakespeare 's A Midsummer Night's Dream , which is set simultaneously in the woodland and in the realm of Fairyland, under the light of the moon [88] and in which a disturbance of nature caused by a fairy dispute creates tension underlying the plot and informing the actions of the characters.

Tolkien described these tales as taking place in the land of Faerie. The modern depiction of fairies was shaped in the literature of Romanticism during the Victorian era. Writers such as Walter Scott and James Hogg were inspired by folklore which featured fairies, such as the Border ballads. This era saw an increase in the popularity of collecting of fairy folklore and an increase in the creation of original works with fairy characters. Lewis's Narnia books, which, while featuring many such classical beings as fauns and dryads , mingles them freely with hags , giants , and other creatures of the folkloric fairy tradition.

Imagery of fairies in literature became prettier and smaller as time progressed. A story of the origin of fairies appears in a chapter about Peter Pan in J. Barrie 's novel The Little White Bird , and was incorporated into his later works about the character. Barrie wrote, "When the first baby laughed for the first time, his laugh broke into a million pieces, and they all went skipping about.

That was the beginning of fairies. Barrie 's famous Peter Pan stories, published in , and its character Tinker Bell has become a pop culture icon. When Peter Pan is guarding Wendy from pirates, the story says, "After a time he fell asleep, and some unsteady fairies had to climb over him on their way home from an orgy. Any of the other boys obstructing the fairy path at night they would have mischiefed, but they just tweaked Peter's nose and passed on. Images of fairies have appeared as illustrations, often in books of fairy tales , as well as in photographic-based media and sculpture.

Local children believe these are the front doors of fairy houses, and in some cases, small furniture, dishes, and various other things can be seen beyond the doors. The Victorian era was particularly noted for fairy paintings. The Victorian painter Richard Dadd created paintings of fairy-folk with a sinister and malign tone. From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia. For other uses, see Fairy disambiguation. For other uses, see Fay disambiguation. For the surname, see Feary surname. A portrait of a fairy, by Sophie Gengembre Anderson United Kingdom United States World.

Death and culture Parapsychology Scientific literacy. New York, Pantheon Books. Fairies and Victorian Consciousness. Similarly, however, Faeries can also heal injuries and cure the sick when they wish to. The ability to cause sickness and injury also explains another power, the ability to steal the toradh , or nutritional goodness, from food. This can be done in a number of different ways, such as mystically removing it, leaving only a husk, or actually destroying it, such as burning a barn full of wheat.

The weaker Faeries will even steal the food outright, either invisibly or in the guise of vermin. A common power, though usually restricted to the Trooping Faeries, is levitation and flight. This is also accomplished by a number of different means. One way was to recite a spell or magical phrase, such as "Horse and Hattock! However, most Faeries require some sort of apparatus, such as ragwort stalks and magical caps. Humans can sometimes join the Faeries in their flying revels, and sometimes they snatch unwilling humans and carry them along, either to be taken to Faerieland or dumped in some far away country.

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Faeries are also able to levitate objects as well as themselves or people, anything from dishes to whole buildings. Perhaps the most basic power is the ability to influence fertility. Though this is reflected in a number of the powers described earlier, their interest in fertility, particularly agriculture and human love, is part of their nature. Many stories describe in general terms how a farmer who honors his Good Neighbors prospers because the Faeries watch over his crops, animals, and family, protecting and nurturing them, whereas a farmer who dishonors them comes to ruin because the Faeries attack his crops, animals, and family, blighting and killing them.

Faerie morality is at once familiar and bizarre. Faeries tend to react in an exaggerated fashion to acts of minor significance, bestowing a lavish reward for a small kindness while doling out an equally lavish punishment for a small offense. They also demand adherence to rules and taboos that conflict with human nature and often contradict one another.

Even so, for the most part, the virtues esteemed by Faeries are also esteemed by humans, and the faults condemned by Faeries are also condemned by humans. In fact, it can be argued that Faerie morality reflects that of an insular human pastoral community, wherein the virtues encourage harmonious neighborly relations, while the faults discourage them. Like humans, there are good and evil Faeries, called the Seelie Court and Unseelie Court , respectively. The members of the Seelie Court can be dangerous if offended, but the primary difference between these two groups is that the Unseelie Court is never under any circumstance favorable to humans.

