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.