Personal ramblings of Elizabeth Andrews Fae artist and author of 'Faeries and Folklore of the British Isles,' 'Faerie Flora'and the 'The Lavender Witch' all available from
www.magic-myth-legend.co.uk and Amazon
Two farmworkers were on their way to work one day when they saw a mermaid rising from a local pool. She told them of the treasure that had lain at the bottom of the pool for many years and that they could take as much of it as they wished. The two men could not believe their luck so when the mermaid dived back under the water they waded into the muddy water to follow her.
She re -emerged suddenly carrying a huge lump of gold that was as big as the mens heads . They were so astonished that one man swore that 'by God he had never had such luck in his life'. Hearing the oath the mermaid screamed and dived back into the water taking the gold with her. And that was the last they ever saw of the mermaid and the treasure.
There are many hills that are inhabited by faeries and they can be dangerous places to set foot upon. But there are a few intrepid souls who venture on to them either in hope of being transported to faerieland or would be musicians who hope to be endowed with the gift of faerie magic if they spend the night sleeping on the mound.
There is a hill called Pipers Grave at Ednam in the Scottish borders, it is only half a mile from the village where a piper from a local band lived. One night he crept inside the hill so that he could learn some of the faeries tunes. He was never seen again but sometimes he can be heard playing from deep inside the faerie hill.
But even if he had been released time is different in faerieland and as soon as he stepped foot back in the mortal world the piper would have probably crumbled away to nothing. Which is what happened to two fiddlers who had been hired by the Faerie Queen to play for her guests one night. When they were released and stumbled back onto the hillside after playing all night they crumbled to dust for they had been playing for 200 years.
The hill of Ile in the west highlands is another faerie dwelling where the Faerie Queen lives. Here she hands out from a golden goblet wisdom to all the women of the world.
'Still on the hill when the wisdom was handed out' is the local saying for anybody less than bright!
Oral tradition has always been very important in the west country, here is a popular short story that has been told for many years! One Sunday morning a young man went to visit Mary a maid at the vicarage. He said 'Cor Mary, something smells good in here, what's the vicar got for dinner?' She replied 'Sheep's head and five dumplings.' He suggested a game of hide and seek, so she went off to hide and he took one of the dumplings out of the pot. He did this four times, so there was only one dumpling left. He said 'I'd better go now, the vicar will be back soon.' But before he went he gave the sheep's head and dumplings in the pot a good stir with a ladle. The vicar came in and said 'What's for dinner Mary?' She said ' Sheep's head and dumplings,' and she took off the lid to show him and said 'Quick Vicar, the sheep's head has eaten four dumplings and is chasing the other one round the pot like mad!'
Faeries will not hesitate to steal un-baptized children, they are especially partial to blondes, replacing them with changelings.
These may be either an old wrinkled elf who wants an easier life or a replica made of wood which under a faerie spell will appear to be alive. This replica often appear to sicken and die, the grieving parents will then bury the wooden changeling.
It is said that faerie births are getting rare and new stock is needed to replenish the blood line but in Scotland there is a more sinister motive as the babies are used to pay the Devils tithes which come due every seven years.
In earlier years many babies that were born ugly or deformed were believed to be a changeling which had horrific consequences. It was believed that one way to get the real mortal child back was to mistreat the changeling until its faeries family exchanged it again.
Placing the substitute on a red hot poker or putting it on the fire or whipping it on the top of a faerie hill was believed to make the changeling reveal itself. The changeling would then disappear and the real child left in its place.
Men and women were also taken, in 1894 in Clanmel, County Tipperary Bridget Cleary fell under suspicion of being a changeling by her husband Michael. According to him she appeared more refined than usual and had grown an extra two inches. Although she protested her innocence he tortured and burned her to death ' to make the witch confess'.
Michael Cleary buried the remains of his wife but they were later discovered and he was charged with manslaughter and was sentenced to twenty years hard labour.
In 1843 A Penzance newspaper reported the case of a man who had been charged with ill treating his young child. The child had suffered continous beating from the man and his family since birth and from the age of 16 months had been made to live outside in the outbuildings. The man's excuse was that he believed the child was a changeling and that his real child had been taken by the faeries and amazingly enough the case was dismissed against him!
The holly is a lucky tree and sacred to the Druids as it symbolises life and immortality.
Faeries revere the holly and will take revenge on anybody damaging the tree. The only time it is permissible to cut the holly is on Christmas Eve as it is an important addition to the Christmas wreath. It was a Celtic custom to gather holly and ivy for decorating the home during the winter symbolising that life and growth would return.