Its chief pleasure is to harm or distress people, and while its members can have a sense of gratitude, it can be just as dangerous to befriend them as offend them. They are wholly hostile to mankind, and the best way to deal with them is to avoid them altogether. The members of the Seelie Court, on the hand, are kindly disposed, or at least neutral, towards humans who obey their laws. They are not without kindly impulses, and are capable of gratitude: Typical rewards include gifts of food, inexhaustible supplies of grain or flour, perpetual good health and fortune, or even being saved from danger or death.

For the most part, people expect good Faeries to be helpful and fair, to return what they borrow, to patronize true love, to enjoy music and dancing, and to take a keen interest in fertility, neatness, order, and beauty.

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Even the members of the Unseelie Court do not lie, they just equivocate. Among themselves, Faeries adhere to an extremely strict code of conduct that forbids dishonesty and stealing. Only infidelity is generally tolerated, being as Faeries are notorious for being amorous.

With regards to humans, however, they seem to believe they are entitled to take whatever they need. Katharine Briggs has stated that their motto seems to be, "All that's yours is mine and all that's mine is my own. Nor do they stop at animals: Faeries will gladly kidnap babies, children, beautiful maidens, and nursing mothers, as well as poets, musicians, and handsome young men. Yet Faeries become furious if humans steal from them, and while they delight in playing tricks on people, when the joke is on them they usually do not take it in good humor.

As well, even among the good Faeries, their kindness is often capricious, and their goodwill can be embarrassing, even distressing; it is not unusual for Faeries to enrich a friend by stealing from his neighbors. And there is very little mercy mingled with their justice. The best way to win the favor of the Faeries is to practice what they honor and avoid what they hate. Faeries expect people to be generous and fair in their dealings, and to keep their promises. Truthfulness in word and deed, and gentle, courteous manners are all esteemed, as is readiness to perform an act of kindness , such as feeding a stranger, lending a measure of oatmeal, or suckling an infant.

They prefer persons to give straightforward answers to straightforward questions, and they expect appreciation for the gifts they bestow.

The Very Fairy Beginning

An hospitable nature is especially prized, particularly towards them: Yet they also want humans to be close and private , fond of solitude and contemplation, and able to keep secrets. Open, loving, free people are dear to them, and they cherish merriment, cheerfulness, celebration, and good fellowship.

Faeries dislike boasters , braggarts, and babblers. Meanness , rudeness , and selfishness are unpopular with them, as is slovenliness , sluttishness, ill-temper, and bad manners. Gloominess is shunned, and to thank them for a gift is a breach of etiquette. However, the worst crime of all is to infringe on their privacy. They hate anyone who betrays their secrets, and they also hate inquisitive people who spy on them and clumsy oafs who break into their revels without permission.

Trespassers onto their land or mounds are severely punished, even if the encroachment was accidental, and it is best to avoid using their roads when they are on the move. Faerie gifts are given in secret, and anyone who talks about them will lose them. If a human does find himself the target of Faerie malice, there are ways he can protect himself. Faeries are essentially pagans and tend to be superstitious; most can be held at bay by religious objects or rituals.

Sacred symbols such as the cross are often effective, not just because of its religious significance, but also because it represents the purifying light of the sun. Faeries are not afraid of or harmed by the sun, but its symbology as a giver of life is inimical to their status as beings of the dead. Similarly, Christ's conquest of death on the cross can be seen as a repudiation of the Faerie lifestyle.

Even making the sign of the cross can be effective, and after the triumph of Christianity, Christian symbols were accepted as shields against the evil Faeries of the Unseelie Court. These include saying prayers or singing hymns, sprinkling or carrying Holy Water, and even carrying churchyard mold. Bread and salt are also effective, being as they have been regarded as sacred ever since primitive times, and as with the sun are symbols of life. Other protective means include ringing bells , whistling, and snapping clappers.

Travelers who believe they are being mislead can turn their coats inside out, in an attempt to change their identity, and people being chased by Faeries can leap to safety across fresh running water. Self-bored stones , which have holes in them created by running water, not only allow a person to see through glamour by looking through the hole , but also protect animals and people from being taken.

A number of different plants and herbs are also useful as counter-charms. The shamrock, or four-leafed clover, is the most powerful, because it breaks Faerie glamour. John's wort and red verbena protect against magic in general, while daisies can prevent children from being kidnapped. The wood or red berries from rowan or ash trees do much the same for adults. Yet by far the most potent protective measure is iron , especially cold-wrought iron implements, which are created by beating raw iron instead of melting and casting it.

