Msg#: 23                                           Date: 07-02-96  15:18
  From: Pat Sherman                                  Read: Yes    Replied: No 
    To: All                                          Mark:                     
  Subj: Of Fairies and Pixies...
The following is a re-post of a message I entered in this echo last
March.  I am currently working on extending this information, and would
like to receive any comments and/or input from others interested in this
subject.  I would especially appreciate descriptions and anecdotes of
all kinds of "little people", preferably those from Celtic lands.

              -=> Fairy Folk & Other Little People <=-

 In folklore, the fairies are supernatural beings, skilled in magic,
 and capable of becoming invisible, changing shape and size, and
 bewitching humans.  Robert Kirk, a Scottish minister and Gaelic scholar,
 described fairies in *Secret Commonwealth* (1691) as "of a middle
 Nature, betwixt Man and Angel."   Fairies lived far longer than men,
 but had no souls and perished utterly at death.  While some were of
 human size and appearance, the flower fairies of Devonshire were minute
 beings, and the "portunes" mentioned by Gervase of Tilbury in his early
 13th-century book of marvels were only three inches tall.

 The tendency to prettify and glorify fairies in children's stories is
 the degeneration of a serious and somewhat sinister tradition.  Once
 feared as dangerous and powerful beings, they were euphemistically
 called "the gentle people" or "the good neighbours".  Refering to them
 by name would give them power over the speaker.  Anyone who visited
 fairyland was bound to return with scattered wits, or to find that
 many years had elapsed over the course of an apparently short absence.

 Despite their sinister aspects, fairies were often resorted to for
 their legendary healing powers, and the fairies, in turn, often sought
 human midwives.  Fairy folk might marry human spouses, the fairy men
 being especially wont to do so.  Fairies purportedly stole human babies
 and substituted changelings (fairy children), so they might have the
 benefit of human milk.  Deformed or cretinous babies were often thought
 to be changelings, and feared for their supposed powers.

 Some fairies were agriculturists, cattle keepers, weavers, woodworkers
 and metalworkers.  Some, such as the English and Scottish *Brownies*
 attached themselves to human families as helpers.  Nature fairies
 inhabited woodlands, moors, fens, and river-bottoms.  Scandinavian
 trolls, German wood-women, Scottish kelpies and glaistigs, all are
 variants of the basic Nature fairy.

 One theory as to the source of the widespread and persistant belief in
 fairies is that it derives from an actual memory of Neolithic peoples
 who precariously survived in ancient communities after conquest by
 other peoples.  With their superior knowledge of the countryside and
 of native gods, they might be credited with magic, and they might also
 help, harm, or intermarry.  Another suggestion is the belief that
 springs from legends of pagan gods and nature spirits, whose worship
 was suppressed under Xtianity.  The *Daione S*dhe* of Eire, and the
 *Twylwyth Teg* of Wales, have strong affinities with the displaced gods.

 Some of the fairies most famous in English literature are Teutonic.
 King Oberon derives his name, through the French *fablieux*, from
 Elberich, the dwarf king of the *Niebelungenlied*.  Oberon's queen,
 Titania, was probably named out of Ovid's *Metamorphoses*.  Puck, one
 of Shakespeare's fays, is merely the personification of his race, the
 "pwccas" of Wales, "pookas" of Ireland, "poakes" of Worcestershire,
 and "pixies" of Southwestern England.

 Wales, at the present time, preserves the most numerous and diverse
 collection of fairies.   Some of them are beautiful, some hideous;
 some kindly, some malevolent.  There are gentle damsels of lakes and
 streams, called *Gwragedd Annwn*, and ferocious mountain fairies known
 as the *Gwyllion*.  There are household sprites called *Bwbachod*, like
 the Scottish and English brownies; the *Coblynau* or gnomes of the mines
 (known in Cornwall as the "knockers"); and the *Ellyllon*, or elves,
 of whom the pwccas are a branch.  The Welsh *bwbach* is described as
 brown and hairy, the coblynau as black or copper-faced.

>end of file...

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