The faeries and elves would also come in with the greenery for shelter during the cold months, in return for shelter they would cause no mischief.
Every berry and sprig of holly must be removed from the house by 31st January, Imbolc Eve otherwise the more mischievous kinds of faeries like goblins will be encouraged to stay.
On the 1st December 1750 for a wager seven men were buttoned without straining into the waistcoat of Mr Edward Bright of Maldon Essex; who lately deceased at the age of twenty nine and who was esteemed to be the fattest man that ever lived in Britain. He weighed about fifty one and a half stone and stood above five feet nine inches tall; his frame was of astonishing bulk and his legs were as thick as a middling man's body, yet he was surprisingly active.
I had to cut my ramble short yesterday as I had to take my persian cat to the grooming parlour! If any of you have a persian you will know that this is not a luxury, it is a necessity! she is the grubbiest thing.. all weekend in the foulest weather she was sat outside. For such a glamorous puss she is the hardiest thing!
Any way mermaids...
The MacCodrum clan from North Uist in Scotland are descended from a marriage
between a selkie and a mortal. They are known as Sliochd Nan Ron,
the offspring of the seals.
The mortal took her skin while she danced in the moonlight on the seashore and
kept it hidden for many years and while he had the skin she could not leave, over the years
together they had many children.
The offspring of these marriages would have
webbing between their fingers and toes, this would be clipped off by their
mothers but the more it was removed the scalier the skin would become. Anybody
seen in the islands of Scotland who had hard scaly skin on their hands would be
a descendant from a selkie.
The selkies make good wives but are always pining for their home under the sea.
There are many differing opinions about the origins of the selkies, some say that like
faeries they are fallen angels and are condemned to stay as seals until the day of
judgement or that they are the souls of drowned sailors who are only allowed
to return to land one night of the year to visit their families.
A Scottish mermaid fell in love with a local fisherman and to win his love
showered him with gifts of gold and jewels, he did not return her love and
gave her gifts to a local girl he had been courting. The mermaid was determined
that she was not going to share him with anybody and so led him to a cave under
Darwick Head near Castletown It was here that she kept all the treasure that
she had collected from the many shipwrecks in the Pentland Firth.
He stood there astounded looking at all the wealth that she had collected,
while he stood there mesmerised she began to sing a low soft melody.
His eyelids grew heavy and he fell into a deep sleep and when he awoke he found
himself bound to the walls with golden chains. If all accounts are true he is
still there keeping his jealous sweetheart company.
A mermaid was spotted off the coast of Wales near Aberystwyth in 1826 by a
farmer who lived close to the shore. According to his report the mermaid looked
as though she was washing herself in one of the rock pools, at first he thought
it was just a mortal woman until he saw her beautiful tail spread out on the
rocks beside her. His children joined him and watched the mermaid for a time from their
vantage point on the cliffs, as they were there for so long his wife becoming alarmed
by their absence and came to find them. Her approach scared the mermaid and she slipped
quickly back into the sea. The family continued watching the mermaid as she swam slowly
down the coast towards Dyfed.
It used to be thought that mermaids were heavenly fish spirits that fell to earth every now
and then to perform ritual dances. They remove parts of their clothing to enable
them to dance like the selkies of Scotland, if these fell into the hands of a mortal
then the mermaids and the selkies would have to stay with the mortals until
their garments were returned or found.
Faeries and Folklore of the British Isles
In Celtic mythology mermaids were considered as monsters hungry for the lives of men and although they are described as half human half fish a better description would be half faerie half fish as one of the better known attributes is the granting of wishes in return for her freedom if caught in a
Mermaids are more malignant in some places than others and the Mermen are more dangerous than their female counterparts but that story is for the next blog...