Steel, the primary alloy of iron, is also effective. There is no certain answer why Faeries should fear it. One suggestion is that Faeries consider iron-working to be uncanny, a form of magic only humans can do. While possible, it would seem unlikely, because Faeries are master smiths, and they would be familiar with metalworking.

Another possibility is based on the fact that iron is considered to be representative of life. As such, like bread or the cross, it also would symbolize a concept inimical to the Faeries. Whatever the reason, anything made of iron or steel, including horseshoes, knives, and scissors, can be used to keep Faeries at bay. Despite their love for privacy, Faeries have long had dealings with humans. This is usually explained as a dependence of Faeries on humanity , such that even though they live completely independent lives, Faeries need humans to survive.

Faeries will of course steal whatever they need or want, but by far most of their thefts seem to be of food, since most other things they make are of fine quality. Based on an earlier description, however, their food is largely inadequate even for their own needs, unless supplemented by human food or the toradh they extract from it. Nonetheless, Faeries don't always steal; sometimes they borrow instead. Mostly they borrow grain or meal, but they can borrow implements, the use of mills and homes, human skill to mend a tool, or the skill of a midwife to deliver a Faerie baby.

They will even beg for something as simple as a human woman giving a Faerie baby a suck from her breast.

“Away with the fairies”-fairy illness and blight | British Fairies

In exchange for such kindnesses, Faeries are apt to give generous rewards, such as perpetual good health and fortune, an endless supply of grain or meal, great skill in a craft or music and dancing, the ability to heal, and even treasure. Sometimes, however, Faeries will also make loans to people, such as utensils, tools, animals, or food.

They expect payment for this service, but in this case they will only accept the fair equivalent of what they lent, and they are offended if more is offered or they are explicitly thanked. Aside from theft and borrowing, there are two other major ways that humans and Faeries interact. The most common is when humans visit Faerieland. It is possible for people to enter and leave Faerieland more or less unscathed, however, this is rather rare.

Usually, once someone enters Faerieland, he or she becomes trapped forever. As with other dealings, humans enter Faerieland in one of two ways: Both demonstrate just how dependent Faeries are on humans. People borrowed for their skills generally fall into two categories. One is the use of strong men to give power to the Faeries in their wars or ball games.

Despite their own great power, Faeries are unable to prevail against one another unless a mortal man takes a hand. In some traditions, Faeries cannot be killed unless a man is present on the battle field. Why this is so is a mystery, but it is possible that the Faerie combatants nullify each other's powers, allowing him to effect the outcome. The other category is the use of women as midwives, nurse maids, or nannies. The first two are understandable. Despite their power, Faeries are actually delicate creatures and may have problems giving birth.

Also, human midwives may be called in to attend the birth of half-human Faerie babies from human captives in Faerieland.

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And if Faerie food is inadequate without human food or an infusion of toradh, Faerie breast milk is probably inadequate as well, hence the need for a human wet nurse. But nannies are something of an anomaly. Stories such as "The Faerie Widower" seem to combine aspects of both the captive in Faerieland stories and the midwife to the Faeries stories, with a twist: Faerie children seem to require maternal love as much as human children do.

In most of these stories, a beautiful young girl agrees to raise a Faerie man's child or children for a specific length of time. Though he treats her as if she were his wife, there is no indication that he molests her, and at the end of her time she is allowed to return to her family. Indeed, often she is sent away against her will. The actions of the Faeries in these stories is inexplicable, but this serves to underscore their mercurial and unpredictable nature. This can result from eating a greasy meal and then touching one eye with greasy fingers.

Most of the time, however, it occurs when the woman is asked to rub the eyes of the child with a Faerie ointment and then inadvertently touches one of her own eyes as well. Though the exact formulation is unknown, traditionally the ointment is supposed to be made from shamrocks. The treatment seems to be permanent, but the woman invariably betrays her secret, usually by seeing an invisible Faerie and greeting him, at which point he puts out the eye she sees him with.

It is also curious that these women usually do not receive a rich reward, though they can be paid their usual fee. It is almost tempting to believe that their newly acquired Faerie sight is their reward, which they lose when they infringe on Faerie privacy. One other point is that the fate of these half-human children is never revealed in the legends or folktales. However, being raised in the Faerie realm, eating Faerie food, it can probably be taken for granted that they grow up to become fully Faerie.

