Fairy Lore

Fairy Lore

For some, the word “fairies” conjures up images of tiny, delicate-winged ladies sitting on flower petals and sprinkling fairy dust; however, the fact is that fairies have a long history and there’s far more to them than Tinkerbell might tell you.

The older stories of fairy legend depict a very different creature to those that we generally encounter in modern tales. In older stories, they were far more capricious creatures who had to be treated with utmost politeness – it is from this need for courtesy that many traditions developed euphemistic names for them, calling them Fair Folk or People of Peace rather than calling them by name.

Fairies were often depicted as creatures of mischief, from whom a measure of protection was often necessary. Fairy circles, which can be found throughout Britain, were often said to be the venue for fairy dances, which were very dangerous for unwary observers and thus frequently avoided. Several tales tell of such unfortunate travellers who, having joined in the dance or partaken of the feast, found themselves trapped in fairyland for many long years.

At the same time, however, they could also do a lot of good for those who found their favour. The most common kind of helpful fairy is the brownie, who likes to carry out small tasks around the house overnight in exchange for small gifts of food. However, they don’t like to be observed working, so even if you suspect you have a brownie in the house, you should never attempt to stay up to spot them – if you succeed, they will simply leave, never to be seen again. You should also never be tempted to leave all the housework to your brownie, as they are said to take offence if a house is too untidy and spend the night pinching and nipping at the untidy occupants instead!

Glastonbury has a long association with the fairies; the Tor there is said to be a portal to Fairyland, home of Gwyn ap Nudd, the king of the fairy folk and the leader of the Wild Hunt. On wild and stormy nights, it’s sometimes said that you can see him lead his hunt across the sky, chasing in mad pursuit of their prey as the wind blows.

If you are concerned about the attentions of capricious fairies, there are a range of measures you can take to protect yourself. Cold iron, running water, ringing bells and wearing your clothes inside out are all said to protect against the negative aspects of the fair folk.

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To call me, the number for UK callers is 0800 999 3831. Australia 1800 558 140, Canada 1866 403 3407, USA 1855 864 9382, Ireland 015 060 692, Rest of the world +44 1749 860 777.

To call a member of my team, the number for UK callers is 0800 999 8831. Australia 1800 018 367, Canada 1866 76 9422, USA 1855 864 9383, Ireland 015 060 693, Rest of the world +44 207 111 6115.

Tony Hyland