This is a well known tale from the west country about an old woman called Hannah who lived deep in the woods in a cottage. Running alongside the cottage was a small garden where she grew a few vegetables but most of it was given over to a huge bed of the most beautiful scented tulips. These blooms were her pride and joy and she gave them more care and attention than her poor straggling vegetable plants. After a days work in the garden she would sit at the cottage door just admiring the beautiful blooms until the light faded. One clear night Hannah was woken from her sleep by the sound of singing and of babies laughing, she crept out of her bed and nervously peered through the window into the garden but there was nothing to be seen. The sounds were coming from the tulip bed, worried about her lovely plants she threw a shawl around her thin shoulders and hurried out into the garden but as the latch clicked on the cottage door the singing stopped, all was quiet in the garden and nothing could be seen stirring amongst the plants. By first light Hannah was already out in the garden checking her flowers for damage but she found they were untouched and there was no sign of anybody ever being there. The next night was fine and clear and again Hannah was woken by the sound of singing and children laughing but caught no sign of her nighttime visitors. In the morning she again checked the tulip bed but this time she had taken her glasses with her and she could plainly see the little footprints in the soil. Hannah was delighted to think that she had faeries in the garden and spent the whole day carefully weeding and tending the tulip bed even though her vegetable patch sorely needed tending. That evening Hannah left the front door open so that she could slip out quietly if she heard her little faerie visitors again and then settled down into bed. Her eyelids grew heavier, Hannah could stay awake no longer and fell asleep. The old woman suddenly woke, the moon was shining in at the window and she could hear the sound of singing quite plainly through the open window. She slipped out into the garden and walked down the path to the tulip bed. There in the moonlight Hannah could see the tiny faerie mothers standing next to a tulip bloom, gently rocking them backwards and forwards like a cradle while inside lay a little faerie baby.
From then on Hannah tended her tulips carefully every day and as a thank you the faeries used their magic to make the vegetable thrive and they grew so well that soon Hannah had more vegetables than she knew what to do with. The came the day that the little old woman died and her cottage was sold. The family that moved in did not like tulips so they dug up all the bulbs and planted parsley in their place. This so enraged the faeries that at night they pulled up the parsley plants and shredded them. Each time the new family tried to plant something it would be pulled up and destroyed until finally nothing would grow in the garden at all. It was only on Hannah's grave that the tulips still grew big and beautiful, carefully tended by the faeries.
In the 18th and 19th century was a rather strange custom of waiting in the local church porch on New Years Eve to see the souls of the dead entering the church. As midnight approached the shades of the people of the parish who were to die in the following months would appear walking up the church path and disappear inside.
It was all too common for the onlookers to see themselves as the last 'fetch'
A young lad called Robin accompanied the local vet to a lonely farmhouse near the village, after dealing with the sick animal they started on their way home past the ruins of the old priory. The church bell started to toll as they approached.
'It's the passing bell' said Robin after two strokes 'and it's for a man' for it was the custom in those days to ring single strokes for a man and double for a woman, three for a child. After a pause the strokes continued, counting out the age of the dead person. Twenty six strokes, the age of Robin himself. The building was dark and quiet and as they waited wondering who had been pealing the bells, the gate silently swung open and a strange procession entered the church yard.
A tiny figure led, dressed in black with just a red skull cap, chanting a dirge as he slowly paced up the path, past the two men the tiny figures carried a coffin and as was the custom the lid was open.
Robin and his friend although terrified couldn't help themselves but to lean forward and gaze at the figure.
The figure was Robin himself
The young man leapt forward demanding of the faeries his fate but as soon as he uttered his words they vanished leaving the two men alone in the churchyard.
From then on Robin was a changed man, moody and depressed. One month to the day he had seen the procession he died. His funeral procession took the same route as that of the faerie procession
In about 1826 a man called Ben Barr of Helpston Northamptonshire, who watched every year and professed to know the fate of everybody in the village, was reported quite ready to find a favourable verdict for the timid for the inducement of a few pence.
Watching is supposed to observed for three years before results would be obtained but once begun must be continued for life.
The Ivy Faerie available as card from www. magic-myth-legend.co.uk
Ivy brings good luck, fun and happiness and growing some over the outside wall of your house will deter misfortune. If you have a houseplant of ivy and it dies this might signify that financial problems are looming. The ivy was sacred to Bacchus God of wine and to show that good wine could be found within innkeepers would hang garlands of ivy around their doors. Ivy is the emblem of fidelity and it used to be customary to hand a wreath of ivy to newly weds. The bridesmaids would also carry some as well as it was believed to aid fertility and bring good luck.
For a man to dream of his future bride he must pick a leaf on the 31st Oct and place it under his pillow. For a woman to dream of her future husband she must collect some leaves and recite the following:
Just returned from a long weekend in the city of Edinburgh, lovely old buildings!
We were enjoying walking through the streets to get to the castle when we came across the Ghillie Dhu, I think it was a pub or club. Beautiful old carved door, it invited visitors in but we were not swayed by the pull of ale! We were off to scale the slopes of the castle.
The Ghillie Dhu are tree spirits that live mainly in birch thickets and I didn't see
any thickets nearby but then again the park was just over the road so
perhaps they were city dwelling Ghillie Dhu's.
They are known to hide among the moss and leaves to avoid the sight of
mortals and tourists in this case!