However, as in most things, if the Faeries need humans for some reason, they just kidnap them. Though people are occasionally taken for what amounts to slave labor, there are generally two reasons why Faeries kidnap humans: It is more common for Faeries to kidnap a young woman to be a wet nurse or a nanny than to hire one, though usually the women are still let go after their use is fulfilled. It is rare to kidnap a man to participate in a war or ball game, possibly because his cooperation is crucial, but it does happen and again he is usually let go afterwards.

However, a man with a special talent or who is especially skilled at a craft, music, or singing, or a handsome youth who has caught the eye of a Faerie lady, is generally taken forever. In those cases, a stock is usually left in his place. This is a piece of wood about the same size and general shape of the victim, crudely carved to resemble a human, then ensorcelled by glamour to make it look like the victim. It is made to look as if it is sick or unconscious, and after a short while it appears to die, at which point the humans duly bury it.

In that way, the victim is not missed and no attempt to rescue him is made. The same is true of women taken to be nurse maids or nannies. By far, though, women, children, and babies are the most common victims of Faerie kidnapping, and they are invariably used as breeding stock. Apparently, Faeries need to invigorate themselves with human blood — i. Men taken by fairy women are used as lovers, though their use for stud cannot be ruled out.

However, beautiful young women taken by fairy men are used in only one way, as brood mares. Legends and folktales refer to them as brides, but this may be a euphemism for concubine. There is no evidence in the stories that these women were treated the same as real fairy wives. In fact, the closest analogy would probably be that of Homeric Greece, in which the Achaean heroes captured women on their raids and took them back to their city-states to first service them in their beds and then serve them as slaves on their estates.

It is therefore likely that, after bearing one or more children, the human women were put to work under the supervision of the fairy wives. That humans are kidnapped for recreational sex should not come as a surprise. Faeries are, of course, the patrons of fertility, and sex is intimately coupled to fertility. As such, Faerie amorousness is legendary, and it isn't limited to the Trooping Faeries.

Wild Faerie men often try to seduce or lure women into their dwellings, and they will extort human men into surrendering their wives or daughters to them, or blackmail human women into living with them. Others will rape women who spy on them, though most of the time they can mesmerize the women to keep them from resisting. Many wild Faerie women use sex as a form of punishment for infringing on their privacy, and their love-making is so intense few men can survive it, and those who do pine away and die. A few will even punish human women in this same way. Others demand the man marry them or he will be killed, while others simply take him if they are enamored with him.

Some can be wooed into becoming mistresses, but only if the man keeps their secrets and agrees to honor certain difficult conditions. Taking captives may also have a more sinister purpose. Every seven years, the Faeries must pay a teind , or tithe, to the Devil, one of their own given to him as tribute. Many legends and folktales hint that human captives are used to pay the teind so that Faeries will be spared. Nonetheless, a captive can be rescued as long as he or she does not consume any Faerie food or drink, because otherwise he or she will be trapped forever, having partaken of the Faerie nature.

Even then the rescue will have to be made before seven years has passed, otherwise another attempt can not be made again until seven years later. There are many methods that can be used to free a captive; indeed, the method may be unique to each case. One that seems to work often is to throw milk or Holy water over the victim as he or she rides by in a rade. Another common method is lay hold of the victim and hang on to him or her as tightly as possible, ignoring all the frightful sights and sound the Faeries create, or the horrific forms the victim is forced to take on at the Faeries' command.

Still another method is to threaten to dig down into a Faerie mound or an underground Faerie residence and expose it to the light of day. Even so, courage is required when using these methods, because they put the rescuers in direct confrontation with the Faeries. As such, the primary reason most rescue attempts fail is cowardice: Another important reason is that sometimes the rescue attempt comes too late, after the victim has eaten Faerie food.

Jealousy is another strong reason for failure. A man who loses his young wife shortly after child birth may not discover that she didn't die but was taken by the Faeries until after he has remarried. His new wife may then thwart his attempt to rescue his old one by sabotaging his attempt. But if attempts to rescue a captive sometimes fail, so too can the attempts by the Faeries to kidnap their selected victim.

As with rescues, the methods used may be unique to each case, but in the absence of a protective charm or ritual, the most common method is to simply hold on to the victim despite all attempts by the Faeries to force his or her release.