They are best avoided as they can be unfriendly and have been known to
capture people, tie them up with ropes of ivy and carry them off to faerieland.
I'm not sure if this is one, he was carved on an old fountain near the castle. But I think we did find their front door! It is about a foot high and set in to a wall. We didn't knock!
To find who has bewitched her put a pair of breeches upon
the cow's head and beat her out of the pasture with a good
cudgel upon a Friday, and she will run right to the
witch's door and strike thereat with her horns.
Reginald Scott The discovery of Witchcraft 1584
As well as guarding your cattle against witches Reginald also gives advice on how to guard your children from witchcraft.
He (the devil) teacheth witches to make ointments of the bowels and members of children, whereby they ride in the air and accomplish all their desires. So as, if there be any children unbaptized or not guarded with the sign of the cross or orisons (uh?) then the witches may and do catch them from their mothers sides at night or out of their cradles... and after burial steal them out of graves and seethe them in a cauldron until their flesh be made potable.
So to guard against this a crust of salted bread under the baby's pillow will keep off witches but to be sure hang garlic among the bedclothes. Though efficacious against baby stealers a knife jammed point upwards near the cradle is perhaps not to be recommended for babies ( also used to deter faeries) but the best way is to get the child christened as soon as possible.
In the 16th century girdle measuring was a common practice for wise women to see if evil spirits or faeries have invaded a persons body. Any unexplained weight gain especially after an illness was considered very suspicious. Their girdle or belt would be measured and if the wise woman believed it to have increased in size charms and incantations would be said over it. Then the belt would be measured again and if it did not show a reduction in size it would be chopped into bits and buried. This was supposed to be a sure fire way of getting rid of unwanted possesions.
Faeries and Folklore of the British Isles I have found another remedy for those bewitched dating from 1683- Doctor Lilly's Last Legacy Take two horseshoes, heat them red hot and nail one on the threshold of the door but quench the other in the urine of the party bewitched; then set the urine over the fire in a pot or pipkin and put the horseshoe into it. Make the urine boil, with a little salt unto it., and three horseshoe nails until it is almost consumed: what is not boiled away cast into the fire. Keep then your horseshoes and nails in a clean cloth or paper and use the same manner three times. It will be the more effectual if it be done at the change of full of the moon.
A hundred years ago Hairy Meg lived in the farmhouse at Achnarrow near Glenlivet Scotland. As per usual she did all the work and was regularly rewarded with a bowl of milk and a piece of oat cake.
After a particularly bad year on the farm, the crops failed and the animals died, the farmer decided he couldn't afford to keep the rest of the servants so he sacked them all much to Hairy Meg's disgust. She was so upset that she went on strike refusing to do any of the chores and throwing pots and pans around the farmhouse.
Hairy Meg made such a nuisance of herself that the farmer had to relent and give all the servants back their jobs and immediately Hairy Meg regained her temper.
You can tell she was happy!
( she reminds me of my old history teacher!!)
Aberdeen Brownies have no separate toes of fingers while in the Scottish lowlands they have a hole instead of a nose while others have no mouths just huge noses.
This was first thing in the morning before the doors were open, after that it wasn't possible to see the tables for the crowds of people. Another enjoyable day in Glastonbury and usual we had a really fun day meeting lots of great people.
Now available in paperback from Amazon or www.magic-myth-legend.co.uk
While I was researching my book Faerie Flora I came across the strange but true tale of Hannah Henley, a well known witch from Devon whose bruised and bloody body was found hanging over a branch of a tree near her home. It was believed by the villagers that she had been taken by the devil even tho there was glass and blood inside the cottage. It was the strangest tale and started me thinking how this could have happened so I stopped FF ms for a while and wrote The Lavender Witch.
The Lavender Witch is a chilling ghost story based on the
strange but true events surrounding the death of Hannah Beamish, accused of
being a witch by a wealthy farmer in a small remote village where she lived in
the early 1800’s.
One hundred and seventy years later these strange events, only
now remembered by a few, come to light when Kitty and Gordon move back to the Devon
village where they were born, they buy an old orchard from a farmer and build a
small house. All is fine until they move in and Kitty spends her first day
alone in their new home.
Over the course of their first week in the house chilling
apparitions appear and events spiral out of their control bringing the past and
present together until the truth emerges as to what really happened on Castle
Hill.Was Kitty and Gordon’s return to
the village a coincidence? And what secrets are the elderly sisters Sybil and
Queenie keeping?To save their home and
their sanity they must finally put the ghosts to rest